December 20, 2021: Soon It Will Be Christmas Day

Next Saturday is December 25, the Christian holiday of Christmas. This time of year is also sacred to the Jewish people (Channukah,) the Wiccans (Yule, ) Kwanzaa (an African-American celebration.) I’m certain there are others that I’m not aware of, but my point is that while the Northern Hemisphere begins to hibernate for the winter months, we look forward to reviewing the past year, and plan for the year to come.

For myself, I look back at the past twelve months with such a mixture of feelings, I’m not sure where to begin. 2021 started with us still in the grips of COVID. Laura and I continued working to see if reconciliation was possible. Also in January, followers of Trump stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of the Presidential election. Fortunately, they were stopped. Unfortunately, we will be suffering the partisanship that has pervaded our political system for the foreseeable future.

As the year progressed, pandemic restrictions began to relax and we began to see family and friends in person, rather than in a Zoom call. Vaccines became available to everyone at no cost, yet the divisions from the prior year’s election carried over into the area of public health. Misinformation on social media platforms convinced a large number of the population to reject the shot, relying instead on what they hoped was “herd immunity.” We watched as cases soared and people fell ill.

As summer ended, it started to become apparent that the hoped for reconciiliation was not happening. Laura and I talked, realized that it wasn’t to be, and started the plans for me to leave once more. As October began, I packed the RV and headed back to NC.

During the year, I lost my uncle to COVID. My father’s memorial still remains to be held. My two dogs, Eli (age 8) and Brady (age 20) also left me. I still miss them both; they were my companions when I needed them most. Friends and family have suggested I get another canine companion, but I don’t know that I’m ready, yet.

In 2022, I will continue to work through the issues that I’ve been working on. I’ll keep working with the Pedal Factory (my best therapy, visiting NoVA when I can to help my stepmother with the house, and keep in contact with Laura. I don’t know where (if anywhere) that will go, but I do know that I continue to value her as a friend. If that’s all that remains, so be it; I’m more than I was before I met her.

That’s it for now. Until next time…

Roll on!

December 11, 2021: Morning Reflections

I try to start each day by reading passages from two books of yoga meditations and teachings. The two that I’m currently using are Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison and 365 Yoga edited by Julie Rappaport. Both books are broken down into daily entries. As I meditate and consider each morning’s readings, I look for connections between the two passages. Sometimes there are none (at least to my mind,) but often I can find a convergence.

Today, Meditations spoke of attitude and approaching tasks. Rolf spoke of a time watching a video of accomplished yogis with their teacher, describing the seeming effortless flow from one posture to the next, and the body language that seemed to speak to him. The next day, while going through his own practice, he emulated that language and confidence, and he found that his mind led him to an improved practice.

In 365 Yoga, Rappaport chose a passage that describe Kharmic Yoga: “To know the Divine is to server others as if they were Divine.” My first thought was that this is similar to a couple of other aphorisms: “You reap what you sow” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I was ready conclude this was one of those mornings where there was no connection between the two, but I continued to consider them.

First, consider the alternate aphorisms that were brought to mind. While both of them are good guides to living life, there is an implication of reward in both of them: we will reap, or someone is going to do something for us. Rappaport’s passage makes no such claim. I am in no way a religious man. I subscribe to the idea that religion is the opiate of the masses. However, I do believe that all things are connected in some unseen way. As I read the 365 entry, we should be helping each other with no thought of individual reward, but for the collective good of everything.

Which brings us back to Gates and Meditations from the Mat. By changing the way he thought about his practice (and by extension, himself,) he was able to make his practice better. So couldn’t this equally be applied to life in general? By changing the approach (“body language”) we take in our daily lives, can’t we improve the flow of everything around us? And if that change is to treat others as the Divine, the world will be a better place.

Hopefully, this bit of rambling makes sense. It does to me, so I’m going to do my best to elevate those around me, to lift spirits where possible, and to comfort when it’s not.

Roll on!

December 3, 2021: Thoughts about My Father

As I pack to prepare for the train trip back to Salisbury, I’ve had time to let my mind go. Being here for what turned out to be two weeks have given me the opportunity to reflect on family, friends, and self.

Stuffing my carry-on with more than I brought (things that were his), I reflect on my father. I remember him once telling me that he loved each of his children with the love he thought they needed. Being a younger man at the time, I took that to mean that he doled out his affection, giving one more than the other. At the time, I thought that this seemed harsh but kept my mouth shut in deference to him.

Now, as an older, more experienced (I doubt that much wiser) man, I realize that wasn’t what he meant at all. What he was talking about was giving his children the guidance and education that they needed at that time in their lives, whether they knew it or not. Looking back, I can remember times when I thought one of the other of my siblings was Dad’s favorite. The truth was, that particular offspring was unsure or floundering, and Dad gave them the help that they needed.

I think that this is proven at family gatherings. Sometimes, when my brothers and sisters get together, the conversation turns to Dad’s “favorite.” Invariably, each of us point out one of the others as the Golden Child, with NO ONE willing to accept the mantle. We all saw how Dad helped the others while rarely acknowledging the assistance we were given. Or, if it was acknowledged, it was somehow “less than” that provided elsewhere.

Now, he’s gone. While I can’t tell him personally, Thanks, Dad, for teaching me to love and care for my kids as the individuals they are. I love you.

Roll on!

November 28, 2021: Missing Shirley

On this trip back to NoVA, I did not bring my bike. That’s right; Shirley the Surly got left at home this time around. I made this decision when I thought I was going to be spending more time on the train going to Cleveland and back, knowing that while I was there I would not be able to ride. As it turned out (and as related on November 25,) those plans changed when I got word that a fellow volunteer at TPF had tested positive for COVID. Effectively, this added five days to my stay in NoVA. Don’t get me wrong: I love my stepmom and enjoy her company, but if I’d known I’d have all this time, I’d have brought Shirley along.

I do believe that this is the longest I’ve not at least had the option to jump out for a ride. Admittedly, there have been times when I didn’t ride for a week or so, but that was a choice. I always had the option. This sabbatical is not optional, and to say that it makes me a bit antsy is an understatement.

Anyway, in an effort to preserve the bit of sanity I hold onto, I’ve taken to walking in the morning. Being right next to the Mount Vernon Trail (one of the first urban/suburban greenways in the US, I believe) makes this easily doable. This is the same trail that Shirley and I have ridden on in the past, and will ride again in the future. In the meantime, I’m walking it, four or five miles each morning. Nothing heroic or hyper-athletic. Just a meditative traipse along the river.

One thing I have noted is the friendliness of those who share the path on foot. While the lycra-clad MAMILs will as oft as not blow past without a word or other recognition, I’ve noted that those who are walking/jogging/running invariably give a cheerful morning greeting, usually with a bright smile. Makes starting the day so much better.

Mother Nature continues to do her part to let us know about passage of time. In case you haven’t thought about it, the berries glowing red on the holly are a sure indicator of the approaching Winter Solstice.

Look closely. The berries are there!

That’s it for today. I think I’ll close with a picture of Shirley from a few years back, just so she knows she’s in my thoughts.

Until next time.

Roll on!

November 27, 2021: Remembering Those Who Have Gone Before

Those of you who have followed me for a while will remember that a couple years back (when I first went to Salisbury,) I tried to find the gravesites for my Mother and my brother Jack during a few of my pilgrimages to NoVA. Depending on the recollection of my Father, my sister, and my own sieve-like memory, I searched several areas of the cemetery unsuccessfully. By the time I made my way back to Omaha, I was still searching.

Since Dad’s wishes were to be buried with Mom, Linda (my step-mom) and I renewed the search, spending time one evening on the ‘net to see what factoids and clues we could gather. I stumbled upon a site previously unknown to me (billiongraves.com) which not only showed me more prominent markers close by, but gave me a GPS location that would take me almost to the exact spot of their resting place.

The next day, we set out to find them. Parking the car near a mausoleum in the cemetery, it took me less than five minutes to find them! Unsurprisingly, this was nowhere near where I had looked before.

My sister (the one whose memory was as faulty as my own) had asked me back then to let her know if I was able to find the gravesite, so I texted her the picture. Her reply: Now find Stephen!

Fortunately, I had found my youngest brother (who died at 47 days old) on my last visit, so I knew where to look, found his marker, and sent another pic to her.

Now I’m not one to dwell too much on those who are no longer with us. Yes, I do remember them, recall the good times (and the few bad,) and do my best to live in a way that I hope honors them (more so recently.) But I have to admit that finding them did give me pause, a recognition that those parts of my life had changed and were gone. It also reminded me of their love, their lives and my memories not only of these three, but Dad and my uncle. I’m going to do what I can to let those who are left here on Planet Earth with me, whether family, friend, or just fellow human, know that they mean something and that they, at least in some small way, are appreciated.

Roll on!

November 25, 2021: LET THE TURKEY LIVE!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope that you’re able to spend the day with somone that you’re grateful to know, to share with family and friends, and to look forward to the future with gratitude for the past and present.

On my part, I have traveled to Northern VA for the first time since 2019, and for the first Thanksgiving since 2018. On those months between then and now, I have lost my father, and my uncle. I have tried to salvage a relationship that I broke, then realized it was beyond saving. I have left Salisbury and my friends, only to return and be warmly welcomed by them.

As usual, I traveled by train, leaving Salisbury in the morning hours of Sunday 11/21. The hours were spent reading, listening to music, and talking with another vegan during the second half.

All was going well until 45 minutes outside of my destination of Alexandria. I was alerted to a text on my phone and, upon reading it, parts of my planned trip were changed. The text let me know that another volunteer at The Pedal Factory had tested positive for COVID. While my exposure to them was minimal, it was still exposure. Therefore, as soon as I got into the car with my stepmother, I let her know and she immediately donned a mask (I was already so equipped.) On the way to the house, we stopped at a local drugstore where I purchased an at-home rapid test. I followed the instructions, and the first results were negative. So now I had to wait 36 hours to do it again.

In the meantime, I started to make calls. I mentioned above that I lost an uncle to COVID, and one of the visits I had planned was to my aunt, his wife. However, I did not want to take a chance on carrying this damn virus to her home. I talked to her, and we decided that while the risk was probably minimal, it was still a risk. Added to the concern was she was isolating so that she would pose absolutely no risk to her eight month old great-grandson when she visited family at Thanksgiving. The decision was made to postpone my visit to her until my next trip to the area.

I had also planned to travel to Cleveland OH the weekend after the holiday to visit with my sisters. The older of the two is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s; I don’t know if she’d even recognize me, but the chances would have been better now than in six months. She is cared for by my other sister and her wife, both of whom I love dearly. I was really looking forward to that visit, but it’s another one that is postponed for good reason.

Now if all of this sounds like I’m griping, let me assure you that I’m not. I have a lot to be gratefule for in my life. As I have noted in prior posts, I’m grateful that Laura thought enough of me and our relationship that she was willing to try to work through the issues (my issues.) While I am sorry that it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped, I am grateful that we are still friends and that we are staying in contact. I wish happiness for her now and into the future.

I’m grateful for my family. Although our numbers may be dwindling, there is still a lot of love and caring to share with each other. I look forward to being able to see any and all of them today and in the future.

I’m grateful for my friends from wherever I know them. Some closer than others, but all important to me.

I’m grateful for The Pedal Factory for giving me a place to be of service, to be helped, and to care.

Finally, I’m grateful I’m still here, still alive and kicking. For all of these things, I’m grateful today and every day.

Until next time…

Roll on!

November 15, 2021: Growing Pains

Those of you who have read past posts know that I am involved with The Pedal Factory here in Salisbury. It’s a great organization whose mission is to make bikes available to anyone who needs one, whether through a sale of a good bike or the opportunity to gain transportation through the Earn-A-Bike program. As a community bike shop, they also provide a place to learn to maintain bikes along with the use of the tools necessary to do that maintenance. For me personally, it was great therapy. It gave me the chance to help others and to exercise a little empathy. I still look forward to that part of the experience.

Since my return, it’s come to my attention that there is a need for someone to maintain the accounting. Before, all I wanted was to be able to turn a wrench or two and help out folks who would otherwise be on bikes that were unsafe if not unrideable. Now, I see that in order to help the organization grow, I should use those talents of mine. I have volunteered to act as treasurer for the organization, but have continued to emphasize that I do not want a position on the board. I know mysef well enough to know that serving on the board would feed my ego and potentially cause me to backslide. Initial reaction to my offer has been positive, but I won’t know for sure until after the December board meeting.

On other fronts, I have found a cardiologist locally and will visit with him on December 22. I continue to look for a therapist. I think I was spoiled by my therapist in Omaha. Perhaps I need to quit trying to find her doppelganger.

As I finish up this post on the 16th, I’m gettting ready to take a train trip to NoVA for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll be spending ten days with family there and in Cleveland OH before returning to Salisbury. I anticipate that the visits with those I love will be energizing and helpful in preparing for whatever is to come next in this crazy adventure called life. Until next time…

Roll on!

November 13, 2021: The Journal Update

So here’s an update since last month. Several things have occurred that bear mentioning.

First up: transporation. The HHR seemed like a good deal so I purchased it. Since then, though, there are a few “shortcomings.” In the rain, it leaks. I suspect it’s coming in the vents at the windshield, as it seems to get wet in the front on whichever side is downhill. I’ll figure that out when I have the time; until then cheap towels will soak up the excess. I also didn’t check the lugs on the wheels. To be honest, I’ve NEVER felt the need to check the lugs on any car I’ve ever bought. On this one, however, it seems that several were missing on the right front wheel. The remaining few almost completely sheared off, and I almost lost the wheel while driving into town. Life lesson learned at age 68.

While we’re on the topic of water, I also have a leak somewhere between the shower and the kitchen sink. I think I’ve narrowed it down and will be tighting a few connections to make sure. If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll engage a plumber.

On November 1, I moved from my son’s property to a campgroundclose to Salisbury. Nice place with several other long-term occupants. Fairly quiet, except in the AM when all of the diesels crank up to go to whatever job they’re doing that day. Still, it’s good to be out of the kids’ hair.

Last weekend, I volunteered with another Pedal Factory regular to teach/mentor/test a Boy Scout merit badge class. TPF had been approached a few weeks back and the two of us offered our services. As it turned out, there was only one scout signed up for the class. The counselor in charge said he’d have canceled it, but wasn’t give the final count until two days before. So this poor kid had the misfortune of having to put up with two old dudes on bikes. I think he enjoyed the day; I know I did.

I’ve been trying to ride as well. The area around the campground (the main road) is not conducive to riding: narrow with high speed traffic. I went into town last Sunday for the regular social ride which was most enjoyable. This week, I’m leading the ride as the couple who normally do so are out of town.

I guess that’s it for the moment. I have found a cardiologist (appointment in December) and continue looking for a therapist without having to drive for an hour. May end up doing virtual counseling which I don’t find as helpful.

Until next time. enjoy your ride!

Roll on!

October 16, 2021: Re-acclimating to NC

I continue to re-establish myself here in the Salisbury area. I’ve changed the RV’s insurance to NC, as well as my own health insurance. I’ve spent a few hours doing some volunteer work at The Pedal Factory. Now my primary goal is to find a car/truck/van for transportation to those places I can’t reasonably reach by bike. I have a line on a Chevy HHR that (at least on Craigslist) looks like it will do nicely. Stuart (my son) and I are going this evening to take a look at it.

Stuart’s truck decided to balk this week. Last weekend, it wouldn’t start for him; we jiggled a few wires under the hood, though, and it fired up. Wednesday, the same thing happened to me while I was in town. At least the not starting part. We waited for a couple of hours, and it still wouldn’t start. However, the next morning it started right up when Stuart tried on his way to work. That evening, we dropped it off with his mechanic. For now, I’m without a vehicle.

Speaking of riding my bike, so far I haven’t done so. Consciously, I thought it was because I wanted to go over it since it’s been out in the weather. Realistically, I’ve come to the conclusion that riding on the roads out here concerns me. Not because of any danger from the drivers in Rowan County, but out of fear of my Afib. I need to face this and get over it. Otherwise, I won’t be riding at all until after an ablation process.

It’s strange how the mind seeks other, less concerning reasons to justify behavior. I honestly was blaming my concerns about the condition of the Surly, when it is concern for my own human frailty. Since the Afib episoded seem to be occurring late afternoons and evenings, I’m planning to ride in the morning. I even brought the bike into the RV so that the morning dew won’t be an excuse.

Laura and I continue to talk. I doubt that we’ll ever be more than friends again, but it is good to know that she is my friend.

That it for now. Update later.

Roll on!

October 9, 2021: The First Week

It’s been a week since I started this latest chapter. So far, I’m not going any crazier than usual. I’ve adapted to living in the RV, learning a bit more each day. Today, I figured out that my hand-held shower head has a pushbutton cutoff for the water; to this point, I’d been risking scalding water during the rinse cycle. What a discovery!

I’ve been by The Pedal Factory a couple of times, even put some time in last night (Friday) prepping bikes for a team building event they’re hosting for Daimler’s truck plant here in town. Felt good to see the folks there. I’ll be going back today to work open shop.

I do miss Laura. We’ve talked several times on the phone and it’s a bittersweet experience for me. I truly do want nothing more than her happiness; she deserves that.

I’m starting to work on the RV floor today. I don’t anticipate it taking too long, maybe a week. I’ll worry about painting the cabinets (as Laura and I had planned) until after I move to the campground in November.

I posted my move on Facebook to get FB Marketplace to quit showing me search results for Omaha. I didn’t pay attention, but apparently some folks were congratulating, happy, etc. about the move. Most don’t know the reason, but Laura felt like some were celebrating our failed relationship. Personally (while I don’t know anyone’s intent,) I think it’s possible to be happy to see someone while simultaneously being sorry that things didn’t work out.

That’s it for now. I’ll keep posting if you’ll keep reading. Heck, I’ll keep posting just to have the outlet. Until next time

Roll on!