Month: February 2016

The Heart is Heavy from Loss


Today, I just heard that a mentor of mine has passed away.  His name was Bill and he started the company I worked at for almost 20 years.  Today, I am flooded with memories of my time there, some good and some bad but all were amazing.

When I started working in 1989, I was really a lost soul (even more than I am today).  I had recently gotten divorced, had no real job experience to speak of (retail, some bank experience) and I only had my GED.  I had been interviewing all over the place and getting the same response:  sorry, you do not have experience or education.  So when I interviewed, I was asked why I was having such trouble finding a job and I explained what I was being told.

Many years later, the HR Manager told me that when she heard me say that I could not get a job because of lack of experience and education, she decided right than and there that she would get me both.  That was the corporate culture, set forth by Bill and his partner.  Not only do you grow your business, but you grow your employees.  There was an entire culture built around that philosophy.  Many people gained work and life experience as well as a degree. They had a very generous education policy that allowed many to get their degrees, including me.

When I started it was in the Mail Room.  I was scared every day that I was going to goof something up.  I apologized constantly to everyone, I must have looked so pathetic.  One day Bill came up to me in the mail room and asked me what did I know.  Taken aback by the question, I said not much and continued to do my work.  He then asked me what they were paying me for.  That was his sense of humor, but I did not realize it at the time.  For the next two years or so, every time I saw Bill I would start to sweat and shake.  When I had to do something for him, I would do it so completely wrong because I was totally nervous.

I eventually did get over all that and he became a mentor to me.  There were days when he would walk around the facility talking to just about everyone (and he knew all our names), he would get to my office and sit down and either ask me a question about how I thought things were going or something completely random.  He would often tell a story, and when he told a story it was riveting.  Sometimes I would work Saturdays just to get caught up and he would visit my office and ask why I could not get my work done during the week.  Again, it was his sense of humor.

My work days were filled with hard work, learning new things, making lifetime friends, giving back to the community, and having fun.  We all worked hard but when it came time to relax, we did that too.  Picnics, parties and luncheons were all coordinated to either celebrate a milestone or give everyone a break after a long stretch of work. The employees were cared for.

I learned many things about business from Bill, but also things about life.  My life before was unstructured and not cohesive.  I learned to wear many different hats and I gained so much experience.  All the time watching this interesting man run his business and continue to be humble.  His humanity and humility are the things this world will miss the most.  We live in a society where Donald’s and Kanye’s boast about their greatness.  I learned from Bill if you are truly great, you do not have to tell a soul.  It can be seen and felt.  With Bill it was.

I shudder to think where my life would be without knowing Bill and all the people who I worked with.  It was truly a family of sorts.  We would fight, tease, and be rough on each other but in the end we all admired and loved one another.  That is what Bill taught us.  Unfortunately, like all good things, those times ended and people moved on.  I have kept in touch with many and lost touch with many.  I never really talked with Bill after I left, and I regret that.  But his presence lived on in my life and will continue to.

Some people touch your life in ways that cannot be explained.  Bill touched my life and those of many others in that way.  He left a legacy in every person who knew him.  His light will shine for decades to come and I am honored to have known him.

Goodbye, Bill, your life showed me how to live. You WILL be missed.

















































Riding the Tail of the Dragon

Dragon #3

I do not own any of the images used in this post.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about the lovely Tapoco Lodge and I purposely left out the information about how I got there.  Today, I will explain about the Tail of the Dragon (also known as US 129)

The Tail of the Dragon is a 11-mile stretch of paved road between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest.  It is, unbeknownst to me the first time I drove it, a coveted road for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts.  I have read that there are no intersections or driveways to interfere with the drive.  To be honest, I never even noticed that and I have driven it three times now.  When you ride the dragon, you keep your eyes on the road and that is it, end of story.

You see it is not just a scenic little drive through the mountains-although it is that–there are actually 318 curves, twists, and switchbacks on that 11 mile strip of road.  318!!!!  Did I mention the sheer drops, no berms and the possibility of animals crossing the road?  And there is always the chance of rock slides and fallen trees in the road.

Dragon #1

The first time I drove it I was totally ignorant of the dragon.  I had never heard of it.  In fact, it was my third time driving it that I even realized what was going on.  Then it all made sense.  Until then I thought it was just some poorly executed road through the mountains.  My first drive on the dragon was at night and during a rainstorm.  The absolute terror I felt has basically wiped most of the memories away of that night.  I thought I was in some bad horror movie.  The dark (very dark) road went on and on for what seemed like hours.  I had motorcycles and sports cars passing me at high speeds and there was no where to turn off or turn around.  There is very little phone reception due to the mountains.  I was sure that somewhere along the road was going to be my final resting place.

I made it to my destination about an hour late, then I had the great pleasure of driving it again to get back to where I was staying.  Luckily, the GPS found a different route back but it was still a challenge especially at night.

The second time I drove it was during the day and I just took my time.  Again, motorcycles and sports cars passed me with a vengeance.  It had to look funny seeing this middle-aged woman driving this four-door SUV on this road.  I was still clueless as to what was going on.  Again, I made it to my destination.  This time I stayed a while and did not give the dragon another thought.

It was when I booked the room at the Tapoco Lodge (I had stopped there on one of  my trips looking for directions–that is when I decided I wanted to stay there) that I started to read about the Tail of the Dragon and learned just how many curves there actually are. 318!!  Sitting on the porch of my cabin at the Tapoco Lodge I watched dozens of motorcycles, Corvettes, Porsches and other sports cars zoom past on their way to quite an adventurous drive.  That was in December, I cannot imagine how crowded the road can get in the summer.

Dragon #2

Riding the Tail of the Dragon (not once, but three times) was never on my plan when I started this trip.  But it actually has turned out to be one of my proudest achievements.  I am not sure how many SUVs make the trip, but Devi rose to the challenge, hugged that road and kept going.  She is an amazing vehicle!  The things I have put her through!

There are many accidents along this road.  I have read that it can take an hour or longer to get emergency personnel to an accident scene due to the remoteness.  This road is to be respected and not thought of lightly.  People have lost their lives here.  So if you ever find yourself on the tail, tread lightly but have fun.  It is quite a road and the scenery is breathtaking if you get a chance to see it.

dragon #4




Half Full or Half Empty?

Half full

The other day I was emailing my sister about the things going on in my life.  She is my best cheerleader; she picks me up when I fall, she encourages me when I am down, and helps me think clear when my mind is cloudy.  This particular day I as down more than my usual amount and she encouraged me.  Then she said that she was a glass half full person.  I have heard that saying so many times, but I never really thought about what it meant.

What does that mean?  In her case, I believe, it means that as long as there is something in the glass she still has hope and blessings in her life.  She does see the positive in life.

So in the reverse, I suppose, it would mean that if your glass was half empty that you feel that you are lacking in something, in need of whatever was in the glass even though there is still some remaining.

I got to thinking about a glass of iced tea (my favorite!).  The glass comes to me full and after I take my first sip I worry when am I going to get more.  The glass isn’t even half empty yet and I am already ruminating about running out. I can no longer enjoy the tea because I am worrying about it. The same is true with Oreo’s.  I eat the first one and I feel the need to get a new package for when the first package is gone.  How messed up is that?!?  It is almost like hoarding, but not quite.  I do not want to keep the tea or the Oreo’s indefinitely.  I want to consume them but I want to be sure I have more for the next time.

So, the half-full, half-empty scenario does not seem to work for me.  I do not want lots of things, but the things that I do want I tend to want in overflow mode.  Then comes the time I have had my fill of Oreo’s and I move on to PopTarts or some other thing.  Then the cycle starts all over again.

After much thought, I do not think I really want the Oreo’s, but I want the comfort they provide.  I want to hoard comfort.  I realize that I am so afraid of losing the few things that give me comfort that I am in a constant state of anxiety trying to be comforted.  I know it makes no sense.  I think that is why the epic journey did not work as well as I had hoped because I could not live in the moment.  I had to be on the look out for my next comforting moment.

When I speak of comfort I do not necessarily mean a posh bed with a down comforter.  I mean the intangible feeling of being safe and secure; having my own space where I can just be.  I had a hard time finding that on the road.  Devi became my comfort zone as she represented a space that was mine, and even today she is that to me.

I feel I am in constant anxiety mode worrying that my comfort zone will be gone or that I will have to find a new one, so I am always looking.  I am never enjoying today because tomorrow I may be out of Oreo’s.  It is no wonder I am never happy or content, I am always on the edge of the cliff.

That explains a lot.  Now, how do I fix it?  Do I give up Oreo’s all together and learn to live without them?  I have written in the past wondering how important a comfort zone really is and I am still struggling with that ideal.  I need to start living in the moment, but I honestly do not know how.  I should be able to eat the Oreo’s and not worry about getting more.  I should be able to eat them and move onto HoHo’s or whatever that particular day offers me.  Each day is different and I think I look to the Oreo’s to be the consistent thing, the comfort, in my life.

I have to learn that, as the saying goes, it is the journey not the destination that is what makes life worth living.  I have been fighting the journey all the time saying that the journey is all I want in life.  I have been afraid; afraid of change, afraid of discomfort, afraid of everything.  Now it is time for me to wipe all that away and live today without worrying about the Oreo’s for tomorrow.  For tomorrow there will either by Oreo’s or maybe even something better.  I cannot hold on so tightly to an ideal that I cannot live my life.

I spent many years  barely able to leave the house without extreme terror.  I was literally afraid of everything and everyone.  I was miserable. I finally learned to step out of it, but not completely.  I must have held onto some of that fear as it has resurfaced.  The comfort I thought I felt being in that house and not being able to go out actually turned into a prison rather than a place of comfort.  I am starting to do that again without the house part.  I have no real place to hide and it is freaking me out.

Understanding the problem is the first step to recovering from it.  Maybe now I can start working on weaning myself off of the Oreo’s and enjoying the things going on around me instead of worrying about tomorrow.  I want to be a glass half full person.  I want to see the possibilities and not the reasons it will not work.  I am going to start enjoying the moment and forget about tomorrow.  As it has been said, tomorrow is not guaranteed anyway.  Why ruin today because I have to plan out tomorrow?

I am sure this is going to be easier said then done, but now I understand the Oreo’s in my life and I think I can make some changes.

Here is to the people in your life who are your cheerleaders…we all need them and I hope to “get well enough” to be that for someone else.  Those people are the ones that create the change in life.  Thank you to Rita for being my cheerleader.




Don’t Taunt Me….I am a Work in Progress

The other day while I was in a store I noticed the cutest hard shell, wheeled travel bag.  It was black with simple white polka dots.  It was big enough to carry all of my current earthly belongings and the fact it had wheels seemed perfect for my next trip; carrying a heavy shoulder bag full of underwear and jeans just isn’t fun for me at my age.  I did not, however, buy it as it seemed too expensive.  Little did I know what would happen next…

That night I fell asleep for a change, instead of tossing and turning for hours.  I must have been thinking about the travel bag because it showed up in a dream.  It was just in the corner of the room, not doing anything but sitting absolutely still.  I then realized that it was taunting me in some bizarre passive-aggressive, dream-state way.  It wanted me to pack up and continue my epic journey. 

Earlier that day,  I momentarily thought about bar tending my way across Europe and ending up in Greece. I thought after spending some time at a farm stay in Greece I would trek back to Buffalo, Wyoming for Longmire Days in July.  I wanted to make the epic journey really epic but then the reality set in.  Number one, I don’t even know how to bar tend even if I could find someone to hire me for the short term in a foreign country.  Number two, I do not have a passport, never had one.  Number three, the amount in my checking account is not conducive to travel domestically, let alone overseas.  I have the dreams, I just do not have the means.  

That cute little bag knew I was conflicted yet again.  I really want to hit the road but it is not possible right now.  I seem to have lots of ideas but no resources to make them happen. I often wonder how  visionary people do their visionary things.  Somehow I do not think it is just about money: there has to be another component to the equation that I am missing.  

I have been hearing stories of late by people who blazed the trails back in the day or who are currently blazing the trail now.  I want in on that action, I want to create stories and memories that inspire others and that will carry me into my twilight years with the knowledge that I got out “there” and did something.  I just cannot reconcile obligations versus ideals.  

I’m sure there are trails to be blazed right here where I am.  I just cannot seem to find them. That is a common theme of this blog…how my vision does not add up to my reality.  That cute little bag knows that I know what I want but that the implementation of the vision is what is lacking, and the never-ending list of necessary resources is usually a bit on the shy side also.

I need to study how others have lived their dreams and see if I can recreate some of the magic in my life.  I need to figure out how this kind of lifestyle is lived.  I thought it would be easy to be carefree and reckless; turns out it is a more calculated risk then I previously knew. 

Here is to figuring out how to live one’s dream and still be somewhat responsible. And here is to picking up that cute travel bag for when the opportunity becomes a reality.