Tag archive: Colleen Ann Guest
Letting go of something I’ve loved so much is a mountain insurmountable. As LeAnn Rimes sang (or Trisha Yearwood depending on your preference), “How do I live without you?”.
Since I purchased a 2021 Suzuki Vstrom 650XT Adventure bike, affectionately named, Pig, I’m having a difficult time justifying owning both my Dirt Pony (2015 Scrambler Icon 803) and the Pig. As evidenced by the legion of loyal Vstrom owners, this 650 adv bike is truly special. Only a week or so into ownership I can attest to why its praises continue to be extolled by so many . . . It is everything they say it is and MORE!!
Even with all my ($$pricey) adventurey upgrades and mods to Pony, the Pig outperforms the Pony in nearly every respect. Except these . . .
- The Pony has more . . . well . . . ponies!
- The Pony is a Ducati!
- The Pony was my first bike.
Other than point #1, which objectively contributes more power and low-end torque to the picture, the other 2 points are quite subjective but are probably what keeps me the most emotionally (and subsequently physically and financially) attached to the Pony.
Just when my analytical, practical brain takes over (following a ride on the Pig) and tells me I should sell the Pony, save money, and get over it, I fire the Pony’s beastly growling heart to life and the roar of that engine alone sows seeds of doubt again. I climb aboard the familiar saddle, kick the little bugger into a gallop and experience the intense pleasure one only knows from riding Ducati. You see, Ducati really is different! You don’t simply “ride” this motorcycle, you “experience” it. In order to fully grasp it’s pleasure-giving qualities you dance with it… as in full-on ballroom style dancing. The act of manipulating the clutch, gear shift, throttle, and brakes becomes finely tuned choreography which serves to enhance the immense pleasure as you learn the bike’s tension limits. After years of dancing together, you become as one unit, no longer thinking about mechanics, but just being… gracefully sweeping the paved and dirt perfomance “stages” like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing their way through scenes in a grand movie musical. As nimble as the Pig is (freakishly so!) it doesn’t dance with me.
And then there’s this…(least practical but most emotionally blackmailing), the Pony was my first motorcycle. I waited almost 9 months after ordering it in 2014 for it to arrive in the US as I was one of the first people in the world to clamor behind its unveiling. The wait was akin to a gestation period in which I spent countless hours studying anything I could find on the internet from the European riders and US press who got their hands on it before me. Since the first slap on the ass, together we have traveled nearly 54k miles enduring many trials and adventures. To compound the pain, the bike is not currently failing in any way . . . it’s still going strong!! I cannot tear myself away from the fond memories and intense joy I feel when simply looking at my proud little Pony. As capable as the Pig is (Adv/touring deluxe!), it doesn’t have soul.
How does one kick a faithful steed aside for an arguably lesser mount in a minority of highly subjective respects?
If anyone out there has been faced with the same dilemma (and I know you have… looking at you guitarists!), PLEASE give me advice. Be brutal with all sides of the argument and help me make a sensible decision I can live with.Details
Today is the anniversary of the end of the Korean War. I know this because my dad has made a point this week – every day – to remind me. You see, my dad is a Marine. A Korean War veteran. He tells me, that on the truce day, the Marines (my dad among them) lined up on one hill looking across to the Korean Army on the other hill. The landscape was burned and savaged. Neither side was really sure the war was over and everyone stood ready to battle. The tension and ultimate relief must have felt incredibly bipolar and overwhelming.
While my dad doesn’t tell war stories, he has some very strong memories and emotions surrounding a few occasions during his time in Korea and the Corp which he does care to share and I’ll drop one of them here.
Now, first you need to understand my dad is a prolific story teller, and in spite of his proclivity to reel you in with a well-crafted punchline, he will also relay honest-to-God genuine tales of his life’s exploits. Much like Edward Bloom in the movie Big Fish, my dad’s life has been full of imaginative, wild, and true stories which are made all the more endearing by his ability to tell them with a trademark twinkle in his eye.
Now in his 90s with his memory beginning to fail, the stories have become a bit jumbled as the events and chronology are tangled in the fog of an aging mind. He knows he’s having trouble, hates that he struggles, but nevertheless, he continues to regale us with his tales. Having heard most of them over the years, I’m able to weed through the hazy retelling; just enjoying being in his company and giving him the audience he craves while knowing in my heart that some bits don’t quite belong with other bits.
BUT, there are some stories which are indelibly etched in his mind and will probably remain intact until he draws his final breath. This is one of them. And it about brings me (and him) to tears every time he tells it.
When my dad was in high-school, he opted to take typing because the teacher was a very good looking young woman named Miss Quillter – obviously an excellent reason to choose that particular elective. 😉
Fast forward a year or so later, after he had joined the Marine Corp, to a mission in Korea in which his unit was ordered to the front lines. My dad, being a gung-ho Marine, jumped to it, but was collared by a superior officer. “Illsley, not you!” He barked. “I understand you can type.” Much to my dad’s dismay, he was held back so he could type up the battle report.
On one hand, this was a blessing. Practically his entire unit was wiped out on that day. Had my dad gone, he most likely would not have survived. On the other hand, it was one the most gut‐wrenching, tragic times of his war experience.
You see, he was forced to type up the names of the guys he trained with, lived with, and fought beside – brave young men who died or were severely wounded in the ensuing battle. Bitter tears flooded his eyes and streamed down his face with every stroke of the keys, typing “KIA” (killed in action) or “WIA” (wounded in action) alongside the name of a buddy who just hours before he may have shared a tent or a meal with.
My dad is the strongest man I’ve ever known, and to watch the emotions stranglehold him as he retells those events (hundreds of times by now) is simply unbearable. He was, and still is, riddled with survivor’s guilt while also filled with gratitude and full recognition that he was incredibly blessed by life circumstances. He has never been able to quite reconcile the two. (Btw, don’t let anyone tell you that what happened in Korea was a “conflict”. It was a war with all the hell that goes with it!)
Clearly though, he survived, met my mother, had my brother and I, has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His life has been filled with one thrilling event after another and his legacy is secure!
On a lighter note to wrap this all up, wanna know one nugget I’ve come away with after a lifetime of hearing and contemplating this particular story?
Well, if you ever have to choose a class for an extra credit, you might want to pick the one with the good looking teacher. It just might save your life!Details
Because of the Great Fear, I (like most everyone) wasn’t allowed to mingle freely in 2020. My home was my office for my day job; however, I did manage to go in to the real office for almost a quarter of the year at various times. When I did go in, I took a photo every morning upon my arrival and texted them to my dear husband to let him know I made it safely to my destination. After collecting the photos all year I thought I’d share with you too. These are the unedited pics in the order I sent to him.
If you too have found interesting ways to distract yourselves in 2020, please share in the comments!Details
I took a work trip to Basel Switzerland back in March 2020 before the world turned upside down. While riding the tram daily to my place of work, I would take down notes for a blog I had every intention of writing and releasing before I made my way back home to the USA. However, my trip was cut short due to a frantic scramble to obtain passage back to the states before the borders were closed. Securing my flights along the way (I could only get one flight at a time to another country with no guarantee I could even find a connection to the next stop or ultimately to the US) was nothing short of an epic adventure in itself so by the time I buckled my seat belt on my final flight to America, my frazzled mind understandably put the blog on a back burner. I am just now remembering I still have those notes. So rather than rework the tense to reflect the past, let me go ahead and release it as it was originally intended – in the present tense while still strolling around the beautiful and welcoming city of Basel, Switzerland.
10 things Basel is trying to tell me:
1. I need hair service. Badly. There are multiple coiffure shops in every block. Literally every block! Yet no one here appears to look like they’ve had their tresses tended to. I would expect to see some spectacularly crafted hairstyles everywhere I look, but people on the street look just as mundane and bedraggled as people on American streets. What the heck are they getting done to their hair? What unseen service is being performed? But thank you(?) for reminding me on every corner that I must dash in for it.
2. I need to know what time it is. It is Switzerland after all so this is not entirely unexpected. Time is serious business to the Swiss. But like coiffure shops, the watch shops are in extreme overabundance. How many time pieces do people buy here? Do they lose watches at an astronomical rate? How do all these competing watch shops stay in business?
3. I do NOT need another knife. (Well, ok that may be true but…) The Swiss are also renowned for their knives but there is an eerie lack of knife shops in Basel – as in almost NONE at all. Really, I hunted for a whole day and only found one teeny tiny cobbler’s shop which also cut keys and had a less than arousing selection of plain old Victornox knives. I guess having something (still not sure what) done to your hair and stacking wrist watches up to your elbows are way higher priorities than carrying one quality, unique pocketknife.
4. I’m in great need of something gold. As in real gold. Right now! The number of jewelry stores hawking GOLD is only rivaled by the coiffure industry trying to intimate that hair service is immediately and often required. Surely the Swiss are not this vain. Are they? They don’t look like they dress extravagantly (or colorfully) or put on showy displays of any sort. No one appears to be dripping in gold chains, rings, and bracelets. Where do they put all those golden trinkets? Who is buying all this jewelry?
5. Surely, I need something from the drugstore and grocery. As plentiful as the hair salons, jewelry stores, and watch shops, are the bazillion apothecary shops and little grocery stores. I appreciate continual access to the grocery with their fresh produce and quality foods, really, I do, but this is extreme overkill. And the drug stores! How often do people need to purchase drug store type stuff? Is there some secret item I’m missing from my toiletries? Am I less than civilized for not knowing?
6. I need more exercise and fresh air. (Again, this may be true but….) Even if you don’t ride a bicycle (seems like everyone does) and you mostly ride the public transportation, you get lots of good walking in. Cars are in the vast minority and there’s hardly a place to park them or get gas if you had one. Everyone is trim and healthy looking. They eat at the outdoor seating at cafes no matter how cold or rainy. No one seems to spend any time indoors for very long. It’s a very physically active and outdoorsy society.
7. I only need American taste in music. Clearly not true, but I swear to God the soundtrack to Swiss life is rock and roll, Americana, jazz, big band, or country, with a little pop music occasionally – all in English. And music is EVERYWHERE (indoors and out). Even the busker at the train station was playing old Amercan pop songs on his accordion – ACCORDION!! I’m smack dab in the middle the land of polka and world class yodeling and is it too much to ask for a little waltzy tempo on that squeezebox and a yodeleeho sprinkled in here or there?? Come ON! However, I found a fun channel on the TV called FOLX. And THEY play the greatest (and kookiest) folk, polka and yodeling videos. I’m in heaven. Neel would hate me right now if he had to be in the room with me. I pretty much leave the TV on that channel whenever I’m in my hotel room.
8. I need to smoke a lot more cigarettes. As in ANY because I don’t smoke. But seriously these Swiss can suck down some cancer sticks on an epic scale!! As I was climbing the hillside steps from my work (like Heidi ascending the Alps), I was inhaling the fresh air and dared to muse that even the air is better in Basel because everything is so clean here. And shortly after reaching the street — as if on cue — I was abruptly assaulted with a nasty, nicotine, drenched cloud. How can such eco and health conscious people think this is a good habit??
9. I need to smile less. And be less friendly, and not make jokes, and stop attempting to make small talk. People on the street in Basel are superbly stoic and distant. No emotion is the name of the game if you want to fit in here. Forget all my efforts to dress in the distinctly bland-colored, scarfed, skinny panted, euro uniform. Or as I call it, the “I’m-not-American-camouflage”. My friendly “smile and nod” gives me away as a dopey American every time. The more I try to keep a straight face in public the harder I find it to keep from busting out laughing from the effort. Note to self. . . Never play poker with the Swiss!
10. I need to carry a backpack. OK this one is true… at least while in Basel. Because most people rely on public transit, walking, or cycling, having a quality backpack to put all your shopping, stash your layers as you peel them off, or carry your bazillion watches and apothecary supplies is a must! There is literally NO ONE unadorned by a wearable bag of some description. So when in Rome…. Yep I got one:
In case I’ve given you the mistaken impression that I was less than enamored with my stay in Basel, let me set the record straight. I LOVED each and every minute there. I could easily pick up stakes and happily relocate to Basel. In A HEARTBEAT!! It’s a beautiful, welcoming, safe, temperate, and historic city with lots of things to see and do.
But the evidence staring me down from shiny store fronts with brightly colored signs and eye-catching window displays tells me I’m apparently an American hick, ignorant of the social graces required to exist in such Euro sophistication. I’m doing my best to pretend I fit in, but who am I fooling?
Life back in the US will surely find me:
- with my hair unsuspectingly uncoiffed and uncolored
- curled up in my comfy chair indoors (no matter how nice the weather)
- running out of toiletries and eating stale crumbs from the cupboard because I’m too lazy to take my ginormous, full-size, gas-guzzling, truck 2 long miles to the nearest stores
- oblivious of the passing of time
- indifferent to my lack of gold trinkets
- wildly waving, smiling and calling out to my neighbors and strangers on the street
- and gazing lovingly at my vast, shiny knife collection . . .
- . . . all while listening to the Bill Flynn Polka Show and wishing I could yodel like my dad!
Watch the video below for a slideshow of my adventure set to the super hot yodeling vocals of Melanie Oesch:Details
Not long ago, I found myself face to face with a terrifying dilemma. I had been running as hard and as fast as I could to avoid accepting reality and I had run out of road. There was nothing in front of me except a tall cliff and turbulent waters below. Behind me was a monster of my own making, barrelling down on me like a freight train. I furtively glanced over my shoulder and with no more evasive maneuvers available, I naturally made the only choice an action hero could make – – I hurtled myself over the edge, plummeting through the air with arms flailing wildly, and plunged into the icy waters below.
OK, quitting my day job may not have been as dramatic as all that and perhaps it doesn’t qualify as an Indiana Jones worthy, life-and-death-hanging-in-the-balance, kind of adventure, but it has certainly been filled with thrills, pitfalls, obstacles, and ultimately – redemption. Giving up a regular income and the predictable way of life my husband and I had become accustomed to was a gargantuan risk, no doubt, and it was also the most exhilarating stunt I’ve pulled off in a long time. It was exactly what was required in this instance to restore balance to my life . . . and I should have done it years ago.
Come on, admit it, you know there have been times when a sweeping overhaul of your life was long overdue. But have you done anything about it, or have you simply allowed yourself to languish for years with no end in sight to the daily drudgery? Even when we recognize the need to adjust our sails and set a new course, how do we get up the gumption to break the monotony and implement a plan of action? Ideally, we would objectively plan for the future and play the waiting game ever so skillfully until it’s the perfect time to strike. But more often than not we suffer stoically through our miserable circumstances, hopelessly mired in self-doubt, guilt, and apathy. We become hostages to fear of the unknown, sabotaged by the what ifs.
The thought of turning in my resignation and all that it entailed paralyzed me with fear but the thought of staying put left me feeling hopelessly dejected. As established by my long-suffering passivity, clearly, I wasn’t willing to make a major life change while enveloped in a safe (albeit stagnant) environment, so what was I to do? Waiting for the monstrous flood waters to inevitably envelop me was far less palatable than diving in with grit and abandon on my own terms. Could it be that that No Plan was cleverly disguised as a GREAT PLAN?
Now and again you just have to embody the spirit of adventure à la Indiana Jones:
With much trepidation and a vise-like knot clenching at my guts,
I closed my eyes and leapt . . . Off the quitter’s cliff I flew!
The initial impact of the cold water was shocking, but as my stunned body struggled to overcome the jolt, self-preservation seized me and I defiantly swam upward. Gasping for air as my head broke the surface, I felt the warm sun on my face and my spirit soared. I didn’t die!! Filled with the exhilaration of survival, I realized that jumping to what seemed like certain death was, in reality, my very salvation.
Leaving an unfulfilling job behind, I was suddenly freed from chains I was only marginally aware I’d been sporting. At long last, I had found the time to reassess my goals, take inventory of my skills, get reacquainted with my inner voice, and restore a modicum of peace to my soul. As I navigate the Between Employment River with steady, deliberate strokes I’ve been using the time constructively so that when I’m ready to step back on dry land, I can re-engage the work world with a renewed passion and healthy mindset. Paddling along day by day, I’ve gained an enormous amount of clarity and discovered that I can swim farther, and my lungs can hold more air than I ever thought possible. It’s been a positive, reality-checking, time of self-discovery!
By reconnecting with former co-workers and good friends I’ve been reminded that I add value to the world and that once upon a time I used to enjoy contributing my unique talents to the workplace. In reviewing my resume and digging deep into my past job experiences I have been able to identify what my talents are and where my interests lie. Utilizing resources like LinkedIn, recruiter websites, and other online tools has proven invaluable in successfully navigating the modern, murky waters of digital-age employment seeking. And just allowing myself time to decompress and recover from years of apathy has given me a fresh perspective on life in general.
Make no mistake, I fully understand that life is filled with good days and bad days. No job is going to fulfill all my needs, no workplace is perfect, and no amount of leaping off cliff after cliff will solve all my problems. But taking stock in who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I want to go, is a valuable exercise which my self-imposed break has afforded me. I may be middle-aged, but I’ve got my whole life ahead of me!
While you may not be ready to pull a full-on Butch and Sundance like I did, you ought to at least consider where your areas of stagnation lie. A well thought-out plan is awesome if you can execute it, but sometimes testing your mettle is worth the heart-pounding dive! Drumming up the courage to jump is the most difficult part and adversity is surely promised, but it’s in surviving that reveals what you’re made of and determines your future character! How will you ever attain those dreams if you aren’t venturesome enough to take a risk, knowing that sustaining a few bruises is part of the badge of honor you’ll wear proudly when you succeed? If you’re willing to embrace the unknown, humble enough to accept assistance, and resolute in pressing on to wherever the current takes you, you’ll withstand the fall and rise up with purpose.
Sometimes calling it quits is the winning move!Details
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Now there’s a question guaranteed to stop me dead in my tracks – E V E R Y T I M E. I marvel at folks who have always been able to answer that question with certainty. Me? I’ve always wondered why a response required that I must choose just one occupation – why can’t I be everything that appeals to me – an astronaut, a ballerina, a rodeo rider, an artist, a waitress, a rockstar, or a Hollywood stuntman? Why must I be pigeonholed into a single defining vocation before I’d even had my first kindergarten nap? With endless opportunities before me, answering that question seemed impossible as a child and now that I’m an adult, I have no more clarity than I ever have.
Perhaps the better question is, “WHO do you want to be when you grow up?”. Now THAT is an approach which requires introspection and allows us to ponder a CHARACTER path instead of a CAREER path. And let’s be honest – aren’t we all more interested in surrounding ourselves with people of good character rather than simply hiring or befriending a mere body possessing a detached set of skills? We all know that the person of quality character is always the better choice to employ or otherwise engage with.
In my life, I’ve been many things – a rodeo rider (yes for real!), an actress, a farm girl, a bench jeweler, a mother, a widow, and so much more in addition to my varied job titles. I’ve stepped in more manure figuratively and quite literally than I can count. I’ve fallen, dusted myself off, and gotten back up with determination and grit befitting a prize fighter. I’ve kissed away pain and consoled broken hearts. My own heart has nearly burst with pride while I’ve been quietly content to give wings to others so they may soar to their highest heights. I’ve counted it joy to collaborate with a team to make a collective dream come true. But I’m not defined by any single one of those things or attributes or positions. My character so far is the result of the melding of all my experiences and choices.
And I’m far from being a finished product. I’m still exploring the possibilities of who I might become. I look forward to adding to my skill-set and achievements throughout my life so that when I’m done here, I can say I had become the “who” of my dreams rather than the “what” of my dreams.
Being the proverbial Jack of All Trades, I’ve picked up a few traits which transcend any job description, and which are translatable to any position. Some of these qualities which I embody, value, and may be of interest to potential employers are (in no particular order):
- Thrives in a virtual/remote environment
- Coordinates projects, sets priorities, and meets deadlines with minimal direction
- Uses initiative and independent judgment within established policy & procedural guidelines
- Resourceful, reliable & manages time effectively
- Completes tasks with accuracy and efficiency using task reminder tools
- Designs creative ways to refine and improve processes to enhance workflow
- Swift learner with outstanding problem-solving skills
- Adept at compiling and analyzing data utilizing various databases, spreadsheets, sources, and tools
- Strong attention to detail and outstanding organizational skills
- Well-versed in standard office administrative practices and procedures
- Communicates effectively with co-workers, subordinates, superiors, and the public
- Maintains strictest confidentiality with honesty and integrity
- Listens with empathy to overcome objections and resolve conflicts
- Flexible and adaptable to new/changing environments
So, if you asked me WHO I want to be, instead of WHAT I want to be, I’d tell you this:
I want to be the BEST version of me I can possibly be. I want to be a team player who makes valuable contributions to a worthy goal. I want to be known for being kind, generous, caring, funny, creative, meticulous, responsive, and thorough. I want YOU to be a better person for having known me.
And I want to be valued.
Who do YOU want to be when you grow up?Details
WARNING – this post may trigger some of you to put on your God-police badge, don your God-judge robe, and be ready to swing your God-executioner ax across my scrawny neck – all in the name of love I’m sure – but I urge you to stop right now, take a deep breath (or several) and prepare to simply read with an objective, peaceful, frame of mind. My thoughts may or may not align with yours, but that doesn’t make me less of a compassionate human for thinking them.
God is real. I really believe that! But finding Him and figuring out which sources to trust while seeking Him is a daunting task. Throughout my life I’ve attended many churches, researched written texts, reviewed archaeological findings, and listened to personal testimony all in an attempt to put down a concrete foundation which proves His existence in a way I can settle the matter once and for all. Along the way, through all my “discoveries”, I’ve found myself waffling between being firmly convinced of His accessibility to being utterly disappointed in His apparent lack of engagement. Yet, I still haven’t given up my intrinsic belief in the Almighty God’s existence and I continue to seek Him.
Everyone has their own world view which is in part based upon their past experiences, education, hand-me-down opinions, fantasies, and pure blind faith. What shapes one person’s view in such a way that helps them make sense of the world around them may be so completely foreign to another person that the two find themselves at irreconcilable odds. On the surface and viewed objectively – knowing that people are willing to kill (and die) to defend their personal belief in a particular way of life (and way of after-life) – the very idea of a God-seeking humanity seems utterly absurd. Yet people vehemently stand by their belief systems and still no one I’ve come across seems to be able to provide proof positive that their way is THE way. Because I was raised in a Christian home and Christian community, my world view and belief system has always been, and probably always will be, skewed towards filtering things through my Christian lens.
But I’ve often wondered how I can be SURE that I am on the right path to the one true God and His calling in my life. And who hasn’t pondered the reason for man’s existence and the wondered about what the afterlife looks like? Are there really eternal implications of how we conduct our lives in the here and now? If only I could ask someone – someone with the authority to answer – you know – like God himself.
As a small child, my pea brain churned over these thoughts and sometimes I would ask the trusted adults around me if they knew the answers. They gave me kind, loving responses indicating that God had it all worked out and I don’t need to worry, which placated me at the time but left a gnawing feeling that something was missing. How could I know– and not just believe on faith? Where exactly is God anyway so I can ask him directly?
Lots of silence was the answer to that.
Once I could read, libraries were my favorite place to hang out and dig a little deeper on my own– but the going was slow; the materials were limited and often outdated.
As I grew older I spent time in counsel with church members and leaders trying to get their take on the matter, but they didn’t seem any more convinced than I was as to His exact whereabouts when I pressed them with challenging questions.
Insert droning, audible silence.
I’ve read countless versions and translations of the Bible and studied with fervor both in groups and in solitary.
What was that sound? Oh, it’s silence.
The advent of the internet with its growing instant availability to articles, documents, opinions, and other materials along with its access to actual people in other countries and their cultures, has expanded my knowledge base considerably regarding how other people view life, God, and the hereafter. Of course, we have to be extra discerning in this digital age considering any wacko can self-publish anything on the internet (you’re reading MY blog, aren’t you?) but, I think that with enough cross examination and objectivity one can scrounge up “reputable enough” internet sources to be content with their veracity. All I got for my efforts was…
Mind numbing silence.
I’ve prayed to, sung to, talked with, yelled at, argued with, and wept with the God I believe is in power. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been heard, but not answered – not really.
Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence.
I’ve come up short on answers thus far but I’m not giving up. I still really just want to go to the top (God) with my questions but I’m at a loss as to how to get there. One thing I have learned through all my research and reasoning, is that surely God – THE God – must be known to other cultures and peoples which coexist across this globe who are outside of the sphere of Christian influence. To place limits on God’s presence, activity, and preferred ways of communication is to limit God Himself. And lets face it, a limited God is nothing more than a god (small g – man’s delusion) and is not the one true God who created the heavens and earth and all things in them. So, let’s talk about God (big G). Not WHO He is – I don’t question His existence – but rather WHERE He is.
If you have to ask then you don’t know.
God is with me – just a prayer away I’m pretty sure. But sometimes His presence feels elusive, like He’s just out of reach, hiding around the corner. There are times though, when His whereabouts are utterly unknown to me and I feel like I’m all alone living in a void. Yet at other times, it feels like he’s right next to me chatting like an old friend and hugging me close. And on some rare nights He visits me briefly in vivid dreams which leaves a long-lasting impression of a thought I need to embrace or an action I ought to take. So how do I reconcile this alternating sense of His divine, loving presence with apparent icy, cold aloofness? Does He actually leave me like it sometimes feels? Or, could He really be there all the time and I’m simply blindly unaware of His presence? Is it my own sin that separates me from recognizing Him, as I have read in the Bible and been taught by many a pastor? If that were the case, then I would most likely never feel His blessed companionship, for nary a day goes by that I don’t commit one sin or another – either unintentionally or (gasp) in full awareness. And I suspect that the rest of humanity (including all the dedicated pew fillers) is not too unlike me in that regard – most of the time we try to avoid sinning but we just can’t seem to keep from stepping in the steaming piles of poo we have blatantly squirted in our own paths. And if Jesus died to save me from my sin (all of my sin – not just the sin I committed before accepting his gift of saving grace), then He surely knew my sinful nature is pervasive and not something I can easily or completely control. No, my sin alone cannot be the thing that separates me from an awareness of God’s presence at times. Honestly, I do feel like He’s with me most of the time, but if he does take a Colleen break… where does He go?
He’s probably at church, right?
Let’s focus on Christianity here for a moment and say that I want to seek God out in a place of worship when I feel the need to put Him back into my personal space. Which church is the one true church – the one actually condoned and endorsed by God Himself? They all claim to have a corner on that market, yet there are so many differences between them – pretty darn big differences I might add. As I examine various paths of Christendom: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, or even Mormonism, each branch would say they are following His one true calling and His one true religion. They can’t all be right. Or can they? Could it be that God wants to show us that He can be reached through a variety of methods and that He’s less concerned about the nuts and bolts of daily life than He is with the big picture? The big picture being, that as Christians, we are to recognize Jesus as our savior, forsaking all other gods, and share His Gospel with others. But what if you’re not a Christian? If God is capable of endorsing all of the Christian sects as legitimate (I’m not saying He does), then couldn’t He also allow many other forms of worship and religious expression to be valid as well? Or, perhaps He doesn’t hang out in any place of worship at all since everybody insists with all of their “divinely inspired” piety that He’s exclusively at their place alone and people who claim otherwise are going straight to hell. However, there is no authority, past or present, which can validate with one hundred percent assurance the legitimacy of anyone’s claims of ownership of the one true God. Perhaps God is bigger than a place and form of worship…
Doesn’t the Bible have the answer?
OK, focusing again on Christianity here, this brings me to another sticking point. There is NO WAY the “Bible” has all the answers, because which Bible are we talking about anyway? Why are certain books included in the Bibles of some Christian denominations and yet considered Gnostic by others and therefore excluded, (and to be honest, downright vilified)? Still other texts exist (supposedly written at the same time as the original scriptures) which are written off as fantasy and heresy and are not included in any Bible anywhere. Such weighty decisions – the inclusion of texts deemed to be holy scripture inspired by God himself and the exclusion of texts determined to be of purely man-made origin – I’m told, were made by men long ago as a result of divine inspiration and we have no business questioning them. But why wouldn’t the Spirit (God himself) allow the men in charge to be consistent in their knowledge of which scriptures are the legitimate ones? Why are His people worshiping over here in one building allowed to affirm only certain books as Holy and other people in a different building right next door allowed to peruse bonus books? Each denomination’s Bible of choice, and the various accepted translations of it, is paraded within their communities as the only true Bible. Yet that cannot be the case. If we allow that Catholics and Methodists are children of the same God, why isn’t there more unity in what we consider to be the holy word of the Lord? Perhaps we should examine all scripture (sanctioned or not) and ask God to enlighten us as to what He wants us to believe or toss to the curb. Regardless of your opinion of the man, Martin Luther may have been right about giving the people access to the scriptures instead of relying on clergy to disseminate it. I’m a firm believer in doing one’s own research and one cannot possibly be satisfied with information passed down from a singular source (or collection of sources from the same segment of society). And then of course we haven’t even broached the topic of what is written about (and by?) God and passed on in other cultures and religions around the world. So far, I’m not convinced God lives between the covers of a book…
Ah, God is in your heart then…
Logically it seems to follow, that if God cannot reliably be found in a particular place of worship, or by reading a particular “approved” scripture, then he must reside in the hearts (figuratively speaking) of mankind alone. But is the heart of mankind to be trusted? From social media alone, it is evident that people all have different notions as to what constitutes the truth and they have different comfort levels in, and aptitudes for, telling lies. Ask every person you know about God and you’ll get wildly varying testimonies of His existence or non-existence. So, if I’m unsure that God keeps an apartment in your heart, how can I trust that my own little blood pumper isn’t uninhabited as well? I’ll tell you this – I KNOW my heart cannot be trusted! Some things I dearly believed in my heart to be true at one time turned out later to be a compete falsehood and fabrication in my own mind (Santa Clause anyone?). And who of you hasn’t been severely disappointed by something or someone which, upon reflection, have come to realize that YOU are to blame for your own reaction. YOU expected more out of a job, a relationship, a vehicle, (or whatever) than it was ever capable of providing. You gave that other person, thing, or situation qualities they never possessed and when they didn’t live up to your expectations, you were devastated. But it was your own heart that misled you into believing all those false expectations which you, yourself, created. And it’s the realization of knowing that we cannot trust our own hearts – which, by the way, is among the most sobering moments in life – that makes me doubt how God could ever want to dwell such a deceitful, fickle, organ as the human heart – figuratively or otherwise.
If you’re still reading, you may think I have come to the conclusion that God cannot possibly exist because I’ve shot down any confidence in establishing His whereabouts. Au contraire – I still believe in the existence of the Almighty Lord with all of my poor, pitiful heart, deceitful as it may be. I see His handiwork all around me. I cannot find it within my logical brain to embrace the idea that every living thing and its supporting ecosystems is simply a random assembly of atoms and cells which combined without any divine direction whatsoever to form the world as we know it. I’m pretty sure God’s divinity is bigger than what any book, building, or body part can hold. Certainly, I have more questions than answers and like all of mankind before me, I will die with these questions unanswered. Not unlike most of you, I hope to find a glorious future in the afterlife, but I’m not sure how to ascertain it in advance with complete assurance. But, despite my unending quest for answers, there are some things I DO know already:
- I know that forgiveness is a powerful tool. I employ it often and enjoy the peace it brings.
- I know that living in the moment is a gift. I try to stay out of the past, and hope today’s actions help bring a better future.
- I know that my thoughts and actions are my own. I don’t hold other people responsible for my choices.
- I know that love is comes in many forms. Even when you think it’s gone, there’s always more love to give.
- I know that as long as I can draw breath, I will get up off the ground and get my ass back in the saddle.
And I know that God, and the truth, is out there.
If you have answers, or even more questions, please share them with me here. I’d love to entertain your thoughts!Details
I hope you continually:
Chip away at the obstacles that prevent you from doing what you love
Add to the myriad of layers that make you unique and interesting
Ignore how society attempts to define you
Seek counsel from others
Spend quality time with old folks
Listen to everyone’s opinions and then formulate your own
Learn from the negative experiences in your life as they will shape you as much as the positive ones
Embrace grief and pain but don’t let it mire you in depression
Tell and show people often how much you care about them
Roll with the changes
Let go of the past
Find new tribes
Try new things
Eat weird foods
Take care of your body
Experiment with your hair
Do things that frighten you
Expand the borders of your comfort zone
Acknowledge your fear but don’t let it confine you
Recognize that life is short; breathe each breath as if it were your last
Live in the moment and find contentment in the now
Look for beauty in the mundane
Connect with nature
Laugh at yourself
Laugh a lot
Take a stand
Defend your choices
Admit when you’re wrong
Find joy in bargain hunting
Permit yourself to spend some of that savings
Know that you are a work in progress until the day you die
Smile even when it hurts – it’s more for you than other people
Recognize when you’re not gifted in the thing you have passion for
Find passion for the things you are gifted in
Share your gifts and talents
Say NO when it’s warranted
Say YES because you can
Ask for help
Be brave and courageous
Allow yourself to make mistakes
Show kindness, mercy, and compassion
Grant others grace when they’ve screwed up
Allow yourself to ugly cry once in a while
Choose honesty over deception
Don’t let others take advantage of you
Build a reputation for being a person of your word
Give your very best effort in everything you do
Ignore both flattery and criticism
Desire to keep learning
Believe in your own worth
Build a relationship with God
Live YOUR life
And finally, a word from my dad for when that horse bucks you off and you get the wind knocked out of you:
Get up out of the dirt, brush away your tears, and
Get your ass back in that saddle!
This whole thing – test riding other Ducatis – started because my friend Michael practically wrestled me to the ground and forced me to ride his Panigale.
He’d ridden behind me a few times and determined that I am a stronger rider than I believed myself to be. Make no mistake, I do feel confident in my riding, but not so much that I have a false sense of bravado. It was truly a high honor and strong validator of my skills when he insisted on making me ride his incredible machine. Not gonna lie, I was scared at first. It was so much more machine than I was used to. But when I was done, it put a huge smile on my face and it got me to thinking: it’s time I expanded my range of skills and possible motorcycle options. The next weekend I headed off to my local Ducati dealer in search of enlightenment. After spending about 30 minutes each on two brand new 2017 Ducatis last Saturday, I’ve come away with a greater understanding about motorcycles in general and learned something valuable about myself in the process:
- Motorcycle models are designed differently for a reason, and
- I am a hell of a rider.
I’ve reached the 2nd anniversary of bringing my Scrambler Ducati Icon model home (lovingly dubbed the Falcon) and in the past 2 years I’ve put over 20,000 miles on it in a wide variety of conditions, both on road and off. It’s been an incredible bike for me. I’m as in love with it today as I was the day I drove it off the lot, perhaps more so since we are now so intimately acquainted. But after my first test ride of the day on the new Scrambler Ducati Café Racer a light bulb went off in my head alerting me to the possibility that I have underestimated and undersold my own riding ability. Shortly after heading out on the Supersport S a little later I was practically banging my head and laughing because I finally fully grasped for the first time that I’m a much more accomplished rider than I had previously given myself credit for. AND I understood that I’ve literally been forcing my bike to perform maneuvers it was never designed to make with any kind of grace. It’s obviously capable of corner carving at the speeds with which I tackle them but certainly not without a great deal of effort and manipulation on my part. But, like the bumblebee who has no idea that it’s not supposed to be able to fly considering its design, I had no clue my bike is not supposed to flit around the twisties at high speeds alongside my more experienced fellow riders on R1s, GSX-Rs, Panigales and the like. I’ve just figured out how to make it work.
My sweet husband Neel, who is my main riding partner, has been signing my praises for a long time and I have poo-pooed him and downplayed his compliments because, while I feel like I’m a strong and intuitive rider, I wasn’t ready to claim any sort of proficiency in the presence of our more experienced riding associates. I mean come on, how can a 50-year old woman who’s only been riding motorcycles for 3 years, with her only formal training being 2 MSF courses and no track time, consider herself to have legit riding prowess? In the spirit of full disclosure, however; I am compelled to reveal that I’m an experienced and excellent rider – of horses! I grew up riding and breaking horses on a cattle farm. I rode barrels and other competitive gaming events and in general my ass has seen more time on the back of a horse than most people’s asses will see in a lazy boy in a lifetime. And my ass has seen a lot of time on the ground from being unseated by a mistake in my reaction to, or misjudgment of, the next twisting buck of a young colt or by not paying attention to a perceived threat which might cause a horse to suddenly shy away. We had lots of horses to ride and by switching mounts often I felt that I became a better overall rider. A person can appear to be a top rider on one horse, but if that’s their only horse, they’ll get lazy and complacent. That rider will learn that particular horse’s habits and quirks and adapt to their way of going. But throw that rider on a different horse with different conformation and mannerisms, and you’ll quickly find out if that rider has real skill or is in fact a one-trick pony themselves. To be a better horseman, a person must be able to sense subtle changes in their mount, observe upcoming obstacles, and make lightning fast and equally subtle changes to their body positioning to avoid a disaster or to simply elevate the quality of the ride in any particular situation. Not unlike riding a motorcycle.
I’d like to think that a lifetime of riding different horses has prepared me for the world of riding motorcycles. I seek to continually better my riding skills – with horses in my past and now, in motorcycling. Every ride is an opportunity to test and stretch my abilities or those of my mount; finding little maneuvers that work and revealing ones that don’t. Even short trips to the store gives me opportunities to build on my foundation and practice things; more time in the saddle hopefully translates to faster skill acquisition.
But I’ve spent 2 solid years on the same mount. I’ve only occasionally ridden a couple of other bikes, but not often enough for my liking. I’ve been worried I’ve gotten lazy and complacent even though I work hard at challenging myself on my Scrambler. When my local dealer got in a couple of demo models of interesting brand new bikes, I eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to ride them. I’ve sort of been thinking for a while that I need a second bike to handle the sport bike riding I like to pretend that mine does. Having another bike would save wear and tear on my Scrambler, which is set up perfectly for my long-distance riding on variable terrain, and I am at a point to which I feel I could give quality riding time to more than one bike. I know there is no one bike which is fully capable of peak performance in multiple riding disciplines, although, I must say that my Scrambler is as well suited to being a one-size-fits-all bike as just about anything out there is. If I could only have one bike, this is the one for me. It does a variety of things quite well but can’t really complete with style-specific bikes when pushed to their limits. So my search for a sport(ier) second bike commenced with a trip to Garcia Moto last weekend.
First up on my agenda was a ride on the Scrambler Ducati Café Racer. This one seemed like the logical choice to ride first as I feel I’m more than qualified to sort out the subtle nuances that Ducati incorporated in the new model. To quote the words of my salesman and good friend Steve Rakes, it felt “intimately familiar yet seductively new”. I had already done a bunch of homework on its specs and done a side-by-side comparison between it and my 2015 Icon so I had some head knowledge of the differences. At first glance it looks like the same bike with some cosmetic changes but if you dig into the finer details you’ll see they’ve made seemingly small changes which effectively equates to significant changes in how the bike handles and performs. I discovered within a few blocks of driving off that the smaller front wheel, shorter rake, shorter trail, lower clip-ons, and higher seat, all combine to give this bike great advantages over the Icon for carving corners. This bike practically BEGS for an opportunity to dodge and weave. I hardly moved my butt out of the seat in the turns when taking some of my favorite twisty roads at the same speeds I normally ride. In comparison, I have to glide from side to side on my Icon, never really sitting down, and hanging off like a GP rider to sling it around tight turns at speed. Combine the more aggressive riding position, greater agility, and more user-friendly levers with the new fuel mapping and smooth-as-silk throttle response, and we have a wonderfully refreshing new animal in the Café Racer. It’s so different that I could EASILY own this bike as my second ride regardless of the fact that it looks so much like my main ride. However, because of the more aggressive riding position, I wouldn’t keep this bike as my #1 all around rider. I still enjoy having my Icon for that.
Second up was the Ducati SuperSport S. While I had been marginally interested in it prior to riding the Café Racer, I was now only riding it as a matter of due diligence. I was THAT enamored with the Café! I don’t have much sport bike experience so it was a little intimidating at first. But when I threw a leg over it and felt the (slightly) more upright position than say a Panigale or R1, I felt more at ease. In fact, just sitting on the SuperSport S without even moving felt very comfy and cozy. While the cockpit was gently spooning me, I fired it up and its purring motor whispered to me to drop into gear and go. I took it out around the same roads as the other ride (roads I’m intimately familiar with) and again, within blocks I could feel the differences between this bike, the Café, and my bike. I instantly fell in love with the way the tank and seat formed a cockpit to hold me securely in place. And again, that smooth-as-silk throttle response which is so different from my clunky, on-off throttle, was a pure delight to roll on. BTW, I was in touring mode and kept it there – I can only wonder what race mode feels like. The S model comes equipped with a quick shifter which could spoil a person in no time. I acclimated to it so fast that had to keep reminding myself to pull in the clutch at stops! The Öhlins suspension is a highly coveted upgrade to the Scrambler suspension and boy did I feel it! Not a single bump threatened to unseat me. Speaking of which, in the turns I never once moved out of my seat to sling into a corner. It is THAT smooth and confidence inspiring. So much so, that several times I checked my speed thinking that I must have backed way off and must be only going 35 but in fact the speedo read 65. (I NOW get why my friends can go soooo much faster in the chicanes without looking like they’re expending any effort at all. While they’re seemingly putting through the turns I’m performing gymnastics just to keep up!!) Many people have reviewed that they hate the digital bar tach, but I found it to be in the perfect position, just in my periphery so I never had to take my eyes off the road to check RPM- which I was doing often. I then took the SuperSport S on the highway to see how it performed there and it was nothing less than stellar in my opinion. I left the adjustable windscreen in its lowest position and was quite comfortable with the amount of wind blast but I should have raised it to the higher position to see how it felt. My bad. When I wheeled back into the dealership, I honestly was ready to plop down a deposit on it if it weren’t for one major drawback: the inferno-like heat coming off the engine scorched my inner thighs. The heat was so blisteringly painful I was almost teary the whole ride! That was kind of a deal breaker and I’m not sure how to overcome the flame-thrower effect. The rest of the ride was so incredibly enjoyable though, so if anyone can offer a viable solution I might consider going into serious debt to buy the SuperSport S!
So, there you have it. Getting out of my comfort zone yielded valuable revelations about myself, my personal motorcycle, and the prospective ones I rode. That little exercise gave me a greater appreciation for, and inventory of, my current riding skills. Now I also understand more about how different motorcycles are supposed to perform according to their designed purpose. I’m making a vow to test ride many different brands and styles of motorcycles this year, as I feel much more confident in my ability to make an educated and informed decision!
Let the games begin!!!!
Please share your own experiences or recommendations!!Details
#adaywithoutwomen #adaywithoutawoman #nothingwasanydifferent
Congratulations feminist “activists” – hijacking International Women’s Day for your political objective was a resounding flop. I mean on an epic scale. The floppiest flop to every have flopped. The 1980’s called, they want their floppies (discs) back.
From my limited vantage point (my social media feed, TV news coverage, and personal interaction) I saw absolutely no change or effect from this supposed massive strike designed to bring the world crashing to its knees because of the lack of women in the workforce. Zero. Zip. Nada.
NO ONE WAS AFFECTED
Oh sure some of you wore red in solidarity – that took real guts and showed them who’s boss. (Oh, and because women need another excuse to wear red. Can you see my eyes rolling?)
But what really happened, was that every single woman in my news feed went to work and conducted business without even a hitch to her giddyup and without any ill effect to her male counterparts, or to her immediate circle, or to the world at large. I didn’t see a single post in my feed from any woman who did NOT go to work. In fact, I saw LOTS of women hash-tagging #adaywithoutwomen” furiously while making their excuses as to why they had to, or needed to, (or best yet) why it was a “defiant” move to, ACTUALLY GO TO WORK. As incredulous as it seems, they purposefully hash-tagged #adaywithoutwomen in the same post telling the world they were working. LOTS of them too; not just one or two FB friends. My FB feed was FULL of these posts. I didn’t hear a peep on the news about how soooo many businesses were negatively impacted by the day’s strike to the point of begging their women workforce to come back and never leave them again. Or about how the men in their lives just melted into puddles of tears over the realization that they can’t live without a woman for a day. I just saw lots of media coverage, emoji high fives, and lip service, but NO REAL PROTESTING and NO REAL EFFECT.
WHAT IN THE WORLD….??? Have y’all lost sight of what “protesting” is? In reality I mean. Ho hum, I guess we live in a virtual world now and protesting can be done from our safe, virtual platform, sipping our Starbucks without any need to get uncomfortable, or sacrifice something, or just freakin’ DO anything.
Did you see the episode of Portlandia in which the characters were posting about protesting and then finally decided to actually protest something but they got so caught up in the act of preparing that they didn’t end up doing anything? Oh do watch it, it’s an hilarious and spot-on commentary about yesterday’s non-event:
In light of women’s ineptitude at following through on a simple concept of striking to “show-the-world-that-women-are-such-massive-contributors-to-society-that-society-can’t-function-without-them-for-just-one-day”, I propose that MEN strike for a day. What if, ALL men, ALL OVER THE WORLD, just stopped doing everything and anything for a whole day? Think about THAT! #adaywithoutmen
At least half, if not a significantly higher percentage, of our mechanics (got car trouble?), plumbers (pipes sprung a leak?), firefighters (house on fire?), police officers (domestic assault?), security officers (need someone to walk you to your car in a sketchy parking garage?), doctors (headed to the ER?), pilots (flying home for a dying loved one?) and on and on and on, are MEN. I think a true strike by men would be a reality check for all women who like to pretend they are strong, empowered, warriors, blah, blah, blah and don’t need no stinkin’ men in their lives.
But the truth is, women can be all those things (strong, empowered, warriors, and more) AND need men too.
Can we just admit we need EACH OTHER and celebrate EVERYONE, EVERYDAY? How much better could we make this world if we focused on encouraging all the people we meet in a day – regardless of their gender and regardless of past damage done to us by a particular person of a particular gender. Instead of an “I’ll show you what it’s like without me” mentality, we could show the world by example what incredible contributions we are making by stepping up our game. We could all (regardless of gender) inspire others to be their best because we choose to always be OUR best – even (or especially) in the face of adversity! And in case you haven’t learned yet, forgiveness is a powerful tool and can be a motivation for change – in ourselves and in others.
The future starts NOW. Let’s go out there and be good examples and positive role models for everyone.