Saturday, November 27, 2021

Cornucopia of Characters

The majority of the week was filled with road miles and visiting for Thanksgiving. Once again I am using an article written for the November 26th edition of the Hillsboro Banner, a weekly newspaper from Hillsboro, ND. The paper has won multiple awards for writing, photography, page layout, etc. over many years. The photographs were not a part of the article.

Maternal Grandparents
The television volume was loud enough to easily hear it throughout the house. The stuffing had plump, juicy raisins in it, as well as ground up giblets. Plus, the stuffing was moistened by the liquids seeping from the bird. At the conclusion was something called “Mincemeat Pie.” No, thank you!

Sometimes my uncle attended. If so, it was short lived as he had little tolerance for his father. There was not enough room to sit around one table. This too, was probably for the best. It was a disjointed gathering. Yet I looked forward to the annual Thanksgiving gathering at the home of my maternal grandparents. It became even better when they plumbed in a toilet!

The characters always made the memories. My uncle was in the burgeoning electronics/computer field. I believe he worked for Sperry/Univac. The skills learned over his years in the Navy transferred into real life. His descriptions of what was on the horizon was fascinating almost to the point of fiction. My grandfather was eager to express his bawdy renditions of battlefields and brothels in France during the end of World War One. But it was my grandmother’s gentle, sincere interest in the lives of her grandchildren that I cherished most. She was eager to hug, hold, and hum a song. She had a way of remaining calm in the swirling, human chaos raging in her house.

The Thanksgiving holiday continues to evolve. What was once a mere marketing 
has for some retailers returned to a day of locked doors. Pandemic concerns
continue to impact the overlay of human gatherings during the week. Cooking at home, delivery meals, or going to a restaurant all remain options. A year ago my wife and I were in quarantine due to her struggle with Covid-19. A family delivered “traditional” foods and placed them in our unlocked vehicle. Yup, social distancing at its best. Their text message alerted me of the dropoff. Jellied cranberry sauce in a can? No, thank you! 

As I ponder all of this, I am grateful for life. I am grateful for the presence of God’s grace and love in the disjointed realities of human relationships. I am grateful for the embrace of the Creator who takes sincere interest in each of our lives. God’s calming presence in the swirling complexities of daily life? Yes, thank you!

The trappings and traditions of Thanksgiving have changed over the years. Yet as you can see in one of the pictures cranberries are still part of the meal. Just not those nasty ones from a can! I am grateful, not just thankful for the opportunities, but more importantly for the characters who have been a part of my life for over 6 decades!
Some of the sides

Lincoln Park Zoo

Chicago + Lake Michigan

Saturday, November 13, 2021

It Always Seems to Happen

Ryan and myself
The cell phone alarm worked as it had been set. By 3:15AM, Ryan and I (Gravel Grunts Cycling Squad) were ingesting calories and making final preparations for the short drive to Webster, Wisconsin. The Fenton Lake 100 (actually 109 miles) was to begin at 5AM. Parked near the start line, I grabbed a complimentary cup of coffee from Fresh Start Coffee Roasters. The robust flavor profile of the coffee, as well as its warmth lifted my spirits on the foggy, 33 degree morning. The realization that I had left my hydration pack at the Pine Wood Motel broke through the caffeine contentment.  Coffee in hand, I rapidly drove through the fog to retrieve the pack. Returning to the start, the event officially began while I was finalizing lighting, tracking device, bike, and my pack. Chris (finally got to meet this fellow Minnesotan) with whom I was to ride waited patiently. He was not certain of his navigation device, so he needed me for proper direction. About 5:10AM, we rode into the foggy darkness with lights ablaze!

This was not the first time the disruption of plans delayed my start. These last minute snafus have been more frequent than I want to admit. It always seems to happen. When it does, it impacts more than my start time. It sets my attitude and perspective for what lies ahead. As much as I attempt to embrace what is, placing little delays into perspective, I have difficulty silencing the negative self-talk. For as often as it occurs I should not let it affect me. I am not competing for a top finishing position. I do not relish being in a pack of participants as events begin. Yet, it impacts my confidence and sense of preparation for the miles and hours which lie ahead.

It is not only events with specific start times in which this occurs. The unexpected opportunities which are present in daily life trip up my perspectives. Lately, numerous unknowns have become common place. What and whom I have previously understood have transitioned into the unfamiliar. I sense my preparations from the past are not sufficient for the present. Frustrations, destructive self-talk, and a noxious attitude all leap forward. As the day progresses I find myself serpentining through these realities. Eventually I discover a path and a rhythm which frees my outlook. Ending the day, I have endured, discovered, and gained insight. It always seems to happen.

Chris is a few hills ahead.
Chris was a great companion for numerous hours. His GPS device worked sporadically. My navigational skills were fine other than getting off course for about .5 mile. We pedaled through Wisconsin's wooded trails, deep sand, township roads, a bit of pavement, and way too many ATV trails. The loose sand and deep ruts on the ATV trails provided challenges which I did not anticipate. Eventually Chris found familiar territory from a prior event and forged ahead. I fatigued physically and mentally as I neglected to maintain the basics of nutrition and hydration. After realizing and tending to these basic needs while giving my body time to incorporate the intake, I was able to move forward with greater energy and determination. My attitude and gratitude improved, as well. The dozen miles to the finish were flat. Darkness again became reality. I was growing colder (temperature upper 30s) and  more determined to get to Webster. Suddenly my headlight shut off. Usually it provides a 5 minute warning. Stopping was immediately necessary. Using the flashlight function on my cell phone I swapped headlights with cold fingers. Yup, I packed a fully charged spare! This light had a narrow beam which limited my peripheral vision. The white beam of focused light became mesmerizing. Finally the ambient light of Webster, as well as two people waving glow sticks snapped my hypnosis. Crossing the finish after 14+ hours of pedaling and pushing was a great relief. I was deeply chilled. Sentences were not crisp nor concise. Ending the day I endured, discovered, and gained insight. It always seems to happen!  
Ryan's photo skills!