Ups and Downs

I signed up for a half marathon this coming weekend. I hesitated, but finally just did it. Why the hesitation? The course is hilly. Running uphill is hard, and running downhill is jarring. One cannot become a better runner, and we should always be striving to become better, if we don’t overcome our challenges. Or at least attempt to!

If we aren’t improving, we are falling behind. This is true for running, and for all things in life. We are meant to continually seek to improve in every facet of our lives in order to fulfill our potential. It’s this constant drive to grow, learn, and improve that helps us discover our passions, our potential, and our joy.

I went for a hike yesterday, and it was hilly. There were other challenges, like the heat, which made the hills far more intense than normal, for me. I made it back to the car no worse for the wear, and am proud of my accomplishment.

Scarlette Begonia

In hiking and in running, there will always be ups and downs. And, for every up, there is a down, for every down, there is an up. You cannot get back to the car, or home, or whatever your place of origin, without experiencing equal ups and downs.

Life has its ups and downs, too, and while perhaps not quite as equal as in running and hiking, they do tend to cycle fairly regularly, both in short periods of time, say within a single day, or over an extended period, say, oh, life. In life, we can’t simply decide not to register for the race because there are ups and downs, they are there and they must be dealt with. While running up a hill, sure, I can tell myself it isn’t there, try to trick myself, but my legs still work harder, my breath comes faster, my heart pounds harder. The hill is real and nothing I can do will make it go away, that is where the race course has led me.

Interestingly, in hiking and in running, and other pursuits, it is at the very top of the hill and the very bottom of the valley, that we often discover the most amazing views, the most awesome features. Life is not dissimilar, it is in the challenges and the triumphs, the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, that we find the most growth and reward.

Don’t be afraid of the race, don’t shy away from the hills. Ups and downs are part of the course. Ups and downs are part of life. The more we practice, the better we become at meeting and conquering the challenge. Race on.

Scarlett’s Letter August 16, 2013

Have you ever noticed that everyone considers themselves navigational geniuses? Like talking about the weather, the local sports team or the biggest story on the news, people like to share their navigational wizardry. Why? I don’t know. People dictate directions, suggest routes, compare routes and alternate routes. I find this especially tiresome when I am driving in an area I know very well and my passenger insists on a route different than the one I prefer. I also find it a bit tedious when my passenger argues with my navigational gadget of choice, especially when I am trying to hear what my, usually more correct and more direct, navigational device of choice is saying. But worst of all, for whatever reason, is when the navigational wizard is my mother.

Mom and I went to Sacramento today to have lunch with my son and his good friend. My son is moving to Hawaii, with his friend, to go to school, for at least a semester, and if plans fall into place per design, or at least desire, a couple of years. Lunch was great. My day, leading up to lunch, well, you be the judge. It started with a bikini wax. Then an hour and a half car trip with Mom. Then a mammogram. Are we having fun yet?

Like I said, lunch was fantastic! And for me, by this point, well deserved. We went to one of our favorite places. To clarify; my kids and I love this place, Mom is a newbie. Cafeteria 15L in Midtown Sacramento. Their specialty, and the reason we selected this place for lunch today, chicken and waffles. I love chicken and waffles. My mom loves chicken and waffles. My son loves all the leftover chicken and waffles I’ve given him but has not actually ever ordered chicken and waffles for himself. So, that was the plan. Chicken and waffles all the way around. They even had a chicken and waffles face contest! Post your best “chicken and waffle” face and you could win FREE chicken and waffles for a whole year! I was so geared up for chicken and waffles! So, imagine our disappointment when we were told chicken and waffles weren’t served for lunch. They are served for breakfast, brunch on the weekends and dinner. Not lunch.

It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.
It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.

We scrambled quickly and all came up with alternate orders. Mom had fish and chips, my son had the pasta special, his friend the Cafeteria burger and I had an heirloom tomato and melon salad. And a side of sweet potato fries as an impulsive, mid lunch addition. Everyone’s meals were devoured and enjoyed. Cafeteria 15L is all about comfort food done with style. The atmosphere is comfortable and the design is noteworthy. It is quite fun to sit and really look at the lighting, the fixtures, the selections for décor. One phrase painted on the wall spurred a lively discussion about the generational preferences for the use of ellipses, for example … I’m a fan. My kids are not. Base on that discussion, I am plaguing my son with texts laced with ellipses, just to be a brat …

My daughter is an English major … she hates ellipses, too … wish she could’ve been here today.

My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale. http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale.
http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
I recommend SPF 50 - Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.
I recommend SPF 50 – Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.

The dessert menu arrived. We didn’t really need it; dessert. Or the menu. For on the back of all the wait staffs’ shirts was a picture of the featured dessert and it was so over the top you just had to order it so you could take a picture of it and post it on Instagram to prove to everyone you know that you are “that cray cray”. Bacon waffle sundae. A waffle, vanilla ice cream, bacon, maple syrup and caramel sauce. Double decker. We ordered one with four spoons and somehow managed to clean the plate.

So good. So bad.
So good. So bad.

After lunch, we dropped the boys off at my son’s house and headed back towards Napa. If I had a dollar for every mile I have traveled between Napa and Sacramento over the last thirty some years, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I have completely worn out a 1966 Mustang, a 1992 Ford Bronco and three Honda Accords. I’m working on a Civic now. To say I am fairly well acquainted with the traffic patterns is a bit of an understatement. True, there can be daily anomalies, but there are also the daily patterns. Leaving town at 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon, I really expected to hit quite a bit of traffic in a few key spots on the way home. Mom, in her navigational wizard’s hat, had some crazy alternate route in mind that would have taken a two-hour detour to even begin. I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw, wrapped my fingers tightly around the steering wheel and stayed my course. She fell asleep and we made it home without nary a slow down. It was miraculous! Both the absence of traffic and the sleeping wizard.

With my son’s move to Hawaii, he will not be needing a car. We are car people. My dad loved cars, my son’s dad loved cars (in his own neglectful way), I love cars, every boy I dated in high school and college loved cars, my mom loves cars, the man I love loves cars, my daughter loves cars, my son in law loves cars, our dogs all loved cars. My son loves cars, too. Any car he owns he will practically, if not literally, disassemble and reassemble the whole thing, cleaning each and every part and restoring it to its original condition. He uses only factory parts and fluids and does all his own maintenance and detailing. Tonight, he sold his car and is, for the first time since his sixteenth year, without a car. It was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, I really thought it may be more like the amputation of a limb than a business transaction, but the whole deal went down and the car is presently being driven to Houston, Texas to a fellow Acura Legend fan. Per the Facebook account of the trek, so far they have only received one speeding ticket for 95 miles per hour.

A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend - A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend – A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend - A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend – A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend - Restored seat belt release button.
The Acura Legend – Restored seat belt release button.

I dated one young man after high school who had an amazing car, a 1940’s era Plymouth Coupe, in black, with a personalized license plate that said, simply, “A Shadow”. His father did hot rod and motorcycle customization, including chopping and channeling. Beautiful work. After a few years, about twenty speeding tickets, threatening and menacing letters from the DMV, and endless expense trying to keep an old car running and street legal, the car was sold. An ad was placed in the local paper that said, simply, “A Shadow has been sold.” I wondered if my son would somehow want to communicate to the world, the world who knows him by his car, especially, that the deed had been done. An ad in a newspaper worked well in the 1980’s. In 2013, it was a Facebook post. In both cases, the letting go of something valued, cherished and even a part of one’s identity, while sad, was, and is, the beginning of a new era. Sometimes we have to let go of something, even something we can’t imagine not keeping, not having, in order to take the next, important steps in life. This is, actually, part of life. Those willing to sever those ties that may be holding us back, or preventing us from growing, moving, leaving, changing, are the ones who will evolve according to their dreams, the goals and their passion.  Sometimes we have to let go of one dream to grasp the next.

A Shadow.
A Shadow.

Dang Mosquitos

I am in Alaska. In July.

All of my well-meaning friends, acquaintances and complete strangers warned me about mosquitos in summer in Alaska, just like they did about predatory men in Alaska. The man thing worked out just fine. The mosquito thing, I am dealing with. Sort of.

If you saw me, you’d never pick me out as a granola-crunching, peace and love, nature valley hippy girl. But, I am, with sort of a cosmopolitan twist. As you have probably gathered, I can do just fine on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan one week and be thirty miles up a dirt road fishing in the wilds of Alaska the next. I am the only girl I know with both a street guide, complete with subway routes, to Manhattan and the latest fishing regs for Alaska in my magenta, leather Fossil bag.

As we speak, my man is on his hands and knees, swatting mosquitos on the living room carpet with his hat. And he just fished another dead mosquito out of the butter. Death by butter, I’d choose that, certainly over swatting with a hat.

The granola-crunching, peace and love, nature valley hippy girl in me, in interest of prolonged health, longevity and quality of life, prefers not to douse one’s self in harmful chemicals to ward off bugs. That worked (not really) for about a day (not quite). I am head-to-toe welts, and Alaska mosquito bites, like everything in Alaska, are bigger and badder than anything in the lower forty-eight.

I have been applying DEET like most girls apply lotion; liberally and often. Lucky for me, my man says he likes the smell of “bug dope” just as much as the pretty stuff I wear. Ok. Whatever. I don’t. But the combination of the two is worse and probably creates a near lethal vapor gas that rots your brain from the inside out. We’ll see.

But, still, I really hate applying the stuff to my exposed skin; face, hands, neck and chest. Yesterday, while fishing, I decided to go without. I covered up the exposed areas with extra clothing, which worked because it was a lot colder than I thought it would be. For my face, neck and hands, I just swatted furiously all day long. My triceps are sore, take note if you’re looking for a good spot workout for that area. Another tactic I employed, which I’ve used in conjunction with DEET is copious amounts of beer. DEET and beer, one makes the mosquitos stupid, the other makes you stupid, and in combination, just be careful not to drink the DEET and douse yourself in beer. So yesterday I just stuck with beer and swatting. Today, I awoke with my left eye nearly swollen shut, I got bit on my eyelid near the tear duct. I look like Mohamed Ali, on a bad day.

At “home”, we just burn mosquito coils. We’re lucky, there are a few boxes left in the shed. The rest of Alaska is out and good luck finding any. We were in Anchorage last weekend and followed one rumor after another to store after store in search of mosquito coils. We came home empty handed. We’ve been checking store shelves everywhere we go, calling people and asking two very important questions; where are the fish and who has mosquito coils? Today, based on a rumor, we found a half a shelf’s worth at the hardware store in the basement of the sporting goods store in Fairbanks. Limit five. My man bought five while I was buying an unlimited amount of wine a couple of doors down, after which, I went and bought five more boxes of mosquito coils. I seriously considered changing my clothes and putting my hair up and trying for another five.

Thirsty bloodsuckers, sucking the life out of me. Reminds me of some people I know, just sucking the life out of me. Do you have any people like that in your life? If not money, time. If not time, money. Or worst of all, both.

Whether dealing with bloodsucking bugs or bloodsucking people, none of the options for effective management are very appealing. For mosquitos, really, DEET seems to be the only truly effective method to avoid being bitten. For people, sadly, there is no remedy, toxic or otherwise, that we can buy on the sporting goods aisle that’s going to help. Or we could use DEET.

DEET – The “D” stands for “distance” or “detach”. If there is someone in your life that is taking advantage of you, in any manner, financially, physically, emotionally, or in some other way, and the circumstances allow, create some distance, or better yet, detach from that person or that situation. If you are being taken advantage of by someone it is difficult to establish distance from, or detach from, you may have to reconsider your circumstances on a larger scale. Any time we allow someone to take advantage of us, on a routine basis, our own strength and self-esteem will suffer and we will never grow in the manner we desire, for as long as we allow it to continue.

DEET – The first “E” stands for “empower”. Another possibility is to help empower the person who uses you as a crutch, again, whether financially, physically, emotionally or in some other means. Find a way to help them help themselves. This will free you and help them establish their own independence and freedom, boosting their self-esteem, and yours.

DEET – The second “E” stands for “establish”. Establish some limits, some parameters, some boundaries with the person who takes advantage of you. Establishing limits or boundaries can be as simple as having a serious, open conversation, or may go so far as to require a restraining order. Whatever is necessary, start peacefully and progress from there in degrees, if necessary. It is up to you to decide to not be taken advantage of anymore, solely up to you. You allow it, you must end it.

DEET – The “T” stands for “talk”. This really should be the first step, and then should be part of every other step. Often, when we are being used as a crutch, or are being taken advantage of in some way, we suffer in silence. A lot of times, especially in close relationships, the situation develops without awareness on one parties part, the other, or even both, and when we finally realize we are feeling taken advantage of, we become silently resentful, further damaging the relationship, but we often won’t be open about our feelings, we just let them fester. Talking, simply talking about the situation, in close relationships, will often be all that is necessary. Only in long-term, chronic situations will we generally have to employ other measures.

The point, is, don’t allow yourself to get bitten. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, and put to an immediate end any situations where you are currently being used as a crutch. This is important for our own peace, growth and fulfillment, and it is important for those close to us that, for whatever reason, seek to lean on us rather than find their own way. Remember, by assisting others in finding their own independence, we, too, benefit emotionally and even spiritually.

Now to go Google some holistic remedies for itchy mosquito bites!

 

Empty shelves in the mosquito repellent aisle in EVERY store in Alaska!
Empty shelves in the mosquito repellent aisle in EVERY store in Alaska!

 

Taking extreme measures
Taking extreme measures

 

 

Let Me Slip Into Something More Uncomfortable

Comfort, we think of this as a good thing, something we desire, something we seek. We look for comfort in clothes, shoes, beds, chairs, couches, cars, climate, friendships, relationships, our income and standard of living. I have a hard time thinking of a place we wouldn’t desire comfort. And, yet, comfort can be the enemy. I’ll explain.

There seems to be a fine line between comfortable and too comfortable, in life. When we are comfortable, everything is going well, or well enough. Often, once we’re comfortable, we slip into a state of “too comfortable”, which is stagnation, or even complacency. This is where we fall into a danger zone.

Complacency and stagnation imply a lack of concern, a staleness, an absence of movement. Yet, the world continues to move at a very rapid pace all around us. We may soon fall behind if we do not pay close attention. This can jeopardize our career, our fitness and health, and our relationships.

Career wise, think of the job skills and the technical skills that are necessary to be competitive now compared to ten years ago. Compared to twenty years ago. I know people who were “comfortable”, career wise, twenty years ago and became stagnant and complacent. As technology advanced, they clung to their comfortable ways, and in so doing, became less than competitive and unmarketable in their careers.

In our fitness and health realm, becoming comfortable can be very detrimental to our long-term health. While we are young and our metabolisms match our young, hearty and often unwise eating habits, all is well. As we become older and our metabolisms slow, we begin to accumulate extra pounds. Often, as our career and family interests and demands increase, our activity level decreases, yet our food intake does not, and the problem worsens. Soon, we are “too busy” with life to imagine how we’ll ever fit exercise and healthful food preparation into our schedules. We won’t, unless we make the effort. But, I have to ask this, if you don’t have time for fitness and healthful food preparation now, how in the world are you going to be able to manage illness or disease with your “too busy” schedule? That is often the consequence.

Comfort in relationships is also desirable, but once it becomes stagnation or complacency, the relationship is doomed to unhappiness or demise unless corrective measures are taken. Relationships, successful, enduring relationships, take as much effort and energy as an effective fitness program. Relationships involve two people, each of whom are growing and changing, learning and advancing, with time. It is important to always be focused on those changes and how they impact the relationship. It is important to allow the relationship to evolve along with the changes, the evolution of the parties involved. If a relationship is comfortable, stagnant, or complacent, and doesn’t evolve as the people do, it will suffer and become strained. A certain level of consciousness should be paid to your relationship, as much or more as you pay to your personal and career advances.

To grow, to change, to evolve, to advance, we need to get uncomfortable. Metaphorically speaking, and in reality, if we are sitting in our recliner every night, veg’ing out in from of the television, it is very hard to foster meaningful change. Heck, it’s hard just to stand up again. We will never accomplish anything greater by repeating the same, ordinary behavior over and over. To accomplish anything greater, we need to do something greater, and this is usually something that will be, at first, uncomfortable. One of my favorite home workout videos is Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown. She is quoted in one particularly tough section as “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

John Assaraf , author, lecturer and entrepreneur posted this on Facebook “I find that so many people nod their heads and say yes ‘I want this or that’ but when it comes down to really doing what it takes to do ‘this or that’ another part of their personality kicks in. It’s the ‘I’m too comfortable’ doing what I am doing right now part of their unconscious that kicks in and they allow their old comfortable self to rule and keep them away from the possibilities of a better future. To succeed beyond where you are, you must be willing to do what you aren’t comfortable doing for enough time so it becomes easy.”

I have shared some of my challenging experiences in the past, experiences where I had to get uncomfortable to progress in a direction that was necessary for me to go. In my current job, I teach groups of professionals how to use any of several accounting and auditing softwares. I must speak for eight hours at a time, standing, in front of an often unenthusiastic audience. I was never one for ANY kind of public speaking, I was once even shy speaking to professionals one on one. This job came to me at a time when my family was in great financial need. I took the job and overcame my limitation out of desperation in order to keep a roof over our head for a few more months. As you know, this job requires a great deal of air travel and when I took this job I was a very nervous flyer. I overcame that nervousness out of necessity. I have also told of my decision to begin running in an effort to overcome another self-imposed limitation I’ve harbored for many years. I became comfortable with running out a desire to challenge myself personally. We can change in any manner we seek by putting ourselves in situations where we are uncomfortable, this fosters growth and evolution, builds self-confidence and self-esteem

I truly believe we can do anything, that we can overcome any self-imposed limitation we choose, but, to do so we must do that which makes us uncomfortable. We have to push ourselves to change and to evolve. An immovable object will not just begin moving without some force to dislodge it. We are often that immovable object. We are also the dislodging force if we desire it. Dislodge yourself from complacency and stagnation. Slip into something a little more uncomfortable.

I challenge you to slip into something a little more uncomfortable. Take a moment or two and figure out something, however minor, however major, you’d like to accomplish. Assign a timeframe to it. Let’s do this together! Tell me what you want to accomplish that makes you a little (or a lot) uncomfortable) and I’ll tell you what my new challenge is. Push-ups make me uncomfortable. I can do about one. I want to be able to do more. I remember a young lady in my son’s fifth grade class who could drop and do 100 push-ups. I want to be able to do THAT, but it’s very uncomfortable, for me! I know this is no major, life altering ability, but, to me, it is. I have always had inferior upper body strength, a limitation, perhaps even a self-imposed limitation. Just to prove that limitations, of any sort, can be overcome, I am going to work towards being able to do one hundred push-ups, non-stop, one year from now. We’ll round down to June 1st to make it easier to remember. By June 1, 2014, I will post a video of me doing 100 push-ups, non-stop. How uncomfortable! What’s your challenge?! Let’s all slip into something uncomfortable!

What Are The Chances?

chance

/CHans/

Noun – A possibility of something happening.

Adjective – Fortuitous; accidental.

Verb – Do something by accident or without design: “if they chanced to meet”.

Synonyms

noun.              occasion – opportunity – hazard – luck – fortune
adjective.        fortuitous – accidental – random – haphazard – casual
verb.  risk – happen – hazard – venture – occur – gamble – hap

What are the chances you’d be willing to take a chance?

I take chances. This is supposed to be against my nature, I am an auditor, by profession. We are supposed to be risk adverse. Well, I don’t actually audit anymore, I teach software, and auditing, to auditors. I got this job by chance. My family was on the brink of financial ruin when a recruiter called with this job. I wasn’t even looking for a job. It was all by chance. My kids were in high school, my husband was pretending, poorly, to be a day trader, and we were having a hard time making the mortgages. The job required up to 75% travel and public speaking, two things I was dead set against. But, a paid 90-day trial period for the sake of the family was a chance I was willing to take. That was five years ago. The kids are in college, the husband is no longer in the picture, gone, with the mortgages that could not be met. But I took a chance on the job and it taught me something about myself at a very critical point in my life. I. Can. Do. Anything. Five years later, I happily travel all over the country and speak to groups of professionals for hours on end, for days on end. With confidence, with passion. By chance.

I take some chances when I travel for work, too. I go out and explore the towns and cities I visit. I walk, sometimes. I walk, sometimes, after dark. I get a feeling for the area and decide what I want to see and how I’m going to get there. But, taking these somewhat calculated chances has provided me with so many experiences that have enriched my life and have taught me a lot about people and about my country. I learn about every city and town I visit, I take in the local sites, history, architecture, cuisine, culture, and amenities, like parks and galleries and museums. Worth the chance.

I take other chances, too. I drive fast, we’ve discussed this. I make risky lane changes when aggravated, too. I will admit, I am sometimes that idiot on the road that I would curse at. I am really a careful, safe and sane driver, when someone is in the car with me, but when I drive by myself, I like a little risk, I like a little adrenaline. I like speeding and not getting caught. I like being able to maneuver through “idiot blocks” on the highway. I like taking those chances.

I have always liked sports and activities that many consider somewhat risky, chancy. I like to backpack, I like to horseback ride, I like whitewater rafting, I like rock climbing, I like snowboarding, and at my age, too. I run. I hike. I want to do even more! I want to white water kayak, I want to parasail, I want to sky dive (okay, maybe just once, to say I’ve done it), I want to surf, I want to do things I haven’t even thought of yet. Why? I like to take chances. I like a little adrenaline. I want to live while I’m alive. I’m addicted to experiences. I’m addicted to chance.

Life is full of chance. Even in the ordinary, there is chance. There is chance in what we choose to study, in the profession we select. There is chance in who we select as a mate, there is chance in the investments we make, the real estate we buy, the trip we make to the grocery store for cottage cheese and milk, in changing the light bulb in the bathroom. There is chance in crossing the street, in crossing every intersection, in climbing the stairs, in taking an elevator, even in swallowing your food. To think you don’t take chances every day you get out of bed is folly.

After the collapse of a twenty-something year marriage, though it was far from what a loving, fulfilling, marriage should ever be, I swore, swore, swore, I was better off alone. I told myself I might, eventually, date. But I swore, swore, swore I’d never allow anyone close enough to me to fall in love.  By chance, I am in love.

Nearly three years ago, I was in a town far, far from home. I’d been training and consulting with a group of accountants at a firm for a few days. My last day was busy, hectic and exhausting. I decided to reward myself by venturing a little ways out of town to a brewery that was said to have both good food and good beer. If the crowded parking lot was any evidence, on a Wednesday night, it must be true. I decided to take a chance. There were no tables available for a single diner so I agreed to eat at the bar. I enjoyed my meal and a stout beer, followed by a bowl of locally made beer-flavored ice cream, and another beer. About half way through my ice cream and second stout, a man took the stool next to me. He said to me “you’re not from around here, are you?” Right? I took a chance and struck up conversation with him. He seemed nice enough, but what really struck me was the fact that everyone at the bar knew him and seemed to hold him in high regard. During our conversation he asked if I’d ever ridden an airboat before. No. I wasn’t even sure what an airboat was, I was pretty darned sure I’d never ridden one before. He invited me to go for an airboat ride the next day, then to lunch, before I headed to the airport to catch my flight home. Am I crazy? Yup. Based on my risk assessment (auditors do this) and my observations of how people (in a bar) regarded this (strange, not as in unusual, but as in unknown) man, I agreed. We exchanged numbers and I headed back to my hotel (alone). I knew full well I’d chicken out when it came down to it. No chance.

That night and the next morning I was having a war with myself. There was the side of me that said “are you crazy?” and the other side that said “YOLO!! Let’s go!” He called. I stalled. He called. I stalled. I went sightseeing. He called again. I relented. I met him and found out what an airboat is; a small aluminum craft, flat hull, with a chair (one) secured in front of a cage housing an airplane propeller that spins frighteningly fast and is very loud and propels the boat across the top of the water, or gravel, or other land mass, if necessary. Like a swamp boat, well, just like a swamp boat. I got to sit on a lawn chair that was NOT anchored in any way to the bottom of the boat. Am I crazy? Apparently so. We launched the boat, I climbed aboard. And, by the way, thank goodness for my shoe purchase splurge. I’d found a shoe store, during this trip, by chance, in this most unlikely town, having a BOGO sale. I bought a pair of flats for work and got a free pair of vans, so I actually had appropriate footwear for this impromptu adventure, which in itself was a huge sign that I should take this chance. We flew up (or down) the river that ran through town, we stopped for lunch at a waterside restaurant, then continued our journey in the other direction (down or up the river). We found an island and pulled the boat ashore, sat on a log and each had a beer and chatted innocently. We headed back, pulled the boat out of the water and returned to my rental car. I went to the airport, got on the plane and returned to my life.

Airboat
Airboat

I’d talked to folks while dining alone before, but I’d never exchanged phone numbers. I’d never even entertained that as a possibility. I’d certainly never agreed to meet anyone I’d chatted casually with while dining alone. The chance had never presented itself, honestly. All of this seemed to be as a result of a bizarre chain reaction of chance occurrences. A crazy, crazy, crazy chance, and one, if a friend or family member told me about, I wouldn’t recommend. But I took it. Out of this crazy chance, I made a friend. We chatted now and then on the phone, exchanged text messages. We’d exchange stories, I’d talk about work and my travels in exchange for his weather, hunting, fishing and gardening report. We lost track of each other for a while, I thought he’d lost interest in our friendship, he’d lost his little black phonebook, instead. On a chance, one day, because I was thinking of him while visiting a town he said his sister lived in, I dug up his number and called. Because he’d lost my number he’d given up that we’d ever talk again. What were the chances? Our conversations became more regular. Our friendship grew.

He was making plans to visit his sister and his mom in Southern California and thought he’d make a stop in Northern California to visit me on his way, take a chance on seeing me after a year and a half of sporadic phone friendship. That was a year ago today. A year ago today, nervous as hell, I met a man at the airport I’d only ever seen once, well twice, counting the bar. I took a chance on a man who was my friend becoming, perhaps, something more. I considered the chance of letting someone get a little bit closer to me. I was still completely cynical about the possibility of love, but out of this chance friendship came a chance love. A chance to love, a chance to be loved.

Like all the other chances I take; backpacking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, where the outcome has some risk, some uncertainty, that, no matter how much I’ve trained, planned or prepared, there are significant chances that something could go wrong and I could get hurt, love could go wrong and I could get hurt. I face this every day. And so does he. He is not without his own battle scars. We are both taking a chance. But I’m not willing to chance not taking this chance.

Sometimes we openly struggle with the chance we’re taking, sometimes we struggle in silence, but, when all is said and done, we agree to keep taking this crazy chance on each other. Ours, perhaps, being a little chancier than most, with 3,000 miles between us and the constraints of affordability of travel, the demands of work and family and other obligations. I’d rather take the chance than lose what I’ve found. And what I’ve found, I found only by taking a chance.

The chances I’ve taken, on my job, on my relationship, in the sports and activities and adventures I pursue, have allowed me to grow incredibly as a person. My confidence has blossomed, my lust for life has exploded, my ability to embrace change has developed, my clarity of purpose, my desire to evolve, to improve as a person, physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally and to share my observations with others have all grown significantly. Most importantly, my ability to love, and be loved, has become a reality when I thought it was lost. And, at first, only because of chance. Now I pursue change and growth out of desire. I am driven to grow, to evolve, to change. I am driven to take more chances.

What are the chances?