The Road Most Traveled

Robert Frost wrote ‘The Road Not Taken’ many years ago but its poetic message holds meaning across all time. It’s one of the very few poems I remember from my high school literature classes and I think I’m beginning to understand why it has stayed in my mind for these some 40 years.

A traveler is faced with two paths. A choice is to be made between two options. One path looks to be well traveled while the other appears to be hardly a path at all. The first has well worn tracks from those that have walked it before. The second is grass covered with barely a trace of steps being taken down it. Which to choose? Where does each go?

Coming out of high school, I had decided to go to The Ohio State University to obtain a degree in secondary education. I wanted to be a high school history teacher. It seemed like a good choice for someone just starting out in adult life. I had been a student of a couple really excellent history teachers and they had inspired me to take that path.

But after just one quarter at Ohio State, I determined that four years of undergraduate and a couple more years of graduate studies were simply to long. I wanted to get going with a career and living life much sooner. So I switched to Computer Science at the two year tech college and received my associates degree.

I spent over thirty seven years in the I.T. field, leveraging that two year degree, working my way across many positions and levels of responsibility. Some of the work was tough while some was pretty easy but all of the programs, systems, and teams I worked on have helped make me who I am today. And have also brought me to where I am today.

I do wonder some days how being a history teacher would have gone for me. Would I have been successful reaching young minds and making dusty events from years ago relevant in their lives? I like to think I would have been. My teachers did that for me.

And I also had the example of Mr. Gower from the 1984 classic movie Teachers. If you have not watched the movie give it a shot. From the first time I saw Mr. Gower stumble into the high school history class as a substitute teacher, I wanted to be like him. You see Mr. Gower, not being a real teacher at all, was a little looney and had wandered away from a mental institution. He brought a different way of teaching history to the classroom.

When he came to class dressed as George Washington and re-enacted the crossing of the Delaware with his students, I thought that’s exactly how I would do it. I too would take the looney path if for no other reason than it was different and just might lead me to something really special.

Richard Mulligan as Mr. Gower in Teachers

The line most folks remember from the Robert Frost poem is probably this, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by.’ But it’s the last line that has stuck with me all these years of choosing different paths.

‘And that has made all the difference.’

At times I have taken the road most traveled and at other times I’ve chosen the one traveled less. Every one of those choices were the correct ones to make. Some were easy to walk and others brought me difficulties. But I now understand that it’s not choosing the right path to the right destination that is important. It’s simply the journey that makes life worthwhile.

Tomorrow, the Doodle and I start down our next path. After a couple months of getting used to living in our RV, the Terra, we begin our journey out of Ohio. For the next six months we will be choosing paths and roads that many have traveled and some that few have gone down. But as Robert Frost penned, I know that each choice, including the little looney one of living in a RV, will make all the difference.

I hope you join us as we travel by following our blog posts. We’re going to use the blog as a daily journal for the most part. Some entries will be short while some longer in thought and some will even be shared by the Doodle from her perspective. Those will probably be the most entertaining.

So again, I hope you join us on our adventure. And please contribute your thoughts and comments on our postings. I’d love to hear your stories on the paths you have taken.

See you down the road….

Waiting For The Fog To Clear

‘As I stand atop this cliff

I look out to the sea

And as I gaze I wonder

Will this fog ever lift

So the ocean I will see.

All around me is a mist

With shapes like shadows hide

But now the dawn does break

The things that were uncertain

Now revealed by the light.’

A few years ago, our family took a trip to the California coast to move our youngest, our son, to his first year of college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. For my wife and I it was a trip of mixed emotions saying goodbye to our son while enjoying the beauty of the area. As parents, we were very proud of him for having the courage to move so far from home but we knew we would miss him greatly. We had confidence that he would do well but we also felt some fear from thinking about the trials he most likely would encounter. On his own, away from home. Away from us.

After spending a couple days in SLO with him, my wife and I, along with his two older sisters, gave our goodbye hugs and kisses and started our journey up the coast back to San Francisco. Driving Highway 1 north we saw the most spectacular scenery. I honestly can’t remember how many times we pulled off the road to just stand and gaze from the cliffs to the sea. It was breathtaking how the light cascaded down the cliffs to dance upon the waters. It was spectacular.

One morning back in San Francisco there was a very heavy fog over the bay. From the hilltop near our hotel, I could see the early sun glistening of the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge. But about a third of the way down the steel beams disappeared and further down the road was completely hidden by the fog. It was a very surreal sight. In the same instant there was the clarity of the light and the uncertainty of the unseen. That vision and feeling comes back to me every time I think about our trip.

Fog. We’ve all seen it. Been in it. Felt it on our skin. We’ve breathed in the damp coolness. In a way it’s refreshing. There’s a stillness to it as well. Sort of peaceful although somewhat uncomfortable or unnerving. You know there are things hidden beyond what your eye can perceive. You know they are there because you’ve seen them before but now, in this moment, they’re cloaked by a mist. And you may question if they truly do exist. You wait for the fog to lift. For the world around you to be as it was before.

An earthly cloud is just one type of fog I’ve experienced in my life. There have been times, more than I wished, when I lived in a fog. Uncertain of where I was and what was going on around me. I couldn’t see beyond the next step and sometimes even that wasn’t very clear. I felt lost and alone with no certainty of what I would see next. Afraid to move forward. I wondered if the fog would ever clear.

And then it did. Slowly shapes became sharper and I could see what was ahead of me. What was around me. The light began to burn away the curtain my world had been wrapped in. Soon the uncertainty that surrounded me was vanishing. Disappearing into the sky. The fog I was living in had lifted and I was again living in the light.

I’ve come to understand that in those times of being in a fog, there really is very little I can do to make it go away. I’ve learned two things though that I can do. One, is to be faithful in the knowledge that this current fog, no matter how thick it may seem, will also eventually lift. And two, be brave enough to wait in the midst of it until I can take that next step. Not easy things to do but things I still need to do.

Over the past month living in the Terra, there have been many mornings where there was a fog in or around the campsite. The Doodle and I would venture out into it and take in all that our senses could manage. We would walk through it just a few steps at a time and stand to look around. Surprisingly we often saw, heard, or felt something we probably would have missed had the fog not been there. A hidden experience the fog revealed. Unexpected. Thankful.

Both clear and foggy days lie ahead for all of us in this life. And when the fog comes again I know I will be okay. It will lift and the light will make things clear. It always has and always will if I am brave and have faith.

See you down the road my friends….

Every New Beginning…

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while now, you may have picked up on the fact that music has played a major role in defining who I am. Music has brought me to my faith, lifted me up when I’ve been down, and moved me to tears more times than I can count. Both happy and sad tears.

Since my childhood, listening to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other early rockers on my record player, through my teenager 8-track tape years listening and cruising to Boston, Foreigner, Foghat, and the J Geils Band, through the many genres and decades leading up to today, music has always brought meaning and emotion into my life. It’s sorta in my soul I think.

Bob Seger was one of my favorite singers in the 70s and 80s. I bet you can hear one of his songs in your head right now. Old Time Rock and Roll, Night Moves, Still the Same, Against the Wind. The rhythms and lyrics of many of these songs have stuck with me over the years and I find myself going back to them at different times to help me get through things going on in my life. I wonder which artists and songs have stayed with you over the years. Which have carried you through?

One Seger song that I’ve always loved and yet haunts me is Turn the Page. If you’re familiar with it, you know it’s about a singer on the road playing in different cities night after night. It’s about the grind and toll it is taking on him and how he wishes the trip was through. It’s about encounters with people in places he doesn’t know or even want to be with. It’s about the empty feeling he has in his soul.

I do like to sing but I’ve never been on tour so I can’t personally relate to what Bob Seger was specifically singing about in Turn the Page. But I can understand and relate to the empty feeling caused by what he was experiencing. There have been many times in my almost 60 years, that life events have made me feel exhausted. Burned out. Wanting to just give up. And a few times I have. I just couldn’t turn the page in my life to see what was next and frankly didn’t really care. I had had enough. Have you been there?

In 1998, the song Closing Time by Semisonic came out. At first, I didn’t really like the song much. I mean come on, it was about a guy at a bar hoping a certain someone would take him home after the bar closed. Maybe it brought back memories of some closing times at Mickey’s in my home town back in the 80s. Might have hit a little too close to home for me but that’s another story for another time. Maybe over a beer. You can buy.

But in the song Closing Time, there is one line that over the past 20 years seems to always come back to my mind. And during the last two years, it has come to mind many times when I’ve been really struggling with turning the page to the next chapter in my life. And I have found encouragement in the words.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Pretty simple right but oh so hard to think of when you’re in crisis, or grieving, or just worn out. If we allowed every page in our lives to just go on and on, nothing would ever change. We’d be stuck on the road night after night, perhaps playing star over and over again just like Seger.

Thankfully, I’ve come to understand a new beginning is only possible if we move on or close out the current page we’re living in and release the empty and scared feelings to allow our lives to begin again. Ain’t easy to do but I’ve found I can.

Which page are you on right now? Are you at the end of a chapter in your life and finding it really difficult to turn the page to something new? I want to encourage you to keep going, close out the page your on now, and turn to that new beginning that’s waiting for you. You can do it. Put on an old song that lifts you up and move on. It’s closing time. The rest is still unwritten.

Oh wait, that’s another song. Perhaps for another time.

See you down the road….

Hey Soul Sister Happy It’s Raining Men

At my age, things are starting to run together in my mind. I mean after close to sixty years of sensory input, my brain is probably ready to burst from all the things I’ve seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and touched. I know supposedly we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity to store and process information but I’m telling you my head must be so full of it, be careful now what you’re thinking, that I’m not sure I can take in much more.

When my friends and I get together our conversations usually end up on movies, songs, or tv shows we’ve enjoyed over the years and our talk becomes a rapid fire rendition of lyrics and quotes that somehow all seem to connect across our memories. One after another rolls out of our mouths and after just a few minutes we have no idea what we were originally talking about. Might just be our age causing it but mostly I think we’ve just evolved into a higher consciousness where we see in our minds eye how everything in the world is connected. Sort of a paradigm of hope!

Movies. My friends Darrell and Peggy can move through lines from O Brother Where Art Thou, Forrest Gump, Smokey and the Bandit, Christmas Vacation, Star Wars, and Airplane (among many other favorites) so quickly that your head begins to spin and you realize you “picked a bad day to give up smoking” among other things. I try to keep up but usually I just sit back and laugh in admiration. And “that’s all I’ve got to say about that”.

TV Shows. I grew up a kid in the 60’s and teenager in the 70’s. I loved the Saturday morning cartoons followed by western movies in the afternoon. I would watch shows back to back for hours until mom would either give me a chore or chase me outside to play with some friends. When I think now about some of those TV shows I can see myself pretending to be the heroes in each one. And for some I had the matching outfit. White hat and all!

Jonny Quest was a favorite of mine. Each episode Jonny, with the help of his friend Hadji, dog Bandit, dad Dr. Quest, and Race Bannon, was able to overcome villains, tragedies, mysteries, and some pretty scary monsters to win the day. This show taught me at an early age that I should never give up hope nor give in to my fears. So did John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart in all the westerns I watched. You see pilgrim, “Courage is being scared and saddling up anyway”. And what was it Jimmy Stewart said?  Oh yeah, “I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for”. Movie lines or perhaps mottos to live by that have stuck with me my entire life.

Songs. If you know me even just a little, you know that music is a big part of my life. Just sneak up to the windows of the Terra sometime and most likely you’ll hear me singing some Eagles, Bob Seger, or just about any song from the 70s. Don’t look in because if you hear Old Time Rock and Roll, I’m probably dressed like Tom Cruise sliding across the linoleum in Risky Business. Got that visual? Good! Now where’s my tube socks and white shirt?

Which brings me to the title of this post from along the road, Hey Soul Sister Happy It’s Raining Men. Three titles of perhaps not the most profound songs ever recorded but each one has very special meaning in my life. Do you have songs, maybe from the B side of the record, that are special to you? I’d love to read your comments about your timeless classics of tv, movie, or music.

Hey Soul Sister, Happy, and It’s Raining Men each connect to some pretty great memories for me and fun times shared with my wife Barb over our 30 years of marriage. The first two, Hey Soul Sister and Happy, were songs you could catch Barb humming or singing almost anytime. And It’s Raining Men, believe it or not, was kind of our song. Stick with me on this for a moment.

Barb really enjoyed Hey Soul Sister by Train and it’s upbeat swing about finding someone that was “one of her kind” that “gave her life direction – a game show love connection we can’t deny”. Of course she was thinking of me with this song. Right?

Hey Soul Sister came out in 2009. It might had been a couple of years before this song caught her ear but boy once it did you could catch her singing it about anytime. If you see my kids, ask them about their mom spontaneously busting out in song and dance whenever she heard this song. That thought and this song will always bring a smile to my face whenever I hear it. She sure could “cut a rug” and for this thug “watching you’s the only drug I need”.

Happy by Pharrell Williams was a go to song for Barb. Anytime it was played at a social event or wedding she moved quickly to the dance floor to “clap along like a room without a roof”. I’d usually catch up with her by the second verse and we’d dance like we were in our twenties again. Happy was released in 2013 and when Barb’s cancer showed up in 2015, this song took on additional importance. I think for Barb and I know for me the lyrics in the second verse were not only fun but also gave great strength to us.

“Here come bad news, talking this and that
(Yeah) Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back
(Yeah) Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine
(Yeah) No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why – Because I’m Happy…”

And It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls from 1983. Barb and I met in January of 1984 at Mickey’s in our home town. I remember that is was a Saturday night and me and the boys were out having drinks and a good time watching all the single ladies on what we called the old side at Mickey’s. We were sitting upstairs so we had the best view of the dance floor and while purveying the crowd below, I noticed Barb and her friend Kathy sitting at a table next to the dance floor. There was a guy, who I’ll call Farmer Dan, who had drank a few too many and was being rather persistent about asking Barb and Kathy to dance with him. It looked to me that both ladies were getting rather annoyed by Farmer Dan’s persistence, and in that I saw an opportunity.

I tapped my friend Dave on the shoulder and said “I’ll bet you a quarter that I can get one of those two girls down there to dance with me”. He took the bet, I approached their table, and Barb said yes. And yes I know her motivation to dance with me was not due to my handsome persona nor my John Travolta dancing ability but simply to just get away from the Farmer. Poor Kathy was left to fend alone for herself but half way through the song, my buddy Dave got her out on the dance floor. What was the song? Yep It’s Raining Men. I guess it did that night for Barb. After all I was sitting up in the clouds looking down on her. And I made a quarter. It was a really good night!

Our lives, short or long, are filled with moments where something we experienced becomes one of the great memories in our mind. Over the past two and a half years since Barb finished her journey with cancer, my mind has reopened to memories of movies, tv shows, and songs that I had not thought about in a very long time. And it’s great as these memories, running together one after the other, bring me great happiness and peace. As well as a smile to my face and a dance in my step.

To quote Forrest, Forrest Gump; “My momma always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on”. I think momma was right about that but I also think I’ll keep those special memories from the past in my back pocket as I continue to move on.

I’ll see you down the road….