Driving the 101

On The Road Again….

Ever since my first time behind the wheel, I’ve been in love with driving.

OK…maybe not the very first time.  The standard “H” clutch in my father’s Camry made the first time a little more challenging than ignition, gas and go.

So….

Ever since I could learn how to adequately shift gears, I’ve been in love with driving.  From the quick jaunt to the store, to early morning drives into work, I love hopping in the car and having the freedom to just go anytime I want.

OK, so in all honesty, rush hour traffic in LA is a bit more challenging to love. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t mind handing over the keys to someone else on a daily basis – but I can’t guarantee I’m going to like their choice of music….

What I love best are road trips.  Hours in the car, never run out of music, wind in your hair road trips.  There’s just something so free and exciting about the open road in front of you.  You can go anywhere and discover anything.  Every trip is different.  I’ve traveled the two hour stretch from LA to San Diego or Tucson to Phoenix countless times, and there’s always something new to see.  Take a left instead of right, use this exit instead of that, suddenly you’re in a whole new area you can explore, get lost, or find yourself in. And the greatest thing about America’s fabulous highway system, there’s never a lack of roads to travel anywhere!  Even if you feel as though you’ve explored all of the avenues and boulevards in your immediate area….

Flying to road trip

…simply start all over again someplace else!

Sometimes a road trip can start off with a specific destination in mind.

Gilroy Garlic Festival Awesomeness
Actual, honest, garlic of Gilroy, CA!!!

 

Other times, you just make up your stops along the way:

Jelly Belly Factory

Perhaps, as you’re driving along, the tiniest sign along the freeway can entice you to exit and discover something you might have otherwise missed altogether.

Blackhawk Museum
The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA

Driving along, you get a chance to enjoy the bounties each neighborhood, region, city boasts – whether it’s as simple as a small piece of local artwork:

Artwork in Napa
“Retro Woman” – by Gordon Heuther – along a wall in Napa, CA

…or grand artwork disguised as infrastructure:

Richmond San Rafael Bridge
Steel beauty in the Bay….

…or infrastructure in agricultural form:

Grapes of Napa
The grapes of Napa

The journey isn’t always carefree.  After all, three things in life are certain…death, taxes and traffic:

Traveling Northern California

But when you do find that one stretch of beautiful, wide-open road to travel, there’s just nothing better than opening all of the windows, and cranking up the tunes – letting all of that fresh, clean air in and your lovely serenading voice out!

Driving the 101

Sorry, cows.

So if you find yourself stuck this weekend with not a whole lot to do, but perhaps a whole tank of gas to do nothing with, might I suggest jumping in the car, choosing a direction, and seeing where the road takes you?

Need a travel partner?  I’ll gladly come along with you!

…provided I get to pick the music.

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Congrats To My Favorite Postal Worker

Today is National Postal Worker Day.

Coincidentally, today is also the very first day of my father’s retirement.  Retirement from the US Postal Service after 45 years of service.

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45 years!!!!  The same company!!!

How many of us are working for the same company as little as 5 years later?

45 years.  That’s a lifetime.  Literally.   Dad started working at the post office before I was born!  The only thing I’ve done for nearly the same amount of time is breathe.  And blink.  Otherwise, I don’t think I will ever have anything else in my life come anywhere close to matching that type of dedication.  Granted, dad had a variety of jobs within the postal service all that time; but the paychecks kept coming from the same place.

Dad has an amazing work ethic (has? had?…does one still have a work ethic after retirement?).  In 45 years of service, I’m pretty sure that he never called into work sick and I guarantee you he was never late.  Growing up, I remember year after year he would get awards and accolades for his perfect attendance.  It may seem strange – awards for perfect attendance at a place outside of school – but consider never calling in sick….never being late to work.  I get the slightest hint of a headache and I’m down for the count.  Yearly I end up with more sick than sick days.  Now don’t get me wrong; dad would plan for time off – doctor’s appointments, knee surgery, etc.; but to actually call in sick?  Like with a cold?  Nope.  Pretty sure never.  In 45 years.

45 years.  When my father started working for the post office, the cost of a stamp was 6-cents.  6-cents!!!

If you’re wondering, the cost of a postage stamp today is 46-cents.

My mother worked nights and dad worked days – this is how they were able to raise (successfully??) two daughters.  Someone was always there for us all the time.  As a kid, I just took it for granted that this was their schedule.  But as an adult, I realize what a sacrifice it is to forego seeing your spouse for days at a time just to ensure there’s always a parent around for the kids.  A few hours at the most each day – that’s how much time they saw each other – while my sister and I got to enjoy spending time with them (albeit separately) all the time.  Even if they weren’t my parents, I still think that’s pretty incredible.

My father rarely, if ever, complained about work.  Granted, he’s always been surrounded by at least 3 females who can (and do) any of the complaining about anything for him; but ne’er a disparaging word would he speak about his job or his co-workers.  And I always got the impression my dad was just as affable at work as he is at home.  From time to time I would stop in to see my dad at work…just because I was in the neighborhood…or to take him out to lunch.  And everyone would always smile, take me to dad’s desk, say something jovial, kind, or complimentary – every time.  My dad is the calm in the storm…and I think he brought some of that to the workplace.  And maybe just a little bit of humor.

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Today is National Postal Worker Day.  There were people delivering the mail before my dad walked in the door 45 years on his first day of work…and the mail will be delivered today even without him there.  And to all of those postal workers, I’d like to say thank you for all of your hard work and effort!!!

But to me, there is (was?) no better employee for the US Postal Service than my dad.

As the creed goes:  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds….

Congratulations, Dad.  You completed your rounds…each and every day of all those years.

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sobriety...things to ponder

Two Things, Two Years Later….

Today, I celebrate two years of sobriety.

If you asked me two years and two days prior, I’d have laughed at the thought of going so long without a drink.  Why would anyone not want to have a glass of wine with dinner or have a beer and watch the game?  And yet, here I am, two years later, two years sober.

I would love to tell you that I’m always totally thrilled with my decision to be sober.  But let’s be honest…that’s crap.  I still miss beer…and wine…and vodka…and tequila.

OK…maybe not straight tequila.  Margaritas, however….

I wish I could sit down at a new brewery, order a flight, and enjoy all the flavors and smells and fabulousness that beer has to offer.  I wish I could enjoy a smooth, soothing glass of wine to help punctuate a delicious dinner.  I would love to travel to Napa again, visit wineries and enjoy the earthiness of the grapes growing just outside the door.

The flat out truth is that I can’t……so…..I can’t.

But if you ask me if I regret my decision to go sober, I’ll tell you no, quite the opposite.  The decision to quit drinking probably saved my life.  I may not always like it, but I am thankful every day that I have the strength and perseverance to get through each day without a drink.  But it has made me take a long, hard look at the choices we make in life.  So as I sit here and look back two years, I’m going to share with you a little about what I’ve learned….

sobriety...things to ponder

1) Addiction is just a big, nasty, hard habit to break~

Everyone’s experience with addiction is different (be it cigarettes, alcohol, food, whatever) – so it stands to reason that everyone’s experience with recovery will be different.  There simply is no one cure that works for everyone.   If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to kick the habit your first time out. Unfortunately, you may have to go through a series of trial and error before you find the method that works for you.  Meanwhile, doctors, friends, so-called experts: everyone will spout all kinds of psychological reasons for why you’re addicted, and try to get you to subscribe to their particular brand of dealing with it; and that can be quite intimidating.

You may not want to stand up in a room and talk about your feelings – so you put off breaking your habit.  Not everyone can afford a five hundred dollar an hour doctor blaming your problems on something in your childhood – but that’s what you’ve been told works, so you put off breaking your habit.

Guess what?  Everybody doesn’t know you.  Your addiction is your own – and you have to figure out how best to work through it.

I knew I didn’t want to be surrounded by strangers, telling my story time and time again.  I didn’t want to have to feel badly about the awesome times I had when once I was drinking.  Those were good memories – embarassing, ridiculous, reckless and sometimes incredibly stupid memories…but they’re mine, and I embrace them.  I also didn’t want to check myself into some center or visit some doctor to talk about my “problems”  Again…my memories.  My stories.  Mine to keep and not have tarnished by some doc’s interpretation.

No, I decided that my recovery is just the very exhausting process of breaking a really, really bad habit…..and that’s it.  It is a day-by-day process that I have to control.  Sometimes I have to lean on my husband and friends for some support; but in the end, I had to make a conscious decision break the habit in order to succeed.  And habits are hard to break!  Stressful day at the office – grab a beer at home.  Out for dinner – order a glass of wine.  Night on the town – what’s one more round going to hurt?  Day that ends in “Y” – there’s a drink out there somewhere with my name on it.  All of these events contributed daily to one, big, nasty habit that only I could control or let control me.  And that’s been the struggle; finding different ways to deal with daily stress, not ordering wine at a restaurant, finding someplace else to go besides the bar on Friday nights.

I’m not going to lie, some days are easier than others.  I have to be cognizant DAILY of my demons, because it would be just so simple to order one glass of wine at a celebratory dinner, or tell myself that I could enjoy just one cold beer on a hot summer day.  And I won’t lie…there are moments where I wonder if I could go back to handling my liquor.  But then I remember the last drink I had (or, at least a vague memory of it) which emphatically reminds me why it is I can’t have another drink, and then I freely choose to stay the course.

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight – neither does breaking it

2) You have to really want it to really do it~

You’ve probably seen the commercials on television about helping someone with addiction.  It’s great…truly, it is.  There are some people who really don’t know they have a problem; so if you can help that person look in the mirror to see what you see, and it forces them to get help, then by all means, do it.

Here’s the problem; if that person doesn’t want to quit (or is truly not ready to change), he or she is just…not…going…to…quit.  They may stop for awhile, but something will happen – the urge will overtake them one day and they will falter.

I tried to manage my drinking at least a half dozen different ways:  I’ll just drink on the weekends, I won’t drink alone, I’ll only have 2 drinks at a time, or (my personal favorite) – I’ll only drink clear fluids.  And inevitably I’d fall right back into bad habits and old ways and be at the bar until closing on a random Wednesday night with half a pint of (dark amber) beer in my hand.

“When are you going to stop doing this to yourself,” my friends would half jokingly/half seriously ask me – witnessing yet another exciting hangover.

“I can stop anytime,” would be my response.

But I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until I had a serious Come-to-Jesus moment (which I won’t bore you with here), that I realized I had to change my life in order to save myself.  And that memory is what keeps me going each and every single day.  You can’t create that moment for people.  You can help encourage it, you can be there for them when they have it, but they have to come to it on their own.  You’ve probably even been through this in your own life whether you realize it or not.  Take up a new hobby…are you still doing it 6 months later?  Trying to lose those last 10 pounds…are they still off of you two years after the fact?  Smoking, drinking, dieting, lifestyle changes…if you don’t really want to make a change, the change you make isn’t going to stay with you.  As I mentioned earlier, recovery is about breaking a bad habit; and the only way to stay ahead is to make sure you want that habit broken each and every single day.

Phew.  That was all pretty deep – especially for me.

If you told me 731 days ago that I’d be sober today, I would not have believed you.  But here I am – sober today and hopefully strong enough to stay sober tomorrow. This is probably the part where I’m supposed to say I’m looking forward to my sobriety in the next week, month or even the next year.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?  Two years long is two years good enough – for today.  I think I’m just going to sit back and celebrate today with a great feeling of pride in myself, my awesomely supportive husband, and a tall refreshing glass of sparkling water.

 

If you have a problem and are ready to tackle it, there are many resources available – don’t let it overwhelm you.  Start small.  Call a friend, family member or hit the internet to gather more info about your particular issue and take the first step.  I may not have used it, but am still a firm believer in many of the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Check out their website HERE for help. You don’t have to go it alone – but you alone have to want to make a change!

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