Make some room

Make some room

“Make some room”.

“MAKE some room”.

Barked my Sparta Class instructor as he restlessly roamed the circuit class floor.

We had just finished a solid hour of weight training exercises executed in pairs – 24 exercises total. My breath was labored. I was covered in sweet. A deep thirst filled my being. “What could possibly come next?” I thought, then I found out.

“50 Burpees” came the command.

Many groaned. I didn’t have the energy.

I wondered : “Can I do this?”. I had never done 50 burpees. 25, yes. 30, yes, but 50, never. Especially after giving everything I had to a circuit weight training class that was heavy on chest and back exercises. Could I make it to that impossible sounding number?

Before I had too much time to ponder, my partner hit the deck and I followed. I think this is one of the reasons for the partner: peer pressure.

Hands on the ground, I jumped my legs back into plank position. Sunk down into a solid push-up. Sprang my legs back in and jumped up. “One” rang out in my head.

The first 5 were solid, then it started to become a bit harder. I considered cutting out the push-up. Out of habit, it remained.

Suddenly I was at 25 – halfway there. I started my count over at 1 to spare my brain and spirit. Just 25 burpees now.

At 45, my partner was finished, and I was going slower. She then did the unthinkable and jumped in to finish my last 5 with me. I started to call the numbers out loud. My form was as good again as the first 5 and soon we were done.

I had completed 50 burpees. A feat in and of itself, but after an intense 1 hour workout, I was elated. I gulped down some cool water and thanked the instructor for showing me I could do something that I didn’t know was in me.

And that is why I train. I love finding the edge and pushing through it. Respecting what my body can do and knowing when it’s the right time to take it further.

It occurred to me that I do the same thing at work. I love finding an impossible challenge, grappling with how to solve it, adapting along the way and ultimately completing the goal. The outcome might look very different than I originally envisioned, but if it is fit for purpose, then it works.

As you start this week, make some room. Make room in your life for a new challenge. Look for an impossible goal and achieve it. As we close this year, finish strong! Go into next year with renewed confidence in your ability to push your limits and overcome. Then, nothing will be impossible.

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The time in between

The time in between

What follows is a tale of a surprising encounter I had on my last day in Germany which reminded me to never presume I know a person by what I see on the outside. This opportunity came about following a strange series of events that created “the time in between”. Some would call it serendipity.

In my last week of living in Germany I had a boat load of things to wrap up. I packed a small box of items from my office – a framed picture that I’d carried with me from America to Germany of the Digital Farming team crowded in front of a 57 Chevy parked in front of y’all Nebraska corn. Another photo of a younger version of my husband smiling at me from the top of a boulder along a river near Yosemite national park. My 5 year service award. My favorite coffee cup.

This box sat in my apartment, ready for the movers who would come and add it to the pile of boxes and wrapped furniture that would be loaded into a van and packed in to a sea crate for delivery to my home in America.

As I prepared to move home, one task on my list was to return my fleet car to the Opel car dealership in Cologne. Cologne is a city I thought I’d visit often while I lived in Germany, but as it turned out my life in Germany was focused either in Düsseldorf, traveling to another country for the weekend or striking out for a wanderen (hike) in the Bergischeland near Altenberg Dom. I made a few trips to Cologne and every time I went I found the drive to be frustrating, parking to be a nightmare and the experience to not be different enough from my time in Düsseldorf to justify the trip. So, I traveled a few times with visitors who wanted to see the impressive Dom or drink a glass of Kölsch at Früh.

I also traveled a few times to the car dealership for an oil change. So it came that when I called up the dealership to arrange to return my car and booked the last appointment of the day on the day before my return flight to America I suddenly realized I wouldn’t have a way to get home. The drive was long enough that I didn’t want to hassle a friend, so I texted my favorite taxi driver and arranged for him to pick me up. I don’t know why I didn’t consider a train… my only excuse is I had A LOT on my mind that week and I wanted to simplify.

Now I realize that I made that choice for a reason. I made that choice so I could have “the time in between” to engage in a conversation that has fundamentally shifted my view on a very important aspect of humanity. Let me explain it to you here.

Here’s how “the time in between” came to be. In my last Wednesday in Germany I went to the office and forced myself to clock out on time to make it to Cologne for my car return appointment. As I traveled the busy roads the clock was ticking and I found that in spite of my best efforts I’d be a bit late. Which leads me to one of the most humorous things I learned in Germany. The idea that Germans are extremely punctual is a myth. Sure, Germans, just like most of us, strive to be on time or early, but I didn’t find people where any more often on time or late than anywhere else I’ve traveled in the world. Nevertheless, I would encounter a real logistical problem if for some strange reason I couldn’t return my car that day. At 6 am the next morning I’d be boarding a plane bound for America! I had to drop off my car!

As I pulled up to the dealership I rushed in to begin the return process. I had budgeted an hour for the process so the taxi was scheduled to pick me up at 4:30. At 3:45 we were done and I pondered what to do with the time. I decided now was my chance to enjoy one last Kölsch in Köln before I repatriated. I had noticed a corner bier joint on my way in to the dealership.

I finished handing over my keys, said one last farewell to Super Z and took off down the street by foot. The streets bustling with people, I passed by kiosks and kebab shops en route to my destination. Shortly after climbing out of a train-line underpass, I found the bier joint I had spotted on my way in. Two older gentlemen stood outside at the traditional round table for 3 – both with a tall, thin glass of Kölsch resting on a coaster in front of them. One smoking a hand rolled cigarette.

I walked in and ordered a beer from the bar maid. My German passable as we completed the entire brief exchange in Deutsche. I began to feel I had actually made it and could pass as a local. It was a lovely afternoon so I walked outside with my Kölsch and was pleased to find the y’all round table vacated. I dropped my shoulder bag at my feet and took my first long drink of the lighter cousin of Alt.

Halfway through the glass I received a text from my taxi driver. He was in Köln, but unfortunately discovered that there were two locations in Köln with the same exact address and he was clearly not at the right one. This meant he was still about 45 minutes away from me. I eased his distress by letting him know I had a comfortable place to wait. Then settled in to a bench seat at a table and order eine mehr Kölsch mit bratwurst, bitte.

This series of events is what led to the “time in between”. What happened next was completely unexpected and changed my view on an entire population of people: namely – refugees and native borne peoples of non-native descent. What struck me later is that none of this would have happened if the car return hadn’t gone so fast, or my taxi was late, or my nostalgic thirst hadn’t kicked in, prompting me to walk up the road and grab a bier.

What happened next is a lady walked up weighed down by heavy bags – the plastic handles cutting into her forearms – and expressed to me in German how tired and thirsty she was. This declaration was promptly followed by collapsing herself into the bench seat at the neighboring table. We began to carry on a conversation across the two tables. After a couple of sentences in German from me she switched to perfect English. I guess my German wasn’t so good after all… A bit later, the bar maid appeared and she ordered a beer. When it arrived, we toasted our biers and I welcomed her to join me at the bench just opposite me at “my” table. I say “my” table because in Germany, a table never belongs to one person. They are meant to be shared. Sharing doesn’t always result in a conversation, but many times it does and these spontaneous conversations are sometimes the most interesting you’ll have all year. Such it would be that day.

But, first I should give you a bit more insight into what I was rolling over in my very mind that day in the hours that led up to the “time in between”. The German election results had just rolled in and AFD had gained seats in the parliament. Enough seats to indicate that 1 in 10 voting age Germans had supported their cause. A cause which was largely rooted in anti-Islamic campaigning efforts. I myself had witness these campaign signs as I traveled on my daily commute to and from the office and when I was strolling about in Berlin on sunny Saturday afternoon. Signs which featured sun-kissed women in bikinis accompanied with slogans: bikinis not Burkas. Others featured women wearing said Burkas with messaging making it clear this was not welcome in Germany. But the one that really got me was a tight shot of not one, but two, pairs of bosoms bouncing out of the top of Dirndl blouses which espoused a fervent desire to maintain traditional German culture.

As I had driven through the neighborhood just a couple of hours before, I was contemplating the results of this election and the conclusion that 1 in 10 Germans had felt strongly enough in this direction to vote as such, ok maybe not completely on the Islamic topic, but this and some others associated with it. And as I drove, I looked at the people in the streets and observed that nearly 100% of the people I saw did not look like “traditional Germans” but were in fact appeared to be Arabic of some descent. We’re they Islamic? This is could not tell by looking, but I observed a bustling neighborhood with people who likely hailed from Turkey (note that in Germany you will find the largest population of Turks outside of Turkey – many of whom are practicing Muslims. My own local treasured Turkish grocery did not sell pork products at all…), South Africa, and possibly refugees from Syria. I found myself wondering how these people felt when they woke up and heard the election results and learned that 1 in 10 of the local population maybe didn’t want them here? Little did I know that I would soon be able to hear how this felt first hand!

I was rolling this over as I walked back through the neighborhood to grab a beer and then this is when “the time in between” brought me full circle. There’s a detail I haven’t yet revealed to you. My drinking partner was a woman of Arabic appearance. We started with the usual stuff: where are you from, what do you do…? I learned that she was a chemist intern who would love to be hired by the company I work for: Bayer. After the small talk, we somehow, maybe it was on her mind too, came to the topic of the elections. She introduced her self as a Muslim, non-practicing. I found this to be an interesting way to define herself. A catholic (especially one that is non-practicing) typically wouldn’t define themselves as a catholic in terms of their racial or ethnic background. She wore no head covering, and otherwise traditional “western” clothing. But her face, her face and her hair color is what gave her away. This was of no consequence to me until I realized what it meant to her and her new perspective of how she felt she could fit in her current place in the world. Which, I’ll cut to the chase, following the election results, she felt she didn’t fit at all.

And here is where it got really interesting – she was born in Germany! Yet, she now felt she did not belong, in the place of her birth because of her appearance and her implied connection with a religious group. This is where the conversation became startlingly eye-opening for me. I too was living temporarily in Germany, but thanks to my Northern European roots and my wardrobe acquired in Germany, I had come to the point where everyone thought I was a local. So much so that when I traveled to other arts of Europe people would be more inclined to think I was German than American! And here was a woman who was born in Germany and suddenly felt she did not belong, and this part made me profoundly sad, was no longer safe in her own home. To make matters worse for her, she was recently married to a refugee who struggled to find work and also felt at risk of attack.

Then the situation became more dire. She talked about her former dream of moving to America, which she now wasn’t so sure about following our own elections and general sentiments toward Islamic people in the US. I reassured her that there were places where she could live and be safe. But, again, I found myself reeling from learning about her view on the world.

Then I sat back and wondered what did these guys (AFD) really hope to accomplish. They say they want to preserve and protect the “traditions of Germany”. But, if new people were coming in, couldn’t it be that new traditions could be accommodated while the old were preserved?

They campaigned on a platform of no Islamic mosques, but how can you welcome people in to your country for safety and not allow them to express their religion? Is the only way to thrive in a new place to adopt the local religion instead of making space for diverse religions? Ok, I visited Turkey and I experienced the intrusiveness of the call to prayer ringing out so loudly from a nearby mosque that we literally were forced to stop talking until it concluded. But is this so different from the lovely loud church bells that ring from towering spires in the center of every German town many times a day?

I know that there are elements of good and evil mixed in with all these establishments, but I couldn’t wonder if the AFD strategy was beginning from a place that could never win. People voted for them for many reasons – some out of fear of change, others perhaps out of hatred, some in reaction to feeling out of control. But, I wondered if this vote would only do more to empower the forces of terror in the Islamic world?

Many of these thoughts developed in my next conversation so I didn’t talk about it with my new friend. I wrapped up our conversation by encouraged her to keep studying, train in Krav Maga, stay alert, and don’t give up on America. We parted with a hug and a smile. Me, saddened, but also grateful for “the time in between” where two worlds serendipitously collided.

My taxi pulled up, and I dashed across the intersection (of course only after the little man went green – I was still in Germany after all!) and climbed in. As we made our way to the autobahn, he grumbled about the mix-up and the traffic. I shared with him my experience at the beer joint. And this is where the day took yet another interesting turn.

My driver was a native born German who had deep German roots and a traditional upbringing. I couldn’t miss the chance to gain his perspective on the election. He shared with me his take on where the vote came from – a point of deep-rooted frustration in the German populace. The decision to take in a large refugee population had created local strains in services and public spaces. Welcoming people into your community but asking them to exclusively follow your rules had (I would say not surprisingly) caused some rubs in small communities. Many refugees are still not allowed to work and struggled to learn the German language. There is no safe place to where they can return but it appears many people feel there is no plan to appropriately integrate them as contributing members of German society. Add on top of this the high tax rates in German and abundance of social systems, all of it came together with some tragic terror attacks to stir up nationalism similar to what is seen around the world. This is a gross simplification of all the social factors, but was the gist of what we discussed.

At the end of the day I found myself with quite a lot to contemplate as I considered the plight of my two very different German native-born conversational partners. One who feels like she no longer belongs in her home, but had no home to wish to flee. I failed to mention her parents live in Turkey and she is Kurdish, so no option for her to safely return. Another who feels his tax burden is increasing with no end in sight and his homeland is being invaded and not respected by a people who struggle to adopt the local customs either out of blunt disrespect or lack of understanding.

I debated if I would even write about this on my blog because I fear it could create some non-productive discussion, but I’m still a believer in the power of sharing stories to learn about others. It is for this reason that I offer this to you and I encourage you to think harder before you look only at the outside of a man or a woman or a child and think you know that person. Because the truth is that what is on the outside is often only the beginning of the story and what lies underneath may be very surprising indeed.

#optoutside

#optoutside

There is this thing in America which begins earlier every year and is increasing in strength and ferocity. We call it “Black Friday”. Immediately after giving thanks for everything in our lives, we either take off after the evening meal, or wake up at the crack of dawn to join thousands of other Americans to go shopping. I tried it once years ago – there was no place to park, crowds in stores were elbow-to-elbow, and to top it all off, the prices were not good! So, I decided then – never again.

Delightedly, this year I learned of a new tradition called #optoutside. Instead of heading in to a store for shopping, or sitting on your couch watching tv, thousands of Americans decided to opt outside for some time in nature.

We pulled up the google maps, located some new trails, and then headed out. Our trail selections were just about 2 miles from each other but about as different as night and day. Our first stop was at Spring Creek Bluffs. We parked in a small gravel lot, leashed up our hound dog and took off. The trail started in some scrubby woods and quickly we found ourselves in a high bank overlooking Spring Creek. Chas found a log that had fallen across the Creek creating a natural bridge and walked across it with Desi. It was mid-afternoon and the light glowed through the colorful leaves creating a scenery that looked a bit like the stained glass of European cathedrals.


We wondered if these were the Bluffs and hoped that wasn’t true. Soon enough we came to a point where the Bluffs appeared, with straight, tall Beech trees sporting yellow leaves standing like guardians on the slope.


The slope quickly climbed steeply to the peak of the Bluffs and as we reached the crest we met some folks who spoke with an English accent turning back because they thought the trail had ended. We enjoyed the view for a bit before continuing on.


Good thing we continued because the trail became even more breathtaking as we followed the ridge and meandered down to a greenway that bordered a neighborhood. We met a runner who jogged by with ragged breaths and a haggard expression on his face. Boy, I know that feeling, I thought. After a few hundred yards we turned back on to our trail to loop back to the beginning.

A short distance later we rejoined the path and walked along the ridge and down the slope before winding up on a surprisingly long boardwalk. The place must be swampy in the summer time. At the end of the path we found a beautiful placard engraved with this poem. Nice inspiration on our day opting out in nature.

After completing this trail, we drove the short distance to Hemlock Bluffs – a nature preserve that had a beautiful nature center and what turned out to be very well-developed chip bark trails.

Such a contrast to our first trail experience of the day. At Spring Creek Bluffs we saw maybe 10 people and one dog. Here groups of families, many with happy hounds tugging at the end of a leash, strolled along together enjoying the fine fall weather. Because we were still traveling the same bluff (I had assumed), I expected the scenery to be the same. As it turned out that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This park hosts a rare grove of Hemlock trees – a type of evergreen that is normally found in the mountains of western North Carolina – that thrives here because of a unique cold and swampy microclimate.

The preserve also has a large population of beech trees and what blew me away was the color of their leaves. Here the trees were wearing golden brown leaves, while on the other bluff the leaves were bright yellow. I still don’t know why this phenomenon would occur, but you can bet I’ll be doing some research on it.

We hiked all the trails at the park (about 3 miles worth), sometimes racing to stay ahead of noisy families, other times enjoying a rare human-free moment. I was impressed with the infrastructure and think it would be fun to return in the summer for a hope at a glimpse of the many salamander species that make this preserve home.

Today was sunny and warm and we headed off to San Lee for a mountain bike ride. Another gorgeous day on a challenging terrain made a bit more treacherous by the coating of colorful leaves.

I’d recommend checking out all of these parks if you have some time to explore in the area of Cary and Sanford, North Carolina. And if you didn’t do it this year, I’d encourage you to join us next year as we #optoutside!

‘Tis the season?

I’m settled back in to my home in America and find myself seeing my old world through new eyes. Something about returning to a place gives me a warm feeling when I recognize something familiar, but a bit of a jolt when something is different. If you’ve left your home for any decent stretch of time and returned, then you know the feeling.

Tonight on my drive home I saw Christmas lights draped across a large hedge. Then a bit further up the road, a full blown Christmas tree lot with an inflatable Santa bouncing around happily, beckoning to minivans loaded with small children.

On Saturday, I went for a hike with my book club crew and stopped by Walmart on the way home to pick up a few things. I noticed that the outdoor garden center was jam-packed with rows of children’s bikes neatly parked on kick stands waiting to light up little Billy’s eyes on Christmas morning. Just inside the store an entire seasonal section was loaded with wrapping paper and bows and every other imaginable Christmas item.

And if all got me to thinking…why can’t we celebrate the moment? The present moment being Thanksgiving season in America. It feels a bit intrusive to me that retailers and tree vendors and even homeowners have taken the decision to simply over-shadow a huge America holiday by thrusting the trapping of the next holiday on us.

Then I realized that the retailers would certainly not be stocking items before people are willing to purchase them, which means we are part of this equation. The guy running the tree stand is not going to start stocking perishable trees before people will buy them. And for Pete’s sake, a person wouldn’t choose to spend extra money on lights decorating their shrubs before they deem it’s the right time.

So, I’m left wondering. In the midst of our apparent crisis of not being able to live in the moment. Leading to a host of books and podcasts and seminars and retreats on mindfulness. Here’s a perfect time to try it. Can we all come together and say – no, it’s not Christmas season yet. The season upon us is Thanksgiving. Let’s fully live this season and then move on to Christmas! How about we all try it on for size? It’s a great test of our ability to implement mindfulness and savor the season, as they say on all the frozen turkey wrappers.

Otherwise, I’m thinking we might as well give up now and just go ahead and join our friends down under and celebrate Christmas in July!

United by Joy 

Today I found myself re-engaging with an old familiar routine – early-morning airline travel. I’m off to Germany again – but this time not to my apartment (which is no longer mine) but to a hotel for a week of business meetings. I managed a remarkable 21 day stint at home! Nearly a record for me. And when it came to packing-up, boy did I ever procrastinate!!!

Which is how I found myself waking up at 5 am, barely managing a quick coffee and a shower, before I madly packing my suitcase and backpack. I thought I’d done pretty well until we pulled up to the first turn and I realized I had forgotten my jeans – back to the house we went.

No harm no foul.

To make this journey fun, my husband and I pretended it was my first trip to Germany. Wow – it was going to be so amazing to visit a new place and finally practice all that German I’d been learning. Adding a humorous spin to the day certainly lifted my mood.

A quick farewell at the curb and I checked in my suitcase (I’m returning with gifts for the other expats and will also load up some clothes I left with a neighbor), passed through security and lined up in the old familiar cue of weary travelers at the Starbucks. Americano and banana in hand, I rode the people mover down to the gate. Last weekend, on my 39th bday, I was overly ambitious and rode two mountain bike trails with my husband. My back sure is making me pay. Let’s just say I’m feeling my age!

So, here I was as I boarded the United flight to Newark, New Jersey – sleepy, a bit melancholy about leaving home, with a sore back. I was so happy to be greeted by a smile and some humor from the flight atttendant – Berg. I quickly surmised that this man loves his job. Either that or he just decided to be positive today.

Every gesture was accompanied with a smile, humor and kindness in his eye. I found myself wondering, does he truly love his job? Or does he just chose to be happy? Did, in fact, something very terrible recently happen in his life and he’s chosen it won’t get him down? Maybe he in fact woke up in a bad mood but decided he wouldn’t share it with others? 

I don’t know what question is true, but I decided to be one of the few people who gave him the curtosy of watching the security briefing and silently chuckled at the extra silly mimes he interjected to the standard routine. After we were airborne, coffee was served up hot with an offering of Bailey’s to “spice it up”. I politely declined and resumed drawing in my notebook. Happy to be in the presence of a joyful person.

The flight was short – a mere hour and fifteen minutes – and as we began to descend I noticed Berg was meticulously folding a piece of paper. My first guess was he was assembling a paper airplane to throw at someone before we landed, a final, desperate gesture to improve the mood of grumpy, early Saturday-morning travelers. 

As the folding progressed, he tore off the bottom third of the page and was left with a neat square. He stayed busy with his hands and it quickly became obvious that he was practicing origami – a crease, a fold, followed by multiple firm swipes down the edge. Crease, fold, turn, the pattern continued. 

We landed and I became distracted by the act of gathering my things. I lost track of the origami and frankly forgot about it for a moment, until I deplaned. As I passed by Berg, I offered a smile of farewell. He smiled in return and firmly pressed a paper crane in to my hand.


As I bounced up the gangway to the terminal, with a smile plastered on my face, I was amazed at the power of a piece of paper in the hands of a creative, positive person. Remember that how you behave can either make someone’s day better or worse. Which do you choose?

Horse Tales

Horse Tales


Last night I went on a horse ride with my neighbor in North Carolina. It brought back a lot of memories! Although I’ve yet to own one myself, I’ve been connected to horses my whole life. 

My relationship with horses began when I was a toddler riding my Uncle Bud’s horse Old Red. Back then, he lived on a beautiful ranchette in Calaveras County, California – a stones throw from Angels Camp, land of the Frog Jump competition made famous by the writing of Mark Train. I have few actual memories of my visits to the farm, but the ones I have are prompted from semi-faded pictures of me and my little sister holding baby chicks or riding in the saddle of a big brown horse with my aunt Sidney holding us in place.

When I hit 13, I adopted western style clothing and decorated the back of my bedroom door with cutouts of horse pictures from magazines. I began to make a habit of riding my uncles’ horse and learning to neck-rein. I also rode the horses of a wonderful lady who was, effectively, my second mother. This is around the time when I really learned the value of work. My second mother gave me the privilege of riding her horse in exchange for hours soaping saddles and mucking stalls. I loved the work and the time I earned in the saddle in her riding arena.

When I was 14, I’d saved up some cash that I earned through a combination of jobs, but mostly from my chicken and turkey flock. The chickens and turkeys were my 4-H project and I hit it big when I had the grand champion hen turkey and sold her at auction for 20 dollars a pound. She was a 20 pound hen – you do the math! All that dough went straight in to my bank account!

By 16, I had about $2,000 saved up and dad gave me the option to spend it on a horse or 1963 Dodge 330 that I wanted to build up for drag racing (slicks, cage, 5-point harness – the whole shebang). 

I think that even at 16 I knew that life would soon be taking me away from my home and to college, where it would be really tough to stable a horse. So, the car won. Sadly, I never got it running, although I had a heck of a fun time replacing the floor and installing a roll cage with the mig welder my dad purchased for the project. I bought some slicks and skinny front tires and they sat on the shelf, for years, collecting dust. Until, the inevitable Day came when dad called to say I needed to sell the car. Which I did, and traded the cash straight up for a bicycle that I raced in college. I do have a quintessential “need for speed”.

In the intervening years my love for horses has never dwindled. In Texas, our neighbors had horses and I admired them from afar. In Baton Rouge, my connection with horses diminished, but I regained my connection with western style clothing and donned a cowboy hat to project me from the sun as I walked rice fields.

When we moved to North Carolina we looked at a lot of homes and I do believe that one of the things that attracted us to our neighborhood is the horses. Half of our neighbors have horses that leisurely roam in pastures bordering the main road. We love to start our day walking our dog along the road and saying a quiet hello to the gentle giants. 

Now is still not the right time for me to bring a horse into my life, I’ll stick to chickens and dogs and cats, but someday. Someday, I do believe a Buckskin will live in my pasture. I might be old and gray, but hopefully I could still yank myself up into the saddle. 

Until that time, I’m grateful I have found another horsey person who’s willing to let me ride. As we walked the horses to prepare for our ride I was reminded of why I love them so. Horses are strong and kind, big creatures. Riding astride one gives me an alert but calm feeling that is very difficult to replace. Maybe my Harley comes close… 

Now I’m en route to Germany for my last 3 weeks as an expat. Soon, I’ll be back in the saddle, soaking up the sunset. Until then, thanks again for loaning me your faithful steed – you know who you are! 😉

HOME

HOME

H…umid

O…utdoor

M…otorcycle

E…xcursion

There is no place like Home, they say, and I have to agree. I think my definition of home might be different than most. I’ve discovered over the past two years of expat adventuring that every place is different but in many ways the same. So, did I just negate the phrase? I think not, because no matter how far I roam I cannot replace that feeling I get when I return home. And I’ve realized it is true that home is not a place, but rather being with the people I love and participating in our favorite activities together.

On Sunday we did just that, we enjoyed HOME in one of my favorite ways. We climbed on our Harley’s, fired them up and took off for a ramble through the North Carolina countryside. There is not much I enjoy more than following my husband on a surprise adventure. He picks the route and I happily follow, leaning into the curves and accelerating through the straights and slowing down to yell hello to the cows. 

Sunday was just as perfect day at HOME (see definition above….). A few miles after we began, I was transported to that old familiar blissful state. The wind pressed against my chest and whistled around in my helmet. Small bugs pelted my cheeks, cheeks which had already began to ache from my huge grin. My jaw was relaxed loosely to prevent my teeth from knocking against each other. My hands, wrapped in my favorite black Mechanix gloves, loosely held the handlebars, ready to operate the clutch and the throttle smoothly. My brain told my shoulders, normally a bit tight at the beginning, to loosen up as I settled in to the saddle for my first ride in about 3 months. I was thrilled to recognize that I was as comfortable as ever. Hopping on to Smokey (my softail slim) is always one of the best parts of coming HOME.

After about an hour of riding, my eyes rested upon a familiar site -the Harnett County water-tower. Soon after we flew past yellow tobacco fields – the bottom leaves stripped off as harvest was half complete. To the right, a cotton fields decorated with a smattering of white blooms. A few miles later, my eyes rested briefly on a field of tall corn, drying down and slowly being overcome by morning glory vines invading the from the turn rows. Lush green soybean and peanut fields appeared and disappeared to the left and right. A hawk took flight, legs stretched out. Herds of horses and cattle leisurely munching on grass in the pastures.

We stopped in Angier for a mid-morning refuel. Coincidentally, the place we found was a biker hangout. We received a hearty welcome from the owners, who walked outside to, as they put it, “drool over” our bikes. It was a strange feeling to be able to casually and freely converse with the waitress, in English! But I found myself wanting to say Bitte and Danke and order my food in Deutsche. We enjoyed cobbler with ice cream and a coffee for my husband and a half and half tea for me (half sweet, half unsweet – that way I can have 2!).


As we finished our coffee and tea, we picked our route back home, part of the path would take us on the backside of Ravens Rock state park. I was delighted when the pavement ended and we continued on a gravel road through the woods. Definitely a place to return for a hike with our Hund.


The next surprise came when we accelerated up a windy hill and saw some bicycling friends racing down the hill going the opposite direction. We honked and waved. It’s a nice feeling to unexpectedly run in to a friend in a unlikely place!

We pulled up just as big rain drops began to fall from the sky and I was relaxed, sleepy and content after our adventure at HOME.

Today is a rainy day, so no HOME adventure, instead I’m off to a lunchtime hot yoga class. Staycations rock!!!