Table for One

Traveling alone will be the scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life.

Try it at least once!

Although it is becoming more popular, traveling solo is still somewhat unusual. When paying admission or being seated at a restaurant, I am regularly asked questions like, “Just one?” “Will anyone be joining you?” “Would you like the table in the corner?” “You’re traveling alone?” This past weekend was no different; however, being a party of one did have a few advantages as I traveled south to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Friday night I attended a music concert, but had not purchased tickets yet because I wasn’t sure if the drive, finding my Hipcamp, and then driving another 45 minutes to the concert venue would give me enough time to make the start of the concert. Well, as it turned out, I arrived at the concert early. I joined the ticket sales line when a woman asked, “Are you here by yourself? I smiled and told her that it was just me. She handed me a ticket for a seat just feet from the stage and asked if I wanted to join her and her daughter. I offered to pay for the $80 ticket, but she refused and assured me that she was glad there was someone in need of “just one ticket.” The concert was amazing as was the conversation we shared throughout the evening.

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta hosts approximately one million visitors each year. In order to attend the morning glow event, I had to leave my camp space at 3:30 am to drive what normally would take 20 minutes to get a parking spot and set up my chair in time for the 6 am morning glow and 7 am mass ascension. I decided to sleep in Saturday morning and visit some other local attractions. I spent the morning at the Petroglyphs National Historic Site, where I hiked and hiked and took lots of unique Native American etchings created sometime in the early 14th century. Very cool.

I made it to the afternoon balloon session too early (but ended up with free parking), so I spent some time in the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum where I learned more about balloons than one could imagine! I returned to the Balloon Fiesta Park in time to grab entirely too much (but really good) local food from various vendors. I then wandered around taking hundreds of photos as the balloons were being filled. The evening glow was spectacular – the fireworks show was one of the best I’ve seen, but didn’t compare to the balloon glow. I made it back to my trailer before midnight and set my alarm early enough to watch the morning glow and ascension. It was well worth it! The photos do not begin to show what 600+ balloons lifting off within seconds of one another actually looks like.

I left the Balloon Fiesta Park and drove to Sandia Peak to ride the tram to the top. Because of the number of visitors in the city, the wait was over three hours; however, because I was traveling solo, I was able to cut two hours off my wait when one of the trams had just one spot available. So, for the second time this weekend, traveling solo provided another wonderful advantage. The trip up and back was lovely, as the aspens were just starting to turn along the mountain side.

From there, I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening in Old Town. I browsed through most of the shops, listened to local mariachi bands, and ate at a restaurant in a building that was nearly 200 years old – in the corner of the back room at a table for one.

My Bucket List

For the majority of my life, I never considered creating a bucket list of sorts. I was a goal setter and a list maker but not the bucket-list type, as it seemed somewhat dark (ya know, things to do before ya kick the bucket). It wasn’t until I found myself in dire emotional circumstances that I realized that I needed to focus on anything and everything positive. It was at that point – just short of a decade ago – that I began creating a bucket list.

Recently, I was asked how soon I will check everything off of my bucket list. I said that it was unlikely that my bucket list would ever be complete because I continue to add to my list as quickly as I check something off when completed. Today, I received a request to share my bucket list with a new friend who is in the middle of creating her own bucket list. With some trepidation, I am sharing most of my list. As you read this list, please note that some items are quite general while others are quite unique to my own life. This list has taken years to produce, so by sharing it publically, I hope others will use it as inspiration to create (and complete) their own bucket lists.

This list is in no particular order. If further explanation is warranted on a specific item, send me a message. In my personal bucket list journal, a detailed explanation of how, when, and with whom each item was accomplished is provided. Here, y’all just see the items in a list. Finally, if you think you could contribute to helping me cross off an item, have a suggestion for a new item, or need help starting your own list, please let me know!

  • Put my bucket list in a bucket
  • Earn my doctorate degree
  • Observe all my kiddos graduate from college
  • Visit the intersection of Baublits and Baublits in Pensacola, Florida
  • Write a tribute to my parents
  • Go skydiving
  • Run with a number pinned to my chest
  • Visit New York
  • Go on a mission trip
  • Visit Chicago
  • Take a cruise
  • Visit Las Vegas
  • Plant a tree
  • Dance for hours with a strong lead
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Relearn to play that instrument thirty years later
  • Learn a new language
  • Start a new tradition
  • Test drive my dream car
  • Ride in a limo
  • Reach my goal weight
  • Design a family tree that traces my lineage
  • Send a message in a bottle
  • Ride the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak
  • Surprise my daughter on her sweet 16th birthday
  • Ride in a helicopter
  • Meet a celebrity
  • Relive a childhood memory
  • Start a new business
  • Go to a concert of a favorite band
  • Take a day trip to a wildlife reserve
  • Go on an African safari
  • See a play in London
  • Go on a roadtrip with no specific destination
  • Enjoy a romantic picnic I didn’t plan
  • Get a part time job as Santa
  • Join a club
  • Slide down a fireman’s pole
  • Complete the Jesuit Spiritual Exercises
  • Send a secret admirer letter
  • Go snorkeling
  • Visit Boston
  • Attend a protest
  • Go white water rafting
  • Attend a drive-in movie
  • Celebrate the Dia de Los Muertos festival
  • Make a time capsule
  • Start a blog and keep it going for at least a year
  • Have a pen pal in another country
  • Attend a murder mystery dinner
  • Be in a play
  • Throw a bachelorette party for someone
  • Participate in a fantasy sports league (and win)
  • Go on an all inclusive vacation to Cozumel, Mexico
  • Change my hairstyle
  • Learn CPR
  • Get dunked in a dunking booth
  • Volunteer in a shelter/soup kitchen
  • Climb the Space Needle in Seattle
  • Ride a steamboat down the Mississippi River
  • Visit Philadelphia and see the Liberty Bell
  • Stand on the equator
  • Become a registered organ donor
  • Go repelling
  • Fall asleep under the stars with someone I love
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Participate in an open mic night
  • Take a road trip down Route 66
  • Ride a segway
  • Ski the Continental Divide
  • See the Liberty Bell
  • Go to Pikes Place Market
  • Stay at the Marriott Marquis in NYC
  • Catch fireflies in a jar
  • Start a weekly game night with friends
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Complete all New Year’s resolutions I set in a year
  • Hand out $20 bills at Goodwill at Christmastime
  • Visit the Statue of Liberty
  • Become an ordained minister
  • Fly first class
  • See the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Go geocaching
  • Tape money to a vending machine
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Drink directly from a coconut
  • Spend the night in a hostel
  • Visit Pennsylvania Dutch country
  • Donate Christmas gifts to a needy family
  • Go up into the St. Louis Gateway Arch
  • Throw myself a birthday party
  • Earn a medal or trophy in a competition
  • Ride an elephant or camel
  • Visit the local animal shelter and play with the animals
  • Experience the Northern Lights
  • Try a martial art
  • Visit both Ellis and Angel Islands
  • Go to Holland during tulip season
  • Tour Alcatraz
  • Take a mud bath
  • Visit a Mayan temple and village
  • Sit in an empty church and talk to God
  • Go to the top of the Empire State Building
  • Take my daughter to a Taylor Swift Concert in Nashville
  • Climb a mountain
  • Crash a wedding
  • Get my picture in the newspaper
  • Participate in a polar bear plunge
  • Wear a snake around my neck
  • Pay for someone’s groceries
  • Get an autograph of someone famous
  • Get on a game show
  • Ride on a NYC subway
  • Jump in a bouncy castle as an adult
  • Dress up in disguise for a day
  • Go to a luau
  • Explore a shipwreck
  • Attend a movie premier
  • Post something to YouTube
  • Go to a floating lantern festival
  • Get into a VIP room/lounge
  • Try panning for gold
  • Successfully throw a boomerang in Australia
  • Visit a vineyard
  • Get on stage at a concert
  • Write and publish a book
  • Donate money to a worthy cause
  • Swing from a trapeze
  • Kiss under a mistletoe
  • Go to a rodeo
  • Throw a dart at a map and go where it lands
  • Climb Pikes Peak
  • Go on a spiritual retreat
  • Gamble in Las Vegas
  • Forgive Jason
  • Try to be in two places at the same time
  • Shower under a waterfall
  • Try yoga
  • Go on a journey of self-discovery
  • Learn to play the didgeridoo
  • Witness a geyser erupting
  • Sleep in a treehouse
  • Have a star named for me in the National Star Registry
  • Milk a cow
  • Get into a taxi and yell, “Follow that car!”
  • Attend a toga party
  • Learn to write calligraphy
  • Fly a kite
  • Read over 100 books in a year
  • Go parasailing
  • Visit an island
  • Kiss an elephant’s trunk
  • Visit Mt. Rushmore
  • Own my own home
  • Visit historic Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Get my name in lights
  • Make someone’s wish come true
  • Fly in a private plane
  • Enter a contest and win
  • Dance on a bar
  • Take my dream vacation
  • Adopt a dog
  • Walk the red carpet at an event
  • Go to a nude beach
  • Go camping
  • Create a children’s book
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  • Dye my hair a crazy color
  • Give blood
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Climb to the crow’s nest of a ship and take a photo of the view
  • Visit a ghost town
  • Visit a tropical rainforest
  • Give a commencement address
  • Take a pottery class
  • Kiss a stranger
  • Ride on a parade float
  • Give up 5 bad habits for at last a year
  • Learn a magic trick
  • Ride on a gondola in Venice
  • Make a difference in at least one person’s life
  • Have a summer romance
  • Canoe down a river
  • Buy myself an entire new wardrobe
  • Explore a cave
  • Catch a foul ball at a MLB baseball game
  • Visit 50 National Parks
  • Visit a castle in Ireland
  • Build a greenhouse
  • Eat street food in a foreign country
  • Go jet skiing
  • Have a candle light dinner
  • Walk on stilts
  • Hold up the leaning tower of Pisa
  • Visit the birthplace of my ancestors
  • Visit Hawaii
  • Create a new recipe
  • Visit every state in the United States
  • Explore the Grand Canyon
  • Visit Stonehenge
  • Volunteer at a hospital
  • Fry an egg on the sidewalk
  • See a lunar eclipse
  • Make an investment in something
  • Host a family reunion
  • Pay it forward for one week
  • Go off-roading
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Submit a photo to National Geographic
  • Read a story to an elderly community
  • Serenade someone in public
  • Visit Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory in Vermont
  • Play strip poker
  • Renovate an old piece of furniture
  • See a shooting star
  • Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  • Line dance
  • Stay in a log cabin for a night
  • Create a playlist for someone
  • Ride on a double decker bus in London
  • Attend a cowboy cookout
  • Swim in the Dead Sea
  • Give a lecture at a school
  • Bathe in a mineral spring
  • Roast marshmallows at a campfire
  • DJ a party
  • Go to a food festival
  • Go on a zipline
  • Ride a mechanical bull
  • Take toys to a children’s hospital
  • Take my children to Disney World
  • Tour an ancient ruin
  • Jump on a pogo stick
  • Build an igloo
  • Tie messages on a bunch of balloons and let them go
  • Be a part of a flash mob
  • Teach a class in any subject
  • Learn to ballroom dance
  • Sit in the very front seat of a roller coaster
  • Try glass blowing
  • Start a food fight
  • Attend any of the Olympic games
  • Play spin the bottle with people at a party
  • Go on a blind date
  • Write a letter to myself and open it in 10 years
  • Drink water from a glacier
  • Go to a live auction and place a bid
  • Cash in a winning lottery ticket
  • Pet a stingray
  • Get a license for something other than driving
  • Ski the Continental Divide
  • Learn how to surf and go surfing
  • Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Go horseback riding
  • Have a monk bless me
  • Write a message in wet cement
  • Bicycle across a long bridge
  • Target practice and hit the bull’s-eye
  • Find my way out of a corn maze
  • Get a degree
  • Live in another country
  • Build something that flies
  • Start a collection of something
  • Play charades at a party
  • Enjoy and document a year’s worth of exploration
  • Take a pottery class
  • Kiss someone at midnight on New Year’s Eve
  • Climb a tree
  • Go to a jazz club
  • Read the Bible
  • Learn to ice skate
  • Get a book autographed by its author
  • Go to a theme park and ride every ride
  • Touch the Hollywood sign
  • Go scuba diving
  • See a Broadway show
  • Visit a wax museum
  • Visit a volcano
  • Take an online course to better myself
  • Mentor a young person
  • Have a date in Central Park, New York
  • Race a car on a racetrack
  • Watch the ball drop in Times Square, New York
  • Go to a formal party
  • Sunbathe on a yacht
  • Write a business plan for a company I’ve been thinking about
  • Watch a symphony perform
  • Try to beat a Guinness World Record
  • Build a snowman
  • Have a spa day
  • Visit Hollywood
  • Swim with sharks
  • Make a prank call
  • Ride in a biplane
  • Get backstage at a concert
  • Do a road trip across the USA
  • Witness a solar eclipse
  • Go dog sledding
  • Sing at a Karaoke club
  • Ride a train
  • Learn how to lasso
  • Collect honey from a beehive
  • Go night swimming in the ocean
  • Skateboard
  • Play a round of golf
  • Write a mission statement
  • Take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  • Visit a concentration camp
  • Lead someone to salvation
  • Share a gallon of ice cream with an Nor’n Irishman on a bus in Kaposvar, Hungary
  • Walk on the Great Wall of China
  • Do a major random act of kindness
  • Help all three of my sons become Eagle Scouts
  • Visit all seven continents
  • Go on a long tandem bike ride
  • Visit the Alps in Switzerland
  • Visit Australia
  • Try car camping
  • Eat lobster in Maine
  • Visit Niagara Falls
  • Leave a note in a library book
  • Spend a week alone in complete silence

Rapids and Such

Stop dreaming about your bucket list and start living it.

Annette White

Upon returning from my solo road trip, I had to dig in and complete my most recent graduate program. It’s amazing how much easier it is to research, write, and submit assignments when WiFi is available. As much as I love learning, I plan to take a break from courses that require tuition and grades and continue to learn from my adventures.

Once my classes were finished, I was free to do a bit more traveling before I headed back to teaching this fall. With limited time, I reviewed my bucket list and selected items that could be accomplished close to home. I spent a very hot afternoon getting soaked repeatedly in a dunk tank at a local festival. My sister was the first in line, and I forgot why she was always considered the athlete of the family. Of course, she was the first to dunk me. I had a blast, but ended up with bruises in places that defied all reason.

My brother and I spent three days in Salida, Colorado, where we went hiking and geocaching, rode a tandem bicycle along all the trails in and around the town, ate at fantastic restaurants, visited museums/historic sites, played cards, and went white water rafting along the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon. It was great having a traveling companion: He cooked breakfast each morning. I felt bad for him as he slept on the hard ground in a tent, while I had the luxury of my trailer. I also made the mistake of telling him several odd items on my bucket list, like having my photo taken with a snake around my neck. I am petrified of snakes, so this bucket list item was intended to accomplish something completely unrealistic for me. Sky diving seems easier, to be honest. Well, as we were walking around the farmer’s market in Salida, we came upon a snake charmer and my biologist brother asked to see the snake. He was petting the fine boa constrictor, and I was turning to run away when he asked if I could hold the snake around my neck. He looked at me and simply said, “Bucket list.” My mind knew that my big brother wouldn’t let anything happen to me because he assured me that it would be okay. I stood, shaking, as the snake charmer gently placed this very large snake around my neck. She told me to hold out my hand, and when the snake started to crawl down my arm, I jumped. The snake quickly curled around my waist and my neck and tucked its head under my hoodie. My brother took several photos before the snake was removed. I shook for a solid hour afterwards. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about it, but I did it. I did not conquer my fear of snakes, by any means, but I marked that off of my bucket list.

This past weekend, I experienced a bit of nostalgia camping at John Martin Reservoir where I spent many weekends as a child/teenager. If I wasn’t camping with my parents, I was camping with my grandparents. As a teen, my friends and I often came to the lake to swim, cliff dive, and water ski. Not much has changed with the park, except the trees are bigger and the campground is beautifully shaded. It was 95 degrees both days, but I was comfortable. I rode my bike Sunday morning over the bridge – about six miles – in order to mark “riding my bike over a long bridge” off my bucket list.

I have several more bucket list items to accomplish within the coming weeks that involve balloons, grocery stores, and running with a number pinned to my chest (again) – just not all at once.

Greener Pastures

“The grass is always greener over the septic tank.”

Erma Bombeck

The photos above are a random selection of landscapes from my travels thus far. As of this week, I’ve traveled 7754 miles in 46 days to 22 states. I’m heading back to Colorado to catch up on the two graduate classes I’m currently taking (finding reliable WiFi has proven to be a challenge), read my mail, wash my vehicles, and refuel for my next adventure. While in town, I’ll be crossing another item off of my bucket list, as I will be volunteering at the dunk tank during the community festival.

At my parents’ cabin, I can attest to the humorous quotation that the grass is always greener over the septic tank. There are several “grass is greener” statements that range from ridiculous to profound. We may laugh at Erma Bombeck’s words while silently contemplating a series of scenarios that would take us over the fence where the grass appears greener: A move to a new house because bigger seems better; a different spouse because someone else’s spouse seems (you fill in the blank); and so on. Perhaps there are times when jumping the fence makes the most sense, but I often question how many who do make the jump are happier as a result. We all have “views” of greener pastures, per se. However, I have discovered that you may think that the grass is greener on the other side, but if you take the time to water your own grass, it will be just as green.

I’ve traveled to many places within the past several years and have seen some of the most beautiful landscapes, U.S. National Parks, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I’ve met generous, loving people who made leaving nearly impossible. Throughout my life, I’ve lived in over a dozen homes in ten different towns. I’ve held several types of jobs in and out of the field of education. I’ve seen my share of greener pastures, but always preferred my own regardless of where that may physically be located. Today, my middle son and I were planning a date night, and I mentioned that we wouldn’t be “home-home” and asked if that was okay. He said, “Mom, home is wherever you are.” Today, he is my favorite and my pasture is lush and green.

I’ll head out again soon on another jaunt before I have to report to work in early August where I will show up with my watering can in hand to ensure the grass in which I stand remains green, as my students continue to educate and inspire me.

Butterflies and Honey Bees

Through hard work, perseverance, and a faith in God, you can live your dreams.

Ben Carson

This week, I learned more about the lifespan of butterflies, their purpose, and their short time on earth. I observed the live chrysalis stage as several butterflies emerged. I entered a butterfly garden where butterflies from all over the world flew around my head and landed on nearby flowers to pollinate. Considered low on the food chain, butterflies typically live only about a month. As caterpillars to chrysalis to butterflies, these insects work so hard and the end result is pure joy. I’ve taught my own four children that their sole purpose in this life is to serve God with whatever path they choose. Their purpose is to bring glory to the Creator with their lives. I’ve observed my four little caterpillars emerge and fly. I pray that through hard work, perseverance, and faith in God that their short lives on this earth are used to give others joy. That’s what my parents taught me.

~~~

“How can you afford to travel? What do you do for a living? Are you rich?” I’ve been asked these types of questions several times along the road. Such questions seem rude or improper, but people must feel comfortable asking. Ironically, these questions have been asked by folks driving expensive SUVs, staying in area hotels, or pulling a large camping trailer ten times the size of mine. In addition to working three jobs this last year and living a minimalist lifestyle, let me further explain how I can afford to travel.

When I visited Mackinac Island, I walked by The Grand Hotel but could not go inside as I wasn’t following the required dress code. The cheapest single room rate is $615 per weeknight. The list of guest expectations/requirements and extra fees are half a page long on the website. Instead, I chose to stay at the city campground with no flushing toilets for $20/night. I’m pretty sure that the folks in the campground were enjoying their summer as much as the folks rocking in chairs on the Grand’s porch. I met a kind couple spending the summer in Mackinaw City Campground babysitting their grandsons while their daughter and son-in-law work on the island. I met another semi-retired couple on the ferry ride who bragged about their children and grandchildren. They’re able to travel extensively because they spent so many years simplifying their lives and becoming debt free. They worked hard so they could play. When we all lay our heads on our pillows at night, our resting location and the cost thereof has little to do with the thoughts that put us to sleep.

I’m a teacher – a MIDDLE SCHOOL teacher – and I love my job. My answer to “what do you do for a living?” question always garners fun responses and sparks interesting conversation. I explain how I’ve chosen to work in a rural, agricultural community near my family and filled with the kindest people I know. Overall, I think I get “paid” on the much lower end of an already low national average teacher salary; yet, I am unsure my “income” can be compared to any other teacher. My students have a willingness to learn and are genuinely kind towards each other. The faculty, staff, and administration are a constant – most of whom purposely chose this school district to work and community to live. I get to watch my students emerge and fly. That’s what I do for a living, so I am rich.

Finally, as a daughter of a beekeeper and a teacher, I was taught to work hard, love Jesus, and be kind. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, nor did I marry into wealth. I did not choose a career that would put me on the Forbes list. but I’m living my dreams.

Thinking Time

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible. 

Doug Larson
Parasailing in Mackinaw City, Michigan

The past several days I’ve continued to mark items off of my bucket list including sliding down a fireman’s pole and parasailing (just not at the same time). Along the way, I’ve had lots of time to think and plan for my next adventures.

I’ve visited a lot of historical places these past few weeks. I’ve learned so much more about America, its people, and its strength as a nation. Specifically, I’ve toured a number of places that highlight the tremendous influence of American technology and innovation on the world. Recently, I stopped by Dearborn, Michigan, to “The Henry Ford” complex. Planning to spend just a couple of hours, I ended up spending the majority of a day touring the museum and Greenfield Village thanks to the wonderful woman I met at the visitor services counter who went out of her way to be genuinely kind.

The museum collection includes the bus Rosa Parks rode in Montgomery, Alabama, JFK’s presidential convertible, Lincoln’s theatre chair, and a lot more really cool old stuff. The majority of the museum is dedicated to American innovation (the planes, trains, and automobiles are just a portion). As I observed a dozen summer camp kiddos running around pressing every button they could while the young college-age camp counselors attempted to wrangle the group, I began thinking about what kinds of innovations will be developed in their lifetime. Then I wondered about the various processes of creating innovative ideas. Henry Ford, Grace Hopper, George Washington Carver, Albert Einstein, Virginia Apgar, and so on were thinkers. They read incessantly and wrote down even the smallest ideas. They tried and failed and continued to think. These “famous minds” carved out hours each day to sit and think.

I would like to ask you to take a moment right now and write down how many minutes per day you believe you participate in active thinking? I mean, really thinking – without the television on, without your cell phone nearby, without music playing, and without others in the room/car to disturb you. How much time do you dedicate each day to thinking? If you are like me, I’m pretty sure I could count the minutes on one hand.

What ideas have been rolling around in your head that you’ve dismissed without giving them your thinking time to develop? What plans have been put on hold because you’ve been too busy to think about a timeline? What goals and dreams have been ignored for a number of reasons, but mostly because you’ve not taken the time to think them through? What world-changing innovations have been lost because the persons with those ideas did not take the time to think? Is thinking time really that important?

This brings me back to the summer camp kiddos I saw at the museum. We live in a country where we find an answer to just about any question in less than 2 seconds. We purchase an item online and have it appear on our doorstep within 24 hours. We order our groceries or our lunch and have them delivered in record time. We live with instant gratification and instant “knowledge” which are convenient and impressive. Yet, are we allowing our brains to be as creative or as intelligent or as innovative or even as compassionate as they are capable of being? How about we all start keeping track of our thinking time and begin thinking intentionally?

Challenges and Choices

Choose joy… so that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be full. John 15:11

Life is difficult. For some, getting out of bed each morning can be a struggle. Overcoming addiction of any sort is a moment by moment obstacle. Watching those you love get sick or pass away is devastating. Listening to the evening news is discouraging and frustrating. Living joyfully is a challenge and not a natural, human response to living in a world full of negativity and brokenness.

Earlier this week, I’d spent a couple of hours at the car wash scrubbing the bugs off the outside then detailing the inside, as the road trip was beginning to take its toll on my poor vehicle. I woke up this morning to find that I had apparently forgotten to lock my car, which had been ransacked overnight. I lost a Macbook and a few other smaller items, but the car seems to be unscathed and I am safe. Shaken, I reported the crime but quickly realized nothing could be done. I cried, prayed, then poured myself a Diet Coke and continued reading a novel. Choosing joy is a challenge.

Yesterday, I found a nearby Subaru dealer to change the oil in my car, and they discovered I had a nail in a tire. Initially frustrated and worried that I’d have to buy a couple of new tires, I was relieved when the tire was still in great shape and just needed to be repaired. As I was driving away from the repair shop, I was so thankful that the mechanic noticed the nail, helping me to avoid a potential catastrophe driving on the highway pulling a trailer. Choosing joy is a challenge.

Last week, I woke up early to an ambulance across the street from where I was staying. The 36-year-old man died from what appears to have been a drug overdose. A few days later, the man’s fiance was taken away by ambulance as well. We live in a fallen world where choosing joy is a challenge.

I am regularly asked how much older I am than my brother and sister, when I am actually five and six years younger. Throughout this road trip I’ve been offered senior citizen discounts. Folks inquire about my career and have assumed I am retired. After falling UP a flight of concrete stairs recently, I understand why I may appear much older; however, I may arrive home later this summer with newly died hair because growing older is hard enough without folks thinking I’m fifteen years older than I am. Growing old gracefully and choosing joy is a challenge.

I left Colorado for this adventure on what should have been my 28th wedding anniversary. Recently, a friend told me that he wished I would get to the point one day when certain dates would go unnoticed and become just another number on the calendar. However, when I recall certain days that once produced great joy or other days that caused devastation, I am able to reminisce and reflect upon how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, and how my faith along with different events, choices, and adventures have led me to where I am now. I celebrate these dates as they remind me to embrace the complexities of life by approaching each moment simply while choosing joy and kindness – which is fairly contrary to human nature, so it takes lots and lots of practice.

Today, my friends, choose joy – especially when it is a challenge to do so.