Reality

The day has come. I’m actually getting on a plane tonight and flying to South Africa. What a few short months ago sounded like a email scam is now my reality.

It’s been a very busy last few weeks. I finally finished getting 3 ring binders created for my mom, Frank’s mom and myself. I put all of our important documents in it.

If you don’t have a binder or a file, I urge you from the bottom of my heart….start one.

Start having conversations with the ones you hold dear about your wishes. Yes, it’s super morbid but this life is so precious and fragile. Take the time and just do it. It only took me $80 and 20 mins to do my Will and final wishes created and expedited to me. Get life insurance, even a small policy. Make a medical directive in case you get hurt. Make a list of accounts and passwords. The more detailed, the better.

Do I think that something will happen to me on the trip? No. Not in the slightest bit. But I’m prepared for it.

I wrote in a blog awhile back that I was done reaching up to God and it was up to Him to come and find me. Maybe He took it as a challenge because suddenly Uuzilo came into my life and it is exactly what I need.

When I told my mom that I was looking into doing this trip and of course she freaked out and was totally against it. Until I told her this:

“This non-profits mission has been hand crafted for me. I am the perfect fit to help them and for them to help me. If God wants me to go, then it will all fall into place. So I am going to do what I need to do so I can be ready for it. Cause I don’t want to be the reason that I don’t go. I am getting out of my own damn way and trusting this is part of His plan and I am supposed to do this.”

Andrew and Laura have been working their tails off to get this trip ready for me and I will never be able to thank them enough. From emotional support, to bringing in light and laughter, prepping the motorcycles and continuing to reach out and tell the world about Uuzilo.

I am not scared or nervous about the trip. I’m scared and nervous about being alone with my thoughts for hours at a time. I’m afraid to strip away my distractions and be left bare. I’m afraid that the emptiness will overwhelm me.

I took 2 weeks off work after Franco died, that’s it. I’ve been working non stop since then. It has been a blessing and a curse. I am away from home all day and busy. I don’t have to think about him being gone even though it is never far from my mind. I can pretend that everything is ok.

I want to find peace. I want to find my joy again. Find the song of my heart, cause right now I hardly remember the melody and I am singing off key.

I am taking the step of faith and seeing where if takes me.

The Rumble

It’s been a rough couple of days. I’ve been super emotional and raw.

I have been slowly finishing up the things I need to before I go but I keep delaying going into the garage to look for gear.

I’ve only gone in a handful of times since Franco’s bike came home. It’s hard for me to look at knowing he was riding it when he died but I can’t bear to let it go. He loved the bike, sometimes I think, more than me.

His other Harley is sitting right next to it but I haven’t even started it since Neal rode it for his service in February.

Four months ago……

Four months that went by in an instant.

Four months with days that were never ending.

I still forget that he is gone sometimes, that I’m alone and all our plans for our future are gone.

I just feel like taking a huge swig from the liter of Jack Daniels sitting next to his picture then throwing the bottle as hard as I can against the wall. Watching the shards of glass shatter all around me, just like my life did.

I spent a couple of hours with Neal the other day. He offered to take the other Harley and ride it while I’m gone. It kills him that it just sits and rots but I just can’t touch it.

He text me on Father’s Day that he was going to come by when I got off work to pick it up. It was a shit day at work, everything going wrong. I got off late and was running behind for a bbq I was invited to but still had to assemble my dessert. My dad called while I was prepping and I tried talking to him but just broke down and started crying. Tears just streaming down and of course Neal and his family walked through my door.

I’m sure they weren’t expecting me to be crying or for my house to look like a bomb exploded but that’s what they got. Neal just hugged me and I just apologized for my mess.

I finished up the dessert while he went out and started the bike. I could hear it rumbling in the garage. The motor stuttered and rpms kept bouncing since the gas was so bad in it.

He got on it and backed it out the garage while I watched with tears streaming. I just turned away and hit the garage door opener. Sobbing as the door closed behind me.

I miss that rumble. Standing at the kitchen sink and hearing it coming down the block then into the garage. That sound let me know he was home safe.

I miss that sound and him more than ever.

Prisms

When I was growing up, we would go over to my Granny Mac’s house every Sunday after church. The whole family would be there. She and my Grandma Barbara (her daughter) would put us to work in her garden before we had lunch.

She had a huge lot with lots of different fruit trees and vegetables. My mom would send my brothers and I up the cherry trees with buckets. Telling us to eat our fill before we started filling the buckets. We would finish with wine stained mouths, hands, stomach aches and buckets full of dark red cherries. She canned and froze everything and we were always helping in the kitchen or at the kitchen table.

The kitchen table was small but it had slides where you could pull the ends apart and insert extenders since there were so many of us. It sat right next to a huge bay window that looked out onto the backyard.

In that window hung lots of prisms. Different shapes and sizes and when the light would hit them, they created dancing rainbows all over the house. They were hung with fishing line and we would spin them as tight as they could wind and let them spin out and laugh at the crazy colors all over the house.

That was a cherished time in my childhood, surrounded by family…..always. After Granny Mac died, my Grandma Barbara put the prisms in her window and the tradition continued. Along with family dinners.

When I entered the service and started making my way in this crazy world, I would find prisms and hang them in my house. I still continued to spin them and watch them dance.

When Grandma Barbara died, the only things I asked for from her estate was a prism and books that she had been reading. After we had the house built, I hung them up in the kitchen where they got the morning sun.

One day our good friend Neal came over and saw them in the windows. I explained what they were and the history. Not long after Frank died, I was sitting on the couch and looking at the walls where the rainbows were on full display and a thought popped into my head “You are going to be ok”……

Maybe it was God, maybe Grandma Barbara, maybe it was Franco. Even now, remembering hearing that thought causes me to tear up.

Weeks later, I get a text message from Neal that he found some on a job site and gave me a box full of different size prisms. It was the sweetest gesture. I just finished hanging them in all the windows downstairs. Now they are just waiting for the light to come through and when it does, I’ll spin them and think of all the people that I have loved and lost and all the wonderful memories that we made together.

But most of all, I know that I’ll be ok.

Mountains of paperwork

My days have been a whirlwind lately of paperwork and getting documents together for franks estate, mine and prepping for my trip.

I finished the inventory of his estate and he owes more in debt that what his assets are so I will have to wait and see how that plays out next year.

I decided to prepare my will paperwork as well. As I can’t take anything for granted anymore.

I received my passport, international drivers permit and Andrew/Laura booked my flight. It will be a straight shot to Johannesburg, South Africa. A 16 hour flight. I hope to sleep through most of it but I will just have to wait and see. I chose one of the aisle seats with the middle 3 seat row. I usually love a window but I figured I may need to stand, stretch, and use the facilities easier.

Andrew and Laura will be flying out about 10 days before I do so they can prep and do final logistics on the ground there in Africa.

I also received the glass art spheres that Crescent Memorial Art Glass created for me and I also bought a butterfly pendent for his mom since she was missing one. I plan on only taking one sphere with me, just in case. The other sits on top of his ashes and the colors are striking with the sunlight from the windows.

The orbs are much larger than I anticipated, I was thinking more like 3″ around vs 3″ across the top. It’s a little larger than a baseball and heavy. I’ll be traveling with it inside a crown royal bag. It’s actually the perfect size and really soft in the inside so less scratches. I’ll bubble wrap around it for safe measure.

I can’t explain how much of a comfort the orbs have been. Just to have something to hold on to or sit in my lap as I read a book or do paperwork. Having him with me helps me feel peaceful and more secure.

I have been having a good couple of days.

Staying busy as Work, hiring more staff and going to the gym a couple times a week. I even broke down and bought new work out/hiking shoes. My pinky toes were almost out of my old set. Stupid wide feet.

I also got my travel medical done, updated vaccines and got some prescriptions for stuff to take so I don’t get sick while I’m over there. I just went to the local CVS minute clinic. There is no way that I could have gotten it done as quickly with the VA. If I had been able to be seen that day at all since everything is treated as a triage when you don’t have an appointment. It cost me but I feel like it was worth it.

I had coffee with Mareli, the woman I met at the BMW course and she let me borrow 3 books by Lois Pryce. She writes about her solo motorcycle adventures. She road from Alaska to the tip of South America, from England to Cape Town at the tip of South Africa and also journeyed through Iran. The books were pretty good and informative about being a female rider. I won’t be going solo like she did and on a much larger bike as Andrew is getting a BMW 1200GS and 800 for us to alternate on. Depending on how well I do on the bigger/heavier bike on sand.

I haven’t been sleeping well since I started to dream again so I am constantly dragging. I’ve been getting away from drinking coffee and anything with caffeine. Also eating healthier and trying to work on my leg strength as much as possible before the trip. Getting my quads and glutes ready for all day riding!

I’m not nervous yet but need to keep checking off things from my to do list so I can stay on track.

One major thing I checked off was getting an emergency gps device. I got the Garmin Inreach Explorer.

It has a two way messaging system that uses satellites instead of cell towers and you can post your status to some social media networks. I’ve been playing with it to make sure I know how to use it and have been customizing one button preset messages.

” I haven’t been eaten by lions or run over by elephants yet….”

“we are stopped for the night and safe. I love you and I miss you.”

So as long as I send my mom and limited few others updates fairly often, she won’t worry as much. Since I also enabled it to show my gps coordinates on a map so they can track my progress from the message. It wasn’t cheap but the emergency sos features sold me. What price can you put on being able to get help when your life depends on it?

I also reactivated my Instagram account and had Laura start one for Uuzilo. She doesn’t know how to use it yet but that’s what YouTube is for. So if you use it, look up Uuzilo or myself at teamdangercurves and follow our adventures.

So much to do and so little time…..back at it, i suppose.

Dreaming Again

I’ve started dreaming again.

I stopped after Frank died. It was like my mind partitioned itself and allowed me to have deep, black and effortless sleep.

My dreams have always been very real, complex, crazy amounts of detail and richness.

One of the biggest fights that Frank and I had ever had was because of a dream.

To borrow a lyric from Luke Combs’ song When It Rains, It Pours:

“Sunday morning….Man, she woke up fighting mad”.

I had dreamed that I had caught him cheating on me, red handed, he had smacked me in the face with it.

So I woke up angry at him and I took it out on him…….all day long.

Just being petty and making little comments.

Now Frank’s temper was like those packs of firecrackers. The ones that are all bound together that make lots of intense popping noise, flashes and smoke….then it’s gone.

My temper is like a tea pot. It takes me a long time to heat up but I once I’m there, I boil and then screech.

So, finally Franco has enough of my attitude and finally snaps.

Franco: “What the fuck is wrong with you today?”

Me: “Maybe you should ask that girl that you were cheating on me with last night!”

He gives me this look of shock and bewilderment.

F:…..What chick?! I was here with you?!”

M: “The one in my dream! You fucking cheated on me in my dream.”

Now he gives me his irritated face look…

F: “Well you need to get the fuck over it, cause I didn’t do shit wrong”

M: *roaring* “I KNOW!! I’m trying, ok!”

And that was that.

He moved on and didn’t say anything else about it and I did my best to calm down and eventually came over to get cuddles and apologize for being crazy.

It became one of our inside jokes whenever the song came on and that lyric sang out and he would look at me and repeat it. “She woke up fighting mad…” and I would just smile and say “…fighting mad.”

So of course, my first dream is of him.

It wasn’t anything special, he was just sitting on the couch, talking to me.

It was like when you turn the TV on mid movie, I was just there with him again, out of nowhere. It had that white lighting, the dream like feel they always have in movies.

I was looking in the third person initially, looking at he and I and I knew it was a dream.

I even said out loud, “This is a dream…..” and it immediately changed to the first person view. I don’t even know what he said, he was just in his super chatty mood. So my dream self, knowing that it wasn’t real, just held his hand and cuddled with him. Just focusing on the little things. How blue his eyes were, how the gray in his beard was streaked, how his hands fit with mine, how he laughed….just soaking him in.

He went to leave and gave me a quick peck but I stood up and just hugged him really tight, kissed him and told him I loved him as he walked out of the garage door. Stopping to do the feet stomp and growl that he always did to me and he was gone and I woke up.

It was beautiful.

I know it wasn’t a goodbye dream but he came to comfort me and make me smile. To let me know, he will always be with me.

Dear Agony

The band Breaking Benjamin have an absolutely heartbreaking song called Dear Agony. Lyrically, it’s beautiful and sad.

The part that hits me the most is “…Dear Agony, just let go of me. Suffer slowly. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?…..Dear Agony…..”

As if Agony is a person that I could talk to, reason with, bargain with. Convince it to leave me. Instead of it sneaking in through the cracks and hitting me out of nowhere.

I had been doing ok until this week.

I picked up his bike from the shop. The insurance company totaled it and I bought it back. I asked his shop to put it on a pallet for me since the front end is completely damaged and it is incapable of rolling. I went there to pick it up and they had completely encased it in a metal crate, the ones new bikes come in.

The care they put into tying it all down and actually moving onto the crate was almost more than I could take. Nick even loaded it on in the bed with the forklift and put air in the tires for me.

I know they loved him and being burly motorcycle men, they can’t say it out loud but their actions and how well they took care of me shows it.

I had asked a few to come over and help me offload it but before they showed up. The husband of my workout partner came to help with his friend and turns out he has a hydraulic engine block lift. So they rolled it down the block and all 5 of us carefully guided it up and set it in the garage. We didn’t even have to break a sweat.

Chuckie stayed over and had a few beers with me on the porch afterwards and we just talked openly about Franco and missing him. He described his pain like a scab that he kept itching so it’s not healing. I think that is a really good way to describe it. Mine isn’t like that but I understand it.

I didn’t get emotional about the bike until the next day. I wasn’t weepy, I was just so angry at everyone and everything. To a point where I had to walk away at certain times so I wouldn’t start yelling and had to close my eyes to take deep breaths.

I’m trying to keep it together but it’s just so damn hard.

I decided awhile back ago that I am going to get a memorial tattoo for him. I know that my story will go on and I may meet someone in time but Franco will always be with me regardless. I won’t use his name or dates so outwardly it won’t read like a memorial immediately but I’ll know. It would be similar to this skull and hair

I would see if it was possible to change the beard style to similar to the bottom left but longer in the front.

I’m also thinking about putting a song lyric from a Rag’N’Bone Man song called “Skin”. It would read:

“……When my skin grows old, When my breath runs cold, I’ll be thinking about you, When I see you on the other side, We can try all over again….”

That’s how I feel.

That when my end comes, my last thought will be of him and if what they tell me is true, he will be on the other side, just waiting for me.

I just have to go thru this life the best I can until then.

….Dear Agony, please let go of me

Uuzilo, BMW & Arai

About a month ago my friend Shauna put a post up on Facebook looking for participants to take part in a newly formed nonprofit called Uuzilo.

Its mission is to take people who are suffering from trauma and grief on a motorcycle to South Africa. The two creators are Andrew and Laura. Andrew suffered his own trauma and he escaped to the place that he had always wanted to see, South Africa. He was there for months. Just riding, exploring and letting the people he met along the way help him. The kindness of complete strangers let him release a lot of his pain.

While visiting Victoria Falls he met a woman named Laura. They spent the next two days together then she left to go back to the US. Only to return to him months later and the two of them continued the journey on the bike together. They just got married about two weeks ago. One night, like a lightning bolt, the idea struck Andrew that they could start a nonprofit and let others experience the healing that same way that South Africa helped him. Through time, connecting with people and seeing new and exciting experiences.

While still overseas and working with terrible Wi-Fi connection, they started the non profit application process. They started reaching out to hospital, colleges, motorcycle shops and anyone else to try and find help on how to accomplish the mission and to find people in need. Which led them to Shauna, who is on the board for Warrior Expeditions, a non profit that uses long distance hiking as well as canoeing and biking to allow veterans a chance to deal with their issues and who has been in my life since I hiked the Appalachian Trail with them on their first year. Shauna tracked our progress from a psychologist point of view to study the effects of wilderness therapy and how it is healing our veterans.

Now Shauna is on Uuzilo’s board and lead them to me.

I emailed Andrew and basically gave him a word vomit email. I’m talking past history to now so he could understand me and who he was considering. I wasn’t sure if he was ready for this level of crazy. They decided to drive down a week later from DC and we had dinner at my home. It was very emotional and we decided that I would be their first participant.

Since their application with still pending, their lawyer suggested a go fund me to help with the cost of the bike, travel and logistics. Right now we are about a third of the way to the goal amount. Anything we don’t raise, is being paid out of Andrew and Laura’s pocket. They are fully funding my trip and will be by my side the entire way as my guides.

They are the most giving people I have ever met and also the ballziest (I have no idea how to spell that and I’m tired). They have been writing letters and emails to anyone and everyone for support and sponsorship.

Andrew walked into BMW and spoke with Gary Hardin, the head instructor at the BMW US Rider Performance courses. Gary was so touched by the mission that he offered to teach me to ride off-road in one of his courses. I just finished it yesterday.

His brother Michael and Melinda were the class instructors. Their patience was astounding as I was so nervous.

1. I have never ridden off-road.

2. I have never ridden a BMW motorcycle

3. It had been years since I actually rode a motorcycle since I had sold mine when we left Florida.

There were people from all over the US attending and flew in specifically to take the class. Michael and Melinda explained each task thoroughly, showed us how to do it and then we took turns doing the task. Getting directions and feedback as necessary.

Did I mention that we had to stand up on the footpegs the whole time. I almost shit myself when I heard that but it’s crazy how simple it was. We learned to sit side saddle, S turns, avoiding obstacles, driving in ruts, over washboards, small hills and emergency stopping in loose gravel. Plus so much more. I dropped my bike 3 times. Twice in ruts (the bane of my existence)

I got really good at bailing off the bike.

The third time I wrecked, my front tire hit a massive root and I washed out into the brush. I broke the side stand switch on a rock so the bike wouldn’t go into gear since it thought the stand was still down. So they towed it out and brought me another bike.

It was so hot and humid. We were all pouring sweat most of the time since we were going under 10 mph with zero airflow. Mcfatty was dying.

The last thing that we learned was the emergency breaking in loose gravel and it was so tough since I was so tired and just completely wiped out from the day. We all managed to do it and we went on a celebratory adventure ride around the complex to complete the end of the course.

We all got a certificate for completing the course and a sweet swag bag.

Speaking of swag.

Remember when I said that Andrew was ballsie. He somehow met Brian Pangelinan at Tucker Rocky and Brian Weston at Arai who have helped us out with helmets and gear.

I chose a white helmet with pink piping and butterflies. It’s very feminine and it makes me smile since it’s very tongue-in-cheek. I’m not really that feminine in general.

Things are moving very quickly now. We will be leaving in July for about six weeks. I’m excited, scared, and nervous but ready. I’m ready to leave this place and confront my grief head on. I haven’t had time to fall apart, there have been to many things that I needed to handle at work and for his estate. I have gotten really great at pretending to be OK. But I’m not…..I’m far from it.

I know that leaving the world I know behind will help me to heal and get myself to a place where I can be more than OK. I can take his keepsake and keep him with me, share this adventure.

I still need someone to watch my cat though. He’s very needy and needs a lot of attention all the time.

My family and civilian friends who I have told that I am leaving, thinks I’m crazy for wanting to do this. About how dangerous it is and wants to know why I don’t just tour the US. My military friends just get it.

There is danger everywhere and if Frank’s death has taught me anything, there is no time to hold back. To be timid and afraid of what might happen. Cause I know first hand how it feels when your worst fear is your reality.

Precautions and preparation is always key but I can’t explain the desire to disappear to someone who has never felt the need. To disconnect from the familiar and learn more about yourself in the process.

If I could afford it, I would leave and travel forever. Always searching for something new and feeling the pull to somewhere greater than myself.

I received a gift for Christmas of a map of the world with gold leafing covering the different countries and cities. The point is to scratch off and show the bold color underneath the gold. Frank and I took turns scratching off where we had both been in the world and we have been a lot of places but when you step back and look….we had barely made a dent. We decided then to start traveling more. To visit all states in the US and then start knocking out countries and cities.

It’s up to me now to finish our plan. To honor his love of travel and adventure that matched mine.

If you want to read more about Uuzilo, check out the website at https://uuzilo.org/

You can also check out our go fund me page at

https://www.gofundme.com/uuzilo