Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Lessons Learned

Stihl Tour des Trees number 24 is in the record books, or for me its number 4, and as I reflect on the past week I realize it was a week filled with many lessons.  They are lessons that honestly I feel I have been trying to learn over the past year and yet it took this week to make them really stick. 
Lesson #1When you ask for it a friend will catch you when you most need it
           On day 2 the terrain was a bit challenging and at the same time was still incredibly fun.  There were some wonderful hills to glide down and get the adrenaline rushing, and there were steep hills that got the heart rate way up.  The most challenging part was when you would be gliding down enjoying the moment, make a turn,  and BAM you were presented with a steep new incline.  In some cases you could get enough momentum going to help you, but on others, well it was like hitting a wall.  On one such hill I hit the wall hard, really hard.  I wanted desperately to unclip and just walk it, but alas I was pedaling so hard I just could not twist the foot enough to clip out.  I thought all hope was lost and that I was going to be doing my best interpretation of a turtle any second.  Just when all hope was lost and I was going to brace myself a fellow rider had jumped off his bike and was standing at the right place at the right moment for me.  I yelled out my desperate plea to be caught so I could prevent my impersonation, and to my great luck he caught me and I was able to walk the hill beside a great friend.    
          This past year has been filled with moments like this, but yet I have been scared to ask for the help I desperately needed.  I felt as though there was no one I could call out to or that no one would even help me if I did find the courage to ask.  That one moment last week showed me, or at least helped me to open my eyes, that I am surrounded by people that are willing to help me.  I just need to know that it is okay to ask for help and that the journey up the hill is so much better when you can do it with a friend by your side.  Thank you Robert for saving me that day I am ever so much in your debt. 
Lesson #2:  You are never truly alone
           One morning I found myself without any of my regular riding partners, they had decided to get a jump on the day and start early, which I don't blame them as that day was a very long one.  I started out just the same with the big pack and started to peddle.  I rode for a bit with some groups I would never think I could ride with due to how fast they go, but soon I was dropped, no fault of their own but I just am not that strong.  But I kept on peddling and peddling.  After a while though it really started getting to me, this big black cloud descended upon my head and every instance where I felt alone or abandoned over the past year was just amplified.  I was honestly beginning to scare myself with my dark thoughts and the foul language that was coming from it.  Then all of a sudden the always happy Maggie came by in the truck and asked if I was okay, lets just say I was not okay and made it clear, I do apologize Maggie for that moment.  But I just kept on pedaling.   To my surprise the truck stopped about a quarter mile ahead of me and out came a rider and his bike.  Here was a rider that could easily out pedal me even on his worse day, I have never really gotten to know this person due to never riding with them.  To my surprise he rode at my pace and kept talking to me all the way to the next break.  With each rotation of the pedal I found myself becoming lighter as that dark cloud lifted from my head.  By the time we got to the first rest area I found one of the riders I normally keep pace with and I was now ready to conquer the day;  I went on to bike 101 miles that day. 
            There have been many a moment over the past year where I have felt so utterly alone.   As I look back now I wonder if maybe somewhere along the way I just did not see the random person that was there to pull me along.  I have had the mindset that I do not want to share my barn or home with anyone, but now I see I was letting that black cloud win and not letting it be blown away.  As the year progresses now I know I will keep my eyes and heart more open to allow someone to enjoy the journey with me, because I can't do it alone.  Thank you Greg for riding with me that one morning, you have helped me in ways that can not be measured. 
Lesson #3: You can make a positive impact on others just by being you
        Through facebook I have shared my many adventures of my barn and house since I purchased it.  It has been a year full of surprises, challenges and learning for me in many ways.  Throughout the week individuals would come to me and tell me how much they enjoy following me and seeing what I do.  There are some individuals who came to me and told me I inspire them; really me inspire anyone?  But apparently it is true or so I have been told.    Sometimes hearing from others on how you are perceived by them and how you are helping them can make you more aware and really brighten your day.  There has been one person that has inspired me to do better, in the bike realm, each and every day.  She started just like me with little training and not knowing what to do to become stronger.  But through sheer determination and putting in the time she has become an amazing athlete. 
       Each and everyone of us can be an inspiration to others, always keep that in mind as you go through your day, even at your lowest someone could be looking to you for  inspiration.  Laurie Skull you have been my inspiration, and hopefully one day I too can become a great rider just like you.  Keep on pedaling girl and maybe someday I can ride along side you. 
Lesson#4:  If you listen to your body, your body will listen too
       It is no secret food and I have had a long history of love and hate.  I may know how to eat healthy but its another thing to eat it.  There are days I wish I could just hook an IV into my arm and get all my nutrition that way, I just don't take the time to eat properly or to drink properly for that matter.  In addition I tend to push my body to its ultimate limits and then wonder why I am so tired all the time or in pain all the time for that matter.   This year though I really tuned into my body and knew when it had enough of the punishment and when to just enjoy the scenery.  One morning I woke up and although I did try to drink enough water the previous two days, apparently I had not because I was not feeling all that well.   I tried to pedal through it but alas I finally threw in the pedals and sat out a segment to drink  some water.  During that time though I laughed, I was educated and I was able to hang out with some friends.  After the short break I got back on the bike and I pedaled away feeling much better.  I am glad I stopped and listened to my body because otherwise I would have missed out on the rest of the pedaling for the day. 
       Food was not my only nemesis this year, this year I also had to deal with a rib that just did not want to stay where it should.  I have been trying to get it to heal before the trip, I even got it wrapped, but still by the fifth day,  it had enough of the ride.  The pain was intense and the breathing was difficult.  I tried to go on, but I just could not do it.  I took yet another break to give it a rest so I could enjoy the end of the day ride into the hotel, and boy am I glad I did that.  The ride into Charlotte from the south is amazing, so many beautiful homes and roads lined with large oaks.  The best part though, I got to ride in with Andy and Josh.  Josh rode with me on and off throughout the week and we shared many laughs and sighs and challenges together and to do the last segment with him was an honor.  Andy though, he is a gear head and he is a powerful rider, this was his 20th tour this year.  He is an inspiration to me in that you can do anything you want if you just put forth the effort and take care of your body.  Even though he slowed his pace for me, breathing was not easy by then, I am thankful that he did not make it too obvious and let me have the thrill of riding with him.
      The lesson I learned throughout it all is that when I stop and actually rest I can then enjoy the rest of the journey.  Its a lesson I needed to learn, the challenge will  be to actually practice it.  But as I look back at this years tour I will remember the lesson and take heed to stop and rest every now and then. 
Lesson #5:  You can't please everyone and not everyone will understand your journey
    Confession time, I have only had one really loyal good friend in my life.  People tend to come and go in my life quit frequently, especially over the past few years.  I don't blame anyone else but myself for this fact, it is really hard for me to be open and free with people, I am a very guarded person.  But when I started the bike tours, something changed in me.  I found a wonderful group of individuals that are so open and caring and simply amazing;  suddenly I found myself with friends that I can talk to about most anything.  I started being a better person too and I wanted to share this energy with the world that I was experiencing.  But somewhere along the way I also lost a part of me, the part that sees the bad in people and questions them.  Some people would say that is a good thing, but in truth it is not.  Because in the end it is I that will be hurt when all they do is take and nothing is ever given back.  Or worse yet when you start to trust people and they use your rose colored glasses to hurt you in ways unimaginable. 
    I don't pretend to understand everyone's journey or what is going on in their private lives but at the same time I  expect the same in return. But when someone tries to manipulate your journey in such a way that they feel they are helping, and yet not know exactly what your journey is, it can really hurt.   Before the tour and especially at the beginning I let this really get to me and it bothered me more than I like to admit.  Somewhere along the way though I simply woke up and said, no more.  No more will I let someone manipulate my feelings, I will not let them or anyone hurt me, nor will I let anyone make me feel less than what I am. 
     The moral of this lesson is simple, we are only responsible for our own happiness and not anyone else's.  Once we start caring enough for ourselves everything else will fall into place and maybe, through a positive influence, others can reach the same understanding and also find their happiness.   Enjoy your journey for it is your own and only your own, and enjoy those that join you for your journey.  But never loose sight that it is your journey and don't let anyone else unpack their baggage and join you unless they have the same goal as yourself and your journeys are meant to be traveled together. 

I am sure there are many more lessons I learned along the way, but they are still slowly coming to my mind.  Each year is a journey for me and I want to thank all of my sponsors who helped me support the Tree Fund through this amazing event.  Together we raised $370,000 that will be spent on tree research and education.  With every turn of a peddle we are making the world a better place one tree at a time.  Now back to training in nine months I will do it again.  :)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Day one

What have I learned today?  I have learned that the day after a hurricane is very windy, extremely windy; actually ridiculously windy.  Riding into a headwind up and down hills is not fun in case anyone was curious.  But along the way I did have many positive moments such as meeting new friends and rekindling old friendships.  When faced with adversities this group will rally together and provide support and inspiration.  We congratulate those that were able to conquer this day and congratulate those that did portions along the route with the same enthusiasm.  There is no competition here, only support.
As the presidential debate is going on as I write this, I wonder what would happen if these two individuals should join us.  Would they support each other?  Would they see what can happen when support is provided?  Every year I am amazed at the energy that comes from this event.  If only we could share it with more individuals I think the world would be a much better place.  A world where no one is left behind when you are at your lowest there is someone to pick you up.  That is the type of world I want my boys to inherit and to grow up in.  And every day I strive to provide such a world for them.  Even if it is only in our home it does not matter because I know they will go out into the world and share that message with others.  Will you help me to change the world one person at a time? 

Saturday, October 8, 2016


In the past year I have been blessed with so many wonderful experiences and so many challenging experiences.  The main blessing was I was finally able to close on our wonderful estate, it only took six months of trials and tribulations, but it finally happened. Most individuals would have given up during the process, even my lawyer and bank loan officer gave up, but I persevered and finally it was ours.   In the last ten months the boys and I have worked hard to make it our home.  In the rooms we have renovated our love is most evident, together we picked out the colors, the furniture and soon the decorations.  It is a place filled with love, laughter and personal growth.  We have learned how to work with mud, install windows, wallpaper ceilings, and install ceiling fans. 
But it has not been an easy journey, so many times I have laid awake at night worried about making the mortgage payment, paying for the renovations, and making it a home for my boys.  The point though is every morning I have gotten up and said ' we got this ' and 'don't ever give up'.  I won't give up on the vision I have for this amazing estate, I can't give up on this vision,  I have two boys that need me to keep going.  When friends or family see me they always tell me how lucky I am and how they enjoy seeing my passion and the work I am doing.  What they don't see are all those nights awake, or me passed out completely exhausted in the barn or in the yard after giving every ounce of energy that I have in me.  I have not shared those moments because to me its a sign of weakness and I don't want others to see that in my, ever.  But I have been thinking lately, if I am making this look easy how is that helping me or anyone else. 
This year has been a lot of work, and what I have learned is when you give something your all,  you will receive so much more back in return.  When things have reached their worse, especially emotionally, I have found one release, or therapy, my bike.  I have rode more this summer than I have in last four years.   Once I am on the bike I can clear my head and all I can think of is pedaling and speed and of course breathing.  Biking is my meditation, it makes my brain to  stop going in many different directions and allows it to calm.   I can work through everything, from my personal life to work to boys schedules and how to accomplish a project on the estate.  By the time I get back home my heart is racing, my mind is clear and I am a better mom because of it because now all I have to think about is my boys. 
As I embark on my fourth Stihl Tour des Trees bike tour tomorrow I am physically more prepared than I have been in the past.  Thanks to all the projects in the barn that made me stronger and all the therapy sessions on my bike.  But most of all I look forward to this week to work through the past year in one big therapy session.  It is no secret this tour has changed my life in so many ways, for the positive I would like to believe.  It has made me face my most inner demons and to conquer them one at a time. There are still more demons to conquer but the room is not so crowded anymore where they all dwell.   It has left me stronger mentally, physically and spiritually. 
Tomorrow is our hardest day on the tour, a lot of climbing and many miles to cover.  In the past I may have been intimated but this year I am not in the least.  If anything I am looking at it as a wonderful challenge and I am up for it this year.    This will be a wonderful therapy session and the most wonderful thing about it is I won't be going it alone.  I will be surrounded by so many friends encouraging me along the way and I will be encouraging them as well.  Together we can do more than we ever thought possible. 
That is my reflection for this past year, together we can do more than we ever thought possible.  With the help of my boys and my dad we have transformed an old barn into the beauty it once was over 50 years ago.  If anyone would have told me I would be doing this I would have laughed at them, but I am doing it, and apparently making it looking easy.  But tomorrow I will set out on one of the hardest rides I have ever undertaken and at the end of the day I will look at what I did and be proud.  Even if I don't finish the entire day I will be proud, because half the battle is showing up, and I will show up ready to conquer that demon.  That is what I want to leave you with my reader, just show up and try and you never know what you can accomplish and even the person who you think has their life together and has the easy life may actually not and just needs a little encouragement.  Reach out to each other and offer encouragement when you can because together we can make this world an amazing place for everyone.   

Saturday, October 24, 2015


What is family?  Is family only those that you share your lineage with or is it more?  I have learned over the past two years that it is so much more than just that.  Family to me is defined as those that come into your life and shape it in ways you never imagined.  Three years ago I did something that I did not think was possible, I biked around Lake Ontario.  Me, when in the prime of my youth I would ride around Lake Chautauqua and come in last place during the Cummins Bike Race, but I would always receive a plaque stating I came in first place... in my age group.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could bike for over 500 miles in a week.  But I did it, and the most important thing is I did it again the following year where I had the privilege to bike throughout Wisconsin.  This week I get to bike through a state in which I hope to call my Winter home in the future, Florida.  I ask myself still to  this day why do I do this... the answer is simple, because of my family. 
I have two important families in my life.  My family that is stuck with me because we are related and secondly my bike family.  My first family supports me through this crazy endeavor by being there for my boys when I can not be, this is  truly the hardest part for me during this ride.  Every day if not every hour I will think to myself, John would like to see this or Mathew would love to learn about this and so forth.  I want to share with them this great adventure and I hope I can bring them back someday and share with them everything that I experience.  But school is important and taking them away from that is just not feasible at the moment. 
Then there is my second family, my bike family.  The bike tour is our reunion and our time to share our joys and sometimes our sorrows that we have experienced over the past year.  Most of us keep in touch through Facebook but seeing each other is soooo much better.  There are hugs and smiles being exchanged all the time and the areas around us is always filled with laughter.    There is learning and teaching  being exchanged, ranging from bike trinkets to industry knowledge.  In this family  there is not one black sheep in the family, everyone here is the black sheep and your uniqueness is embraced. 
In the coming week there will be an outpouring of support, knowledge and hugs.   
They have helped me see myself in a new way in the past few years.  My first year they let me see that I am stronger than I ever could imagine.  My second year they let me see that it is okay to stop and admire the flowers and to ask for help when I needed it.  I don't know what  I will learn this year; but I am sure it will be something amazing.  This past year has been a year of changes for me and I contribute it to my family and their way of helping me grow. 
 This family is the crowning example of how every family should be in an ideal world.  I am very privileged to have found this family and even more privileged they allow me to be part of their family.  My only wish for this week is that we all ride safe so we can go home to our first family and to change the world one tree at a time for future families to enjoy. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015


This year has been a year full of changes.  Changes I did not anticipate and that have shaped me in ways I never could imagine.  Never would I have imagined I would be where I am today one year ago.  I will not say it has been an easy journey, but it was a journey that proved to me I am stronger than I give myself credit for.  Many of my friends have come to me and said they admire me for what I have done and they wish they could have the same journey.  Be careful what you wish for my friends.  Yes it is wonderful to own your dream barn, I mean home, and to have the land you never thought you could play with; don't get me wrong I am very grateful. But there are times when you sit back and look at your surroundings and just say WOW.  Wow I get to play with all of this, wow I have to do all of this and wow you want me to do WHAT?  It can be a bit overwhelming to say the least.  But then I stop and sit in my back field under the light of the full moon and just say wow I am blessed.  I could never ever ever do this without the help of my dad, and I wonder some days who loves the property more, him or I.  Together we are bringing new life to the  property and making it shine like the jewel it is; but I often wonder if we are making it shine or if it is making us shine.   I am doing things I never thought I could do.  Such as conquer my fear of heights on a ladder, crawling into a crawl space in the middle of the winter, replacing an exterior wall and snowblowing a huge driveway at the end of the day.  My dad has been there through it all with me, even those late night calls when the basement is flooding or the furnace has stopped working and it -20 outside. 
My boys are learning along side of me too.  They are learning that on the weekends an old property needs love and attention and there is always a project to be done.  They may put up a small fight with me, but in the end they surprise me and jump right on the lawnmower and take care of the yard for me or work along side grandpa and surprise me when I get home with a completed project. 
As I go through the process of buying this home I stop and wonder if its worth all the tears, aggravation and stress.   As I sit under the glow of the full moon in my back field and look at my surroundings, I realize I already know the answer.  Yes it is all worth it, oh so very much worth it.  So many people have loved the property and I am so very grateful that I can now share with them the love and leave a story or two behind of our time spent on the property.
This past year has taught me that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and have faith that you are on a journey that you are meant to take.  You wouldn't be on this journey if it wasn't meant for you, and the time for it was now.  It may not be an easy journey, but if all journeys were easy life would be a tad boring don't you think? On the hardest days it is hard to remember to keep an eye on the prize, so to speak, but yet I do.  And for me that prize is my barn and the amazing property with it.  Looking back one year ago, if you would have told me I would be where I am today, I would have told you that you are delusional, I could never do that.  But I did it and I am doing it still, I may want to give up some days; but I will never give up completely, never. 
 So if you are ever in the area, look for the big red barn and stop by for a visit.  Share a story of the property or make a  new story with us, we always have a project or two you can help us with and we always love giving tours of the barn.   

10 Mitchell St, Sinclairville, NY 14782

Friday, August 1, 2014

day 6

Tomorrow is our last day, it is a sad day and a happy day. I will miss my bike family,  but I miss my boys so much more. I have learned alot on this ride, about wisconsin and about myself. I have learned its okay to ask for help. Its okay to take a detour in the day and just have fun.  Wisconsins terrain is just like home and it has made me miss my boys and familiar sites. Your bumm and legs and knees and back and your entire body hurt after being on your bike for six days. We all can make a difference one tree at a time and one community at a time. I learned that you really need to train for a six day biking marathon.  I have learned that when you send out positive energy, it all comes back to you and then more. Today we rode thru towns that were gorgeous and the community sponsored gardens on the bike trails. When communities work together beautiful things spring up.  So many towns had festivals this week, I am just sorry I couldn't visit them all. But for the last night on the tour I did hang out with friends and enjoy a band. I danced, I sang along I had fun. I cant tell you the last time I did that. Sometimes things come along your way and you just have to do it. Embrace life my friends,  its a journey you wont soon forget and its over before you know it. Embrace the detours and the adventures, when you step out of your bubble, great things can happen; and they will. I promise.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

day 4 adventures

Did you know that Seymour wisconsin was the birth place of the hamburger? A local lady told me how it all began when a gentlemen at the fair in the 1800's was selling meatballs and cut his meatball in half and put it between two pieces of bread so his patrons could walk and eat. Thus the birth of the hamburger.  Every year the town celebrates with a hamburger festival. There are ketchup slides, bun runs and hot air balloons.  They take a lot of pride in being the original home of the hamburger.

Worlds largest hamburger.

Why do I tell you about this? To prove a point and a lesson I learned a long time ago. If you stop and take a moment you can learn alot about an area and its citizens. Its not unusual for me to stop and just talk to someone,  we all have a story. We live in a world that is very busy, we have to go here, we have to do this or that. But truly its not the destination its the journey and how you experience it. We can all put our heads down and grind through the day, but how many  of us lift our heads and truly look around?
This year there is a common theme among the veteran riders," I'm taking a page out of jims book and relaxing. " it would appear that more ice cream shops are being visited, more scenes are being admired, and friendships are being forged stronger.
Today we saw guinea hens and some large cranes up close. But we also saw a hop farm, beautiful vistas,  corn fields, an oversized hamburger and the home of the green bay packers. We met a family that is giving joy to others in the face of their own tragedy.  We planted a katsura today and dedicated it to courage. Courage for this family to keep fighting their battles and courage to everyone else that is fighting their battles.
This is what stihl tour des trees is about in my opinion; bringing the communities together through trees. From the little kids learning from professor pricklethorn to tree dedications for communities and families. We may only visit an area for a few moments, but we leave a legacy for everyone to enjoy. I am glad I am riding this year and I look forward to florida next year.