The WooHoos

A few years ago, I walked into my local bike shop and bought a Felt tri bike. The last time I had ridden a bike was when I proudly pedaled three blocks each morning and each afternoon to and from the middle school. The afternoon trip was much more exciting, as it was downhill.  I had a shiny new bike with a fabulous yellow banana seat and pink tassels that hung from the handlebars. I even learned to ride with no hands. I was seriously good.

I am by nature a planner, but I had done zero research about what I needed or how much it would cost. I was there on a whim.  I had been toying with the idea of doing a triathlon. I had already smoked my first marathon at 5:15 and thought I was ready for a new challenge. I bit the bullet that day and stroked a check for a Felt.

The staff at the bike store was incredibly kind to me. I was invited many times to join their riding group and I jumped at the chance. I later learned that I probably should have said no thanks but I am so glad I did not know any better. Not one time did that group of men drop me, even though I was incredibly slow. They took turns pulling me up the hills. It may not sound like much to you, but I was 20 years their senior. I slowed the entire group down! They were so endearing then, and treat me just as kindly, to this day.

The second summer, a group of biker chicks started gathering on Tuesday afternoons to ride. Most of the girls were either wives or girlfriends of the bike shop staff, plus a few random people like me. The men were training for an upcoming century and we decided we could do it, too, at a reasonable pace. So we trained together and became the Woohoos. (…like when the redneck drives by and yells out the truck window, “wooo hoooo”)

There is a strategy in riding 100 miles without dying. We rode very close together in a single file line called a peloton. You see, the same person cannot lead all the time. It requires each person to take a turn in the front. You have to keep a constant speed, keep everyone together, watch for cars, and gravel and DOGS! If one person makes a mistake, we all crash. Therefore, we learned to ride together smartly and we developed trust. It really is a team sport like no other.

I'm 3rd from the right.

I’m 3rd from the right.

Many of these women have moved away now but they will always be near and dear to my heart.


The Sunday Morning Question

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. I have opened the drapes and I am grateful for the light that fills my bedroom. Instantly, THE Sunday morning question arises: Should I dress and go to church? The answer is always the same: yes, I should. Instead, I make coffee and climb back in the nest with my computer. Writing is my first order of business, but the rest of the day is a blank sheet of paper and I wonder how I will fill it.

THE Sunday morning question used to never be a question. I was a preacher’s kid. I suppose I still am, as my 70 year old dad, still pastors a small church.  I used to spend every Sunday morning, and every Sunday night, and every Wednesday night inside the doors of our church. Of course, if there were any special meetings on any other night of the week, I was present for that as well. I was not just present. At different times in my life, I actively participated in everything: church pianist, choir director, choir member, soloist, Sunday school teacher, children’s church director, nursery director, youth leader, musical ensemble director, janitor, blah, blah, blah. I know how to “do” church.

 These days, I rarely go.  I feel guilty, of course and my dad makes sure of it.

My faith has been sorely tested over the past 10 years and I do not know how to re-believe all that I was taught. I cannot discount what I know of my heavenly Father yet, I struggle to reconnect to a church.  My rear view mirror reflects that while living the Christian life, the abundant life, I was dying on the inside.

I attribute some of this to my life as a preacher’s kid. Church was my life because it was my dad’s profession. I see now, it was like launching a business that you want to see succeed. Our whole family poured ourselves into this business of church. From childhood, I helped shoulder the burden of the success or failure of this venture. Church was never a place to go to be encouraged. It was a job; one for which, I never applied.

 Still, I recognize my need for a church family; we all need support and fellowship. I have searched Athens for a place where I fit but I have not found it and I have thrown in the towel. My hope is that one day I will move from this place and there will be new options to explore. Until then….






















Mail Order Bride, Part 2

Part 2

Each of Hope’s pen-pals from the US came from a different city and from a different walk of life. It was fun to get their letters and to hear about the culture from which they came. Hope was always eager to write back in response and she shared much about her life, as well. Slowly, the number of pen-pals dwindled, which was perfectly fine as she had already picked her favorites. (Hope never disclosed their actual names to me. Thus I will refer to them by their state.)

Hope was particularly fond of California and after a few months, he wrote to say he was coming to Indonesia to meet her face to face. Her excitement was short-lived though, when she discovered she wasn’t the only stop on his itinerary. No, he made plans to see several woman in different cities in Indonesia and that is exactly what he did.

In early 1989, Kansas, another of Hope’s favorites, invited her to join him on the west coast for a 2 week vacation. She knew it was risky; after all, she could again discover less than desirable intentions and be hurt. She talked the weighty decision over with her boss and at his urging, she agreed to accept Kansas’  invitation.

As silly as it sounds, Hope’s eyes were still afire today as she told me about flying into Los Angeles and over the 2 week period seeing the Grand Canyon, the San Diego Zoo, Pasadena, Disney Land, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Fortunately, Kansas was honorable and showed no signs of breaking her heart, like California.

In April of that same year, another pal/suitor, Georgia, came to Indonesia to meet Hope. She had to work during much of his 2 week visit, so her sister-in-law graciously hosted Georgia during the day, to show him the city. The two weeks passed quickly, and Hope was sad to see Georgia go.

A few months later,  Kansas sent Hope an invitation to visit the states for a 2nd time. This time, they met in San Francisco for a few days. Then he flew her to his home in Kansas to visit his family. During her time there, Kansas surprised Hope with a very kind gift, an airline ticket to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She would be traveling alone to visit her cousin that had moved to the US from Indonesia. Hope excitedly phoned her cousin and they made plans.

When Kansas dropped Hope off at the airport, they said their good-byes. While she was eager to see her cousin in Baton Rouge, another risky idea was brewing in her mind. Hope nervously made her way to the ticket counter and in her broken English, bought a ticket to Atlanta. You see, Hope’s heart was in Georgia. Mr. Georgia was in Georgia. This beautiful woman was totally out of her element but decided she could go to Georgia, then fly back to Baton Rouge for a day. No one else had to know, right? In her mind, the plan worked flawlessly, but she didn’t have any idea what she was headed into.

Hope flew to Atlanta and straight into the arms of Georgia for 2 lovely, life-changing days. Before Hope left, he proposed and with tears in her eyes and the happiest heart, she said yes. Hope got back on the plane, this time to Baton Rouge for a very short trip to see her cousin. She really needed that time to clear her head as she sorted out what had transpired in Atlanta and how she would explain to her cousin and more importantly, Kansas, the engagement ring that now adorned her left hand.

When Hope’s flight landed in Kansas, he was waiting for her at the gate. He was happy to see her but she wasted no time in telling him about her diversion to Atlanta and showed him the ring. All she could hope was that the graciousness he had shown her was genuine and that he would allow her to retrieve her belongings from his house and help her get back to the airport to fly home. Kansas was disappointed at his loss, but he was indeed a gracious gentleman.

Here you might say, “What an awful thing to do to Kansas!” On the surface, yes. But have you never been in love?  Hope only set out to learn English.  Instead she took a crazy risk and found love and it’s for that reason that I admire this beautiful Indonesian woman.

Hope is still married to Georgia and they have one son.


Mail Order Bride

     Today, I met a beautiful Indonesian woman, with silky black hair, an olive complexion, and smiling brown eyes. She was full of laughter and mischief, and I was immediately drawn to her. We made small talk for a while and then in her broken English, she shared with me how she came to be living and working in such a small, quiet town in north Georgia. She giggled as she described her adventure as the mail-order bride for two suitors. For the sake of her privacy and our new friendship, I will call her Hope.

     Hope was born and raised in Indonesia. In 1985, at the age of 27, while working for an import-export company, she picked up the local newspaper and found an advertisement for an international pen-pal program. Hope wanted to improve her English, so she answered the ad thinking the correspondence would help her learn the language. Nothing came of it and as time passed, Hope forgot about it.

     Two years later, a letter came from an organization called The Asian Chronicle Experience saying they had published Hope’s photograph. Soon after, the letters started coming; hundreds of them, from places like Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States. There was no way to answer them all, so Hope chose 7 of the most interesting letters from the US and began her quest to learn the language.

…to be continued.