Notes from Colleen’s Desk: Every Road Traveled

There is nothing like a good long road trip to add perspective – to whatever may be on your mind.  With nearly 1200 miles and 20 hours of drive time, I had opportunity to think thoughtfully over this writing. I had time perhaps to vent a little in a conversation with myself or simply zone out.

I suppose I could just give myself permission to check out for a few days of vacation. But after having signed nearly 700 hundred different items – grant award checks, award letters, and regrettably far too many decline letters, the livelihood of many business owners weighed heavily on my mind.

Staff suggested a digital signature might be okay given the volume. Respectfully, I declined their perfectly reasonable alternative. Behind each one of those businesses is a face and a personal story of ambition, creativity, resilience and more.  In this world of “virtual everything” right now, I wanted to see the name of every business owner; I needed to make that connection.

Maybe because it is January you may be expecting a bit of bemoaning over the difficulties of the past year, sprinkled with “do better” resolutions. That does seem to be the trend in a variety of new year’s messages I am seeing that are masked (pun intended) by dismay and concern for economic vitality – whether personal or professional, followed by pontification over whether it can possibly get any worse.

I do tend to be the “glass half-full” kind of person. I firmly believe that every road traveled is a lesson learned. In the song Every Road by Amy Grant, the simple lyrics have a profound message for each of us, regardless if it is 1997 or 2021.

Every road that’s traveled teaches something new
Every road that’s narrow pushes us to choose

We will come through this rocky road we are traveling. And we will be faced with critical decisions. A few businesses may, in fact, close. Others will find a new opportunity. Many will hold steady and emerge stronger.

As I was driving and listening to every single CD in my car, I purposed to focus on my top five most memorable moments from last year that I affectionately call my bloopers and consider what I learned.  View my offering in this writing as a changeup from the typical – and usually short-lived – New Year’s resolutions.  I see these bloopers rolling at the end of my personal 2020 journey, much like we often see cut scenes rolling at the end of the movie with all the credits. Here is my top 5, in David Letterman style.

#5 – Creature Comforts

Alas, what critter would not want to make its abode in your home where there is warmth, food, and shelter? Just shortly after welcoming a new puppy to my household, another creature showed up and Rosie sniffed it out like, well, a border collie on a mole. First episode – it was under the stove. I carefully pulled out the bottom drawer and pulled out every cookie pan and casserole dish one at a time. It was an exciting evening no doubt – particularly after the critter escaped to the living room. Rosie sniffed every corner of the house to no avail.   

Two days later, it was sort of like ground hog day – only this time, it was under the refrigerator and holy guacamole I could hear it. Dutifully, I pulled out my old GE refrigerator and then, unfortunately, tweaked the corresponding 1987 copper line to the icemaker. Result? Water in quick fashion everywhere while the refrigerator was still plugged in and no shut off water valve was in sight. And the critter was still at large!

Cutting to the chase, our house guest made its way back to the oven drawer. Another groundhog day episode, except that this time it scurried out, ran up the fireplace hearth, and perched itself like a decorative ornament holding on for dear life. It was a chipmunk.

My learning moment?  Know where the water shut-off valve is and avoid electrocution. Dancing around in water, while reaching for the cord (with a loose critter in the house) – might not be a good idea. Safety first.

#4 – Apple Woes

We all surely experience moments of frustration in any given day when all our pent-up emotion explodes in unexpected ways. Take for example my apple incident. Nothing unusual about throwing an apple out your car window into a field unless you forget to roll down the window! Literally an explosion of apple parts and apple juice rolled down my window, bounced off the passenger seat, and landed on the floor. Arrgh. This was especially painful after having just detailed the car inside and out.

My learning moment?  Laugh at yourself with full abandon. An explosion of laughter accompanied by tears that day was a cure-all for my weary, woe-is-me demeanor.

#3 – Imperfect Dwellings

I love symmetry. I want my dresser drawers to be shut, my things put away, my paper piles to be straightened with all corners at right angles, and everything kept tidy. This includes my single person backpacking tent when I am in the wilderness.  Granted, I put the tent up in the dark in a middle of a narrow trail (the path also used by critters bigger than a gopher!) with my head lamp on, after driving 12 hours. It was on a precarious slant.

Thus, no balanced, level sleeping either that night despite having every piece of gear in the tent shimmying me in such a way as to keep me from rolling right off the trail and into the gully.  It is quite likely that some early bird hiker would have to walk around my tent the next morning while snickering under their breath. Imagine trying to sleep with all of that on your mind. This is not the happy camper dreams a backpacker yearns for!

The bigger issue here is how all that led to my less-than-stellar hiking start the next morning following my rush to get all the evidence of my imperfect dwelling off the trail. This day turned out to be a long and hot 10-mile hike, up to 8200 feet in elevation. I had gone light on breakfast, skipped my coffee, packed poorly and generally obsessed over my tilted tent.  This was to be one of the most epic backpacking adventures ever for me and I squandered a lot of my joy by focusing on my imperfect dwelling.

My learning moment?  Accept all your imperfections, focus on the journey, and refuse to miss out on all the grandeur (misspelling intentional) moments. Secondly, always drink your coffee!

#2 – Beverly Hillbillies Flashback

When black ooze gurgles up from the bathtub, one might be tempted to reminisce on memories of the Beverly Hillbillies sitcom and their big oil discovery. One might also think of a horror flick (pictured). I thought instead – who can save me from this trauma? I quickly called a good friend for a plumber recommendation and he was at the house one hour later. Disaster averted.

My learning moment?  Know thy plumber, electrician, contractor, appliance repair person and HVAC professional… all of them by first name. Proceed to enter them into your favorites on your phone. Moreover, learn what a stinkin’ cleanout is when the friendly receptionist asks if you have one, rather that responding with “what’s that?”

#1 – Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I might have saved my biggest blunder of the year for last. Truly, there is no getting around the fact that I had full responsibility for this one. Short story is that I locked my keys in my car at a trailhead in the wilderness in bear country, 50 miles from home on a remote road and through a voluptuous flowing creek where AAA would likely not ever venture to go. No cell phone reception. No calling a friend.

Happens to be a new vehicle with a door code – one that in two full years, I had not learned how to use. To make this story slightly more embarrassing is that one week prior I was fumbling through my glove box to hand the sheriff my registration (yep, pulled over for speeding) and noticed the vehicle manual. I thought to myself, this would be a good time to read up on the door code while the sheriff is checking to see that I am not a felon, since I did not have my proof of registration even in the vehicle.

Gratefully, my sister was with me on this hiking adventure and I had someone to console me. After hitching a ride down the road to civilization, calling my son for a rescue, going home, not finding the spare key, visiting YouTube to learn how to use the nifty code, traveling back to the car, and seeing two bears looking for a snack near the same trailhead, I was ready for a successful quick exit – in my car. Nope.

After still more attempts to open the door with no luck, I found myself between a rock and a hard place. Sheepishly, I instructed my son to break the window. He grabbed a big rock, aimed squarely at the target (no need to damage the body of the car too!) and hmmm, the rock bounced off that hard, laminated window. Three times a charm, as it turns out.  Then I drove home with shattered glass strewn throughout the interior and a nice breeze.

My learning moment?  When you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, there is no glorious ending. You choose the lesser of two evils: get eaten by the bear(s) or eat the $672 replacement glass expense. Did I mention that I had already had the door code in my phone, but I had transposed the numbers? I guess diligence in learning how to use the code AND ALSO inputting it accurately go hand in hand.

Please know that this writing is in no way intended to make light of the trying times so many are facing right now. While these are my personal stories of adventure, my lessons learned flow freely over to how I lead an amazing staff of committed professionals here at SOREDI.

Many of those who have read this far find themselves in dire circumstances, between a rock and a hard place – or you know someone who is there right now.  SOREDI is committed to helping businesses find resources and manage through wilderness moments to the best of our ability and charter. We recognize that we are imperfect people with imperfect processes living together in an imperfect world.

While we are committed to laughing at ourselves when we blunder, we are also committed to making course corrections when it is in our power to do so. Moreover, we are committed to listening to your “apple woe” moments. Stay the course as best you can. We are all traveling that narrow road alongside you.


Colleen Padilla, Executive Director

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