another one bites the dust

it is that time of year…where we turn the page, reflect on the past and look towards the future…think about what’s gone on…what we’ve seen and experienced…by our own choice, by another’s, or by accident…

and depending on what you’ve come through…you may regard this time of year in a completely different way than someone else–what you’ve seen is unique to you, after all…like how you might regard your own image in a good mirror (not the fun house one)…because of what a good mirror can show you, what it can reflect back to you…looking into a good mirror might be pleasant or it might be painful–or both…because above all else, a good mirror tells the truth…a good mirror may be the object you pass by in a blur, or the thing you pause at for ‘a quick glance’, then move on–because staying there too long is just too uncomfortable …or, it may be that…you remain there, in front of it, and take in all that you see…

sometimes with what’s gone on…you think, i can’t believe that just happenedi wish i could have that back…whether a hard time, mis-spoken word, careless action, or an embarrassing moment…you know, the things you’d rather not see or be reminded of…

sometimes, especially when you experience something that falls into the last category–embarrassing moments–the only thing you can do is look back and laugh…

which brings me to this next story…i hope it brings you some new year’s cheer…

one of the most embarrassing moments of my life (and definitely in my work with kids) happened at the idaho youth ranch–herding cats never seemed so appropriate, yee-haw!  the idaho youth ranch is a minimum-secure juvenile facility for troubled and at-risk juveniles, located in central idaho…pretty much in the middle of nowhere (which is a deterrent for kids “to run” from the facility–though some still do:)…

the facility is made up of different cottages (kids are grouped in cottages according to age levels)…when i worked there, we would guide and manage the kids throughout their daily routines–wake-up, breakfast, morning chores, school hours, after school chores and activities, etc…

occasionally, on the weekends, we’d have a special off-site activity…

one saturday, my coworker and i were tasked with just that–an off-site activity–taking a group of ‘our boys’ on an extended bike ride across the dusty, lowland farming country that surrounded the ranch (there are some phenomenal highlands in idaho…like the sawtooth wilderness and the white clouds (lessor known than the rockies or appalachians, but no less spectacular)–but those outdoor treasures come into other stories)…the ranch had a set of mountain bikes that the kids could use, most of the counselors rode their own bikes…

well, i didn’t have a bike…so, in advance of our activity, another staff member said he’d loan me his mountain bike…i was grateful (at the time)…

when he gave me his bike, he also gave me his “bike shoes” (we wore the same size shoe)…by “bike shoes”, i mean the ones you wear as a part of a ‘clipless system’…let me take a moment to clarify cliplessclipless shoes are the ones that have cleat on the sole and clip-in (solidly) to the mechanism on specialized bike pedals (as opposed to the ‘clipped ones’–the ones that are known as the toe-clip or cage style–i know, it makes no sense)…

so, i had a bike and bike shoes…come saturday, i was ready to ride!!!

i remember, getting up and getting ready–i “geared up”, hopped on the bike, and headed out to the road where we were meeting up…it was a warm, sunny day in early may…there wasn’t a cloud in the sky (idaho skies can blow your mind, believe me)…and…i was feeling good, like i could bike for miles, tackle any challenge…

i found the group and stayed on my bike…the kids were antsy and itching to go (on the road just inside the ranch’s southern entrance)…so, i just circled…they greeted me and i bid the kids and my coworker a “good morning”…a few words were exchanged and then we headed out, my coworker took the lead, then came the kids, then came me…the road was typical of the backcountry roads in idaho–dusty, brown, and covered with small loose gravel–the kind of road that the ford f-150 was made for…

so, we biked on for a couple of miles, the bike was riding well and i was feeling like i was one with the bikeprobably because my feet were locked in place…it felt good…and we were moving along at a good pace…no other cars or people to be seen…we had the open road to ourselves…

and, after about 30 minutes of riding, one of the kids said that they needed to stop…so, i biked up to the front, chatted with my partner, and we agreed that we’d stop at a good spot down the road…after that, i circled back…and we continued on for a couple of minutes…then, the group began slowing down…a few kids braked and dismounted their bikes, pulled out their water bottles and sat down in the dirt…i told my partner that i’d bike up to the next rise and get the lay of the land and come back, he nodded and i took off…

in a couple of minutes i was on my way back and approaching the group…i was ready for a break, too…as i was pulling up, ready to un-clip and swing my leg over the seat, and glide to a stop…it happened…i tried to lift my right foot off the pedal, to un-snap/un-clip my foot…but, it wasn’t working, it wouldn’t budge…so, i tried the left foot…same result–no dice…by now, panic set in and i looked to the crowd…to the juveniles and my partner who all stared at me with rapt attention…in anticipation of the dismount…

it never happened, because i had slowed to the point of a stop…teetered upright for what seemed like forever, then went down…hard…in the dirt and gravel…i looked up at the group, no one said anything…and then i looked to my feet…they were now “un-clipped”, of course…i looked back at the group and laughed, they did too…as if waiting for permission to do so…

it was sooooo embarrassing…especially, since i consider myself to be a decent athlete… ugh!

not long after that, we were all on the road again and they rest of the day went well…to their credit the kids never brought it up again (to me at least)…my coworker was merciless, however…and whenever we talked about it after that–he made sure i never lived it down…

sometimes when we look back at what’s gone on…we want to cringe, cry, or forget it all together…but to deny such experiences would be to deny ourselves, our very humanity …the things we’ve seen and experienced ultimately remind us that–yes, sometimes we stumble, sometimes we fall…but, that’s what makes us who we are…

happy new year!

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