Road to Freedom 2.0 Archive

Shatter the Night

Posted March 25, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I quickly checked the weather report before departing for my new pick up point. It would be dark by the time I trucked the sixty miles east to Lexington, Nebraska. The weather reports promised some rain and winds to 30mph, well within the limits to drive with an empty trailer. So I rolled.

Ten miles into my journey and right on cue, the rains began. Surprisingly there were far less severe than the dark, ominous clouds threatened, and had completely stopped before I arrived at my shipper. I knew my load was already ready so it was just a matter of checking in, dropping my empty trailer, hook to my loaded one, check out and pull into their overnight parking area for a nice, relaxing evening of movies.

Or so I thought.

The trailer I was to hook to was a foot too high. I exited my truck, went back to the trailer and began to crank it down. I looked back toward the front of the truck and a huge brown cloud began rushing by. Within a few seconds, I could no longer see my truck just a few feet in front of me. I was in a sand storm.

The winds increased rapidly and strengthened every second. Suddenly, they began to blow underneath my trailer so hard, it was blowing me off my feet. I knew I was in trouble and the safest place was inside my truck. I just couldn’t see it.

I closed my eyes, held on to the trailer and inched my way back up to my truck. In the space between my truck and trailer, grains of sand pelted my skin like thousands of pin pricks. Sand got into my ears, my eyes, under my fingernails. I staggered to stay upright but finally made it to my driver’s door, opened it and climbed inside.

I sat looking out my windshield at a brown out as the fierce wind rocked my truck violently. Suddenly, my passenger side window shattered into a million pieces. Shards of flying glass rocketed toward me, slicing my skin as they made contact.

The brown sand blew in through the hole where glass once protected me. I attempted to put up a blanket to stop the flow of wind but it was useless. I was bleeding and being pummeled by sand and ferocious wind.

Within a few minutes, the winds subsided to a mere 37mph sustained. I exited my truck again. As I walked back to my trailer again, I left a trail of all sizes and shapes of glass that had blown into my lap, into my pockets, my hair and boots.

Safely hooked but shaken up, I drove to the guard shack and told them what happened. Fortunately, they’d included eye irrigation to their first aid kit. I used all they had. My eyes were scratched and hurting. I suppose it didn’t really matter much whether it was from glass or sand. Both cut.

I cleaned the blood from the micro cuts, removed the glass from my ears, mouth and boots. I realized that only ten minutes before the storm hit, I was out on the open highway with an empty trailer. There is no way it would have remained upright had I been hit by the storm NO ONE SAW COMING!!!!

I waded through debris in my truck that looked as though a bomb had exploded and through tears, thanked God yet again for His protection. Through filing the accident report, dealing with our safety department, making arrangements to have the window replaced and ultimately putting my heart back inside my chest, I realized how blessed I really am.

Just as with any thriller, I could not have a calm exit to the ordeal. Before I could finish the reporting and phone calls, a violent thunderstorm arrived and threatened to make mud out of the three inches of brown sand inside my truck. I quickly grabbed a piece of heavy plastic and duct tape (no person should ever be without these), and patched the hole.

Finally, at 1am, I vacuumed the glass and sand off my bed, crawled into it and wept. One final release at the end of another harrowing experience. One weapon I have to right my world when it gets turned on off its kilter. Somewhere in the ocean of those tears, I drifted off to sleep and put a period at the end of another sentence in the book of my life.

They say the winds of that sand storm exceeded 100mph. I believe it. I felt it. I battled against it.

I thank God that in that moment of terror, when I least expected something to happen, He gave me the resourcefulness to know what to do and survive. The gale force winds of adversity may have shattered the night but in the morning light the storm had passed and life goes on…

 

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You’re Never Too Old

Posted March 24, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

In a couple of months I will reach a milestone. I’ll turn the BIG 6-0. Through the years as I navigated this incredible journey called life, I wasn’t sure what I thought I’d feel like at this age. But I can assure you THIS was NOT it.

I still run. Ok, these days it more resembles the march of the penguins but I’m still out there pounding the pavement. I did not even start driving a truck until I was 57. I climb all over my truck and trailer. I play with my neighbor’s grandkids. I camp in tents on the ground.

The only time I feel my age is when I look at the mirror, gaze at that wrinkly woman with silver hair staring back at me, gasp and ask, “Who are you and what have you done with Reba?”

Recently while in the Mojave Desert in California, I stopped to eat at a local hole in the wall diner. My waitress hurried over to take my drink order. It was hard not to notice she was older than me. Much older. 89 to be exact. She was as spry as they come. Genevieve (Genny for short), took orders from memory, carried huge heavy trays filled with food to tables and NEVER got the order wrong. Never.

She worked circles around her young spring chicken counterparts and refused to complain about anything. I asked her if she could sit for a few minutes. Surprisingly, she did and as I always do, I dug into her life.

Genny raised four sons on tips from the restaurant. She started there at the age of 14. It was where she met her husband. She was married at 16 and widowed at 17. Her husband was killed in World War II.  Suddenly a single parent, she worked double shifts to provide. When her boys got old enough to attend school, the bus dropped them off at the grill every day. They sat doing homework while Genny bussed tables and provided for their modest lifestyle.

Her eyes glowed as she spoke of her grown sons. “One is a doctor. One is a teacher, a professor at a college. The other two followed in their father’s footsteps and are officers in the military. All things considered, I guess we did alright.”

She went on to say her sons want her to give up her home in the desert and retire from her job at the diner. Quite frankly, I’d chastise myself moments earlier for thinking the same thing.  I asked her why she stayed out there in the desert slinging hash. Her answer was profound.

“I’ve done this for 75 years. It’s who I am. Doing anything else would require I give up my identity. I’m just not willing to give up who I am.”

“It’s been really hard work. I’m sure you’re tired.”

“There have been days that I was so tired I felt I couldn’t go on for another step. But it’s that same work that’s kept me young. It’s keeping me alive. Sure can’t complain about that. Hard work never hurt nobody.”

Genny worked seven days a week for more than 75 years without a vacation or even a single day off. That’s over 27,000 days she’s waited tables. She serves about 40 customers a day at that little well known diner. That means she’s served over a million meals in her lifetime to hungry passersby. Many of them were complete strangers who she never saw again. Yet, she treated them like family and saw to it their hunger needs were met.

She suddenly jumped up, thanked me for the “chat” but said she had to get back to work. She hurried away as she waved at regular customers who were walking in. She met them at their table with their usual drinks.

Genny is living proof that you are never too old to live your dream. You are never too old to continue really living life. Honestly, you are never too old to become who you were meant to be.

I may never see Genny again but I doubt I’ll ever forget her. Deep in the Mojave Desert, she proves that the Heartbeat of America is alive and well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Never Know

Posted March 23, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I parked my truck and walked as fast as I could to Cracker Barrel. I’d been looking forward to a vegetable plate all day. I didn’t even mind climbing the endless hills in Kentucky to get there. I was seated by the hostess and immediately my server, Diana, appeared to take my order.

While waiting for my food to arrive, I got caught up in my own very important world. I read what my friends had eaten for breakfast as I flipped through Facebook. I deleted a dozen email offers to become rich overnight. I played games on my phone.

Sadly, I didn’t even notice the young couple next to me until I was half way through my fried okra and corn bread. Their newborn baby began to cry. When mom and dad’s attention was suddenly drawn to the tiny life form, the toddler joined in with his own whimper.

Diana passed by just then and dad asked for the check. She assured them she’d bring it right away, then looked in my direction to see if I needed anything. Immediately I knew that I needed to pick up this family’s tab. I mouthed to my server, “give it to me.” She nodded and walked away.

A few moments later, Diana approached the couple’s table and told them that their check had been covered by an anonymous individual. The young mother wiped tears away from her eyes that had to have been falling before she got my news.

I finished up my meal, grabbed both checks and headed for the cashier. Just as I slid them and my money across the counter, the young man approached. He called the elderly cashier by name and told her someone had paid their tab. She looked down and saw both tickets but kept our secret.

The young man herded his family out the door and they disappeared. The cashier then looked at me and said, “You have no idea what you’ve just done for that family.”

I looked up at her in surprise.

“That baby is a twin. The other baby died the same night it was born for no apparent reason. While they were all at the hospital, their home burned to the ground. Their two dogs and a cat died in the fire. They lost everything.”

I stood there shocked. Me… the conversationalist… stunned to silence. I finally asked how they were coping.

“Day to day,” she replied. “God’s looking after them. Sends folks like you to help them. To show them a glimmer of light. They’ll be alright. They’re tough.”

I exited the building and walked much slower the several blocks back to my truck. I was ashamed that so many minutes went by without my even noticing these precious people and feeling their pain. But I was grateful that God had shaken me out of my stupor before it was too late to bless them.

With each step I took, I was reminded how we never know what a person right next to us is suffering. They look… well, normal but they could be anything but. They are hurting. Devastated. Broken. But they put one foot in front of the other and are finding a way to move on.

I asked for God’s forgiveness for not being in tune with those He’d placed me next to. I also prayed for this incredible family who displayed immeasurable courage. They exemplify who Americans are. Even through tears, the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

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Where the Wind Blows

Posted March 9, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I awoke from a night of being tossed around by an ever-increasing wind. What had rocked me into a blissful slumber in the darkness was about to become a most formidable foe.

I dismissed my first proposed load. It had six stops, three of which were early in the morning in downtown Chicago. I do NOT go to Chicago. My next proposal would take me to Janesville, Wisconsin to pick up canned vegetables bound for Arkansas. Nice run. There was just one problem. I’d have to fight high winds for nearly 200 miles in an empty trailer.

Weather reports promised it would get worse as the day progressed. I was close to maximum winds for an empty trailer but still under the threshold, but safe. So off I rolled from Greenbay southwest to my new shipper. Hopefully, I’d get there safely before the winds became dangerous.

The moment I headed south on the interstate, my trailer was slammed with an invisible freight train. That started ongoing dialog with Siri regarding wind speed. Definitely intensifying. Very uncomfortable but still manageable.

After an hour of being blown around like a rag doll, I came into OshKosh. Just twenty-four hours earlier, I peacefully drove though the quaint town. Today, I was white knuckle weaving through gust after gust.

Suddenly, I saw a bridge up ahead. It was the lake! And I had no way to go but over the bridge! I slowed down to 30mph, normally a dangerous speed on the interstate. But, all things considered, I’d rather be rammed in the rear than be fished out of the lake. I turned on my emergency flashers right as the wind slapped my trailer. I slowed more, to 25mph. The trailer in front of me came off the ground. I whispered a prayer of thanks when the wheels touched down again.

I tapped the button on my headset, then asked Siri the wind speed.

“The wind is blowing at 62 mph right now.”

She sounded so calm. I was terrified! I slowed to 15mph and maneuvered my truck to hallway in the right lane and the other half in the emergency lane. That way the wind would not be able to get underneath my trailer and provide lift. If my enemy was going to blow me over, it would have to be from a direct hit.

It took over five long minutes—or was it an eternity—to get to the other side of the bridge. There was no safe place to stop so I had to keep going. Slowly.

One by one I began to pass carnage of the battle. Truck after truck lay in medians and on off ramps, where they came to rest after being blown over. I prayed for the drivers, hoping they were not seriously injured.

A family from Louisiana cruised along beside me in the left lane. I braked drastically to quickly get them away from me. I was a ticking time bomb and did not want to take innocent victims when I exploded.

Five hours after my nightmare began, I turned into my shipper. After checking in with the security guard, I pulled into a parking space and shut Dillon down. I stepped into the back of my truck, got down on my knees, cried and thanked God for protecting me.

An hour later, we received word that two of our trucks blew over. One was in Wisconsin and the other in Pennsylvania. They urged drivers to shut down and wait it out. I sat safely as the 38mph wind blew my parked truck around, knowing all too well that except for the grace of God, that would have been me.

Sometimes we know what we will face as drivers. We can avoid them. Perhaps I should not have struck out across Wisconsin yesterday. But the reports indicated I’d be safe. They were wrong and I found myself in a life threatening driving situation.

Prayer works. I am grateful to all those individuals who pray for me as I travel these highways and backroads of this great nation. Yesterday your prayers were needed and answered. I survived the ordeal with only a broken skirt on my trailer, severe motion sickness and a few shed tears.

The wind blows where it will. We can neither stop it or control it. We must find our way through an invisible obstacle course. It is the prayers of saints that keep us upright in the midst of the gale force winds of adversity in our lives. Pray… always pray…

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Coal Miner’s Daughter

Posted February 13, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I recently rode again through the mountains of West Virginia. Each time I do, the rich black hills pull at my heart’s strings. I climbed the highways that cut through the heart of Appalachia. Coal mining towns dot the valleys. Homes, trees, buildings and vehicles are covered in a blanket of black dust from the mines.

A simple folk live in these hills. Bred with black etching the lines in their fingers like ink on a roadmap, most of them are the next generation of miners. In each house on every row between nowhere and the mine, there lives a coal miner’s daughter.  

Decades ago, a country music singer left the mining town in search of another life. Loretta Lynn gave us a glimpse of what life was like for those who mine the black gold. A hard existence from birth to death, but these people don’t complain. They just willingly accept their place in America. Most of them…

I know Miss America, 1993, Leanza Cornett. I watched her grow up. When then Miss Florida was crowned, she was the epitome of clamor and glitz. She was flawless. Breathtakingly drop dead gorgeous. Her personality would make you feel as if you just stepped into the presence of an angel. Precious young lady inside and out.

Looking at her crowned in all her glory, it’s difficult to imagine her humble beginnings. Like Loretta and the women in each of the houses on miner’s row, Leanza is a coal miner’s daughter.

Her father, Dick, decided to take a road less traveled. He escaped the mines, moved to sunshine and fresh air of Florida and opened a sandwich shop. The coal miner’s daughter decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. She believed the world was hers and she seized it.

As I drove through Charleston, I tried to imagine Leanza running through the black ash playing. Did she dream of being Miss America some day? Did she realize there was a place in the world that did not have coal dust? I searched the eyes of those in cars as I wound my way through the mining communities. I saw hundreds of coal miner’s daughters who drive the same black soot roads to the local Walmart where their mothers bought their baby food and diapers. They will marry a coal miner and will give birth to another coal miner’s daughter.

Finally, the gold and black capitol building in Charleston was no longer visible in the rearview mirror. I only had to drive a few miles to the east to feel the solemn quietness that looms over Huntington. I can’t help but wonder which of the protruding hills claimed the lives of the Marshall football team decades ago. After more than forty years, the town seems to still grieves those they lost that rainy night when their plane crashed and burned. Or perhaps they are mourning those who were swallowed up by the mine. Whatever the reason, an inconsolable heart has found a way to beat on, continuing life in spite of tragedy.

I know there is more to the story of West Virginia, far more than I could extract during a drive through the region. There are battles fought and beliefs stood up for by these strong, tough as nails mountain people. Just as there is so much below the surface of these mountains that most of us will never see, there are stories these folks have not told. They would most likely paint a different portrait than me but I cannot deny what I feel as I visit the hills in Appalachian coal country. It is a place like no other on earth, and one I would like to take time in to explore.

But I rolled on as truckers to. And here in West Virginia, men will keep descending deep into the mountain to bring out the black gold. Women will give birth to a coal miner’s daughter who’ll grow up to marry another coal miner. Such is the circle of life in the coal mining town.

The mountains breathe in the coal dust and exhales it into the beauty all its own, where coal miner’s daughters remind us that the heartbeat of America is alive and well in West Virginia.

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Farm Fresh Indeed!

Posted January 31, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I clicked off mile after mile up the familiar I-44. Before I would arrive at our terminal, I just had to make one stop. My fleet manager landed me a load to bring in to put my truck in the shop. Rather than deadheading from Oklahoma, I would now be paid for the miles.

I called ahead to the shipper because my loading appointment was not until five in the afternoon. I would need a place to park my truck for eight hours before I would have enough drive time to get into the terminal. The shipper said they were a farm so parking would be no problem. I could stay as long as I needed to.

Sweet.

I left the modern road behind and climbed the roller coaster hills into the farm country of southern Missouri. Two turns and I arrived at—a FARMHOUSE? Surely, the GPS was incorrect.

Just as I was about to keep going, three men began waving happily at me so I pulled into the driveway. Within seconds Abraham, Isaac and Jacob greeted me as if I was their long lost friend. Unlike the two younger men, Abraham wore a long beard. All three donned leather hats and old fashioned button-down breeches.

I had just stepped back in time!

Abraham told me they would not be able to load me before my appointment because, well, they had not picked the kale yet. He asked me to turn my truck around and I could just stay right there until they were ready to load.

Hours went by but I didn’t notice. I was fascinated by this incredible Mennonite family in Missouri. They were quiet, respectful, and very hard workers. Men, women and children began to arrive in cars. Before long there was an army of workers ready for work in the fields.

All the men wore button down breeches and leather hats. The women wore skirts to their ankles, jackets and bonnets. The children were miniature versions of their parents. Each of them waved at me as they pulled in. Their smiles were infectious!

Within moments, the troop entered the fields and began to pick the valuable commodity. The little ones carried the kale in cloth shoulder bags to a washing station just outside the house. The women washed the greens and placed the clean product in boxes. Other children took box after box to a trailer. The young men prepared the boxes onto pallets inside that trailer and slid the pallets by hand to one side of the trailer. No one broke a speed record. It was slow and methodical and yet, strangely effective. I watched in awe at this completely manual process was getting the job done.

About four in the afternoon, Isaac asked me to open the doors of my precooled trailer so they could load. The only modern part of this entire process was a fork life. Interestingly, it never went into the back of my truck. It stayed on the rocky ground of the farm. They had no dock for me to back up to. Getting the machine into my truck was an impossibility.

Loading my truck was a two-man job. One slid a pallet to the edge of the preparation trailer to be picked up by the fork lift. He then jumped out of the trailer, and climbed into mine. The forklift carried the pallets to my truck and lifted them inside. The other worker then slid the pallets by hand to the front of my trailer. This process was repeated fifteen times until all the pallets were loaded. Kale is super light and even a pallet full, it can easily be moved without the use of lifting equipment.

As Abraham prepared the paperwork for me, I marveled that my truck could be loaded by hand in a completely manual process more quickly than most modern shippers can load it with all the best equipment.

Abraham shook my hand and asked if there was any way I would be the one to come back for future loads. I would have loved that but I had a feeling it might not happen. He assured me that I would not be disturbed in their driveway and again told me to stay as long as I wished.

Cars loaded with Mennonite workers disappeared the same way they had arrived, waving and smiling at me like we were BFF’s. My heart soared at this part of America and this family who remains untouched by our ultra-modern, super-techno charged way of life.

I stayed another three hours to get time back then left the Mennonite farm behind, my life enriched by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their families and a culture that, despite all the modern conveniences available, choose to live a simple lifestyle.

The heartbeat of yesterday’s America is still alive in southern Missouri!

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The Apocalypse, Day 2

Posted January 19, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Moriarty, New Mexico to Springville, Utah

 

The day started at two in the morning. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t sleeping anyway. High winds had rocked my truck for hours. Each time I mustered the courage to peak outside the curtain, snow and sleet swirled and pummeled my metal cocoon.

The roads were clear so I rolled out through the darkness. After an hour of rolling hills, I turned north in Gallup and made my way north. Four hours later the morning hinted to the east as I cut a path through the remoteness of the Navajo Nation. Wild ponies ran along the horizon on both sides of the road, their manes blowing as free as their spirits. Not as many as the last time I came through. Perhaps they don’t care for the snow either.

I stopped at Ute Mountain for a break and was met by frigid air the second I stepped outside. The gigantic rock was shrouded in snow and the early morning sky cast a blue hue onto the freshly fallen snow. I could almost hear the cries of the Native ancestors calling down from the summit, telling stories of the days of long ago.

I always hate to leave the mountain but I reluctantly climbed back into my truck and continued my trek to the northwest.  Ice covered the road in patches and I was grateful I could now see the road. I could navigate around the dangerous areas without losing much time.

I sliced through the southwest corner of Colorado without much incident. But just on cue, Utah skies opened up and snowed down quarter sized flakes. Lots of them. Within moments, I could not see where the road pavement began or ended. No other cars were out. I could not follow in their tracks. I followed my GPS lines to alert me curves were coming up and crept along. At least I was making forward progress, something any snail would be proud of.

I crossed I-70 and headed toward Moab. The two-lane windy road was steep in some parts… the places where I needed the roads to be clear. But ice in turns and at the bottom of hills seemed to be my lot and I chose to endure it with dignity.

By the time I passed the coal mine north of Moab, I inched along in whiteout conditions. I tried to decide if I was better or worse off now that there were significantly more travelers out on the road. The canyons haunted me, a constant reminder that one wrong move and I would be swallowed up by the unforgiving landscape in southern Utah.

My DOT clock clicked off much faster than I could click off miles and unfortunately, there were far too many miles left at the end of my allowable drive time, forcing me to shut down for the night. I slid around in the truck stop parking lot on a solid sheet of ice and backed into a spot I would be able to pull straight out of to the exit when the morning came.

I’d been eating out of plastic bags for a couple of days and desperately needed a good meal. Cracker Barrel was just a half mile away over two feet of snow, one busy and slippery intersection and another hundred yards of icy slush. So I braved it and hiked over to grab some real grub. I almost did not mind falling twice in the snow.

I’d made it through white out conditions and was feeling especially proud of myself. Maybe I really could handle this winter driving in the northwest. With a full belly and a grateful heart that I was safe and secure, somewhere during a movie I can no longer remember the name of, I drifted off into sleep and put the period at the end of a very long and stressful day of snow driving.  

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The Apocalypse, Day One

Posted January 11, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Day One

Cherokee, Oklahoma to Moriarty, New Mexico

(This is part one of a ten-day trucking trip through the worst winter conditions I’d ever faced. Be sure to come back for the other nine days!)

It was supposed to be an easy trip. Pick up a preloaded trailer of chicken and run it up to Grandview, Washington. Between storms. I’d be in and out before the next one hit with thousands in my pocket and several days with 2016 disappearing further into my rearview mirror.

All hopes of the new year exploding on my scene were dashed at 2am. No fireworks. No Aud Lang Syne. Instead, the new year crepted in as freezing fog, its long fingers entangling me while it engulfed my truck like tomb. Little did I know it was only a prelude of things to come.

I inched along and made my way west. After all, I did have a delivery appointment, not to mention a very short window to grab a load and escape the storm. The fog turned to rain… then sleet. I had to assume the icy mix was covering the road the same way it was slathering my windshield.

I passed car after car that had spun out into the median or onto the side of the road. Some had overturned. Trucks were rolled over onto their sides or tops, their trailers oozing precious cargo.

It’s unnerving to drive through was resembles a war zone, especially under the cover of darkness.  I couldn’t help but wonder about those drivers, their families and whether they made it home to them in one piece, despite the metal carnage that sculpted the story on the highway.

The sun finally rose. The fog lifted. Oklahoma disappeared into Texas and the Lonestar State eventually yielded to the painted desert of New Mexico. I puttered along barely making it up hills. I was within a few pounds of being overweight. If I took on more than twenty five gallons of fuel at a time, I could not legally drive on any road in America. So I stopped often to get my little bit of petro, a very time consuming task.

By the time I stopped for the day in Moriarty, New Mexico, I was already exhausted and behind schedule. Tomorrow I would start up into the lower Rockies and I knew I would not make good time at all. There was nothing I could do, so I got ready for bed and settled down for the night.

Suddenly, I received an alarm. My refrigerated unit (Reefer) on my trailer had shut down. The chicken was going to melt. I got dressed and jammed my bare feet into my boots. Quickly lacing them, I grabbed a flashlight and bolted out of the truck, hardly noticing that it had begun to snow. For the next thirty minutes, I troubleshot. I ran through scenario after scenario. My heart sank when I finally discovered the cause of the problem. When the chicken plant loaded and sealed the trailer, they had not hooked one of the doors. It was my responsibility to check that and I had just missed it during my inspection.

Fortunately, the alarm was overridden remotely by computer and we got the refrigerator running again. My company decided to not unseal the trailer in order to close the door because the load was intact even with the door slightly ajar at the top. But, I would be paying about $30 a day in fuel just to keep it running this way. It was a very costly mistake on my part. One doesn’t make that mistake very often. 

Two hours later, my head hit the pillow again, though rest would not come. My mind vacillated between the open door I’d bundled, and the fact that I was behind schedule, and closer to not being able to get back out of Washington.

I prayed and somewhere in the darkness my troubled soul yielded to the Sandman.

(Be sure to  come back to see part 2 of the Apocalypse.)

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They Call Her Coach

Posted August 9, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

In an unexpected place somewhere in the rolling hills of southwest Tennessee, there is a coach. She stands in the shadow of the late great Pat Summit. Unlike the former coach of the lady Tennessee Volunteers basketball legacy, this local coach goes mostly unnoticed. She’s up before the sun and many times returns home after darkness descends. Teacher by day, she takes on the challenge of helping failing high school students in a poor county pass who are otherwise in danger of failing out.

After the long and demanding day, while other educators are going home, this teacher jumps into her car and drives across the county to another school, transforming into a coach along the way. Working tirelessly, she molds and shapes local girls into skilled athletes who might just capture the attention of college coaches.

Many of these young girls lack the upbringing that would propel them to success. More days than not, this coach runs through the drive thru and brings them the only meal they have for the day. If they don’t have equipment, she buys it with her own money as well.

She convinces these girls they are winners when everything in their individual world screams they are worthless losers and will never amount to anything. She teaches them teamwork, integrity, and the value of doing what’s right.

On game day, no matter what the score is when the clock winds down, these girls are winners. Thanks to a lady who has lived her entire life in this county, they now have life skills they never would have developed had she not taken the time to instill them within these underprivileged girls.

Many of her players have gone on to play college ball on scholarships that purchased their tickets out of poverty and into a successful life. She coaches in a no nonsense, earn your own way, all or nothing style. Girls have to earn their spot on the team by intense hard work. Once they are on the team, they have to work even harder to keep their spot.

Some don’t agree with coach’s style. They say she’s too strict. Her friends call her crazy for giving up her time and hard earned pennies on a teacher’s salary to ensure the success of these young athletes. But where the ball meets the court, girls are the only ones who matter. And at the end of tiring workouts or a hard fought game, know what they call her? They call her Coach.

When the last basket is made and the balls are put back into the closet, this unsung hero quietly retreats back into the shadows while a few girls from poor families walk a little taller. Armed with more than dribbling skills, they approach life armed with a new wisdom, a greater understanding of what possibilities await them if they will continue practicing the skills Coach taught them.

You won’t find this coach on ESPN. Or on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You’ll find her off the beaten path on the backroads of rural Tennessee doing what has earned her the right to be called Coach.

My hat’s off to you. May God grant you wisdom and endurance to continue to mold future women of America into successes, one dribble at a time.

 

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Out There…Somewhere

Posted May 25, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Saturday, April 9th, I turned in Dusty (my Freightliner Cascadia truck) and walked away to start my new adventure, whatever that would turn out to be. I spent two nights in Memphis and my good friend, Mary, posed this question, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would that be?”

My answer was immediate and laser focused. “I’d drive around the country in an RV, meet wonderful Americans and write their stories.”

That night I continued to ponder how I could make that come to fruition. I figured that over the next two to three years, I had two choices. I could try to write a grant to pay for the adventure. That could be tricky. Not every organization would consider my adventure research worth pursuing. I could try to get sponsors but then I would be on their agenda, not mine.

On Sunday afternoon while shopping for a new pair of running shoes, I told Mary I felt I needed to become an independent contractor with a trucking company I’d already been talking to for several months. At first she looked at me strangely, like perhaps I’d had a brain bleed. After all, I’d insisted the night before my trucking adventure had drawn to a close. But then I explained to her that in two to three years, I would have enough disposable funds to pay cash for a brand new small RV. That way, I could do what I want on my own time with my own agenda.

I went on to explain that as an independent contractor for this new company, I would be wholly autonomous. I would not have a dispatcher. Instead, I’d log right onto the load board and get whatever loads I wanted to book myself for. I’d be able to go where I like to travel, and avoid those places I don’t think I should be.

I would be completely in charge of my own schedule. I can travel, meet people and be more available to write about them than before because I will no longer have pickup and delivery appointments at 2am.

So, after a great deal of prayer and counsel from my mentors, I joined this new company as an independent contractor. I report on Monday and will have a 2017 Freightliner Cascadia by Friday. I will give them 1095 days. During that time, I will travel around, meet wonderful people and tell you—my loyal readers—their stories. Once those days have ended, I will set into motion the next step.

When I was on the Road to Freedom bicycle tour in 2013, I discovered that contrary to what we hear on the news, the heartbeat of America is alive and well. There has never been a time in the history of our nation when we’ve needed to hear this message more. I feel it is my purpose to get this message out to you. This is the way I can make this happen.

Thank you all for being such faithful followers. I appreciate all the cards, emails, texts and phone calls of concern as I’ve taken a couple of months off to pray and hear God’s plan for me.

As I start this new part of my journey, I commit to seeking out wonderful Americans and bringing their stories to your email or social media accounts. I would also solicit your prayers as I release the brakes thunder down the road heading out there… somewhere.

God bless you, friends!

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