Oh, the fun we’ll have!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me. After studying and practicing for just over four weeks, I took my CDL exam Tuesday of last week. I have no idea what my scores were, but when the examiner said I’d passed, that’s all I needed to hear.

After the examiner put my results into the national DOT database, I returned to the school to deliver the news. As is the custom of the school, I had my photo taken in beside one of the range trucks so it can be posted on the graduation wall in the classroom. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and a bit of amazement that I had learned so much in such a short time.

The next morning, I headed for Mississippi to spend a few days home and pick up my CDL hard copy. Although my name and photo were on it along with the CDL designation, I was well aware that I wasn’t yet fully trained for the demands of the career I would soon be entering. But, it sure was cool to hold that new license in my hand.

This past Monday, I started orientation and training for my new job as a semi driver. Along with my fellow rookies, I’ve watched many a video over the past few days along with signing paperwork and listening to training staff explain various things related to my job. I also went on outings in a training truck with several other newbies and a company trainer. We took turns driving and being assessed by the trainer while occasionally trying to get him to crack a smile. We were unsuccessful at the latter, but all of us did well on the former.

Yesterday we started working on parking maneuvers. Most of us were a bit intimidated when we walked out to the range and realized we’d be backing a trailer between two other trailers. The scratches on the corners of said trailers seemed to tell us all we needed to know about previous attempts of some rookies’ attempts at success. But, one by one we gave it a shot with the help of a trainer, and all of us managed to get it in without much damage to the tractor fairings or trailer corners. I’m thinking we all know we’re definitely going to need a lot more practice to be functional and safe at backing our semi’s.

Tomorrow is our last day of classroom and range training. Apparently, we’ll be hearing from the benefits department, which is quite important to me. Healthcare and other benefits were a major reason I chose to pursue truck driving, so I plan on getting all the info I can on what’s offered.

Next week, I begin training on the road. I’m so thankful that my husband will be my trainer because he’s got lots of experience and we know each other well enough to know when we’re beginning to get on each other’s nerves. Seriously, I know I can trust him to teach me what I need to know to do my job well and as safely as possible. And, he believes I can do this, which is invaluable in anyone who is teaching someone something. Gotta have that encouragement.

So, I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff over the past month and a half, but it’s only the foundation. Obviously, a good foundation is nothing to sneeze at. But, now I’ll be digging into the day-to-day details of trip planning, paperwork, communicating, bumping docks, safety decisions and all the other specific stuff. I’m expecting it to be quite an adventure filled with old and new stuff; boring and fun stuff; difficult and easy stuff; and everything in between stuff. Kinda like life.

Until next time, stay safe out there 🙂

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So Many TCKs!

Hello readers! My second week of CDL school has been completed. I have truly been learning something new every day. Mostly, more of the details about what the DOT test entails and how many ways there are to flunk it. Ugh.

So, my backing skills have been getting better as I’ve gotten a better grip on setting my mirrors, adjusting my seat and what to look for in my mirrors to know when I’ve got the truck where I want it for each step. It’s a challenge each time I get in a truck on the range because the seats and mirrors don’t have exact settings and all of us students seem to need them in different places.

In case I didn’t clarify before, the range is the paved lot where we practice backing maneuvers. There are numerous cones lined up exactly the way they are at the DOT test site. We use the cones to get a grip on where our truck is and needs to be to straight back, offset park and parallel park. Yes, parallel park. I know, right?!

Anyhow, I got a pretty good bit of practice in on the range this week and I’m sure I made my instructors raise their eyebrows at some of my attempted position corrections. Thankfully, they’ve been very patient thus far.

I also made some progress on my inspection list. There are so many details we have to remember to tell the examiner when we inspect the truck for safety! From tire tread to the power steering reservoir to shock absorbers to hoses to torque bars to proper colored lights and on and on and on. Multiple times each day I find myself beginning at the front of the truck and working my way to the back describing what possible issues I’m looking for all the way to the back of the trailer and on into the cab. Little by little I’m finding myself able to remember more of those details each time I repeat the process with the goal to have them all down before test day.

On the road I’m learning to watch everything around me including my trailer position, changing traffic lights, bridge heights, bridge weight limits, bicyclists, pedestrians, traffic, school zones, etc. Mostly the usual things a four-wheeler driver has to watch for, but while up-shifting and downshifting in a vehicle that’s 80 feet long and can take more than the length of a football field to stop. When that driver in a four wheeler makes the stupid choice to cut you off to make a turn, it’s much easier for another four wheeler to adjust than it is for a semi. I’m not sure some drivers really get that, but I digress.

Now, about the title of this post. I believe I talked about TCKs in an earlier post, so I’ll just let you guys go back to that for an explanation of what they are. I’m a TCK, and I find it very interesting that I’m meeting a pretty high percentage of them here at school. I’ve got classmates with military brat backgrounds and those who moved to the US as children. I’ve met people who grew up in Haiti, Trinidad and Turkey to name a few. There are also quite a view Veterans here. Some who were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When I was just a passenger on the road, I wrote sometimes about the way the culture on the road is unique, especially for those who drive long haul. Being in a different state from day to day, spending a lot of time in truck stops, shopping in stores you wouldn’t have ever heard otherwise, eating out a lot, seeing the beauty of this great country, spending a lot of time on the phone, etc. I wonder if it’s that wanderlust that seems to root itself in many TCKs that draws some of them to the trucking industry or there’s something more to it. I suspect there’s more to it for many of us. Perhaps I’ll research that one at some point.

For now, I shall enjoy the rest of my day off before turning my focus back to CDL learning again.

Until next time, readers, be safe out there 🙂

Travel time

So, Saturday I drove from Mississippi to Indianapolis where I’ll be participating in truck driving school. The first seven or so hours were nice. The sun shown most of the time with a few bouts of drizzle here and there. I listened to satellite radio here and there. Shout out to the Message and Jeff & Larry’s Comedy. Talked on the phone a bit. Enjoyed lunch at a beautiful rest stop outside Nashville where I took some time to walk under the trees.

Then, I went through Louisville, KY where the clouds let loose with what was apparently a mix of a cold front and tropical depression Gordon. My husband wanted me to be able to avoid the tole on I65, so he proceeded to guide me by phone through Saturday traffic. It went fairly well until he forgot I was supposed to take 265 and not 264. So, that was an adventure in a construction zone, in the rain. Thank God it was only a couple exits up to where I could turn around and go back to my correct exit. Unfortunately, the rain continued for the last 2 hours of the trip.

I arrived safely, got checked in at the dorms and brought my stuff in through the drizzle. In my attempt to move quickly and avoid getting drenched, I found I had left my phone charger and a few other things in my vehicle which necessitated a second trip. So, yeah. More wet.

Sunday, I dealt with some not unexpected anxiety issues. Big changes have tended to trigger various degrees of physical and mental challenges for me for much of my life as I’ve battled what was eventually diagnosed as panic disorder and depression.

Anyhow, after my mind and body settled down a bit, I spent part of the morning at the church I attended when I lived here. In the afternoon, I visited with a friend and then with my daughter before heading back to the dorm to prepare for my first week of truck driving classes.

All in all, it was a productive and enjoyable weekend.

Until next time readers, stay safe out there ☺️

Next Chapter

Hello again Readers!

It’s been quite a while since I last posted here. Since that time I’ve spent time as a student, a restaurant cashier, a day baker and a hairstylist. My time as a student lasted only a semester because I haven’t had the means to continue pursuing my Business Admin degree thus far. The restaurant cashier position was one I gladly gave up for the day baker position. Unfortunately, many of the day baker duties were beginning to cause serious stress on the joints of my hands, which have already been through many years of doing hair. Moving with my husband’s job found me back in the salon, still hoping for a door to open for a library job–which I finished training for 6 years ago–or for the chance to go back to school and finish my Business Admin degree. Neither of these is currently happening. So, seeing how 1) retirement age keeps coming closer, 2) I hardly ever get to see my husband, 3) the debts are still hovering at “you’ll pay them off when your dead” level and 4) my Third Culture Kid antsy-ness has me feeling never quite home, I’ve decided to earn my Commercial Driver’s License and drive team with my husband.

‘What’s a Third Culture Kid (TCK)?’, you may ask. Well, it’s a term I became familiar with only recently as I was chatting with a therapist. She told me I might want to look it up because many of the things I’ve struggled with in life might stem from that. I’m glad I took her advice as I believe it was another important stepping stone in my life journey.

Basically, a TCK is a person who grew up in one or more cultures that were not his/her parents’ culture. A great example is the new movie Crazy Rich Asians which features actors/actresses who were born to parents from places like Singapore and raised in places such as England or Australia. For me, it means being an Air Force brat born in North Dakota to parents from New Jersey and then living in Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Taiwan and North Carolina, all before fifth grade.

One of the hallmarks of many TCKs is their tendency to not quite know where ‘home’ is. To not have a ready answer when someone asks “Where are you from?”. I’ve personally struggled with this one from the first time I went to a public school that wasn’t on a military base. All those kids who had never been out of the county or state they were born in. What was that like? I thought they had weird accents and they thought I did. Many of them had the same friends since birth and most since kindergarten. My friends were only my parents and three siblings because the others I had known had likely moved to other places as well. I thought everyone was my friend before then because all of us kids knew we’d be leaving each other behind and making new friends sooner or later. Most of the kids in my new class hadn’t had to make new friends since the first day of kindergarten because they were all still there.

From what I’ve read here and there on the internet, many of us TCKs have had to meet loss and grieving at a very young age with parents who understandably weren’t really aware of our struggles or how to help us because they grew up in one place and left friends behind as adults. I had no idea until recently how to frame the pain and fear I’ve dealt with even into my adult life. I knew I had lost a lot along the way, but I hadn’t thought of it as a journey of grief. I thought that was for people who had often dealt with death as one of my former classmates did. But, losing relationships through death or insurmountable distance are still both losing relationships. And finding new friends to fill the roles in our lives that those people did is hard either way.

So, here I am, beginning a new adventure. Something I seem to have become pretty good at as I now enter middle-age. This time, we’re going to try to keep home base where it is in Mississippi as we traverse the country in a big truck….with me driving, too…yeah, this is should be a good one.

Until next time readers,

Stay safe out there 🙂

West Jefferson, North Carolina

 

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View from the Library steps

Visiting the North Carolina mountains is always a feast for the eyes. One of my favorite places to go is down town West Jefferson, a little town near where my parents reside. Over the more than a decade that my parents have lived there, the town has grown and changed while still retaining much of its history. Last year they celebrated their centennial birthday.

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One of many murals in the area

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I love this church on Main Street

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fabulous sculpture 

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love the sign that says to keep right…the building is connected to other buildings on both sides, lol

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The Cheese Factory is a big part of Ashe County history
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historical photos put up to celebrate the 100th birthday
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everyone should have cheese vat shaped like a cow, hehehe
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this is the local newspaper…usually about 8 pages long
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Yep, I thought it was a real person, too!
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my favorite place to visit when I’m in town
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Mom and Dad checking out the menu at Bohemia
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some local artists sell their wares in the seating area….potters….
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painters
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it’s a great place for gatherings….formal….
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or relaxed

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It’s going to be awhile before I get to Bohemia again, so I’ll just have to make do with Starbucks and Caribou until then. Unless I can get to Emerson’s or Talia in the North Carolina foothills. I think I have a latte problem, hehehe.

Until next time, readers, drive safely out there 🙂

 

 

Holidays for ‘the rest of us’

Perfect families don’t really exist. For some reason, most of us seem to think they do. Ironically, it seems to be those farthest from having that ideal that believe it the most. But after nearly half a century on this earth, I am certain they don’t exist.

I grew up in a family that looked like a perfect family. We had our issues, but we got along. I was the youngest of the middle children with an oldest and youngest tacked on the ends. I was the one that generally blended in and tried not to be too much trouble. Apparently, middle children tend to do such things.

Holidays were a big deal in my family. My mother worked hard to make things memorable by continuing family traditions and adding in new ones here and there. Thanksgiving always included the turkey, pies and cranberry sauce. Christmas included stories of the Nativity, music about Jesus birth and baking cookies. Christmas eve included  special snacks, watching Christmas cartoons (which aired only once per year at the time) and opening one gift (pajamas). Christmas day we sat around the tree, upended stockings, opened presents. Then we had another, big dinner. Easter Sunday included baskets of candy, decorating and hiding eggs, new church clothes to represent our new life in Christ, a church service with a sermon about Jesus’ Resurrection and then, a big dinner. From what I saw on television and how my friends’ families operated, all this was the normal way things worked. I assumed there were few exceptions as I navigated the years of my childhood.

My adult years have given me a different perspective. I married young, expecting our holidays to be similar to the ones of my childhood. However, I found that my husband’s holiday memories were not as happy as mine. That fact and our tiny paychecks often made for minimal celebrations, if any. Still, we managed to join in the revelry at my parents’ home for some holidays.

In my early twenties, I saw divorce up close in a sibling’s life. Holidays became very difficult as we wondered whether their kids would be aloud by their mother to visit us. Since then, I’ve worked with single mothers and listened to their stories of no child support and no gifts or husbands having the kids this year and them spending the day alone.

Over the years, the face of American commerce began to change, as well. Work schedules clashed as retail establishments stayed open longer hours and more days of the week. As a hairstylist, I often worked most of the days leading up to and after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This made it difficult for us to drive the hours to visit family, so oftentimes it would just be the two of us–three, once our daughter arrived. I still made cookies and put up the tree, but many times the presents weren’t much.

When my husband started driving long haul, we spent many holidays apart because he was on the road earning a living. Our daughter and I were sometimes able to visit family, but it was often difficult for me when we did because we couldn’t afford to bring presents, which was an integral part of my childhood celebrations.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on the road with my husband. Our daughter stayed in Savannah, Georgia where she was in her second year of college. It amazed me how many people were alone on those special days. The Christmas music played in the truck stops and there were decorations, turkey and pie to be had, but it was so different from the expectations and assumptions I had long ago.

As I write this, I’m in a hotel room because our truck broke down and they couldn’t start working on it until the weekend. Our company decided to put us in a different truck because ours had been in the shop a few times recently for the same problem. Since we couldn’t get into our new truck until today and the shop is closed, we can’t get the rest of our stuff moved from the old truck until tomorrow. So, we’ll be spending this Thanksgiving at the Ramada.

There was a time when my current circumstances would have been terribly painful for me emotionally. When certain elements had to be present to make a holiday acceptable to my psyche. But, as I’ve traveled through the ups and downs of life thus far, I’ve come to realize that the meaning behind our traditions is way more important than the traditions themselves no matter what we believe. Yes, I have some great memories of family gatherings from years gone by, and, yes, I do sometimes miss those days. But, even where I am right now, I have plenty to be thankful for. And, as the Christmas season progresses, I will be thanking God for sending His Son, Jesus, to be human like me. And, when Easter rolls around, I will be reminded yet again that, although He was perfect, He chose to give His life to satisfy God’s righteousness so I could know Him and live with Him forever. Turkey and cookies and new clothes can’t begin to compare to that truth.

And so, I may feel a bit down this season because I miss sitting around a big table at my parents’ house and I miss my daughter who is spending the season with a friend. But, I’ll be counting my blessings as I hang out with the love of my life and eat Thanksgiving pizza in a hotel room.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers. Drive safely out there 🙂

Prep Time

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Packing stuff. I hope it all fits :mrgreen:

It’s adjustment time again. I’ve resigned my position as a hairstylist for the time being. My daughter has gone back to college and is continuing to become her own adult person. The nest here is empty and my heart is sore. In a week’s time, I’ll be living in a tiny, tractor apartment again and occupying the shotgun seat as my husband delivers goods to consumers all over the country.

Of course, it’s not all bad. The door is open for me to return to the company I worked for this summer. My daughter and I have a solid relationship and I’m sure she’ll answer my phone calls once in awhile when she isn’t otherwise occupied by school or friends. And, as a passenger in my husbands tractor I’ll get to spend time with him and see more of our beautiful country.

I don’t know why the good always seems to be mixed with some bad stuff, but I do know I still have some planning and packing to do this week before moving into my new home. I guess I better get to it then.

Until next time, drive safely out there 🙂