Posted in Stories, travel

2 Sides of Truck Life

Scenario of the story: I’m a long haul truck driver. It’s currently around noon and I’m parked at a truckstop in Laredo, Texas, taking a nap while I wait for my load to be ready for pick up later that afternoon.

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A gentle but persistent pressure in my bladder forces my brain to wake up and focus on the inevitable. My groggy eyes struggle to see in the enclosed darkness of the sleeper cab where I’ve been napping. I know I can’t put it off any longer, and so I make the decision to get dressed and start the trek across the truckstop yard to the restroom inside. No time to waste; my bladder has power of control over me and knows it. I better listen, or else.

I get up and open the truck door. A puff of hot and stale air blasts into my face. I carefully jump down the steps of the truck, slam the door shut and turn around.

Urine. A foul odour of hot urine mixed with stale air rises from the hot asphalt in the narrow space between my truck and the next one. But its okay. At this point my nose has acquired an automatic shutting down system to avoid inhaling putrid air like this. Some say the urine odour on hot asphalt isn’t actually human waste, but more likely just DEF emissions. Maybe some fuel spills and engine oils and transmission fluids. I beg to differ. I know for a fact that a lot of truckers don’t care about making it to the restroom in the middle of their sleep hours, like I do. Some of them make it outside of their door for relief. As disturbing as it is to think about, I know I have inhaled a lot of strangers’ excretory products by now.

As I make my way across the truckstop, the air clears a little and I can finally take a full breath. The oxygen is far from fresh though; after all, I am on a yard where there’s more than a 100 trucks parked and idling their engine emissions into the atmosphere.

I have now reached the door to the driver’s side entrance; yes, truck drivers do get their own entrance at truckstops, usually leading straight into a small store where oils, tires, and other truck maintenance things are sold. As I open the door and step into the store, I’m hit by even more uncomfortable smells; this time it’s a mixture of tires and soap fumes from the nearby drivers’ showers and, well, people. As I make my way through the shelves the smell intensifies but with added fumes of fried food and old coffee and restrooms.

Instinct makes you want to hold your nose into your shoulder so you don’t need to inhale all of those nasty smell particles.

This particular store in unusually busy and full. This is a place where people from 3 different countries wind up: Americans, Mexicans, and Canadians. I see people from all walks of life. Some are wearing beautiful shirts tucked into dark, fitted jeans, polished boots, and neat haircuts. I see others with baggy, oversized pants that threaten to slip down and are already giving me an undesired view of the colour of their underwear. I also see others who have yet to change out of their pj’s into day clothes, and shuffling about in shabby sandals where long, jagged and yellowed toenails point over the front edge of the soles. I always think that it’s precisely the latter that are to blame for the putrid smells dissipating between the trucks outside.

Do you realize I have now already used up 5 paragraphs describing unpleasant doors on the way to the restroom and I haven’t even made it into the actual restroom yet? I always suspect my sense of smell is extra sensitive; like that of a pregnant woman’s, but on steroids, because other people never seem to notice smells as much as I do.

So all things considered, I best not get into exactly what my restroom experience is like at this point. The good thing is that the ladies’ room is usually almost empty and if I run into someone, their toenails are usually in better shape. I proceed to find the cleanest stall with the whitest throne. Then I find the cleanest sink with the least black hair clumps and tooth paste spit. It can be a challenge, sometimes, to find clean amenities in this particular store. Especially during summer, the busy tourist months.

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On my way back outside, I make sure to avoid accidental bumping into someone. Another trucker holds the store door for me and I scurry hurry past with a polite thank you. Outside, I spy a man wearing a button shirt completely unbuttoned, his shiny white belly protruding into the sunshine. With an experienced manner, I cleverly change direction and slip between two parked trucks to escape. Not that I’m scared or feel unsafe; I just have no desire to meet someone who’s in the process of airing out his armpits.

Once back in the comfort of my own truck, I realize that this comfort doesn’t come without a price. When you’re using such a small, confined space as your bedroom, kitchen, office, and vehicle all at once, it’s quite hard to keep that small space clean and good smelling. Air fresheners mask it, but aren’t really the answer I’m looking for.

As you can hear, truck life has its challenges, especially for someone as fastidious about cleanliness as I. On the road, rarely a day goes by where everything goes as planned.

Being a truck driver, you have to be okay with getting up in the morning and doing your morning routine in a public restroom. You have to be okay with doing your hair, washing your face and brushing your teeth at a sink where strangers have gone through their routine before you. You have to be okay with twisting your unwashed bed hair into a bun on top of a bare face, wearing second day clothes while gorgeous, good smelling girls with perfect makeup and blown out curls come into the restroom to touch up their lipstick.

You have to be okay with not getting to shower every single day. Every once in a while you even have to be okay with having to do your laundry in a truckstop laundromat.  I’ve heard people say that they’d rather turn their underwear inside out and reuse it and it’d still be cleaner that way than if they’d wash it in a truckstop washer. That’s a joke, obviously, but most truck stop washers aren’t very appealing.

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By now you’re thinking “ew I could never be a truck driver” and if you’re the type that has to shower every day and can’t let other people see you without a perfect face of makeup and has to wear a perfectly styled outfit complete with shoes and accessories every day, I agree. You wouldn’t last an hour on the truck, much less a week and a half. But what I described up there is a very teeny tiny part of what truck life is about.

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Imagine a 6-lane interstate winding through gorgeous, towering mountains. Snow caps on top and deep, luscious greenery all the way down. You roll the window down and feel the pleasant mountain breeze blowing past the windshield as it’s speeding on through. The curves and steep mountain sides don’t even look dangerous when there’s such a wide, smooth road all the way through.

Then you drive over the top of the last mountain pass and suddenly you’re looking down on a big city whose lights are just beginning to twinkle in the last rays of the setting sun. Another half hour and you have left the mountains behind and find yourself amidst hundreds and hundreds of other trucks and cars through the bustling evening rush. Skyscrapers, billboards, and thousands of buildings are twinkling with lights, and no matter how many times you’ve been here, you still have stars in your eyes every time you see this.

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Then you arrive at the truck stop on the outskirts of the city. The yard boasts room for 400 trucks. You find a parking spot, then open an app on your phone and reserve a shower for inside. You grab your bag with clean clothes and toiletries and make your way inside. The foyer is huge; in the center it has a tall water fountain with green plants and benches all around, resembling a tiny park. Off to one side of the foyer is a huge convenience and gift store; the other side has a whole handful of different restaurants. You walk towards the third side, which is the shower side. You find the shower you reserved and punch in the pin number from your app on the keypad on the door. You enter, and see a double sink with a mirror covering the whole wall, a tv and a rainforest shower. It’s clean and good smelling and beautiful. It’s fancy, like you have your very own mini spa, completely free with no time limit.

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After a relaxing and refreshing hour in the “spa” you walk towards the good smelling restaurant area and sit down for a delicious dinner. After dinner you grab a huge cup of fresh coffee from the extensive coffee bar in the store and get back on the truck. You leave the twinkling city behind and drive off into the night, sipping coffee and listening to music. The road is almost empty now, and ahead you can see the black silhouette of another mountain.

After another few hours, long after your coffee is gone, you reach the top of the mountain pass. There’s a beautiful rest area carved into the mountain side with room for about 30 trucks and you decide to stop and sleep for the night.

You open the window of the sleeper, and through the window screen you can feel the mountain breeze softly blowing over your blanket as you snuggle in and drift off to sleep.

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In the morning, you wake up and the mountain air seems to vitalize every cell in your brain and body. You get up, get dressed and step outside. The air is a little foggy but the perfect temperature for a quick morning walk. You walk along a cemented path through a small wooded area towards the edge of the rest area and look down into a deep valley. There’s a lake at the bottom with water so clear you could drink from it. You can see down the valley, over the lake, and across the mountains for miles and it hits you: there truly is no other job that has perks this spectacular.

 

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I started writing this post in March. This week after watching my husband leave in his big rig (above photo) I decided to finish and publish it. All photos are my own.

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Posted in Life

Why I Don’t Drink Party and Drink

I recently wrote a blog post titled “Is beer okay for Christians?” and it quickly became one of my most read pieces. The reason for that was probably though because I made the mistake of announcing the new post on my Instagram with “there’s a rumour that my husband and I are drinking a lot” and of course, that garnered a lot of attention. I never thought I’d be one of those people stooping so low as to use click bait to get views but here I was, using clickbait. (Although, in my defence, it was not on purpose. Should’ve seen it coming though. (Of course, it never hurts my feelings to get a notification from WordPress that my stats are booming, haha.))

In that blogpost, which you can read here: Is Beer Okay for Christians? I tried to explain why it IS, in fact, okay to have a beer every now and then. (Any alcoholic beverage.) I compared pop to beer, and argued that one beer is healthier and less destructive to the body than one soda drink.

There are so many Bible verses about not being filled with wine but rather with the Spirit, how wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Which is, obviously, a 100% truth. My problem just is that so many Christians don’t think about what it REALLY means though. They translate these verses “Stay far away from all alcohol; it’s all bad”, when in reality these verses talk about being intoxicated. The alcohol is NOT the problem, just being drunk is.

The argument that we have to avoid alcohol completely because of how easy it is to lose control is impractical. Nonsense. As Christians, we have a Higher Power guiding us and helping us to make good decisions every second of every day.

It’s shocking to think of all the good and amazing things Christians lose out on just because they’re afraid of losing their self control. I’d hate to live my life in constant fear like that, always afraid of messing up and thus making myself avoid things and situations because I can’t trust God to give me self control and make good decisions. Instead, I have peace and I know I can go into my day with the ability to face WHATEVER may come my way and not stumble.

For arguments’ sake I’m going to throw this verse out there: “stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1. Timothy 5:23) The proven health benefits of a little alcohol are many. I might actually make a list of the benefits in a future blog post.

Why I don’t party

The people I work with define their life with drinking and plan their weekends around parties. Multiple times I’ve witnessed coworkers book a day off for hangovers because they’re going to a party the night before and want the freedom to not have to limit themselves. I’ve been asked so many times to join them for a drink after work and most often they’re okay when I say no. However I’ve been asked WHY I always say no and it’s hard to give someone a satisfactory answer in just a sentence or two.

So here I am, listing some literal reasons of why I don’t drink and party.

Being hungover all those mornings takes such a huge amount of productivity hours away from your life forever. I know this is extremely obvious to non-drinkers, but believe me, people who drink don’t see this. At all. Hangovers are as much a normal part of their routine as making the bed every morning is for me. I’m only 23, but I’m old enough to realize and admit that most productivity happens when you have a clear and present mind. Even if you don’t necessarily get up super early to get stuff done, you can still use those hours to get some sleep in and wake up healthy and rested instead of sick and full of regrets.

Money. I just can’t afford it. Even just 1 glass of cheap grocery store wine every night adds up. To me it’s just an unnecessary amount of money that I’d rather spend somewhere else. Priorities, I guess. This is also something that I can not explain to my coworkers. They’d argue that you can get drunk for less than $40 dollars and everyone has that much money after working all week. Excuse me, but to me $40 is almost a full week of groceries or 2 whole weeks of gas. To me, $40 is a LOT.

Not to mention how extremely fast costs just add up. Just one more. It’s only $6. Next thing you know your tab is $130. Add that amount up to every weekend in one year and man, that’s money I’d FOR SURE regret spending, especially since I’d be sick every single time.

Embarrassing things that you do when you’re drunk. Those late night texts to your ex are only a very small part of it. And there are so many other things that I’m not going to list because that’s pointless and too embarrassing to even think about.

Risk losing your future. The thing is, all it takes is ONE bad move to get in trouble, land in jail, and compromise your future forever. One bad move and you could end up with an incurable disease or unplanned pregnancy or extreme self hatred and regret. One bad move and you could lose your job, your house, your car, your life, basically everything. And for me, that’s just way too much to risk.

Parties prevent success. I love my coworkers, but there’s a reason they work minimum wage jobs and see nothing else for their future. Their families work other minimum wage jobs and together, they’re able to afford rent and their old vehicle maintenance and together with their vacation pay, they can even afford to go on vacation for a week every year. But they can’t even imagine ever coming up with enough money for a downpayment on a house or ever start their own business or any other investments.

What I say next will sound like I think I and my family are better than them. I apologize in advance for how it sounds.

In my (extended) family, there are business owners and company owners and teachers and school principals and pastors and paramedics and doctors and homeowners. Respectively, they drive well maintained (brand new) paid off vehicles, live in beautiful homes that they’ve built from scratch and paid in full (no mortgage). They all have healthy, beautiful, and smart children. They know that when they die they’ll have something to pass on to their children. And you know what? Not one of them drinks. They didn’t get what they have by partying every weekend.

Call me crazy but I would rather live a “boring grandma life” and have a future and have something to pass on to my children than live a “fun and exciting life” and never get anywhere, end up with nothing and have nothing to offer the next generation. (Not that I live a boring grandma life. I have a very fun, exciting life even without alcohol. That’s just how fun of a person I am, haha.)

So yeah. I would rather drink a beer or a glass of wine instead of soda and also believe in the medicinal benefits of alcohol. But I am very, VERY much against excess drinking.

What about you?

I love to hear what my readers think; if you are with me and have more reasons to add to this list, drop them below. Aaaand, if you’re NOT with me, drop your arguments down below! I don’t plan to argue; I just want to be able to look at things from YOUR perspective.

Posted in Life

Breaking Apart and Thriving (Canada Day)

I had one of those “it hit me all over again” moments today. Where I realized that Oh Em Gee I seriously live in Canada. I didn’t use to live here, and now I do. Like, I look out the window, and that tree that I see is a Canadian tree. Attached to Canadian soil. The wind blowing through the leaves is Canadian too. It’s a crazy feeling. I love it.

In one month, it’ll be 3 years since my husband and I took a road trip. A road trip that spanned across two international borders and a whole country. We had our black Cadillac car stuffed to the top with some our belongings and sped off to a new land, new beginnings, a new life.

Starting over.

We uprooted ourselves, out of the tiny pots we had been planted in, and repotted ourselves into a much, much bigger pot with strange soil.

I’ll not get into all the reasons of why we did it. That’s way to much for a blogpost. But I can say with a hundred percent assurance that neither my husband nor I have ever, not even for a second, regretted our decision.

And the longer we are here, the more I can see, and the more grateful I am for this life. I’m so, so proud of my husband and myself for doing this. Not because Canada is better, not because we didn’t have a good life, but because this move gave us a chance to be uprooted.

Plant roots, when confined to small spaces, will continue to grow in on themselves. This limits their ability to grow. It prevents them from thriving. The most gracious thing we can do for roots is to break them apart, gently, so they can branch out and grow.

It breaks my heart when I try to imagine the kind of life my husband and I would have if we had forced our roots to stay in that small pot. We’d be there, know the same people, the same community, the same schools, the same government systems, the same economy, the same country as our parents. We’d never have the chance to experience what else is out there. We’d never have the chance to branch out and thrive.

Sure, we could’ve traveled to “see what else is out there”. We could’ve visited other countries, other cultures, met other people. We could have, and we did. But we always came back to that small pot we had been planted and in the process we were not allowing our roots to thrive.

I didn’t see it that way then. And how could I have, when my roots were so crammed up in that tiny pot? The reason we moved wasn’t because we realized we needed to thrive and couldn’t do it there. I didn’t look at it that way then, but I do know. And the reason I do is because I know that my roots have been able to grow somewhere else. I’ve experienced other things. I’ve seen and heard and learned things that I never would have if we had stayed where we were. Just knowing how easily I could’ve missed out on this life scares me.

I can’t stress enough how much I believe that it’s vital for people to be uprooted at some point in their lives. If you disagree with that statement, it’s because you yourself have stayed in the same pot and your roots have never had a chance to break apart. You’ve grown in on yourself and sadly, can’t see past yourself. And you won’t, not until you get out.

Now, I don’t mean that I think everyone should move three countries away from their parents. But I do think that people that stay in the same place forever never thrive. How can they, with everything being and staying the same?

I’m grateful for this life every single day. Not all of our plans have worked out the last few years. It hasn’t always been very easy. And I even miss my home country sometimes. (Viva Mexico!) But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if that meant getting the chance to rip my roots out and thrive.

It’s hard to explain how my husband and I feel about everything. In a nutshell, I guess I’d say peace. Peace and complete assurance that we are where we’re supposed to be.

We’re home.

Today, on July 1, we celebrate Canada. And I’m proud and grateful.

Posted in Life, Random

Is Beer Okay for Christians?

Growing up, I was told that alcohol is highly addictive and smart people avoid it at all costs. I got the idea that one beer would turn me into a drunkard and I’d end up in a life living in a dirty shanty beating up my kids.

I’m sure it’s not exactly what my parents tried to teach me, but it’s the gist of the ideas that I got.

When my husband started trucking and we had to eat in restaurants every day, I stopped drinking pop. Mostly cuz ordering a drink adds up to a lot of money over a course of time and the already expensive bills are a little bit cheaper if you get a no charge glass of water.

Even though I started drinking water at meals to save money, I began to notice a lot of minor but amazing changes in myself for cutting out soda. And I liked it. I began ordering water because I liked it, and not only to save money.

I occasionally drink a can of coke. I don’t like it if people make it obvious that they’re on a diet or avoiding certain foods, and so if I’m in a certain situation, instead of drawing attention to myself or making a big deal out of it I drink soda. It hasn’t killed me yet.

Recently my husband and I began discussing different addictions, like sugar addictions, soda addictions, and yes, alcohol addictions. My husband said that sometimes he felt addicted to soda, because when he hadn’t had one in a few days he really craved it.

I began doing some research. Fascinating and mind blowing stuff, actually. I’m not going to share everything I read, or even links, because all I did was google and everyone can do that for themselves. I did some cross comparisons: soda against beer (beer, not wine or spirits or any other alcoholic bevs).

Here’s the gist:

Whereas soda has no nutritional value, beer actually has a little. Too much alcohol damages your liver, but too much soda damages your arteries, heart, skin, and other organs. Beer is proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, improve cholesterol, and more. Soda, well, my mom told me to drink coke when I had diarrhea. I guess that’s something.

Here’s the bottom line:

If you’re at a barbecue on the weekend and need a drink to go with that fat, juicy steak, grab a beer instead of a soda. It’s literally healthier. One beer will still keep you below the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration, even if you’re a small, skinny person with zero alcohol tolerance.

The thing is, drinking too much beer will make you woozy (and worse, lol). Drinking too much soda doesn’t make you woozy, and there’s no laws for soda drinkers. Alcohol addiction is taken seriously, soda addiction isn’t. I get it why people can be very much against drinking. Drinking has killed a lot of people; soda hasn’t.

If you’re still reading, I really hope you understand what I’m trying to say. I have never seen my dad have a beer, and I’ve often heard the saying “to avoid addiction, don’t start at all”. I guess it’s the same meaning as don’t play with fire. However, I just don’t believe in that approach. I believe in moderation and self control and discipline. (Getting addicted to alcohol is actually harder than you’d think; and if always consumed responsibly and in moderation it’s pretty much impossible.)

I’ve been planning this post for a while now, but yesterday someone I used to know years ago (haven’t seen him in years, but we follow each other on Instagram) sent me a dm and said rumour has it (back in my small town area where I grew up) that my husband and I drink a lot of alcohol. At first I was in disbelief, then in shock, then in embarrassment, then in anger. People who haven’t seen or talked to us in years spread lies about us. It’s not fair, but hey, we do still live in this side of heaven. Anyway, that’s why I decided to post this today.

Manitoba (where we live) has extremely strict laws for drinking and driving. Not only that, but also for distracted driving. Like I could get pulled over if a cop saw me pushing the ac button on my dashboard, or drinking water while driving. So yeah, seeing as how my husband makes his living with his drivers license, he’s extremely careful with them. The heavy drinking rumour is, in fact, entirely false. Sorry, guys. I know that doesn’t make for exciting gossip.

Water is always better. Water is best. On a hot afternoon in the sunshine at a barbecue though, I’ll have no problem enjoying a cold one.

As Christians, we’re supposed to be a light and a good example of the followers of Christ for the world. Meaning we probably shouldn’t go get hammered in bars every weekend. But we show bad attitudes, over eat, indulge, judge, and gossip just like the rest of the world. That is wrong, but so is the belief that just because you’re a Christian you have to avoid alcohol at all costs. Having a beer or a glass of wine with dinner has nothing to do with being a Christian; Christians’ bodies work the same way as non Christians’ bodies.

Let’s talk in the comments!

(On such a touchy subject I feel compelled to write a disclaimer. Like I mentioned above, alcohol addiction is an extremely serious condition. If people start feeling like they need an alcoholic substance (or more) to wind down and relax at the end of the day, nip it in the bud before it gets worse. There’s always help if you want it.)

Posted in book review

Book Review: The Tinderbox

Book: The Tinderbox

Author: Beverly Lewis

Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing Group)

About the book: With her parents’ twentieth anniversary approaching, eighteen-year-old Sylvia Miller finds her father’s cherished brass tinderbox left unlocked. Against her better judgement, Sylvia opens the heirloom, not realizing what she’s about to discover will splinter apart her happy life and alter everything for her close-knit Old Order Amish family. As the long-kept secret emerges into the light of day, can the Millers find a way forward through the turmoil to a place of forgiveness?

My Review:

As all of Lewis’ books, this one is a simple and easy read. For avid readers, it definitely doesn’t take more than a few sittings to finish it. One thing I always enjoy in Lewis’ books is the descriptions of how characters behave after something drastic happens. For example, after Sylvia opens her dad’s secret tinderbox and discovers what’s inside, she feels distant towards her dad and hesitates to approach him with anything, and makes excuses not to go anywhere with him, because she feels guilty for doing something she knows she shouldn’t have. And that’s exactly the way it’s described in the book; no need for several paragraphs explaining how heavy the secret weighed on her heart – just simply telling the reader what she did. And that one reason Lewis’ books are so easy to read. (The example I just used is not a spoiler; that part is written on the back cover.)

In the beginning, the story progresses pretty slow, which can be a bit boring. However, if you’ll pull through and uncover all the secrets in the tinderbox, it’s very interesting to read. And the best part, the ending is a huge surprise. Fiction novels are pretty predictable sometimes, and in a way this one was too (which is not a bad thing) but with an unexpected surprise which will make you HAVE to read the sequel, available in September 2019.

All in all, if you like Amish fiction, this is a worthwhile read.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.