Wednesday, May 31, 2006

God Bless the Children

We received this news on Monday. My heart goes out to the Andersons. I can't imagine how hard it would be to have to make this kind of decision. We were lucky...our choices were made for us. The fact that they are able to cope with this is more evidence to me of God's love and strength.

I know some might question why God would allow people, especially a child, to suffer like this. I don't know all the reasons why these things happen, I don't like them, but I don't blame God. God didn't bring disease into this world. All he did was give us the ultimate gift of love: freedom of choice. I do know that Caleb and his family have touched many lives with his courage & faith and how they have handled everything.

Even though we have to endure heart breaks like this in life there are so many stories of miracles. Let me tell you one:

Tyler came by Monday afternoon and spent the rest of the day with us. I debated whether or not to tell him. Tyler didn't know Caleb. While we were all outside enjoying the day I watched him going 90-to-nuthin' and couldn't help but remember how he started life: 3 months early, 2 pounds 2 ounces, 10" long (shorter than my forearm), so small his body and head fit in the palm of my hand. He spent the first 3 months of his life in the intensive care unit at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. The doctors told us that if he lived he might be blind, might need open heart surgery to correct a miss-formed valve, might not be able to breath without a ventilator or oxygen mask because his lungs hadn't formed properly...among a book-full of other possible problems. If he survived long enough he might not walk until he was 8 or 9, if ever, and then only after surgery and with corrective shoes and braces.

Now I see this long-legged skinny kid, 125% boy, that runs like the wind, is into EVERYTHING, asks 90 questions an hour, swims like a fish, can outrun most grown men on a bicycle, has enough energy to power about 4 city blocks and a heart of pure gold filled with love and compassion for everything and everybody. Where others might look at the skinned knees and elbows and think he's too rough I look at them and thank God that he has legs and arms that move and is able to go out and skin them. All with no surgery or complications except one slightly lazy eye. Lungs fully developed and a totally healthy heart. I don't have to look very far to see boat loads of God's miracles.



...Just Ride continued

I'm trying to take back control...or something like that.

I haven't done a ton but I have started back. So far just walking through the door at the club feels like a victory. I forgot how good a pump feels! Here's to taking it slow and steady.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

...Just Ride

It's 90, clear, breezy, and humid. The weather's been right but for some reason I can't get motivated to go ride. I can always find an excuse: work, tasks for Beauty, something at church, mow the how bad is that? I'd rather mow the yard than go for a long bike ride.

When my old truck, affectionately referred to as "The Beast" by friends and family for years (a 1-ton extended cab 4x4 Ford with with the giant 460 V-8 and 190,000 mile on it) died about 3 years ago I didn't rush out to replace it for several reasons:
  • Gas was already going up and I just couldn't handle 8 mpg anymore
  • Have you seen the cost of new trucks?
  • My days of needing something that could tow half the world were pretty much behind me
  • Insurance
  • Everyone and their 3rd cousin wanted to borrow it or, worse, for me to come help them move 'something'. Usually all their worldly possessions or something very heavy.
  • I had been riding my bike to work for the better part of a year anyway (5 mile commute 1-way) so transportation wasn't an immediate problem
  • Beauty still had her SUV (245,000 miles but in better shape than 'The Beast')

Just before this Beauty started working for the same guy as me but she worked from home (gotta' love the flexibility of web-based apps!) and I worked out of an office at a warehouse. I just rode the bike every day. It was wonderful...I would rack up at least 75 miles a week between work, working out and even riding to church. I was in the best shape of my life. I could take off and ride for 30 or 40 miles and not even think about it.

Then a series of things happened and I began to loose my motivation to ride, work out & eat healthy. Among those things: I bought a motorcycle in January of '05. In the barn at the pasture where Beauty keeps her horses the guy she rents from had an old 1978 Honda CB-750K with the full Vetter faring package and only 7,200 original miles. One day I casually said he should sell it to me and he took me up on it. I bought it for less than most good road bicycles go for now.

A little clean up and maintenance and she purrs like a kitten. I'm hooked. It's a blast to ride, can take me anywhere faster than I would ever want to get there and is slightly more economic than the old 'Beast'. It gets @40 mpg in town and only costs $120 PER YEAR for insurance!

Like I said in the beginning, now I have a hard time getting motivated to ride the bicycle & do what I know is good or me. I've gained back a good portion of the weight I lost. I eat wrong again and not much better on what I drink.

One thing I noticed when I rode all the time and worked out regular: your body won't let you get away with eating wrong near as don't even desire the bad stuff. It's like the body says "Oh no you don't. We're going to stick with the good stuff." Kind of like Galatians 5:17 the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Boy, isn't that the truth. When I did what was right and good for me I desired to do that more than eat wrong and be lazy. When I got careless about my habits and let my motivation slip I was dragged away (pretty willingly) to the stuff I knew wasn't good for me. It's like a vicious circle with no end. Now even though I want to do what I should I find it hard to because my desires drag me back to where I am. I'm just going to have to suck it up, kick against the tide and get back in the saddle.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Summer is here...has been here for a while, actually.

Well, it’s July here in Texas. At least that’s what the thermometer says. I finally acknowledged that spring was over and fixed the yard up this weekend. Actually spring here only lasts from about mid February through mid March. Summer is from mid March until Thanksgiving. Fall, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, and winter from Christmas until mid February…now you know the Texas Seasons.

Beauty needed help getting our above ground pool ready to open. We drained, scrubbed, and started filling. Should take a couple of days to finish filling and get the pump in order. Then I may enjoy a little floating around, maybe a little refreshment…all after the lawn is mowed, of course…


Song of the Week: Hurt

By Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stain of time
The feeling disappears
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way


Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Feast

From my friend c but no e - Cory
What is the last thing you had to have repaired?
My wife's car

If someone gave you $2,000 with the stipulation that you had to spend half of it on yourself and give the rest to charity, where would you spend the $1,000 and which charity would receive your remaining $1,000?
On myself: downpayment on a new (to me) motorcycle. For charity: the woman that works with us who needs the money to go back home to Argentina.

What is one of your favorite songs from the 1980s?
"Wishing You Were Somhow Here Again" from Phanotm Of The Opera

Main Course
You enter a pet store. Which section do you go to first?
The Basset Hound puppies.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how athletic are you?
In reality: 3
In my dreams and in spirit: 10


Friday, May 19, 2006

For Jeremy

My friend Jeremy at Jeremy-Gilby-Dot-Com lost his mother on May 17, Wednesday. Jeremy, you are in my prayers. I know what a tough time you are going through. You are absolutely right: 31 is too young to loose your mother. Your mother was WAY too young to go.

You ask the question "How does one grieve?" Answer: you follow your heart. You do what you feel you need to. If that means going off on your own, you do it. If that means later you need to be around people and talk about happy times, you do it. If it means after that you need to find someone close that understands and bawl your eyes out, you do it.

As long as we remember that we don't grieve like the rest of the world because we know the hope we have. Even Jesus wept over Lazarus knowing he was going to raise him up.

Oh, one other thing: don't you dare feel guilty about not being there! Your presence would not have changed the outcome. You were already blessed with the greatest gift...your last word to each other. The rest you will finish someday face to face...and she will be more beautiful and more healthy than you ever saw her here on this rock.

I guess the thing that gets me through times like this is the promise and the knowledge that He saw it coming and is there to help us through it: Isaiah 65:24 "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."

Sleep well, brother, sleep well.


To My Children's Children's Children

I want to thank everyone for bearing with me while I started into this and for your comments and support. I especially thank Russ, Jeremy and Alison. You were the example I looked to for how to start. I wanted to try to get the broadest sketch down so my children can have a record of what's happened in our least from my point of view (I realize this is a one sided tale, but, that's the only side I know). Hopefully they will understand a little bit of what made me the way I am...good and bad. I have encouraged my beautiful wife to make a chronicle of her family...she has a much more heroic and touching tale than I do...maybe some day soon she will. (She's allot better looking than me too...hence pics of her, none of me)

I will continue to post on the things that I love: pro cycling, youth ministry, anything tech or cutting edge science, more family tales from time to time, loathing of the cowboys...

The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wigs
Calloo, Callay, come run away
With the cabbages and kings.
Hang's going to be a fun ride!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Gentle Rain

Even with the struggles, trials, and tribulations of the 'Selling Time' there was an aura of peace over everything. I knew this was the right path. After a year and a half of trying, on May 27th 1997, we finally sold the last location and I was, suddenly, free. I didn't know what to do with myself. For the first time in my adult life I didn't have to worry about robberies or employees or cash shortages.

I was able to take about 3 months off. It was summer...I spent the days mowing the lawn and floating in the pool. I helped with a High School mission trip and church camp. I still wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life but that was about to change.

I followed a friend's advice and applied for a tech support job. To my surprise I got it. I got a job doing MSN Technical Support. I went to work for 40 hours a week, I did my job, I left 'them' alone and 'they' left me alone. It was a blast...they were paying me to play with computers and to help other people with their computers. At 39 I was one of the older people working the phones. So many of my friends around me thought it was a super high stress environment. Sorry, they didn't know what high stress was. This was heaven. This was a time of healing and cleansing for me. For the first time in my life I looked forward to each new day. I learned how wonderful it was to want to go to work each day. There weren't any swords hanging over my head. Was this really happening? Had they made a mistake? I was afraid they would wake up and tell me I wasn't suppose to be there...that I was enjoying it too much.

I realized what a precious gift this all was. I promised God that I was there until He told me it was time to move. He's moved me 3 times since then but each time there's been a job waiting that was better and more enjoyable than the one before, especially the one I have now...this job has re-united me with my beautiful wife and we are again working together.

I realized after a while that what I did for a living...the thing that kept the roof over our heads...didn't matter nearly as much as just being open to God's voice and being ready and willing to use the gifts He's given whenever the chance comes up.

Even though there are ups and downs from time to time I can honestly say that my worst days now are better than my best days used to be. What a blessing.


What Rough Beast

Just as we started to break through the fog and see beauty in life again we lost another one. My wife commented that we had as many loved ones on the other side waiting for us now as what we had here with usual, she was right.

Shortly after Mom died I did something I should have done years earlier while Mom was here to see it...I quit a 3-pack a day habit. After 3 months I felt like I had won the battle. I don't think I was too bad...just don't ask my wife...she will lie about me. If you ever need encouragement kicking "death sticks" contact me and I will be glad to help.

During the first year or so business went remarkably smooth. We didn't suffer any unexpected expenses or wild swings in the gas market. We decided not to do anything drastic for at least a year. During the time Mom fought her cancer the state voted in the lottery. We signed up for it not really knowing what it meant...just knowing we had gotten tons of mail from the state saying we had better join in or we would be left out. It started just before she died. I remember the first day of lottery sales...we were only selling scratch off tickets then. I watched a women come in with $125 cash from her paycheck. She bought $20 worth of tickets and won $30. Instead of taking the money and going she spent it on $30 more. She lost it all. She kept buying, winning occasionally, but never taking the winnings and leaving. We tried to tell her to take it easy and stop but she became angry and told us to leave her alone. Eventually she lost her entire paycheck and commented that she had to pick up the kids at the day care and now didn't have the money to.

I didn't sell booze (we were in a 'dry' town...a town that doesn't sell alcohol) but I was doing something just as bad...I was participating in the state's "stupid tax"...taxing the ones who could least afford it. As time went by I watched others ruin theirs an their family's lives because of gambling addictions rooted in the lottery. This addiction was as bad as the one that killed Brother.

After Mom's died I met the new pastor at our church, Randy Rudisell. I was wanting to start back I told him the problems I had before with people's hipocracy. He said, "just give it one more try with no expectations. I guarantee you God won't disappoint". I did. I went back and ingored the people and found God there waiting. I will always be grateful to Dr. Randy for helping me break through the barrier that Christians can erect that keeps people out of fellowship with God.

Eventually I started teaching Jr. High guys in Sunday school. One Sunday we were talking about keeping yourself from getting into the bad crap of this drinking and gambling. One of the guys, Casey (God bless him) asked "if gambling is wrong why do you sell lottery tickets at your stores?" I will love him forever for speaking his heart. I thought, "Well, he's right. Why am I part of the state's gambling racquet?"

Over the next few weeks I thought & prayed. I decided that I didn't want to be part of the problem any more. We quit selling lottery tickets. It became rapidly apparent that we couldn't do that and stay in business I told my wife "if I have to sell lottery tickets to stay in business I'm going to find another business to be in"

WHAT WAS I SAYING?!?! For 37 years I had towed the party line. What would I do? What could I do? I couldn't make a living outside the Family Business...Mom had assured me of that. The only thing I was good at other than business was computers and you couldn't make a living in computers unless you were a programer, right?

After fighting family, friends and demons I made the choice to get out of the Family Business...I took a GIANT leap of faith off a GIANT cliff against EVERYONE'S better advice. The day...the very instant I made that decision it was like a blanket of protection wrapped itself around me. I didn't know what laid ahead but I knew it would be ok and that I wasn't alone.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Down To A Sunless Sea

When my brother died the world stopped. He was the oldest. He was the smartest. This wasn't supposed to happen for at least 40 years or so. Mom was supposed to go first (her words, not mine). We were lost...I was lost. I tried to do the the stuff. So did Mom and Beauty. Once Mom said 'we should probably just give up since he's gone and get out of it'. For some reason I said 'I don't care if hell freezes over I'm not going to give the devil the satisfaction.' He had gotten brother...had taken his life through the alcohol but not his spirit...that was comfortably at home...he wasn't going to get The Business. At this point in time we were REALLY struggling to make ends meet.

But, like a few years earlier with Dad, I was lucky. I didn't blame God for any of this. I realized it wasn't God that pushed my brother to grow all we could, to get obligated to the hilt, to get all the "stuff" he could (and when that wasn't enough to abandon can figure out who I'm talking about). I realized it wasn't God that put the booze in his hand. That choice was his...but, maybe not all the other choices were his. I know who I point the finger at and it wasn't at God.

During this time I did deal with some anger 'issues' of my own: how DARE he do this. How DARE he leave me here alone. HE was supposed to be here to help me run the Family Business. HE was supposed to be here to help me handle Mom (who, after 10 years, was still grieving after Dad...who was still supposed to be here too by-the-way). Brother possessed the gift of foresight and the financial skills to grow the business while I was able to realte to and work with people (one of his extreme weaknesses). I couldn't help it. I was mad at him. He had shuffled up the normal order of things. Beauty realized this too. So did Mom. It wasn't the best of times in so many ways for any of us.

But, in other ways we learned so much. Just like when Dad died we learned we could get by in extreme circumstances. We realized that no one was irreplaceable. I realized that there's nothing wrong with stopping work at 5:45 because the sun is setting and everyone needs to get out and watch it set. I learned that there are other things to do on Sunday afternoons besides watch some idiots ruin the Dallas Cowboys. I learned that I had a family that loved me and I loved and that they meant more to me than I realized. (back to that old 'who we love and who loves us' thing).

So during this tough time we all did allot of growing and learning. Eventually we hit the bottom, spiritually and realistically. We realized spiritually that it was all between each of us individually and wasn't a group project. Realistically we realized that money...the business...wasn't everything. It had taken enough time and cost our dearest blood but we realized it.

About this time Mom realized something was wrong with her. Within 2 1/2 years of Brother's death she had sugury to remove a cancerous kidney and died shortly after.

The hits just kept on coming.


No Way Down

Even though I had it made (I had the best wife and partner any man could ask for) I didn't realize it. Instead of running away with Beauty I stayed and fought battles. Life was chaotic and uncertain. We had 3 children of our own before our 4th anniversary. The middle one, a son, we lost at birth. All this while we both worked 6-7 day weeks, countless hours, and raised the 2 older ones.

We did the church-on-Sunday-thing. Wasn't that what you were supposed to do? I was raised in the First Baptist Church from the time I was born so I was used to doing church. During this time of work I was able to go about 1 out of 3 Sundays when I wasn't working. Eventually the pressure piled up, though. We hadn't taken time to grieve for the child we lost until about a year later. When it finally caught up it wouldn't be ignored. We had a spiritual breakthrough then and moved on to a new level of how things work.

Eventually I got tired of being looked down on at church because I wasn't coming every Sunday so I said to heck with it. I wasn't there to please people. I wasn't sure at that point what the use of going was. Thanks to your average-every-day-Baptist and to my hard-headedness we quit going. I wasn't going to waste my time at church with a bunch of hypocrites and bigots. Those types of people weren't supposed to be at church anyway, were they?

About this time I thought that if we quit the Family Business and went away...WAY Vermont or Colorado or Arizona...that would change everything. Life would be a dream. But every time we made plans to move something would happen that sucked us back in.

While the business grew steadily during these years every gain meant a heavier toll extracted in pressure and obligations. I had always enjoyed a brew now and then but during these years I found myself enjoying it a little more than usual...too much maybe. During this time I didn't realize that Brother had fallen hard into alcohol addiction. It happened for him at college, actually. Brother wasn't one of those that drank a couple or three a day. He could go days without but would spend the weekend making up for it. Eventually it got to the point that when he started he couldn't stop until he passed out...even if that was several days down the road. Once he woke up, he'd start again. This pattern would go on for weeks or months until some sort of 'intervention' (to use the clinical word) would happen. Then lives would be evaluated and promises would be made until the next time. Then the whole cycle would start over again. This went on for about 5 years. By this time his wife decided to end it.

Who knows why he chose this path. Was it pressure for success? From Mom? From the Family Business? Maybe. He made his choices. Eventually it cost him his marriage. It cost him his children (he couldn't go a custody weekend with his boys without going off the wagon). Alcohol crept into every corner of our lives. Anyone who says substance problems only affect the one person has never been through it. This almost killed Mom, it almost killed my marriage, and one September night at the age of 37 it killed my brother.


The next great BLOG tool?

Looks like Microsoft is taking BLOGGING seriously. Check it out: Blogging From Word 2007. Has some great screen shots. I have to admit the thought of only having to mess with one interface is very appealing.


Maybe Merlin was right...

Since childhood I've been fascinated by stories of King Arthur the Knights of the Round Table. I am probably one of the few kids from my High School who voluntarily read 'Le Morte d'Arthur' and 'The Once and Future King'. There's just something about the whole 'chivalry' and 'code of honor' thing that is very uplifting.

A concept I found interesting in 'Once and Future King' was how Merlin lived 'backwards' in time. As the story goes he was born hundreds of years in the future and was living backwards in the eyes of the people living normal through time he grew younger as the years passed. A look around his medieval forest cottage showed fly fishing rods, baseball bat and glove, along with the dancing dishes that washed themselves.

It's been reported several times in the last few years that researchers have been able to speed up and slow down light. Now the Science Blog reports that researchers have been able to make light travel BACKWARDS. Check out the report.

If light can reach it's destination before it's sent, like this seems to suggest, that matches a story I read about 5 years ago where researchers accelerated particles in a super collider so fast that they arrived at the target before they were launched. They speculated that the particles actually traveled beyond light speed but they said they weren’t ready to say so officially. Could scientists be flirting with the time barrier?


Monday, May 08, 2006

The Ride Of Silence

When: May 17, 2006

Time: 7:00 pm

Where: At over 120 U.S. locations and eight other countries

Join cyclists worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride (max. 12 mph/20 kph) in honor of those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways.

Why does this ride exist?

To HONOR those who have been injured or killed

To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here

To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD


On May 17 at 7:00 PM, the Ride of Silence will begin in North America and roll across the globe. Cyclists will take to the roads in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Although cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the motoring public often isn't aware of these rights, and sometimes not aware of the cyclists themselves.

In 2003, Chris Phelan organized the first Ride Of Silence in Dallas after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and was killed.

The Ride Of Silence is a free ride that asks its cyclists to ride no faster than 12 mph and remain silent during the ride. There is no brochure, no sponsors, no registration fees and no t-shirt. The ride, which is being held during Bike Safety month, aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for those who have been killed or injured.

If there is a Ride of Silence in your area, I encourage you to join them. If there is not a ride planned in your area, please consider adding your city to the ever-growing list of sites. To get information on how to organize and host a Ride of Silence, please click HERE.