Love Knows No Bounds

I noticed a missed call as I left work yesterday. I knew it was going to be bad. The voicemail was left in a low, almost hushed tone. “Chris, we’ve completed our diagnosis and we think it would be best if you come in to see us.” I jumped in my car and hit redial to tell them I was on my way. As I was navigating the DC drive-time nightmare my mind ran wild with what they may have found. What were my options; Replacement; Retirement; Deferral? Or was this more serious? Was the prognosis terminal? We had enjoyed a good run. We created so many warm memories; Memories that embraced some of the most beautiful things in life. We had shared memories that embodied a lifetime of thrills and laughter, frustrations and joy. I was getting ahead of myself. “Breathe deep Chris. Breathe deep.”

There comes that time in life where you question if you had done all you could to extend longevity. Had I done my due diligence and engaged in the right maintenance or had I taken too many convenient shortcuts? That’s the thing in life. So many times we go about doing the minimum, doing what has to be done and putting the really hard work off to a more convenient day. I started to justify the tradeoffs. The time and money I had saved putting hard choices off until another day had seemed like the best option at the time. The quality of life in that moment had held some value, hadn’t it? I would find out soon enough. I hate that daylight savings time had ended recently. As I pulled into the parking lot the sun was already setting. It seemed to me, to my internal clock, that this moment should have been the prime of days; late afternoon but not yet night.

“Mr. Wilcox?” asked the same voice from my voicemail. Somehow the voice seemed stronger now, more confident. I suppose if you are conditioned to giving bad news it becomes second nature at some point to understand the nuances of tone, inflection and volume. I recognized the tactics. As a trainer of adult learners I employ the same tools to keep my charges engaged. He had my full attention as we rounded the corner to his work station where he punched in what he needed to have the computer help relay his report. I didn’t fault him for this. I needed the whole truth. I needed him to give it to me straight. He hit print. Five pages of diagnostics came spitting out of the printer. If working off of a list would ensure he was thorough then I prefer he worked from a list.

I told him, “Give it to me straight. We’ve been together since 2004 and I know there are no others like her.”

“She’s been yours all along? He asked.

“Yes, it was love at first sight.”AAE222A7-3D3B-4FB3-AAAA-33E121CE1C4B

I knew taking my Harley in for her 50,000 mile check was the right thing to do. Normally I do most of the maintenance myself. The problem with that is the bike isn’t seen by a qualified factory trained technician and I don’t necessarily know what to look for when it comes to some of the more subtle routine maintenances. Some of the stuff I knew. I knew my cables had stretched, some of my oil lines had dry rotted and were beginning to seep oil. A few gaskets and bearings were hinting that they were tired and even more obvious things like tires and brakes could no longer be ignored. I listened and then listened some more. Most of it seemed reasonable and nothing he said seemed outrageous. Nothing until he told me the total of his estimate. $3,743 would be needed to bring my baby back to like new condition. “Make it so Doc.” Really; the service writers name is Doc. Now I just need to figure out what to tell the wife and kids about the void in my Christmas account this year. I’m sure they will understand. They all want me to be happy… most of all… deep down… probably.

 

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Losing My Religion.

On Sunday my church began a new series on the book of James. Our pastor emphasized that the book of James is a message to church going folks and that the message would make us uncomfortable. In fact he advised us to pray that our faith would be challenged in the series. I’ve been around church all my life and if there is one thing I know. Never pray for tests or anything like patience, courage and strength – pray for those and you are just begging for an episode in life where you will need all kinds of patience, courage and strength. I would have to think about it before actually making that prayer.

On the same Sunday our church launched fall community groups. Community groups are little breakout groups where you can meet with other folks and discuss each weeks sermons. The hope is for gleaning deeper understanding of the weekly message. My wife and I hadn’t IMG_5548participated in a community group in quite some time so we decided to sign up for this fall session. In that first meeting there was a fired up Christian who admonished us to confront everyone we meet with the good news of Jesus, a woman who was certain God uses hurricanes to get our attention and another person who believes Christians are under attack in America. I wanted to attack her for that but my wife kept deliberately making eye contact with me as a way to plead with me to keep my cool. After 35 years she kinda knows me like that.

If my faith were to be tested it really couldn’t be tested much more than it has been lately. I recently prayed and told God I don’t want to be a Christian anymore. Nobody could be more surprised hearing those words come out of my mouth than I was. My mind instantly flashed to my youth and Sister Mary Monica, the convent mother at our local parish. I was in a religion education class for public school kids and the Pastor came by to check on us. While visiting he kindly showed us a card trick and for some reason I thought it would be cute to remind him that cards are the tool of the devil. He IMG_5549laughed. Not because he thought it was funny. He laughed, I imagine, because he could see Sister Mary Monica swooping down from her perch with an eagle eye on the back of my head.

I’m not sure what hurt the most. The smack on the back of the head, the simultaneous grabbing of my earlobe and pulling me to my feet in one motion, or the fact that I was helpless and I was drug out of the room into the hall by an angry little Irish Nun in front of all of my buddies. They could do stuff like that to kids back in the 60’s. Then we got beat when we got home. When I hear kids today cry they will call services if they have privileges restricted I have to laugh. But I digress. The point was I sometimes am rather clumsy with proper reverence. God knew I didn’t want to break up with Him. He’s cool. I just don’t know that I want to be associated with “Christians” anymore. I kind of think they do more harm to His message than good. That was my point. I just wasn’t very eloquent expressing that in my prayers.

As my wife and I left our small group the unspoken understanding between us was palatable. My wife is much more tolerant than I am and I imagine she was waiting to see if she’d ever get the opportunity to go back and be a part of this group. At least she maybe wondered if she’d get an opportunity to go back and be a part of that group with me. I could tell it was something she wanted us to do together. I’m not stupid… All of the time… Sometimes. Before I said too much it came over me that this group might in fact be my faith test. I’ve been pretty angry with conservative Christians since, well forever, but most acutely since this last presidential election. Maybe it’s time I sit down and listen to them for a little bit. That God of mine, He’s a funny guy.

Pray for me.

 

Your Hidden Gifts.

My parents met post World War II while big band, dance halls and supper clubs were still the rage. I don’t have many stories of those times but the band names they referred to were the likes of Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, the Glen Miller Band, minus Glen Miller by that time, and the like. I think they actually met at an up and coming band leader Lawrence Welk gig. My dad claimed to not care for Lawrence Welk very much but you’d never know it from the hours of Saturday night time our television was dedicated to his TV program. My dad, while not a musician, shared his love of music with his kids. He encouraged us all to play an instrument but forgot to provide the gene pool. That’s OK. We are all proficient at volume control and tone settings on our music playback machines and my kids would tell you it’s rare to not hear music in our home if I’m in the house. I’m grateful for his gift of music appreciation. It provides a richness to my life I can’t imagine doing without.
Both of my parents are gone now. My main Pandora station is img_4813lightly mixed with music from their era. Every time a Sinatra, Miller or Dorsey song graces my playlist I have fond memories of growing up. Music transcends time and space in a special heartwarming way some times. I was born in 1960 and in the early years of my life a few dinner clubs were still around. The Colony Club sat high on a wooded hill in central Waterloo, Iowa. On special occasions I remember getting dressed up and joining my parents on “date night.” That’s how they did it. I could maybe count on one hand the times my parents went out and left us with a baby sitter. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to get rid of me to this day. I never learned what it was like to be excluded. I always just assume I belong wherever I happen to be.
The Colony Club was a candle lit fine dining establishment with tables surrounding a large hardwood dance floor that was edged by a large stage capable of holding twenty-five or better musicians. By the time I got to hear the bands play at The Colony Club I would imagine few had ever played with the great leaders bearing their name. I don’t suppose that mattered much to my parents much because they always seemed to get lost in the music. And that’s the funny thing. I always thought of my parents as the straight and narrow Ward and June Cleaver types. They were modest, practical and reverent… Until they hit the dance floor. Clayton and Anita would transform into something unrecognizable. Upon taking the floor they bestowed an elegance and grace that could only be capable if gravity did not apply to them. I’m talking Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers grace. In the event you think I exaggerate I’ll tell you, I thought long and hard and decided that is the best way to describe what I saw. I was always in awe of them, of the love they had for one another. What I wouldn’t give to see them dance once more.
We all have hidden little surprises stored away in our gifts and talents. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go through our lives in such a way that people would share that with us. Wouldn’t it be grand if we felt safe enough to share our gifts with others. What’s your hidden talent? Would you care to share?

He’s Baaaack!

hes-backHey Fam!

Wow… It’s been a while.  My actual original domain, Red Hog Diary.com has been sat on by some male enhancement squatter.  I suppose I should take that as a sign of flattery that the name recognition generated just a hint of commercial viability.  I hope they are doing better with it than I did.  I had fun sharing my world view with, at one point, up to 900 readers per day.  That was huge in my world but short of the critical mass required to actually generate ad revenue.  In the end trolls wore me out and I shut everything down.Excerpt.png

I found sharing my thoughts cathartic and The Red Hog Diary filled some big holes in my life at the time.  Suddenly, maybe in part as a result of this last election, I’m feeling those holes again.  I’m in a unique time and place where I will have a lot of time to write for a bit.  I’ll see if it catches and if it does, maybe we can hang out. I’m thinking the focus of my writing here might be something to do with finding a new way forward in this post political correct world we seem to have found for ourselves.

A book I am reading has really grabbed my attention lately.  Leaders Eat Last. From what I’ve gathered so far the idea is that we can only be our best when we feel safe in our immediate environments.  Our productivity and creativity shines when we feel secure in our own skin.  That sense of security affords us the ability to be at our best in all we do and gives us resilience in those situations where we face outside threats.  I wish the only outside threats any of us needed to worry about were severe weather or an alien invasion.  Such is not so.  Especially now.

And That is why I think I need to write again.  I’ll let you know when there is something to see here via Facebook.  Until then… This feels good.  Welcome home.

 

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