Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pain And Loss

Ecclesiastes 1:18
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

"I look around and I see these young faces and I think I mean I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh.... I pi**ed away all my money believe it or not.
I chased off anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately, I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.
You know when you get old in life things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff."
Al Pacino - Any Given Sunday

If there's something that we all go through in life, it's pain and loss. The effects are deep and can last a lifetime. For me, on a physical level my thrice operated on ankle causes me constant pain. I've only recently learned that just about every other ache and pain in my body traces back to me dealing with that pain. The injury also has caused loss: I can't play sports at the level I used to and I've had to stop playing some sports completely because of it. On a larger level, that's just a small example of what goes on when we live life. It seems that everywhere I look I see pain and loss.

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind
Jackson Browne - Running On Empty

These past few years have been heightened with pain and loss as I walk through life. It seems that I've endured the difficulties of twenty years in the past two. With it has come stress, deep bouts of depression and anxiety, loss of sleep, nightmares, and just general lack of energy. I tried reading a book recently and just can't seem to focus enough to get through a chapter. I've seen so many other people suffering and I either feel it so deeply that it brings me down or I just shut down. I keep thinking just how low my tank has been and yet somehow I continue on. It even has taken its toll on me physically as I have suffered from Shingles last year. My friend Phil said that it's part of the cost of intentionally ministering to people: it's full of pain and loss and you're going to feel it. I continually find myself skimming over Ecclesiastes relating to what Solomon had to say and was only subtly able to answer. What do we do with all of this pain and loss?

Well, people got used to seeing them both together.
But now he's gone and life goes on, nothing lasts forever, oh no.
She gets the house and the garden, he gets the boys in the band.
Some of them his friends, some of them her friends, some of them understand.
Lord knows that this is just a small town city, yes, and everyone can see you fall.
James Taylor and JD Souther - Her Town Too

I've been hesitant to write about this but I'm in the final stages of my impending divorce. It's been a painful journey. I know that I'm very much responsible for not dealing with my junk over the years and people have suffered for that. I know that in many ways I deserve the full force of the fallout from this situation. I now live a life seeking new structure. It's full of emptiness and loneliness. It's a situation of my own doing. It's consequence of hurting those I was called to love. It's full of pain and loss.

Ecclesiastes 3:20
All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

Psalm 90:10
Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 

I have covered in great detail the ongoing struggle my precious daughter,Amanda is going through. I think of her and the pain she goes through. It is a helpless feeling knowing there's little I can do to alleviate it. Even worse was the time that I had to face the possibility of losing her. It's a thought no parent even gets close to entertaining - it's just too painful. Yet, one day in April I had to really look that possibility in the face. I'm seeing now how deeply that impacted me. It has taken me to a place that I never wanted to go to and now that I have been there it haunts me with the pain of the possibility deep loss on the most personal level.

I'm not sure if this is a new pattern (and hope not) but these past two years have also had the pain and loss of death on the forefront of my mind. I recently had to put my beloved dog Dorcas down. It was the right choice, but it was painful. I still come home and realize she's not there to greet me. I think of holding her as the life in her ebbed away. I cried over my dog knowing how good she had been for me. I knew I had suffered a great loss. I think of Will Patterson and young man with a very difficult past who died in his mid thirties. You'd like to hope that his life would have ended with a great triumph. It seems that it was more of a merciful homecoming. He suffered greatly and it seems the pain far outweighed whatever he had done in this life. He was guy you had to like and I feel sad that in this life he didn't find healing he deserved. My friend Chris Drake was a co-worker who was a kind and gentle soul who had a heart to help others. I knew him for over 20 years and I don't think I ever saw him express any ill will towards anybody. Yet cancer knows no boundaries. It is a cruel disease that painfully takes everything from you. There's almost too much to say about the loss of my dad. His influence is deeply imprinted on my life. No matter how old I got, he was an anchor point in my life. That secure tether is no longer there. Shockingly, my cousin Ron died only a few weeks after my dad and of the same ailment. Aneurysms are ticking time bombs. Ron was unlucky enough to have his time bomb go off at the age of 55. He was only a few months away from escorting his daughter down the aisle. Like my dad, he was an anchor in my life. His faith in God, wisdom and kindness were something I could rely on. His family has felt the pain and loss. His passing has deeply altered my view on life. We're close in age, are Christians and share the same ancestry. I realize my time on earth is precious so how do I live in the midst of all of this and continue to find a way to go on?

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
Jackson Browne - Running On Empty

Because in either game life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean
one half step too late or to early you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game every minute, every second...
I'll tell you this in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die who is going to win that inch.
And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.
Al Pacino - Any Given Sunday

Warning: this video has cursing in it:

John 15: 1-4
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

Psalm 90:14-17
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

So what do I make of all of this pain and loss? It's an incomplete set of answers but it's the path I choose to be on (and many times stray from). God is still good. I live with that premise. He suffered great pain and loss for me. He loves me and I'm going to stand by that. Loss is part of the process of stripping away (or pruning) of the good things in life. Good at times is the enemy of great. My time on earth is precious, how am I spending it? Pain is a teacher. It is clear the we learn the most when we suffer. Life's truths are very much "easier said than done". Truly living life involves pain. What are we doing with it? Are we running from it? Ignoring it? Or do we enter into it and feel the depth of it knowing that we will learn the greater truths of life? I see that the deeper we feel pain is also a path to the deeper we feel joy and love.

I see my challenge to continue on with that context. That is the "six inches" in front of my face. At times I can see the whole picture and at times I can only see what right in front of me. At best we get an incomplete view of the life we are living and it is full of pain and loss.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Thank You For Being A Friend

This picture best describes Dorcas: Always happy to see you.

"Thank you for being a friend, traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant
I'm not ashamed to say, I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off won't you stand up and take a bow"

Thank You For Being A Friend - Andrew Gold

A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17

Haciko, Where The Red Fern Grows, My Dog Skip, Marley And Me, and Old Yeller. If these stories and films have one thing in common, it's about a boy/man and his dog. I admit that I am an avid dog lover. One person observed that for males, dogs are the one safe being that we can turn to to help us express our emotions in a very safe and accepting manner. Dogs are the most loving, most caring and most forgiving pets in my opinion. They possess qualities that Christ has in the most pure way. Growing up, my family dog's name was Cindy. She was a German Shepherd with a deep loving loyalty and smart beyond compare. She seemed to always be happy to see me, play with me and just allow me to be me. I think it was in God's mercy I had her growing up to help me through so many troubled times. I loved that dog and still have a picture of her on my desk at work.

As an adult, my beloved dog's name was Dorcas. I've had her for over 17 years. She was the first dog that was my own. It is hard to think of life without her. Today, I am facing that reality. 17 years for a dog is an almost unthinkably long time. Being a mutt, she clearly had genetic blending in her favor. I think her sweet personality had a lot to do with it as well. But as pet ownership requires, there's a day when you have to make the hardest choice. It's a day that I knew was on the horizon but just waited in denial that I'd have to face it. It's the very difficult day in which you have to choose to put your dog down. Sometimes I just wish in this one time I could hear her loud and clear and tell me that she's ready to go. I only can look at her very arthritic hind legs and just recently her limping on her right front leg. She was clearly in pain. All the pain medications didn't help. It was clearly nearing that difficult time and I had to say goodbye.

The process was difficult. She was given a sedative. As I held her, I started to cry. Was I really going through with this? I knew that in a few moments I would never see her again. It was a huge emotional weight on me. After she fell into a sleep, the second shot was given. In a short few moments she was gone. She went peacefully and without and pain. Unfortunately, I was feeling all of the pain. I know that it was the right thing to do, but it was the hardest thing I had to do for her.

Looking like a fox in the wild...

I'm writing these memories (long winded as they may be) only because perhaps it gives me some closure. Yes, I'm eulogizing a dog. For me, it's a way to stay engaged with what I'm feeling and go through the mouring process. So if you'll indulge me...

In 1997 Ariel as a little 7 year old ask me to get a dog. Not soon afterwards they met Poochie who was owned by two college aged girls who couldn't keep Poochie because of their apartment rules. I was asked to meet this dog and see if I wanted her. Sure enough this little red ball of fur was running up to me and licking me in the face. To be honest, I'm a sucker for a puppy. I'm also too easily wanting to make my daughter happy so after a weekend of deliberating I decided that we were getting Poochie with the one condition that I got to name her...

Acts 9:36
"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor."

Knowing that the girls loved the movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" (Julie Newmar played Dorcas) and knowing that the name was a Biblical one I landed on Dorcas. Of course I didn't want to tell the girls that there was another reason - I wanted to be able to call her a dork if I needed. I later thought just how kind and loving Dorcas was that the name fit the historical woman in the Bible.

They picked up Dorcas and brought her home while I was still at work. Knowing I had my own dog at home to meet me, I was like a little kid waiting to see my new puppy. I still can see the little red ball of fur running towards me jumping on my lay and licking my face. She was so excited that she peed all over me as well. For some reason, I didn't mind.

As she grew she morphed into such a strange combination of looks that the vet kept changing his mind as to what kind of dog she was. She eventually grew in to looking like a red fox. That is pretty much the theme whenever someone sees her - "She looks like a fox." Ironic that we ended up adopting a son named Fox. Today, I live in Fox Den Village.

One time in San Jose, she broke into the neighbors yard because they had chickens. The roosters were crowing at 4AM so even though it scared the chickens, it gave us the chance to tell them that they couldn't have livestock with in the city limits. When she was really happy and wanted to express her love for you, she'd give a deep "roo roo". We decided it was her way of saying "I love you." When we moved to Sweetwater, the DirecTV installer left the back gate open and she got out. I was really upset since this was wide open land and she could be anywhere. Stragely enough I found her in the installer's van sitting in the front seat. She was waiting for him to take her for a drive (or "car go bye bye"). She loved riding in the car! On the campground she was the host dog. We even had treats for pet owners with a greeting from Dorcas. Since the campground was out in the pastures of Sweetwater we would have cows wander onto the property. This was a special treat for Dorcas as she had the natural ability to herd cattle. She was very happy doing in and would guide them home. After that she came running back happy and very excited. She truly loved her "moo moo cow" friends.

When we moved to Knoxville, she once again became the suburb dog. As a testament to how sweet she was, she used to wander over to our next door neighbor's house. Ivan was deathly afraid of dogs from a childhood attack that he went through. She was so kind and sweet to him that he ended up enjoying her visits and even took care of her when we were away on vacation. He said how much he loved Dorcas and even asked for me to keep him posted if and when the inevitable day came about. Sadly, he was out of town on business.

"And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it's hard to hear
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend."

Over the past few years her walks got shorter. He limping became more pronounced. She slept more and was deaf. I knew at some point the eventual was getting nearer. How do you decide to say goodbye to a pet that was always happy to see you, loved you unconditionally, loyal to a fault and friendly to all? You have to talk yourself into the truth that she was in pain. That she really wasn't living much at all anymore. It's hard stuff to look at, but you also need to decide that she's just not the same anymore. Even then, I know I second guess myself. Perhaps I'm in the denial stage of grief.

I guess I just know that through my adult life, like my childhood it's nice that God had given me a wonderful pet to help smooth over the rough spots. Dorcas was always there and happy to see me. She had a love that only can be described as unconditional. I will miss her dearly.

"And when we die and float away
Into the night, the Milky Way
You'll hear me call as we ascend
I'll say your name, then once again
Thank you for being a ... friend!"

Friday, May 16, 2014

But Those Dreams Have Remained And They've Turned Around

Amanda, Gabriel and Jiichan

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
Luke 1:19

This is the moment where life and death meet. This is what we are - warriors. 
Worf - Star Trek: The Next Generation

There's so many emotions when it comes the birth of my second grandchild. Gabriel's life has been anything but ordinary. My daughter, Amanda, had severe complications at seven months that it required emergency c-section to keep her alive. At first, I was so scared for Gabriel. I knew he would be so little and his life would be at stake. But the little guy showed that he was tough and ready to enter the world and he would be able to survive just fine. Considering the circumstances, his progress has been extremely uneventful. He's just plain growing and getting stronger as the days go by. In my eyes, I see him as having the heart of a warrior. In geek terms, he has received the birthright of a true Klingon. To his successful arrival I give a hearty "Qaplah!"

The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise.
Miguel de Cervantes

Gabriel's name was decided a while before his birth and so I find it quite prophetic that his middle name is Phoenix. It show so much of how God does bring forth things from the ashes and "rebirths" them. My grandson has been birthed from some very difficult circumstances. Like his mother, he has risen above. I can't say too much of how proud I am of him knowing that he is a fighter and survivor.

In honor of his birth, here's the list of interesting events and births on his day, April 26th:

1986 – A nuclear reactor accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine), creating the world's worst nuclear disaster.

121 – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (d. 180)
1564 – William Shakespeare, English poet, playwright and actor (d. 1616)
1900 – Hack Wilson, American baseball player (d. 1948)
1942 – Bobby Rydell, American singer and actor
1943 – Gary Wright, American singer-songwriter, keyboard player
1955 – Mike Scott, American baseball player
1960 – Steve Lombardozzi, American baseball player and coach
1963 – Jet Li, Chinese-Singaporean martial artist, actor, and producer
1965 – Kevin James, American actor, screenwriter, and producer
1977 – Kosuke Fukudome, Japanese baseball player

1984 – Count Basie, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (b. 1904)
1989 – Lucille Ball, American actress and producer (b. 1911)

I mention these two people's passing as they have a connection to the family. I share my birthday with Count Basie and was going to see his band perform at UC Davis in 1984. He took ill a few days before the performance and passed away soon after. Lucille Ball is by far my favorite comedienne as my mom, Gabriel's great grandmother had a very similar sense of humor. I hope that some of what was her, will be in him.

I have to admit that whenever I hear his name I track back to one of my favorite TV shows as a kid: Welcome Back Kotter. I guess the only Gabe I can think of is Gabe Kotter (aka Gabe Kaplan). The theme song for the show rings in my ear although very little of it could apply to my grandson. I guess that continues to reinforce that I'm becoming the old crazy grandpa!

My hope is that with a grandson, we can take in ball games, play catch, go to the gun range, ride motorcycles and play catch. I know that he's the son of two artists so he may end up being more interested in "right brain" things. That's just fine with me. I'm hoping whatever the activity is, it's quality time spent. I want him to know how much I love him and that through all of what he's already been through, I'm proud of him. He is my second generation Ichiro. I hope that he knows that he's number one in my heart.
My Friends Toasting And Sharing Cigars To Celebrate Gabriel's Birth

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Greatest Gift And Honor

My Beautiful Daughter, Amanda While She Was Carrying My Grandson, Gabriel

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this."
Job 38:16-18

“Where is your faith?” He asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
Luke 8:25

I believe I have had a truly unprecedented week. This is the type that changes so much of how your life is lived and your perspective on what priorities one has. With Amanda expecting her first child and my second granchild, my thoughts and expectations of my relationship with her were exciting and filled with anticipation. I knew she was carrying a boy and my thoughts of having someone to play catch with and ride motorcycles were my "happy thoughts". I know that he would likely be like his mom and dad and be more of an artist which I would enjoy as well, but of course I had some selfish hopes of my own. What thought never entered my mind was what would happen in the last week in April; something no parent ever fathoms. What started as some concerns and pain during pregnancy quickly unravelled into a major crisis.

Late in the week I was told that Amanda will need to be observed and tests would need to be done to be sure any of the pain wasn't serious. That led to a Friday night stay in the hospital with the thought that she would need constant observation. For some reason I felt at peace and that she would just get through this and in late June all would be well. I think your mind would like to believe that things are always precautionary and that we can control our outcomes with forward planning.

Saturday, April 26th would be for me the longest day of my life. It began with a phone call at 4AM saying that Amanda was having seizures and that an emergency c-section would need to be done. The news that they will "have to take the baby" put me in this heightened and helpless situation. Even with prayer and getting to a point of knowing the truth that God is in control and the outcomes are not ours to determine cannot mitigate the emotion or the mental preparation of the worst case scenario. I kept thinking of how I would deal with possibly never meeting Gabriel and the lost chance of playing catch with him. The thoughts were frightening as you think of the fragile life that was at stake. After what felt like an eternity I got the news that he was OK and that this should help Amanda recover from what was diagnosed as Eclampsia and HELLP. Already Jodi had booked an early morning flight to be out there with her. For the moment, I felt great. Amanda would get better, my grandson was doing well so when I get some rest I could celebrate Gabriel's birth.

The next piece of news broke any happiness I had. Amanda was getting worse and having more seizures. To be honest the timeline gets really fuzzy for me since I think my deep concern started to really give way to all of the fears a father can have. She had a brain clot that threatened her life and that emergency brain surgery would be needed. The procedure went a lot longer than they anticipated which only prolonged the agony of waiting. The news kept coming in small doses and with breaks that would only allow me to process some of the worst of the worst case scenarios.

When you're in this situation you really can't think straight. I also kept preparing for some of the worst possible things I could imagine. How much pain was she suffering through? What if she ends up a medical vegetable? What if she came out of this severely impaired? What if she ends up being an entirely different person from the girl I know and loved? The worst of all, what if she died? Could I find a way to move past this? Could I even face the possibility of burying my beloved daughter? I am so thankful to so many friends who were kind enough to talk me through this, think for me and just hang out with me. The friends I have are second to none.

I finally got the news late in the night that she survived. They had not been able to remove the clot so they removed a portion of her skull to relieve pressure on her brain. How she would fair after this is anyone's guess. The doctors recommended one week just to get her "out of the woods" (it's just too hard to say what that means but it's pretty obvious). My prayers during this time went along the lines of trust with a tinge of pleading. I know that God is good and I can accept His will and plan even if it ended up being painful but I prayed that He would grant me just one more minute with the Amanda I knew and loved. I delight in her and her wonderful personality. I wanted to enjoy even just one more time with her that way.

Sunday through Thursday was mostly spent waiting and hearing some good news. Jodi sent me a picture of her out of surgery that was painful to see. Even if you know just how bad things will look, when it's your own daughter any pragmatic logic goes out the window. Seeing her with all sorts of tubes and wires attached to her and bandages wrapped around her is so difficult to see but also necessary. I needed to see my little girl no matter how difficult it was. I booked a flight to see her for Friday hoping that she would make it through the week. Thankfully, each day came some good news: she's breathing on her own; she responds to voice commands; she recognizes people. These were baby steps that were like drops of refreshing water in the desert. On Friday, as I prepared to leave I called to check in. I got the question: "Would you like to talk to her?" I was happily shocked. I said "Yes, definitely!" For a few minutes I got to hear her beautiful voice. It was like I was floating and suddenly peaceful. After so many sleepless nights, I suddenly had a burst of energy. God granted me not only one more minute with her, He was blessing me with the joy of Amanda being back!
I knew things would be alright when I could see that she could still work her iPhone

Walking on her own!!!

Our visit was filled with lots of conversation and the absolute joy of meeting her newborn son, Gabriel. We talked about things, joked around and she even got up and walked! I write this with a huge smile on my face and choking back some tears. God has not only spared her, He's performing a miracle before my eyes. This is God's blessing in action. I am in awe and I praise Him.

Going forward there are so many challenges ahead. But knowing that my daughter and grandson are improving makes everything pale in comparison. Adjustments will have to be made.

In one conversation with her I recalled one moment in one of my favorite Disney films, Mulan. There's a deeper sense of family and love in this film that makes it stand out above the others. Mulan is a classic square peg who triumphs through adversity. With it she becomes a hero and receives the gift of Shan Yu's (the villain in the story) sword and the honor of the Emperor's Crest. when she returns home to present the gift and honor to her father, Fa Zhou, his response is powerful and one I shared with Amanda. I believe that any father of a daughter can resonate his words:

"The Greatest Gift And Honor Is Having You For A Daughter"
Fa Zhou

I could never say it any better. Amanda is an amazing gift from God and it is an honor that I have the role of her father. I only have had this magnified to me through some very serious adversity.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Xs, Os, and Ws: Inspirational Stories From Successful Basketball Coaches

Wow, talk about God working in crazy ways. First I was coaching, second, through LinkedIn I meet Nataniel Brown and now I'm in a book! I first want to thank Mr. Brown for kindly including my words and thoughts. Second, I really appreciate that he focused the book so much on character and the true coaching that basketball coaches have the chance to do: mentoring, guiding, teaching and loving their players in a way that will have a lifelong impact. As much as I love basketball and sports in general, I know that the real benefit from sports and coaching is the chance to help build and test character. To be honest, I'm not always good at that. I let my anger and hyper competitiveness get the best of me and at that time I'm really in need of forgiveness and a lot of grace.

I had a laugh (in a humble sort of way) that the back cover says "The greatest collection of coaches ever in one book!" Of course anything with Pat Summit, Lute Olson, Michael Cooper, Ben Howland, Terry Porter, Morgan Wooten and Anne Donovan has to be considered a great collection. I guess it's hard for me to see yours truly in that list.
In reading the book, what I see is the passion, struggles and heart that each coach has. What was universal for all of them is the need to redefine success. I think that wins and losses are important but also secondary to the life lessons that we model and teach. It was very encouraging to see that other coaches have that same passion.
In some ways this is an advertisement for the book. I will admit to that. I would also say I don't fully know all aspects of Mr. Brown's business/ministry. I do think his heart is in the right place. So here's my message: check out his website. Buy the book. At minimum you can read what I said and hold me accountable when I fail and perhaps you can read a little more of what another man thought of my words.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Never Say Never Again!

I guess you can never say never!
My intention when I purchased my Yamaha Vmax was for it to be the last bike I own. I guess that in hindsight that was a crazy idea. Motorcycle owners are notorious for swapping and trying out different bikes. I do love riding a Vmax, but I realize that riding with the people I hang out with, a sport bike is really the right set up for me.

As for the Vmax (Sharky's Machine) I was most attached to two things, the insane amounts of raw power and the fact that it had connections to my daughter Ariel (1989 model and her birth year, teal is the color of our hockey team, the San Jose Sharks). When I chose to swap it out, she was surprisingly unsentimental to those facts since she likes sport bikes more anyway. Oh well!

How I came into getting the bike is where I think that God showed himself. During us having a garage sale, I ended up delivering some patio furniture to a neighbor. Inside their garage was one of my all time favorite bikes: a Kawasaki Ninja 650r. I offered up my compliments: "Nice bike." What I wasn't ready for was his response, "You want it?" He then went in to the details. It was his son's bike and that it was a 2009 with only 2500 miles that was sitting in his garage for two years. His son was unhappy with it because he laid it down rashing the right side, breaking off the right rear view mirror and bending the back break peddle (all cosmetic damage). The price was shockingly low. So low, I could sell the Vmax and get it for about the same amount. I told him I'd work on things and see what happened.
I put an ad for about the amount of the Ninja for my Vmax. I got two calls. The first was very interested but said he'd need a couple of days before he could get back to me. The second rode it that same day and said he'd think about it. Here's where things got weird. He came back the next day and rode it. What shocked me was that the Vmax died while he was riding it! I thought we had a deal and I could get my cool Ninja bike and it looked like things were falling apart. Anyway, he said he'd think some more about it and get back to me. Ugh!
This is where I see the difference that God made. In the past, I would have taken my frustration to anger and then complain to God. Why show me such a cool bike? Why did this stupid thing happen to my Vmax? What's going on here? Instead, I talked to him about my frustration and then, I realized there's peace here. Do I need a 650r? Am I content with my Vmax? Is God trustworthy? The answers were all obvious. I could then just pray that whatever happens happens and I'm good with that. I tested the battery and it was bad so I went out and got a new battery for the Vmax. I was told by the battery salesman that the guy who was looking at the bike actually called as well. That was a sign he was still interested. He did call me to say he was still interested and that he knew that I had replaced the battery. He appreciated that. Anyway, we ended up doing the sale! The next day, with cash in hand, I bought the 650r! God is good!

My mark is still there!

This past weekend I got to take it out on my favorite ride: Foothills Parkway, to Deal's Gap and then on the Cherohala Parkway. This was a group ride with the Knoxville Rockets. It's always nice to be around others who loves sport bike riding. First comments from them were admiration for the new bike and then surprise at what a great deal I got. Riding with the group pushes me to get out of my comfort zone and try to ride more aggressively (not crazy) which pushes me to become a better rider. I really appreciate that.
As for the bike, it's great! Compared to the Vmax it's a lot smoother. The raw power isn't there, but it's so smooth that I was easily hitting the 90 MPH range without much effort. I felt a little awkward going through the Parkway and the Gap mostly in terms of getting used to the bike (it also helped to pump up the tires which I forgot to check!). By the time I got onto the Skyway, I was really starting to get used to the handling. I know I need more seat time to get really comfortable with the bike.
I got the perfect gift for my new grandson!

Anyway, my best gauge for the bike is that I'm getting anxious to ride it a lot. That means I'm loving the ride. The lighter frame, better handling and sleeker look wins over the insane raw power of my good old Vmax. I don't regret having it, but I realize I'm probably a sport biker at heart. God has a way of getting us to figure things out. His direction is always good so getting back to a sport bike is part of His process. So here's to another season riding!