Give It A Brake — Day Two

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I am glad that I thought through this situation this morning.  Even more, I am glad that I prayed about it.  Of all that has happened the past year or so, my relationship with God has changed.  I am a whole lot more aware of how God is working in my life and in the lives of others, take a little more stock in that than I might have before, and it is showing in how I pray.  I pray purposefully, aware that God is right there with me, and it’s about as close to continuous prayer than ever in my life before.  It doesn’t mean that I am a spiritual genius, only that I am more aware of God’s involvement than I have ever allowed myself before.  Believe me, I am thankful that I am.  It changes my perspective, puts optimism in a day that would have dragged me into oblivion in years past.  I would like to think that I am a different person now.. and that is a very good thing.

Divorce has changed things as well.  Ironically, that too is a reason for optimism.

My son is still on break from college.  What does that mean?  It means that he is a typical 18 year old college boy — he sleeps until noon or later.  I know that I need to be intentional with him, know what I need from him, be persistent with him.  My son lives with his mother, not me, so I can’t just demand his attention.  In some ways, I need to respect his way of doing things, understand him, remember how I was at his stage in life.  Oddly, I have his mother’s ear more now than when I did while we were living in the same house and married.  Knowing that, I took advantage of it today.

I texted my ex wife, let her know what I needed.  To her credit, she asked me exactly what I needed for her to do.  What was my plan?  I let her know that I wanted our son to contact me, let me know his availability and come to me at my office.. today.  I would then go with him to the mechanic, help him with the paperwork and communication, then go back to my office while my son waited for the news on the costs and extent of the repair.  It would teach him, I knew, and was much better than me doing it for him.

That is what happened.  My ex wife roused our son, he called me,  I told him the plan.  He came to my office, I checked out his car, then he followed me to the mechanic.  He waited while I worked.  The mechanic gave the estimate (exorbitant — nearly $900 for what should have been a simple brake pad and rotor job).  My son called me, asked me what to do.  He was panicking.  I told him that we would pay the small inspection fee, I would contact the person we bought the car from, take it to him.

I called the guy we bought the car from.  His business is buying cars, rehabbing them, then selling them to dealers.  He assured me that he would fix my son’s car for far less.

To my son’s credit, he paid the inspection fee at the mechanic, came back to my office on his own.  We talked it over.  We actually talked it over.  None of this would have happened the same way a year ago.  I told him what I could afford and why I couldn’t afford doing everything the mechanic had suggested.  I explained what my own money situation is (strained, using money saved for other purposes).  He agreed to meet me tomorrow morning, when we would take his car back to where it was purchased, where it would be fixed.

His mother texted me when I got home from work.  Call me, she requested.  I did.  She offered to help.  After I picked myself up off of the floor, I thanked her.

There are reasons to be optimistic.

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Give It A Brake

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My phone rang around 4 PM this past Saturday, just as I was about to climb on my bike for an indoor spin.  It was my son with a question about his car.

“Dad, what does it mean when there is a constant squeak while I am driving?  I remember it happening on our car before.”

His question was an easy one to answer and I am glad that he has no problems asking me.  I explained to him that is the noise that brake pads make when they have worn out.  The next thing to happen will be a metal on metal crunching sound when he applies the brakes.  I told him to not drive his car, get the car to me on Sunday.  I would let him have my car while I either replace the pads myself or take them somewhere to be fixed.

Worn brake pads was a lesson that I learned when I was his age, when I had my first car.  I ignored the squeak of the worn pads, hoped the brakes would last until I could afford to fix them, ended up rear ending a car when my car wouldn’t stop.  We all learn lessons with our first car.  That was just one of the lessons that I had to learn the hard way.

I still have lessons to learn as a parent.  My son called me because he knows that I will pay to have his car fixed or will fix it myself.  That is not a bad thing.  I want him to trust me enough to call when he needs help.  What I am seeing right now is that I need to teach him to take responsibility for himself.  Instead of me taking care of this car repair completely for him, I need to guide him through it.  Will I pay for it?  Yes, although I am gritting my teeth as I say that — it has been a tough month financially.  I have learned to grit my teeth, remember that the Lord has always provided.  My parents provided that example for me, teaching me not only to take responsibility for myself but also to recognize what God provides.

So what do I do?  My son did not show up yesterday, of course, even after I reminded him.  Last night I called him, left him a voice message and asked him to get his car to a mechanic today.  I will come and pay for the repair.  He texted me back, said that his mom told him that he couldn’t come to me because his mom said it was too icy yesterday (it was icy).  This morning, I texted him back and asked him what his class schedule is today.  I told him that I want those brakes fixed today, so he is going to come by my office and I will go with him to get the car fixed.

I have an idea of how bad the brakes are, by the way.  An encouraging thing happened yesterday — my son came to church and brought friends with him.  I was out in the church parking lot directing traffic (I do that regularly) when he drove past.  I heard him coming since the loud squeak of the worn out brake pads preceded him.  He talked to me when I came inside, agreed to come by my place that afternoon.

He is a kid.  Of course he didn’t come by.

A Wild and Swinging Guy

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Wild_and_crazy_guysUp to a few years ago, had I been in the life situation I currently am in and I participated in the activity that I am about to admit, it would have been admitted shamefully.. possibly even denied.  Me being the wild and crrrrrraaaazy guy that I am in a boldly electronic age, there is no shame to admitting it at all.

You guessed it already, I am sure.

Yes, I created an online dating profile.  Everyone does it these days, so the stigma no longer exists.  As a matter of fact, most people expect it.  Is it something that someone should do right after a divorce, while the ink on the decree is still damp?  IMO, it depends on the person and their motivation for dating.  So far, my experience is that many women wait years before they are ready to date, although that is not entirely the case.  Men don’t wait so long, often they don’t wait until the are divorced or even until they have filed for divorce.  On either side of the gender line, there are a host of people with improper motives.  There are just as many who are looking for companionship, with genuine good intent.

I would like to think that I fit into the genuine good intent category.  Early into separation, I discovered that no matter how used to being alone I thought I had become during the final years of my marriage, being alone on a weekend absolutely sucked.  Being alone sucked to the point of being depressing on a Friday and/or Saturday night, no matter what I did to try to fill the void.  I found that I dreaded the weekend.

Don’t worry.  It gets better.  Despite the sucky nature of being alone, it was good for me.  It gave me a chance to truly reach out to God that only desperation can do to a person, the rawness of my soul exposed possibly for the first time in many years.  The ugliness of my marriage had been an obstacle that had kept me from approaching God.  I needed healing and found it in those months following the marriage separation and divorce filing.  Maybe for the first time in a long, long time I felt good about myself, good enough to talk to God again, and I was able to work through those early lonely times.

I have to be honest — I didn’t wait until my divorce was final to create the online dating profile.  Yes, spiritually I was experiencing renewal, but I am a man and God created woman to bring companionship to man.  More than ever, if I was going to make it through the weekend without going completely bonkers, I needed to feel needed by someone soft and pretty.

Creating an online profile is definitely a humbling experience.  This man is 56 years old.  Suddenly, I was faced with the reality that I am not as pretty as I think I once was.  No longer do I have that full head of mullet.  There might be just a tad bit of gut occupying my mid section.  In order to create an online profile, there needs to be pictures of me.

There needs to be recent pictures — although I soon discovered that is not the rule for more women than I care to admit.  Please, girls, I need to see what you look like now, not what you looked like when you were 20 or 30 or even 40.  A man my age, if he is in his right mind, does not need a woman who is younger than he is or who is trying to look like she is 20.  I also do not want to see a selfie (or numerous selfies) taken from above, exposing your wrinkled cleavage.  Show yourself as you are, without trying to find your best side or to show a feature(s) that are potentially temporarily attractive.  While I like that you keep yourself in good shape, I do not need to see you jerk lifting the equivalent of a small VW.  It’s nice to see that you are handy, but your main profile picture does not need to feature you with your favorite hammer.  Harleys are great, but you aren’t going to like my version of a Harley.

What I soon discovered as I perused profiles of potential companionship is that genuine is rare in the world of online dating.  We all want to put our best side forward, a best side that we discovered as soon as we tried to create an online dating profile apparently no longer exists.  When I tried to find pictures of myself for my profile, I realized that not only do I have very few pictures of myself, the ones that I have are not my best side.  Suddenly I was faced with the dilemma, the paradox of putting out my best side while being genuine.  Being genuine is important to me.

So I took a few pictures of myself.  Here is the picture I took with my PC that made it as my profile picture.  It’s vague, but I liked it.

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The picture was taken on the deck of my condo, with my favorite Cardinals jersey.  I still had the weight off from the months of slaving to get my house ready to sell, then making my condo inhabitable.  To me, it felt genuine and was a good representation of who I am, while showing my allegiance to my favorite baseball team.  While it is a pretty decent picture of me, it wasn’t showing a fictional representation of myself.  It is a picture of me, recent and relaxed, which is what I wanted to show.

Has online dating been a good experience for me?  There are plenty of people who write about their online dating experiences, most give a humorous yet negative perspective.  I have to admit that it was a learning experience for me.  Since I originally posted a profile before I divorced, I had to face some negative feedback at first, especially since I was honest about my status.  The creeps ruined it for us honest guys.  I also learned to sift through the responses, many with definitely unpure motives.  I kissed (without kissing) a few toads.

As my December 11 blog post alludes, I found someone who is not a toad.  My Saturdays are no longer dreaded.  As it turns out, the person that I found a connection with is genuine, real, without cleavage or Harley or weightlifting pictures.  Saturday has  become the day when I experience affection that I have not experienced for decades.  Is this woman perfect?  Probably not, although she is very pretty and a person who fits my values in many ways.  She really can’t give me anything but a Saturday night, which is good for me right now, just enough to take the edge off of the loneliness.  Since December, I have experienced a bit of pampering that I could only dream about previously up to November 15.  Is this going to be permanent?  Maybe not, maybe so.  All I know is this.

Online dating has been OK for me.

 

 

A Chirp Blog

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One of the things about riding a road bike that I forgot about is the incredible feeling that comes when the rhythm of turning the pedals becomes an inward action, a melding of soul and body.  If it sounds like I am making it up for the sake of poetry, think again.  Ask anyone who rides.  They will tell you the same.  There is no need for meditation or yoga as long as there is a bike to ride.

I get the same when I ride the trails, but it’s less about turning the pedals as it is the thrill of riding and taking in the peace of the woods.  Until a week ago Saturday, I was still able to ride the trails.  Snow and extreme cold had not yet come to the majority of the Chicago area.

It has now.  Not only is there snow on the ground, but temperatures are consistently sub zero or single digits.  Word is that the trails are great for fat bikes, but I don’t have a fat bike and really don’t want to ride my old 26er with studs.  Besides, I need to rediscover my road bike.  Training for my May 14th ride in the Carolinas needs to start now.

That leaves riding my old fluid resistance trainer indoors.  At first, it was like pulling teeth, the first few rides barely enough to break a sweat.  I ride with Netflix on my laptop, but that doesn’t do it for me.  Last Saturday, I went back to the old stand by — music.  It helped.  Each song becomes a goal, with my sight set on making it to the next song, and continue to through the next.  While my rides have progressed to thirty minute low resistance sweats, they are progressing, and I am finding that zen from turning the pedals again.  If I can make it through this month, I am likely going to be ready when the weather breaks enough to take to the road again.

Christmas brought me something that even makes me want to wear spandex again….

Beauty and the Bike

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A view of the DuPage River from the trail, taken last Friday afternoon.

 

There is something richly sublime about mountain biking, valuable to me more than the exercise and physical health that riding a bike brings.  This time of year, I find myself stopping to take in the woods and scenery more than ever, the same trails a totally different place now that the leaves have dropped.  Mixed with the rush and thrill of bombing into ravines, hopping a log, jumping a berm is the beauty of a place that often seems like it is made for me alone.

VZM.IMG_20171208_151928Thank you, God.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  God reminds me of his blessings each and every day, more evident to me even more in this season of my life, overwhelming when I am surrounded by the wonder of creation.  As I took the pictures that are shared in today’s entry, I literally was driven to my knees in joyous tears.  Is it because I have more to be thankful for right now, I asked, or is it because I am simply more aware?  My heart danced as I laughed out loud in the quiet peace of the woods, happy to enjoy the moments that God was giving to me.

VZM.IMG_20171208_151836Friday’s ride was all downhill or so it seemed.  Believe me, it’s not.  The trail system that I ride regularly is a booger for even a rider with advanced skills, downright scary for newbies.  There was a lightness for me, a fresh heart, an energy that made every challenge to the trail easy.

VZM.IMG_20171208_151854I took these pictures because I wanted to share my favorite place with a new friend, someone who is touching my heart, one of those blessings that helps me see the world like I see the world in those woods.  I sent the pictures to her, let her know that I am thinking of her, then climbed back on my bike for two hours of trail bliss.  Our relationship is as new as the breathless views through leafless trees that I experienced Friday.  I am content.  I have hope.

I rode until the light was too dim in the woods to see the trail.  The beauty of the woods, the quiet, is as peaceful as can be that time of day.  While I slept Friday night, it snowed, my thankfulness amplified knowing that I had taken advantage of the last day to ride outside for a while.

 

Two weeks in

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It has been nearly two weeks since that day, November 15, the day when 25 years was reduced to a document that certifies the last 25 years did not exist.  Divorce.  I walked away from the courthouse, the feeling of finality  a reality to me.  My life had changed with the pronouncement of a judge, his approval granting what I had waited the past year for.  Out in the hall after the brief, almost too brief, rehearsed to the point of insignificance, hearing, my now ex wife approached me with what seemed like an expression of pity.  She had no tears, neither did I, reached for my hand and squeezed it, wished me the best, told me that she is sorry.  I mouthed what must have been a very inadequate yes as she walked away.  I watched her walk away down the dimly lit, wood paneled hall of the courthouse, strangely thinking of how much her back side had changed since the first time we met.  I want to miss that, but I don’t.

I am relieved, glad that at least the drama of the divorce negotiation is over, my life and her life ready to move on in different directions.  There is a sense of limbo that exists while waiting for a divorce to happen, a nagging, chains that bind any progress.  That time of marriage purgatory needed to exist, I think, as the separation allowed me to process the gravity of the situation and assess just where I was at.  I needed to see that somehow God was blessing me still, would allow me to approach him, that I am still acceptable to him.  I needed to process my grief, my loneliness, some of which I did not know still existed.  I thought that I had already progressed beyond both.

That day, I needed to figure out how I felt.  I did not know.

I took the whole day off from work, not knowing what the day would have in store for me.  As it turned out, I was numb.  I could have functioned and worked that day.  I showed up in the office an hour or so after the hearing, answered a quote request, left the office.  It was pay day.  I went home, paid bills, paid my first maintenance payment, paid another debt that I owed her, marveled that there was still money left over once I was done.  My friend, John, who I had supported by going with him to his final divorce hearing five years ago, took me out to dinner that evening.  We talked about life, talked about what life is going to be like for me as I moved on, shared encouragement as he assured me that life does indeed move on, that it can indeed be blessed.

It wasn’t a bad day.

My phone rang that afternoon, caller ID showing that it was my son.  I fretted.  Would he be calling to express his anger over what had just happened?

“Dad, I hit a skunk with my car last night.  My car stinks.  What do I do?”

Did he even know what had just happened.  I dished out my advice.  That was it.  No mention of the divorce hearing.  There has been no mention since.

It was a different story with my daughter.  Honestly, I wish I had thought of how she would feel.  Selfishly, I thought more about how I was feeling, less about how my children or family would feel.  My brothers, my parents, each reached out to me and let me know that I am in their prayers.  But my daughter is thousands of miles away, on her own in a foreign country, away from the friends who support her.  It was not an easy day for her, as I found out the next morning when she texted me.  She had not slept well and she told me so.  I asked how she is doing.  She asked if it was OK if she tells me how she really feels.  Sure, I said, you can tell me anything.  And she tried to tell me, but I don’t think that she really knows.  She feels like she is in the middle, has felt the impact of living in a dysfunctional family, and she wanted me to know.  Then she asked me how I was feeling.

I am at peace, I told her, and I feel like your mother is at peace.  Not the best answer, and she told me so, told me that her mother is definitely not at peace.  I felt insensitive, but I told her the truth.  A good friend told me that my children will have to learn to deal with this.  I am going to need to move on and not worry about that so much.  They will be OK.

Funny, we moved on from that.  We are going to Florida together this January, will be going to Potter World at Universal Studios together.  That changed the tone just a little!

Last week was my first major holiday as a divorced man.  My son went with me as we travelled a few hours south to visit with my family.  For maybe the first time ever, my son was a perfect travelling companion, made me proud in front of my family.  It was a great day.

I will share more as things develop.  My life changed two weeks ago.  It is different.. and there is so much hope.  Things are happening, fun and happy things, and I like life as it is right now.

Divorce has happened.  Life is different.

Two Days

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WARNING:  I am going to write quite a bit more personally today than I normally do.  Proceed with caution.

FB_IMG_1510540790433As might be evident, I have intentionally avoided talking about my pending divorce here.  Now and then the topic has come up in a blog, but it’s just not something that I have wanted to put out there in this blog.  It’s a challenge to me as there are not too many off switches in my personality, my normally introverted extrovert self has no problem sharing whatever is itching at my soul, my heart an open book.  Anyone who knows me will probably tell you that I am embarrassingly open.  Just ask my children and they will give you an emphatic YES.  It’s the way that I am put together, the way that I have to be, both a blessing and a curse at times.

Part of the reason that I am reluctant to bring up the topic of my divorce here is my faith.  Hopefully, it is evident that I try to live my life in a way that honors God.  I want people to see my flaws, see me as genuine, but I also am afraid of showing a side of me that is contrary to what is expected of a person who wants to be known as a Christ follower, a Christian.  Divorce is a touchy subject when it involves Christians, a decision that can not be made without a whole lot of prayer, study, and talking with friends who also know God.  With me, the last few years (more than just a few) involved just that.  This was not a decision that I or my wife made overnight.  When I asked my wife for a divorce two years ago, I asked in a way that was more of an ultimatum — I need you to change, have dealt with the questions and issues enough that I need to see if you really want to be married to me.  Ultimately, she didn’t.  Say what she wants, but it was just as much or more her decision.  We both gave up.  Frankly, I don’t know who gave up first. When I did give up, I gave her enough reasons to do the same.  Years of disrespect towards me took its toll and I could no longer find a place to stuff it.

For me, I need to know that God is OK with my decision to divorce.  How odd it has felt to pray and ask God if He could bless something that I know full well God does not approve of.  Even more odd is that I could and can see that God is blessing the decision.  The months since our final separation, when we sold our house and moved into our own places, have not been a time of moving away from God.  On the contrary, I felt the wall of pain crumble, the constant stress of living with two people who were toxic to me suddenly taken away.  My walk with God has become constant, my hunger to learn more amplified by the opportunity to read and study, to bask in the quiet.  There has been much needed healing.  I can see it in myself, I can see it in my children (even my son), even see it in my wife. There is no desire to reunite, as we both see that this divorce is something that needs to happen.  We both are at peace, I think.

My son is reaching out to me.  The distance has been good for us.  He texts me, calls me now and then.  Saturday night, he sent me videos he took at the concert he was at, evidence of the influence that I have had on him over the years.  I have been the one to go to concerts with him, ball games, played golf with him as well as plenty of other sports.  I see him trying to mature, a challenge to the males of today in this age of stunted maturity.  There is hope.

And that is what this whole thing is about… hope.

Wednesday morning at 9 AM is the final hearing, the prove up.  Unless something happens to change things, I will be divorced in two days.

The next chapter begins.

Hoop Dreams

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dribble dribble dribble (pause) swish BAM bounce bounce pad pad pad pad

dribble dribble dribble (pause) swish BAM bounce bounce pad pad pad pad

dribble dribble dribble (pause) swish BAM bounce bounce pad pad pad pad

I wonder why my parents never ever said anything to me about the noise I made while shooting baskets in the driveway?  Hour after countless hour, I continued the ritual.  It was an obsession with me, the enjoyment of shooting basketball an exercise that I never tired of.  Even now, I still love it.  And the memory of the large concrete square in front of the family garage, a makeshift particle board backboard attached to the front of the garage roof with brackets.  Any time the was a perfect shot, the basketball smacked loudly off the aluminum gutter underneath the backboard, a loud BAM that reverberated around our neighborhood.  Harry, our lunatic next door neighbor that hated his noisy neighbors, especially during the warm weather months when there were countless ball games on that concrete court, often fought loudly when a foul call didn’t go our way or when the game got rough.  Even worse was when dad added a spotlight, enabling us to play past dark.

Mom and Dad used to sit on the front porch stoop, holding hands and drinking the sweet iced tea that Mom used to brew in a jar on our back porch, watching as my brother and I sparred with Wayne and Mark and Kevin (even my cousin, Phil, always hopeless when it came to sports — but later on quite a hit with the ladies) or whoever else strayed into our neighborhood for a game on our basketball court.  Quite often, they would watch for a while then retreat back inside the house, the sound of Mom playing hymns on the piano while Dad sang.  Those days, it wasn’t embarrassing.  It was just what people in our little community did.  Church was cool.

In my teen years, shooting baskets became a contest with myself for imaginary rewards.  If I made ten shots in a row, then I would get that get that kiss from Edie, a lovely green eyed brunette who I actually did get my first kiss from.  Those imaginary rewards provided motivation that sometimes gave me the courage to make them not so imaginary!  As I hit my upper teens, I upped the ante, ventured out to the street and vowed to asked Tami, my current serious girlfriend, to marry me if I made the shot.  Sure enough, it was nothing but net, slamming even louder into the aluminum gutter after passing through the slightly bent hoop.  I never asked Tami to marry me, an opportunity that I sometimes regret, sometimes am very glad for — she has been divorced twice!

I am about to reenter the dating world after a long hiatus (marriage).  I wonder what will take the place of shooting baskets for me.  Maybe I will rediscover the joy again, shoot baskets at that little court at the condo clubhouse.  The imaginary rewards will be different, I assume.  Maybe not.  Teen or “mature” adult, I still need that kiss.

Hooooo booooyyyy….

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….what did I get myself into?

My friend, Frank, messaged me this morning, asked me if I would be interesting in riding the 2018 Assault on Mount Mitchell with him.  He gave it the old “we are getting the band back together” pitch, saying that he had talked some of the guys we used to ride with to register for the event.  Frank and I have attempted the Assault together before.  I finished once out of three attempts — it’s that tough of a ride.

I guess it’s time to get the old titanium steed out of mothballs.

I registered tonight

Recently, I lost 22 pounds.  Good thing.  I need to start getting ready for this ride NOW.  I didn’t lose the weight for riding purposes but, hey, it’s a bonus!