What to do now but TCB?

Green Highlight of my goals documentWhen you complete a big project there is always the long, slow, realization that it is complete.  There is a sadness that comes along with it for me.  Sometimes, the pursuit is better than the destination.  Not this time.

This time is a little different.  It is like opening a door and looking to see what is behind it.  Like that moment before you put the last piece in the puzzle.  It is exciting.  It is full of anticipation.  I want to see what it looks like.  I want to get back to business.

I haven’t revisited my goals sheet since this last spring.  Every six months or so, when I launched into an edit, I would flag the items that I completed with green highlight.  Where there were new tasks to tackle, I would include them.  It is time to do that again.  There are even things to add.  This time, though I’m going to resist the temptation to launch into another thing right away.  I’m just going to relax and enjoy the plateau and start writing.  I have enough content in my archives that I should be able to keep this going every day for a while.  It is my opportunity to stream online some of the things that I have encountered over the last few years.

That won’t be easy.

If it were easy as fishin’ you could be a musician
If you could make sounds loud or mellow
Get a second-hand guitar, chances are you’ll go far
If you get in with the right bunch of fellows

Takin’ Care of Business
-Randy Bachman, Bachman–Turner Overdrive

It is different from undergrad where I was on the hunt for a career after I graduated.  This time, the degree pursuit and the career happened in parallel.  The one enhanced the other and that was the most fulfilling part.  So that, coupled with the firm belief that you can always recreate yourself.  You can rise from the ashes.

There is this symbol called an Ouroboros.  It is an ancient  symbolic representation of coming full circle.  The Ouroboros depicts a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The name originates from within Greek language; (oura) meaning “tail” and (boros) meaning “eating”, thus “he who eats the tail”.

At its best, that is what education is.  The rise up and learning through failure.  The coming full circle.

Back to thanksgiving planning, I guess.

MBA in My Eye

Even as I write this I have one class remaining until I complete my MBA.  The paper is complete.  The Powerpoint is complete.  All that remains is the presentation.  It has been an amazing ride.  It has been difficult, but rewarding.  Much like the end of a long road trip with your family.  The parts that were difficult were when you nearly fell asleep driving down the interstate.  The rewarding moments came when you were staring at a monument or sitting at a restaurant marveling at the people you spend a majority of your time with.  That road trip took a week.  This road trip took 3 years.

Many have asked me what I would now do with all of this free time.  I’m not sure if I have figured that out yet.  On one hand, I look at this journey as complete.  My 5 year plan to achieve an MBA was successfully executed.  Successful, and then some.  On the other hand, I  feel more incomplete than ever.  Five years ago there seemed to be less unrest in the world.

The wider your eyes are opened the more your realize.

And the sounds we make together
Is the music to the story in your eyes
It’s been shining down upon me now
I realize

“The Story In Your Eyes
-Justin Hayward, The Moody Blues

Anyway, I’m about to embark on what you might call the 5th quarter.  The 19th hole.  A sort of MBA second breakfast, I guess.  The University’s Global Learning Program, or GLO for short, allows students to enhance personal cross-cultural communications skills and develop understanding of how the differences in global economic, cultural, social, political, and legal environments affect business performance and decisions.  For me, it is an opportunity to travel with my fellow students and venture outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve never been out of the country.

Well, I shouldn’t say that.  I did go to Canada once.

The GLO is a week-long trip to Hong Kong & China.  There are company visits, class sessions, and a paper.  9 days of learning for what will be my forty-eighth credit hour in the program.

Then Thailand with a few friends.  I’m not sure how that happened.  I’m pretty sure that I said something like, “Oh yea, I’d do that.”

Then Australia.  I know how that happened.  My mother and I share the love of adventure.

An Expedition, A Trip

I mapped out my planned January trip.  There are still quite a few details to work through.  It will be nearly 25k miles in total.  It is a 3 stage trip to China, Thailand, and Australia via Singapore.  My plan is to write about the trip and post updated through the site for the duration of the trip.

Two Giant Leaps of a Lion

I have an appreciation for dreams.  The dreams that you have when you are asleep and the dreams you have when you are awake show you things about yourself you did not know.  They illuminate the direction you are going.

As far as sleep dreams are concerned, I had this dream one night that I had an alpine slide in my back yard.

For those of you who have never ridden an alpine slide, I’ll let my friend, Wikipedia explain what this is.

It is a long chute on the side of a hill, usually built by ski resorts to supplement summer income. A wheeled cart is used to navigate the slide. The ride is similar to a bobsled ride, except that it rolls over a smooth track — generally cement, stainless steel, or fiberglass — rather than sliding on ice.

Near the village the peaceful village
The lion sleeps tonight
Near the village the quiet village
The lion sleeps tonight

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”
-Solomon Linda with the Evening Birds

Anyway, in my dream, I wasn’t going very fast down this slide.  I must have been breaking or something.  It was all very slow.  That is the way it is in dreams sometimes.  It can be slow, then speed up.  Then slow down again.  I call these the’ DVR dreams’ because a whole night seems to go by very quickly in my DVR dreams.  They are on fast forward.  Generally, they happen when I sleep on the couch, too.  But that is another matter all together.

So I’m rolling down this long slide and the end of the slide is at the back door of this long ranch style log cabin with an elevated deck where one of my kids is standing waiting to greet me as I get done with my ride.

I look over to my left down this long hill into an enormous valley and I see a rather large mountain lion.  Of course, as in all good horror movies where the main character is about to be devoured by some large animal or plant, something was about to tip off the antagonist.  In this case, it was the screeching sound of me breaking  at the end of my route which was the lion’s dinner bell alerting this majestic animal that his lunch had arrived.  Of course, just my luck that I was being served on a nice rolling platter– ready to be consumed.

This is where the fast forward effect is really vivid, because it didn’t take that mountain lion but two giant leaps to get within just a few feet of the end of this slide.  It was as if I had skipped over that commercial for the ‘wonder chamois’ and landed right at the start of my favorite program.   Only, in  this case, I’m about to be eviscerated, so that isn’t good.

It was in that moment facing this mountain lion and looking at my child standing on the deck that I thought about the two choices I had.  I could stand up and raise my arms and look as big and as mean as I possibly could, or I could lay there and hope that I made a big enough meal to forever satisfy this enormous beast.  A meal large enough that the little morsel standing on the deck wouldn’t be as appealing.  I am a pretty big guy chock-full of lean succulent meat, so in my dream state this made perfect sense to me.

So that is our message to you this week.  Keep your eyes fixed on the prize and your attitude and emotions in check.  Stand up.  Raise your arms.  Look as big and as mean as you possibly can.

The Confession Wall

I was early in 3rd grade when I did something that I, still– to this day– am ashamed of.

I kicked a hole in a wall at school.

In my defense, it was an accident.  It was one of those things that you do when you are a kid, and you don’t really even think about it.  I don’t recall being particularly angry, and I don’t remember being particularly strong in 3rd grade, either.  Ok.  Let me frame this for you.  I was a wuss.   I was the kid that the kids who got beat up–well, I was the kid who those kids beat up.  I was at the bottom of the totem pole.  I was the last in line.  Of course, some of that may have been because my last name started with a ‘Y’.  But, still…

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave them kids alone

“Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)”
-Roger Waters, Pink Floyd

I remember standing in line and just kicking toward the wall.  It wasn’t my intention to kick a hole in it.  I figured it was cement.  How could little ‘ole me possibly put a hole in a cement wall?  It wasn’t cement.  It was plaster, and the plaster gave way, chomping down on my tennis shoe like a smallmouth bass clamps down on a lure.  But I yanked my foot loose like nothing had happened and swam back into line with the other kids.

No one saw.  My classmates had not seen me actually kick the wall because they were all gabbing and moaning about whatever we were going to be doing that day.  Only one of them even realized I was out of line.  It was just about then when the teacher came to the back of the line and asked what had happened.  All were shocked and horrified and claimed innocence.  I made my best no-guilt face.  “I don’t know.”, I said.

The only problem was, I did know.  Suspicion quickly turned to me.  I just shrugged.  We went on with our daily activities.  Gradually that blame escalated until I found myself in the office with my teacher.  Instead of owning up to what I had done, I picked the path of denial, and I was able to even convince myself that, “Certainly, it was not me.”

Oh how I wish it only escalated to that “Christmas Story” moment when the teacher announces, “I’m sure those of you who put Flick up to this know your blame and the guilt you feel is punishment enough!”  However, It could not be that.  She was out for blood.  She poked at me with her long fingernails, and spoke with a wicked-witch voice.

“Be honest with me, did you do this?”  It was her last-ditch effort to withdrawal a confession from me.

“No.” I said.  That was the end of it.  My interrogation was over.  The overhead lights were turned back on.  The spotlight ceased.  I returned to my desk.  A week or so later the hole was patched and repainted.  But not so perfectly patched and repainted that I couldn’t see it each time I walked to my classroom.  The raised edges of the spot glared perfectly off of the light in the hallway.

I looked at that spot on the wall every day.  Some days I would think about my denial.  Other days I would think about the consequences I avoided.  Occasionally, I would think about our custodian smoothing plaster over the hole, waiting for it to dry, then painting over it.  Every time I would look at it I would picture my toe deeper and deeper inside that wall.  I would imagine the last day of school when the wall would finally just swallow me up and imprison me.

But it didn’t.

Yes, I had learned how to fool everyone around me and wallow in denial, but I understood– after walking down that hallway for a few weeks– that I could not fool myself.

The Mice and the Tornado

I probably wasn’t much more than 7 years old when a tornado struck our trailer in Iowa.   I lived on a small farm.  We were poor growing up.  Of course, it is impossible to remember exactly how poor, until I look at the pictures of our home.  We lived in a small trailer.  There were very few trees and my then stepfather worked the field as a farmer.  My father had already gone to prison for robbery and my mother divorced him.  I remember a few things about the trailer.  I remember the floor plan.  I remember how the north wind used to blow right through the building, or so it seemed, as there was no protection up on the hill away from the trees that shielded my then stepfathers former home just up the road.  His daughter lived next door.  Needless to say, it was not a peaceful neighborhood.

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I remember the tractor tire filled with sand and how I used to watch the sand fall through my hands and sift in ever smaller grains in the wind.  How the remaining chaff would blow into the dirt road that led to the front door of the trailer, swirling into mini vortexes  until they became invisible in the backdrop of dusty roads and weeds and stones.

Ain’t no people on the old dirt road
No more weather on the old dirt road
It’s better than a mudslide mamma when the dry spell come, yeah
Oh oh oh old dirt road

“Old Dirt Road”
John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, John Lennon

I remember, too, riding on the tractor with my stepfather.  I picture it now as John Deere 2010, but it was probably an old Farmall 560.  Either way, it was from the early 60s.  It seemed almost new, but was probably nearly 17 years old by then.  I can’t remember if it was green or red.  Time has a way of making us either color blind or etches these memories into our very fabric color and all.

One day as we were mowing hay, we happened upon a mischief of mice.  I just like saying it that way.  First, technically, it is correct.  It was a small batch of field mice.  Second, I am sure that mischief was what we were about to get into.   My prankster stepfather seemed to think that it would be a good idea to take these field mice under our wing, place them inside of a small cardboard box and have me bring them home with us.

I had a feeling what my mom would think of that.

But he did it none the less, and before long I had a much expanded home for field mice complete with cardboard box walls and nesting material right outside of my mom’s front door.

Now, my mom isn’t the kind of person who gets upset by a few field mice.  But she also doesn’t really appreciate vermin being brought to her front door to live, either.  She voiced her dissatisfaction, and having seen the rather unstable walls of the outdoor field mouse kennel, she both voiced that dissatisfaction to my stepfather and then conceded.  Likely knowing that I had trapped them within a bird of prey dinner plate and it was only a matter of time before the movement of these little mice in their corridor would tip the interest of a hawk.

So we left them there and took off to repair something or buy feed or do the countless things you do on a farm to keep it running.  We returned, or course, to no more mice.  Only birds circling the driveway searching for an additional morsel.  Thankfully, I was unaware of this until much later.  I was told that they simply escaped.

It was not more than a year later that my stepfather found out he was sick and passed away.  It was not much longer after that the spring rain and strong winds came for a visit in the form of a tornado.

I don’t remember much about the tornado that hit our trailer home other than the rumbling and howl of the wind.  It came upon us so quickly that there was really no where to go.  We were trapped inside of this long wooden and metal structure.  I heard the tearing at the windows and the shattering of glass as we ducked under the bed.  I prayed and counted the moments until I would be carried into the storm and whisked away never to be seen again.  I prayed for that moment and I feared it.

I thought of the mice and how I wished someone would come and grab me from this place.  That they could pluck us from the wind and the howling rain and the hail that pealed back the roof of the trailer like a can of sardines.  Pluck us out.  I dare you.

I was not plucked out.  I was not devoured by the storm.  What remained was the last of what we had and as we emerged from under the bed it was one of the first times I remember my mom crying.  I looked outside through the hole in the wall which was once a window and saw hail covering the ground and cornstalks drifted against the fence.  Pieces of our trailer had been scattered every which way like chaff in the wind.  My mom and I and my brother were the big stones in the sand that remained.

I was not plucked out.  I was not devoured by the storm.  What remained was the last of what we had and as we emerged from under the bed it was one of the first times I remember my mom crying.  I looked outside through the hole in the wall which was once a window and saw hail covering the ground and cornstalks drifted against the fence.  Pieces of our trailer had been scattered every which way like chaff in the wind.  My mom and I and my brother were the big stones in the sand that remained.

1000 Miles

My life is an amazing sequence of miracles separated by miles.  It was the summer after my Sr. year in high school and I had just turned eighteen and spent the last two years living with my grandmother after she rescued me from a juvenile shelter in Ames and took me into her home.  It had long been foretold by my grandfather that she would one day end up taking care of me.  He had long since passed, but there I was working through whatever it was that was next.

So, this is the story of two people from different generations who really needed one another more than they probably would ever admit at the time.  I needed a place to live, and she, at least in the most basic sense, needed the company.   Her husband, my grandfather, had passed away in the 70s and she had spent much of the last 10-15 years alone, except when my brother and I came to visit.  Once, when I got the Chicken Pox, she got Shingles and gracefully we nursed one another back to health.

It may be on a Sunday morning
It may be on a Tuesday afternoon
But no matter what the day is
I’m going to make it my business to get home soon

“A Thousand Miles Away”
-James Sheppard and William H. Miller, The Heartbeats

So, when the court placed me with a 67 year old woman and the only family that I had who would take me, I don’t think that it was under the premise that it would bring her new life.  I simply wanted to change my environment.  I was running from abuse and an environment where lies and deception were the norm.  I was running to sanctuary.  It was an oasis where at least as much as she could give it, love was the norm.  I responded to that in a way that anyone would, I think.  Yes, it was gradual.  Even today, I think that I have only begun to realize the full effect of that love through the molding and shaping of my own children.

The summer after my Sr. year my grandmother asked me to accompany her on her last road trip.  We decided to plan a trip, a drive, to see my aunt in Mobile.  This is the kind of thing that movies are made of.  So she scheduled the trip and we were to leave.  It was 23 years ago this last summer.

Now, in those days AAA had a service where you could send away for a map of our route when going on a road trip and they would reference possible stopping points or overnights.  I helped by sending away to AAA for a map of our route.  The packet that arrived was thrilling.  We were to travel the 1000 miles to my Aunt’s home along some of the back routes through Missouri.  We take these things for granted now a days, but that was the 1989 version of the Internet.  You made a phone call, or sent a letter.

It was this summer that I had been taking a literature course at DMACC.  It was just to get my feet wet, as I was going to go to U of Iowa in the fall.

We spent weeks planning this trip, but it had not occurred to me that I would miss my literature final.    So, ignored my literature final to take this trip with my grandmother.  Looking back, I bet that this was unnecessary.  I probably could have taken the final early or made other arrangements.  But I was an academic misfit, to some extent.  I didn’t really know how to make those types of arrangements.  I was good with maps, though.

So, we set off on the 1000 mile journey.

We were just north of Cairo, Missouri when the car, a 1986 or 88 Chrysler LeBaron sputtered a bit.  Soon we were alongside the road playing a waiting game, trying to determine what to do next.

It wasn’t long before someone pulled up alongside us and asked if they could lend us a hand.  Of course, we had AAA, so we were in pretty good shape as far as getting a tow truck.  But, these were the days before widespread cell service.  So I hopped a ride with a stranger into town and used the nearest payphone.  Grandmother stayed behind with the car, in case a truck happened by, I guess.  Also, there wasn’t much room in this person’s truck.  He had a couple of others with him.

I often have the brief thought on the occasional times I have gotten into cars with complete strangers, about whether or not I am actually going to be just taken somewhere and murdered.  How ironic, I thought.  Killed at the hands of my savior.  And then, my dear old grandmother would be sitting there, waiting for me.  She would be irritated, too.  That was the last thing that I wanted was for my grandmother to be irritated.

I made arrangements, and graciously accepted the ride back to the vehicle to wait out the arrival of the tow truck.

Before it came, however, my grandmother announced what I could only imagine would be the inevitable.  “Well, shoot”, she said.  “I have to pee.”  

“Surely you could hold it”.  I said.  I knew that she couldn’t.  However, there weren’t too many options.  We were along side a small rural highway in the middle of nowhere and only a barbed wire fence separated us from the fields stretched  out as far as either of us could see.  Only I didn’t realize that there was barbed wire.

I was a little shocked when she said, “I’m going over there.”

“What if the truck comes?”

“Well, if you know what is good for you, you won’t leave me.”

“I wouldn’t do that” I said.

And so she made her way through the knee high grass, assumingly to her destination.  I wasn’t sure at what point she was going to drop her drawers and let the sweet urine flow, and perhaps I had assumed that it was sooner than she did because I looked away.  I could hear the rustling of grass through the open window.

“Be careful”, I said.

More rustling.  Then the crackling of sticks.  I really didn’t want to think about my grandmother dropping a load next to a fairly busy highway.  

“Oh, for crying out loud.”  And then, “Oh!”  She had gotten hung up in the barbed wire while trying to climb over it.  I had never heard of a 70 year old woman attempting to scale a barbed wire fence, so I was both proud and a little concerned that I was going to have to go get her.  What if there were snakes?  What if I had to help her pull up her pants?

“Are you ok?”

Yea, I’m fine.  And then another, “For crying out loud.”  And then a sigh.  And then some more rustling.

And then, what emerged was a pathetic and somehow victorious display.  It was as if she had been attacked and sprayed by a rabid porcupine and wrestled it to the ground.  I still remember this as if it was yesterday.  She was covered in dirt and grass and urine.  I could barely bring myself to ask what had happened when I saw that her calves were covered in scratches and oozing the crimson blood that soaked neatly into the puffy top of her old lady socks.

“I’m fine.”, she repeated.  I pulled some napkins out of the back seat and we got her cleaned up as much as possible.

The truck came and towed us to Columbia, Missouri.  In the process of towing, the operator had torn up both of the CV boots and damaged the front axel.  We didn’t know this until the final diagnosis, though, that afternoon.

The repair was going to take several days.  The manager of the dealership brought us into his office to relay the bad news.  We were going to be there for a few days.

“We can’t do that.  We are on a vacation.  My grandson is driving me to Mobile.”  She explained.  “What about a rental.  There has to be something you can do for us.”

The man explained that he couldn’t rent a car and have it driven by an 18 year old.  “There is just too much liability.  We can’t let the car go out of state.”

And there it was.  My grandmother sitting in the chair across from this middle aged man who was telling her that there were very few options for her at this point.  The cuffs of her pants were stained with blood and every once in a while you could still catch a whiff of pee.  She had burrs in her shoelaces which I am certain must have been digging into the tops of her feet by now.  But she spoke calmly and surely.

“This is what you are going to do.  You are going to rent me a car today.  You will find a way to do it.  We can stay in town tonight, but I want that car ready to go in the morning.”

“Let me…”  he said.

“and, when we leave, you aren’t going to pay any attention to who is driving it.”

“Yes, mamm.  Let me see what I can do.”

Then he came back with the rental contract.  They took her information and worked out the fees and the other necessities.

“We should have your car repaired by the time you get back from Mobile”, he explained. ” Everything is on order.”  I sat stunned.

She thanked him and we moved our stuff over to the Dodge Spirit. 

“That is quite a grandmother you have there, son.”, He said.

I nodded.  “Full of piss and vinegar.” I thought.  I didn’t say it.  But she had used those words herself several times.  I don’t think she ever used them about herself though.

The next morning, we would continue the journey.  

That is the way it was with my grandmother.  When she faced different obstacles and her life encountered trials, she would move through it.  It was as if, when the rain came, instead of retreating indoors, she had simply put on a raincoat and grabbed an umbrella.

I got a ‘D’ in literature that summer.  I didn’t think that it would ever matter.  I was going to go on to the U of Iowa and would get a different degree, anyway.  But this last year when I decided to take some more classes at DMACC, that ‘D’ was still on my transcript.  What I had thought would never be a big deal, stood between me and a goal that I have to get my Master’s Degree.  The only way to replace that ‘D’ was to retake the course, and so, 23 years later I retook the course and achieved a 98% in the class.  The grade propelled me into honors territory that fall, and is just one more rung on a ladder I am climbing to my goal.

Sometimes, things do come full circle.  My Grandmother passed away 10 years ago.  She would be 102 today.  In many ways, because of the time we spent together she lives with me even today.

The Drive

My freshman year in college I got an invite from an old girlfriend to drive to Columbia, Missouri and see Steven Wright in concert.  It was a fabulous invite.  I appreciated Steven Wright’s humor.  His interesting way of looking at the world.

In one of his jokes he explains in his monotone voice, “This woman came up to me and said that I was wearing two different color socks.  I told her that was fine– to me they are the same, because I go by thickness.”

I really wanted to see Steven Wright in person.  However, there were many problems with this.  I didn’t have a car.  For some strange reason, which I don’t really remember, I had to be back at school the next day.  Also, the girl I was going to see was an on-again off-again girlfriend from high school.

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

“Runnin’ on Empty”
-Jackson Brown

I convinced one of my friend’s to ask his roommate if I could borrow his car, drive the 4 hours to Columbia, then return To Iowa City and be back by the next morning.  To my surprise, his roommate agreed.  It was set.  I was to leave the next afternoon.

Here is the point at which I also mention that the automobile I borrowed was a station wagon.  The deal was that I give his roommate 50 bucks and return the car, unharmed, with gasoline.  My best recollection was that it was a 1985 Dodge Aries station wagon.   In the mind of an 18 or 19 year old, this seemed like a great idea gathering momentum.  Ok, it still seems like a great idea.  I love a good road trip!

I did not know if he had insurance.  I did not know if the car had been maintained.  I didn’t own a cell phone.  After all, it was 1992.

The trip down went according to plan.  Mapped precision and a keen schedule put me in Columbia in time for dinner and the show.  No drama with the ex girlfriend.  I simply did her bidding and then retreated at the previously agreed upon departure time.  I had escaped complications and was back in the car on my way home.

At this point, I might mention that it was about 2 a.m. when I left Columbia.

As I crossed over the Iowa border, I started having trouble staying awake.  I had a deadline, though.  So I continued.  I pressed on the gas a bit harder.

I must have continued for at least another hour.  I was very tired.  It was about 3:30 or 4 in the morning.  I was fighting the inevitable nod off.  I had already had plenty of caffeine, but at that point it really didn’t matter.

I should have taken it as a warning when I edged over into the gravel, but there was no suitable place to really stop along this one lane highway.  I kept going.  Even the next small town was still a considerable distance away.  I kept going.  I had a deadline.  I kept going.

I imagined each one of the dashed lines hitting the car.  Bump.  Bump.  Bump.  Bump.   Then a solid ‘no passing zone’ line.  The line seemed to wave at me at first.  Then she pointed at me and curled her finger for me to come closer.  I could see the whites of her eyes as she moved closer to me, her long straight teeth ready to let out a big laughing jeer.

It was at that moment that I woke up.  It was as if someone had injected me with a shot of adrenaline.  I was alert.  I could see the teeth of my former maiden were engraved with the detailed lettering of a truck manufacturer.  Truck!

In a split second, I jerked the wheel to the right, and veered into the gravel shoulder.  Then to the left back up on to the pavement.  Then to the right.  The car began to shake so violently back and forth I remember hitting my head on the window.  I had unknowingly put my foot on the breaks and put the car into a backward spin.   I gave the brakes one final slam as I watched the semi pass me… on the passengers side.  Eventually the car came to a screeching stop.

Had that just happened?  I couldn’t feel anything except for a throbbing headache.  It was dark.  The smell of burning rubber filled the car.  The engine had stalled.  I was facing backward down a 2 lane road watching as the semi stopped and the driver got out of his cab and started running toward me to see if I was ok.

I had cheated death.  The odds were slim, but at the last millisecond they turned in my favor.  I turned the key and the car started.  Good ‘ole car.  There was alignment.  There was gasoline.  I was awake.  I completed a three point turn and watched in the rear view mirror as the man stopped and ran back to his truck, all the while getting smaller and smaller.

Was I alive?  The world seemed crisp and clean.  Even in the dark, I could see the clouds linger overhead and the stars in the distance.  For a moment I wasn’t sure.  As I thought about it I nearly nodded off again.  ‘Time to listen.”, I thought.  I stopped in a parking lot in the next town kicked back the seat and slept.

I got back to Iowa City and returned the car.

“How’d she drive?”, my friends roommate asked.

“Not bad… for a station wagon.” I said.

I considered how close to death I really was.  How– in a split second– we could part from this world.  How there can only be milliseconds between life and death.  It was the next year that Chris Street was killed in an auto accident.   I had spent nearly every Tuesday and Thursday riding on the campus bus with him on our way to class.  Both of our heads leaning over, our ears pressed up to the ceiling like a couple of goofballs.  Then, he was gone.

Please don’t forget that your life is short.  Make the most of it.  You will have failure and you will have success, but your odds of success improve with good choices.  A couple of these choices involve how you eat and what you do with your fitness routine.  I would love for all of you to stay with the program.  I consider each one of you good friends and it has been our pleasure to serve as your coaches.