The Storms of Life

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He watches over me, leading the way when the storms of life are coming. When there is no way around it and the only option is to put my head down and plow through it, He is there. I will not travel through this alone because He is leading the way, guiding me and protecting me from whatever this storm will bring. I do not have the strength to go it alone and He makes sure I do not have to face troubled times and stormy weather without Him. He gives me direction when I’m lost, and tells me when I should face the storm and when I should go around it. I trust Him.

When the dark clouds are approaching, our first instinct is to avoid them. We worry what might happen and wonder how we can get around it, because we get so caught up in what might happen we forget to have faith. The darkness and power of what’s coming makes us forget to appreciate the beauty in it. It is the experiences in our lives that made us who we are and we must remember that we will not go it alone. No matter how hard or bad it is, it too will end and a brand new beautiful day will dawn, giving us a better understanding of not only who we are but what we can handle. It always surprises me in how much we can handle.

When you are heading down that road in your life and you see a storm fast approaching, take a moment to look around and see who is going to ride it out with you. We hope that our friends and family will be there for us, and they will. But see who is leading, guiding and protecting you when it’s about to hit. It’s not always obvious, sometimes you have to look around for signs of His presence to see it for yourself.

My ride to work always gives me time to think about the day, week or life in general. As if I’m in some sort of meditative state, I can reflect on things and take a few minutes to figure it all out and put it into perspective. We all know our lives, as predictive as they may seem, are really unpredictable. It is this mind-clearing experience of riding to work where I do my best thinking because I’m alone with my thoughts and distractions are minimal. Sometimes it’s the obvious that we are quick to miss. I took this picture of the storm in the horizon unaware of the shadow being cast on the road before me. It may seem random to some and it may not even mean anything to others, but to me it was God telling me things were going to be alright. It is the open mind and open heart that hears the answers to questions we have, and today that question was answered.

 

A Letter to Miss Kylie

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My, how you’ve grown. It seems like just yesterday you were talking to us in sign language before you could put sentences together. Now look at you, smart, beautiful and all girl! And so this year you begin school and with that your life will slowly change and evolve into whatever and wherever you are destined to be.

You sure have a way about you. All “matter-of-fact” and funny, but you are also a very beautiful, independent young lady with an opinion and feelings that surface without warning. I look at you and I hear your mother saying the same things or acting in the same way – sensitive, compassionate and carefree throughout your day.  I also look at you and see your father. Stubborn and strong without a doubt, but that’s a good thing. You have the best of both your mom and dad, but you will also bring a little of yourself to the surface that defines who you are and who you will be. A head full of hair and big beautiful eyes with a hand that fits perfectly in mine.

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The one thing you don’t know about me is I can see the future. Very much like you are today, you will get through your worst days while every tomorrow gives you the chance to forget about what “has” happened and focus on what “will” happen. Nothing is so bad that you can’t get through it. Be yourself no matter what and do everything you can to make a difference in your life or someone else’s life. Some things you will have to find out for yourself and that is a part of growing up and you will never be alone even though some days it will feel that way. As you get older you’ll find that faith, family and friends are what really matter, and that a bad day at school, or the fight with a friend is temporary. And you will make friends. Lots of friends. You will find friendship in the most unlikely people, but more importantly, you will make a difference in someone’s life without even knowing it. You are that special. Like I always told your mother when she was your age, whenever there is a new student in school, always walk up and introduce yourself. If there is one thing they need at that moment, is someone to walk up and make them feel welcome. You might even make a life-long friend in the process. That also holds true no matter where you are in this life.

As you grow older, the answers to questions you have always had will be answered. Sometimes it’s not the answers you thought they would be, but realize that this is a part of life and we have all discovered it in our own way and our own  time. Don’t rush through it;  take your time to see the beauty of this world and witness all that God created. You will grow up fast enough and you will miss a few things along the way. But you will find as you get older, you will come to appreciate the wonders of this world and all the people who cross your path. It is a wonderful world and you are  just beginning your walk through it. When life gets hard to deal with, talk to your mother. She has an understanding of what things can be like when the world doesn’t turn your way. She’s had her moments, and still does, but she is funny and beautiful and only stronger because of it. Above all, keep a sense of humor.

I love spending time with you. You are very perceptive and it amazes me how quick you are with a smile and a laugh, and how much energy you have. When you are here visiting, it’s great to go for a walk to the park so I can bore you with stories of me growing up in this small town. I hope someday we can spend more time together, and we will, I know it. As you get older our conversations will change from “why” and “how come” to deeper talks about how you are doing at school and work, instead of me telling you about growing up in a small town. But I have a feeling in a few years you will again ask me how it was when I was growing up. Funny how that is.

There will come a time in your life when your daughter or son will become a living example of your childhood, and you will look back as a mother and realize how much your mom and dad love and care about you, even though sometimes it won’t seem like it. You can always come to me and tell me how you feel but I will always side with your mom and dad. I will do my best to listen, explain, hug and love you, because that is my job. I am here to give you perspective on things and life in general-all the while loving you with all my heart. You will understand when that day comes and you become a parent and grandparent.

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Just like your mom and dad, there is nothing better as a parent than watching your children grow. That’s where you and Casen come in – watching both of you grow is nothing short of a gift for an old guy like me. You have a way of making everything else seem a little less important and you give me the gift of allowing me to put my life into perspective. And when there is a smile on your face it puts a smile on mine. That is the difference you have made in my life, without even knowing it. See? I told you I could predict the future!

Miss Kylie, you are an amazing young lady with your life just beginning. You will do extraordinary things along the way, but first things first. Know that I love you and I always will and I am always here for you no matter how far away it seems. You are a joy in my life that nothing can replace.

Moving Bodies and Souls – 110 Years

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One-hundred and ten years is a long time in anyone’s book, especially when it comes to building motorcycles. It’s hard enough to feel passionate about anything for so long let alone beyond generations. That’s why you have enthusiasts building motorcycles for enthusiasts because nobody else can. Some dreams die with the dreamers, but in the case of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company it has kept the dream alive in all of us. In a time when wool suits were the proper riding apparel to ride your motorcycle, Harley-Davidson has been there to see the transformation of the culture and lifestyle of bikers to where it is today. Roads were being built, highways were being connected and destinations became real. What started out as a different kind of transportation 110 years ago, became a form of recreation and a lifestyle for so many. A combination of steel and style moves a nation both physically and emotionally and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles have been there through it all.

Just as any company knows, as time ticks by there are ups and downs, twists and turns, but it turns out that is the exact same thing we enthusiasts seek out when it comes to the roads we travel. It is “the ride” that gets you through it and whether it’s business or pleasure, we take the road less traveled because it is who we are and always will be. Nobody said “the ride” would be easy, but if nothing else, it has always been fun. Moving bodies and souls at the same time was probably not something the Harley and Davidson boys thought much about, but that’s how things ended up. It is Harley-Davidson that represents this country in a way that only it can and it changes you. Freedom, Pride, Emotion and American are a few things that come to mind, and we haven’t even looked at what it’s done to so many from a life-changing experience – and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles change lives. It’s brought people together and created a community around the world to the point of being a universal language – and it knocks down walls that are invisible and man-made.

Nobody said it would be easy, because easy wasn’t a concern 110 years ago. You rolled up your sleeves and you worked hard. You got your hands dirty and you brought your lunch in a pale. You were happy to be working with your hands and you didn’t think about life 100 years from then; we still don’t. But we dreamed, and we still do. And it is dreams that makes this country great, so we keep dreaming. For every road we travel down on our Harley-Davidson, someone before us has traveled that same road on their Harley-Davidson. Whether your ride in Rome Italy or Rome Wisconsin, there’s a good chance you’re not the first one there with your motorcycle. But knowing that also gives you a sense of belonging to something greater than the road traveled. It was created by men with a dream and a willingness to chase that dream on the creation before them. Just like we do today.

It has become a passion for which we have no control over. That passion is transformed into an expression of who we are, and where we are going – both in the sense of motion and emotion. To say Harley-Davidson has changed the way we put our lives into perspective would be an understatement. Some things have no explanation, and we accept that. This motorcycle has helped people through their ups and downs and the twists and turns that life has thrown at them, and it has been a member of the family that has been passed on through generations. It is a symbol and extension of our inner selves that only we know, and that only a few can understand.

So we ride. We ride like those did 110 years ago, and those that will ride when we no longer can. I’ve seen where Harley-Davidson has been, but I can’t see where this road will take us, but I guarantee it will be a great ride. Here’s to 100 more years Harley-Davidson!

Puzzled

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Life happens and as it does, it changes us. Daily. The morning’s ride to work is usually something that is ordinary and uneventful, but as I put my kickstand down after arriving at work, I stopped and realized I couldn’t remember the ride in. Twenty minutes had gone by and although I was coherent and aware of the ride, all I could remember was that two miles of Skiddy where the temperature dropped. The smell of cedar trees and how they reminded me of the pencils my mother would bring home from Anderson’s Lumber and Hardware where she worked part-time. I used those pencils in school and as I was leaving my teeth marks in them during Mrs. Stenstrom’s class, that smell of cedar must have stayed with me. Or was it the lead in those pencils?

I thought about a life-long friend of mine, Russ, who is moving back to Skiddy in the near future and how it would be to move your life back to where you grew up, after so many years of living in Wisconsin. Not difficult in the sense of moving your stuff, but in the emotional sense. I often think I should have taken the chance and moved outside of White City and experienced something else. Sure, the community made me who I am, but would moving have changed me? Again, life happens every day, so would it have been that big of a deal to move? Hmmm. Even so, I thought about those friends of mine that I grew up with and how some have stayed, but most have moved on. I still feel that connection with a few of them and it feels good to know that no matter where someone is in this world, we’ll always have that going for us.

The ride continued past the Skiddy Cemetery and I noticed how the sun was coming up over a bank of dark clouds in the East. The edge of the clouds filtered the sun just enough to make this particular morning look a little different. Or was it one of those life moments when I was changing. To see something in a different light might have a new meaning here. Maybe there is a scientific reason for the different light and how it affects you but I’m betting it’s more of a spiritual reason. The ride continued on, and I thought about how our lives are kind of like puzzles. The big difference here is we don’t know what the finished picture is going to be. Each piece we place in our puzzle of life changes what the picture will be and eventually the outcome, and each piece is represented by those people in our lives, our jobs, our environment, etc. A subtle change is all it takes to completely change the entire puzzle of life. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing here, it’s just the way it is. As we get about half way through our puzzle, we can start seeing the cabin by the water (or apparently a forest of cedar trees in my case) and the puzzle seems to be falling into place. Then a few more pieces are placed and you realize that this puzzle may be harder than you think. One thing is for sure; those that “fit” into our puzzle will be there to stay. A lot to think about on a twenty-minute ride. Or in this case; what ride?

So I made it to work safe and sound. In summary, science says when you ride into a valley the temperature will probably drop a few degrees. Also, someone decided cedar trees make good pencils, and you must have patience to put a puzzle together. But for twenty minutes I thought about friends that are dear to me and how we fit into each other’s lives. Friends near and far will always be friends, and some are very close to me no matter how far away they are. They are an important piece to my puzzle and without them my life wouldn’t be complete.

Motivation by Recreation

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It’s been a long time. Years. A certain period of time in your life when the weather was just winter or summer. Nothing in between, just one or the other. We were either going to school or we were out for the summer, and as kids that was all we knew. As we got older, we started to notice the difference in the seasons and that there was actually a clock on the wall. Life was going on around us and we were taking in the view beyond the grasshoppers, mud puddles and those really straight sticks you would find every so often that you couldn’t stand to leave behind. We were growing up.

All of a sudden life became a little bigger. Where you sat in the car became somewhat of a status symbol. Back seat – a friend, front seat passenger side – good friend, driver seat – popular with your friends, and sitting in the middle of the front seat – girlfriend. At this stage we were just trying to figure out what we were going to do next Saturday night, not what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. We looked forward to the weekends for reasons other than getting caught up on yard work. Motivation by recreation.

But we keep getting older and that clock on the wall keeps ticking. It’s funny, as kids we didn’t notice the clock on the wall and time literally stood still. Now the clock is such a big part of who we are and what we do, it demands our attention. Like it or not, it’s ticking. But as young adults we were starting to realize that there was something bigger coming down the pike.

I’ve ridden motorcycles for a lot of years and just like my friends who played sports in school, I found a sport that I connected with. Somewhere in the middle of White City Kansas as I was riding a wheelie through one of those mud puddles, it should have hit me then that this is what I could be doing for a living. At seventeen, having the 8-track stereo in your car and enough money for pizza and a movie with your girlfriend was the depth of my focus, not a career in the motorcycle business. Looking back there were a couple of things I would have focused on more and that could have directly changed my life.

The winding road of life can take you to places you never dreamed of. Sometimes it’s the long way around and sometimes it was the obvious route that our stubborn, teenage pride or angst ignored. Either way, the old saying “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” holds true. So here I am, fifty years old and working in the motorcycle business, motivated by one of the things I enjoy doing. The clock is still ticking and I’m still intrigued by a really straight stick when I see one, but I’ve learned to leave it on the ground. I’m riding and writing about motorcycles and my life of growing up in a small town in hopes that someone will find a little humor in it. It has taken a few years but it has finally dawned on me that life is as big as you make it. And I’m in the driver’s seat!

Lost In America

jlm2And so life rolls along. Like the miles we ride the years also pass by. Some blurry, some as clear as the images in a photograph. They keep passing by none-the-less, taking no effort to recall. The miles and years we travel through are worn on our sleeve for all to see, and are a direct reflection of who we are. Young and full of life, or old, dusty and tired, it doesn’t matter. Only the road we’ve traveled makes a true difference to the images in our minds.

We can pick any road to travel on, and in so many ways life is the same way. To some extent the path is already chosen for us, but it’s the little detours and curves and the bumps in the road that can alter the direction at any given time. So we press on to find out “where” we’re going all the while not knowing if it’s the direction we “should” be going. Lost in America, looking for the meaning of “The Road.”

Some have the “balls to the wall” mentality while others are more cautions and calculated. I’m along for the ride no matter what. Age dictates the speed and recklessness for which we travel through life, but as I get older the days go faster than I want them to. But whether we like it or not, the journey happens every day. Headed down the road or getting through the day, it’s going to happen. We can choose to sit and stare straight ahead, or take in the scenery. You pick, after all it’s your life. Me? I’ll be taking in the scenery.

Bucket List

sunsetBack in the day some bikers refered to a helmet as a “lid” or “bucket” when sitting around telling mostly true stories with their buddies. We all have certain terms for things as we often refer to our motorcycle as a “ride” or “steel horse.” So let’s take the “bucket” and use that as a question. What is your “bucket list.” Or better yet, what is your helmet list? All of us are in different stages in making our helmet list and often that list changes as we get older. Some things are crossed off the list with enthusiasm, while others seem impossible to achieve. As I ride I find some things just cross themselves off as if I set out to conquer it, but in reality it was just by chance that the item on the list happened without even trying. The whole reason for our helmet list is to make sure that we experience and enjoy life, no matter what it is you set out to do. 

Now you just don’t fall out of a plane by accident when the goal was to go parachuting, but to see the sunset from the most random place is quite frankly, a pretty big deal to me. To have a great conversation with a long-lost friend might not make your list, but for me is one that I can check off. I think that sometimes we make our helmet list so difficult we find ourselves miserable when we can’t get anything crossed off.

Sure, I have several things I want to achieve in my life but I also want to enjoy every possible experience I can. After all, that is what life is about. Experiences. Riding a motorcycle can open the door of experiences you may not get anywhere else. You can meet some amazing people who can also share experiences they’ve had along the way. Of course, in some cases it may not be a helmet list to them, but maybe a “bandana list” is more their style. To each their own!

If you haven’t made your helmet list, you should. If you don’t have a helmet, get one. And a motorcycle as well. You might find that as you ride, that list inside your bucket will slowly disappear, along with some things you weren’t expecting. At least for a while, the stress of life and the problems at work have a way of sorting themselves out. Take a ride to the coast, ride through the mountains or to the corner store. But ride. Mentally cross off those things you see that weren’t on your list. Looking over my shoulder at a beautiful sunset while pumping gas is one of mine, and I tell myself – at this moment, right now, I am right where I want to be. Check.

Faith Hope Live Laugh

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Words to live by. I have always felt strongly about this phrase and many times I have needed to say these words out loud to myself. You see, there have been times over the years that one of the four has been missing in my life. Maybe not missing entirely, but lacking might be a better way of putting it. I’ve always tried to maintain a positive outlook on life and I have found rolling along with the punches does make life a little easier. But as humans do, we usually search for those inspirational sayings to help us through. One thing I have always said to myself when the day is going less than good is “this day too will end”. It tells me that no matter how hard it is or how hard it can be, this day is just that. A day. It will end just like yesterday did and how tomorrow will. It will be ok.

Faith for me has been something I’ve needed to work at. I haven’t struggled with it, but I have not been the person I have wanted to be when it comes to my spiritual side. My relationship with God is strong but as a man I can be better. God knows me better than I know myself, and He’s working on it. And so am I. Our Faith gives us strength and in my life when my Faith was on the back burner is when I felt the weakest. Thank you God for being patient with me, I will try harder.

Hope is really easy for me as I am an eternal optimist. Faith and Hope go together, and if you ever hear me say ” I Hope you have a good day” understand that this is my way of saying I care about you and I think about you and I want your day to be amazing. It just always comes out, “have a good day.” Simple words I know, but it’s all about sincerity. And of course being polite!

Live your life as if it is your last day on earth. I know it’s easier said than done, and I really don’t want to leave this world washing the dishes, but you know what? What’s wrong with that? If I die tomorrow doing the dishes I am doing what needs to be done. That’s who I am. I am not above it and I’m good with that. As long as I can leave with those close to me knowing how I feel about them then what I’m doing at the time isn’t important. To die saving a puppy from a well and making the local newspaper isn’t my style anyway. Although “Man dies washing a puppy” might have a nice ring to it.

Laugh and the world will laugh with you. If anyone knows me they will tell you that I think I’m pretty funny. I am usually laughing or trying to make someone else laugh all the while not taking myself seriously. Even on those days when most things don’t seem funny, I try to spin a little humor to lighten the load. We need to laugh. We want to laugh. And we will. Some days it might be harder than others and sometimes it comes from nowhere. But don’t hold it back. Laugh.

The one thing I’ve left out is this; As I go through my daily life and deal with everything that comes my way, good or bad, I rely on all of this to not only help me through but to make it more enjoyable. Surround yourself with family and friends and enjoy every minute.

Faith gives us Hope to Live our life with the ability Laugh about it.

Snapshot

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The weirdest thing happened to me this morning. I was thinking about the start of the day and I started thinking of small bits of time throughout my life. Just things I remember about growing up. Like a birthday party in the yard or sitting on the back steps of the house with my BB gun. Or coming out of the walk-out basement door. You know the kind where you have to reach up and open it while you were walking up the stairs.  And the old metal shed on the other side of the driveway. It wasn’t used much and seemed real big at the time, but really it wasn’t. The feeling I had at night walking from the barn back to the house and having the urge to run. So many things that came to me like old Polaroid pictures that had to be shaken before you could see them. All are clear as a bell unlike the same old pictures from back then. Welcome to digital.

It’s funny how a mulberry tree in the back yard brings back some old memories or the fact that we raised bird dogs on the side of the barn that was located next to the same tree. English Setters and there were a lot of them. But what fun it was to be tackled to the ground like I had a pheasant in my pants. I’m a pretty likable guy, and it is apparent that is also true in the dog world. Or is it I smell remarkably like a bird?

But what fun it was to be tackled to the ground like I had a pheasant in my pants. I’m a pretty likable guy, and it is apparent that is also true in the dog world. Or is it I smell remarkably like a bird?

Even some of the “snapshots” I could see in my mind were of real pictures that were taken. The first day of school with me and my brother Danny standing next to our bicycles in the front yard. Sun in our faces, and our best plaid shirts on. Thinking about this makes me realize that my mother was standing there taking it as we were squinting and looked less than happy. I actually remember the picture but not my mother taking it. Weird. It had to have been around 1974 and even though we weren’t happy about it, I’m sure mom was ecstatic! After all it was probably a long summer of the screen door getting a work out, sewing patches in jeans and hearing “I’m hungry!”

I know we all have experienced something specific from the back of our minds that takes us to that very moment. It could be anything and anyone we’ve come across that sparks this feeling. I’m not sure what mine was today, but there is something nice about it. It is usually all good and it never fails to make me laugh. I hope today is a day that I can look back on and smile. Hopefully the “picture” in my mind will still be clear as a bell!

It’s Never Too Late

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Yesterday a friend of mine mentioned of having thoughts of mortality because of the loss of a close friend. Along with other things going on in and around her life with family, my only comment was “this is what makes us realize how precious life really is”. I too, have had these thoughts the last couple of years with the loss of a couple of friends. Both losses didn’t make much sense and to this day still don’t. But every day I get up, do my best, be myself and carry on with the day-to-day stuff. While most of the “stuff” I refer to is pretty meaningless in the big picture, it needs to be done. But more importantly, it needs to be done. It is the “stuff” we do that gets us through every day, whether it’s dealing with mortality, or stress or whatever. So we do it. Sometimes begrudgingly, but we do it all the same.

My approach to the last couple of years of dealing with these thoughts have been simply to tell those around me how important they are in my life. It’s not something we usually do, I know, but think about it. A few simple words of encouragement, a random message that you are thinking of them, or better yet a “thank you” for being a person in your life can give both parties a clear understanding of where we are in this world. I may not see you or talk to you again before something sudden happens. But if something does, if nothing else, I know we both know. Realize, that if you volunteer to someone what you think about them, and you don’t get the same response, it’s ok. Just know that when they walk away they will be thinking about what you said.

There are a lot of inspirational quotes to fall back on that can bring reassurance and peace to our lives, but the impact of a few original words from your mouth can change people. And the feeling it gives you is the same peace in our lives that we need. Outcomes in life can’t always be changed. And we can go through life thinking people know how we feel about them. Maybe they do know, but what better way to make sure than to tell them yourself?

Live your life and enjoy even the bad days. It’s ok to feel the way you do and to open up your heart even if it hurts. Easier said than done, without a doubt, but today is the day someone may need to hear how important they are to you.  So tell them.