Practicing Life

A new day dawning in the midst of the chaos

A new day dawning in the midst of the chaos

In 2010, Lori and I were serving with Kingdom Racing, a Christian Indy car team, at the Texas Motor Speedway when a young man approached us about a once in a lifetime opportunity. He share with us how vacation ownership could change our lives.

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We had attended several of these presentations before so I smiled as Lori took over. “Our schedule is very busy with our son and work, and I’m not sure it would be worth it to drive 45 minutes…” and within a few minutes he had upped his promotional offer to $150 prepaid Visa card and 4 tickets to a Texas Ranger’s game. 

Arriving at the sales center a few weeks later, we “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed throughout the presentation as our guide prepared for his big sale’s pitch. For only $20,000.00 we could purchase a whole week of our very own every year at an East Texas resort with hints of trading that week for exotic destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean, or Europe.

“So… how many weeks can we sign you up for?’ asked the gentleman.

I then began my pitch, “I have owned with your company before along with another timeshare on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale and I’m not sure this is the best option for my family even if you gave it to me for free. To trade for those destinations you speak of, I have to also pay to join RCI which costs this much per year and then I have to pay to execute the trade which costs this much and then you just told me my annual maintenance fees are this much which totals approx. $800 per year. And because East Texas is not quite the tourist capital of the world, my trade value is not exactly top-shelf. Correct?”

He agreed that it was the lowest of the three priority levels and I continued, “We have spent 7-10 days a year at a beautiful resort in Kauai every summer for the last several years through VRBO for about the same $800 and we are free to pick whichever arrival date or day of the week that works best for us, so while you have been an awesome salesperson, I believe we will respectfully decline your offer.” He like many salesman before him blinked a few times and quickly got his manager who came in with an even better once in a lifetime offer, and somehow, every time, our original salesperson was left in a state of total amazement at our good fortune. However, once I reiterated my argument, the manager simply gave us the voucher for our free items telling us to have a nice day so they could concentrate on people whom they may be able to sell to.

I loved going to those because despite the creepy high-pressure sales vibe, I knew enough about the subject to avoid being trapped and we really did get our free stuff. We even picked a Ranger’s game where they gave away a stuffed Nolan Ryan snow monkey to the first 30,000 people. I sold it on eBay the next day for $85 and used that money to buy Samuel the new Madden game for his Xbox. I always felt so cool after those presentations because of the way Lori l felt so taken care of. 

 

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Back to modern day Austin

 

Even though I know I can’t walk in that level of confidence in every area, I expect myself to. I try to give myself grace while finding other ways to make good decisions. For example, what can be just as empowering as knowing the subject well is having people around you whom you trust. I got those new tires on my Jeep last week and because I had a friend who worked for the company who had suggested I wait for an upcoming promotion, I got a deal I feel good about.

But then the Vet called to talk about GiGi’s cancer treatment. I agreed to the additional medication, but told her I would have to think about the $1300 procedure that would only confirm her diagnosis but not actually help her. Because I have already decided not to have her leg amputated, I don’t feel a strong need to go from 90% to 100% positive on her diagnosis, and yet her reasoning still brought doubt and guilt. I really like Dr. East a lot, so why do I find myself feeling like I’m getting sold on things I don’t really need?

I don’t want to go through life cynical and suspecting everyone is out to screw me, but I know that on top of occasional corporate and individual greed, property taxes keep going up in Austin, therefore, some businesses are doing to push things that the customer doesn’t really need just to maintain profitability. Math is math! I see the empty buildings all over town as businesses continue to either close or move to cheaper areas in the suburbs.

 I also think some of my skepticism comes from the time I’ve spent on the other side. For several months after high school, I worked at a call center soliciting donations where they gave us a script prompting us how to respond to the potential donor’s objections. They then taught us to never offer yes/no questions, but to instead ask questions with implied “Yes” answers guiding the customer towards the next step such as, “Would it be easier for you to send us a check or would you prefer to give me your credit card number over the phone?“ Obviously, our only concern was the convenience of donor.  ~ heavy on the sarcasm = ))

 

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I was pondering how to wrap this piece up with an encouraging bow while I drove to Dallas for my mom’s 70th birthday. I had a great time with my family, but while I was there my decision making inadequacy reached a whole new level – one that I honestly haven’t really faced yet.

 

I found out my dad has a vein that is 95% blocked and despite bringing in the most qualified surgeon in the area, stenting him would be impossible. And, as doctors had already determined Dad would not be a good candidate for open-heart surgery, there’s nothing they can do.

I still remember last year when he was taken to the hospital for a mild heart attack and how my visits were not to take care of him, but to take care of my mom. The first time, he was in the hospital and well taken care of and when I went back up after he got home, he was already getting around by himself. He’s kind tough and determined that way. 

 Trying to wrap my head around all of the advice from the Vet concerning GiGi and the doctors that are caring for my dad, the old joke comes to mind about how they’re all just practicing medicine. 

But maybe we're just practicing life, too. We prescribe things we think will help, monitor the situation to see what works and then alter our procedures accordingly.


I can’t possibly come up response plans, to something that hasn’t happened yet and thoughts like, “What the hell am I doing in Austin?” and, “If you were still living in Dallas, you would be able to help,” do no good. 

 

I have to settle on what I know to be true. First I have handled some tragic events in my life already, so I bet the Lord will help me through whatever else might come my way going forward. Second, Austin was no question the right move for me two years ago. Seeing the life I’ve built here confirms that on a regular basis. I have often told people that my life could have been resuscitated in Dallas after Lori died, but it took coming to Austin to be resurrected. Not being able to fall back into old routines allowed me to grow into a better version of me here than has ever existed before. And third, I can choose to celebrate and enjoy today with my parents and everyone else in my life for that matter because I am all too aware of how tomorrow is not promised.

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 My mom said during my visit, “His (dad’s) days are in the Lord’s hands… but all of our days are in His hands whether we know it or not.” Well said, Mom!!

I’m going to do everything I can to live each one of them well.