The Last Day

On the last day of 1959, I was three months old.

On the last day of 1969, I was in 5th grade, concentrating on who was wearing my I.D. bracelet that week, blissfully unaware of the cruelty that awaited me in Junior High.

On the last day of 1979, I was a sophomore in college, scrambling to get through my core courses so I could “live” in the Fine Arts Building and never take math again.

On the last day of 1989, I was less than two months away from moving my family back to Tallahassee, Florida, although I had no idea that was about to happen.

The last day of 1999 is blurry, a warm soup of raising kids, making a living and striving. Always striving.

And now it is the last day of 2009. This morning I hugged my youngest child and prayed him off to school in Ft. Lauderdale. When my wife and I return to the house this evening we will experience our first few minutes of what is joyfully and/or sadly referred to as the “empty nest” phase of our lives.

And a happy New Year to you as well...


Corner Approaching...

In three days, my oldest child, my son, will get married. The emotional smoothie I am drinking is, ultimately, refreshing and satisfying although there may be a few chunks of baggage stuck to my teeth (please let me know if you see any...). I am looking forward to a great weekend and the chance to watch a new couple create their own home and family story. God bless you both and thank you for making me happy...


¡Cuánto tiempo! ¡Tanto tiempo sin verte!

My daughter posted a simple sentence online: “I need an adventure.”

Yeah, I get that.

This last month has represented a few milestones for me. My youngest son travelled south to go to school, my daughter moved out to her own place in town and I turned 50. The one child at home is my oldest, trying to finish school and plan a December wedding. That is a lot of change to digest in a few short weeks but, honestly, I am good with it all. In fact, I am more than good. I am excited for everyone and the steps they are taking to get on with their lives. To break out of the confines of the walls of our house (literally and figuratively) and begin to create their own stories.

But now I contend with a nagging question: Where does that leave me? A long time ago I adjusted my career goals from whatever far-fetched illustrator/designer dreams I could imagine to simply preparing my three kids to leave my house equipped to take on the world—emotionally and, more importantly, spiritually. It has been an incredible ride, an adventure, that has been a crazy mix of happy and sad tears, lots of prayer and more work than I would have thought necessary when I made my vow. And it has been marvelously satisfying.

But it does raise the question, “What now?” In the micro, my wife and I will still parent, we will still dispense advice and we will strive to be ridiculously awesome grandparents (one day), but when I look at things high level I wonder: What is next? There are infinite possibilities—I come up with something every three minutes or so—but nothing has seemed right. No idea has slipped into a slot comfortably, so I wait. Again. This is not an unusual spot to be in, this life rest stop, but, before, I knew what I was waiting on. An answer, a check, a decision. Now? I have no idea. It’s an interesting, restless plateau. I have reported for duty and await my orders. And my next adventure.


Effort, Rewarded

“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”

Flannery O'Connor


The Journey Begins

The family traveled to Ft. Lauderdale this past Labor Day weekend to take Jordan to school. Here are a few pictures from the weekend. Jordan started class yesterday and his limited report last night was positive. Pray for Jordan and the rest of the students and faculty at Ocean’s Edge. This is their largest class in the four year history of the school so they are breaking some new ground this year.

OE has a blog you can follow as well and today they have posted some pictures from orientation. If you look closely, you can see the Colle family table in the background of several shots. I am sure there will be more stories to post as the year progresses. Until then, enjoy the pictures...

The Class of 2010

Jordan in the group shot

Jordan at orientation. I wonder what is going through his mind at this point? (Probably, "I wish my parents would leave already...")

Jordan and Laura at dinner Saturday night.

Last family picture before we left. It is late and dark hence the funky lighting issues but I am glad the event was recorded.



My life has been one long project propelled by a continuously stoked fire of striving. Always a book to read, a story to write, an idea to flesh out. Always. And usually more than one at a time. In the rare moments when someone asks, I’ve often used the metaphor of pots on a stove to explain how I function. My mind is a stove top with five or six burners. I am constantly tending to several pots—projects—at various stages of heat. Some are simmering, waiting their turn. Others are on full boil and need immediate attention. None are cold and stagnant. And there are always pots and heat and tremendous amounts of energy being expended to tend to them; the space is busy and loud. I’ve always written it off as “it’s just who I am; it’s how I am wired” and accepted that I will carry this Burden of the Boiling Basins to my grave.

But lately I have started to question that. More specifically, I have started questioning my motivation. Why do I pour so much energy into these self-inspired projects? Why do I tend to all these burning pots of ideas? Is attributing it to my “wiring” a legitimate excuse for all that striving? What have I gained? More importantly, what might I have missed while engaged in adjusting all those burners? Have I missed something great while striving for good (or worse, mediocre)? Is it possible to hear a different voice when all those personal pots are boiling? Maybe, just maybe, it is time to turn off a couple of burners and rest.

And wait.

And give God a chance to speak. Have I been expecting a shout above the din when He was always calling in a whisper?

One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.
Ecclesiastes 4:6 (NASB)


Jaysephus’ Book of Common Prayers

So I sit here, stand here, drive here, wait here. I really don’t worry about the outcome while I wait but I do worry about me. Forgive me for wandering. Give me patience to wait another day (or five). And help me remember that there are millions out there dealing with more than I. My issues are minor in comparison. Big to me? Sure, but minor, none-the-less. Too many are dealing with survival, illness, hunger, hopelessness; I am dealing with none of those. Tilt my focus to them, not me. Give me oil in my lamp...


Memorable Memories

I have always been fascinated at the power of memory. The way a song, phrase, sound and even a smell can instantly transport us back to a previous emotional spot is amazing. Sometimes it is subtle, bringing a wry smile, but other times it is overwhelming, your face turns red, neck gets hot or tears well up. All from a memory. It’s a little weird as well as an incredible display of what our minds are capable of.

Yesterday I posted some old pictures on Facebook. I had been digging around through old photo albums and came across two scrapbooks I had put together during high school. On a whim I scanned a few pictures and put them up on my page. I then threw out a “just so you know” message on Twitter—which automatically updates my Facebook page (how very meta of me!)—and waited to see what the response would be. I was shocked. Before an hour was up, people had tagged nearly every person in the group shots and the comments were flooding my inbox. I reconnected with several people I had not “spoken” to in years, some never, since they were siblings of old friends, and was in the midst of a few mini conversations at once. The most memory jarring photo, by far, is the group shot of our performance choir, taken at the Buccaneer Festival in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1977. The choir director from then (whom I had recently been in contact with via Facebook, naturally) tagged nearly every person in the choir from memory and his recollections of our choir (which he shared via comments) started a wonderful traipse through our past with several people joining in. It has been fun as well as a fascinating.

This is “social media” in its purest and best form. No one selling anything. No one asking you to take a quiz. No one trying to convince you that having 10,000 followers makes you powerful. No, the power comes from memories and being able to reconnect those threads, digitally or otherwise. And now I have new memories on top of old.

NOTE: My choir director mentioned he has recordings of our choir that he is going to try and get digitized. He will then share them with us online. Another layer, another memory (and hopefully we are as good as we remembered!).


Short and Not-So-Sweet

There are too many things in my life that make me happy that really should break my heart.


Forgive Me

I haven't posted all week because I wanted that last post to stay at the top of the page for as long as possible. This really doesn't count as a post, does it? I guess not but no matter. Enjoy your weekend...


Forks in the Road

This weekend, my youngest child will walk across the floor of the Leon County Civic Center, climb stairs to a stage and accept a diploma that verifies his matriculation from Lincoln High School. And this day is actually bigger than I ever imagined. My youngest child has had a rather combative relationship with school for most of his Middle and High School years. He is a gifted musician and those gifts were rarely allowed to flourish within the halls of high school education. Far from being unintelligent or lazy, he was basically uninterested and no manner of pleading, cajoling, yelling or prayer seemed to get through his brain that it mattered. It has been a very frustrating six years. But he made it. The particulars are not important, the final G.P.A. is not relevant. The mad scramble of the last few weeks will, hopefully, be a dim memory before too long. What matters is he will graduate on Saturday night.

So here is to my funny, charming, infuriating, talented, sensitive, goofy, independent third child on the weekend of his graduation. Take a deep breath, kid, and prepare to expand. Your world is opening up in front of you and I pray you find your place. Above all else, go with God. I love you...


The Other Jay

Some days I want to stop trying to “do the right thing” and just skate. Some days I want to take the easy route and to hell with the results. Some days I see the weeds popping up in the flower beds and I think it would be best to concrete in the entire yard. Some days, when a recurring, incessant, “how many times have we dealt with this?” problem returns with one of the kids, I want to give that child $5000, a car and wish them well. Some days I sense I’m not sure I can deal with everyone at work in a professional manner and I want to quit, convinced that I can make it on my own. Some days, when “friends and family” suck me dry with inanity and selfish needs, I want to move to the mountains and not contact a soul for a very long time.

But I’ll never follow through with any of those thoughts. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do. Is that a spiritual motivation? Or is that upbringing? Or are those two so intertwined that it is hard to tell them apart? I will continue imagining “the other Jay” but it will stay between my ears. I will play out the scenarios in my head like a Hollywood movie script, one I control and direct, the conclusions both hilarious and satisfying. My history, however, has shown that whenever I follow through on a purely selfish act, it never turns out as I imagined. Satisfaction is limited and the blowback is always one thousand times worse than anticipated (if anticipated at all). Bad, bad, bad. Those memories serve as a governor on future self-centered decisions. “Remember when...?” Yes, I do. And it is never like the movies.

Real life is much more real.


Book Review: Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain

I have had the privilege and the pain of working for numerous companies of varying size and proficiency. They all had one frustrating thing in common—none reached their promising potential. It was mainly because they (we!) could never differentiate themselves from the similar minded businesses hawking similar wares. After reading Collapse of Distinction, I have a clearer understanding why.

Most business books are long on pontificating and short on practical application. What I found refreshing in this book was the information was easy to digest and the main concept centered around a couple of small businesses in rural Indiana. Their contrasting attempts to overcome personal “David vs. Goliath” moments form the main ideas in the book—how do you stand out and succeed, especially when facing long odds and low capital? The answer makes perfect sense. Since reading the book, I have made a point to observe the businesses I frequent and conduct my own personal field tests. The establishments where the principles laid out by Mr. McKain are being followed (whether they know it or not) are not only busy, they have a better vibe. And that proves that you don’t have to be Starbucks to be successful and cool. Read the book. Then you’ll understand.


Entry One Hundred Twelve: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is forty-one of who knows how many will be posted. The last entry is here. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Twenty
Adam wasn’t sure where he was, but he was glad to be off I-75 and on a side road, prowling the bowels of Atlanta. His emotions had slowly been overtaken by the more basic need of hunger. Although he was not sure how he would eat or where, he was positive that he was not going to find food on the interstate so he decided to exit down a ramp and try his luck in a smaller grid. The traffic was no less a problem and maybe more so since there was less room to maneuver around blocked lanes. He resorted to driving on sidewalks and over medians, doing what he had to do to keep moving. After a couple of blocks of that frustrating game, he saw a sign for a Huddle House. “Perfect. Open 24-hours and smoking is allowed.” After another fifteen minutes he finally pulled the Volvo into the parking lot.

As he surmised, the doors were unlocked and he gained entry easily. The smell was funky, bordering on bad, but it was not anything that was going to keep him from exploring and trying to find something to eat. He stood just inside the entrance and lit a cigarette, drawing on it in quick hits to calm his nerves. He was still not comfortable with trespassing and stealing--albeit the definition of both terms had recently been forever altered. It was ingrained in his DNA to respect the property of others and even though he had grown a little more comfortable in Grayson, this was a whole new ball game on a larger playing field. He could not shake the feeling that he should be seeking permission to enter.

Then a thought crawled into the forefront of his brain, a notion that he used as a salve on his wounded, struggling conscience. “If I am the last man standing on the face of the earth, technically, I am in charge of everything. Minimally, I am the caretaker.” He let that sit there, marinating a few seconds before he continued. “And if I want to hold an election, I can call myself King and Supreme Ruler.” Adam nodded his head and smiled as the gravity of this thought bloomed and blossomed in his brain. Then he made a decision. “All in favor of electing Adam Mahoney to the office of King of the Earth, Supreme Ruler of all that he sees, please indicate by saying ‘aye.’’’ Adam waited a beat before respectfully saying, “Aye.” He continued. “All opposed say, ‘neigh.’” Again, he waited a beat allowing all dissenters to voice their choice. He wanted his rule to be remembered as fair and just. There were no dissenters.

“The votes are in and counted and the choice is unanimous: Adam Mahoney is not only the last man standing on the face of the earth, he is now the King and Ruler of this planet. I will do my best to not disappoint. Thank you for your support and may God bless the United States of Adam Mahoney.” With that he flicked his cigarette on to the linoleum floor, squashed the smoldering butt with his shoe and marched into the kitchen of the Huddle House—his Huddle House—to find himself some breakfast.


Do Me A Favor...

Go read this today:


Good stuff by a special lady.


Rest Stop

There is popular thought that implies we always picture ourselves in our twenties, no matter how old we are. It makes sense; the twenties are our prime. But it’s foolish to imagine ourselves consistently at our best, a point that is proven when we see ourselves captured in a candid photograph and the reality of our age is all too clear. We get depressed, thinking, “Is that what I really look like?” (yes). I think the same can be applied in our spiritual lives. I always picture myself as how I want to be, already there. When the reality of who I really am is revealed, either through a blunt comment or a surprising reaction to an event or other person, it too is depressing. “Is that what I really look like?” (yes). But the cliché that “life is a journey” (aren’t clichés usually based on fact?) factors in heavily in this instance. Why can’t I enjoy the trip? I always seem to be looking forward or backward. What I was or what I am going to be. What is wrong with who I am? Could I just relax in that for a few moments before moving on? I realize there will always be tension between how we see ourselves and how we have ended up but is that tension fair? Maybe, just maybe, how we have ended up is exactly how we are supposed to be. At least at this moment, this place in time. Is that acceptable?


Insight In Time

I wish insight (wisdom or whatever word works for you) could be accessed like water from a spigot. On and flowing when needed, otherwise cut off and silent. But, no, it is elusive and generally only comes around when it is ready. It is in charge and it makes the rules. There is no consistency, just seemingly random visits. Sometimes God drops it on me from the words of others—but that means I have to be listening. Other times it arrives after I have committed to step forward and attempt to explain a situation or action. The words come out making sense, as much a surprise to me as to the person I am having a conversation with. Other times (most times?) I feel its absence. Nothing. No clue. Its truancy can feel as real and cold as a clear thought is warm. The most dangerous times are when I think I am wise when I am not. Unfortunately, that reality is usually dealt with during a sickening bout of hind sight, hoping the mess I made is not too large to clean up. I will continue to pray for more “yes” and less “no.” And wait.


Ready or Not?

I witnessed an interesting situation at the airport. A band was setting up, preparing to play in the concourse. Naturally a crowd gathered, there not being a whole lot else to do while waiting. As the band unpacked and set up the sound system, a young man decided to take advantage of the crowd and took his place between the gathering and the oblivious musicians. He was in his early twenties, long brown hair pulled back in a pony tail, full and ragged beard, his flowing pants and shirt refugees from a sixties bargain bin. In his left hand he held two small, red, rubber balls; in his right was one. He was a juggler. He didn’t speak but it was obvious that he was pleased with his fortune at finding a captive audience and he relished the opportunity to entertain and possibly make a few dollars in tips. He steadied himself, held his arms away from his body and slowly began the preliminary rhythm of juggling, preparing to toss the small rubber balls into the air. After a few seconds of priming, he began. He didn’t make it through one cycle with the balls before one ricocheted off his hand and rolled into the crowd. A man picked it up for him and handed it to him, everyone sympathetic and forgiving, sure that nerves may have interfered with his first attempt. He gathered himself, began his practice rhythm and then tossed a ball in the air which promptly bounced off his arm and rolled into the crowd. He chased after it and started the process for a third time with the exact same results. The dude could not juggle. Not even a little bit. He looked the part, he had the audience and he had the desire but there was one factor he could not control: a lack of giftedness. Sometimes, that is something to factor in before making the plunge. Now break up into small groups and discuss.


Entry One Hundred Eleven: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is forty of who knows how many will be posted. The last entry is here. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Nineteen

Adam correctly judged that he could get around most of the congestion by riding on the shoulder of the interstate but he couldn’t go very fast stuck on the fringe. When the static gridlock cleared he pulled his car on to the main thoroughfare and was able to move faster. He still had to be cautious because there were still cars and trucks liberally scattered across the three lanes forming an eerie obstacle course, the creepiness not helping Adam’s concentration. He also wasn’t sure when the road would get congested again so he kept his speed to a manageable level just in case.

As each mile passed under his tires, Adam gained confidence. Not huge buckets of it, more like teaspoons full, but it was tangible and it almost made him smile. That was something he had not done too much of since the note. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, more that there hadn’t been too much to smile about. Survival isn’t normally funny and he had been in strict survival mode. He still was but he was pleasantly surprised how driving seemed to be a mild narcotic, releasing just enough numbness to almost enjoy himself.

As he veered on to the bypass around Macon, he felt something shift inside. Another small release, a loosening of his death grip and it freed him just a little. There were very few cars to dodge, the road mostly clear, so Adam slowly pushed the gas pedal a little closer to the floor and increased his cruising speed. He figured he had close to an hour before the roads got congested again, signaling his approach to the Atlanta city limits, and he may as well get there faster rather than slower.

Nothing he could have done would have prepared him for the amount of immobile traffic that was stacked up on the freeway outside Atlanta. It was impossible to drive through so he reverted to his earlier tactic of driving on the shoulder. It slowed him down considerably but, as was all too obvious to him, it was impossible for him to be late. Time was irrelevant.

Driving on the shoulder may have been slower but it allowed him to keep up a consistent pace. There was an occasional car in his way, pulled to the side of the road because of engine failure or a flat tire, but he was able to maneuver around them all with ease. Gradually, he snaked his way north.

As Adam banked through a sharply curved bend in the road, he stole a glance up and immediately wished he hadn’t. In front of him, filling his view, was Atlanta. Massive, impressive and formidable. And for some reason, without even being fooled for a second, Adam Mahoney knew that it was dead. Void of life regardless of its hulking facade. No one at work, no one at play, no one anywhere. A wave of emotion crashed through him with such force that he had to stop the car and stare. His unblinking gaze belied the strength of paralyzing feelings swirling in his gut. As water began to pool in the corner of his eyes, Adam Mahoney, the last man standing on the face of the earth, felt the magnitude of a complex truth; he was achingly, unshakably lonely.

All words and images ©2009/J. Colle


Entry One Hundred Ten: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is forty of who knows how many will be posted. The last entry is here. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Eighteen
The alarm starting beeping at 7 a.m. but Adam had been awake for nearly an hour, lying in bed, waiting for the alarm to sound and wondering why he had set it in the first place. It wasn’t like he had anyone to meet or a specific schedule to keep. Old habits die hard, at least that was what he was figuring out.

He lifted himself out of the bed and forced himself through the routines of the morning—shower, shave, cigarette or two. He was fighting the next step, hosting a mental war between the knowledge that he should leave, needed to leave, and the desire to stay put. But it was wasted energy; he knew he was leaving and he was leaving today.

He packed the car, slowly, which was not just a stall tactic but also a result of not knowing what he would find “out there.” Would supplies be easy to restock? He had developed a routine in Grayson and didn’t think twice about most of his needs but venturing past his comfortable borders was full of doubt. With the last bag stored away in the trunk, he slid behind the wheel into the front seat and turned the key to start the car. Then he pulled it back, killing the ignition process before it could fully kick in. He opened the car door and walked around to the rear and surveyed the houses lining his street. After a hesitation he began walking toward the house next door, on the right. He went inside and began searching. He knew it was here, in this house, but he couldn’t remember exactly where it was displayed. He finally found it on the second floor, under a lamp in the master bedroom. He grabbed the model and returned to his car. “The M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle. I now dub you the Patron Saint of Tanks.” He placed the model on the dashboard, centered, it’s machine gun turret pointing the way. “Guide me, protect me and help me forge a path, wherever that may be.” Adam started the car and pulled out of the driveway, moving forward, into what he was not sure.

Since he had gassed up the day before there was nothing left for Adam to do but drive out of Grayson and make his way to Atlanta. His planned route was to take some back roads to Tifton and then get on Interstate 75, heading north. The roads were fairly clear which made sense. This was farming country and most people in these parts were not up and driving at four in the morning when the Squatters pulled the switch. There was an occasional truck in the road but that was not enough to slow him down so he made good time to Tifton. He maneuvered the curving tangle of an on ramp and cautiously made his way to the big road, I-75. It became immediately clear that his progress was in for some delays.

As sleepy and serene as his small town became at four a.m., the interstate was the opposite. Cars and trucks of every color and size formed a mechanical maze as far as he could see, north and south bound lanes equally congested. The 18-wheeled tractor-trailers added formidable height, towering above all else, intimidating and obnoxious. He stopped his car, shoved it into park, stepped out and then started to climb on the hood to get a better view. As his weight caused the metal to swag he backed off and decided to try a different tack. “No sense in screwing up my car. It’s not like anybody else is going to care if I dent their roof.” He glanced around and started walking toward a large four-wheeled drive pickup, climbed in the bed and made his way to the top of the cab. The view from his new perch was a little more encouraging; the “traffic” appeared to thin out further north. “But, damn, this is freaky.” Adam took a deep, cleansing breath, lit a cigarette and sat on the roof, feet dangling over the bed of the truck. “What the hell am I doing…” The thought trailed off but it hung in the air around Adam’s head, hovering, daring him to answer. But there was no response, from him or anyone else because Adam Mahoney was the last man standing on the face of the earth. And he had yet to feel it as deeply as he did sitting on a non-existent strangers’ truck on an empty freeway in the silence of nothing.

All words and images ©2009/J. Colle


Prom, 2009

Tonight my youngest child attended his senior prom. It is the first of two for him; next week he will attend the prom at another high school in town. But this week he is dining and dancing with friends from his high school, the one he is supposed to graduate from in late May (continue to pray...). His date for prom (well, one of them) is Taylor Brafford, a young lady he first met in kindergarten. They became fast friends, attended each others birthdays and, until we had to put a halt to it in fifth grade, Jordan was a frequent "spend the night" guest at Taylor's house on weekends. They stayed good friends and tonight, they end their twelve year educational journey and say goodbye to high school. We think it is appropriate they say goodbye together.

Below is the two of them at the beginning and then, again, tonight. (More pictures are at our Flikr site, here.


Random Ramblings

Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami (from the television show Friday Night Lights) are the best married couple on T.V. Maybe ever (sorry, Huxtables!). Their conversation using only their eyes in the season finale last week (at the wedding, after the booster meeting) was absolutely spot on. If you are not watching that show I encourage you to catch up online. The show just got picked up for two more seasons. It is quality entertainment and a worthy investment of your time.

In the midst of all the new technology and the latest social media wave it is so easy to be seduced by “big.” To reach a wider audience, to impact a large group of people with a pithy quote or a link to a Web site that will change someone’s life. The tools are out there and all it takes is determination and time. But are we losing site of “small” when we concentrate on “big?” The people I pass in the hall at work deserve a smile and a greeting. The person in the cubicle next to me deserves a genuine expression (verbal or otherwise) that shows I care. The clerk at the store deserves my patience when things are not going smoothly. The waitress deserves my attention and pleasantness even if it isn’t returned. There are so many areas in my life that I can influence that do not require a smart phone, computer or high speed internet access. When the “big” replaces the “small” I have a problem and we all suffer.

Why does it always rain on my bike riding days? Maybe I need to get tougher and ride in the elements. It just seems so much more dangerous...

Life is pretty interesting these days—and I refer to the big picture. I can only guess where all of the economic turbulence will land us (and I would probably be wrong). I sense a restlessness in a lot of folks, especially those that are being hit personally during this financial storm. I have to remind myself that victory in situations like this can take on many different forms. If we do not lose faith, do not get lost under the circumstances and, most importantly, do not lose our joy during these times, then we have won. Regardless of the cold, calculated outcome, we can overcome every option by digging in deeper to what we believe and know is true—God is in control. Our victory can be a full heart and unexplained joy that drives us to accept and rest in Him. "I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief."


Faith, Hope and Jay

The first time I saw her was, appropriately enough, when she was singing as the entertainment at a Sunday morning breakfast for our college class at church. I leaned over to the guy next to me and asked who the brunette was on the left. I had never seen her before. He told me her name was Hope Davis. I made sure that I finagled a way to meet her before the morning was over and, after that introduction, I did not see her for another year.

We met again during another church event. She was performing with a small group for a church fundraiser and I was waiting tables. I rode in her car with some others to meet a larger group at a restaurant for a post event dinner. I was unaware that she was trying to hook me up with a mutual friend but that didn’t happen. Instead, by the end of the evening, Hope Davis and I were in our own world, dancing, laughing and ignoring the rest of our group.

One week later we had our first date.

Three months later we were engaged.

Eleven months after our first date we were married.

27 years ago today.

I could say that I never would have imagined after that first night out with friends that this day would be here—celebrating an anniversary, three kids, house, cars, approaching 50 with her next to me—but that would not be telling the truth. I imagined all of that and more during that first night because I fell in love with her right after the enchiladas but right before “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang. And I thank her for eventually returning the favor. It’s been incredible and will continue to be so. Sometimes you just know...


My Daughter's Journey

Below is a picture of my daughter's new tattoo. I find it really strange that she is the one who made the first ink move, but I would bet the boys sense an opening. Her tattoo is in Hebrew and it is Isaiah 52:7:

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, {And} says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

So it's a concept tattoo. I love me a good concept. I have taught her well...

Random Thoughts

Every day is a challenge.
Every situation is unique.
Every conversation is fragile.
Every opportunity can be missed.

This is neither positive nor negative.
Just truth. Our approach tilts it to either extreme.


Entry One Hundred Nine: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-nine of who knows how many will be posted. The last entry is here. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Seventeen
Once in his house, Adam pulled an atlas from a bookshelf and found the two page spread that presented a map of the entire United States, all 50 of them. He found the general area of his hometown in the southern part of Georgia and placed his index finger on that spot. “North or West? That’s about the only two options, I suppose.” He traced his finger to the left, following Interstate 10 across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and ended on the west coast of California. It was a long way from home and, even though the prospect of driving through states he had never visited before intrigued him, the unfamiliarity of it also caused him to rule it out. His situation was weird enough. To layer the unknown on top of it was too much to deal with. At least initially. “The first trip should be familiar.”

He returned his finger to south Georgia and dragged it up the page, briefly stopping on the word “Atlanta,” the state capitol. “I’ve been there before. I can possibly deal with that.” He left the book open on his desk and turned his attention to his computer. He hoped that MapQuest was still functioning because he wanted some directions to keep him on track during his trip. There was a significant amount of comfort in having a plan and comfort had been in such short supply since the note that he grabbed it whenever it presented itself.

To Adam’s delight, and relief, MapQuest functioned perfectly. After submitting his address and his destination, the step-by-step instructions filled his screen and he printed them. With the directions in hand, his attention turned toward supplies for his trip. He was only going to be gone for a couple of days so packing would be light. He brought a suitcase in from the garage and filled it with three outfits and an extra pair of underwear. Since he was driving north and the weather had started to cool, he added an extra sweatshirt as well.

Adam stopped preparations for a cigarette break and he decided to enjoy it sitting on the steps of the front porch. As he exhaled his first draw he thought about what it meant to leave, even if only for a day or two. He had not traveled much before, always comfortable in his small town existence, never feeling a need to get away and explore. The few forays to Atlanta to catch a Braves baseball game had given him all the taste of a big city he needed. Too much and too many, too fast. It was okay for an occasional weekend, but not fit for constant consumption, at least for him.

But this trip would be different. “Hell, what’s not different.” He wasn’t traveling to a city teeming with people, traffic and noise. He knew it would be empty but what that would look and feel like he couldn’t comprehend. Why waste time mentally churning on it; he’d experience it soon enough. He was not looking forward to the next few days but Adam knew the trip was inevitable, especially if he was interested in survival. As he stood and stretched he decided to leave the next morning.

All words and images ©2009/J. Colle


Today, Elsewhere

I launched a new project today on the World Wide Web. By finally establishing a digital home for Christian Man and Dogma, I have completed a long held desire to introduce them to the public. They lept out of my brain and on to the page many years ago and have gone through several iterations since their "birth." They popped up sporadically after a fast start (like most endeavors) but they have always been my favorite dudes in the arsenal.

And now they have a new home. Go visit them at www.ChristianManAndDogma.com. The initial plan is to update the site with a new panel every week day. How long that lasts will depend a lot on my energy level and God's desire to give me ideas to write/draw. I will try to continue to add to this site as well but it may be less consistent than before (which was already inconsistent). We shall see. I am excited and I ask you to join in my joy.

P.S.: If you are a Twitter person, follow the boys @_cmd and you'll get a free gift! Do it. Do it now. Seriously. Go...


Coming Soon...

Coming Monday, actually. (Is that soon enough?) Stand by...


Weekend Thought From Flannery O'Connor

From Flannery O'Connor's letter to Alfred Corn on May 30, 1962:

Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It's there, even when he can't see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian scepticism. It will keep you free — not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your intellect or the intellects of those around you.

A doubting or questioning attitude or state of mind)


Something to Ponder

As details start emerging on the new stimulus and housing plans brought forth by the new administration, I want to offer something to consider. If it is true—and all indications are that this is the case—the threshold for higher taxes is household incomes of $250,000+, I recommend we start to channel all of that energy we are using to "get ahead" and "succeed" in the business world into other areas. Maybe instead of working that extra 30 hours for that bonus, we put those hours into our kids lives. Coach a soccer team, volunteer with the school band or just be there for dinner. If kids are not a factor, consider volunteering at church or at the local shelter. There are plenty of groups out there that could use our time and energy. At some point the bonus will not be worth the effort but investing in people's lives will never be a waste of time.


One For the Little Guy

What started out as an innocuous errand-filled lunch yesterday turned into a battle cry for liberty and justice. But that is not all that unusual for my wife. After picking up a small check from a consignment shop ($30), she decided to cash the check at the bank the store uses for its business account which was conveniently located two blocks from the store. In the drive-through line at the bank, she was informed by the teller in the booth that the new policy of the bank was to charge $5 to cash a check from a business account. My wife said, “no way” and asked for the check and her driver license to be returned via air tube. In most instances, that would have been the end of the situation. Read on.

As she pulled away from the bank, she realized that she was very angry about what had just transpired. How ridiculous was it that the bank holding the corporate account would charge some regular Joe off the street $5 to cash a check from that account. It made no sense. So she pulled into the parking lot and decided to speak to the teller in person, hoping to rectify the situation. The bank lobby was devoid of customers, only two tellers and a person sitting at a desk being the live bodies in sight. She walked up to a teller and asked that they cash her check and not charge her the fee. The teller explained that she couldn’t do that. My wife argued that she could. After being turned down again, my wife asked why they decided to change the policy. The teller said that it was a new policy from management. That was no answer so Hope asked again, “But why?” The teller looked over at the teller next to her for some help and she offered that if we walked into a Wachovia or Bank of America we would be faced with the same fees.

Incredulous, my wife responded forcefully that she could not believe they were comparing themselves to those two banks and that she considered (one of the banks) to be the most crooked bank in America! “Why would you even want to be compared to them?” Then she held up the check in question and asked, “Is this your logo on this check? Does this business have an account with you? Then why in the world do you not trust your own clients enough to cash a check from their account? What is that five dollars for?”

The response? “Well, ma'am, you can open a checking account with us and receive free checking.”

“There is no way I would EVER open an account with this bank. Ever!” With that she decided to leave, her work complete. Almost.

She got out the door but then turned and walked back in. She pointed to the man at the desk and said, “If you are a manager here, shame on you for letting me walk out of this bank unsatisfied.” And she left.

Is there a lesson here about customer service? Or is it a lesson on dealing with strong females who need their $30 for lunch money? I think it depends on which side of the debate you are residing. I know who I am defending. (Are you crazy?)


We Clean Up Good!

The entire family attended Aaron and Julie's wedding today. A delightful event and, since we rarely are all dressed up in one place, we took a bunch of pictures. The photo below of the kids is one of the best but I placed a bunch more at our Flikr site as well as on Facebook. Check them out if you are interested.


Declaration of Nothing

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. There are a lot of things going on and sometimes putting my incredibly pointless thoughts into the digital ether slides down the priority list. Besides, if I wrote something every day, how would I get you to miss me?

The problem is I don’t feel like I have anything to say. I know, that has never stopped me before, but I don’t want to just put stuff on here for the sake of meeting a quota or deadline. So I haven’t. I’ve been writing, trying to get the new novel idea off the ground (I believe the proper term is “work in progress”) but that is different. The daily ramblings have ceased to be interesting, at least to me.

I have been immersed in the social media world for years and am still monitoring its progress from within, using Twitter, Facebook, this blog (and others) and everything else that is out there, but I have come to the conclusion that, unless I have something to sell or something to say, it is not worth the time. And I do not have something to sell and I really don’t have anything to say so my drive to post has been squelched a bit. Yet I am drawn to all of this technology (how could you not find it cool to have Lance Armstrong tell you his bike was stolen or Karl Rove tell you he is going hunting in Texas!) and that sets up an interesting emotional and psychological tug of war in my head. To feed both sides I will continue to watch and learn and occasionally toss a few verbal kernels into the fray. And I hope that satisfies the internal rumbles. (Let’s see... I think I can mix one more metaphor if I try hard enough... hold on...)

Maybe one day my head will exit the fog and some clarity will set in and I will be sure and record that here, first. Or second. I usually hand write thoughts first. Maybe that’s the problem! I am still nursing my inner Luddite...


The Curtain Rolls Back. Look Quickly.

Last week I came up with an idea for a novel. I guess that isn’t so rare since I am always thinking of something to write but what made this particular idea stand out is it was actually a good idea, possibly verging on great. I started getting excited about it, researching some particulars, jotting down notes and possible plot lines, basically fleshing out the idea to see if it developed any legs (forgive that metaphor—it just sort of rolled out of me and my internal filter is a little rusty). In the midst of the thrill, the practical part of me began to whisper into my brain. Do you really want to muster up the discipline it will take to write this tome? Do you really have the time to devote to a project like this? Remember the last one? And the one before that? Even if you go through with it, will anyone care? Or will this just be another exercise in anything-but-getting-published? The easy answer is, “just do it!” but that is really not an easy answer. Life really is grey. Unless it is black and white.


Grad Done Good

It was very cool to see an old friend on the Colbert Report this week. Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Texas, has made news lately by encouraging the married couples in his congregation to have sex for seven straight days. Obviously, this has caught the eye of the national media and, whether intentional or not, it has provided Ed a national forum to share the intent of the challenge.

Ed and I met in college in a drawing class. We were both art majors and we hit it off immediately considering we were the only two happy people in the art department at Florida State. Tortured artists we were not. Before long Lisa, Ed, Hope and I formed a bond and spent a lot of time together playing Putt-Putt golf (Ed was a card carrying member of the PPPGA and had actually played in Putt-Putt golf tournaments), eating, watching wrestling and laughing. Always laughing. We ended up in each other’s weddings and, once they moved to Houston, I began following his career from afar. Watching the video’s from his blog I am happy to see that he is still as goofy and happy as when we were hanging out over 25 years (!) ago. He is still making me laugh. He is a busy man with some great ideas and is making a difference. Visit his blog here, his church here, his television ministry site here and his site supplying resources for pastors is here.


John Updike, R.I.P

I always wanted to be John Updike. I suppose it would be more accurate to say I always wanted to write like him. While reading Rabbit, Run, the first Updike book I ever read, I experienced a sensation much like eating too much wasabi on a California roll. My head cleared, all air passages expanded and I achieved a clarity that had previously eluded me. The dude could write. He could describe the mundane and make you think it brand new. You could always sense there was something more, lurking beneath the surface, deeper and worth more than a skim. Sure, he was a word smith extraordinaire (which could be a detriment at times), but it was more than that. He had a rare gift to be able to infuse words with life. Whether you were able to fully grasp all he was trying to say or not, you knew there was something there, dancing in the spaces around the letters and paragraphs. And I wanted to “get” it, so I continued to read.

That was what I wanted to do with my words. Heck, every writer should aspire to that but he was the first to give me something to aim for. Sadly, his kind of fiction is growing rare in print. I guess it would be labeled literary fiction today but most of what I read in that genre is long sentences that don’t register, are not memorable, and don’t offer a big enough payoff for the effort of slogging through it. (I must give a nod to Marilynne Robinson and her novel Gilead, which is one of the great stories I have read in the last three years, but she is an exception. A lonely exception.)

John Updike will be missed. Fortunately, the best thing about when a writer dies is his words do not die with him. May he rest in peace and may you go read one of his books.


Check it out...

My friend Jon Edwards just added a new post on his blog. You should read it and wait in glorious anticipation for the Snuggies reference. Any blog with a Snuggies reference should be linked to. Especially on a Monday. The blog is here.


Randomness for Randomness Sake

So, yesterday we found out that the man that has been tapped by the new administration to run the Treasury Department, Timothy Geithner, not only failed to pay his taxes two years but he used Turbo Tax to do his taxes. Intuit quickly released a statement to absolve themselves of any blame:

"TurboTax, and all software and in-person tax preparation services, base their calculations on the information users provide when completing their returns. TurboTax also has built-in, error-checking tools that routinely catch common taxpayer mistakes."

In other news, Jackson Hewitt was seen sharing a beer with H&R Block and giggling like little school girls.

I really like RSS feeds. Of all the technology widgets that have come down the pike, this one has been my favorite and the most useful. And they are also the most distracting software on my desktop. Even more than Twitter. Oh my, I seem to be easily distracted. Look, a pony!

Cynical Post of the Day: In the course of my many vain attempts to draw the attention of an agent or book publisher, I have read numerous blogs that purport to have the scoop on getting published. I have also signed up for way too many email alerts and receive (daily) offers galore for writing workshops and conferences. Since very few people ever get a sniff from an agent, much less a contract, these writing “events” seem more and more like cash cows for the organizers than offering any real opportunity to get published. Hey! So that's how you make money in the publishing business. (I told you it was a cynical post. And you didn't believe me...)


Comfort the Discomforted

Sunday, for lunch, I opened a bag of ruffled potato chips and drug a few through some sour cream as a side dish for my slaw dogs. (Yes, hot dogs and chips. I was wallowing in that five percent of the time that I ignore trying to eat healthy. It keeps me sane.) After the first bite of the chip and dip I stopped and marveled at how good it made me feel. It was a palpable wash of gloriousness rushing through my body. (Hyperbole? Not by a million miles!) I had just experienced a moment that was brought to me by ingesting “comfort food.” In fact, eating the hot dog (or two) with sweet slaw and mustard a few minutes later rocketed me to such heights of feel goodness that I had to take a nap before the NFL playoff games started. (Note to self: ingesting two comfort foods in one sitting should be avoided. Or not. Who am I to judge?)

What I found the most interesting about my comfort food “moment” was that my wife did not share the same feelings about the food. Sure, she liked and enjoyed the slaw dog, but she was nowhere near my red-lined excitement. I concluded from this in-depth experiment that we all have our own comfort foods, each chemically lined up to cause our unique DNA (and taste buds) to release a full body pleasantness. My wife could not readily name her comfort foods (once I told her that Pinot Noir was not a food group) but I have seen her eyes glaze over while working on a stack of pancakes with peanut butter. And no syrup. (Ugh.) I have no doubt that there is a correlation between the amount of grease and fat contained in a food and it’s status on the comfort food pyramid. Hmmm... Do people that eat fried food all the time find comfort in a granola bar or a rice cake? I really hope not. That would be sad and I can take no comfort in that.


Entry One Hundred Eight: Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!

[This entry is the current story I am working on. This is thirty-eight of who knows how many will be posted. The last entry is here. Enjoy it while it lasts...]

Chapter Sixteen
Adam took the final steps into the cafeteria, stopping just inside the double doors to light a cigarette. It had taken no time to develop a rigid ritual for his few minutes of cafeteria meditation. Since there was no one else to consider, his ceremony was comfortably tailored for him alone; no one else mattered. He would light a smoke, step into the center of the large room—he had long ago moved the tables and chairs away from the middle, giving him a wide berth and enlarging his personal space—and slowly turn, drawing on his cigarette and taking in all four walls. He would start with the wall that fronted the kitchen area; its two sets of double doors, former portals for students to collect their sustenance, giving it a symmetrical look that he felt gave him balance as well. He would then turn toward the wall of windows holding back the outside and, depending on the time of day, overrun by sunshine and shadows. It was invigorating and he took his time scanning the entire length. The third wall, the wall that held the stage and was dominated by a large, garnet colored curtain, was his least favorite but he never rushed through his time there. He used this wall as a means of discipline, a barricade that he had to break through slowly to allow him to fully build the anticipation of what followed.

His favorite wall he saved until last. He would close his eyes as he got to the end of the third wall and continue moving, keeping them pinched tight until he was squarely facing the final scene. By this time he had finished his first smoke and allowed himself one more as he slowly opened his eyes and took in the grandeur of the mural of the United States of America. It never failed to take his breath away, the size and colors never disappointed him. As he examined each state, starting in Washington and moving south then east then north, snaking his way across the mural, he always experienced renewed hope. He still didn’t know why or to what the hope was attached, but it was a positive and profound experience every time. And this particular day proved to be the most profound of them all.

His eyes had just slid off the east coast of Florida, his last visual stop every time because it was the closest to Georgia, his home state. He tried but could never figure out a way to make Georgia his last stop. Every solution ended up leaving Florida out altogether and, even though he had no special love for the sunshine state, he held no particular animosity toward it either so it was only fair to include it. He put his cigarette to his lips and stopped, mid draw. In large letters--a bold, wispy script that looked out of place on the wall--were the words “See America!” Their appearance startled him. He knew they hadn’t been there before, would swear to it if there was anyone to doubt him, and the letter’s professional quality blared in contrast to the artistic crudeness of the rest of the map. Everything about it was odd and, to complicate an already twisted situation, there was something familiar about the lettering. “Where have I seen that before?” He grabbed a chair and placed it in front of the newest addition to the wall. He sat and stared at the letters, obviously hand-painted but perfectly executed. He fumbled for another cigarette and felt no guilt at breaking his self-imposed rule that only allowed him two smokes per meditation visit. This trip had obviously strayed from normal and had careened into something new and, possibly, interesting. He stared and studied, taking time to examine each word and then each letter individually, hoping something would spark in his memory and help him solve the mystery. On his final exhale of smoke it came to him.

“The note! It’s the same handwriting that was used on the note I got from the Squatters.” He jumped up, his legs straightening so quickly that they snapped into his chair, sliding it across the linoleum floor two feet behind him. “It’s another message from the Squatters. Damn, I guess I’m getting boring again.”

Adam hurried home, trying to process what the Squatters expected of him. He had some initial thoughts but every one of them had enough doubt attached to them that he couldn’t settle on any one idea. His biggest fear was that he would be wrong and he had no idea how the Squatters would react to a misstep. The memory of them nearly obliterating the human race for sport caused his stomach to churn at the thought of what they might do if he crossed them, intentional or not.

All words and images ©2009/J. Colle


Rideus Interruptus

Today was "Ride Home from Work Day." Or it was supposed to be. I had changed clothes and was mentally preparing to face a cold ride home as I leaned over the lock on my bike and twisted the numbers to line up the correct combination. But it did not open. I changed one of the numbers just to see if I had happened to forget the combination I had been using for two months. Nope, that didn't work either. I then spent the next ten minutes frantically twisting the dials and pulling to see if I could get lucky because luck was what I was reduced to relying on. Disappointed and perturbed, I called my daughter and asked her to come pick me up, still not sure what I was going to do with the bike that was secured to a rack with a spool of Kevlar.

On the ride home I got the 800 number for Bell (thanks Jim!) and prepared to try and explain myself to a faceless voice, hoping there might be some solution short of cutting the lock off the bike. To Bell's credit, the customer service lady was polite and apologized when she informed me there was no other solution than getting some bolt cutters and violently releasing my bike to freedom. At one point we were disconnected and she actually called me back. Why? Because she wanted to send me a new lock, gratis, to try to make up for the inconvenience. She also said I held the distinction of being the first person to ever call her with that exact problem. A day of highs and lows (but aren't they all?).

Now I need to figure out how I am going to lock my bike while I wait on the replacement lock to arrive. But I'll deal with that later, right after American Idol...


Birthday Girl

Tomorrow is my wife's birthday. It is a round number and, for some reason, those seem to carry a bit more emotional weight. (It helps that she has reached this milestone nine months ahead of me.) In order to assuage her fears (or at least to dull them a little), I now present this very public declaration:

To one of the coolest, hottest, thoughtfulest, patientest, sharpest, eight hours of sleep at a minimum or I am grumpiest best friend a dude could ever pray (and ask) for (and receive). Happy birthday to you and I wish you many more (with me). I love you...


Back in the Saddle

I rode my bike home from work yesterday. It was the first time I have done that in two weeks. I hurt my back on Christmas day—pulled a muscle in my lower back—and have been nursing myself back to health and, in the process, steering clear of any bike rides. Until yesterday. What I found discouraging was how difficult the ride was in terms of stamina. I started riding trails on the weekends in September and added riding home from work two days per week almost two months ago. I was laid up for a little over two weeks and yesterday felt like I had started over. Granted, in Tallahassee there is no such thing as level ground. You are either going uphill or downhill and the route I take home has six hills, three of which I would consider major. Yesterday, I only completed the last hill because I could see Jesus waiting at the top to take me to heaven. He didn’t, of course, and at first I was angry but, once my heart rate slowed and I was able to breathe consistently, I decided I was okay with being alive.

Has middle age turned earned stamina into a mirage? I now have to place it in the same category as G.P.A.s and debt: it takes one bad week to put you behind and months (nay, years in the case of debt) to get back on track. I am glad I got the “first ride” out of the way and I look forward to the easier rides in my future. I just wish sweat, effort and conquering a few hills was all it took to get me out of debt...


Happy New Year

Thanks for reading this thing over the last year. I can't promise it will get anymore interesting but I can promise I'll keep posting in 2009. I'm taking things one year at a time...

Have a great day and a blessed new year.