Charge

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This past weekend was my second Memorial day weekend as a repurposed single (once again, I am avoiding the D word), the first holiday where I felt like the shock of being repurposed has semi worn off.  I don’t think I will ever be completely used to it as long as I am single.  Truthfully, my life right now is not 100% different than it was before, but it’s obviously not the same.  Holiday weekends have always had riding as a necessary ingredient, the bike that consistent thread in my life besides the faith that holds me together.  If I don’t ride, I don’t feel satisfied and it feels like I missed something.  If I don’t go to church, have a chance to worship and refuel my soul, I sense the emptiness, my spiritual battery lacking the charge it needs.  I don’t need epic experiences to feel complete.  There has been enough epic in the past to give me awesome memories.  Really all that is required is the simple, the sublime.  That’s what long weekends are made for.

This Memorial day weekend, I rode every day but Sunday, worshipped Sunday morning with my daughter.  It was awesome.  Here I sit on Tuesday morning, recharged and actually ready for my work day.

Also a necessity for me is spending time with friends.  My first repurposed Memorial day, last year, was spent alone, a lonely time but a time where I needed to be alone.  That alone time last year was necessary as I needed to confront the deep seated emotions that came out when I was by myself.  Truthfully, at that time I didn’t want to spend time with people, so unusual for me that it was a sign that there was more going on than I cared to admit.

Last year, I rode early on Memorial day with my friend Jeremy, who invited me to spend the rest of the day at a cookout with his wife and family.  I declined respectfully, felt a little guilty for doing so because I know Jeremy wanted to help his friend out.  The day was painful but cleansing.  Last year, I learned a little more about the necessity of facing my demons, then leaning on the God I have always known is there, his presence something I have taken for granted my entire life.  I drew close, discovered that God is right there for me.

You may read that last sentence and pooh pooh me.  Go ahead.  God’s presence is something that is not easily comprehended until you have experienced it.

Sunday was a good day, started at Panera.  My daughter was back in town, so she wanted to continue our tradition of Panera before church.  Nothing is more sublime than the blessing of time with my girl, as well as worship time at church with her.  I proudly paraded her around to show her off after the service was over, glad that she is now willing to let her dad do just that, something my bashful little girl would never let me do years ago.  I was in my element, happy to be able to show so many friends the girl who is now a college grad and bravely trekking off to Turkey for her job.  After church, she excused herself to go have lunch with her mom’s family.  I went home for a quick nap before heading into the city for a party with friends, a roof top party in Wrigleyville where I was the only single man amongst a number a women.  I never had to get my own beer the entire afternoon and evening!

What is it about Chicago people and their dogs?  Nearly every person who came to the party brought their dog with them.  The host had two of her own, one a little yippy Yorkie who boldly nipped my ankle when I walked through the door.  We spent the first part of the party on the first floor deck, shielded from the hot sun on an unusually hot day, then moved up on the roof as dusk settled in.  There is something magical about the city, the view of the city skyline and Willis tower looming close, the sunset reflected.  My friend, the host of the party, is someone I have known since she was in high school and one of the students at the camp I helped staff when I was a church youth pastor.  She and a few of her friends looked me up a few years ago.  Christa proudly announced me to the party goers as her former pastor.  She’s not interested in me romantically, something I appreciate as it gives me a chance to have a female friend who I can relax around.  That helped make the party a good time.  It was also nice to be spoiled.

Friday, I rode some single track trails, came home and relaxed a bit, did some laundry and straightened my place up a little bit.  Saturday, I woke up early, rode the trails again, replaced the ignition coils and spark plugs on my VW, got my hairs cut, then went out with a friend to celebrate our birthdays together (mine is this week, hers was Friday).  We had a nice dinner, walked the flower gardens at Cantigny (it’s close to my place), came back to my place for wine and birthday cake and to exchange presents.  She bought me a four tiered plant stand that has a cool solar powered light on it, plus some pots and plants to go on the stand.  We spent the rest of our evening together potting the flowers and setting them on the stand.  I have quite the flower display on my balcony now — four 36″ cocoa fiber lined window boxes on the balcony rails, three pots of geraniums hanging in between the window boxes, two big pots of petunias and marigolds, six small pots of pansies, petunias, alyssum, and marigolds.  Now I have the four tiered plant stand.

Saturday night was another change from last year.  Last year I was separated and in the throes of the drama of a pending divorce, not able to enjoy female company.  My condo was still in transition, my life mirroring that transition.  What a difference a year makes — and it makes me wonder what nuances another year will bring to my life.

In case you are wondering, she is a special friend, someone who could end up more than a special friend, but for the time being she can only see me on Saturday nights (yes, she is single).  That makes it difficult to have anything truly committed.  That’s fine for me.  I am not ready for that commitment, although it would be nice to have someone who is available to me the rest of the week, something that was painfully obvious yesterday.  Friends invited me over for a Memorial day BBQ.  They hoped I would bring a friend with me, but she declined, saying she would see me Saturday.  It was sad for me and, although I had a nice BBQ with my two friends, I felt a little like a third wheel without a date.  That is one of the things about the repurposed life that sucks.  Even then, my Memorial day was different than last year.  Like I said, I am a social person and it felt good to spend the day with friends.

Oh, and I also got up early yesterday for another ride.  Early rides were necessary all weekend as it was unseasonably hot in the Chicago burbs.

More tidbits —

  1.  On my way home Saturday night, on a county highway out in the middle of nowhere, I came up on a police SUV with its lights on, a car pulled over.  I got in the left lane to give the police car space.. and promptly ran over the deer that had just been hit and was sprawled across the lane I was in.  I was going around 55 mph, ran completely over the deer.  For some miraculous reason, my car wasn’t damaged nor was there any blood or fur on it.
  2. A friend of mine called me for help yesterday afternoon.  He is a triathlete, so he had gone for a swim then a bike ride for his training.  Unfortunately, he had a flat tire and his CO2 cartridge was a dud.  I went to rescue him.  While he was pumping up the tire, I shared some information about one of his crazy exgirlfriends that I had just become privy to (privy to the information, not the girl).  It was both a funny and sad moment.  His ex looked up his ex wife and another ex girlfriend.  Now she is posting on FB with pictures of her with his ex wife and ex fiance.  I told him it’s a good thing he doesn’t have any pets….

 

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Musical

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One of the benefits of the changes in living situation…

I am learning new ways to not say ‘divorce’.

… is that I am having a lot of fun trying new recipes.  Before my living situation changed, I had to stick with food that worked.  Food that worked most often was frozen pizza, maybe some home made lasagna or stuffed shells or cheese potatoes or parmesan chicken now and then.  Now, it’s whatever seems interesting.

Cheese filled gnocchi in a tomato cream sauce

Soy and honey marinated grilled chicken served on a flour tortilla with cabbage and peanut ginger sauce

Garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower mashed potatoes

Pork loin slow cooked with sauerkraut and potatoes

Pulled BBQ pork sandwiches topped with cole slaw

Toasted french bread topped with grilled mushroom, red bell pepper, onion, zucchini and melted mozzarella

Hungry?  Good thing that I was a bad boy at lunch and had that jumbo hot dog and fries.

*burp*

Recently, I decided to cook dinner for a pretty lady that I have been dating now and then.  D is a princess type with long dark hair, petite, always dressed very nicely.  We know each other well enough now that she is comfortable coming to my bachelor pad (do people still use that term?).  I have proven that I am not a perv or serial killer.. or I hide it well.  D also is one whose diet prefers not consuming whatever is cute or squeals (unless it’s a pork chop), so it’s safer to cook vegetarian for her.  Thus, my choice for our dinner at my place — Pumpkin Chili.

The recipe was courtesy of the fitness advisor I consult with monthly while in the beginning stages with the health share that I joined at the beginning of this year (screw you, Health Care mktplace).  It’s a veggie chili chock full of beans, tomatoes and veggies.  A large can of pumpkin serves to thicken the broth and adds an interesting flavor.

I served a nice lettuce salad on the side, as well as cornbread with strawberry jam.

About an hour after dinner, her stomach started gurgling. So did mine.  It became gastronomically pain-fully obvious that we were about to find out how comfortable we were with each other.

BRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPP

She moved the wrong way.  To her credit, she barely blushed, merely shrugged it off.

BRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPP

It was my excuse to relieve the pressure.

She passed the test.

My guess is that if you go to a dinner party hosted by vegetarians, it had best be outdoors.

 

My Girl Graduates

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I’m proud.  If that is a surprise to any one, then you are new to reading my blog.  My daughter is the jewel in my crown, the apple of my eye, her blessings in my life the reason why God has stayed real to me.  Four years ago, there was never a worry about whether she would succeed in her college career, never a question.  Only once in her four years at Taylor would I even sneak a peek at her grades.  I didn’t need to.  She is a strong, intelligent, motivated, independent, confident young woman.

See the gold tassel?  Cum laude.  Not bad.

22 years.  Each of those years, a little bit of the girl has been replaced by a bit of woman.  When she reached high school age, I started seeing the woman in her.  I realized that she would always be my girl, smiled at the thought, happy that she indeed was becoming a woman.  I watched her take her first steps as a toddler, stood back and let those steps take her in many different directions.  Along the way, I have met her and helped in those few times when she needed me to, more often than not waiting for my independent girl to ask because I know that she wants to try to do it herself.  Her mother has always been a close friend, her confidant at times, and I have been the father who has watched and waited, there for her when she needs my strength.  I like that.  She reaches for me, she always does.

I am her father, the man who was the first man in her life.  I need my daughter, the one who always makes me feel that way.

Like I said, every year it seems like a little bit of the girl has been replaced by a bit more of woman.  I saw that the last two days, as we packed up her college possessions into her car and mine, had dinner together, shared stories.  Soon, she will get on a plane and fly the Turkey, far away, start the next stage of her life.  She has done well.  Like I felt when she entered college, there is no question that she will succeed.

Congratulations to my daughter, Alyssa, college graduate!

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Strobe

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I hear you crawling up my front lawn

Flipped the switch and you were gone

I feel better when I turn it on

Get real simple when I make a song

Strobe (I want to tell you)

(lyrics from Adam Again’s “Strobe”)

This song occupied my waking mind this morning.  The tune is catchy, the lyrics downright comical.  Then I realized the lyrics also are eerily appropriate for me today.

I feel creepy and it feels good, the kind of creepy that creates a twisted chuckle in my gut.  It’s not Aqualung creepy, not yet at least, thank goodness.  I won’t be sitting on a park bench any time soon.

Is he out there?  No, I don’t see him.  WAIT, HE’S WATCHING US!  I heard last night from the other side of the privacy fence that faces my second floor condo.  In a minute, I would be “out there” on my deck after I finished filling a bucket with water from my kitchen faucet.  My new wood deck furniture needed to be cleaned, then treated with teak oil to protect the finish from fading, my project for the evening (it was too muddy to ride my mountain bike).  That twisted chuckle began to churn in my gut as I looked out my patio door, observed the dirty tennis shoes and bare legs gathered in front of a large gap under the privacy fence.  Those shoes and legs belonged to a group of boys from the shabby apartment complex on the other side of the fence.  They play outside in the parking lot and grassy area at the back of the parking lot, that gap under the fence one of the spooky games they like to challenge each other with.  The object seems to be to crawl under the fence, then dash through the thicket that covers the steep berm on the other side.  Each trip through the gap is always preceded with a few minutes of challenges and anticipated danger.  It’s a pre adolescent boys’ game, the imagined danger and mystery the reason for the draw, a rite of passage of sorts.  Adding to the danger is the old NO TRESPASSING sign that leans at them as they emerge through the gap.

I add to that danger, I know, the looming stranger that lurks on the other side, a middle aged monster who belches out warnings.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING OVER THERE?!!? 

A week or so ago was the first time I noticed the boys, already through the gap and huddled against the fence.  Judging from their confusion, it must have been their first time braving the other side.  The boys had waited for the cover of dusk, didn’t expect to be detected, yet were not quite sure what to do once they were there.  They didn’t know that I was sitting out on my deck, taking in the last few rays of daylight, enjoying the ambiance and peace, the sounds of the children playing on the other side of the fence all part of that peaceful ambiance.  I smirked when I saw the boys.  It was my chance to make their game a bit more interesting.  My question to them was just loud enough to seem serious.  I heard girlish screams from the boys, likely wetting themselves as they fought each other to flee through the gap under the fence.

One boy, the ringleader of sorts, paused in mid flight, turned and managed a weak who are you, mister? before completing his escape under the fence.  I heard muffled exclamations of delightful fear mixed with the sound of running footsteps from the other side of the fence.  I wondered if my visitors would return any time soon.  From then on, I knew I would be legend, the mean/creepy man who lives on the other side of the fence, waiting to challenge any boy who dared enter my domain through the gap in the fence.  I remember the creepy legends from my own boyhood, the small town rumors that made them seem worse than they likely were.  One such man, a clerk at the small local grocery, was supposedly a pedophile who had been caught sodomizing a canteloupe and fired, a rumor obviously fabricated as the man still worked at the grocery.  His story grew more perverted, the fear perpetuated as we all crossed the street when going past his house rather than walk directly in front, lest he grab one of us.

One late night, when my friends all camped out in their backyard tents, we gathered at the hedgerow that lined the side of the grocery clerk’s front yard, taunting each other to go knock on his front door.  A brave soul did just that, banged loudly on the screen door, then ran back to the safety of the hedge.  He reported that the front door was open.  There was no response to the knock.  Our next move was to light firecrackers on his front porch.  No response.  I was appointed to go light another firecracker.  As I rounded the hedge and began my unsteady journey across his front lawn, the dark figure of a man burst from the front door and began running at me.

WHAT’S THE MATTER, CHICKEN SH**???!!!! he screamed as he ran at me.

I turned and bolted back towards the hedge, the man nearly breathing down my neck.  As I rounded the hedge, my friends had already taken flight.  The man chased me for nearly a mile before I finally lost him.  He was pretty fast.  Not too much longer after that night, I would be setting records for the school track team.  That mile chase was probably faster than any of the records I would set running for the track team.  When I started the trek back home, I met my worried friends who had decided that maybe it was best to rescue their fallen comrade, scared that maybe I had become a canteloupe.

I wonder what kind of rumors the boys from the apartments are generating about me?  I am most definitely part of their game, now, judging from what I heard from them last night.  They returned a few minutes after the initial sighting with what seemed like a bigger crowd.  After all, the monster was lurking.  The game had become more dangerous.  By that time, I had started my task outside, had cleaned the two person wood glider out on my deck and was applying the teak oil.  The boys returned while I was kneeling behind the glider.  I listened to them, watched as faces appeared in the gap.

Is he there?

No?  Are you sure?

I don’t know.  You go first.

I started to chuckle as I witnessed the first of four boys crawl through the opening, then follow their leader a few steps through the thicket.  When I stood up, I merely smiled as the boy in front gasped at seeing me, then knocked down the three boys behind him as he scrambled over them to get away.

OH NO, HE’S THERE!!  GET OUT OF HERE!!

I am legend.

My phone rang a minute later, so I sat down in one of the chairs that I had not treated yet, amused as two faces appeared over the fence, a few more gaped at me through a space in the fence below the two faces.

I wonder who he is talking to?  Maybe it’s the police!

More sounds of running feet.  By that time, it was dusk.  After a few minutes, the faces peered over and through the fence, but I heard a mother’s voice calling the boys to come in.  The game was over, at least for last night.

I intend on establishing friendly dialogue some time soon.  After all, these are boys just like I was at one time.  I don’t want them tossing fireworks over the fence or, worse, rocks at my glass patio doors.  For now, I don’t mind fueling their legend, making the game daring fun.

For now… stay off my lawn.

Glow Guy

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I am resigned to the fact that my career as a model must be put on hold until I get younger.  When the fountain of youth has been located, I will be selling tickets, so stay tuned for that one.

When choosing my attire for the day last Friday, groggily sorting through the assortment of shirts in my closet, I pulled back my collection of long sleeved shirts to reveal a shockingly neon lime green shirt.  Suddenly awakened by its glow, I made the conscious decision that this shirt would be my choice.

I felt brave.

This picture doesn’t do the shirt’s electric tones justice.  In order to wear a shirt this noticeable, one must not be shy or easily offended by snide remarks.  More than once last Friday, “friends” donned sunglasses in my presence, feigned blindness, mocked my fashion sense.  I don’t claim to have any.. fashion sense, that is.  Truth is that the shirt is one that can only be worn when I don’t mind being noticed, spotted, or require that I be seen.

I originally bought the shirt as a golf shirt.  My son expresses grand disdain when I wear it in his presence, a fact that encourages me to wear the shirt even more.  Since the majority of my golfing is with Nate, it’s my primary golf attire.  It’s useful.  I can be seen for miles, so rarely does anyone hit a golf ball in my direction.  The only bad thing about that is sometimes people do want to hit a golf ball in my direction.

Not long after I purchased the shirt, I traveled to Budapest for training with the company I work for, headquartered there.  During my two weeks there, my employer booked a Sunday bus tour, a nice guided tour of the Parliament building and King’s palace area, as well as the downtown areas.  Budapest is a cool place, really two cities (Buda and Pest) separated by the Danube river and considered one.  The tour crossed the river several times.  By chance, I wore my electric golf shirt — and I stood out, as if being the only American on the tour didn’t single me out already.  During the course of the tour, two young women got bored with the tour group and decided to venture out on their own, in the process they got lost and missed the bus departure.  After the bus left, it turned a corner and passed the two lost women.  When the bus passed, they started waving frantically for it to stop, only recognizing the bus after it was past.  As they reboarded the bus, the tour guide asked them how they recognized our bus.

“We saw his shirt!”  They pointed at the neon American with smirks on their face, took the seat in front of me.

Some day the shirt will likely self combust.

Do you have what it takes to wear neon?

A Major Award

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You, oh person reading my blog, are looking at a weiner…er.. winner of a MAJOR AWARD!  I am a regular smart guy, because this was not just some random-pull-the-ticket-out-of-a-hat type of contest.  No, this is a prize that yours truly EARNED, my superior effort bringing me the fruit of the sweat of my brain.

You are going to be sooooooo jealous.

The package arrived at my doorstep last Saturday, carefully and wonderfully wrapped in a colorful bubble envelope.  Just to clarify, it was not FRA-GEE-LAY.  It came from New Jersey, not Italy.  With eager anticipation, I carried my booty up the stairs to my condo.  I knew what it was.  It was a major award, after all.

20180505_085809Jules, of Go Jules Go, a writer/blogger/chipmunk enthusiast flaxen haired wearer of faux mustaches and big glasses, chose me out of millions of entries as the winner of her birthday giveaway — a book.  I like books.  I like books with pictures.  I look books with exceptional illustration.  Heck, I like books when they are major awards.  That major award book is titled  A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo.

Clever.  I didn’t know anything about the book, but the chance to demonstrate my cleverness is a chance that I relish.

Jules’ rules were this —

Want to win?

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below by NOON EST on Saturday, April 28th explaining what the world’s best birthday would look like to you. Points awarded for humor, creativity and ability to compliment me mentioning chipmunks.

I knew I could nail this one.

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I am soooooo freaking clever.

Jules spewed.  I like making women spew.

And thus, I became a weiner.

Jules is a spectacular wrapper (not by Chance).  She included a very cool card, mustaches and all.  ‘Tis cool.20180505_085551

Jules indeed is a chipmunk aficionado.

There were no nasty surprises.  No white powder.  No nude pictures of Donald Trump.

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I am honored.  I would like to thank all the little people inside my head who made this possible.

 

 

B+ For Effort

There is something to be said for just trying.  I don’t want a participation trophy or anything, no ribbon of appreciation.  Throw me a few bandaids, though.  After Saturday, I am a little roughed up.

I feel a bit more like an amateur these days.  Saturday morning, I met some riding friends to ride a few trails.  One of the trails was familiar to me, named XX and it’s a beast of a trail — rocky, narrow, twisting, up and down with plenty of large obstacles to ride.  I have traversed XX enough to know what to expect, enough to make it through without putting a foot down.  Though I set no speed record, I was happy to have survived XX.

We stopped in the parking lot for nutrition and water.  I wish there was a supplement I could have taken to give me a bit more courage.  The next trail was a real booger.  Remember that I am riding in Illinois, in Chicagoland, so there really shouldn’t be too much scary stuff.  This trail is situated in between a slough (a lake) and the I & M canal, rocky and elevated from all of the debris left there when the canal was dug out.  It’s also a relatively new trail, built to be difficult.

I tried not to curse.  Cursing is something I try to avoid.  I do have my own form of cursing, made up words that sound like I am cursing.  For the first part of the trail, as I stared straight down at a descent strewn with large, sharp, nasty looking rocks, I managed the faux curse words.  At the bottom of the descent, faux curse words turned to stronger ones, such as POOP, something that threatened to fill my shorts as I immediately shot up the tricky ascent that followed.  For miles, it was the same thing, rock after rock.  By the end, I was sweating blood.

It was fun.  It was ball breaking, but it was fun.

The beer in the parking lot was a cold, refreshing, very welcome recovery drink!

Support My Daughter?

My daughter has asked me to share her blog today.  It’s to ask for donations.  In order for her to be able to go to Turkey, she has to raise money.  The blog gives instructions on how to donate.

I don’t like to solicit, so I apologize, but I do believe in my daughter and told her I would share.  If interested — There and Back Again.  She needs money for air fare and expenses to get there, as well as monthly support.  All donations are handled by the missionary organization that is sponsoring her.

Burg versus Bung

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One of the benefits of the divorce journey is finding (and keeping) new friends.  Now, there are friends lost during the same journey, some not so much of a loss, some a real sad disappointment.  The majority of the lost friends were mutual friends of my ex and myself, many just simply not sure what to say when they see me, so they find it easier to not see me.  Then there are those friends who decided it was best to come beside me, stick with me and add their support, bringing along with them their friends.  Suddenly, I am Social Stevie, the single guy who is always available for a beer or a meal or a ride or to carry heavy furniture.

I haven’t really changed except I wasn’t always single.

Kurt, Ed and Frank are examples of guys who appeared on the scene 2018 AD (After Divorce).  Ed is someone I have known for quite a while — I have known his wife for over 25 years.  We performed sketch comedy together as well as being cast in a few plays together.  It just so happens that he and his wife live in the same small burg as I.

I like using the word ‘burg’.  Do not get it confused with the word ‘bung’.  The two words have totally different meanings… most of the time.  I may have lived in a place or two that could be adequately described as bung.

Last summer, Kurt Ed Frank started inviting me to lunch or dinner, apparently under the guise of supporting this soul mired in the pit of divorce.Pit-of-Despair-words

Their support really wasn’t asked for.  Strangely, I felt like I was supporting them by giving them a purpose.  They were divorce survivors, each with their own tale of terror.  We would get together and the stories/advice would start flying, my head nodding in acknowledgement, a smile of thanks with each tidbit.  Truthfully, the hell my friends experienced through their divorce was not the hell I was experiencing.  My divorce was not an easy time, but neither was it the ordeal my friends made it out to be.  Their ex wives made my ex seem like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Along the way, I made three solid trustworthy friends that I can count on when I need them.  We don’t share the horror stories so much any more.  They got them out of their system.

They are getting to know me better now.  We have reached the point where we are getting beyond the divorce stories, sharing out lives, sometimes they are shocked from what they hear from me.  I come across as gentle mannered, Christian, a straight shooter who has lived a calm life (except for the divorce).  Last week at lunch, I decided to regale them with stories from my motorcycle riding days, as well as answering their question of “Have you ever been in jail?”.

Yes.  2 days in the pokey.  Bailed out by my church pastor.  Why was I in jail?  I got into a brouhaha with an old lady.

Chew on that for a while.  My friends Kurt, Ed and Frank are doing just that.

There are more friends, more old friends than new, but new in the sense that I didn’t hang with them until 2018 AD.  I have breakfast every Friday with a bunch of guys from church.  They have been great, supportive in a better way than telling divorce stories.  They have lifted me up, studied with me, and along the way my old self has emerged, the guy that studied the bible and was raised with it.  What do those guys call me now?  The Teacher.  Perhaps more than anything else, I needed the esteem that comes from being able to share what I know from knowing God.  It’s pretty cool finding that part of me again.

It’s been a journey.  It continues.  It will continue to continue until I die.. hopefully on a bicycle.  I don’t want to die in my sleep.

Here’s a question — how do you want to die?  (I know… yuck, Steve)