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It’s no secret that I enjoy trying out new things – most notably, the process of the Mountain Dew DewLabs/Dewmocracy 2.0 fan vote to decide a new permanent flavor of soda. Thanks again to Mt Dew for hooking me up in a big way for that summer of fun.

Welcome to Spring 2014, and we have another opportunity as consumers to make our voices heard. Doritos is back at it with their second round of unidentified chip flavors (in 2007, they ran the X-13D Flavor Experiment, which ultimately yielded the Late Night/All Nighter Cheeseburger flavor chip). Here is my brief synopsis on the 3 flavors currently available to test and vote on.

TEST FLAVOR #855 (red label): Has a very definitive punch to it. The aftertaste lingers for a while, with a kick to it. Almost like a buffalo wing flavor.

TEST FLAVOR #2653 (blue label): Sweet. Tangy. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d compare it to a sweet BBQ/honey BBQ/Teriyaki type flavor.

TEST FLAVOR #404 (orange label): I wanted to identify this one as Doritos 404: Flavor Not Found. However, the flavor has definitely been found, and in my own opinion, that’s not a good thing. Extremely overbearing lime flavor. It’s as if they were attempting to replicate the chips you get at Chipotle, but failed miserably.

Anyhow – here’s your opportunity to check them out yourself, and chip in your $0.02 on the subject. The competition is set to run until June 27th, so you still have 6+ weeks to track down these anonymous bags and make your decision. Jump onto the Bold Flavor Experiment website and cast your vote. In addition to this yielding an eventual winning flavor that will stick around, Doritos is also giving away daily prizes. Interested now? Stop reading, and go.

No, seriously. Stop reading. This is the end of this entry.

You’re still here? It’s over. Go on. Go.

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(the open atrium/courtyard of Metro North. To the left, at its prime. To the right, during its demise)

(the open atrium/courtyard of Metro North. To the left, at its prime. To the right, during its demise)

The closing of Kansas City’s Metro North Mall earlier this week sparked up plenty of nostalgia. After all, it was among the very first malls in this area that I became with familiar with, even before I moved out here full-time. Over the years, I had a lot of good times in Metro North. Browsing inside Shark’s Surf Shop. Enjoying the sounds coming from the games inside the Fun Factory arcade. Grabbed plenty of bites to eat there including Kelso’s Pizza, the Gold Fortune (chinese buffet), Amigo’s (mexican), a meal or two at Greaser’s Diner, and even had my very first In-A-Tub experience there. I bought my first Chiefs merchandise in that mall, stocked up on Topsy’s popcorn, and even met several WWE wrestlers over the years. I also got my hair cut by a girl who would take care of WWE’s John Cena whenever he was in town and needed a quick clean-up. I visited a touring animal sanctuary exhibit that stopped in to the mall, and got to hold and cuddle a baby tiger. I admired the open atrium/courtyard with a water layout, complete with inflated balloons that would rise up and down mimicking hot air balloons. During the holidays, a train was set up that would take children around a loop, and volunteers were set up to offer gift wrapping to shoppers. There was an older gentleman who operated an awesome tablet setup near that courtyard that had all sorts of vintage tin/metal signs and related memorabilia. So many great little details could be found within that mall.

The writing was already on the wall by the time I first set foot through its doors, though. The in-mall AMC movie theater had already shut down by my first visit, and they’d opened up the outer-mall facility (which only remained in operation for a handful of years). The long-term vision of a food court never came to fruition. Over time, businesses (including anchor tenants) started to disappear from the mall as new locations opened up east at Shoal Creek, and west at Zona Rosa. In its final years, Metro North seemed to be a better place for people to go for indoor walking/powerwalking than it did to shop. Now, 38 years after opening its doors for the first time, they’re closed for good.

(Metro North Mall's lower fountain. Behind it, on the corner, was Original Pizza. To its left, The Whig Shoppe. To its right, the Fun Factory arcade)

(Metro North Mall’s lower fountain. Behind it, on the corner, was Original Pizza. To its left, The Whig Shoppe. To its right, the Fun Factory arcade)

Metro North became the latest mall to join my memories as nothing more than that – memories. Two years ago, only a handful of miles away, Antioch Center suffered the same fate and was demolished. My only solid memories of Antioch were the standout design of their food court and seating area, and the FooKee Chinese buffet. Sorry, Antioch – I never really got to know you. (FUN FACT: The very first ShowBiz Pizza location was opened in Antioch Center on March 3, 1980, and the Rock-afire Explosion band made their debut)

Of course, many memories of mine will be tied to places from back home, such as Northwest Plaza in St. Ann MO. I’ll always remember that mall best for the time I spent in its massive lower-level arcade and entertainment facility, “Tilt!”. It’s also where I went with my best friend Adam to get myself a pager back in the day. In its later years, it went downhill quickly. Businesses bolted. Crime went up. Structural integrity was compromised. At the least, parts of it are nothing more than rubble and remnants – I’m not sure if any of it still remains, but I plan to drive by its site when I’m out that way next weekend.

Jamestown Mall in Florissant MO is likely to be the next. It’s in the middle of its own dilapidation, including shutdowns in both November and December of 2013 due to low temperatures/no heat. My best entertaining moment of my times in Jamestown Mall was going into KB Toys to buy my Nintendo N64, leaving from there to go over to Adam’s parents house, and immediately realizing that the store still had my card (it was recovered the next day).

Times change, and so does everything that exists within time, although memories remain. My earliest mall memories are split between two places, one of which I know still exists, and the other I can’t confirm, but am fairly certain is long gone. The first of those two is Chesterfield Mall, which was my first real mall experience (well before Mid Rivers Mall ever existed), and I remember the ramped walkways, the fountains highlighted by multi-colored lighting, and the food court that I’d enjoyed places like Burger Chef, and my very first Chick-Fil-A. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time inside Chesterfield Mall (my most recent visit there was to the attached Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurant), but it’s still thriving to this day. For that matter, upon Northwest Plaza’s closing, it became the largest indoor mall in the St. Louis area. Upon Metro North Mall’s closing two days ago, Chesterfield Mall took over as the largest indoor mall in all of Missouri.

The other of those two oldest memory banks was Cottonwood Station, in Glen Carbon IL. It wasn’t the biggest by any means – 2 floors, essentially a ground floor and basement from what I remember – and I don’t think I ever recall it being at more than maybe 40% capacity. My parents and I would go out there periodically to do lunch with my grandparents (it was located close to halfway between where we lived and where they lived), and we’d always go to this good-sized restaurant and buffet, and then go wander the mall area afterwards. I know we’d go and visit several different stores in there, but the only two that I really remember were a pet store, and a small arcade by the stairwell. I also remember my father always looking for a parking spot underneath one of the large trees on the edge of the lot so that the car would be in as little sunlight as possible.

It feels like the only time that my mind isn’t red-lining with thought is when I’m asleep, and even then it’s not guaranteed. It seems to specialize in holding on to memories of what may seem like the most trivial of things. If it’s details of trips to shopping malls, so be it.

No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.

IMG_343572152232707 Those were the words of the very last promo that we ever received from the Ultimate Warrior, on the 4/7/2014 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. He emphatically stated these words, adorned in an vibrant duster (handpainted by Rob Schamberger) and a mask pattered after his classic face paint. Less than 24 hours after these words were spoken, Warrior (Jim Hellwig) was dead. In my years as a fan of professional wrestling, I’ve read the reports of countless wrestler deaths. This one is hitting me especially hard, and it’s not without reason. For years, my parents didn’t have cable service, so the only TV options I had at home were local channels (this would eventually expand once my parents got cable, I’d follow wrestling in and out of WWF along with my friend Matt Wood, and would do alternating pay-per-view rental parties with my friend Tim Caudera). In 1990, through a combination of “WWF Wrestling Challenge” on Saturday mornings and “WWF Superstars” on Sunday mornings in St. Louis, 11 year old me first really discovered professional wrestling – WWF specifically. While my eyes would be opened to various characters I would take to, such as Hacksaw Jim Duggan, the Big Boss Man, and Demolition (the first “heels” I really found myself cheering for), there were four wrestlers who really locked me in and sold me on pro wrestling. Hulk Hogan. Andre The Giant. Macho Man Randy Savage. Ultimate Warrior. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have my father take me to multiple wrestling events over the years. One that stands out to me was WWF WrestleFest at old Busch Stadium, July 14th of 1991. It stood out to me because of it being an outdoor show, our seats were on the floor with a good view of the ring, and our location also gave me direct access to the guardrails as the wrestlers would be on their way to/from the ring. On that night, I got to see two of those four wrestlers in person (Savage had been “retired” by Warrior several months prior at WrestleMania XII, and Andre had since concluded his in-ring career). On that night, Ultimate Warrior was in a “casket match” against The Undertaker. While getting to touch the casket as it was rolled by was pretty cool to me, it was surpassed by my getting to slap hands with Warrior as he raced past me. From the moment his music would hit the speakers, you knew unparalleled frenetic energy was coming, and at 12 years old, I swore I thought he’d take my hand and arm right off in the process – but I got to reach out to an inspiration. Warrior would go on to have various issues and burned bridges over the years (escalating to the point of WWE releasing a DVD of him that was nothing less than a complete roast), and vanished completely from the pro wrestling scene. I, along with many others, didn’t know if we’d ever see or hear from him again in the world of wrestling. Then, last year, the olive branch seemed to exist. He signed on to do promotional work for the WWE 2K14 video game. Then, on the 1/13/2014 episode of Monday Night Raw, it was the video announcement that many of us thought we’d probably never see – Ultimate Warrior would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. On Saturday night, I sat on my couch streaming the WWE Network’s Hall of Fame induction broadcast on my tablet, and I was glued to every word of Warrior’s speech. I listened to him express his appreciation for the business, the people that make the business work – both in front of, and behind the scenes – and his love of being a husband and a father to his two girls. Two nights later, he stepped in the ring and delivered the promo that I quoted at the top of this writing. Watching it live, that promo seemed to come across as being a tribute to what his character represented and accomplished. Now, revisiting it after his passing, it feels like a eulogy. While coincidental, I’m sure, his words are as if he knew that death was knocking. Warrior had recently signed on with WWE to a Legends contract, to be an ambassador to the brand. My hope is that WWE will honor his contract in full, and allow all royalties from merchandise and licensing to go to his wife and daughters. With his passing goes a massive part of my childhood. If anything, I can smile knowing that his final actions in life were rebuilding the burned bridge between him and WWE, and perhaps there’s some symbolism to that. His heart has beat its final beat, and his lungs have breathed their final breath. The legend, however, shall forever run. IMG_20140409_223630

October 1998 gave birth to a website known as OpenDiary (OD for short). It was a free-to-use site (although pay features would be later added), and one of the earlier versions of real social media (after a few months of its inception, the feature would be added to allow comments on diary entries). Users could remain completely anonymous, or make themselves known. In a way, it was early blogging. Ultimately, OpenDiary would end up hosting over 200,000 diaries, including writers from all seven continents.

In late December 1998, I signed up and launched the first entry to my OD account under the handle of “HollywoodTease” (kudos to anyone who gets the reference). Over the course of the 3 to 4 years I had my account open, I openly chronicled and shared my life. Highs and lows. Peaks and valleys. Relationship topics, recreational activities, and even depression. I wrote with no filter, and was unapologetically honest.

When I began my OD, I was still living in St. Louis. Updates were done regularly up until I left for a nine-month stint at the Excelsior Springs Job Corps Center (of which I’ve previously blogged on here about paranormal activity at that place). While at ESJCC, I didn’t have regular internet access, which I worked around by making arrangements where I typed up my entries and saved them to floppy disk, and then had them uploaded and published on my behalf.

Somewhere after my departure from ESJCC and my full move from St. Louis to Kansas City, other daily life activities picked up, and updating OD became a priority that was placed on the back burner. The site had an activity policy that required any sort of update to be done at least once every 30 days. Eventually, I hit that lapse where I neglected to update within 30 days of the previous entry, and poof – my account was deactivated and deleted. Several years of transparent writings disappeared, and there’s no getting them back. I remember some of what I wrote about during that time – keeping in mind that I didn’t find sobriety until several years after this.

Through the various ups and downs, I owe a lot to OpenDiary. It was an always-available venue for me to unleash anything that was on my mind, without judgment. I formed connections with a number of other writers on the site; several of whom I still keep in contact with. A little over a decade ago, my chapter in OpenDiary had the period added to its final sentence. At midnight last night, the entire OpenDiary book was closed.

Abraham Lincoln was full of shit.

It’s very easy to become complacent.  Whether it be at your job, in a relationship, with a sports team, or whatever. That complacency can easily devolve to I-don’t-give-a-whatever. That’s a dangerous place to be.

I want to punch people in the face who run the quote of good things coming to those who wait. What has anyone ever enjoyed as a result of merely sitting back and waiting, except for a good sunset or sunrise? If we’re talking quotes, let’s face facts: Mahatma Gandhi nailed it. “Be the change you want to see in the world”. If you’re unhappy with something, get off your ass and do something about it. This has always been something that needs emphasized, but now more than ever with the ongoing pussification of America.

If you’re not waking up every day looking for a way to have your life be better at the end of the day, then you’re just taking up space and air. If that fire inside isn’t burning, you’re doing something wrong. Nobody has ever made change happen just by sitting on their ass.  It’s the equivalent of the walkers in a 5K taking up space and being in the way of the runners, except that the walkers are at least getting up off of the couch and giving enough a damn to do something.

If you’re unhappy with something in your job, relationship, or whatever – figure out a way to resolve it and make the situation better. If that’s not possible, then either make due, or go find something else. Don’t just sit back and expect that it’s going to change on its own. That’s just as bad as sitting back and expecting things to be handed to you without working for anything. Don’t be that person. Sense of entitlement is a real MFer.

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(I will be touching on a bit of a touchy topic here. I only ask that you please don’t let it overshadow, or take away from,  the whole of this writing)

Last night, the world became a darker, and less entertaining, place. We received word out of Wichita KS, where he had been hospitalized since before Christmas, that our friend Dan had finally passed away. I’ll touch on the source of his issues later. We’d learned earlier in the day that things had taken a further turn for the worse, but surely weren’t prepared to lose him as quickly as we did. One moment, Amy and I were holding each other and wiping away tears trying to cope with the loss. A few moments later, we were sharing fits of giggles recalling various antics and memories of our times with him. We went back and forth between those for a while last night. That’s a definitive statement of the kind of guy Dan was.

As soon as the news began to get out of his passing just after 8pm last night, my Facebook feed almost immediately began flooding with posts dedicated to him, and sharing memories of various times people had with him. I hope he knows how widespread of an impact he made during his all-too-short time with us. To have known him was a pleasure – either during his work at car dealerships, in the insurance or mortgage businesses, or just as a friend. He was affectionately known as “Dan the yes man” because he always went out of his way whenever he could to help people out, and rarely ever did you hear him refuse or decline.

My first time meeting Dan was several years ago at the indoor dodge ball court of Perceptive Software, for their annual “Dodge For A Cause” charity dodge ball tournament. He and I clicked instantly, as did he and Amy. We’ve had so many great memories with him since then, including some unforgettable karaoke and a line dance to the Cupid Shuffle shortly before Jennah was born.

Dan had been having his mix of good days and bad days, physically speaking. On some days, he was up and ready to dance, and would be going out for a run. On others, he admitted it was a struggle for him to even get up out of bed. The last time we saw Dan was a couple of months ago. He came over to our place to visit for a little while along with our friend Jean (who is due to give birth to her son, and Dan’s godson, any time now – sadly, Dan wasn’t able to hang on long enough to meet him), and it was on one of his physically not-so-good days. He walked with a cane, and was slow-going. If you just listened to him talk, and paid no attention to his movements, you wouldn’t know the pain and discomfort he was dealing with. At that time, I still wouldn’t have believed that he’d no longer be with us just a matter of months later.

Dan’s final couple of months saw him deal with an ongoing double case of pneumonia, and over time he ended up with one lung completely full of fluid. Early yesterday, we were told that his kidneys were in the process of shutting down, and they were exploring the options of dialysis. That was shortly before 5pm. Less than four hours later, he was gone. His immune system simply couldn’t keep up the battle. My heart aches at the thought of no longer having any great times spent together with him. However, I smile knowing that he’s finally 100% at peace. No more pain. No more suffering. The fight is over. This is definitely a reminder that nothing, and nobody, can be taken for granted in life. Life is short – sometimes entirely too short – and tomorrow is never guaranteed.

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My first eye-opener to AIDS was season 3 of MTV’s “The Real World” (San Francisco), back when the show was actually… real. It debuted on MTV on June 30th, 1994 – I was 15, and while I was familiar with the concept of AIDS, this would be the first time something would really get me to pay attention. Pedro Zamora was one of the seven individuals selected to enter the house on Lombard and share their lives, and he had a story to tell. Pedro was very active in the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities, previously traveling around the country and giving speeches – mostly in schools – emphasizing safe sex and offering education on the disease. Through the five months of the show’s airing, Pedro’s story was both eye-opening, and heart-breaking. His condition turned for the worse very quickly, but his spirit never faltered. He finally lost his fight on November 11th, 1994 – mere hours after the season’s finale aired on MTV. His appearance on the show shared his story and spread his message far more than his previous touring ever could have.

While I was educated by Pedro Zamora’s life and story, I only knew him from tv and media. Dan was the first person who I got to know, firsthand, in-person, who was living with AIDS. It didn’t matter to me that he had AIDS. It didn’t matter to me that he was gay. He was my friend, close enough to us to be considered family within our home, and that’s all that mattered. However, for as much as kept up on his various health issues and later battles, it’s hard for me to not feel a bit of guilt or regret that I didn’t discuss it with him more than I did. It was his story to tell, and I easily could have inquired more often. Not only to further educate myself, but to consistently be a shoulder to lean on and an ear to speak to anytime he needed it for something serious. Instead, our conversations and our times together were overshadowed by smiles and laughter, shenanigans and innappropriate comments in just the right places and times. Not that that’s a bad thing, because that’s how many of us will forever remember Dan, but I do wish that I would have talked with him more about the disease itself, and the complications resulting from it. That “what if” will always linger in my mind, wondering how much different, longer, and easier his life would have been if he’d never had contracted the virus/disease, or had to deal with any complications as a result of it.

Sleep peacefully, my friend. Rest assured that anytime I think of you, I’ll do so with a smile (and quite possibly a good chuckle as well), and you’ll continue to inspire me to be a better person. I love you, and I’ll see you later.

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I believe this to be the only photo I have with Dan: 10/9/2010 with Amy & Jennah at the wedding of our friends Mike & Kerstin, along with Dan (next to me) and Curtis & Jennifer Smith

With 2013 coming to a (very quick, to me) end, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what the last 365 days have brought me. Some good, some bad, some elation, some heartbreak. Lots of lessons learned, and lots of new friends and acquaintances made. Here are a handful of the year’s highlights…

I don’t go out to concerts nearly as much these days as I did during my single/non-family days, but I did get the opportunity to catch two shows this year that were both monumental to me. In April Amy and I took in a performance by the living legend of St. Louis, Chuck Berry, at the legendary Blueberry Hill. Even at age 86 (87 now), the man still handles his business, and sounds as good as ever. That was a bucket list item for me. The opener for that show was the Andy Timmons Band (Timmons, formerly of Danger Danger, has done a multitude of studio sessions with great musicians, and his solo work is stellar).

The other concert for me this year was, also at Blueberry Hill, the 25th anniversary tour of the “Vivid” album from Living Colour. I’ve been a fan for years, and that album in particular is one that I hold in high regard within the category of “No-skips”.  I can let it play from the opening second of track 1 to the closing seconds of track 11, and not feel the need to skip over anything inbetween. An added plus was the opening act, the Steve Ewing Band (side project of the lead singer from The Urge).

I further submerged myself in the mix of St. Louis radio this year, in due part to several gentlemen. After a station/format rebrand, I (re) familarized myself with the group of Brian McKenna, Jeff Burton (formerly of 105.7 The Point), and John Edwards as Midday Mayhem on 590 The Man. Meanwhile, over on the internet radio broadcast side of things, a 3-man operation consisting of Ron Godier, Wade Trent, and Joe Cochran on TalkSTL.com created general shenanigans on their (scheduled) daily broadcast of WTF. In late June, they took their show on the road, for two days of broadcasts in Topeka KS at the Equality House (directly across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church). After joining them for both days, I left with a greater understanding and appreciation for everything the Equality House & Planting Peace Peace do, along with having made a number of new friends and contacts. Wade is out of radio now, having had his work as a musician really take off in the past few months, and Godier & Cochran are now on nights on 920AM along with the incomparable Brad Mulholland as The Daily Wrap.

My passion for mixed martial arts (MMA) grew by leaps and bounds this year, largely in part to the long-awaited and much-deserved UFC debut of Kansas City’s own “The” James Krause. He parlayed his success in the octagon this year into success with his business ventures, and bought into co-ownership of his gym, GrindHouse MMA, in Lee’s Summit (Jennah and I went out to visit the gym early last month; their setup is simplistic, yet phenomenal). I’ve also been able to familiarize myself with a number of other local/regional fighters, both professional and amateur.

The year brought a fair amount of success for various sports teams I follow.

– The St. Louis Blues returned to the playoffs for the 2012/2013 season, although they made a quiet and relatively uneventful exit. Prior to today’s game vs Minnesota, the Blues already have accumulated 26 wins on the 2013/2014 season – the first time in franchise history that they’d have more than 25 wins at the end of the calendar year.

– The Kansas City Chiefs rebounded from a forgettable 2012 season (both in terms of schedule/standings, and the stigma of a player murder/suicide) with a successful 2013, earning themselves a solid wild card slot, and travel to Indianapolis for playoffs this weekend.

– The New Orleans Saints will also return to the playoffs, clinching a wild card position this past weekend, and will visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles.

– The St. Louis Rams… well, they ALMOST finished with an 8-8 record.

– The St. Louis Cardinals returned to the World Series, and were two games away from being 12-time champions.

– The Kansas City Royals finished 5 games over .500 (their best season finish since 1989), and look to be in reasonably good shape going into the 2014 season.

– The Florida State Seminoles (my dad’s alma mater) returns to the national championship picture, undefeated, slated to go against Auburn next week.

The best of the best in my sports world, for 2013, was Sporting Kansas City. If you haven’t known me for a long time, this statement won’t ring as true to you as it will with those who have known me for years or grew up with me, but my passion for Sporting parallels that for the Cardinals (I can probably go three weeks without repeating a single Cardinals shirt or jersey – I’m quickly catching up with SKC gear). As the Kansas City Wizards, they came a long way from a team that nearly moved out of Kansas City a decade ago, to a team in 2010 who pulled off a huge upset victory in a friendly against EPL powerhouse Manchester United. 2011 marked the debut of the franchise rebrand, now known as Sporting Kansas City, along with their new stadium. They’ve made playoffs in all three seasons since then, culminating 2013 with winning their second MLS Cup.

2013 was not without its personal losses.  March brought the passing of my aunt Gail, who finally was overwhelmed in her battle with cancer. Although anticipated, especially with her final weeks being spent in home hospice, her death still hit me hard. I’m beyond appreciative of my daughter, for she was my rock during a very difficult time. She embraced and carried around the stuffed sheep my parents bought her to keep her occupied during the visitation, and she gave much-needed hugs and cuddles. She held my hand at the graveside service, only being momentarily distracted upon hearing a train passing by a little less than a mile away.

At the end of November, my parents faced the difficult (but correct) decision of putting one of their two cats down after he suffered multiple seizures, the later of which Phenobarbital was unable to control. Of the two (Simon and Garfunkel), Garf was the shy one, but would love you unconditionally once he got to know you. The first time I visited back home after their adoption, I didn’t see Garf for the better part of the first two days. Over time, and future visits, he warmed up to me and would remember me each time I came back home to visit, and was a total softy. I/we don’t have any scheduled trips back home to St. Louis anytime soon, but I face the fact that sometime between now and that next trip, I need to find a way to somehow explain to Jennah that her play buddy won’t be around anymore.

On a lighter, but still hard-hitting note, my car died earlier in the year. Coming home from work and daycare in early February, and the engine blew while on the highway. We were fortunate enough to be on a downhill portion of the highway at the time, and not only coasted down the offramp that was about a half-mile ahead, but lucked out with no traffic at the bottom of the ramp, allowing me to coast the car onto the street and into the parking lot of a gas station/truck stop uninterrupted, bringing the car to a stop in their lot. The process of getting the ol’ Punker back up and going again was long, stressful, and not cheap, but did get a smile out of knowing that the replacement engine that is in there now came to me from a shop along Route 66 in Illinois.

It would seem fitting that the end of the year would end up being the brightest to me, personally. Jennah is now 3 years old (3 and a half in February), and while she wasn’t quite at the age to really understand everything with Christmas last year, she was all about it this year. Helping out with decorations. Making sure the tree was on every day after daycare. Looking around for Christmas lights along the drives. No help needed from momma or daddy, she handled the unwrapping of presents all on her own this year. And I know that for as much as she enjoyed it this year (and subsequently made ME enjoy Christmas that much more), it’ll only get better next year.

I now await the conclusion of this year in its final few hours, and look forward to what 2014 brings. Here’s hoping that you (yes, you) will be a part of it.

Oh, and my New Year’s resolution? 1280 x 1024. Now you know.

Cheers.