The Number Nine

There are moments in time that you want to pause and force your children to stop growing up, but for me that is only a wish because I want to hold on to the nostalgic moment. However, I want to see what is in store for this passionate ball of emotion. Being a father to this young lady has awoken a passion to see her succeed and fight for what she believes is important in the world. Whether it is playing with her puppets or being the client of a makeover, or speak up for women's equality in pay, workplace, healthcare and opportunities in the world.  

Because of her passionate views on life, we tend to go round and round and she drives me to the edge far more than her brother ever did at that age. But that makes me love her all the more. Her stubbornness and bullheaded stance is only countered by her ability to love things entirely from the core of her being. 

1.jpg

To sit with her through a movie and end up with her in my lap as the tears roll from her face as emotional scenes are played out. For example, the tears flowed as a brontosaurus was killed in Jurassic World as they were her favorite and she couldn't stand to see them hurt. Don't even mention the final battle in Rogue One - the last half of the movie was a complete emotional breakdown. 

But that is what I love about her is how deep her passions run. Her highs are high and the lows are lows, but she is finding her range. Her hugs are stress relievers, her smiles are infectious and having her as my daughter only makes me a proud parent of who she is and what she will become.

Happy Birthday, Ella! 

As the world turns.....

The world keeps on turning and this kid isn't showing any signs of slowing down. 

I believe that he has finally learned that whenever he puts his mind to something, he can accomplish that and even excel. Soccer league championship, 2nd place in the spelling bee, enjoying roles at the theater, excellent grades at school, and even being able to solve a Rubix Cube and try a competition sitting next to a world record holder. 

Year in and year out, he has continued to impress me in what he can learn and at this point, there does not seem to be a ceiling to what he can learn. As parents, all we can do is encourage him and let him explore his abilities until he finds his own ultimate path. 

As Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote about Alexander Hamilton, these same words ring true as if Ean was singing them himself. Oh wait, he does sing/rap them all the time and I mean ALL the time. 

I prob’ly shouldn’t brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish
The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish
I gotta holler just to be heard
With every word, I drop knowledge!
I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal
Tryin’ to reach my goal. My power of speech: unimpeachable
Only nineteen twelve but my mind is older

Happy birthday, kiddo. 

Crazy 8z

Today officially ends the holiday season for the 4 McIntosh Apples. The youngest of us is turning a year older as she wakes up to head to school. This young lady continues to redefine not only who she is, but she challenges us to look beyond what we can be. She is funny, caring, loves to gives amazing hugs, and she has more emotions bundled inside of her tiny little body than I've felt in my entire life. 

This young lady can love like there is no tomorrow as well as express anger at a moment's notice. Without even thinking about it, she can brighten an entire room as she entertains everyone. She knows when someone is down and will do her best to try and cheer them up. She is the least shy person that I know and I admire her that for that. It is a trait that I don't carry with me. 

She is fiercely loyal and will defend those that she loves, however her heart breaks just as strong when she does not receive the same in return. At times, we struggle to keep her passion contained because the emotions far exceed the shell that carries them. 

She continues to show us that love knows no boundaries. Each day that I know her, my love for her grows exponentially. Watching her develop into an artist, a writer, a drama queen (in multiple senses) is one of the few highlights in this cold tundra known as Indiana. We are watching it unfold in front of our eyes, but we know that there are things bigger for her and we can't wait to see what she grows into and where it leads her in the future. 

Happy birthday, Ella. 


The Wise Dancer

One sunny day, a wise dancer saw a huge drum and said to the great spirits, “Is this a gift to me or someone else?”
”To you, my Dancer, to you, for your dancing,” said the Great Spirit.
Then it started to rain and the voices vanished and he went to his teepee. He said, “What am I going to do without Mother Earth?”
When the wise dancer woke up, he opened his teepee door, the world was filled with color. The mountains were green, the flowers were pink and trees were filling the world up.
The Great Spirit said, “This is for your people, your new name is Boy Wise Dancer.”
The End
— Ella from a Native American school writing project

We were going through Ella's school assignments last night and came across this gem. You can see the original in the picture below, but barely cleaned up the actual text. This is a perfect example of the difference between our two kids. Ean's teachers always told us that he only wrote from what he knew and could not think beyond his immediate vicinity - family, cat, friends. On the other hand, Ella will write about anything and enjoys making stuff up. 

It may not be too much of a Thanksgiving post, but Happy Thanksgiving!


Enter a boy, Exit a young man

There have been some incredible things that occurred over the past hundred and fifty two years on this day. From the moon and back, one of the best speeches ever given, a meeting between the super powers, and the birth of one very special young man. 

  • On November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivers the "Gettysburg Address" at the dedication of the National Cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.
  • On November 19, 1969, Apollo 12 touched down on the moon.
  • On November 19, 1985, US President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, met for the first time. 
  • On November 19, 2004, Ean McIntosh was born to parents April and Dylan McIntosh

All of these are amazing and historic moments in the history of the United States and all of mankind, but one is the most important to April and I. The birth of our son. 

This young man continues to amaze us. Embodying the best of April and I, he is intelligent, thoughtful (except to his own sister), empathetic, witty, charming, and just an incredible person to be around. He's still growing and learning, but his mind is like a sponge. He soaks up everything under the sun. He may have the memory of an elephant and recall information that you told him years ago, but forgets to brush his teeth after being told three times that morning. 

This is a kid that you want to have on your side, he feels very strongly about things that someone his age should not be worrying about and I can only feel my heart swell when he talks about the rights of all no matter the color of their skin, gender of the person they love, or where they are from. He has said numerous times over the years that he wants to be a scientist and study things, but I see the activist leaking from him from time to time. 

We are very appreciative of the teachers that have challenged him and helped his mind, life goals and desire to expand far beyond what we may have taught him ourselves. He has the ability to correct us when we say something incorrect, which is both impressive and irritating, but shows the depth of his knowledge in multiple areas. 

This kid is one of small list of items that I know that I have done good on in my life. I know that that world is a better place with him in it and we are just sitting back and watching him as his outlook and vision grows wider and wider. 

Happy birthday, Ean. 

I am a Veteran

I am a Veteran. 

Plain and simple. It was my honor to serve with others in the protection of the United States of America.

My favorite part of the being in the service was not the ability to operate billion dollar pieces of machinery, play around with the latest technology, the smiles on the faces of sailors when you passed out messages from their loved ones, or even visiting foreign ports that I may have never visited on my own. The best part of being a sailor was the comradery between a diverse group of people, hoping to support the constitution to provide safety and security to our families back home.

I served alongside folks from all walks of life. They were men, women, black, white, Latinos, Philippinos, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, gay, or straight. This was before the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that Bill Clinton adopted, so a few of my military friends had to hide who they were at their core just to serve the country that they love. It did not matter to me who these people were or what they believed, I just knew that they had my back and I had theirs. Granted I served on submarines that patrolled the seas and never had to face frontline in a battle. However, we served our part as well and patrolled many miles without our families, but it did not matter, we were all a family working together and we protected each other. You had to or if disaster stuck, we would have died. 

 

My captain and chief pinning on my Petty Officer 2nd Class rank emblems underway. Notice the tease of my Bob Marley shirt underneath. 

My view on life is pretty moderate.  I see positives on both sides of the political aisle, but the extremes on either side have shown me that there are some batshit crazy people out there. I know how to fire a gun and have been trained to be lethal, but I do not own one, nor do I desire to keep one in or around my house. However, something must change in the fabric of our society, not just a government intervention, to reduce the gun violence in the US. It is ridiculous, the 2nd Amendment provided a means for a state militia to arm itself in a time of need, not guarantee a citizen's right that one can carry an entire military sized arsenal in their garage with full automatic weapons. However, political forces such as the NRA want you to believe that.

Thomas Jefferson and the Congress of 1776 said that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness." That is all that I want out of the world, my time in military has shown me more than being boxed up in a small community or sticking to one side of the fence. If my time in the service has taught me anything, it is that we can work together as a nation to overlook our differences and make the United States a far better place. We need to join together and close the divisive gap that the extreme wings of political parties want us to head down.

For every Veteran that you thank today, try and imagine where they came from, their backgrounds, their families, their heritage, we all have the same goals for our lives. Let's come together and close the divide and strengthen our country, no matter what the religious beliefs or lack of beliefs may be, the color of the skin does not matter, the gender of the person that they love should never come into consideration, we all strive for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Stop dividing the country by first caring for your neighbors and stop alienating them just because of their appearance or their beliefs.

I am a Veteran. I have served time fighting to ensure that the ideals that I believe our founders stood for will continue to stand for years after I am gone. I would much rather have you fight toward that cause than thank me half-heartedly for being a veteran.

11th Anniversary

Do you wanna come with me? ‘Cause if you do, then I should warn you — you’re gonna see all sorts of things. Ghosts from the past. Aliens from the future. The day the Earth died in a ball of flame. It won’t be quiet, it won’t be safe, and it won’t be calm. But I’ll tell you what it will be: the trip of a lifetime!
— The Ninth Doctor

Eleven years ago today, April, myself, a park ranger, a minister, my father and my step-mother stood in Washington Oaks Garden State during a light rain drizzle that invited all of the mosquitoes to join us in our brief ceremony. I remember bits & pieces of that afternoon but I especially remember April smacking the mosquito that landed on my forehead in the middle of wedding ceremony. I knew in that moment that she was mine and would be the perfect wife & mother for our children to come. 

Together we have travelled in the adventures of parenthood, health & financial woes, and we have grown stronger as a team for it in the end. We share common values, goals and beliefs, we respect each other, and have a desire to see each other succeed in all of our endeavors.  

I wouldn't ask for anyone other than her to join me in this journey of life. 

Happy anniversary, April.

4 McIntosh Apples Star Wars Nights

In what is becoming an annual tradition with our family, we have attended the Star Wars night at the Fort Wayne Tincaps for the last three years in a row after missing 2011 and 2012. The kids and the parents all have fun running around trying to get pictures with the 501st volunteers. 

The Tincaps came from behind and won the game in the end with the ending fireworks set to Star Wars music making it all the sweeter for us. 

May the force be with you!

Ella's First Piano Recital

This past Friday night, Ella gave her first performance as a pianist. To make the occasion special for her and keep her mind off of the butterflies in her stomach, she dressed up and I tried to keep her busy with some pictures before we left to the recital. Yes, a good portion of these pictures, she had the sun in her eyes and blinded her. 

Even though she was trying to play it cool, she was extremely nervous and you could see it in her eyes. She pretty much refused to eat anything for dinner and was very chatty on the way there. Once she was dropped off, we hoped for the best and were confident that she would do well. 

As you can see in the video below, she did very well and her smile at the end said everything. 

We are extremely proud of her hard work this year and her plans to continue her lessons. 

The 4 McIntosh Apples Visit Wizard World Comic-Con

April and the kids at the entrance

I recently won a Facebook comment giveaway for two weekend passes (kids 12 and under were free) to the Wizard World Comic Convention at the Indianapolis Convention Center. Thanks Clem's! It was an excellent prize valued at $140, the only downside was that it happened on one of our busiest weekends. After much debating, we ended up pulling the kids out of school an hour early on Friday and headed to Indy to claim our prize. 

Below are my thoughts of the event. First off, if I had paid for a 3-day pass I would have been upset at how small the con turned out to be. The other times that I had visited the ICC was for a couple of GenCons and the entire Wizard World fit into the Gencon dealer hall. We thought that we might have been in the wrong place until we spied a few Batman villains. My impression was that this convention was set up more as a chance to meet celebrities rather than a true comic con. Fortunately, I won free weekend passes and other than gas/parking no expense for us.

Bad:

  1. Celebrities are expense so I settled but just walking by and gawking at the ones that were there. William Shatner was $70 for an autograph and more for a picture. 
  2. No major comic label there - DC, Marvel, Image, etc were not there. Just small no names that I have never heard of before.
  3. Really small. The entire con was inside the dealer hall from GenCon including half of it for the celebrities. There were going to be some panels in some of the rooms outside the dealer hall. Definitely a noticeable difference between GenCon and this con. 
  4. Neal Adams was charging $20 for an autograph and $20 for a photo. I had planned to buy a book from him and get his autograph and decided to skip that.

Ean going back to the future

Good:

  1. I did get see several people that I wouldn't have otherwise - Lou Ferrigno, Ray Park, William Shatner, Sean Patrick Flannery, Neal Adams.
  2. Cosplay - several good and bad costumes but I still enjoy seeing them. We saw a repeat of the fat white power ranger that was at GenCon that both kids remembered and had a good laugh. There was also that 60-something-year-old Slave Leia cosplayer that wasn't actually as gross as you think it was.
  3. Plenty of knick-knacks of geek stuff you could buy if so desired.
  4. Several places to sell comics. They had the Batman #1 for $45k, an early amazing fantasy (spider-man) for 10k that were really cool to see.
  5. Furries. There was a pair of furries that were walking around dressed as rats. Seemed I remembered seeing a hole that could have been very inappropriate. Had to explain to the kids to give them a wide berth and not ask for a hug.

Kids are even famous by being branded.

Furries!

Batman #1 $45,000

The highlight of our trip had to be meeting Carroll Spinney:

Carroll Spinney, Cindy and Ella

We spent our 20-30 minutes taking to Carroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the grouch). My daughter is really into puppeteering and we have begun work on a series of videos. He and his wife were really nice to us and gave advice to Ella as well as complimenting her on how well she was animating her puppet and lip-syncing, and he made the famous voices for us. He actually mentioned that he started at 8 years old the whole time she beamed at him. He mentioned some advice that Jim Henson gave him when they first started working together 50 years ago and she left even more excited about her puppets.

Ella's autograph

We found a 40th Anniversary book at home that we brought with us for Mr. Spinney to sign. 

We were watching YouTube videos last night came across this that was published a couple of days ago and Ella's jaw just dropped.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Update: My post published earlier than I expected, so it is updated with pictures of our template and Ella's valentines as well. 

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day and hope that you can enjoy some time with someone special, no matter who it is. I wanted to share the valentine's videos that Ean gave out at school this week at his class party. 

The idea was that the valentines would have a QR code that the kids in his class would scan using their school iPad's QR scanner that they have used before in class. Other examples that we looked would just have a text message that would pop up and say "Happy Valentine's Day" or some other quirky quote. So, we thought, why not have a URL for a video of Ean's message instead? 

The videos below are what his classmates saw when they scanned their Valentine's QR code: 

So, not to leave Ella out of the mix, she also had some good looking valentines to hand out to her friends that she and April worked on getting together. According to the the reports from the kids, their friends all enjoyed the Valentines that were handed out. 


Lucky 7

I scratch my head in bewilderment that it was only seven years ago today that we welcomed the fourth person into our family and I had to register 4mcintoshapples.com to replace 3mcintoshapples.com.

I was already totally in love with April and Ean, so I wasn't sure if my heart could hold love as deep as I had already felt. Boy, was I wrong. The little girl that joined us has changed my entire view and outlook on life. I knew that being a parent would be life changing for me when Ean came along, however it was Ella that made my heart melt and know the true meaning of unconditional love.

This girl consistently impresses me with her caring and thoughtfulness with her desire to give to others. She is very dramatic in her storytelling, play time, and her outlook on life. On the flipside, her emotional breakdowns complement her personality when she stamps her feet down and storms to her room. But that same emotion can be expressed with love as well. Ask the teachers in her school, who she gives hugs to frequently. While Ean is more the silent anger and moping under punishment, Ella is very vocal about her opinions and mood. However, that is part of her charm. This does lead to some very loud disagreements in the house that all you can do is jump for the windows to not get hit with the shrapnel and fallout.  

I absolutely enjoy being around this girl and watching her grow up. The years are started to click by way too fast, but I'm still looking forward to seeing what she will be capable of reaching. We have always tried to impress on her that the sky is the limit and to aim high, as high as she can. Time will tell, but I'm ready for the ride and look forward to year eight. 

Happy birthday to my wonderfully warm and caring daughter, Ella!

Holiday Greetings From The 4 McIntosh Apples

We wanted to wish our friends and family a joyous, safe and festive holiday season.

There are weeks that seem to fly by where we can't catch our breath, however there are also moments frozen in our minds that we will cherish the images and feelings for years to come. 

There were friends that we have lost and deeper friendships that we have gained. All of these friendships will forever be in our thoughts and hearts.

There are those that we wish could have spent time with this year, but they still remain in our thoughts. Distance, money and time never seem to play out with the cards in our hand and we wish we could have visited with everyone. 

There is a problem that we are aware of and we acknowledge that we are horrible at the sending of Christmas cards, we deeply appreciate the ones that we receive and we love hearing from our friends and family from near and far.

We want to wish the best to each and everyone of you, good health, love and friendship to be shared with all. 

Happy holidays from Dylan, April, Ean and Ella!

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!
— Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Happy birthday, April!

This morning as my beautiful wife wakes up, she will be having another celebration of the day of her birth. As a gentleman should do, I will not announce her age, but will tell you that is she is younger than me in years, but she far wiser than me than her years will let on. 

I know that I mainly post pictures of the kids in their various activities and not nearly enough of April and I. However, as I searched through our pictures to include in this post, I saw pictures of April doing what she is really good at - being a mother. 

Behind every picture of one of the kids, or a picture of me completing a race, April is the one that is always there supporting us. She is the backbone and strength of our family. Without her as our foundation, we would never be where we are today and nowhere near as happy and loving. I know at times she doesn't feel that way, but other can also attest that this is true even if the kids are being total butt-holes and driving her crazy on any given day.  

April is one of the most caring people that I know and would do anything for those that she cares about. She supports me no matter what crazy idea that passes through my brain ("You're going to run 13 miles? Good luck with that."). She has fully supported my running expeditions and has been waiting and cheering for me at many finish lines during my running career. I have seen her at her worst (don't get me started on kidney stones) and I've seen her at her best. This lady is the better half in the significant other and I'm very happy to have her as my wife. 

Happy birthday, April and I hope to celebrate many more with you in the years to come. 

 

The First Decade

Wow. That was fast. 

First our tenth anniversary occurred earlier this year and now Ean is celebrating his tenth birthday today. There are very few defining moments in my life that has had as much impact to me then the birth of Ean. I'm sure that April feels the same way but I can remember every detail of the moment that he entered the world, the first sounds that came from his tiny lungs, to the sight of his newborn legs sticking up in the air as he laid on the scale being weighed in his birthday suit, to the look of recognition he gave me the first time he heard my voice while his eyes focused on my face. 

From that moment on, our lives would be forever changed. Not only as parents, a mother or a father but as living examples for this young man. Like many others, we want to be the guiding influence on his life, but in return I know that his influence on me is just as impactful as our influence on him. 

Watching this kid grow up has been a privilege to see how this intelligent, compassionate and insightful little person has become . We have our moments with him, like any other parent, but that is because we want him to succeed where both of us may have fallen short ourselves. 

We are extremely proud of Ean for all that he has done and are more excited for his future after seeing the early glimpses of his potential. He continues to impress us as every day that goes by. Happy tenth birthday, Ean! 

Fort 4 Fitness 2014

Starting Line for the Half Marathon

Starting Line for the Half Marathon

On September 27th, I ran for the third time in the Fort 4 Fitness Fall Festival. This was my second half-marathon, so I was not exactly nervous since I had been in this rodeo before. I really enjoy this event, not just because I’ve become a regular runner, but it helps with the promotion of running or walking as a fitness activity to help encourage people to get in shape. I know that I needed it for a long time and am glad that I participate in the event. On top of that, this also was a special year for me for two reason. The first is that I worked with my boss to sponsor runners from work by providing a t-shirt and we would make a donation to the Wells County Community Boys & Girls Club and the second is that April, Ean and Ella all participated this year. 

3 of the 4 McIntosh Apples

3 of the 4 McIntosh Apples

With regards to work, we had twenty runners wearing the Peyton’s shirt and participated in either the four mile, 10K or the half marathon. It was more than I had expected and hope that we can do it again next year with a larger group. 

I asked Ella earlier this year if she would have been interested in running in the kid’s marathon and she was extremely happy to sign up. She gladly strapped on her shoes and made a face of seriousness as she ran her first training run. I couldn’t help but put a smile on my face. She had a look of determination that she was going to finish the race that day. When the day of the kid’s marathon was upon us, she was bouncing out the walls waiting to get started. Once we were at the starting gate, her face changed and she was becoming nervous and hesitant. It's my belief that the crowd around us and the anticipation of getting started that made anxious. Once the gun went off she was raring to go. She made the entire 1.2 miles with only one short walk as we had to work our way through traffic. At the finish line, her face was flushed and sweat beads trickled down her face, but she had a big smile on her face.  I was extremely proud that she completed the course after giving it her all.

Ella with her finishers medal

Ella with her finishers medal

For April and Ean, I can’t really say how their run went but April mentioned that it was crowded in several spots and they had a hard time even trying to run in some spots. April also mentioned that Ean was very able to keep up with her and when I joined them for the last quarter mile, even though his face was flushed, he was ready to go. Mike, Tanner, April and Ean all ran together for the most part and I know that was special for them as well. 

April and Ean on the course

April and Ean on the course

This half-marathon was the forth time that I had ran that course because Alex and I have tried the past two years to run a practice attempt a couple of weeks before hand to eliminate some of the butterflies on race day. Last year, I finished in 2 hours and 19 minutes, but during my training runs, I had run several long runs that were around twelve and thirteen miles. However, this year with a more challenging life schedule, I didn’t get as many long runs so I went in with lower expectations and had a goal of finishing ahead of the last official pace group of 2 hours and 30 minutes. At our practice run two weeks prior, we had finished around 2 hours 35 minutes with some longer walks so we knew that it was more than a do-able goal. At onset of the race we kept a steady pace and stayed well ahead of the 2:20 pace setters. 

Dylan and Alex

Dylan and Alex

The weather was perfect that day so the miles just started to go by. We made sure to hit the water stations as we went by them to ensure that we remained hydrated throughout the course. We made about nine miles and my calf started getting tight. I thought for a bit that I was going to end up walking to the end but instead Alex stuck with me and we finished around 2 hours and 23 minutes. Slower than I had hoped, but ahead of the realistic goal that I had set for myself. I was bummed that the pace we had kept for the first 2/3rd of the race didn’t hold up and I know it was my fault even though I had told Alex to go on without me. I appreciate him sticking with me though and finishing the race. It was enough to keep me pushing to get the time that I did. 

Almost done

Almost done

Looking ahead to next year, my brain is already churning. I’ve been looking at testing the waters for running a Triathlon so that would make some adjustments to my training and eliminate the half-marathon for me. However, they had a Double Play event this year that I could run for time on a 10K and have enough time to join April & Ean in the 4 mile race if they wanted to do it again as well. Who knows? I’ll see how the miles pan out over the coming year. 

For those interested in looking at additional pictures of the day, you can find the photoset on Flickr at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4mcintoshapples/sets/72157648722163421/

Key Largo Vacation Pictures

We've been back for just over a week and I'm ready to head back already. The warm weather, swimming and beautiful sunsets make Indiana seem, well.... second best. Of course, friends and family are here so Indiana does have that going for it. Anyways, I won't flood everyone with the dreaded vacation pictures so I put them here so you can actively look at them yourselves if you are interested.

When I was reviewing the pictures in iPhoto, I make a quick slide show of the pictures if you'd like to see them that way. The video is about 4 1/2 minutes.

 

If you would like to look at all of the pictures either larger or individually, here is link to the flickr photo set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4mcintoshapples/sets/72157645397014109/

The first rough and muddy for Dylan

I've been running for just over two years now and this past weekend I experienced my first mud run. I've ran in the snow and rain before so I've come home dirty, however this was the first course that I did that I ran through creeks, mud pits, foaming bubbles, and through some barely cut trails.

I wasn't expecting to try and put in a good time, but one of my teammates Matt took off at the gun and I tried to keep pace with him. I ended up with a 40 minute 5k, which isn't too bad for me with all of the obstacles and walking in order to not fall. The race itself I loved even after being a bit nervous towards the start. I hyped myself up by watching other mud runs on youtube before the kids and I headed to Bluffton.

As soon as the horn blew, instinct took over and I ran, climbed and crawled the course. I actually expected less open run paths but it was ok as it gave me a chance to get a lead on Mike, who I have trailed the last two races we have run in, the last one coming in ten seconds behind him. He got stuck in some traffic and didn't make

44

This morning I woke up to the same routine that I have for the past few months. Alarm goes off, I stumble through the hallway to the bathroom, relieve myself, squint and glare at the bags under my eyes in the mirror and then make my way to the kitchen to make myself a pot of coffee. As the coffee is brewing, I sit in the chair and fall into deep morning thought with only the glow from my phone to illuminate the kitchen. Forty-four. Twice as old as the year after I could drink legally. Forty-four. My dad was born in 1944 Forty-four. Is the international dialing code for the UK.

Forty-four times I have orbited the sun in an elliptical orbit.

I don't feel it yet, but old age is creeping up on me.

Looking back, I have had a pretty successful year

- Ran my first half-marathon - Mostly finished a first draft of another novel. (Well... it's over 50k words). - I have hovered around the low 190s in weight and stayed away from my arch enemy - 200. - Won $500 gift card for Dicks from a short essay that I wrote about striving to be healthier. - No illnesses to speak of for either myself or the family. - Kids doing well in school with no issues. - April's business is keeping her busy and happy.

It was actually a good year for me, however as I reviewed my thoughts over the past year. There was one thing that stands out as to what impacted me the most. The death of my friend, Bob. I would not have said that Bob was my best friend or even my closest friend, however for Bob, a guy that was well-known to be anti-social to confide in me, have numerous conversations, exchange phone calls, IMs, and emails over the few years that I have known him. He was most definitely a friend and his loss has created a hole in my being that his sometimes grumpy demeanor was only uniquely qualified to fill. I miss that guy.

The sudden loss of Bob led me to face my own mortality and to understand that I should not take every day for granted. I have been around death before however they were almost always a long-term illness, a person advanced in their age or a person that was not very close. To have a friend pass that was only a few years older made me realize that my days left on Earth are finite. I'm not invincible no matter what I said or believed when I was younger.

I have re-dedicated myself to remaining healthy, with a few small vices but to not allow myself to grow back into being sixty or seventy pounds overweight. I also do not want to ignore health related issues and will try to have them checked out or at least pay closer attention to them to prevent future complications.

There is one thing that has come from Bob's death that I'm thankful for is that my core group of friends have become closer. Prior to him passing, I felt that we had started to fade into our own lives and careers. After his death, it seems almost an unspoken agreement that we try to get together as often as we can to celebrate our time together. I feel like his loss has brought us closer together and that is something I'm hopeful will remain.

So for everything that has happened over the past year, It sucks that it had to be Bob's passing that reinforced the knowledge that friends and family are the most important things in life and to make sure that it stays that way.

I'm extremely lucky to have April and the kids and they continue to be the backbone of my life. They all continue to prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks as well. Without them I may have continued to carry the withered black heart beating in my chest. Instead all three of them have shown me that carrying your heart on your sleeve is not necessarily a bad thing.

I've rambled on for a bit and now I need to get ready for work as well as my 45th year of life here on Earth.

Oh, did I mention that my goal for my 50th birthday is to run in a marathon? No? Well I guess I just did.

Until next year!