Are Relationships Hard?

I was having a conversation recently about a couple who are in the midst of some turbulent times in their relationship. It’s possible that they may not make it to the forever they promised one another. It’s commonly said that in any relationship it will not always be ‘peaches and cream.’

Well it’s true that life in itself is at times very challenging. Externally there are things going on all around us that grab our attention. We have goals, wants, needs, and desires. Sometimes it’s as simple as survival. From where will come our next meal? How will the rent get paid? Whether goals or stresses, these will abide no matter what. I’ve heard it said that in life we are either going through something, about to through something or recently came through something. We don’t need to be coupled up to have these challenges. They will be with us regardless.

So what does this say about relationship?  Are they hard or are they easy?

As I think about it, I don’t believe relationships are hard. I believe WE are hard. It’s easy in the beginning to find favor with someone we like, care for or love. We even know going in that the object of our desire is not a perfect person. We know that he/she has faults. If we are self aware we also understand that we are deeply flawed or at least far from perfection in a human sense. There will always be room for growth no matter what stage in life we are in. And yet when someone has our favor we are graceful towards our partner’s imperfections. Some of us overlook them altogether. Some of us who are a bit wiser recognize them yet view our partner’s imperfections as an opportunity to step up and really show love and compassion towards him/her. Either way, it’s not the relationship that is the problem. It’s us!

At some point in relationships it is us who change. We become less graceful towards our partner. We become stubborn, resentful, unforgiving with a hardened heart. We become rigid, impatient, judgmental, prideful, lazy, and self absorbed. We forget or refuse to remember the first fruits of what attracted and connected us in the first place. We stop putting in the work of developing our own character to grow and be a better person and by extension a better partner.

It’s easy to love when ‘things’ are good and going our way, right? However, love is strengthened through trials and tribulations when we as people decide that no matter what is going on externally, we are determined to remember and maintain a basic foundation of humanity and decency when we think of and address our partner. When he/she misses the mark in our opinion, we can choose compassion instead of spite. We can choose soft words or if necessary temporary silence in the midst of conflict or pressure. We can choose to remember that our partner is a person who needs the same grace and kindness that we desire when we are not our best selves. We can decide to never ever remove the emotional security blanket that assures our partner that he/she is never alone and will always be received and accepted; without question. We all have and will always have faults as well as external distractions. Through love and devotion our partnership can grow us under the tent of a security that says, “No matter what, I’ve got your back.”

Always remember, nothing great and worthwhile happens by accident. Love is an action word. It is achieved, maintained and perfected intentionally!

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Day 2… Staying True

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So far so good.  Just finished a 4 mile power walk.  Started off a little painful as my shins were stiff heading out.  They eventually loosened up.

Great day to do it as well.  The local temperature is 57 degrees and the skies are sunny!  Taking advantage of a day like this allows me to save on burning gas driving to the gym.  I don’t expect this to last forever!

My breakfast was a banana, and my lunch a meal of protein only.

When I first got out of bed.  I did not feel the same amount of enthusiasm as I would have liked towards looking forward to the extra workout.  But the best thing about it, is that I didn’t have force myself out the door.  I felt that inner motivation, that light that goes on in my psyche that says, “I WANT to go out there and capture the momentum that propels me to the point where I will feel as if I missed out on something wonderful if I don’t work myself out!”

It’s like the more you work out, the more you want to work out.  Just like the more you sit around, the more you want to sit around.

There are many accomplished people out there who are not as physically disciplined in their bodies.  For me, when I am physically sharp I am mentally and spiritually sharp!

The best part of it all, I still have a basketball game to officiate this evening.   In the meantime, I’m going to make myself a carrot and pear juice cocktail in the Blendtec, relax and ice my knees.

Looking forward!

 

 

***** 5 Star Serving Your Spouse *****

Question for Spouses and Lovers; If your lovin’ was named after a restaurant, what would it be? 

I didn’t ask my wife this question.  But rather I recently asked what’s her favorite restaurant.  Her answer was Citizen Kanes Steakhouse, a nice little spot in the St. Louis County municipal town named Kirkwood.  I took her there for our one and only visit during our most recent anniversary. 

Citizens came highly recommended by someone whose name escapes me.  But he or she had enough credibility to make break out in ‘big shot’ mode and make dinner reservations for what was sure to be a wonderful, but pricy experience. 

I was correct about all of the above.  The experience was awesome.  Sitting at a cozy little table in the corner upstairs, we enjoyed wine, appetizers and a steak that we both agreed was the best either of us ever had.  The service was nothing short of outstanding either.  We left the restaurant feeling extremely satisfied and thoroughly impressed.  We promised ourselves that we would visit again at some other special occasion.

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Part of what makes a restaurant experience unique, is the combination of meeting a primal need (eating for survival) and the extras that tap into another sensual desire which is to experience pleasure.  Eating touches four of the five senses.  i.e., sight, smell, touch, taste.  (You can get the fifth sense of hearing if the food is sizzling when you receive it.)

I liken the primal needs and pleasures of food to love and marriage.  Each partner embodies the restaurant service provider, as well as the one seeking to satisfy a hunger within.  To sustain health, we each need a steady diet.  Being fed once a month, week, or any random day is not going to make for a healthy and sustainable life.  However, food isn’t the only essential for creating an enjoyable dining experience.  There is also the atmosphere, the lighting, the décor.  A restaurant can have the best food, but if the atmosphere is not appealing to the eyes and nose, or if the host is not professional and inviting, even if the customer endures long enough to try to meal, the negative presentation can taint the entire experience.

The finest dining establishments entail minutia towards the slightest of details.  This includes the ingredients as well as the preparations.  The temperature and time in which to prepare certain items.  There isn’t just the main course, but the wine and the appetizers.  In order to succeed in providing Five Star service, I have to be on top of all the little details that make my abode a welcoming paradise.  Relationship food isn’t just functionally natural, it’s also emotional and spiritual.  It’s wrapped in a blanket of security and protection, fun and sensations.  I am the owner, the greeter, the server, the chef, and the general manager.  My #1 goal is to satisfy my customer so much that she never desires to eat at any other establishment.  I must be versatile and nuanced enough in becoming all things that I may please one.

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Perhaps you think this is all kind of over the top.  That it doesn’t take ‘all of that.’  Here is something to consider.  Your lover is your customer.  And your customer is going to be hungry.  You may think your customer should always just show up at your doorstep.  But don’t sleep on this; There are many restaurants to choose from.  All of them with signs advertising what it is they have to offer your lover.  Some restaurants cater to the cheap date.  They deliver fast food in just a few moments.  You can get drive-thru service; go to the window, make a request over the loudspeaker, (phone, email, IM) and ‘wham bam’ receive services without even getting out of the car.  Some go above that, perhaps he/she would have opportunity to sit down a while and enjoy a meal.  The experience may not be so good that they want to go everyday, but perhaps there is something on the menu they enjoy.  Other businesses go the the very top of the food chain.  (Pun intended)  And get this, none of these restaurants care about where your lover dined previously.  They will welcome his/her business now! It doesn’t always take that much effort either.  Hell, nowadays one can even get a meal at a gas station!

And so it is with your lover. My goal is to represent the best of what my wife desires, (the most flavorful steak ever with all of the extras) while being able to quickly convert to something she just wants to snack on.  Even she doesn’t want to eat steak every day.  In my eyes, when it comes to taste and service, the customer is always right.  As the service provider who wants her repeat and exclusive business, I must adapt according to what she desires on the menu at any given moment. I am her personal chef.  And I have to be open for business at all times.

The purpose behind the goal, is that as she goes about her business and she sees the lights of golden arches, spots the brightness of the castle; as she passes by that spot that sits outback, she won’t consider stopping in because she’s already full and satisfied. 

So I ask you, what is your loving like?  I want my lovin to be like….Citizen Kanes~

Of Cars, Bars, Friends and Strangers

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Recently I went to a local watering hole to have a cold one while watching some Sunday night football.

While there I had a brief conversation with BR. BR is a respectable enough fellow. He proudly wore his Vietnam Veteran baseball cap.  Upon noticing it I thanked him for his service to our country.

Shocked he thanked me and said, “Wow I don’t get that too often. Since those days I’ve normally gotten the opposite.”

I assured him that regardless of the politics of the war itself he was a soldier following orders and he should never be faulted for that. I appreciated BR as an American and my thanks to him was indeed sincere. After that we dabbled in a little conversation about politics and since he was rather full of the vine he was kinda loud with it.

It was clear that BR had too much to drink. After a while as he was saying his goodbyes I asked him how he was getting home. He showed me his keys and started to stumble for the door.  I knew he had no business driving that Lincoln Continental in the parking lot so I tried to convince him to let me take him home.  He tried to convince me that he was just fine and didn’t need my assistance.  As he stated his case and started to make his way to the door he stumbled into my arms.  I looked him in the eye and said, “BR, I know you think you are OK and perhaps you aren’t used to another man challenging you in this area.  But this is not about that.  Screw pride.  You are in no shape to drive.  This is not a judgment on you, but a plea that you accept the help.

BR was a tough customer.  I sensed he wanted to let me drive him home but he didn’t want to leave his car at the bar.  I supposed the thought of trying to get it the next day was burdensome.  I had to go for broke and pull out all the stops.

“Where do you live BR?” 

“About a couple miles from here,” he said.

I told BR that I would take him home in his car and arrange my own way back.  This seemed to satisfy the chap.  I drove him in his car and when we got there walked him into his home.  It took about 10 minutes to get from his drive way to his side door entrance as the man was totally six sheets to the wind. 

How are you getting back he said?

I’m walking… but its cool.  I’m in excellent shape!  Have a good night BR.  See you around.

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Fast forward to this past Friday:

I celebrated my daughter’s 21st birthday where she was looking to get inebriated.  Not that this was her first day of drinking, but first day of legal drinking.  She was great on transportation as she and her family on her mother’s side took a school bus where they all rode together. 

When I got to the restaurant/bar I tried to get some photo shots of the birthday girl with my blackberry and initially had trouble with the lighting.  I decided to check my car to see if I had my camera handy.  Upon walking out the door I noticed two women leaving and walking toward the parking lot.  Well sort of.

Really they were all but stumbling towards the parking lot.  If I were to estimate the level of intoxication of the two, I would say woman 1 was about a 5 on a scale of 10.  Woman 2 was an easy 9 at best.   As they looked at me one of them made some sort of comment and laughed as I walked by.  I went to my car to search for the camera.  After a few minutes as I locked my car door noticed woman 1 had escorted woman 2 to her car.  Woman 1 literally had to help woman 2 into the passenger seat.  Woman 2 couldn’t stop laughing at herself obviously amused at her state.  Woman 1 said to woman 2 between chuckles, Call me when you get home so I will know you are alright.” 

These two events are what prompted this post.

This isn’t about the drinker who has too many and decides to get in the car irresponsibly.  That’s because most of us understand the dangers in that and there are plenty of organizations to sound that alarm.  Not to mention we do have millions of alcoholics in our nation.  Alcoholism is an addiction and as such I understand that any addiction brings with it irresponsible behavior.  Driving while impaired is dangerous for any and everyone on the road.  That includes myself, my family and friends as well as any of yours. We get that?  Or do we?

My problem in these two instances were not so much the drinkers, but the other patrons and friends who see someone in a drunken state whether a stranger or worse yet a friend about to get behind the wheel of a car and let them.   Believe me when I tell you that though I took BR home that night, I knew him the least of everyone in that bar and not one of them was willing to help him.  They were fine to watch him possibly turn his car into a missile and hurt himself and or others.  Woman 1 whom I referenced seemed to have thought to come to a stopping point where she wouldn’t be so bad off.  Yet she had no problem putting her “friend” behind the wheel knowing full and well she was not capable of expertly handling that vehicle.  Why wouldn’t she take her home?  Why not call her a cab?

Think about it.  Where I live there are thousands of restaurants and bars where one can buy liquor.  When I go to a bar, I know within 5 minutes who needs to drive who doesn’t.  In most every bar there is a great chance that every single night of the week there is at least one person that drives away intoxicated.  Victims of drunk driving can testify to the damage.  So can police I’m sure.  But how many of us enable people by not even saying a word.

BR could have kept blowing me off.  I don’t know what I would have done if he had.  Maybe I would have followed behind him.  Maybe I would have called the police.  Maybe I would have asked for some assistance.  I don’t know.  It just didn’t seem right to do nothing.  I think at the end of the day, the man knew that I cared and that made the difference.

I know we live at a time when folk don’t want to get in other folk business.  I know that challenging someone not to drive drunk can cause conflict.  It just seems to me that I would rather have a person tell me ‘no’ than to not say anything at all.  It don’t seem right to see someone who may have had too much get behind the wheel when it could be a tragedy waiting to happen. 

I hope others will extend a hand and show someone you care when someone can’t help themselves.  The life you save may be your own or someone you love.

A Son’s Perspective

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Recently I did a series of post about expressing my thoughts about each of my children.  My son Christian decided to write his own little observation about his father.  Here is goes.

I can fondly remember walking into my father’s room across the hall as he watched those late night Laker games. He would just be sitting on the bed or with his laptop watching and (if the time was right….or sometimes it doesn’t even matter) YELLING at the TV.  It was like coming into a “Daddy Zone” if you will.

A situation I could always remember is Daddy’s head poking out of the door stating the next mission of the day. Missions such as “Hey Chumney, you wanna go to the Y?” or “Hey Man, you wanna go watch a game with me?” OR the suspenseful “Hey Christian, you wanna go somewhere?”….Where is “somewhere”?……YOU DON’T KNOW!!!! BUT I dared not explain to my dad that I was unaware of our next destination because “It doesn’t matter, your with your dad”.  I could remember thinking that there is a 1% possibility that we were going to a retirement home to watch old people play backgammon for hours but this didn’t matter because I was with my dad.

My Dad has always been the organized and inquisitive type. Much like myself save for the organized part. You can tell that he was raised in a house where things “had to be done” to keep the house “running” (as if the house would explode if the dishes weren’t cleaned everyday). So because I can sense it, I can believe the “in my day” moments and just abide with no questions asked. I remember last year he was trying to teach me in the “Way of the List”. The Way of the List is an ancient art in which you carefully “List” your scheduled activities of the next few ydays, months and years. It takes years to perfect apparently because I could only get to about “5 minutes” ahead of the present. This grasshopper had no idea what he was going to do 2 months from now. This is just another sort of thing indicating that this man was just a little ahead of the game, which is delightfully reassuring in a father.

Playing basketball against each other was always a kind of loving rivalry we had. Pretty much every time we played against each other (which go back as far as i can remember playing basketball) he would win. I at first would always think of my game plan which was basically “man if I just run around enough he’ll get tired then I could save my energy to take him to the hole when i needed to” but to my utter demise the plan would backfire, and I would only notice that my plan failed when the game was 28-Daddy 8-Christian.  (The game winning scrore was 32.)   At this point I’m taking my very sweet time getting the ball when it goes out of bounce because this is the only break I get from this daddy machine. My Plan-B was “GET AWAY FROM HIM AND SHOOT!!!” I can DEFINITELY remember this working one time! It was a bright and beautiful day the first time I beat him when SUPPOSEDLY he didn’t let me win.

Every once in a while the dreaded “Father Son Talk” would resurface. This was always a time where I DID NOT want to say what was on my mind or my view on certain subjects but he would get it out of me anyways.  Why is this?  This is because he would set the mood for some serious talkin. We would either go out for a walk or a drive or just a little lunch.  Before I would eventually give in and start letting him know things I would just think “Man I better tell him SOMETHING or else we’ll never leave”.  Everything would eventually come out but the pretentious moments before were a little challenging, but my dad knows what questions to ask and will eventually say, “Just come out with it”.  This would ALWAYS throw me off balance even though I KNEW it was coming, a  little chuckle would precede me spilling all I knew to spill.

We have recently discovered we have a more similar taste in music.  I can say I haven’t appreciated music all my life until about a few years ago but it’s a great thing to REALLY explore.  This came into view after I picked up the guitar last December.  I started playing and I was already hip to some of the more detailed and immersed music such as Pink Floyd and The Eagles.  I sent my dad a link of a sample I did of some Pink Floyd.  I smiled when I got the message back “Freakin Pink Floyd!?”.  This is just another topic to explore with my father this year.

I always look forward to trying my best to impress him with what I’ve learned thus far.

I Love you Daddy ^.^

Christian 

The Gift of Gab~

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 I admit when Gabrielle was born, we didn’t make that father/daughter connection right away.  We were more like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s.  We just fussed at one another a lot.  LOL  – Seriously!

When Gabi was a baby, the only two people she wanted were her momma and great-grandmother.  Anytime I tried to pick her up or play with her she would have a fit and just cry!  For a while after my feelings got hurt enough I would just be like, “Fine!  Whatever! Go to your momma then!” 

Fortunately, as time went on we found our niche.  She wanted her mother for nurturing.  But I was the cool dad that had all the fun make up games.  Gabbi and I were always good at that.  For instance one of our favorite games was called, “Tickle Monster.”   This is how it works:

I (dad) am the tickle monster and I pretend as if i am asleep.   Gabrielle has the freedom to say anything she likes without disturbing the monster.  But if she says the word ‘tickle,’ immediately the tickle monster wakes up to see “who said tickle?”  After that the tickle monster tickles her ferociously and says things like, “MMMM tickle monster tickles you – tickles me tickles everyone I see!”  This goes on until she says the magic words, “Stop, please.”   At that time the tickle monster slowly falls still back asleep.  We repeat this about 10 times till I get bored and we need to do something else to keep up the excitement. 

Gabrielle is really a sweet child.  She is very caring about others and very sensitive towards other’s needs.  Since she is my 5th child she has the benefit (or not so much the benefit) of getting the most experienced part of my parental experience.  On one hand I can tell her right away all about peer pressure and how she needs to compartmentalize the other school girls in her life by understanding who is a friend and who is not.  On the other I am far less tolerable when she doesn’t stand up for what is right especially as it relates to her own welfare. 

One evening she called me as I was about to start to officiate a basketball game.  She was crying about how she hurt herself doing something called a “cannonball.”  I forget all the specifics, but basically some girl picks her up and tosses her through some contraption they made up.  Gabrielle told me she didn’t want to do it and knew it wasn’t right but allowed them to talk her into it because she wanted to fit in.  After she finished the story I told her, “You lost me after you said you knew you didn’t want to do it and you knew it wasn’t right, but you did it anyway.”  Then I reminded her that in life she has to learn to be a good leader as well as a good follower.  “If a peer is doing something good then by all means follow that example.  If not then you have to be strong enough to lead from within.  Get this lesson now!  You don’t have the luxury to wait till you’re 25 to learn what I am telling you!  The sooner you figure the peer pressure/leader/follow principles and live by them the better.  And don’t you ever call me crying about doing something you knew you didn’t want to do in the first place but did cause somebody else said to do so!” 

Gabbi got the message.  I didn’t want to be so rough on her.  But I thought I had better leverage my daddy influence to where she felt it was more important to please me than her misguided peers.

Nowadays, Gabbi and I have a great relationship.  She loves to hang out with me in the local gyms when I do basketball officiating and she recently attended the first baseball game I had the privilege of umpiring.  Of course she didn’t pay any attention to me till she got hungry.  Instead she did what she usually does.  She made friends of strangers quickly and found other girls her age to play with on the playground.  (She’s 12 what are you gonna do?)

Gabrielle has a bright future ahead of her.  One of her best qualities is that she is tremendously courageous and even through tears and trembling will confront issues that can be hurtful and hard to deal with.  Equally charming is her sense of humor.   I have to really stay on top of my game with this young lady.  If she catches me slipping one bit or sounding old fashioned some old man jokes are sure to come flying out of her mouth with the quickness. 

I am happy to say that she adores her dad as much as I adore her.  She has her first dance recital in a couple weeks.  I can’t wait!

** Thank you for reading about my wonderful children.  I love them so much.  From the beginning my goal in raising them has always been focused and centered upon seeing them as mature adults who contribute to society in a positive way.  Every lesson, talk, form of discipline or adventure in fun is to instill in them a foundation of love and to know that they can live their dreams and be great achievers.  My job has been to provide a space and a lab for them to grow into, make mistakes and learn.  And to know that no matter how much I push them, I will always have their backs.  Every child needs that.  Cause trust me, the older folks time is shorter than ever.  The time to create and sustain legacy is now.  We create and sustain a lasting legacy of value most by what we invest in ourselves first and then into our children.  One great generation to beget another.

May God bless all of our little ones.  

 

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Smooth Like Butter, My Son Alex

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I’m used to giving all of my children nicknames.  Alex’s nickname was Butter.  Why?  Because he reminded me of a tub of butter.  He was thick, strong and hard.  His weight seemed dense.  So he was not just Butter like the butter you buy today, he was like the government issued butter.

Right from the start I knew Alex was going to be different and have his own way of doing things.  For one, if I recall it took him almost two years before he would speak a word.  He often pointed, made gestures or maybe grunted to you if he wanted something.  No matter what anyone tried, he wasn’t going to talk till he got ready to.

Though he had a slightly older brother, Alex never craved having anyone to play with.  That’s because even from the beginning he was very satisfied with himself.  His imagination has always been vibrant and active.   This was cool on one hand because Alex didn’t need a lot of management.  On the other hand it presented a problem when it came time to go to school. 

Alex’s didn’t need any friends.  So going to school was strictly business.  And when it came to socially working with other boys and girls, that didn’t work out too well initially.  Let’s just say my son was an ummmm bully!  So it was common for me to get a phone call telling me that he hit somebody’s child. 

Teachers didn’t have it so good either.  They had to really be on their games and think outside the box to get through to him.  Alex resented whenever a teacher treated and reacted towards him like they did all the other students.  It’s not that he thought he was better than anyone else.  Its just that his brain worked differently.  He perceived the world from a different perspective and cookie cutter approaches didn’t work.

I remember one teacher was having such a hard time that I considered taking him out of her class.  “Noooo, ” she exclaimed.  “I want to work with Alex.  I just don’t know what to do.”  That was the breakthrough he needed.

You see, Alex was the type of kid that needed to connect with you as an authority figure.  Once he did, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his teacher.  This same teacher just adored Alex by the time the school year ended.  This was a process that was repeated for a couple years. 

Alex gets a new teacher.  Teacher uses cookie cutter approach.  Alex rebels, teacher resents Alex.  Teacher learns to give a little and understand the specific needs of Alex, and most importantly does not write Alex off as ADD or any other stereotypical diagnosis teachers use when they lack the skill to improvise.  Alex excels and becomes one of teacher’s favorite students.  That’s just how it was.

Alex has always been that cat that you just can’t tell him anything.  If it doesn’t make sense, he questions it.  Period!  I don’t care who you are!  He has a sense of justice that must be satisfied in his brain.  Again, a great strength that I appreciate and also have had to work hard with him on when it came to understanding that things will not always be explained to him.  Sometimes he has to simply obey because his understanding wouldn’t be fruitful regardless of his knowledge base.

I am so proud of Alex because he has really grown up a lot over the last few years.  I contribute this growth to a few things as I think about them.  He took Tai-Kwan-Do when he moved to Atlanta.  Learning this discipline was great for him.  He is also a very devout Christian and has been blessed to find a church that he is extremely comfortable with.  I think he is spiritual leader in his house.  He has the ability to see the good and hope in even the most dreadful circumstances.  His faith is a huge key to that.

I am happy to say that now he is still just as imaginative and still thinks out of the box, but he is savvy enough to know when he is dealing with mere mortals who don’t.  He makes mostly A’s in school and have adjusted well to navigating through dealing with new people and authority figures. 

In addition to being excited about his church, (which he says he attends 3-4 days a week) his love and gifts are writing his comics.  This started with the stick figures he would draw as a young child.  Under the figures he would write a line or two.  This blew up into what are now full scale stories and plots.  When I would take he and his little sister to the ‘dollar store’ to get toys, Alex would always get a notbook so he could draw and write more comics.

I remember when Alex wrote a paper at school on how to write a comic.  He described eloquently how to develop the characters, having a good guy, an antagonist, a conflict and so forth.  This young man is a genius!

Alex is no longer built like Butter.  He’s tall and slender, handsome and humorous.  He still finds comfort in being alone which is good.  But he’s very comfortable meeting people and making friends.  So that balance is evident.

Alex likes to call me his main man.  That’s a thing between he, I, and his brother Christian.  It talks of our kinship of father and son, and buddies and Butter.  He and his big brother are real partners and great friends.  I love the man he is becoming.

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