abk Journey: The End of an Era

“I like being exhausted. I like to exhaust myself. I want to be totally…used up, you know, by the end.”- Christian Bale

When Becks Bostic became my companion almost seventeen years ago, her energy level was on another level. Wild and crazy was an understatement. When we went on walks, she walked me. When we went on runs, she stayed step for step. When I asked her to be still, she couldn’t.

Fast forward almost seventeen years, that energy was completely depleted. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t hear. She could barely stand. Her bladder had a mind of its own. It broke my heart to think it was the same dog, but it was.

So on Tuesday morning, through a heavy onslaught of my tears, an absolutely incredible life came to an end.

She had as many, if not more, negative attributes than positive ones. She didn’t listen. She couldn’t sit still. She ignored invisible fences, even while they shocked her. She ate everyone’s food. She fought everyone else’s dog. She exploded pillows. She destroyed toys.

But she loved fiercely. For sixteen years, nine months, and eleven days, we were together. We probably spent about six thousand days with each other. Walking, running, watching TV, snacking, wrestling, and playing. I talked to her like she was a human. She knew everything about me!

She and Christy had a love/hate relationship. She nuzzled both kids protectively. She messed with Tucker, fought Sarah, snuggled with Happy, and largely ignored Flash.

She was one of a kind. That’s just how she was wired.

For roughly fourteen years, regardless of what shenanigan she had pulled that day, she hopped into my bed at night, and we snuggled ourselves to sleep. That all changed about three years ago when she started having trouble with her bladder, so she couldn’t sleep in bed. She was still as lively as the day was long, but instead of a good snuggle to end the day, it became a mere pat on the head.

About a year ago, she really started going downhill. She was still a menace, but only a partial menace. She laid down a lot, but I don’t think she ever got comfortable. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched someone or something so full of life lose that zest, but I can assure you, for me, it was torture.

She was with me for my entire adult life. Monroe, Wingate, Charlotte x 2, The Farm, The Fishing Camp, and Ocean Springs, MS. Every day when I came home, she barked like a maniac then kissed me on the nose when I walked through the door and bent down.

I can’t fathom that she is gone. I literally thought that she would live forever, but it was time.

Her legacy will live with my children. I am able to care for and dote on them almost solely because of the relationship Becks and I had. We went through the entire life cycle together: newborn to elder. She taught me how to take care of someone other than myself.

I have more stories of her than you can imagine. Almost seventeen years of them. She dressed up for Halloween. She got bitten by snakes. She picked fights with dogs five times her size. Much to my chagrin sometimes, she never wavered on who she was.

She lived a very abk life a good decade before abk was ever invented. I love her. I miss her. My baby girl. May she rest in peace.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Traditions: The First Weekend in November

For the past 73 years, on the first Friday in November at Unionville Elementary in Unionville, NC, barbecue and brunswick stew have taken center stage. As a child, my parents would drive the twenty minutes from our house on an often cool and overcast autumn day so that we could pig out that evening. The barbecue was great, but the brunswick stew was phenomenal, so much so that I’ve still not found a version that is better.

Regrettably, I have not partaken in the Unionville BBQ in a long, long time. First, I no longer live in North Carolina, and second, for whatever reason, the first weekend in November has become my jam. Five years ago this weekend, I ran my first New York City Marathon. Four years ago, I did it again. Three years ago, I vacationed just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee at this beautiful place called Paradise Pointe with my family. Two years ago, I played golf throughout Arkansas and Missouri en route to Kansas City for the Panthers-Chiefs game with my friend Jay. Last year, with a seven week old in tow, we rented this little cabin in the woods, did a little leaf peeping, but in retrospect, it was a bust. (Why does anyone travel with a newborn?)

So we had to come back this year with a bang!

As much as I love going to new places and experiencing new things, there really is SOMETHING about this place. My sister randomly found it online a few years ago, and after a wonderful experience there almost exactly three years ago, we all made our return to Paradise Pointe. However, I did have one special request.

Just over a month ago, I sent my sister and brother in law this text.

Very important stuff here. Load up on the goods and let’s have a big Saturday night dinner once we arrive. Let’s eat, let’s watch football, and let’s check out the incredible view.

Then let’s get back to doing exactly the same things we did three years ago.

It was the exact same weekend. We stayed in the exact same house, in the exact same rooms. We ate at two of the exact same restaurants. We played golf at the exact same golf course. It is very un-abk behavior to do things exactly the same, but the place is just so damn cool.

What are the odds that we find this place halfway in the middle of both families that is crazy affordable, has bananas views, has a massive swimming pool on site, is close to both a nice sit down restaurant and tasty hole in the wall, overlooks fall foliage, and is fifteen minutes away from a Top 50 Modern golf course in America? Sprinkle in some Unionville barbecue and brunswick stew, and what is there to change?

(It could have been colder because I love sweater weather and we were about a week past peak leaf season, but I digress.)

Throughout the entire four days, I was just constantly fulfilled. Every little piece of the puzzle brought me joy. I got my family fix, my football fix, my food fix, and my fall foliage fix.

If we can do this every three years, that would be incredible. But in the meantime, I wonder if the Unionville BBQ would just ship to Mississippi?

Have a great week.-Benj

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Finding a Way: Volume 73

Without traffic, it is exactly three hours from my house on the coast of Mississippi to The Refuge golf course just outside of Jackson. This is important because at the eleventh hour on Monday night, I found out that my early morning childcare option for Tuesday had fizzled out. Therefore, I had to take my daughter to day care as I typically do, but the earliest they would take her was 6:50am. My tee time for my tournament that Tuesday, yes the one exactly three hours away, was 10am sharp. I had no time for traffic, no time for restroom breaks, no time for warmups.

As I pulled into the golf course parking lot around 9:45am, it started pouring. On the positive side, my tee time was delayed one hour and I could relax for a second. On the negative side, the course would be soggy shortly.

My group teed off at roughly 11am, and to say it was windy is the understatement of the year. I do not like playing in the wind, but for the first time, the tricks that the stiff breeze played caused me to focus more.

My body felt great and my mind was clear, and I started playing some great golf. After back to back birdies on my fifth and sixth holes, I was under par and feeling as confident as ever, which is hilarious given my struggles over the last six weeks. After four more pars, I was cruising.

But on my 11th hole, I reached down to move a leaf and something stung the middle of my right hand. I cursed, pulled the stinger out, then got on with it, but not before giving back a couple of strokes on my next few holes. I birdied my 14th hole, threw in a few more pars, then limped in on the last. But not before playing the vast majority of my round under par and quite honestly playing the best tournament round of my very brief tournament playing life.

Not to mention I got to spend about five hours joking with some of my buddies. Their golf was a little bit rusty, but we laughed and horsed around like we were playing golf on a random autumn Tuesday, which we were.

Except that it was more than just golf on a random autumn Tuesday for me.

With two events remaining in my first full tournament playing year, I’m fifth in the Assistant Player of the Year rankings for all of Mississippi and Louisiana. It’s only a metric and it’s certainly not the end all be all, but it sure is a great start. It makes the 4am wake up call, the six hour round trip drive, the rain, the wind, and my hand being stung worthwhile. It means that the process is working.

The process of patience, practice, patience, participation, patience, and performance.

Just rinse and repeat.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Mondays are for…

Due to Christy’s early work schedule and my boss’s understanding, I get to spend every single weekday from roughly 7:30 to 9am with my one year old daughter. That begins on Monday mornings, when I am still a little sore and she is ready to bounce off the walls. Little mama sets my mood for the day.

At 10am, it’s big, unhealthy, cheat day breakfast time. It’s usually biscuits and gravy, but that can vary depending on the flavor of the day.

As soon as I get back home, I open up all the curtains and fill the house with natural light, which is one of the keys to my happiness and energy.

I don’t like clutter and I’ve never liked anyone doing my laundry, so I get all of the laundry going and spend a few minutes making sure that no excess items have crept into my life. If they have, they go bye bye.

After SportsCenter round three, I watch The Rookie. It’s about a middle aged guy who did a complete 180. I can relate.

Some Mondays I go jet skiing. Some Mondays I play in tournaments for the professionals in our section. Some Mondays, though not recently, I bebop over to New Orleans.

I eat an orange and drink flavored water for lunch.

Early afternoon, the creative vibes kick in. Sometimes I sit outside in the sun and read. I write. I think about things I would like to do and what actions I need to take to actually do them.

Based on how I’m feeling, I think about what style will match my specific energy for that afternoon.

I start to loosen my body up. I’ve got to go practice soon if I want to get better. It’s all about having fun (in the sun) and getting better.

In my job Wednesday through Sunday, I serve the game of golf and a lot of people. Sometimes people gift me things that I can savor on a Monday. I once received a fine bottle of tequila. Recently, I got a thing of fresh shrimp gumbo. Just the other day, I received a 5 star cigar from the Dominican Republic.

Before I go practice, I start thinking about dinner. Every other Tuesday is Sushi Night per the request of my seven year old son, so Mondays are often pizza. Every week should include a damn good pizza. It just should.

Golf, pizza with the family, maybe Monday Night Football. (Just as long as it’s not my Panthers. They are unwatchable right now.)

By 9pm at the latest, I’m done. I might think a little, but it’s on to Tuesday. There’s a little one year old girl that will be bouncing off the walls again shortly.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Living in Nature’s Playground

About two weeks ago, we rearranged my office at the golf course. We made it bigger, but more importantly, we made it brighter. If I have to be inside, I want clean, unobstructed views into nature. That’s how the house was purposefully built. That’s how my office now is.

But I didn’t move down to Nature’s Playground to be inside. This past week, with essentially perfect weather all week, I decided to live outside.

On Monday, I took my son jet skiing. On Tuesday, I went to the course to practice. (I currently sit at 7th place in the Assistant Player of the Year standings for Mississippi and Louisiana. I want to finish strong.) On Wednesday, I taught lessons. On Thursday and Friday, in anticipation for this weekend’s Club Championship, the first that I would be fully in charge of, I spent hours out on the course each day. Marking the hazards, setting the tee boxes, picking each day’s pins. Not glamorous work, but very satisfying.

While I was covering my hands in red paint, Christy and Banks (and Granddaddy) enjoyed their fall break on the water, catching a shark and a massive redfish that would be Saturday night fish tacos.

Saturday and Sunday, I taught lessons and got to watch a couple of hours of the Club Championship, including the final few holes where the very deserving winner was crowned. At 6:30pm on Sunday night, I was whipped but extremely fulfilled. That was a damn good week. I rarely used my phone, and I lived outside every single day.

While the vast majority of the country starts to enter colder weather season, one of our two peak seasons here has just begun. For the next three months, if I’m paying attention to my life, I should be doing exactly what I did last week and enjoying the hell out of it.

After three and a half years, I’ve learned. Summer is a little too hot for me. January is just a little cold weather breather. The other seven to eight months must be lived outside in nature.

The house. The profession. The hobbies. The jet ski. The lifestyle. It’s Nature’s Playground, for crying out loud.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Documenting the Struggles

In my last journal entry, I talked about my entire family being literally sick. Just ten days ago, I was throwing up everywhere. Some 24 hour bug. It had me sideways.

This week, I want to talk about being figuratively sick. Think, for a moment, about resigning from a great career, taking a massive pay cut, and leaving family and friends so that you could focus on one thing that required an exorbitant amount of time, effort, and attention. Think about grinding it out for over three years, day after day, accomplishing both so much and absolutely nothing simultaneously. And then for whatever reason, one random day, you completely forgot how to do what it is you’ve worked all this time to do. I bet it would make you sick to your stomach. It certainly did for me.

I can tell you exactly where it started: my second shot on the 17th hole at The Warren Course at Notre Dame University, September 2nd, 2022. To my knowledge, I had never hit a shank in my entire life, but about 2:30pm that afternoon, I hit my first one. And then I hit my second. And then my third. I never got my ball in the hole on the 17th and 18th holes, a disappointing finish to an otherwise fantastic day.

I thought maybe the heat had gotten to me. Maybe the local Michigan IPA had me a little woozy. Maybe giving lessons to my playing partner had me a little unfocused. Or maybe, after being completely honest with myself, I knew something was seriously wrong. I felt a knot in my stomach.

It was very apparent upon my return from my trip that something was seriously wrong with my golf game. My first round that I played? Horrible. My first lesson that I gave? For the first time ever, I couldn’t SHOW my student what to do.

The worst part was that I couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Was it my body? My hands? Exhaustion? Disinterest? Lack of confidence?

Luckily, I am surrounded every day with a handful of professionals along with a couple of superb amateur golfers. We talked it through. I told them how I felt. They watched me. They gave me my to-do list, everyone’s recommendations along the same lines.

Day 1 I struggled, but there were less shanks. Day 2 I struggled, but the shanks were gone. Days 3 and 4 I struggled, and quite honestly, I knew I hadn’t yet pinpointed the issue. Day 5, after some more struggle and mediocre practice, I decided to try something.

As a reminder, I am forty years old and I have arthritis, which places certain limitations on what my body can do. As such, one of my biggest weaknesses in my golf game has been an almost nonexistent shoulder turn. My teachers and mentors have told me this for years. If you fix this, you’re game will go to another level. Finally fed up, I told myself to really focus on this. Make huge, crazy huge shoulder turns and see what happens.

I played six holes. I birdied one and had tap in pars on the other five. It was quite honestly some of the best golf I’ve ever played. I was completely reenergized. This has to be the answer.

The next day I shot a one over par 37, and I can sleep soundly with that number.

I have a lot of work in front of me and even more questions. When I wake up in the morning, I am stiff and sore. When I finish working at the course, I am stiff and sore. When will I play? When will I sufficiently stretch? How will I make sure my body is ready to perform at a high level, as a professional’s body should? Gone now are the days of just walking outside with limited stretching, playing like I am fifteen years old.

But that’s okay. It’s just another evolution along the journey. Quality over quantity. Quality over quantity. It’s always been a part of Brand Benj. It’s always been a part of abk World. It’s now time to apply it to abk Golf and all of my golf aspirations.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Journey: When Things Go Off the Rails

For nearly five and a half years now, I have succeeded, for the most part, at living intentionally. If there was a place I wanted to go see, I went. If there was a skill I wanted to master, I got to it. If there were activities that peaked my curiosity, I dove right in.

As with anyone’s life, there were peaks, valleys, and surprises, but for the most part, I felt consciously in control of both my day and my life.

Roughly four weeks ago, however, I lost control of my daily intention. I know how it happened. I know why it happened. It is kinda, sorta still happening, but I’m excited to announce that I believe the end is near.

At the golf course, we are always trying to make things better. We’ve embarked on two massive projects in the past year, both of which tried my nerves a little during the process but ended up huge successes. We got into the nitty gritty of a third project about a month ago that also coincided with one of my colleagues leaving. All of a sudden, my days were filled less with golf stuff and more with trying to hire new people and get ready for the installation of a new software system.

I can’t tell you why, but this particular set of circumstances really grated on my nerves. I felt a little off internally. Simultaneously, it was about 9 million degrees outside, and I would go outside, teach a lesson, come back into the air conditioning, rinse and repeat. My body felt way off. I needed a break.

The break came in the form of a 2,000+ mile sports trip with my son that was absolutely brilliant, but upon my return home, the exhaustion was still there.

I jumped right back in. New software, training new people, blazing hot lessons. I was going through the motions. I was beyond excited for that next Monday off. I had announced to everyone including God himself that I was taking my daughter to school and then sleeping all day. It was a must.

At 9:39am that Monday morning, my phone rang. I didn’t answer. Then it rang again. And again. And again. It was my son’s school nurse. He had just thrown up in the middle of class. I needed to come get him. Thus started the week from Hell.

I called Christy. She said she felt like crap too. Monday and Tuesday were a bust. Wednesday, everyone seemed to be happy, but Thursday morning, the day my parents were flying in for Charli’s first birthday, I threw up about fifteen times. Later that evening, Banks was back to puking also.

I didn’t know if we would even get to see my parents (we did). We cancelled the birthday party. Everyone was still kind of on the fritz, and good God were we hungry!

Sunday came, and I had lost almost fifteen pounds. Christy made some comment to me about how I could relax THIS Monday. I told her I just had a feeling that would not be the case. Sure enough, it was straight to the doctor on Monday. CW had an ear infection, 103 fever, etc. I had effectively given up.

(Fifteen pounds lighter, I actually felt free and enjoyed spending the sick day with my daughter.)

I haven’t hit a meaningful golf ball in a month. That may seem trivial when compared to sickness and the like, but it’s the singular most important piece to what I’ve been building as a second career and lifestyle. Its success speaks to my credibility, allows my teaching business to grow, not to mention I take great enjoyment in being really good at something athletically.

I’m off tomorrow also. An intense reboot practice session is on the books. I’m excited, but I’m also more aware than ever that after I hit publish, honestly anything could happen.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Musings from an Epic Journey

It was a phenomenal sports trip, but to label it just a sports trip would do it an incredible injustice.

2 MLB games. 2 NCAAF games. 2 rounds of golf. 7 states. 1 very improbable and exciting sprint onto Notre Dame Stadium’s field.

If you believe me, let’s just say I had a 5th degree of separation connection with the security guard. If you don’t, Touchdown Jesus opened the gate.

I used to love the smell of arriving in a downtown, but twice this trip I stepped outside and smelled nothing but weed.

This trip had about eight iterations. Notre Dame was never supposed to be included, but a little birdie convinced me I should go.

As a father, I feel that my main role is to introduce my kids to the world. Not MY world. THE world.

My son said he didn’t want to wear a Penn State shirt to the game because he isn’t a Penn State fan. Dad, that’s your team. That made me very proud.

I had never been to many of these places, so we got to explore them together with fresh eyes.

When you go to real places like rural Indiana, Detroit, or Cincinnati and just pay the slightest bit of attention, you’ll get a good feel for what’s going on.

Due to a road closure, we experienced a little more of rural Indiana during the midnight hour than I would have liked.

My PSU and Michigan two game parlay hit, so that was pretty cool.

I tried to make sure every day had at least one or two traditional kids activities. Looking at Pokémon cards, reading at the bookstore, chalk drawing, or riding the merry go round.

You better pay attention driving around Detroit. One wrong turn and you’ll be headed to Canada trying to make a U-Turn that doesn’t exist.

Michigan Stadium is wildly uncomfortable.

A history lesson is the literal backdrop to Comerica Park (the Detroit Tigers’ stadium).

I was $300 under budget for this trip, which never happens.

I always try to see at least one good buddy along the way, when possible.

Playing golf inside Indy Motor Speedway was a unique experience.

Purdue vs Penn State…started out as a pillow fight but turned into one hell of a game.

All of the gratitude in the world goes out to the ladies at the McDonalds in Memphis, Indiana, the security guard at Notre Dame Stadium, and the manager at Greyson Clothiers in downtown Detroit. The level of customer service we received was out of this world.

We pulled into downtown Detroit, and a few minutes later, a fireworks show broke out.

The Detroit pizza was good, but because I was absolutely ravenous, let’s call it phenomenal.

The best nachos were a toss up between the ones at Michigan Stadium and the ones at The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Along the journey, we stayed at budget hotels. At the destination, we splurged.

At all of these different places, I remind my son that we are guests and that we are super lucky to be able to experience all that we do.

I had no idea what we were going to do on the way home. So last minute, we went to Cincinnati and watched the Reds play the Rockies.

There were glimpses of autumn all around. College football, the trees in northern Alabama, the 60 degree temperature as we departed Michigan.

This year we have done Boston, Memphis, Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta, and now Detroit. Which one was best?

I am just endlessly inspired by being on the road.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Dabbling in Dad Shoes

Yesterday, I played my 900th day of golf in the past three years. Five days a week, I stand four to eight hours a day for work. Four to five days a week, I teach and coach a couple of hours per day, also standing. I also have two young children.

So a couple of months ago, I did what any self-respecting man in my situation would do.

I bought dad shoes.

From the time I was a teenager, I knew outward appearance and unique style was in my DNA. I remember wearing those purple striped shorts to my first day of middle school. Later on, I remember walking around New York City on vacation with my dad in a shirt and tie. I didn’t care if something was viewed as different. I knew what felt right to me.

As a banker for nearly 17 years, I was truly blessed with some great bosses that allowed me to be me and express myself. Though I might have toned it down for the occasional overly conservative client, I think most clients enjoyed having a banker that was a real human being, not just a corporate robot. I had beautiful suits made, collected ties from all over the world, and for one season even rocked a pair of pink suede Chelsea boots.

When I decided to make this massive life change some three and a half years ago, I unloaded a style bounty to family, friends, and Goodwill. Fifty plus pair of one off sneakers: gone. All but my most favorite suits and shirts: gone. Though I knew I may never wear them again, I kept the ties. They belong in an art gallery.

As the golf journey began, I started expressing myself in a similar yet totally different way. Enter custom designed golf shoes, exotic belts, unique yardage book covers, and a stylish array of shirts and caps. Amidst all of the personal changes, my love for self expression was not one of them. Again, I have been blessed to have a boss that lets me run wild.

About a year ago, I knew I needed some new shoes. Here I was, this almost forty year old man, living life on my feet like I was fifteen years old. I searched far and near, did some experimenting, but nothing really worked.

Then one day, I found the ugliest, most beautiful pair of shoes from Hoka. Either all white or all black. Built for doctors, nurses, and the service industry. Pricier than hell, but they looked super comfortable.

They were bona fide dad shoes, and I bought them, and I’m glad I did. Besides, I AM a dad, and are they really dad shoes if they are paired with a tri-colored python belt?

Have a great week.-Benj

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The Great Reconnection

When you have a conversation with most people in this world, you ask how the job is going. How’s the family? Did you get the boat fixed? Did the kitchen finally get renovated?

Then there are those few people with whom you dive a little bit deeper. Are you following your dreams? Are you happy? Are you spending your finite time each day doing that which you most enjoy?

If you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you what my childhood friend Josh does for a living, other than that he is in the United States Navy, even though we talked for upwards of four hours in the upstairs of my coastal Mississippi house last Saturday night. Maybe I’m a terrible listener. Or maybe it never came up.

When you used to see and talk to someone every single day for the better part of fifteen years, even if it has been a solid decade plus since you last spent any considerable amount of time together, you just dive right in. Hell, when my son asked me who Uncle Josh was, I told him that he was the guy in my childhood neighborhood who had the Nintendo. What I didn’t tell him was how one day another friend and I wanted to play that Nintendo and didn’t want to wait for Josh to get home. So we climbed through a window, set up shop, and got to it. I’m pretty sure Coach Lowery was shocked when he walked in and we were plopped down comfortably on the couch, without his son, like it was our second home. (Which it was.)

Over the 48 hour period that Josh was in town, nothing was off limits. He was curious about the abk lifestyle. I was curious about the military lifestyle. We discussed our successes and fears, missed opportunities and future opportunities. (I still have no clue what he does for a living.)

And we played golf. Lots of golf. (The golf journey has reconnected us.). The old adage used to be that business deals get done on the course. In my experience, the golf course helps cleanse the soul. We played sunset golf. We played middle of the day blistering hot golf. We played just the two of us. We played with two other members. He gave me some advice on some of my life concerns. I helped him straighten out his driver, which is ironic coming from me.

Interestingly, he barely made our day two tee time after Christy and the kids persuaded him to spend the morning out on the islands. Usually, lateness is a pet peeve of mine, but in this instance I just giggled to myself as I waited. The abk was rubbing off. Josh had 48 hours, and he wanted to experience everything.

I don’t know why, but it seems that every modern day parent wrestles with the screen time vs playing outside dilemma. Though the conversation doesn’t interest me that much, on this occasion it turned out to be a banger.

On the pro side for playing outside, Josh reminded me of this great story from our childhood. We had this fort out in the woods in our neighborhood where we played all of the time. One hot day as we were playing, we heard the ice cream truck coming through. We hurried out of the woods to catch it, and for whatever reason, we bought an entire box of ice cream bars instead of just one for each of us. By the end of that day, we didn’t want to see ice cream for months.

Josh’s point was that if we didn’t play outside all of the time, stories like that would not exist. At that point, I was quick to remind him that, per my earlier note, it was I who had broken into his house over twenty years ago to play Nintendo.

Over twenty years ago. To play Nintendo.

Have a great week.-Benj

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