Mexico Mission Trip

Mexico Mission TripThis weekend our church leaders and youth headed out to Baja California, which is on the northern coast of Mexico that faces the Pacific Ocean, where we had our annual “Mexico Mission Trip” where be built 1 house for an impoverished Mexican Christian family!

The weekend was filled with fun, praise, Ministry, scripture and building a house of course! Our team of hard workers was amazing and every year I just can’t believe that we can actually build a house is just a few days. Now of course it was not a plush mansion with all the amenities but it does truly improve a families quality of life with this new house so mission accomplished. God is Good.

We even had time for fun, we got to go into town one day where check out the beach and I even jumped in the water, you have to while you are there right?! I was actually really looking forward to checking out the beach and waves so I got a few things ready for the trip. I have always forgotten the last few years to get supplies so this year I was ready with my bodyboard, fins, wetsuit, sunscreen and towel. I was ready this time and it was a blast. After the beach we all went into town where they had the most amazing mexican food. We had so many of these little tacos, lime and classic Mexican Coca-Cola in the glass bottle. Wow, I can’t wait to go back next year.

Thank you everyone for making this trip amazing and great memories.

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A Man Who Has Friends Is Blessed

f_r_i_e_n_d_s_icon_by_deepakselvaraj-d4jqv9uSo, I had this big plan on posting a big update as I haven’t for the past few days, but I decided I would keep this to 1 simple post discussing 1 thing.  That 1 thing is something that just absolutely blew me away.  It goes something like this:

Today, I found out that at the end of the month, my ex-brother in law is moving out of state.  We don’t know where or how, but he told my sister he’s moving and leaving.  The most crucial part of that is that means he’s leaving his own son behind; my nephew, the most important person in my life.  That made me very sad today.  In fact, reading the email from my sister made me cry.

Well, I kept hearing an urge to post a prayer request on twitter so I did.  The response from the great people I interact with on Twitter just blew me away.  Again, it made me cry.  I just wanted to take time to thank everyone who was a part of it, especially the ones I talk to most:


Most of the friends listed above re-tweeted my prayer request.  For those of you not familiar with re-tweeting, it means they “quoted” my tweet in their news feed so all of their followers will see it.  If you total up all of the followers of the folks who re-tweeted it means that about 50,000 people were exposed to my prayer request.  That meant so much to me and I wanted you all to know that even though we’re all in different places in the country and even someone who is in Germany, I count you all friends and have been absolutely blessed by everything we share together whether it’s twitter, emails, video chats, skype, etc.  You are all amazing!

Thanks again, I am ABSOLUTELY BLESSED!!

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When It Pains, It Roars

This is more or less a weekend recap.  Well, maybe that’s not fair to say.  This is more than a weekend recap, it’s really my thoughts about the weekend and maybe even last week.  It might just be more of the wanderings of my heart or mind as I listen to Belle & Sebastian.  They’re Scottish…that strikes a tone in my heart on many levels.  Their music warms me and just makes me happy.  This post is more about me and where I’m at and what I’m processing.  I feel like I’m processing fear a lot lately.  I’m processing an inward pointed arrow that keeps daring me to be bold yet I retreat.  It all seems very “unlike” me.  I’m usually charging ahead no matter what.  This post is more about where my heart meets my head and where they both find life.  It’s not about a summary or a diagnosis, but a “state of the Brad address.”  It’s about the things that make me happy and smile and sad and cry and want to fight and all those other emotions you can list as long as you list their converse immediately after.  I find myself stammering mentally only to be moving precisely typographically, or am I?  “You’re not.”  This post is about me being afraid to find what’s next and what’s new and just buying into a decision, albeit the outcome could be glorious and new and wonderful.  It could also be terrifying and I’m sure that as it’s simultaneously good, new and whatever, it’s going to be just as frightening and the chills are crazy.  It’s about me being weary of that which might lie on the other side of all of this.  The words that are here and hereafter are words describing that which I just can’t be totally honest about.  And so it goes, life moves on unforgivingly as it always does.

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The Son is Shining…Sort of a Confessional

ernes_Sun_-_SoleWell this weekend is just about in the can and another work-week is here for me.  I didn’t get as much done to day as I had hoped for.  I wanted to do a lot more cleaning but decided to take the lazy way out instead.  Not a good idea.  This all means that tomorrow night, instead of relaxing, I’ll be doing housework.  Luckily, the laundry will be done, so I won’t have to worry about that.  But, there will be routine cleaning in the bathrooms and kitchen that will need to be handled and I’m not looking forward to that.  I’m looking forward to the cleanliness, but when I come home from work, if I’m not in the gym, I want to be chillin.  But alas, it has to get done.

I’m blogging in front of my new 23″ LG LCD right now.  I decided that I would go out and buy one this weekend since I felt like the 13″ LED on my MacBook Pro just wasn’t making the cut.  It’s hard to do video and design stuff on such a small screen, not to mention, it’s a lot nicer to watch movies on this thing!  I’m thinking of downgrading to the 20″ though.  23″ might just be a little too much for me.  I mean, it’s sweet to have all this space and area on a web browser or email screen or photoshop palette, but losing 3″ might not kill me.  On the other hand, I have a feeling I’m going to get used to this hulkin’ screen and only take it back to exchange it for the glossy screen one.  I currently have the matte one, which was a mistake.  They have the same product number with the exception of 1 single letter…..yikes!

I’ve been learning a ton lately about obedience to God.  I’ve been learning that it’s really easy to disobey.  I’ve learned that apart from God I am nothing.  It’s funny how I can continually tend to drift that way.  I just laugh at how absurd it is that I relax obedience and just kind of let life go for a while.  I haven’t been going on any benders or doing crazy stuff, but it’s the little things I’ve noticed that usually lead me to big things.  I need to come back to the Throne of Christ and just sit like a little child and begin anew.  I keep wondering to myself if this is how it will always be.  Will it always be this cyclical?  I guess there’s only one way to find out; be brave enough to throw it all on the line, over and over, again.  I want to.  I want to be what Christ wants to make me into.

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Blueprints For Future Homes, by Norma Jean (the band)

Like miracles like Clockwork and like miracles,
You witnessed halos, but you failed to see its horns. The illusion of intelligence, a continuous sounding bell. And can feel the interruption in the air? Can you feel the static? I’ve never seen you like this, seen you. Yeah, well that’s what I said. Drive drive your vultures home. You’re killing me. Just Bury me. Yeah, Well that’s what I said. And I said exactly what I meant. You’re killing me. Just Bury Me. Holy ghosts and talk show hosts. How I panic as you fail. Your conscience is a wolf.  Walls are being built, deception wears its veil.  Her charm is fleeting but her love just will not last.  Far from men you hang and sway with no defender.
Pushed around by the noise of this carefree crowd.  Her charm is fleeting but her love just will not last.  I will not sleep while you are throwing anchors to a drowning generation.  Yeah, well that’s what I said. Drive drive your vultures home. You’re killing me. Just bury me. Yeah, well that’s what I said. I said exactly what I meant. You’re killing me. Just bury me.

Yeah, well that’s what I said [x4]
Hell is empty, the devils are here. [x2]
I will never sleep.

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A 6-Year Old’s Generosity

I just realized as I sat here to write this post that I need to clean this desk off like nobody’s business!!  HOLY CRAP!  It’s awful!!  I have no idea how I let it get this bad.  However, I will continue to post and when it’s all said and done, I will clean the desk.  WHEW!

I wanted to dedicate this post to my nephew Wyatt.  He is hands down, the greatest blessing in my life.  There is no doubt in my mind that he is my most favorite person in the world and he just moves me in ways no one ever has.  He is a very kind and gentle boy who continually surprises me.  Well, yesterday (monday, July 20th) was no exception.  He stayed the night at my house the night before and I was going to have him until at least 5:30pm on Monday, so I thought, “Let’s go to the city and hang out!”  The last time my nephew had been to Chicago (God’s favorite city) he was probably 3 and doesn’t really remember it.  So, now that he’s 6, almost 7, I knew he’d appreciate it more, especially the GI-NORMOUS buildings and the EL train.

Well, I was right, he was absolutely fascinated with it all.  But what he was most fascinated with was helping those in need.  As we left the train station, we almost immediately encountered a homeless gentlemen asking for change.  All I had with me were $20 bills so we gingerly strolled by.  My nephew then asked me:

“Why didn’t you give him money?  You have money in your wallet!”

I then asked him:

“Well why didn’t you give him money, you have money too!?”

He replies:

“I asked you first”

I answer:

“Well, if you’re going to ask a question like that, you better be prepared to answer it yourself.”

His answer was amazing:

“Well, I wanted to help him!”

So, we walked back to him and my nephew dropped the change he had in his cup.  After that, we walked about 20 yards and encountered another person in need.  My nephew then gave more of his money away.  He looked at me and then said:

“I’m out of change, can we get some more?”

I need to tell you, my nephew came to the city with about $2.95 in his pocket and the $2 were in 1 dollar bills.  So, I said to him:

“Dude, if you want to give people in need money, I will be more than happy to fund the entire day for you to do so!”

Away we went down the street giving money away.  We ran out of money as we passed 3 people all in need.  So, what to my excited eyes did I behold, but a Dunkin’ Donuts!  We went in, I ordered a large coffee and paid with a $20 bill.  I then asked the lady for about $8 in change for my nephew and she obliged, counting out a bunch of “silver” pieces for us to give away.  So, from there we headed back to the trio we had to walk past to get more change and my nephew went to work giving our new friends what he could.  I then handed over the large coffee I ordered to a gentlemen who was eyeing the coffee.  He was very excited and so was I.  We stayed and chatted for a bit.  My nephew is very, very excited at this point!  So was I.

I then asked him if he wanted to go to any museums or parks and he said to me:

“Nah, I really want to keep walking around helping people.”

How do I turn that down!  So, we were off.  About 30 feet from where we made that call we saw a gentlemen in a wheelchair sitting outside of a mom & pop hotdog stand (if you know anything about the CHI, these are the BEST places to eat).  My nephew asked him if he could help him and the guy said:

“I don’t need money, but I am HUNGRY!  Could you get me a Polish & a Diet Coke?”

I replied:

“1 Polish & 1 Diet Coke coming right up”

We went into the place and ordered for him and brought the food out to him.  He was very happy and it was just incredible to see my nephew so excited to be generous and give to others.  I caught myself several times in tears because I was so touched at how my nephew just made the decision HIMSELF to give.  I felt like we were REALLY COMING ALIVE yesterday and doing the things that God really wants his people to do!

As the day went on, we just kept going until we got back to the train station.  As we approached the train station we had to cross the same bridge where we had encountered our 1st person in need.  Now earlier in the day, we had lunch at McDonald’s and my nephew loves the happy meals so he can get the toy.  Well, we had been carrying around this Ice Age toy for the past few hours and as we approached the bridge we had to cross, there before us was a woman in need sitting next to her 3 or 4-year old son.  My nephew walked up to them, handed his toy to the small boy and then dropped some change in the woman’s cup.  I pretty much lost it right there.  I can’t even begin to DESCRIBE in words or probably even emotion how I felt.  It gave me such a FRESH VIEW OF HOPE and REDEMPTION in this horribly cruel world.  My nephew, without knowing it, was ministering to people.  Something INSIDE HIM CAME TO LIFE and just screamed to give and give and give.

I think God delivered me to the city of Chicago with my 6-year old nephew to teach me how to be.  Faith like a child.  Love like a child.  Heart of a child.  And most of all, the hope of a child.  Even 24-hours after the fact I’m very moved just blogging about it.  I am so greedy in my day to day life and it makes me sick, but seeing my nephew yesterday just FREELY give and UNCONDITIONALLY GIVE to others with no hesitation, no regret, no 2nd thoughts.  He even told me on the train:

“I have a lot of toys at home, I should talk to Mom about a way to give them to kids in need.”

He was even strategizing how to give more of his surplus away.

All I could think was:

“Am I doing what I can to give away my surplus?”

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Reloading & Re-Engaging

eco-green-energy-iconThis weekend was a good one.  It was short (something we’ll talk about in a few) but it was eventful.  I really enjoyed this weekend and it was good because it was spent with friends.  Being with my friends and family is probably one of the best things in the world to me.  I love technology and movies and of course music, but nothing is more fun than being with people and sharing laughs and cries with them (yes, even I cry).  But why is this weekend short, you have 3-day weekends every week, don’t you??  Great question!  Let’s talk about that!

Well, since the end of January, I’ve been working a compacted schedule.  I work Tuesday through Friday, 7:30-6:00pm.  Yes, the 4×10.  4-days, 10-hours each day.  When I started this schedule, I anticipated that it would be a little tough to get used to, but 4 on and 3 off seemed like such a better deal than 5 on 2 off.  So, I wanted to give myself at least a month to get used to it…well, ya know what?  I never got used to it.  It was very hard.  Come Thursday afternoon of every week I was spent!  By the time I got home on Fridays I was just beat up and I’d be in PJ’s by 7pm and asleep by 10pm.  Saturday was another recovery day for me so in actuality I only had a 2 day weekend, Sunday & Monday.

The reason for this is that it was hard for me to fit “life” into the spaces in between 7:30 & 6pm.  I had to either put non-work life into Saturday, Sunday & Monday, or it just didn’t happen.  Coffee after a 10-hour work day (add to that at least 2 hours a day for commute) with someone was never a good option as I would fall asleep on them while we were hanging.  Just a few weeks ago I went to a good friend’s house to watch the Champion’s League final and after dinner, before the start of the 2nd half I was dozing off.

The worst thing that came from the schedule change was that I wasn’t able to put the gym in the schedule.  For me, that’s huge!  I need to workout.  I have a lot of ground to take back weight-wise and it’s not easy when I come home and I’m just lethargic.  I prefer to workout in the morning and starting at 7:30am and traffic making me have a 1.5 hour commute meant that working out in the morning was not an option.  I’d have to get to the gym at 5am on the dot and begin working out immediately to just get cardio with some weights in and not to mention, I was just beat in the morning when I woke up so the gym wasn’t happening.  So, my body has been suffering and when that happens, EVERYTHING suffers.  My doctor explains that the body is like a tripod made up of 3 legs: Spiritual, Emotional, & Physical.  If one is suffering the others are suffering since the tripod of life is not balanced.  In other words, I wasn’t giving myself enough margin.

So, I had to ask myself a quesiton:

“was the extra day off worth throwing my health away on?”

The answer was simple:


So, I told my supervisor last friday that I’m switching back.  Tomorrow will be the first Monday I’ve worked since the end of January.  It will be weird to work 5 days a week, but not a big deal since I will get to spend more time with my friends at work.  I’m looking forward to that.  I’m looking forward to a stable routine for the week.  I’m just looking forward to stability in general!

Anywho, time for bed, gonna get up and hit the gym…that’s the hope anyhow.  Normally, when I have worked 5 day schedules, I take Monday off as a morning of rest and reloading.  I might do that tomorrow.  We’ll see.  If I feel good when I wake up, it’s on!

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Look who’s back?!

Well, the new theme is finally up and running.  John Saddington, over at Human3rror came up with this amazing theme and I did a little custom work to it to make it a little more iheartbrad-ish.  It really didn’t need any kind of customization whatsoever because it was done right, so all I really did were some color and font tweeks.  I’m very happy with what came of it.  I am by no means a code-warrior so trying to figure out where everything is located in each file takes the longest time.  So, today, after the final tweeks were done and the custom header images uploaded I decided to go live this afternoon.  Glad I did.  Got some great feedback about the look even from the creator himself, Human3rror.  Thanks for everything you do John!

As for the update…let’s dive right in, shall we?  Good!

4-day work weeks are most appropriate in warm weather and blizzards.  That sounds only half weird I would imagine.  For those of you who don’t know, I work 4 10-hour days instead of 5 8-hour days each week, with Mondays being my extra day off.  So, I get to have a 3-day weekend every weekend.  One of the many perks I have at my job.  I’m very thankful for that.  The 4-day schedule doesn’t really pay dividends unless the weather is warm & sunny or a raging blizzard.  I mean, who cares about a day off if you have to stay inside because of the rain.  You can drive places but big deal, right?  When the weather’s nice, you get to be outside and soak in as much sun as you can handle.  During a blizzard, you get a free pass to avoid the 3-hour one-way commute to work.  It’s the days in between those 2 extremes that are somewhat vanilla.

Well, today was one of those warm & sunny days and it was awesome.  Got up, did some laundry, showered, did breakfast & ESPN then it some more housework.  Outside to get the mail and then the next thing I know it’s lunchtime!  On the road to grab lunch with my closest friend in the entire world at one of the most amazing delis you could ever go to.  Lunch was a roast beef and cheddar hoagie washed down with a diet Coke.  I give the meal and place 4-Stars!  After lunch, we just went and sat in the sun for the next 45 minutes and caught up.  After that, headed home, and enjoyed some more sun.  Then the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees and began to thunderstorm!  How nuts!

On to a totally different topic….Social Networking.  For the past few years I’ve been a pretty hardcore, social-networking junkee.  I have the facebook, the twitter account, the blog (obviously), and the smartphone that allows me to do almost everything anyywhere I am.  It’s been pretty interesting that as of late, I’ve been losing interest in things like Twitter & Facebook.  Well, I lost interest in Facebook a long, long time ago.  But I have always loved Twitter.  Well, not too much anymore.  I’ve felt like Twitter has become cliquish as of late.  I liked Twitter because it gave you the option to talk to people who are normally “untouchable” to unfamous people like me who don’t write books or pastor huge churches or lead large movements.  Just regular guys who are doing what they can with the time and talent they have.  Anymore, I feel like it’s become one of those A-list type things and it’s been a little discouraging.  I’ve also felt like I’ve been spending more time keeping up with people I barely know as the ones that are physically around me have less and less connection with me.  I think that’s backwards and messed up.  I don’t want to forsake the divine appointments around me just to keep up with “the Jones’” on Twitter.  LOL!  I know some of you are going to tell me it’s all about balance and creating margin, but if I had to create margin, the first thing to go would be social networking and interweb life.  I don’t know, I can still barely remember life without cell phones, facebook, & twitter.  I guess more than anything, I’m trying to find that balance that I know most of you would remind me of.  I want to find something a little more lopsided though, that gives me more, REAL human contact and relationship and challenge.  Most of the people who DM or @reply me from twitter are all people I could SMS or call because I know them.  And don’t get me wrong, I’ve “met” some great people over Twitter and I’m excited about the friendships I now have locally as well as all over the U.S.  I’ll sort it all out sometime.  LOL!

On economic fronts, looks like the bailout plan for the auto company’s was a waste of time.  If this isn’t a great indicator of how lame it is when the government intervenes in private business, I don’t know what was.  It goes something like this:

“Hey, before the auto companies that suck file bankruptcy, let’s give them billions upon billions of taxpayer’s money, then they can piss it away and file bankruptcy and get debt protection!”

Ridiculous.  Let’s distriburte the blame, shall we:

Bush: 30% @ fault
Obama: 30%
American Citizens: 40%

See, I’m fair and balanced.   I’ve had just about enough of the government meddling in private business.  Do they want to run the auto companies like they run the post office or their own budget?  You know, lose more money every year, raise the cost of everything and still PISS away all the money.  The government is good at war and representing us abroad, judicial review, etc.  What on earth are they trying to do with the auto companies??  The government helping the auto companies is like going to Craig Ehlo or Gerald Wilkins for advice on how to guard Michael Jordan!  Oh well, this is what America wants.  The American people have spoken and said,

“We’re too stupid to take care of this stuff, so Mr. President, will you run our economy and everything else for us?  Maybe tell us what to do?  Why stop at the credit card companies”

Alas, I digress, I try not to rant political on here.  I’d much rather it all go down the tubes so that Christ can return and clean up this mess called, “our world.”  Anyone else with me?

I’m sad to report that Rashad Evans lost his Light Heavyweight title to Lyoto Machida.  On a happier note, Mauricio Rua will be his first title defense.  Ahhh, Brazilian vs. Brazilian for the coveted Light Heavyweight title…Finally.  I am imagining it will be a slug fest and you know I will be pulling for my boy Shogun!!

On a side note to the UFC, I think it’s safe to say that the title holders in the UFC are truly the legit, undisputed WORLD CHAMPIONS since 85% of all MMA fighters fight for UFC.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  85% of the elite fighters in the world fight for the UFC.  Every other organization has such anemic weight classes that it’s ridiculous to think that they could possibly declare their guy the “world” champ.  I would love to see Lawler come to the UFC and challenge Silva.  I think that would be a classic slugfest at 185 lbs.  I’d love to see that one.

I just realized I’ve written a small novel, or novella.  I will retire.  Talk to you all soon.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…Turn and Face The Strain, A Confessional

The weekend is now here and I couldn’t be more happy!  My Mom and Grandma decided to make a surprise visit and I will get to see them all weekend.  I haven’t seen them since Christmas so this will be awesome!!  Just in time for my birthday too, which isn’t till Monday but the family festivities will be kicking into high gear tonite and I can’t wait.  My mom is making my favorite meal of all time tonite for dinner.  For those of you who don’t know, that’s Sloppy Joe’s, Mac-N-Cheese and Potato Chips.  It’s the classic spring-time meal.  Almost like bbq-ing but not quite.  It’s awesome, and my Mom makes her own bbq sauce for the sloppy J’s–definitely looking forward to it.

Onto issues at hand.  I have been hearing a lot from God lately and it has been incredible.  God has really been revealing things to me about my life and who I am and things I need to work on.  This coming season might be nothing more than a sabbatical to fix some of the things God is showing me.  It’s funny how intimacy with God leads to the discovery of sin or faults or problems or character deficiencies.  It’s so good.  It’s hard, but it’s good.  The past 12 months I’ve been wrestling with the idea of wanting to become the man God wants me to be.  I’m not saying I’ve never wanted to be that guy, I’m just saying there’s a time when the rubber meets the road, or the crap hits the fan and you HAVE to act. You HAVE to make change.  You HAVE to cut away the things that hinder.  I always think of something Bruce Lee said.  He said,

“The sculptor doesn’t add clay to his creation, instead, he cuts away the excess…”

I have been trying with everything in me the last 12 months to just let the pruning shears come and trim these things out of my life.  I have been saying “Yes” to the hard things (unfortunately, not all the time) and letting the pain come.  Becoming Christ like is painful.  There is pain that comes with it.  There is a lot of pain that comes with it.  But my hope is in James 1:12:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”

When I think of all of this, I think of my friend Jeff Matkovich.  Jeff is a person who through Christ has become a completely different person.  I mean, Jeff met Christ and I hardly recognized him…not his physical appearance (although he did smile more) but his character.  His joy.  His love for his friends and family, his hospitality and servant’s heart.  He met Jesus and Jesus just put a big old hunger for the Word in his heart.  I don’t think I’ve become a completely different person in my walk with God.  I’ve been hanging on to some of the old things and although not actively indulging in them, they’re there in the back of my mind…I want a whole new mind.

Anywho, I just wanted to process out loud these things and share these things with a community of people.  There are some of you who read this that are near and dear to me and others who are brothers and sisters I’ve never met outside of Twitter or Facebook, but nevertheless, you are a blessing to me!  I would appreciate your prayers as God just takes me deeper into Him.

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It All Starts With Belonging

Tonite was fun for me.  I got to hang out with some of the peeps from our church and just have a blast watching the Super Bowl and all the zany commercials that it usually brings.  Although, this year was a somewhat bland year commercial-wise.  The game itself was grand, but the commercials weren’t that good at all.  But anyway, it was nice to just sit and hang out with everyone.  We weren’t putting together a service, we had no meetings, there was no agenda–it was nice.  It was fun.  We hung out.  We “fellowshipped”.  I needed that.  I was feeling a touch overwhelmed with org charts and meeting notes and monthly reports.  So crazy…what happened tonite was “church”.  The people of God together, sharing a meal, sharing our lives, and just being with one another.  It felt so good to BELONG to the community.

I don’t have much more to write.  Just wanted to say how good that felt tonight.  Thanks to everyone for being so amazing!

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