This Post is Eye-Opening

September 5, 2017 v4 p33

When I started writing this blog almost three years ago it was to share my opinion about the University of Michigan football program.  I always wondered if that was the right platform for myself, and that answer became clear to me last week.

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clipartpandadotcom

Over the years I’ve touched on a few different subjects.  I’ve written a lot about sports.  I’ve written about the death of both of my parents.  I’ve written about parenting.  I’ve written about my faith.  I’ve written about fitness, and I’ve written about leadership.  So it’s really been a wide range of topics.  The subject matter that has received the biggest response is my faith.  So that’s where I plan to continue to put my focus.  A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how I was rebuilding the four pillars of my life based on the most important one, my faith.  Most likely I will continue to write about most of these topics, but just like rebuilding my life based on faith, most of my posts will be built around how they are tied to my faith.

When I do write about sports it will most likely be about college football.  In my mid-twenties most of my personal life was centered on sports.  College football has always been my favorite, followed by college basketball.  I would watch the NFL too, but not with the interest I had in college football.  Once March Madness was done I would begin to pay attention to the NHL, then the NBA, as that was the order those leagues would finish their season.  After that I would kind of half-heartedly watch Major League Baseball.  When the Tigers began to turn their team into a contender I started paying more attention earlier in the spring.  As time has gone on I’ve just become less interested in sports other than college football.  I pay just enough attention to the NFL to be able to know what’s going on with my fantasy football team.  College basketball is still something I enjoy watching, but it’s been narrowed down to the last couple of months of the season, after football is over.

It’s hard to tie college and professional sports back to faith.  You always see athletes praising God for their touchdown, or home run, which is good, but they should be praising them in their everyday lives, not just the contests that they compete in that allow them to make millions of dollars.  It’s rare to see athletes take that praise into their personal lives.  When they do, they are often ridiculed for it, for example Tim Tebow.  He makes no attempt to hide his faith and always praised God for his talents, not just his results.  Yet a lot of “fans” think he should keep that to himself and off the playing field.  I would guess that there are more athletes and fans that support Colin Kaepernik and his protest of injustice than Tim Tebow and his show of faith.  While Kaepernik is doing nothing illegal, it is certainly causing a problem in his career as he is currently being passed over for open positions in favor of less talented, retired players.

As I’ve grown in my career and my faith my life priorities have changed drastically.  I’m now more interested in growing myself in my faith and my leadership.  I began telling God I was ready to do His will last winter and things have really changed in my life.  My career has taken a major uptick.  My faith has begun to follow that same path.  I continue to tell Him every day that I’m ready to do His will.  I pray for knowledge to see the path He has chosen for me, the wisdom to choose that path, and the strength to complete the journey.  It really has been a game changer for me, to borrow a sports cliché.

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I’m going to continue to my weekly analysis of college football because I really do enjoy it.  It’s hard to tie it to my faith though, other than the fact that Jim Harbaugh is Catholic.

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More on Modesty

June 29, 2017 v4 p25

In my last post I discussed a little about the problem in our society lately with a lack of modesty.  That post really was geared towards how women dress, but it’s not just them.  For whatever reason it seems to be that it’s necessary for women to show as much skin as they can get away with.  And the skimpier and tighter female clothing seemed to get, the baggier men’s clothing seemed to get.  That trend tells me that in a society that is largely controlled by men, it is ok for them to dress however they wish, but that they also feel it is ok to pressure women to trend in the immodest direction.  This is telling women of all ages that they must conform to what the majority feels is what is right for them.  If they don’t then they will be ridiculed by their peers, and nobody will be attracted to them.  Often young girls conform to this even though they don’t feel comfortable dressing that way, or they know that their parents would disapprove of what they’re wearing.  It doesn’t help when their peers are mean and unkind if they don’t conform.  I have some friends that are parents of middle school aged girls and almost every one of them has mentioned how their daughters have faced that peer pressure.  It would be my guess that if they aren’t dealing with that then it’s their daughters who are doing the ridiculing.

The problem of body shaming isn’t anything new.  It also isn’t restricted to females.  It often happens by males to females, and between males.  All of this is nothing new.  What’ new is the amount exposure the stories get when they are made public.  The speed at which stories move through social media is astounding.  On top of that, it’s hard to determine which of them are fake or not.  For someone to post that kind of story online, only to be lying, is a whole other issue.  The more times we see these stories, fake or not, we become more desensitized to them.  By the time you’ve seen a similar story four or five times you almost come to expect it.  Eventually when you hear that same similar story you stop being disgusted by it and it becomes part of everyday life.  In order for people to stay in the front of other people’s minds they must then do more.  Looking back at the fashion industry, if one clothing company creates a short skirt, then another will come along and create one even shorter.  Eventually you only end up covering parts of your body that should only be revealed to a doctor or your spouse.

It’s easy to lump all of these issues of dressing immodestly on the female wardrobe options, but it’s a problem with males too.  The other night I was watching a popular talent show on television with my family.  One of the acts was a small group of men who were dancers.  Their wardrobe consisted of a pair of blue jeans and footwear.  Note they weren’t wearing shirts.  Now these men had obviously been working out for some time to achieve a muscular tone in their upper bodies, and that’s very admirable.  But what did not wearing a shirt have to do with how well they danced?  When they were meeting to discuss their wardrobe for the show why did they choose that?  Did they feel insecure about their dancing ability and decide that it was necessary for them to not wear a shirt in the hopes that some females would admire their physique and vote for them based on looks rather than talent?  Doesn’t that bring into question the integrity of the competition?  Shouldn’t the contestants all be judged on their talent, not their costume?  There have also been a few other male acts on the show that for whatever reason decided that they needed to perform their acts completely nude.  I credit the editors for effectively censoring their performances, but once again this seems like a case of making one appear more sensational than they truly are in order to cover up for lack of talent in their act.

It’s hard to point a finger at one single event or thing that started all this trend.  Unfortunately thought most people in society don’t feel that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Either that or they just don’t care.  The problem with both of those points of view is that it is a problem and everyone needs to care.  We have become a society of people who only think of themselves.  Yet they then go to church on Sunday and praise God and Jesus for all of the great things they have done for them.  That’s not what Jesus taught us to do.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-40 “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  If you were to only love your spouse one day a week how long do you think your relationship would last?  The part about loving your neighbors doesn’t only apply to the people who live in the house you can see across the road from your bedroom window.  I think people have forgotten that.

We are on a slippery slope and falling the wrong way fast.  The only way to reverse that is to start by asking yourself if you’re loving God and your neighbor as Jesus has taught us.

A Letter to my Son Nathan, on the day of your Graduation

May 25 2017 v4 p21

When I found out I was going to become a father one of the things I realized was that I would only be 41 years old when that child would graduate from high school.  I never realized just how fast those 18 years would zoom by.

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Nathan, my oldest son.

There is nothing that makes me more proud to be your father than to see what a great young man you have grown into.  I hope that you are growing into that by watching my example.  I hope that you have learned how to treat people with respect and kindness by watching that example from me.  I did the best I could to try and convey to you that it was always the best way to be.  I didn’t always come right out and say that I was trying to do that, in fact I don’t think I ever did.  I am a firm believer that actions speak a whole lot than words.  I hope my actions have shown you what I am hoping for you to have learned.  I am also very proud of you for your academic successes.  It is truly awesome for me and your mother to go to conferences year after year and have to sit there and listen to nothing but glowing praise of how smart you are, and what a great young many you are, and how much success your teachers all feel that you will have in college and beyond.  I’m not sure where you get that smarts from because I certainly don’t understand the math and science that you make look so easy.  It’s great to see you moving forward with your education in those areas.

I need to apologize to you for not being the greatest father while you were growing up.  You probably have a vague memory of living with your grandparents for part of the time and with my friend’s part of the time.  I’m sorry having split our family apart when you were less than a year old.  Your mother and I were both young when you came along, you know that you weren’t planned, and even though you weren’t in the plans I wouldn’t change that you came when you did.  What I would change is how hard I fought to keep our family together.  I was young and wasn’t really thinking straight.  I thought I was looking out for your best interest by taking you out of a situation that wasn’t the best.  What I should have done was to do whatever was necessary to fix the situation we were all in.  But when you’re young and aren’t getting the answers you think are right, you do what you think is right.  During that time I didn’t utilize my time with you as well as I should have.  My priority was to try and find the bottom of my beer bottle, not do what I needed to be the best father for you that I could.  I failed you in that way on a continuous basis.

I have a lot of hopes for you as you head off to college.  I really hope that you continue to put a major emphasis on your education as you have all through your life.  I’ve told you before how I fully believe that you will continue to do that and won’t choose the path that I took when I went off to college.  I’ve also discussed with you already that I realize you have much different priorities in your life at age 18 than I did.  What I don’t want is for you to end up locking yourself up in your dorm room for days at a time, leaving only to head down to the cafeteria to eat.  I’m fairly certain that your mother and I have raised you to know that behavior like that will be unacceptable.  I also hope that you take the great opportunity of college to expand the things you like or dislike.  I hope that you are willing to try new foods, new activities, and start new habits.  What that may mean is that you have to leave your dorm room for things other than class and to go to the library.  There’s a whole different world on campus that you haven’t experienced.  A bonus that you may have is that you’ve lived in the Kalamazoo area and can probably help any of your new friends navigate around the area for the first few months.  That will also help you in expanding your circle of friends.

As you move on in your life into college and further in adulthood there a few things I’d like you to know.  First off, you know that your mother and I will help you with the cost of school as much as we can.  I really wish I was able to pay for all of it, but that isn’t in the cards.  Beyond that, I can really only tell you what not to do in college to be successful.  You know that I wasn’t mentally prepared to move out at 18 and not have my parents to make sure I was keeping myself in line.  I know that you are in a much different mindset about college than I was at 18.  I don’t want you to forget that.  You know what you need to do when you’re there, but just as a reminder, be sure to go to every class unless you’re sick, and make sure that you make specific time to study.  I would guess that you’ll find that you aren’t able to get your class work done during class time when you’re in college.  This will probably be your biggest adjustment to college.  I don’t expect you do to nothing but study, in fact I encourage you to join a club, go to sporting events on weeknight (especially since they’re free), and have a social life.  Outside of school Mom and I will always be available for anything you need.  We’re only a phone call and a quick 45 minute drive away.  I know that John isn’t your favorite of my friends, but he and his family are even closer, as well as Mindy and the Sims family.  One of the best parts of you attending Western is those two families.  I’m pretty certain that they will be willing to help too.  You are always welcome to return home whenever you want, and that includes after graduation.  Whatever you need, Mom and I will do our best.

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Your graduation from high school is one the biggest moments in my life.  I am proud of you Nathan!  I love you, and am sure you will be nothing less than a success in whatever you do.

Mëmë, Ana, Majka, Okaasan, Mueter, Mom

May 11 2017 v4 p19

As Mother’s Day is approaching I’d like to take a moment and pay homage to the day and some of them who have been a pretty big influence in my life.  Everyone owes more than they can ever repay to their mother.

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Most people think that Mother’s Day is just a “Hallmark Holiday.”  While some of that is true there is a deeper meaning to it.  The holiday as we know and celebrate it today was started in 1908 by Ann Jarvis.  It was named an official United States holiday in 1914.  Later in her life Ann actually lobbied to have the holiday removed from the calendar because she didn’t like the way it had been commercialized.  Early celebration of Mother’s Day were actually called “Mothering Sunday.”  This was a Christian celebration that was observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.  This was a time when Christians would return to their “mother church,” the one that was the main church in the area they lived.  It was a time to prepare to return to the church in observance of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In more recent times the day has been used to launch feminist movements.  In 1968 Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr’s wife, used the date to organize a march in support of underprivileged women and children.

Everyone has at least one mother.  Whether that is their birth mother, step-mother, or adopted mother, they all have one.  A lot of people grew up very close to the families of their friends and often refer to their mothers as a second mother.  I didn’t grow up that close to my friend’s mothers, but there were a few that were always looking out for me.  The neighbor across the road always had an open door for me, and would offer a place for me to hang out.  She also makes one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten.  The mother of one my best friends from high school always let us utilize her house after school as we waited for soccer practice to start (the coach was an elementary teach and his day didn’t end until about an hour after the high school).  She opened her door for more than one of her child’s friends.  She also opened her door for me to stay with them for a summer while my parents were traveling.  This was at a time in my life when I should have taken that path instead of the one I did, but none the less, without her I wouldn’t have had that option.  I am extremely grateful to have had these women in my life.

There are three other mothers in my life that have had a profound impact on my life.  The first is my Mother-In-Law, Barb Miller.  When my wife and I first started dating I always got the feeling that her mother didn’t really like me.  Being a single mother of three since her daughters were all under the age of six would make one very skeptical, I’m sure.  Over time she grew to accept me, and I feel that she even began to like me.  Even through the divorce she was always cordial with me and didn’t give me any difficulties when I would stop by to pick up or drop off our oldest son.  That was a great example of some of the grace and mercy she offered to me during that time.  After my wife and I had reconciled I felt that she started to open up more to me.  As we participated in the Relay for Life over the years and as I have helped her daughter and grandchildren grow in their faith, I feel even more that she has warmed up to me.  Thank you Barb, for allowing me the chance to show you who I truly am, not the person I was at age 19.

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The second mother that has had a profound impact on my life has been my wife Denise.  When we first met that summer way back in 1995 at Boy Scout Camp I never imagined that you would be the woman I would devote the rest of my life to.  As time went on it didn’t take long for me to recognize that you were special and that we were meant to be together.  When we sealed our covenant with God at our first wedding, it was one of the first times in my life that I truly felt His presence.  I didn’t realize it at the time, and actually it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized what had happened.  You have put up with so many reasons that most ordinary women would have ended their marriages.  From laziness, poor monetary decisions, an addiction to porn, and numerous other small things that all add up, I don’t really know how I got so lucky.  When you made the decision to return to our faith with me a few years ago I believe that it really confirmed and renewed our covenant with God.  I look forward to seeing how our relationship flourishes in His eyes.  Most of all though I want to thank you for helping me to raise two very smart, well mannered, kind, and thoughtful boys.  Even as scary as it may be to think that one of them will be “leaving the nest” in the fall.

The third mother that has had a profound impact on my life is my own mother, Ann.  This will be the 10th Mother’s Day that I celebrate you in remembrance.  Each year is just as tough as the first one was, and this year will be no different.  I feel like a part of me is missing on that day, and it truly is.  It’s tough to be out in public on that day and see other families who get to celebrate with their own mothers.  That includes my wife’s family.  I don’t hold any grudges or ill feelings toward them, but the emptiness is there.  In order to help fill that emptiness I have to do what I know you would have wanted from me.  You set a great example for me of what it meant to serve others.  I used to think I had to carry on the legacy that you and dad left for me by serving in the same areas that you two did.  Over the years I have come to realize that it isn’t really about where I serve, but just that I do.  While I do believe in the principals that Scouting teaches, the program you loved so much, my life has taken a different path.  I now concentrate on serving God and my family in the same way you served so many youths through the Scouting program.  If I can reach half as many people by serving God as you did by serving the youth in the West Michigan area I will have made very profound impact on many people.  I can only hope to live up to what you expect.

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So while you’re shopping for a hanging basket or a card for your mom this weekend think about everything she’s done for you.  Then ask yourself if you are doing everything in your being to be the person she raised you to be.

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An Open Letter to my Son Zach

April 14, 2017 v4 p15

This year I will be attending The Easter Vigil service for the second time in my life.  This year I will attend to see my son be received fully into the Catholic Church through Baptism, Confirmation and Communion.\

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Denise Baughman

My wife and I really don’t like to do things the conventional way.  That was never done by design, but it’s been the way things have always gone for us.  One of the things we didn’t do was have our children Baptized as infants.  During the time that both of them were born we weren’t involved with our Faith.  This is something that has always been in the back of my mind since we decided to make that return.  We allowed our oldest son to make his own choice.  At this age I’d rather he not get forced into something that may turn him away from it entirely, or for a much longer period of time.  Our youngest son was very inquisitive about our faith and actually requested that he be Baptized.  This is one of the differences between the two boys.

I would like to take a few moments to offer some words to my son Zachary as he enters the next phase of his Faith journey.  The first thing I’d like to do is apologize.  I’d like to apologize for not bringing you into this journey earlier in your life.  I never understood what it really meant to go through this journey until I started it myself.  I wish that I had a chance to go back and engage my faith at a younger age, like 11.  That makes me jealous of you.  To see that you have that much of a head start in your journey than I did starting at age 39.

Another thing I’d like to mention is how much I and everyone else can see His spirit in you.  Every day I see something in your actions or words that show me that He is with you.  I’ve seen this before in you, but never really fully understood.  For me to see this is great.  For me to have so many others come to me and your mother and tells us that they see it too, is beyond what words can describe.

The third thing that I’d like to mention is that I hope that all continues.  I hope that as you fully engage in the Church, you begin to see what it is that I see.  I have no doubt that you have the strength to do what you already know that you need to do.  Whatever path you choose, I will support.  But I truly believe that He will do great things through you.

Lastly I’d like you to know that I pray for you daily.  I will continue to pray for you until I can no longer pray.  To see you fulfill my prayers is the greatest thing I can receive as your father.  I am very proud of you and wish to help you along on your faith journey.

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Our Lady of Sorrows Church

Your mother and I love you Zach!  We are always here to guide you and help you in any way possible.  Never be afraid to ask.

The Times, They are a Changin’

February 23, 2017 v4 p8

They say that as you get older time goes by faster.  Physically a minute is still a minute, a day a day, etc. but the mental feeling is that time does go faster.

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A couple of weeks ago a co-worker posted a picture of his almost two-year-old who was eating ice cream on his own.  He captioned the picture by saying how fast the time had gone by already and that he needed his son to slow down on growing up.  I commented by stating that he really didn’t even know how fast the time was going to go by.  The next day at work we were talking about that and he said as soon as he read my comment it really struck a chord with him that he really didn’t know.  It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around all of the changes that are going on in my family.  I try to sit down and look back at everything that has gotten us to where we are today.  There are a few memories that stick out, but for the most part everything is kind of blurry.

This Saturday my youngest son will be earning his Arrow of Light badge as a Cub Scout.  For those of you not familiar with the Scouting program, this is the highest achievement a boy can earn in the Cub Scout program.  He has completed everything he can and is now ready to move on to the Boy Scout program.  It really seems like it was just yesterday that we were at my older son’s award ceremony for the same thing, when in reality it’s been seven years already since that event.  Another milestone that my youngest reached this week is that he is finally tall enough to not have to sit in a booster seat in the back of the car.  I know a lot of parents who have removed those things from their vehicles many years ago.  State of Michigan law says that a child must sit in a booster seat until they are eight years-old or four feet, nine inches tall.  I know a lot of his classmates were not in booster seats up until that point.  We adhered to that law following the height guideline.  It wasn’t because we wanted him to be different than his classmates, but for his own safety.  In most vehicles when a child is shorter the seatbelt doesn’t cross their shoulder properly, but their neck.  This can cause more harm than good during an accident.  This week he finally passed the threshold to be able to not sit in the booster seat.  To say he was happy would be an understatement.

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Another big moment in my younger son’s life this year is that he will be graduating from elementary school.  This will be his last year of having only one teacher.  It will be the last year of late bus pickups.  It will be the last year of recess.  This one isn’t as big of a milestone to him as it is to his mother and me.  He’s excited to begin middle school, and I think he will really start to show his own personality more as his school schedule can be more tailored to what he is interested in, band, computers etc.  There are parts of him that are very similar to his brother.  There is also a lot of areas where he is different than his brother.  He may follow in his older brother’s footsteps in some places, but ultimately I think he’ll find his own niche and start to show that he really is more different than his brother than we think.

Last night a friend posted on social media that she and her husband would be attending freshman orientation later that night.  She closed her post out with a shocked emoji.  Then I did the math.  My oldest son graduates from high school in three months.  That is really starting to come up fast.  The one thing that stuck out to me in that conversation with my coworker a couple of weeks ago was that I wasn’t sure how far off graduation really was.  I knew the date, but have never really sat down to look at how far off it actually was.  News flash, it’s not that far off.  As much as I’m looking forward to my son graduating and going off to college, he’s been accepted into the honors college at Western Michigan University, I’m kind of afraid of what’s going to happen.  I’m not afraid of how he’ll do in college, the kid is a lot smarter than I was at 17.  He’s never really had to study in high school, but this year he stepped up to take AP Calculus from Algebra 2 last year.  That’s not an easy transition to make.  He struggled a little at the beginning of the school year, but as the year has passed he has really turned that class around.  That has shown me that when he does get to college he will be able to have the study skills to buckle down and get his work done.  Not having time in class and a teacher there to answer questions will be something new.  He’ll figure out how to study more when he’s on campus, but I’m far less concerned about that than I was at the beginning of this school year.

Over the last month or so I catch myself reminiscing about the past.  I look back at the phone call I got from my wife when we were dating and she told me we needed to talk and that she wanted to come see me at work on my lunch break.  I knew what the conversation was going to be about.  We had been living together in our first apartment at the time, so it wasn’t a shock.  At the time I had already planned on proposing to her that Christmas (this was in the fall), so the next step wasn’t really a big deal for me.  My immediate thoughts were, am I ready to be a husband (I already answered that), am I ready to be a father, can I do what’s necessary to support a family?  I quickly came to the conclusion that whether or not I was ready, these were things I had to do.  There was no other choice.  My next thought was, I’ll only be 41-years-old when he graduate high school.  At the time that seemed like an eternity away.  Now however, I look back and wonder, often out loud, where the heck did the last 17 years go?

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So now I sit here trying to wrap my head around attending his graduation, planning his graduation party, and then moving him into his dorm room next fall.  I wonder what my family dynamic will look like without him here, and when he comes home for the weekend to have his laundry done.  These were things I thought about way back when, but then I could forget about them, now, not so much.

Thank You for a Great 2016

January 5, 2017 v4 p1

You can’t start anything new until you completely wrap up the old.  The first post of the year is always a look back at the previous, and a thanks to all of my loyal readers.

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United Rescue Aid

In 2016 I posted 71 unique blogs.  That was down a little from 2015, but I think that’s because I’ve become more focused on what and when I write.  I found it a lot easier to post something every Thursday at about 5 pm.  That worked because I could utilize my lunch hour to write and get everything prepared.  I chose to post it around 5 pm because I realized that every night, once dinner was done, I spent the next chunk of my time scrolling through social media.  I figured if I was, then most people I want to read my posts were too.  With that consistent time of posting I saw an increase in visitors.  It went from 913 in 2015 to 1044 in 2016.  Aside from that increase I received a bunch more “likes” to my posts.  And increase of 92 from that same time period.

I use a WordPress site to post my blog.  I don’t have a registered domain, but have seriously thought about doing that.  There are some pretty neat analytics that are offered through the free site that I do pay attention to.  My most visited part of my blog was my home page and archives.  If you look at just pure hits for individual posts, my most popular ones were written on the subject of my journey through the loss of my parents.  Those are annual posts that come around the time of their deaths, which were about eight months apart.  One thing I have noticed is that my worst performing posts are the ones I write about the current college football season.  I do have a couple of loyal readers that look for those, but I see more success when I write about my life in general.  I’ll always write about college football, because that is what started this blog.

I don’t really get all worked up about the stats for my blog.  I’m not writing this to make money.  If I were I would definitely spend more time on the website itself, and would be working more.  There are some other pretty interesting statistics that are offered through WordPress.  One of them is where readers found my blog from.  An overwhelming amount, 87%, were through Facebook.  That shouldn’t be a big surprise since that’s where my largest audience comes from.  On 17 different times people typed a word into a search engine and it brought my blog into their results, and then they clicked on it.  There is a whole division of marketing in the company I work for that specialized in search engine optimization.  My blog is also an international sensation!  It was read in nine different countries around the world.  That list include the U.S, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Australia, Costa Rica, and Hungry.  I’m bigger than Pitbull!

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Denise Baughman

So if this is the first time you’ve read one of my posts, or if you’re a long time reader I would like to take this opportunity to say Thank You!  I promise to stay at this for another year in some capacity or another.  I hope you’re keeping an eye out every Thursday!

Again, thanks!