Sunday, December 18, 2016

Keep the home fires burning!

2016 A Letter from the Front!

LSD Bridge
Chicago IL

2016: A Year of Challenges

It's hard to believe it. Where has this year gone? 2016 is almost over and in the books. This year just flew by! 2016 was a bittersweet year if I were to sum it up as a whole.  This year had much good, but there were also some bittersweet moments, and some bad moments. We lost a lot of beloved celebrities this year.  From Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman all the way up to George Michael and Carrie Fisher. Trump elected as president. Cubs win world series (I'm an Indians' fan), and much more. Bittersweet. What a year of challenge too. In the beginning of the year, I chose "A Letter From The Front" as this year's theme song. I was on my way home one night, riding past Randoph and Wabash station on December 31, 2015 thinking back to my year in 2015 and how great it really was! I have an eidetic memory. Lots of good things that year with very few disappointments. That was December 31, 2015 near the stroke of midnight, riding the Brown Line going home from work. Yes, I worked New Year's Eve last year. 

Keep the home fires burning
With His eternal flame
Keep on living what you're learning
And you'll never be the same
The good news has come from heaven
The war's already won
That's why I wrote this letter
From the front.

Keep the home fires burning!

Chicago Sunrise from my Apartment in Albany Park
November 15, 2015

On the Brown Line, December 31, 2015, just before midnight going home from work, I was listening to my MP3 player on my phone.  I just passed the Randolph/Wabash station.  Mylon and Broken Heart's song, "Letter from the front" began playing.  As I listened to the tune (this tune came out in the early 90s), the song's chorus mostly hit home with me. "Keep the home fires burning." 2015 ended. 2016 was just beginning. There is a battle waging. The battle is not seen with our own eyes. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I've been a believer and I asked Jesus to forgive my sins. I remember that sunny, Sunday morning, September 13, 1992 at the Gospel House Church in Walton Hills OH. He saved me that day. There, the battle started. The home fires burn within my own heart with His Eternal Flame. With Christmas only days away now, 2016 will go down in the books with that theme, keeping the home fires burning. There were many times this year where I just felt like giving up. Earlier this year, I was struggling with a career decision, and that struggle began as early as January 1 of this year. "What do I do with my career here in Chicago?" I've also battled and battled with migraine headaches, my weight, love, personal life, family, and having an auto-immune disease. These are all wars I've been fighting this year but would also have some victory in. I would keep battling those wars with some victory and battleground won. The war wages on. In the heart, I've battled many wars with my decisions and life. The war rages on. I'm genuinely a friendly person, but all too often this year, that line has been crossed with people and most of all with family. I have my limits with people like anyone else. Keep the home fires burning!

With His eternal flame!

This year November 15, also marked 5 years living in Chicago. As most of my friends know, November 15 is my Chicago-versary and I regard it more than my own birthday. On that day, I reflected on my life, personal growth and the battles I won since I moved here -- in the Suburbs 2012, and then in the city January 2014. I lived in Chicago before in 1994 for a couple years before then moving to Wisconsin (then back to Cleveland). It's been one heck of a journey in my life. November 15 was also a day 20 years earlier (November 15, 1996), I failed in my life and ran away from all my problems, all centered around Chicago.

Keep on living what you're learning!

Adler's Front Yard
April 9, 2016

When I moved back to Chicago, I loved every bit of it. It's been a ride though. Living in the city teaches you vigilance and a different kind of patience. It's not been easy for me. As most of you reading this know, I am a phlegmatic person, an INFJ. I need my personal space, and I hate change. In the city that is a challenge. The battle rages on! I can't begin to tell you how many times I've stepped outside my comfort zone here! In 2015, I took over a meetup group here called 1001 Things to see in Chicago before you die. What a mouthful of a title; I didn't give it the name, but it does cause you to stop and think about what you do in your life -- here in Chicago or wherever -- before you die. It has an ominous ring to it. When I moved into the city, it was due to friendships I made here. They all lived here in the city. Some people come and go in your life, and sometimes we never know why. This happened to me very early in 2015. True friends will stick by you until the very end and love you no matter what. Being a member of the meetup group and, then, inheriting the ownership of the group, has taught me a lot about people. THERE IS A LITTLE OF THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD IN CHICAGO! I never doubt that a minute. Visit the world? It's here in Chicago! In people!

This year, I started a new job at VelocityEHS. Another battle: My career. In January of this year, I thought long and hard on this. The last time I actually was using my skills and experience was at a company in Cleveland OH called, Broadvox. I MISSED THAT! In January, I was working at IPsoft on 155 N. Wacker in the Loop. The realization that I was missing out on my skills and experience with the company hit me hard! I tried making a change into another department even with that company with no real satisfaction. Only I will understand that battle! With the pending change into that new department, even that was not what I needed. In August, my friend Chris Johnson (a bloke I befriended at IPsoft) approached me about applying at his new company, VelocityEHS. I had the interview with the manager and I remembered that day what I was missing. A little spark formed. The home fires burning still. My skills and experience needed to stay alive. They were dying and suffering in my present role at IPsoft. It was time to make the change! After the interview that day with my NEW manager, what I took home that day was the fond memories and experience I attained with my employment at Broadvox and how I missed that; the ability to be creative in my job. On September 12, I was hired on with VelocityEHS. Not a day goes by where I learn something new, gain new experience, and continue on that career path I started with Broadvox in Cleveland. The legacy continues.

You'll never be the same!

Windy City Wine Festival
September 10, 2016

Truth! It has not been the same! I know I've changed! I've grown. I never could see myself living in the city, being a suburban boy! That doesn't mean to stop learning what you're learning either. It means to keep it up. When the opportunity to move back to Chicago arose with such an ominous tone to to it ala November 15 style, I truly believe the reason is greater than myself and it's not about me. I don't know what it is, but God has a plan! This past week, I went with a friend to her graduation at Landmark Forum on Wabash, and once again, that "reason" presented itself again to me. "I'm here for a greater reason. What is it?" During that evening session with her, I also thought about my year here, the challenges I've faced, the victories, and the "home fires burning!" [Thank you Therie!!!] She invited me out that night there, and I'm now starting to see a reason and trend to my life here. I told her after the evening that I'm still absorbing all of this, and tried to explain my indifferent approach and expression. I absorb. I'm phlegmatic. I don't always show emotion, and I think too much. I told her I was interested though and considering it for next year as a "to do." It got me thinking though about the main purpose here. "Why am I here back in Chicago?" I've had personal growth here, life victories, but that's not it. I thought back to my Chicago-versary that night [blog November 2013]. I shared this with her. "The reason I'm back here in Chicago is a reason greater than mine; what is it?" That is also a battle in my life. I've struggled here going back to church and meeting people of my own faith. I've struggled in my own faith too this year. The battle goes on. I'm starting to see more to this theme song I listened to on my train ride home that NYE 2015 now.

The good news has come from Heaven!

A battle of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock
Jocel and Aziz

I am a "whosoever!" What does that mean? We all know John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, He gave us His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." I am proud to be called a WHOSOEVER! Do we truly believe it? Do we truly live it? The life of a whosoever! Every day I TRY to live my faith by actions. In a little of the world here in Chicago, sometimes that is a challenge, even with those that proclaim to be Christian! Sometimes, that makes it more difficult! Are you truly a whosoever? What does it take? I am far from perfect and I have my limits just like anyone else. I strive to be that light for those. That is why I need a savior from my sin! Jesus paid for my sin on the cross. What does that mean? Our sin nailed Christ to the cross, the religion of sin. Not the Jews, not the Romans. Sin, and sin alone. I remember my pastor at the Gospel House saying this on occasion. "On that Day, God will ask you, 'What did you do with my Son?'" I don't want to be charged with first degree murder of God's Son! God is gracious and merciful that would not want anyone to perish, but ask Him to repent and ask him forgiveness.  I have befriended several of the Muslim faith this year. I hope they still know that I believe Jesus is the savior and His mission here on Earth was to save sinners! He is the only way to Heaven.  We are accountable to our sin and our actions. The good news is Jesus. He's in Heaven, sitting at the right hand of the Father.

The War's already Won!

Sunset over Lawrence Avenue
Chicagohenge, September 22, 2016

Going back to that "Grand Purpose" here in Chicago, I know He has a plan for me.  Sure, He wants me to succeed in my life, he wants me to have peace, BUT his purpose for me being in Chicago is yet to be known by me.  That grand purpose doesn't involve me. It involves something greater than I. With such a grand revelation to my coming back here to Chicago, I know it's for a greater purpose. In the interim, I strive each day to bear fruit, do good deeds, and continue on in faith. It's been a challenge. Trust me, this year, many internal battles challenged my faith -- and continue to right now. That song, again, resounds! Again, I'm seeing its purpose up to this moment, composing this very blog! <PAUSE>

Lately, I've been having a re-occurring dream of fallen-out friendships of a couple, and their newborn baby. They've been very happy dreams, and with a lot of the turmoil I've encountered this year, it was just a blessing to wake each morning after having a dream about it. One dream was a happy one where their new baby learned to walk! Fallen-out friendships. Yes, this particular one has hit me hard! I texed the person earlier this month, and one response I got from him BROUGHT ME TO TEARS!!!  Tears of joy! The last time I really cried was November 15, 2011.  Yep, you guessed it. My Chicago-versary! Soon after, I got another text back from him, and I don't think he knew who I was, so that changed, and I was again hurt. "At least I tried," is what I thought. "It never hurts to try and make amends."

What this person doesn't know is how he really helped me get acclimated with Chicago and making me feel part of the city. He truly was a great friend, and again, we sometimes don't know why things happen, and why friendships end. I tried to breach that gap.  The dreams stopped after that encounter. In my struggles this year, love and acceptance have been primary problem areas! I think back to that Landmark Forum with my friend that night. The Forum director asked us to focus on a problem in your life. "I want love, but I'll never find it." That is the problem I focused on. The director then said, "replace 'but' with 'and.'" So, I focused again. "I want love, and it's out there." That's what I focused on. Lastly, she then said just focus on the first part of the sentence. "I want love."  What does it take to get that? It doesn't become a problem anymore. It becomes a goal and a challenge. There is nothing wrong with hoping. Again, Therie, if you are reading, I'm strongly considering Landmark Forum on list of goals for 2017. Thank you. This might help me better explore my inner self!

That's why I wrote this Letter from the Front

My team at VelocityEHS
Shamrock Club on Kinzie

In 2013, I set forth the "High Defintion Resolution." That was a great year to explore new areas of my life, internally and here in Chicago. What does 2017 hold for me?  My theme this year was "A Letter from the Front." That letter is still being written. The chorus of that song states the battle is already won, however, the letter is still being written on the [battle] Front! The battle continues to wage internally and externally. What battleground can I cover in 2017. What new oppurtunities will come forth. Will I find that Grand Chicago Scheme finally? What does God hold for me and the lives I touch on a daily basis. God only knows.  Yes, GOD only knows. Not some alien force! God is God. He has a Son. He conquered sin and death. He forgave me. What is my Destination?  The Destination is There!

I propose this song as my New Year's Theme for 2017.  Thank you, Carman!

Mementos in my letter..

Daphne Gardens
Northerly Island Chicago

January: IPsoft, career considerations. Where am I going here?
February: Chicago Auto Show and Chiditarod XI. IPsoft new department goal.
March: Chicago River Dyeing and St. Patrick's Day Parade. Michael Lawrence and accountability
April: Adler's Front Yard, Solar Eclipse, and new friendships.
May: A bittersweet end. Changes at IPsoft in my department.
June: Struggling with my career!
August: The last hurrah. Career change.
September: VelocityEHS
October: Forget the birthday. November 15 is the day.
November: Mom and Dad, my real family. The people that truly matter in my life
December: A Letter From the Front. The Destination is There.

Last year in 2015, I didn't pick a theme, but here were my 12 Moons in Photography.

13 Personal goals I achieved in 2016 -- with photos!

1. I suffer with an auto-immune disease. I was able to get that under control this year. #SeeMeToKnow

As always even being a Chicago transplant, GO TRIBE!!!

2. 50lbs of fat weight gone! Still losing. I'm at a weight I was last at in my early 20s. I've lost more weight, and have toned up a little more.

Hanging with friends at Christkindlmarket
My first year going to it here!

3. Diet and exercise! Eating healthier and exercising more.

CTA Irving Park
Blue Line

The Damen jig.

4. San Diego vacation with my brother! Met new people there.

Maggie at the helm!
San Diego Bay.

Wayne, Paxton and cats.
San Diego 2016

5. I paid my car off.  I financed the car in February 2011.

In the line!
City Parking in Chicago.


Chicago Skyway to Irving Park, Chicago
Returning home from Cleveland.

6. For a time, I dated and had some intimacy in a relationship.  I did not post her picture.

Cleveland friends!
Wasabi Hibachi
Independence OH

Working in the clouds.
155 N. Wacker.

7. More active this year. Outside the comfort zones.

"A Saturday afternoon in the Art Institutue with George."
Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt!

8. NEW JOB! I am once again using the skills and experience I started in 2011 for the first time.

CEO of VelocityEHS with co-workers.

Game! Yes! Ungh!
Merchandise Mart

The perils of commuting to work

Morning commute on Brown Line

9. This should be a goal every day, but putting others first.

Out of the blue gifting!
It does happen!

Keeping Warm!

10. 1001 Things to See in Chicago before you Die. New people

Chicago Open House
October 2016

11. Finally started having some of my photography framed.

E. 9th Street, Cleveland OH
Gift for Mom and Dad.

Sunday bloody moon day
Ping Tom Memorial Park
Chinatown, Chicago IL

12. Got rid of some of the negative in my life; situations and/or people.

I'm the boss!
Chicago City Hall
Chicago Open House 2016

Never push a Nice person to their limits.  I'm also Irish...

We each carry a load! Make it happen!

13. Being unique in my life. Not going with the crowd. Understanding and being kind to other people, but also, having my own beliefs and views. Not compromising any of my values to fit in or be a part of other's lives.

Lawrence Avenue going to work in the morning!

Chinese New Year's Parade
Chinatown, Chicago IL.
2016: Year of the Monkey.

Photo credit: Rich Kolar
2016 Winning!

New Years' Themes

2011: DIBS!
2012: Welcome home.
2013: A Resolution in High Definition.
2014: It's Time.
2015: Twelve Moons.
2016: A Letter from the Front.

The Destination is There.
Theme for 2017

2017 Goals. "The destination is there." Many of my friends are to thank for their encouragement and coming up with these goals!

1. "Happy Now? Happy Later?" Happy Now! Todd, if you're reading this, you remember when you said to this me 10 years ago, and I said Happy Later? I'm making it a goal in 2017. I still don't know why to this day why you asked me this, but it has made me think about my own happiness lately. Thank you, Todd E. Florian.

2. Landmark Chicago. I was introduced to this by a friend. I'm making this a goal next year. January 9th I'm going to register. I'm still finding my purpose here in Chicago.Thank you, Therie Yi-Shin Lai. That November 15th date has a special meaning for me, being my Chicago-versary, but I'm yet to find my place and purpose here.

3. I want love and it's out there. Love and acceptance have been areas of my life I've battled with. Dating.

4. More portrait photography in my portfolio next year. There is still a lot to learn. First item on my list to purchase is a lens with faster glass. Thank you, James Baranski.

5. Build my faith stronger. Accountability. Destination Church in Wrigleyville. Thank you, Michael K. Lawrence II.

6. Continue on with the diet and exercise and maybe join a gym next year. So far, I've been doing stuff at home and getting off at Damen instead of Kimball for cardio (2 extra miles of walking). I'm at a weight I was at in my early 20s now. That's the first time I've been at this weight since.

7. If there is one thing Chicago has taught me is resilience and a certain kind of stubbornness. So, continuing on to not be a door mat and have a little dignity is not a bad thing either. Thank you, Karen Sobolewski for always being supportive of my decisions and pointing me in a self-respectful lifestyle!

8. Find a new home! Yep, as much as I like my neighborhood (Albany Park), the apartment I live in has several faults, including kids that don't care about other neighbors in the building.
9. Grace, mercy, kindness, generosity and charity. Continue to put friends first when the situation arises.

Landmark Forum Chicago
December 13, 2016

For 2017

I post this quote each year and watch the movie; I'm a fan of the original Jerry Lewis Nutty Professor not the remake with Eddie Murphy. 2016 was a tough year. A lot of challenges were faced by all of us. We lost a lot this year, but I discovered a lot too. Chicago has taught me a lot about people and myself. Good and bad. I've learned and rediscovered this year the real meaning of friendship and love. This is what I relearned this year. I've never gone with the crowd to try and fit in. I relearned this part of my life this year. So...

Take this into 2017. Strive to be yourself! Love is out there. Don't go with the crowd. The right people will find you and love you for you...

".. And I think that the lesson that I learned came just in time. I don't want to be something that I'm not. I didn't like being someone else. At the same time I'm very glad I was cause I found out something that I never knew. You might as well like yourself. Just think about all the time you're going to have to spend with you. And if you don't think too much of yourself, how do you expect others to?"

IPsoft Sunrise
155 N. Wacker

RIP 2016

David Bowie, 69, January 10.
Alan Rickman, 69, January 14.
Glenn Frey, 67, frontman and songwriter of the Eagles, January 18.
Sir Terry Wogan, 77, January 31.
Harper Lee, 89, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, February 19.
Frank Kelly, 77, actor (Father Jack in comedy series Father Ted), February 28.
Tony Warren, 79, creator of Coronation Street, March 1.
Nancy Reagan, 94, actress and former U.S first lady, March 6.
Sir George Martin, 90, Beatles producer, March 8.
Paul Daniels, 77, March 17.
Ronnie Corbett, 85, comedy legend, March 31.
Denise Robertson, 83, vITV’s This Morning agony aunt, March 31.
Comedienne Victoria Wood died aged, 62, after losing her battle with cancer on April 20
Douglas Wilmer, 96, actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, March 31.
Howard Marks, 70, drugs smuggler and author known as Mr Nice, April 10.
David Gest, 62, reality TV star, music producer and former husband of Liza Minnelli, April 12.
Sir Arnold Wesker, 83, playwright, April 12.
Victoria Wood, 62, April 20.
Prince, 57, pop legend, April 21.
Carla Lane, 87, TV writer best known for The Liver Birds, Bread and Butterflies, May 31.
Muhammad Ali, 74, boxing’s The Greatest, June 3.
Dave Swarbrick, 75, folk musician and singer with Fairport Convention, June 3.
Anton Yelchin, 27, actor in Star Trek, June 19.
Caroline Aherne, 52, comedy genius behind The Royle Family and Mrs Merton, July 2.
Ken Barrie, 83, the voice of Postman Pat, July 29.
Kenny Baker, 81, actor who played R2 D2 in Star Wars films, August 13.
Gene Wilder, 83, comedy actor famous for Willy Wonka and The Producers among many memorable roles, August 29.
Jean Alexander, 90, former Coronation Street actress who, for more than 20 years, played Hilda Ogden, October 14.
Gene Wilder, 83, comedy actor famous for playing Willy Wonka, died on August 29
Raine Spencer, 87, the stepmother of Diana, Princess of Wales, October 21.
Richard Nicoll, 39, London-born Australian fashion designer to the stars, October 21.
Jimmy Perry, 93, legendary TV screenwriter behind shows including Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, October 23.
Pete Burns, 57, singer, songwriter and television personality who founded pop band Dead Or Alive, October 23.
Sir Jimmy Young, 95, DJ and singer who hosted BBC radio programmes for half a century and interviewed Margaret Thatcher many times, November 7.
Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian poet and singer-songwriter who penned the classic song Hallelujah, November 7.
Robert Vaughn, 83, actor famous for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and latterly BBC’s Hustle and Coronation Street, November 11
Craig Gill, 44, drummer of Madchester band Inspiral Carpets, November 22.
Andrew Sachs, 86, actor best-known as Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, November 23.
George Michael, 53, died on December 25
Keo Woolford, 49, actor who starred in The King And I in the West End with Elaine Paige and in the television remake of Hawaii Five-0, November 28.
Peter Vaughan, 93, actor who starred in Game Of Thrones and Porridge, December 6.
Greg Lake, 69, rock superstar, December 8.
A. A. Gill, 62, acerbic Sunday Times journalist, December 10.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99, much-married Hollywood actress and socialite, December 18.
Rick Parfitt, 68, Status Quo guitarist, December 24.
George Michael, 53, December 25.
Liz Smith, 95, actress, December 26. 
Richard Adams, 96, December 27

Carrie Fisher, 60, December 27
Debbie Reynolds, 84, December 28

***If you are reading this, I'll probably be going back to this to edit it and add more as I think about them. I'm still not done!

Connect to me elsewhere at your own risk.

My Life starts at the Chicago Water Tower!
Mark 0, 0, 0, 0. The last 0 is for the time parameter
Keeping a train of thought and keeping on track.