Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Lottery Ticket Gift

December 18, 2022

This past Friday was the last day of school before our Christmas break. It’s a day that has a weird blend of dread and anticipation stirred together. The dread is due to a few of natives running wild, pre-sugared before arrival and re-sugared as the day advances. The approaching couple of weeks of non-academic life tends to tempt a few of them to release their energy and excitement in unintelligent ways. The picture analogy that comes to mind is one where people riding a roller coaster keep their hands up as “The Beast” or “The Magnum” plunges toward their deaths. Whee!!!!!

On the other hand, the anticipation that flows through the staff is one that includes a respite from any 13 and 14 year old asking immediately after the assignment directions have been explained three times and displayed in bold print on the classroom screen, “What are we doing?” Teachers are ready to Saturday and the anticipation of keeping their comfy slippers on for like…the day!

The last day of school before the break also brings with it a few gifts from students and their parents as a way of saying “Thank you!” or, in some cases, “My condolences for putting up with our son!” My desk received a few offerings of chocolate, cookies, candy canes, Starbucks gift cards, and one interesting jar of pancake mix.

And then there was the lottery ticket!

The student, who I have in two classes, wrote a nice note and placed it in an envelope, along with a lottery ticket. It wasn’t a Mega-Million ticket, but rather one that could bring as much as $35,000 to the winner.

And it got me to thinking! Were the parents of the student hoping I’d win, take the money and take a hike? You know, so the school could get a REAL teacher into the classroom. Or did the parents fall one gift short of Hershey’s Pot-O-Gold box of chocolate as they were buying gifts for their child’s instructors, and had an extra lottery ticket laying around?

Or, did the student get into his parents’ stash of tickets, like I use to get into my dad’s loose change, and take just one. They wouldn’t notice that there was one less!

Getting a lottery ticket and a gift has a number of ramifications attached to it. A plate of cookies doesn’t cause me to have nearly as much mental anguis

And here’s the other thing. I don’t play the lottery. I don’t even know how I’m suppose to scratch off something on the card. It looks a lot more complicated than the scratch off card they used to give you at Kohl’s, that revealed what percent you would received off your purchase. This card, however, has rows of unrevealed riches, unrealized possibilities.

And so it’s laying on our kitchen counter at home, staring at me, itching for a scratch, whispering to my innocence. I can’t decide what to do, but I have to figure it our soon, I’m down to the piece of chocolate in my Pot-O-Gold box.

Unwrapping Jesus

December 18, 2022

This past week one of the middle school students gave a teaching friend of mine a wrapped gift. My friend said thank you and commenced to tearing off the wrapping paper. She discovered that there was another wrapped gift underneath, and then another one underneath that one. It went on like that for several more unveilings, each new package a little smaller than the previous until the last teeny-tiny gift revealed a sweet surprise.

Christmas is like that, numerous layers of verbiage, traditions, illuminated homes decorated with lights, reindeer and inflatables, bells, music, and fruitcake. Christmas has become multi-layered, which isn’t necessarily bad, but the teeny-tiny gift at the center of the festivities sometimes becomes a byproduct, kind of like the Double AA batteries that get forgotten until it’s too late.

I love Christmas. People share their love with others through homemade fudge, family Christmas letters, and being Secret Santas. Charitable organizations plan to be the beneficiaries of that spirit of generosity and people being concerned for others. Christmas has so much to offer. And the reason for the layer after layer of wrappings is because of Jesus.

There are some folk who celebrate the Holidays and follow all of the traditions that are rooted in Jesus, but they don’t mention His name. They unwrap all the presents that encapsulate the Messiah, but don’t believe in the fulfillment of the last gift, God’s gift. There’s a callousness in many folk about the spiritual dimension of the season. They are more endeared to the peanut brittle than the newborn Baby.

God’s wrappings…outcast shepherds, foreign visitors with gifts, a weary first-time father, angelic hosts…are the crowd gathered around the reason for this season. They are the unlikely invited layers of humanity and the holy who have come to the place of the Incarnate.

I confess that I often forget that as I look at the reduced price for A&W Root Beer these next two weeks, think of the Prime Rib Roast our son, David, is bringing on Christmas Day, and worship the event called the afternoon nap. I am blessed by Jesus. May I be a blessing because of Jesus. A wrapping that signals the grace of God, if you please, around the Savior.

The Gift of Irresponsible Loss

December 10, 2022

I lost a few things when I was a kid…a sweater, a few combs, my Popeye lunchbox. It went with the age, an unwelcome step toward maturity and becoming one of those responsible people. Losing things is as old as the first wacko perspective someone had on an issue.

Teaching middle-schoolers has opened my eyes to the fact that losing things is still prevalent amongst our early adolescents. I pick up more pencils in our school hallways than dandelions on a May afternoon from the school’s side yard. I have a section on my bulletin board called “The Lost Kids”. It is often populated by assignments handed in without John Henry’s name on that line at the top of the paper that says NAME. Those two things, pencils and unnamed assignments, are as normal as Velveeta Cheese was in one of my mom’s casseroles.

However, today’s emerging adolescent has upped the value of the items they lose. Cellphones and those white AirPods seem to be the new targets of those mischievous gnomes, the same ones who hide our car keys. Cellphones get laid down for a moment and the student’s attention goes elsewhere, never to return. AirPods lose their grip, wind up in some weird place, causing more panic in the young person than concern over the math test that he bombed.

The most frequent forgotten possessions are coats and water bottles. I can’t quite get my mind around the number of lost coats and hoodies that populate our lost and found area. Maybe in August and September…okay! But in the chilled November and December afternoons? I mean, if it’s 30 degrees with a strong wind, making it feel like 20, why do another truckload of coats get deposited by our awesome school custodians that evening as they clean the rooms and hallways? Did Jane and Jimmy walk home and then realize they had forgotten their coats?

The one that really mystifies me is that “village of water bottles” that have become crowded inhabitants of the lost and found area. I’m talking expensive water bottles. Hydroflask, Yeti, Camelbak, and other brands that are a bit more expensive than that plastic bottle that was picked up from the “free pile” at the neighborhood yard sale this past summer. I mean, these are $30, $40, $50 water bottles, left behind, deserted, abandoned.

BUT the story has a good ending…I guess! At the end of a school quarter, usually every two months or so, all those water bottles and coats are gathered up and taken to find new homes through the local Goodwill stores. The gift of middle school irresponsibility will bring warmth, hydration, and value to someone else’s life. That $60 Hydroflask will find new life and be a better fit in someone else’s backpack. That unappreciated Columbia coat will be embraced and bring warmth to a kid who’s old coat has sprung holes.

Even irresponsibility can bring some good. Even the trials of left-behind possessions can create a bit of hope in a kid, or a family, that faces the challenges of trying to just get by.

Leading 13 Year Olds To Water

December 4, 2022

Since I’m a Johnny-Come-Lately to teaching, perhaps my observations about “what is” has always been. Okay, I’m just going to say it! A lot of middle school students are functionally needy! Maybe back in 1967, I was the same way. 55 year removed from the awkwardness tends to fog up the clarity of my memories.

Middle school students are socially, emotionally, intentionally, and common-sensiky needy. The pandemic stunted their growth in a boatload of ways. And now they hang around with other stunted young adolescents who are also trying to catch up with the wagon train of youth that has moved on down the trail.

But how do they catch up? I see the confusion evident in many of them. How do they catch up on missing work? How do they catch up when their a missing link in their educational chain? It reminds me of a young guy I had in track a few years ago. He had come around to the end of his third lap in the 1600 Meter Run. The leaders had lapped him, which was not unusual, but when he crossed the finish line after Lap 3, he stopped. He thought he had run four laps and was clueless about what he had missed.

Many of our middle school students are like that. They’re missing something, but they’re clueless about what it is. They are floundering in a sea of uncertainty.

I see it in what they place value in and what has gone by the wayside. An eighth-grader’s mantra is “Friends will come and go, but my AirPods are here for ever.” Come January they will discover how quickly AirPods will make an exit during the school day. One AirPod in a kid’s ear is the updated version of a pierced ear. It’s a fashion statement that also allows them to focus on the consistent rhythm of the music, instead of facing ands talking to people.

I see it in the inability to prepare for tests and finish assignments. It didn’t occur to me until this past week. They had a study sheet with the definitions of poetry terms. They had filled in the answers from the previous day’s classroom presentation. I know they wrote the definitions because they told me to not go to the next slide yet. They were still writing down the definition and explanations. However, I’m pretty sure that only a few looked at the study sheet again before the test was administered. It hit me like the poetic punch of a couplet that I’ll be needing to teach many of them, maybe reteach, how to study and prepare.

The pandemic hit different kids in different ways. Some kids who are academically efficient had a hard time relating to their classmates, while others have become incredible artists but displaying incredible chasms in their core subject performance. Some students are erratic in behavior and mood swings, while others gravitate to whatever was consistently there for them in the pandemic times.

In sports and physical exercise, you can see the wide gap between those who founds ways to develop their understanding of a sport, whether it was by playing on a club team of some kind, having a personal trainer, or having the desire to work on their skills on their own time versus those who discovered the softness of the couch, the ease grip of the video game controller, and the lack of attention from parents who were also trying to figure out what was going to happen next in their lives.

As a coach in three different sports, I’ve never seen such a lack of fundamental skills in so many. Physical exercise took a sabbatical from a lot of students and it hasn’t returned.

And then there’s the behavior, or as I call it, “The tendency to do stupid!” The lobby areas of our school administers and counselors resemble the waiting rooms of ER’s. Johnny threw Jimmy’s backpack across the room because Jimmy wouldn’t share a Tootsie Roll with Johnny. Jenny started a disturbing rumor about Joanie because Joanie hadn’t given Jenny a hallway hug for there twentieth time one day. Judy got caught on security video taking a piece of pizza and smashing it on the hallway floor. My crime back in high school was to skip class one day when Ms. Rolfe was our substitute teacher for a class. I went to the gym and shot baskets. I don’t know if Ms, Rolfe ever discovered my breech of conduct, but I do remember avoiding her for the next two Sundays at church, since we both attended First Baptist Church. She sat on the right side and I veered to the left.

These last several weeks of my classroom adventures have been eyeopening, humorous, as well as tragic. We have a habit of thinking that nothing affects us, nothing touches and alters our inner core and outer actions. The truth, however, is that we are vulnerable, and extremely vulnerable if there is not something in our life that we is a firm and strong anchor.

Pray for middle school kids, and pray for their teachers and administrators who are becoming prematurely gray.

The Grunting Phase of Life

November 26, 2022

It’s become as much a part of me as my greying hair and expanding waistline. I grunt. Sounds from the deep. Utterances from the gut.

I didn’t use to be this way, but drop something on the floor and listen to me as I bend to pick it up, and then listen to me again as I stand back up. It’s like a double-header…er, a double-grunter. If I was trying to scare one of the grandkids and it required me rising from a crouched position, I’d be toast. Having two licks of common sense, I have figured out that grandkid-scaring must happen from a stationary position with an ending jump. By then, the grunt becomes a part of the terrorizing.

Why do I grunt? I asked Google and was taken back by all the results that came up. It caused me to grunt in wonderment.

Grunting in our old age comes as a result of losing muscle strength, accompanied by the reduction of lubricating fluids inside our joints that happens over time. Older people, like yours truly, have poor balance, at least compared to their younger selves, and grunting provides some much-needed trunk stability. There you go. I almost feel better about my grunting. Evidently, it keeps me from falling over…except when I fall over.

I don’t remember my dad grunting. Maybe he did and I just didn’t notice. Mom, however, would grunt and say something like, “Lord, have mercy!”, as she rose from her recliner. “Lord, have mercy!” was her go-to grunt. It was followed by a couple of pain-filled grunting sounds to express the stiffness of her joints. She was entitled to moan, groan, and grunt, since she had been struck by a car when she was young girl and spent a few months in the hospital. I have no excuse. I simply grunt as my body unfolds.

When I was younger, I grunted as an expression of my physical efforts, like when I was lifting weights. A grunt was an indication of a conquest taking place. It drew the attention of those nearby who would stop and admire the brute strength on display. I don’t know if those grunts were natural or learned from watching Olympic weightlifters get psyched up as they hoisted the bar that bent under the heavy amount of weight anchored to it. In high school I grunted with masculinity as I bench-pressed one-and-a-half times my weight. I should make note of the fact that I didn’t weigh that much in high school, but still…150% is still 150% and my high-pitched grunt drew the attention of those around me who, now that I think about it, may have been concerned for my safety.

Nowadays I grunt not because I’m bench-pressing one-and-a-half times my body weight, but rather because my body weight is one-and-a-half times what it was back in the day. I need a “Grunt-om-a-ter” to count the number of times I let one out each day. Kind of a different way to keep track of how much I move. After all, my wristwatch keeps track of the numb er of steps I take. In fact, when I’m too stationary, it vibrates on my wrist and when i look down the message on the watch face says, “Let’s Move!” A grunt-om-a-ter could remind me “Time for a Grunt, Old Man!”

That makes me huff a little bit. Now I’m wondering if huffing and puffing, like the Big Bad Wolf, also qualifies as grunting?

Don’t Drag Jesus Into It!

November 22, 2022

The last time I put together a resume I put the names of three people that could be called as my references. In other words, they would vouch for my trustworthiness, integrity, and character. I assumed they would be positive in their approval of me as a person who knew what he was doing and was competent in his words and actions.

In our heated political environment, it seems that Jesus gets added to the viewpoint resumes of more and more people. That is, no matter the political lean of the person, Jesus becomes one of their references. That smells of personal arrogance. It’s putting the cart before the horse– not that Jesus is a pull horse, but sometimes He seems to get dragged into things.

A couple of decades ago, an organization, that promoted itself as Christian and upholding the moral standards of scripture, marched into a U.S. Senator’s office and introduced themselves by saying, “Good afternoon, Senator! We are the Christians!” He replied, “Well, good to meet you, Christians! I’m a Christian, too!” To which they replied, “No, Senator. We are the Christians!” At that point, he knew there may be some differences between them and him.

Jesus had a heart for the hurting, the defenseless, kids, and the elderly. He also got ticked off at people who tried to use their religion to support their causes or express their hatred. Moneychangers and dove sellers in the temple drew His ire. Those who had labeled certain parts of the population as unclean, unworthy, or unwelcome brought out His emotion of anger.

He was not swayed by public opinion. When he was criticized for eating with “sinners”, He said He hadn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. In other words, those who the religious had turned their backs on were the very ones He was called to spend time with.

When we try to box Jesus into our neatly-defined package, we miss the essence of who He was and is. He taught in parables that had the spice of mystery mixed in with them. He quoted from the Torah, the Psalms, and the prophets in ways that caused those who thought they had a corner on the truth to cringe because He had caught them in a different kind of corner.

So, when Jesus gets pulled into a conversation that has political overtones, it causes me to say a prayer asking for deaf ears to listen but, more than that, for people to see each other with equal regard and loved. And I pray for forgiveness for my own tendency in certain moments and on certain issues to put noise-canceling headphones on so I don’t have to listen to a different opinion.

Jesus dragged a cross halfway to Calvary, loaded down with our sins past and present. He doesn’t now need to be dragged into our personal agendas and biases. I’m just thankful that He will come willingly, no dragging necessary, and stand beside me when I receive the final verdict of my life.

Oyster Dressing

November 21, 2022

We are re-creations of those who have raised us. Sometimes we don’t want to admit it, because we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve evolved to a higher form of social sophistication and coolness, but it’s true. After all, Uncle Millard wore black socks in the summer that, coupled with his, Hush Puppies, Bermuda shorts and white legs, made you wonder how you could be from the same lineage? And now, decades later, you find yourself displaying the same kind of pitiful-looking white legs rising out from a pair of black socks. The Bermuda shorts have disappeared simply because you can’t find a pair in your size at Kohl’s.

Re-creations, yes we are!

When I was growing up, my mom made oyster dressing every Thanksgiving. It was a part of our family meal, served Thanksgiving afternoon soon after the Macy’s Parade had ended. I thought oyster dressing was as much a part of everyone’s Thanksgiving meal as sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the turkey. It was one of the signs of how blessed we were, the only time during the whole year when we had oysters in any kind of dish.

So now when I mention the possibility of oyster dressing to my family, I’m astonished at their looks of indifference and dismay, as if I’ve just appeared in the dining room in my Uncle Millard’s dress attire. They don’t understand my fascination with oyster dressing, the connection it holds to my Eastern Kentucky Helton family roots.

A few days ago I was at the grocery store to get hot dog buns and check on the price of bottled A&W Root Beer. I decided to take a wide turn by the seafood counter, wondering if oysters might be an available item. After all, I live in Colorado, not New Orleans. Oysters don’t grow on trees, don’t you know! My eyes danced past the sardines, over-priced smoked salmon, and shrimp until they landed on a six-ounce tin of oysters. The price was only $8.99, and there must have been at least five, maybe six, of the slimy captives in there. I could hear my mom’s voice saying to my dad as he was about to climb into our ’66 Chrysler Newport and embark on a trip to Big Bear Supermarket in Marietta, Ohio, “Laurence, don’t forget the oysters.” It was, as if, she was talking to me, beckoning me to reconnect with the ways of the past, the customs of our clan.

I picked up the tin. It was actually plastic, which didn’t seem right. The Thanksgiving oysters of the 60s were always in a tin. The plastic balanced itself in my hand, extremely light, I thought, for nine bucks. Should I or shouldn’t I? Relive what was or be sensible about what is? I turned the container to the side and peered through. Like a goldfish in an aquarium, I swear an oyster’s eye stared back at me. Do oysters even have eyes? This one did! Kinda creeped me out, that’s what it did!

And then I remembered…our freezer, which would have to be the residence for this container for a couple of days, was jam-packed with other necessities of life, like a frozen chocolate cream pie, a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream, chicken breasts, and egg rolls. There would be no place to put the Helton Clan oysters. As the eye kept staring at me, I gently placed the container back in the case and lamented the loss of a tradition.

Although they aren’t nearly as exciting and I hold no infatuation about them, hot dog buns don’t stare at you. So I headed to the bread aisle. I felt like everyone was looking at me, disappointment in their expressions, and shaking their heads at my betrayal . I looked down just to make sure I wasn’t wearing Hush Puppies, black socks, and blinding people with the ghost-like whiteness of my legs, as I picked up a package of buns for $1.19.

We’re re-creations of who raised us, yes we are, but sometimes it’s best to cherish the memories and just move on to the bread aisle.

Fasting From Ungratefulness

November 20, 2022

It’s the beginning of Thanksgiving Week, one of the most unusual time periods of the year. Unusual because we talk about how thankful we are, but tend to focus on the troubling details of life. For example, instead of the fact that most of us will sit down at a table that is covered with an abundance of food, the news feature we’ve seen has been about the high price of turkey.

In other words, our culture seems to be drawn toward the negativity of life instead of the gratefulness of what is. So I’ve decided to do a fast from ungratefulness. It will probably be a challenge. When I get those grumbling sounds in my tummy as I experience the road construction on Woodmen Road in Colorado Springs, my first reaction may very well lean toward the over-population of the city, or the inconvenience of the situation, or the fact that I didn’t plan ahead. I’ll have to look at myself in the mirror and tell me to knock it off.

So, when I flip the light switch and the bulb gives one last dying flicker, I’ll be thankful for the fact that it had provided light for me to read by for the past two to three years instead of focusing on the inopportune moment it had lived out its purpose.

When the cashier at the grocery store gives me a sneer when I ask for a price check on the one pound block of ground beef, I’ll say a flash prayer that the rest of her day will find her receiving compliments and a multitude of ‘Thank you’s’!

When the conspiracy theorists invade the TV screen, I’ll look for a “Captain Kangaroo” rerun and smile at Mr. Greenjeans.

When my stool at Starbucks is already occupied, I’ll focus on the other open seats that will give me new opportunities to view Pike’s Peak with my Pike Place from a different perspective.

And, instead of focusing on the fact that I’m paying $3.08 for my cup of coffee, I’ll be grateful for the fact that I get free refills.

When the eighth-grader comes strolling down the hallway, hoodie up and AirPods inserted, I’ll focus on his being in school instead of his strained appearances at looking cool.

When one of my classes is getting me annoyed, I’ll recall a time when I was sitting in Ms. Carisle’s U.S. History class and trying to hide behind Betsy Wolfe in our classroom that featured desks in militarily-precision rows and students sitting in alphabetical order. At that moment, maybe I’ll realize the students in front of me are simply mini-me’s fifty-five years removed.

When Carol says we are going to have pasta and broccoli for dinner, even though I’ve had a lunch of lifeless salad, I’ll focus on the nutritional value of the vegetable instead of my longing for a hamburger. And I’ll be grateful that she is willing to fix dinner for the two of us. The Arby’s down the street would be a lot easier.

When I feel the urge to complain about the cold temperatures that descended on us this week, I’ll be thankful that we aren’t in Buffalo. If I was in Buffalo, I guess I would be thankful for my shovel!

When a go out to my car and see bird droppings on the windshield, I’ll be thankful that there’s wiper fluid that I can use to squiggly it off with.

And when the 5th and 6th grade boys basketball team that I’m volunteer coaching for is getting blitzed 22-0 by a team that boys have to tryout for, I’ll focus on the positive. That they are learning the ineffectiveness of dribbling into two defenders and some of the other hard lessons of basketball life. But mostly, I’ll focus on the fact that it will be over soon.

Happy Gratitude Day!


November 14, 2022

(November 13, 2022)

“The Love In Loss”

Janet Smith was a dear friend. She was so dear, in fact, she was our kids’s babysitter. Since she had no kids of her own, she appointed our kids to be her kids. On her deathbed, when asked who she would like to preside over her funeral, she replied, “Bill.” When her close friend, Becky Murthum, asked the next question, “What if Bill isn’t available? Who is your second option?”, she said, I’m assuming with a determined look on her face, “There is no second option.”

Thus, Carol and I boarded a direct from Denver to Detroit, drove a rattling, rental Nissan up to the Lansing area, and fulfilled the request of an old friend who passed too quickly. She had been out to see us in Colorado Springs this past summer, spending a week seeing her “kids” who now had their now kids, and delighting me with stories about teaching three-foot-tall creations of God’s handiwork. 

Going back to Mason, Michigan, brought with it a storm of tears and the serenading of laughter. Janet’s passing was the pathway to seeing people we had experienced community with for fifteen wonderful years. Mason First Baptist (now Mason Community Church) was my first experience as a senior pastor. Janet had been on the search committee that called me to be their pastor. Now we were heading back to the place that has held a special place in our hearts, our version of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. 

Loss sometimes leads us back to the forgotten love and appreciation for what we once took for granted. It acts as that Bic Lighter that would cause the end of your thumb to be sore as you flicked on the flame to light the candles on the birthday cake. Janet’s loss created a sore spot in our souls, but it also brought us back to the people and place that we have missed and treasured. 

As I stood behind the pulpit and spoke of the lady who had drawn us back, my emotions schemed to break me down. It wasn’t just Janet who I was thinking about, but also the dear folk who were staring back at me. I had married them, buried some of their family, counseled and taught them, eaten Oliveburgers at the A&W with them, coached their kids and blew the whistle at their Buddy Basketball games. Almost a quarter of my life had been lived with them. 

The loss of our friend brought us back to the people that we will always treasure. As Becky Murthum so appropriately put it, our homecoming was because of her home-going.

A Nervous Coach/Teacher

November 10, 2022

I have high expectations for the players and teams I coach, the execution of the fundamentals that we try to teach them and the intangibles of the game (hustle, intensity, encouragement, teamwork). Thus, my nervousness when I’m not there.

This time my absence is due to to the urgency for Carol and me to get back to Michigan for the funeral of our dear friend, Janet Smith. But it also means entrusting my rambunctious group of 57 eighth-graders to my friend, Ron McKinney. Ron has 35 years of experience behind him, so there isn’t much he hasn’t already seen or dealt with. Still, I get nervous. It’s like a parent hoping for encouragement in regards to their child as they sit down at parent-teacher conferences. We fear that we will hear things like: “Except for that unfortunate firecracker in the urinal incident, Johnny has been not made any more decisions that required the summoning of law enforcement.”

I tell my students that I expect exemplary behavior and a vast majority of them are awesome and on-task, but there always seems to be a couple of problem children who cause me to grind my teeth when I AM there, and make me worry about what they might be doing when I’m not there.

Call me a “helicopter teacher”, except my students DO make blunders and take trips to the land of the ludicrous and looney! Speaking of helicopters, I’m writing this as we await our flight to Detroit, a delayed flight which gives me more time to imagine scenes from Kindergarten Cop happening in my classroom, paper airplanes sailing past Ron McKinney’s head and someone grabbing another student’s laptop and running away with it.

Lord, help me to believe that the classroom will still be there on Monday…and Ron will still be my friend! Amen!