Ship's Log

This is a running log for the Bilson family, written mostly by the ship’s captain (me). It’s in Facebook-style order to share with those who care what we’re up to these days.

Below are logs from the past six months. See the archive at the bottom of the page to view any log.

The DMM Summit is almost here! There are many topics running through my head and thus little time to build anticipation, but that’ll change when I’m on the plane bound southward.

Highlights: wearing sandals in February, visiting old friends, hiking in Tonto National, and the opportunity to start new friendships with those who seek movements in North America.

This page an incredible feat. Not only for its history and wit, but that it describes, in a way, itself.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-paul-ford-what-is-code/

Good progress so far. Have the first three chapters of Hebrews memorized, and starting on the first portion of the next. 🥳

Now that I have a good chunk in my cranium I’ll need more organization to keep from losing my place. Currently I’m seeing a strong relationship between the first two chapters, then 3:1-4:14.

I’ve also hit my January exercise goal. Started with a baseline of 10 push-ups, 30 sit-ups, 25 squats and 20 military presses. Today I did 15, 50, 40, and 30. Yes! 🙌🏻

Next month will be fewer repetitions, but two sets instead of one.

One of our favorite places to hike is the Flume Trail. We’ve been up to the tunnels on several occasions, but this this our first time when the river’s frozen over.

At this extreme latitude the sun makes a low arc over the horizon rather than an overhead crossing which produces hills brown on one half and white on the other. Magical.

Sometimes I’m exasperated with Graham because he‘ll fixate on his work and forget about bodily needs then have a meltdown when he becomes aware of himself again. Which is something I do on a weekly basis.

You get it from me Graham, you get it from me… #parenting

I attempted something unusual today.

I’ve been reading about Qi (pronounced ‘chi’) and pondering the breathing and movement principles in #qigong and #taiji. I’m so ignorant, but curiosity will cure that in time.

Anyways, so I (poorly) attempted to emulate forms I’ve seen in an act of both internal regulation and external worship. Now I wonder: what’s been written about #qi/#chi and Christian #worship?

This is all in service of developing personal spiritual disciplines for my season of life.

I’ve not had this degree of doubt about my capacity to keep to any habit for some time. But I’m convinced it’s crucial to find a way.

Nearing the end of January, #memorization is holding. Almost through Hebrews 3. #Exercise is spotty, but progress is still evident with only four tries (and I was sick for a bit). Unexpectedly, I may also add something from #Qigong/#Taiji. I’m having more success in part, I believe, because I’m working on #habits with at least one other.

I’m trying out the Arc browser today. I have some hesitancy about using another browser than Safari; what if I like it and it goes away? But experiencing new ways to explore the Web is worth it.

What intrigues me most is the note and easel integration. I think these, combined with split panes, could make research feel more fluid.

https://arc.net/

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., Amie and I watched Descendant last night.

One of the unanswered questions about the horror of Clotilda’s theft of one-hundred and ten people from Africa to slavery in Mobile, Alabama in 1859 is the question of justice. How does one make right such a grevious wrong? There was no satisfactory answer.

Somehow the transfer of assets from the Meaher estate to his captives feels insufficient. I wonder if the insufficiency of financial restitution lies in the absence of purification? It may be true that restoration demands both justice and purification.

I’m registered for the DMM Summit!

https://newgenerations.givevirtuous.org/Event/dmm-summit---phoenix

We’re sick. Again.

It’s been a little while since we were all sick, but the time feels truncated. It’s probably because activity between is fast-paced then illness slows everything to a crawl.

The turmoil of fears and worries boils to the surface when we’re ill. It’s both insightful, since it reveals what hides beneath the surface, but distorted and amplified by fatigue.

My post from three years ago still holds true: https://alexbilson.dev/plants/parenting/a-parents-relationship-to-sickness/

Had a lovely conversation with Chris Boette today about digital gardens, note-gathering and note-taking, and parenting. I am freshly grateful for tools like Calendly that hold space in my calendar for unexpected conversation with total strangers.

We’ve both been impressed by Matt Webb and also too intimidated to schedule a call with him!

https://newschematic.org/

It was a rough night for our almost-three-year-old, Royal. Reason: undetermined. I don’t usually notice, but today he woke me at 4:00 a.m. It’s going to be a caffeine-drowned day. #parenting #coffee

Sometimes I have a vague sense of danger and unease about my life. Parenthood, work and friendship are all good, but their gravity pulls all my attention into their orbit. Be a better parent, make my next career move, form new friendships… it never stops.

But how often am I among the desperate? When do I rub shoulders with the outcast, or befriend the poor? My social and physical location seems a hundred miles from where I’d expect to find Jesus, and thus where I must be.

Yesterday was one of the most consistently fun days in recent memory.

It started with a miracle; the boys slept until 8:15! We had an easy breakfast, then headed to the premier sledding hill around 11:00.

We left for lunch well before any meltdown could happen (we were also well stocked on snacks) and went to Sheels to purchase Graham a pair of new gloves. Amie and I picked up Noodles & Co. and I enjoyed a brief chat with Tommy.

We drove around for a half-hour to let Royal take a nap, but he never fell asleep. And to my surprise, the boys were willing to go back to the sledding hill. So that’s exactly what we did.

Royal was really upset when some boys accidentally decapitated a snowman he’d helped build, so we built our own in the front yard.

We opened our Christmas packages from Memaw-campfire poles-and I built a fire to keep us warm and to grill hot dogs.

All of that would have made it a wonderful day, but then we also played a game of Terraforming Mars! 🥳

Realized afresh how fearful and necessary is vulnerability. I wish it’d get easier, but it might take more courage as I age.

Amie suggested a vulnerability goal this year. Gonna read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly again for ideas.

What’s going on with lenders?

For the second time in six months a buyer for our condo with a pre-approval letter for 50k more than our asking price was suddenly denied a mortgage at the last stage. I thought maybe the lender was sketchy in the first denial, but the second is a multi-billion-dollar bank.

Our condo is under rental contract, so there is almost zero financial risk for nearly a year, and it’s prime Evanston real estate. The whole thing stinks of power abuse.

Drafting the family December newsletter today, I wondered how long I’ve been at it. Since May 2021! That’s worth a celebration. Where’s the hot buttered rum…

We did it!

Thanks Jaynne’s help with setup while we were celebrating with Amie’s dad and to the help of Tom and Julie during the event, the largest party we’ve ever hosted was a roaring success!

We started boiling the potatoes just 30 minutes before we were scheduled to eat. Though it ended up taking 45 minutes, that’s not too shabby for a Christmas meal for 20 guests. Amie led everyone through pulling their English Christmas poppers while they waited.

Jaynne brought over a HUGE pot to boil all of this, plus our own pot. It was so full that I had to pull out lemons, corn and water early to make room for the shrimp. My southern ancestors would be proud.

Six pounds of shrimp, and there were leftovers!

Eating without utensils was a new experience for some, but folks warmed up fast. Some even ate salad and dressing with their hands!

No utensils, no problem. Dig in!

One of our primary goals with this Christmas party was making sure the kids were given special attention. I installed our indoor swing in the basement, and Amie put together Christmas-themed sensory bins. Jaynne created stockings for each of the kids.

Monster was the favorite game.
Each child received a special stocking.

After the stockings we opened the White Elephant gifts. Each person was assigned a number, then each picked out a gift or stole a gift from someone else.

Elizabeth picked the best gifts. Hers were stolen twice!

I started a fire outside that served as a pit stop on the way to people’s cars. Royal and I played a final game of Monster outside with Maddie and Cora.

Every week I attempt to synthesize my writing. I find the activity enjoyable and sometimes discover new insights in the process. Eventually there’s enough to warrant its own major category, what I call a “garden”.

Here’s some of what I’ve written about trust. Comments, references and quotes welcome.

https://alexbilson.dev/gardens/faith/what-i-have-learned-about-trust/

#7BooksToKnowMe

(Off the cuff. I could keep going all night)

I’ve tried three different approaches to fit a board into this doorway, but I can’t lay it at the right angle to slip into the existing flooring. It requires a positive 10° incline to set, but there’s no room under the door jam for that amount of lift. I’ve ruined a couple boards in the attempt.

Isn't it the way projects go, that the last 10% takes 90% of the effort?

I’ve landed on a final idea: break off the joint and use wood glue to connect the door jam piece to the existing flooring.

We cut down our Christmas tree last weekend!

There weren’t nearly enough lights in our bin for such a massive tree, so Amie picked up five boxes at discount. But they only had one plug each!

With Jaynne’s help we got the lights on the behemoth. Since we couldn’t string them together without a plug on each end, we went with a vertical alignment.

Found the tree near Rochford. Thanks for the recommendation Dick!
This is the largest tree we've ever had; 14 feet tall. Making good use of our vault ceiling.
Vertical alignment isn't bad-looking, and it was a lot easier than wrapping.

What does it say about the Christmas season that my favorite song right now is Surface Pressure by Jessica Darrow?

We began to add ornaments to our tree today. The flood of happy memories are definitely the best part of decorating a Christmas tree. I stumbled on last year’s ornament memorial; I wonder what new memories I could add?

please, please, pretty please work?

I’ve been waiting all year, and now it’s here! Renée is an exceptional leader, preacher, storyteller and coach, and the cohorts she’s forming have enormous potential for the development and encouragement of female leadership in the global Church.

If you’re a #preacher or #church leader, sign up for a January or April 2023 cohort quickly!

And if you know a female leader in your church, this is the best Christmas gift.

https://intheconservatory.com

Thanks to Wes and Tom, we’ve laid 2/3 of the engineered hardwood across our master bedroom!

It took a lot to smooth the floors in preparation for underlayment. So. Many. Staples.
The final cuts and settings in the closet takes 90% of the time. But it's looking good!

I’ve landed on memorizing the scroll of #Hebrews in 2023. One way I get the words into my heart is to write it out. A written copy also lets me proofread my memory for errors.

You can find the current chunk I’m memorizing at this link on my site.

https://alexbilson.dev/stones/bible/hebrews/

So thankful for my manager (Mike Hartmann) and the rest of the IT leadership at Performance Trust. A friend of Amie’s mom is a contractor and we learned last-minute that he could come by with his table saw tomorrow afternoon to help me lay flooring in our bedroom.

Needed to take a half-day, approved to take a half-day. 🙏🏻

I’d first met Jamie on a #pray4sd call a couple weeks ago. Amie and I had the pleasure of hosting he and his wife Alicia for coffee just now! They’re the first folks I’ve met who are moving towards principles of disciple-making movements (#dmm) with zero formal training. It’s like the Holy Spirit is up to something… 🤔🥰

I’ve missed memorizing larger chunks of the #Bible. Haven’t done any new stories or passages for years. Thinking this will be the year for a new attempt.

The largest segments I’ve memorized are the Sermon on the Mount, Romans 1-8, most of Ephesians, and 31 proverbs. Don’t quiz me though-it’s been many years.

“I’m torn between a section of the #Torah and the scroll of Hebrews. Who wants to join me?

#memorization

I’m making good progress defining hikes along the #CentennialTrail for next year. There are perhaps five two-day legs, though I’m not sure about #hiking Bear Butte.

Each leg is in the ~24 mile range. That’s not a rigorous two-day, but some have more elevation changes than others and will be more strenuous.

The next big question is tent accommodations at the mid-way points.

It’ll be fun by myself, but even better if those I’m inviting do a leg with me!

Enjoyed a conversation with Aaron Myers today. Most of the hour I shared about Amie and my journey with Jesus, but I did get to hear a little about the digital relationships Aaron and team are bridging between Christians and Muslims.

It’s so encouraging to discover others called by Jesus to international work who live in tiny towns of South Dakota.

Remember this? A Day in the Life - February 2022. I should write another one of these in February 2023…

The boys have turned a major corner in the last couple weeks. Previously, they would rarely play together without supervision for more than fifteen minutes. Suddenly they’re playing well with one another for hours. Who are these little people?! It’s been a welcome and much-needed reprieve.

Location: In the car, driving to the library. Royal singing to himself.

Royal: Yes. No? Yes! No… Yes? No!

Alex: Are you Sméagol?

Royal (emphatically): No! I’m Royal!

(a pause)

Royal (in a British accent): Murder!

🤣

This color picker is a work of art. I could use this to let users create their own theme for my website. Heck, I could use it myself to create themes in real-time.

https://iamkulykov.com/vanilla-colorful/

I’ve been happily amazed at the science and beauty of the Artemis space expedition and the images from the Webb telescope and meditative about ”what ifs”.

What if humans had not abdicated our role as regents of Yahweh and had, in fact, lived forever? As recipients of the Divine blessing to “be fruitful and multiply,” we would certainly have overfilled the earth within a few centuries. Would we not have become space-travelers by necessity? Might I have awoken to life in another galaxy? Oh the worlds humanity might have explored alongside the Spirit who crafted them!

Perchance a yet future hope?

This week I overworked and under-rested. As a natural result, my weekend has been pessimistic, critical and overly analytical.

I am grateful for the reset that comes from attending a church service. I can remember again that I am in a cosmic story, that the Author is kinder than I am, and that I am not alone.

So let us (again) throw off the weight of foolish shame and run with endurance the race set before us. I give you my weakness, King Jesus, and you carry my burdens. To infinity, and beyond!

It’s the time of year for #NewYearResolutions. But let’s be honest.

What needs to change? Everything (sigh).

There are many emotions at the end of the year. Today’s emotions? Shame and self-loathing. Ugh, change is hard.

I’ve begun planning one of my most anticipated activities next year; #hiking the #CentennialTrail. It’s 124 miles from the south to the north of the Black Hills.

At a pace of 12 miles per day, it will take 10 days. Or five weekends.

That’s mileage evenly split, but I’m considering a collection of one, two, and three-day hikes. The trip itself is exciting, but I’m equally excited to invite friends, and some may not want to hike 24 miles…

What drives us and many of our friends to fill every day in December with activity? Are we anxious to squeeze the last from the year, rushing to complete what we’d hoped to accomplish? Do we feel obligated to spend the remains of the year among people?

I’m exhausted and pessimistic, yet I still sense pressure to invite and visit. More than half the stuff on our calendar I scheduled in the last two weeks.

I wonder what it’s like to spend Advent, I don’t know, waiting quietly?

Made good progress on interesting software problems at work, tore carpet and staples out of our master bedroom, and managed a heating emergency for our Evanston tenants. Feels like it’s been a long week!

don’t work please

We had a great time with the Cossi’s. Sadly, their kiddos stayed home sick and didn’t get to enjoy Betrayal at House on the Hill with us. And the pizza oven is so, so awesome. I ate two whole (small) pizzas by myself!

Thankfully Microsoft has decided to return the option to publish pictures via links. Thank you!

Have you had this stuff? It's called snow. Delicious.

A couple of weeks ago Amie flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, for Val’s wedding. It was rainy for almost the entire trip, but Amie did capture a few lovely moments.

This is near the university, I believe.
Friends forever.
Percentage of Amie selfies with this face? 95.7%, lol!
And here are the newlyweds. Val and David's wedding reception was at a posh hotel.

Excited for #BoardGame night at our place! Our neighbors are bringing their pizza oven.

Awhile back, Amie suggested I only write log updates for stuff that family cares about (life updates, pictures of the kiddos). But my posts to Mastodon integrate my technology, business and faith interests. If I merge them all together in this timeline, then what?

I’m fairly certain most family don’t actually visit the website, they just read my monthly newsletter (except for you Mom, and you Papaw; many hugs to ya both). So it’s probably not a big deal. I may, however, need to implement a filter on this page so that one can see only the logs which interest them.

If I haven’t lost you already, one improvement that posting to Mastodon will offer is that, for the first time in ages, you can respond to my logs in public!

I’ve been posting more over on Mastodon. You can find me under the handle @acbilson@indieweb.social. I plan to syndicate logs from this site to Mastodon in future, but for now this feed and my Mastodon feed will be somewhat separate.

I notice logical fallacies from time-to-time, but it’s hard to remember them all. Which is why Your Logical Fallacy is so cool. I wonder if I could add their icons to my posts?

I’m excited to host our first Discovery Bible Study in our new home. These are the highlight of my week and I’m stoked to facilitate them again. Now just have to choose what to read…

Folks with similar interests, like Ben, made me aware that Mastodon is growing fast. I’d tried it a couple years back, but now that I have an established habit of writing online, I’m thinking of giving it another shot. If they’ll have me on the server, you can find me at @acbilson@indieweb.social.

I hate this house. If there was any question whether we’d succeeded in cleaning this place, the answer is unequivocally no. Amie’s return confirms it.

She was breathing fine in Vancouver and on the drive home. But after just a couple hours in the house, especially in the bedroom, and she was coughing and wheezing.

I don’t know where we’re going to put our bed, but we need to move it elsewhere so we can tear out the carpet and prime the walls of our bedroom.

I’m full of gratitude for the joyful opportunity to demonstrate Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with folks at Westminster. Invitations like these to partner with others makes the suffering feel light compared to the reward. Am I starting to understand Hebrews 12:1-6 a little? Worth further investigation.

Father, thank you for inviting me to participate in your Son’s kingdom. It’s seemed like participation would always be a war of attrition, and I’m grateful for these breakthroughs which have arrived outside my power. Yet “it is for discipline that you have to endure,” and I ask for mercy to endure like Jesus did, neither succumbing to the Enemy’s hostility nor the inward deception of Sin.

Form disciples in our neighborhood who, in humility and love, will become servants of all. Make us examples of endurance, love and obedience. Let our holiness be obvious to all but ourselves. Match our desire for your words with a passion for extraordinary prayer. For Jesus' rule!

Through the challenges of moving to Rapid City, one of the best experiences has been finding ministry partners and friends.

Joel & Lori have been praying for us almost since we’ve arrived. We’ve been adopted into their family before we’d even shown commitment to the church. They’ve come by for a campfire, and I expect to start prayer walks with Joel in November and host a Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with him soon.

Skyler & Amanda have been easy to hang with and aspire for kingdom impact. They’ve also been crippled by their COVID experiences and came to South Dakota for recovery. Skyler has advocated for DBS at his church and hopes to read Miraculous Movements and Contagious Disciple-Making after he finishes next Sunday’s sermon.

Dominic & Kati are our neighbors across the street. We’ve enjoyed a campfire with them too, and are excited to have our first DBS with them on the 10th of November.

Will you pray with us?

Father, the kingdom of your Son is our joy, hope and mission. Pour your reviving Spirit over our neighborhood, washing the streets of fear and broken relationships and restoring us to right relationships with God and neighbor. Unify your community to listen to your voice and serve with the strength you supply. Let the needy find welcome and support, the lonely find family, and the struggling find camaraderie. May your Son, his words, his works, his wounds and his ways, be our treasure and obedience. For Jesus and his kingdom, forever!

Draw Westgate and Westminster church and their neighbor churches into extraordinary prayer that sparks revival. Bind Dominic, Kati and ourselves together in love and friendship with Jesus at our center, and create opportunities to expand into more homes. Heal Skyler, Amanda, his friends, Amie and I of the wounds inflicted during the first years of the pandemic. Protect us from our Enemy and guide us into the dark unknown with faith.

We were host to a neighborhood Fall event last Sunday. Of the thirty invitations Graham and I had delivered, nearly ten households dropped by at some point during our two hour event - a great turnout! It was remarked multiple times how good it was to see neighbors, some of whom hadn’t talked for years, and to reminisce about times when there were more public gatherings in the neighborhood. Some who I’d only waved at in passing came by to introduce themselves. Many generously brought food so that our small table was covered in snacks.

On another note, we’ve been appalled recently by the level of unseen resistance to actions of love that seem insignificant from our vantage. Our simple gathering, with no purpose than to meet our neighbors and foster community, was viciously attacked. The night before, all four of us came down with flu-like symptoms. The morning of the event we were all on edge, having slept poorly and awaked in pain. I particularly was both detached and intensely irritable such that I snapped at Graham and Amie multiple times. I stumbled groggily from a nap minutes before the event started, waiting for the ibuprofen to lessen the aches while I tended to our campfire in a cold, blustery wind.

Reminder: you must always restart your proxy after renewing SSL certs.

It’s disappointing that books about Disciple-Making Movements are often tarnished with critiques in the first few chapters. Whether the critiques are valid or not isn’t particularly important if it puts the reader who’d most benefit, the leader of a local church, on the defensive from page 1. Illustrations of a better way are far more persuasive than critiques of the existing model, but pastors are unlikely to get to the latter illustrations when the former critiques are so scathing. Can’t we put the critiques in an Appendix?

There’s not been a day like yesterday in some time.

In the morning, Amie, Graham, Royal and I joined a team from Westminster Presbyterian on a hiking trail repair project at Camp Rimrock.

The best part for me was getting to know Skyler a little better. He and his wife moved to Rapid City from Oregon about a year ago. We share some similarities, not least of which is the long-term tension between what’s best for the stability and growth of our children (though he’s got a few more than we), and our own aspirations as individuals and couples. I can’t wait to catch coffee with him soon. May the Spirit of grace sustain his little family and their brand-new-born child.

We dropped in to Grandma Jaynne’s home after a short break. She had some wood to stack. I was thinking about why I enjoy it so much. It’s like natural therapy. Nothing about it feels like work; it’s all enjoyment.

In the evening we had a campfire on our front lawn. Our neighbors came over: Dominic, Kati, Brianna and Jonathan. They’ve been “just a little” busy - last weekend Dominic and Kati were married! I’m so happy they were able to make it, and that they’re doing well. We share a love of board games and a mutual interest in reading the Bible. May we have more opportunities not only to hang out, but also to discover all the riches of God in Christ Jesus together.

I thought that’d be the end of the evening, but while Amie and I were enjoying the fire after Dominic and gang went home, a man walked up and joined us at the fire. His name is Robert. He has an inoperable brain injury that’s slowly paralyzing him. He’s lost hope and has decided to liquidate all his assets and fly to Ukraine to fight in the Ukrainian Army. I guess he’d rather die fighting. I laid hands on him and prayed that Jesus would heal his brain injury. Nothing happened, except that his headache subsided. Would you pray for Robert, that Jesus would finish the work of healing in his body and hijack his self-destructive plans? I cannot help but think there’s purpose in the most random person I could imagine walking up to join our campfire, but also please pray that any schemes of the Enemy would be foiled. Robert isn’t in a healthy mental state, and now he knows where we live.

A trip down memory lane…

One year ago.
Two years ago.
Three years ago.
Four years ago.

Graham saw a double-rainbow yesterday!

It’s a full week. I had a lovely call with Brad Wathen on Monday and Amie had MOPS Tuesday. Tomorrow Royal has his first day at his new “school,” then a show-and-tell at Graham’s school in the evening. On Friday Amie and I are helping to watch the kids in Graham’s classroom so their parents can have a kid-free evening, then on Saturday we’re helping to repair a trail near Camp Rimrock. How do we end up with weeks like this? We just keep saying yes to good things. Maybe we need some great things so it’s easier to decline the rest…

Thanks to the tireless labor of Amie’s parents and my grandparents, we completely renovated Graham and Royal’s bedroom! Every surface was coated with Kilz primer, then at least one coat of paint. Even the downstairs bedroom got a primer coat. We began to replace all the outlets, switches, and box light fixtures, added track lighting in the kitchen, and moved the refrigerator. Thank you Tom, Debbie, Jaynne, Skip, and Carol!!!

The finished product is stunning - my favorite room in the house. It's like taking a vacation at a beach resort, walking into the boy's room.
I don't have too many contrast photos, but look at that window frame. Yuck!
Moving the refrigerator from the middle, where it took up all the counter space, to the end, where it leaves both counters open, was a 1000% kitchen improvement.

I asked for help on a work project and I am grateful to have received it. Even more grateful for Amie since she instigated the idea. But the help turned into more of the helper doing it all and me watching sometimes. Not the most fun approach to getting help. It is the fastest though, so good for the business I guess?

How is it that asking for help is still such a barrier? I will struggle alone for hours, days even, before asking for the fifteen minutes of help that carries me over my current hurdle.

Not long after we arrived in Rapid City (so I’m a little behind), Graham and Royal participated in Strider Fest. It’s a race hosted by the company that makes their Strider bikes. Rapid City is their home base as it turns out.

Royal was at the top of his race and got to ride in the finals of his age bracket. His secret? Slow and steady.
Determined.
The race itself went over all kinds of terrain. Rocky bumps, tunnels, ramps and sprinklers. It was awesome.

Amie’s mom received a load of unspilt logs from a friend named Wes. We were over there last Saturday and split some of it for her. She even let us take some of it home for our campfires!

This electric splitter is awesome. It makes me so happy to split wood again!
Our own woodpile, sigh. It's beautiful!
Enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Graham, Royal and I went on our longest hike ever - a big chunk of the Flume Trail! I didn’t think it would be too much longer after the tunnel, but it turned out to be about a 2.5 mile hike. I only had to carry them a little bit of the way towards the end to give their legs a break. So proud of them for sticking it out!

The trail crosses the stream running from Sheridan Lake and climbs up the southern hillside. Then it cuts west, through a long tunnel built back when panhandlers were searching for gold. It runs along the hillside (sometimes perilously close to the edge; those parts gave my papa heart a fit), then down into a ravine. After that, back up a ridge to Sheridan Lake, then down into another ravine headed east, across four bridges, back to the trailhead.

Graham was an excellent big brother, pointing out every place that Royal might stumble.
Did those little legs really make it over this trail?!
Tired but happy. Next time we'll turn back at the tunnel :)

Have you ever skim coated a wall to replace the texture? Except for applying a layer of Kilz primer (do we have to do this before the skim coat?), we’re ready to give it a shot on the walls of our basement bedroom. What’s the worst that could happen?

Oh wait, found the most provocative. What if this was American history?

Let’s Talk About Race Series - Slavery

Amie showed me a few of Chris Buck’s photographs on Facebook today. I couldn’t find links to the most provocative, but this is an example.

That this photo looks unusual is the whole point. Why?

Let’s Talk About Race Part 2

After hearing my story, you decide if you’d like to work with Xpert Mortgage of Illinois.

Our condo was under contract with a buyer with a $150k pre-approval through Xpert for three months. First, they wanted “just one more paycheck” from our buyer, so we delayed closing for three weeks. Then they were unresponsive and our lawyer nearly exploded with frustration. After weeks of back-and-forth, our lawyer called the president of the company because she’d never seen such abysmal service. Instead of rectifying the situation, our buyer instead received a loan denial letter claiming that they weren’t able to supply $1500. Who even knows where this magic number came from, but both sides, seller and buyer, offered to make up the difference.

This business is not trustworthy. They wasted three months of our time and cost us several thousands of dollars while our condo was under contract with a buyer they’d never loan to. They were not forthcoming about what they needed as a lender and behaved childishly when they made mistakes, all the way up to the president of the company. Their pre-approval cannot be trusted.

After a rocky landing, worse than I could have imagined, our lives are getting a little better. There are now homes for a few essentials-I can find a cup for tea or a screwdriver for a project-and we’re starting to find life rhythms again.

After bouts of sickness Amie has been able to visit more family which has helped tremendously to manage full days with the two hooligans. We’re still cleaning and launching projects every other day, but the regular progress has staved off most of the sense that we live in a hopeless shithole. When we’re really tired or overwhelmed it can still be deeply discouraging, but usually one of us has a slightly better outlook.

The next pivot is Graham’s first week of school. Technically it’s next week, but he won’t start in earnest until Labor Day week. I anticipate Amie will enjoy spending most of the week only managing Royal and will be able to imagine new rhythms that don’t require her every waking moment devoted to our boys. Maybe I’ll find space to start some new rhythms of my own, who knows?

One of my favorite has been doing odd projects over lunch. Since I’m sedentary all morning, physical work is surprisingly effective as a mid-day break. My other favorite is taking one or both of the boys out for a bike ride after work. We’ve met so many neighbors on our rides and it’s given me a great excuse to explore the neighborhood.

Some inspiration for writing online, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online. It’s a long one I’ll visit again next week.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more neighbors here in Rapid City than anywhere else. Just tonight a couple, Scott & Andra, came by to introduce themselves tonight. When the boys and I go for rides around the neighborhood we often at least say hi to someone, and sometimes even chat for a bit like Dock & Jane down the street. Now that we have a fire pit (maybe need some chairs…) I’m excited to start having neighbors over to hear their stories.

Only two weeks in Rapid City and I’m already back to Chicago. Flying into O’Hare still feels like coming home.

David Ello graciously picked me up from the airport and we spent all afternoon chatting on their back porch. Such a joy to hang with David, Sharon and Charlotte.

No travel to Downtown Chicago is complete without going out to eat, and I did enjoy returning to the land of food excellence. But it’s not nearly as much fun eating incredible food by myself as when I’m enjoying it together with others. I’d rather eat Papa Murphy’s with friends than eat a multi-course meal at a 5-star restaurant.

This is WHIRLYBALL!!!
ALL these glass-faced buildings were built in the past five years. The effect of their reflective glass faces is to make them disappear. They're the most human-friendly skyscrapers I've seen, hiding their immensity while gearing the lowest levels to be modernly magnificent.
It's an unsettling experience to travel at once from the natural beauty of the Black Hills to the man-made beauty of the Chicago Loop. I feel that I ought to value natural beauty over human-made, but I find them both so captivating in such dramatically different ways that it's impossible to compare.

We can get Palisade peaches here 🥲. What’s a Palisade peach, you ask? Only the most heavenly peach on earth, grown only in Palisade, Colorado.

We can come out of COVID quarantine today. I should wear a mask in public but, since I’ll be in my office most of the day anyway, this hardly matters. Under these circumstances it’s just as painful here as in Evanston, even worse after I factor in the unpacked boxes and dozens of incomplete projects. Hoping things will improve soon now that we’re out of quarantine.

I’ve written a longer update about our Arrival to Rapid City. It’s funny; when I write it down, it doesn’t sound that bad. But living through it: the bone-tiredness, the sneezing and aching, the numbing disappointment; our arrival was terrible. But I’ll forget most of that. That’s how memory works.

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