Infected with the Plague

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I started feeling sick last week.

  • Chest pressure
  • Weakness
  • Almost losing my voice by the end of the day

I found myself googling the symptoms of the Coronavirus as I anxiously waited for a fever to pop. Thankfully, my body’s temperature did not go along with the horror story playing out in my head.

Tabitha reassured me, as we tried to figure out what was going on. She told me that I sounded just like I do when I get a cold… my yearly man cold.

By Friday, I was miserable. I was tired of not having energy and coming home and crashing in the evening. A couple hours after being home though, I felt okay. It was then that Tab and I realized something, my workplace has been making me sick.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

At certain times of the year, my workplace zaps my body. I have googled sick building syndrome, etc., but have never figured out why. Until last year, when we discovered that there were no air filters in the building’s air conditioning units. Once we installed filters, I felt fine. All of my bad allergy symptoms, including the daily almost losing of my voice, vanished. Nothing like putting one’s detective skills to use.

It’s funny–not really–how we can jump to the worst case scenario. Thinking we are:

  • Infected with the plague
  • About to lose our jobs
  • Going to die thanks to Google and WebMD

When our typical life outcomes are far more chill and often as simple as changing an air filter at work (which I did this morning).

Where we spend our time (social media, articles, comics, video games, blogs, etc.) affects us; What we breathe in, literally, affects us too.

Disinfecting Concern

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“So, how often do you do that?” A co-worker asked me the other day.

I had been caught in the act of wiping down office door knobs and light switches.

“About once a day. I am the only one doing this.

The conversation naturally stopped, I continued wiping things down and left the break room.

Disinfecting Wipes

Not patting myself on the back here, but if I didn’t wipe things down, no one would. I’ve even tested this theory by waiting a day or two to see if anyone else–SOMEBODY, ANYBODY!–would jump in. Nothing.

Got me thinking about how we can talk a big game. How we can say and even act like something bothers us and yet how that “concern” ends up being…

Words.

Words.

Words.

Hiding behind those words, that often false sense of concern, lies a lack of action on our parts. If the frequency of wiping things down in the office bothers someone, they can step in and help out.

Beyond our words, our daily actions show our true priorities and concerns to a world watching.

Outrage, Anger, and Shame

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My parents moved to Rancho California, from Anaheim, when I was young. Back then, sheep herders herded sheep down what would become major city streets. At night, the sky was dark and the stars were bright. But time marched on, more and more people moved to the area. The stars grew dimmer and the desert monsoon weather changed due to the abundance of pools installed. My hometown eventually voted to change the name of the town from Rancho California to Temecula.

Temecula, CA

I loved growing up in Temecula. I loved the small commuter town, situated in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains. Living in East Texas now, I miss those mountains the most. The way the snow would sit on top of them in the winter, as seen from my parent’s kitchen.

I have been living in East Texas for 17 years. Far away from the Southern California sun; far away from the traffic that clogs up Interstate 15. I still hear news though from my parents. News about the Mayor of Temecula misspeaking. How he apologized, began receiving death threats, and ultimately had to resign. I hate politics in our country.

I also hate the shame/cancel culture that is taking over our society. How one moment, captured on film and social media is then used to destroy a person’s life. Internet vigilantes–no, not the Batman type–who won’t stop at anything until a person has lost their job and perhaps even their dog.

Have we become a society that has forgotten forgiveness, treating others as we want to be treated?

Does the Internet accurately reflect our culture? How about what you are encountering and seeing on a daily basis?

As Americans, we say that we prize freedom of speech. The actions that I see, especially online, scream that if one doesn’t believe/act/or even look as you do, they have to be nuked. Destroyed lives from high orbit. Their very lives made into burning infernos due to a mispoken word, a bad day, or even a sentence written in a blog post.

We say that we want freedom.

We say that we want to live in a free society.

I don’t think we do.

Katniss Everdeen is a herald from the American future we don’t think can exist. But the general attitudes I’m seeing, the rage, the anger of the Internet, signal that the Hunger Games have already begun.

Hitting the Snooze Button

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Woke up this morning, and I hit the snooze button. I hit the snooze button, over and over again, for the next hour. I didn’t want to get out of bed today. But I did get up, make my coffee, and manage to eat a few lemon poppy seed muffins–thanks, Tab!–with some oatmeal.

Photo by Paul Neil on Unsplash

In the process of getting ready, I happened to check my social media feeds. Friends and family, who are normally pretty chill people, are upset and angry right now. The topics of Coronavirus and racial injustice overwhelm my normal places of fun escape.

This has been one of those weeks where I have hit the snooze button more; this has been one of those weeks where I haven’t read my Bible as much. Instead of starting my mornings in the Word, I have been starting my mornings with a different type of word.

I am tired this morning.

Physically tired.

Mentally exhausted from being told that I should fear something. That instead of engaging history, we think that that engagement equals erasing the past. We live in some sort of Orwellian nightmare.

Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. – Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

I am also heart tired. As Augustine wrote, I long for how our human experience could/should be versus what it actually is. While we may not put this longing into words, this is a longing for Jesus to return. His return will fulfill that deep human longing for the restoration of all things, for justice. No more:

  • Sickness
  • Death

A future where we will work alongside the Creator of the Universe. The curse of Adam, against work, removed from us.

In writing all of this, I realize that I need to pray for strength to overcome being tired. I also need to pray for grace… maybe for myself with the snooze button… more so for those whose actions I do not understand right now. When you have been living a pretty normal life, for more than a month, and your friends and family have not been, it can feel like talking to people on Mars. Irregardless of that Martian divide, I think grace continues to be the word.

A Case of the Mondays

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“What are you doing?”

“Cleaning. If I don’t clean this space now, I won’t get to it for awhile.”

I had a co-worker leave on Friday. After putting in his two weeks and serving them with a smile, he left Friday never to walk into the office again. I didn’t know him too well; he didn’t know me too well either. Perhaps we could both feel that his term, in the office, was going to be temporary? Either way, he left, ready to start a new adventure.

My co-workers old space

I got thinking, what would you do, Bryan, if you could do anything? If money wasn’t an object, what would you do? The longer I work in my office, the harder those questions are becoming to answer. I know that I want to make more money. That I want to feel more engaged throughout my work day. I get tired of working in a role that is 75% administrative assistant and 25% office manager.

Stayed up late thinking I was almost done with a game. I ended up playing through the climax and resolution to the game’s story. Only to find out that there was another chapter to the story… saying goodbye to the cast of characters. I decided it would be best to go to bed about then.

Just as the adoption path has been silent, so has my search for a new line of work. I was driving back to work from lunch the other day, and I saw a sign that advertised x-amount of money for working on an assembly line at a local business. For a moment, I considered that job. It paid more than what I currently make per hour. But then you start to think about vacation time, having to work weekends, general hours, and one starts to talk themselves out of such things.

I know that God has me where I am for a reason. That He has grown me, changed me, and molded me into a totally different person than I was when I first started working here. In the twelve years I’ve worked here, I’ve become:

  • A dad
  • A homeowner
  • A Sunday school teacher
  • A deacon
  • A father waiting to become a father again, through adoption

The time that I have worked here, in this office, has not been wasted. I feel like God has been teaching me to find my fulfillment in Him, not in my job title or what I do 7 days a week. But I wonder what else there is… I wonder what other challenges await. I wonder how far we’ll have to go–will we have to move?–to find such prospects. I want to work again in a place where I am friends with my co-workers. If anything, the Coronavirus has shown me how alone I feel at work.

I am ready for something new.

Time for some more coffee.

Q: When was the last time you stayed up late trying to finish a book, movie, or game? Was it worth it? 🙂

Stop thinking you’ll adopt a baby

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We were towards the end of our PRIDE training when our PRIDE Trainer dropped a news bomb:

“If you are thinking you are going to adopt a baby, you need to quit thinking that. If you want to adopt a baby, you will have to foster.”

With no prior mention or warning, in all of our 40 hours worth of state-mandated classroom training, we were all stunned! One of the adoptive couples (our class was mostly made up of adoption only couples with but a few couples looking to foster/adopt) started to cry. Our trainer continued talking about how her supervisor wanted her to make that announcement (CPS pushes for foster families… I get it.). She went on to talk to us about how the system works, etc. But the baby bomb had been dropped.

Abortion has been the political ice cream flavor of the month lately. With news pieces on:

The couples in our foster and adoption classes reminded me that there are MANY couples out there who want to adopt; couples who would love to adopt the baby of the disabled woman in the above linked article.

Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

We have the choice to be a culture of life. A culture that fights for those who cannot speak in the womb. A culture that embraces adoption and gives life a chance.

You never know who that baby is going to grow up to be.

Anxiety – The Faulty Spider-Sense

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Ever since our interview/home study, this past Saturday, my chest has hurt. My anxiety is telling me something is wrong.

Work has been a little crazy lately. Two of my co-workers are taking over as owners of my firm at the end of the week. My boss of 11 plus years is:

  • Stepping down
  • Becoming an employee
  • AND still managing/not changing his boss role at the same time

Reality equals that I’ve suddenly added two additional bosses in addition to my current boss; reality equals now having to juggle completing tasks for all three bosses while not making my current boss mad that I’m working for the two newer bosses. Confused? I am. I think I can safely say that the learning curve is going to be high for everyone… and has already been difficult for me.

This should say: DO MORE NOW, BRYAN!

My pastor announced his resignation on Father’s Day. He has been with our church just short of seven years. I am in the Camp of Hurt right now. Stunned by his announcement and questioning why he is leaving. We were told that nothing is wrong, that his leaving is due to him feeling God tell him that it is time. I’m trying to focus on how it is good that he is being obedient to God’s calling him away. BUT I can’t help but think of:

  • The upcoming interim period, while we search for a new pastor
  • The debt my church is now in due to the children’s building we built
  • How the person who led us into that debt, who asked us to step out in faith, is leaving

I’m hurt but also recognize that loyalty is a big deal for me. I also recognize that hurt from past church leaders lingers on. I have gotta let go and see the bigger God picture.

Our home life feels like it is about to change with adoption. The interview/home study made this feel more real.

My work life has become more unstable than normal with having to suddenly deal with three chiefs versus one.

And church stuff has just been icing on the cake.

My anxiety is telling me that something is wrong, like a faulty Spider-Sense. Things might not be wrong but they are definitely changing. And who likes change?

This past week, as I was listening to a sermon, God reminded me that He calls us where we are WITH what we have. It is in change that our faith is stretched. I don’t want to be stretched, but I do at the same time. I want to grow in my faith. You?

Bryan

P.S. Thankful that God is my constant.

Your Calling Doesn’t Equal Career

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Ivan Mesa, writing for The Gospel Coalition, wrote a fantastic article titled “3 Things Your Calling Is Not“.

This might sound like an obvious point, but part of my angst has been due to the assumption I had to grab hold of my calling or else it would slip away. I’d be lost, I feared, wasting my life because I hadn’t been decisive or clear-eyed enough to know what God had called me to.

For a long time, the Church preached to men that your calling equaled your career. I personally found this line of thought to be hurtful and confusing. The night before college graduation, I remember breaking down and crying. I had no clue where God was calling me, no clue what a career might look like. Tears running down my face, I prayed that He would make a career path clear to me. That He would provide for me a job/career so that I could make ALL the money and further His Kingdom.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Looking back, I can see how I took the preaching I had heard for years to heart. How when God didn’t immediately answer my career/job prayer, I took His silence and withdrew into anger, resentment, and bitterness.

Through His grace, God has nudged me over the years–He is a slow and patient teacher to my stubbornness–. Teaching me that He calls me where I am. He calls me at:

  • Church
  • Home
  • And Work

He reminds me that I do not have to set out on a mystical spiritual quest to figure out His will. Thank God for that.

If there is one lesson God has taught me over the years, it is this:

When I focus too much on myself, life becomes depressing. When I step out of myself and focus on/serve others, I find life and joy.

Which stirs up and boils down to this:

Embrace where you are called.

Grasping at Something Tangible

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This is one of those days where I know I need to post because it is New Post Thursday; one of those days where I’m not sure what to share.

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Have been dealing with the thoughts and emotions of the new adventure my family is on. Trying to grasp what the unknown looks like. Wondering how it impacts my family and what life will be like afterwards. This is one of those deals where I have peace, deep down, over the “adventure”. But I think I’m trying to control all the details, trying to grasp at something tangible.

Little things, such as someone asking me to do something, feels overwhelming. I don’t like that.

I am grinding my teeth at night.

I am dreaming crazy dreams… when I can actually sleep.

 

God is teaching me that I have to push through being overwhelmed by that “one more thing” feeling. That I have to learn to deal with stress differently. He has also been reminding me of who I have been blessed with, my family, and what makes us unique.

 

I am thankful for how God prepares us for things; thankful that this new “adventure” will take time. His time.

How do you deal with stress?

Let me know in the comments below.

New Adventures

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Fourteen years ago, at a college preview day for Azusa Pacific University, I was handed a brochure with the image of a rubber band ball.

Below the rubber band ball the brochure read: “Prepare to be stretched“. I had no clue how much stretching was about to occur…

But I can feel God beginning to stretch me and my family again. Preparing us for a new adventure.

God has been reminding me that being obedient to Him can be uncomfortable and exciting at the same time. Can’t wait to share more when I am at a point to do so.

Thank you, as always, for reading my blog and joining me and my family on this journey through life. Until next time.

– Bryan

Thank You for a Great 2018

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Standing on the edge of 2018, I would like to thank my friends and family for supporting me and my writing. THANK YOU! I’ve been at this on JBG for over sixteen years now. Kind of crazy to think about! Time does fly.

Reading over posts I’ve written this past year, we’ve put some miles behind us:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been replaced with Fortnite, in the Hall household.
  • JohnnyBGamer crossed the 3,000 view mark this month (December). I TRY and not focus on numbers, but I was excited over this. I’ve written more this past year than I did in 2017 (118 posts versus 48). While I’m not quite back up to my 2016 numbers (4,700 views/101 posts that year), I’m getting close to it again.
  • I didn’t realize it, but I stepped down and away from Theology Gaming FB Group this year (seems like a long time ago now). While that transition hasn’t always been easy for me… I’m proud of what I accomplished there as a Community Manager, with a great group of guys, and I wish them the best in the years to come.

I wrote the following post back in April of this year. While I’m still sorting through these thoughts, I’m also more confident in just writing and sharing life… just being me without being a front/organization (I’ve ALWAYS struggled with this). Thanks for reading in 2018, I can’t wait to see where we’ll go in 2019.

Thinking Aloud

My church’s youth room is decorated with black and grey tones. Even the ceiling tiles have been painted black. The overall effect reminds me of a dark cave; a dark worship cave.

As I was waiting for my wife to get out of a summer camp meeting, I talked to a few of the guys hanging out in the youth room. I was immediately asked, “Do you play Fortnite?”

Wyatt, sitting next to me, suddenly perked up, “What’s Fortnite?”

I talked with this kid, we’ll call him Alex, about the game. He gave me a history lesson on the rise of battle royale games, how most of them stemmed from a game called ARMA.

I was reminded just how nerdy gaming culture can be when Alex dove into a PC versus console debate.

“I’m a part of the PC master race.”

I’m sure you are, Alex, I’m sure you are.

My youth room encounter got me thinking about this site, my thoughts towards ministry within the gaming culture, etc. I am reminded that gaming culture spans a large swath of demographics. That when I think of gaming culture, I think of those who are closer to my age, not someone like Alex.

Reminded me that I started this blog to encourage others in the gaming space. That JohnnyBGamer has always been about promoting a balance between life and gaming. My original tagline, for the site, was: “Because there is more to life than just gaming.” I created that tagline in the midst of a season of watching friends being consumed by what they were consuming, video games. I hated that, I hated the control gaming had upon them, had upon me.

At this point in life, I am at a place where gaming doesn’t have as strong as a pull as it once did. But in talking to Alex and his friend last night, I’m reminded that there are others still in the midst of that struggle. A struggle where kids I know, kids around me, are out of control in their gaming. Makes me wonder…

How can I help parents:

  • Curate the types of video games their family consumes
  • Promote healthy media consumption habits for their children

How can I help gamers:

  • Ask questions about the games they are playing
  • Learn healthy online habits for interacting within gaming culture
  • Be aware, overall, that there is more to life than just gaming

I am not sure where God is leading me right now. But these are thoughts I’m processing through in this season after stepping down from Theology Gaming. Whether I step out and do something “big”, become more purposeful with this blog, or just take the gaming lessons I’ve learned, along the way, and use them to help my son navigate the gaming space.

Florence

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Out of Melbourne, Australia, developer Mountains has crafted an interactive story about love and life titled Florence. Florence features an exquisite mixture of stylized graphics, music, and creative gameplay mechanics. The end result is what I’d best call a Pixar Short Film experience in video game form.

My most favorite part of Florence were the way emotions were conveyed through gameplay. When Florence first meets her boyfriend, her conversations with him are presented as puzzles. A complete the puzzle to continue the conversation sort of thing. In the beginning of her relationship, the puzzles have more pieces/are more complex. As the relationship matures, there are not as many puzzle pieces to put together as communication has become easier.

I enjoyed my time with Florence. Even though I’d say that the story is slightly predictable, the execution is flawless. Check this out if you get a chance. Florence is short (30 minutes) and sweet.

5/5 – Florence is one of those video game experiences you need not miss.

Title: Florence
Developer: Mountains
Platforms: iOS and Android
Reviews on: iOS/iPad
MSRP: $2.99

From Across the Net – “Christian Games Done Right: That Dragon, Cancer”

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Nelson knocks it out of the park with his piece titled “Christian Games Done Right: That Dragon, Cancer“.

…I want to tackle how I feel this title has been tragically misrepresented by the games media. And as a result, those who might have benefited most from playing it were turned away.

That Dragon, Cancer is not the story of Joel’s tragic death. It’s the story of his life. The difference may seem small, but it is extremely important, because it defines the very way you approach the game.

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From Across the Net: “Wrestling with Big Decisions”

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Focus on the Famly’s John Ortberg wrote a great piece titled “Wrestling with Big Decisions“. I found the following perspective helpful:

Indeed, for years after my “What should I do with my life?” conversations with God, I did not realize that what I had been actually looking for wasn’t so much “God’s will for my life.” What I was really looking for was a way to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with taking responsibility for making a difficult decision.

God is a door opener, not a celestial enabler.

I built a backyard gauntlet of doom

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Wyatt celebrated his 7th birthday with a superhero themed party. His party guests designed their own capes and were fitted for masks. All in preparation for the backyard gauntlet of doom.

  • First, they had to cross a balance beam over a pit of lava… or was it sharks? Who knows! The imagination runs wild.
  • Second, they tossed a basketball and hit Spider-Man in the face. Because, why not? Also, did I mention this was a Spider-Man themed party?
  • Third, a quick duck and roll under a camouflage netting. Netting is cool. Rolling, better.
  • Fourth, the boys fired Nerf Guns at a shooting gallery setup at Wyatt’s clubhouse. Pew, pew, pew!
  • Fifth, up and down the awesome slide Wyatt’s Grandpa made him.
  • Sixth, this is where things got sticky. I wove a spider web around the swing set with duct tape. The boys had to navigate their way through the harrowing trap.
  • Seventh, silly string. We loaded the boys up with silly string and had a shootout with Spider-Man villains we tacked up on the wall. Total fun and games until one of the heroes revealed himself to be a villain by spraying one of the other party goers. Good times.

With the obstacle course complete, Wyatt and his friends chased me around the backyard with Nerf Guns. Dad always makes a good bad guy. Muhahaha!

party

Tabitha made an amazing cake that was soon defeated by forks. The frosting so good, you wanted to scrape it ALL off your plate. Mmmm. Trick candles were vanquished with a lot of blowing and spit.

Sugared up, we opened presents. Parents came soon after.

Total whirlwind of a Saturday. Nothing like being a dad.

Something happened on the way to school

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Today Wyatt had a math test. We were running late. Test anxiety, tiredness, and general panic filled the car as we drove to school. It is on mornings like this that I am happy we have a short five minute drive. But still, there is traffic. Other parents rushing their children about. A regular suburban war zone of cars, humanity.

As we got closer to school, Wyatt asked if he could pray. I told him sure. He prayed for the usual things, family safety being key. I navigated us into the parent drop-off lane. Reminding him that there was nothing he could do about the test this morning. All he could do is do his best.

Student-Drop-Off-Area-Sign

Driving through the final drop-off area, my grown-up six year old melted before my eyes. He was crying. I reassured him that he was going to have a great day. The door opened, he gave me a hug and got out.

I don’t have these moments too often, moments where I want to swoop in and protect my kid. But this morning, this was a morning where I wanted to do just that. I wanted to protect him, reassure him, let him know that the world is an okay place. It is on mornings like this that I wonder if my wife and I should homeschool. Academically challenge him in ways public school is failing at. Another discussion for another time though.

My heart hurt this morning. It sucked. I had to trust that Wyatt would have a good day. Knowing that he is a super smart kid and would do just fine on his test. I had to let go… and I didn’t want to.

Being a dad can be hard. Understatement of the year.

We can do this.

A Call: Moving Beyond Artificial Relationships

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There comes a point where we are talking past one another. More interested in communicating our points of view versus practicing active listening. Direction, or more so the lack of it, unites us towards the brink of nothing. As a truck stuck in the mud, we are spinning our tires, flapping our collective jaws. We have no power, no authority, no solid foundation. Our relationships are artificial. Welcome to an age lacking any sort of relational depth, welcome to the age of social media.

Social MediaFacebook, Twitter, both are tools that provide instant connection and communication across the globe. We can use these tools to promote change, voice ideas, and escape our everyday lives. Yet, our online interactions lack the tangible, the real. Body language, fluctuations in tone/voice, growing with one another, all lost in translation. We get to where we think we know others based on how much information we have shared about ourselves. As if time and information mean something. And they do. They equal relationships bobbing on the surface of life.

  • Who are you spending time with?
  • Are you even leaving the house?
  • When was the last time you looked away from your screen and made eye contact with another human?

Surface level relationships will never go beyond the surface. Diving equipment, time invested in person, allows us to get to know one another better. Being purposeful in our pursuit, this is key. We have to make time to have time to spend with others; We have to get over ourselves, move beyond technology.

An invitation to go for a walk, time set aside to enjoy nature and listen. Spending the lunch hour eating with a friend. Time invested. Physical time. We need more of this. We need to do this.

Be purposeful. Love people. Seek those around you who need a friend. We are all lonely. We want those around us to see us as we are. Help others get to know you. In the process, you can get to know them. Live life. Move beyond the surface and into the deeper waters.

Realize that this process takes time and that it won’t be easy. Things that matter in life never are.

We can do this.

We Are The Halls

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My wife and I hear it all the time:

“You only have one kid, you have it easy.”

OR

“Just wait until you have more, then you’ll know.”

There is an insinuation that our experience is somehow lesser due to the amount of children we have. That as parents, we are clueless because we have only one child. People are stupid with their words. Including fellow Christians.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.- James 3:9-10

I want to implore my brothers and sisters in Christ to watch what they say in passing. To those who do not believe, to be wary of your words. Words have the power to cut like a knife. To rip open wounds that are healing.

Do not dilute my family’s experience based on a trivial number. We are the Hall Family. We are who God has designed us to be.

The Coke Incident

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After a long day at work, a cold glass of Coke sounded good. Really good. So I grabbed a can and walked across the kitchen to get a glass. Somehow, someway, the can dropped from my hand and hit the floor just right. BOOM!

Coke

The Coke can spun around on its side like a firecracker. Coke flying across the floor, onto the cabinets, the stove, etc. All aided by a floor fan that was right behind me when I dropped it (I was set up!). As the can settled down, I looked around and noted that the kitchen was doused in carmel goodness.

Wyatt laughed.

Tabitha laughed. Then she sprang into action and told me to go get cleaned up. She is so sweet!

That’s when I noticed that the Coke had somehow shot up my shorts. Did I mention that I was all ready to walk out the door for Bible study that evening? Figures.

A quick side story: Back when my wife and I lived in a duplex, she somehow managed to explode a bottle of BBQ sauce all over the kitchen. When we went to move a few years later, we were still cleaning up BBQ sauce that we had initially missed. I guess now my wife and I are even. If this was an intentional contest. Which it wasn’t.

Good times. Good syrupy times.