The Lloyd Plan – Revisited

A Long Overdue Health Update

For those of you that have known me a long time, you’ve known that my weight has fluctuated here and there over my entire lifetime. A little over 3 1/2 years ago, I posted a note on Facebook entitled “My Monumental Year”, showing how I had gone from weighing 340 pounds to weighing 236 pounds in about two years time. At the time, I only was 16 pounds away from my doctor’s ideal “top” weight for me – 220.

Then, a lot happened. Life happened. Work stress, home stress, deaths in the family, and you name it – it happened. As the old saying goes, I fell off the bandwagon. Slowly I started to gain some of the weight back, all the while telling myself that I’d get back on my plan – which I affectionately called “The Lloyd Plan” – very soon. For me, losing weight has always been pretty easy. Keeping it off has been nearly impossible. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that, obviously.

Three months ago I went to the doctor for a checkup. I hadn’t seen him in over a year. Yes, I neglected to take my own advice – again. The official weigh-in was shocking: 302 pounds. Ugh. I did it again. I swore I’d never gain the weight back and I did it again. This has happened over and over and over in my life – it’s so frustrating.

Since that point, I’ve gotten back on my own plan. As of today, I’m at 272 pounds, 30 pounds less than I was 3 months ago. On October 1st, I started weighing myself daily again and started being very diligent with my plan – with very few days/meals of “cheating”. I lost 18 pounds in October. The plan works when you follow it!

So, What Happened?

Long story short, I didn’t take my own advice. I stopped following my own plan, which was stupid, considering I had motivated many others to follow it. One of my good friends – Jim Updike – started following it and lost 90 pounds over the course of one year. You’d think that would motivate me to stay on the plan, right? Well, as it turns out, there’s a lot more to it than I had originally anticipated.

Jim Updike and I twinning and following The Lloyd Plan
Jim’s remarkable transformation!

I continue to be encouraged by others who have followed my plan – and other plans – and those of you who have encouraged me to get back on track. There is a HUGE psychological part to this that I have never tried to tackle my entire life. It involves my use of food as a drug, not as a source of sustenance.

My Relationship With Food and Alcohol

I have struggled with food issues my entire life. For me, food has always been something I turn to when I need a “fix”. It’s a paradox that those of us with addiction issues turn to inanimate objects to fix our very animated problems. When things are spiraling out of control in my life, I’ve always turned to food and alcohol to solve those issues. What it boils down to is an issue with control. When things are out of control, I get a good feeling about being able to control something. I had a crappy day, so I’m going to make myself feel better by having a giant burger and a shake. Or several craft beers. You get the idea. There is something cathartic about being able to have something MY way, allowing me to feel like I have some control in what would otherwise be an uncontrollable situation. This is part of my psychological battle.

Late last year, I started seeing the wonderful fabulous I can’t say enough great things about life coach named Stefanie Krievins. I had several things I wanted to tackle in my personal and professional life, and my weight was one of them. Through many sessions, we worked through some of my food issues. One of the things that we focused on was being conscious – and logging – any time I felt the need to binge eat or drink. That was eye opening for me. In the past, when I had felt the need to do that, I had usually acted upon it and ate/drank to my heart’s content. Actually stopping and recording what was going on helped me realize how much I was turning to food/drink as a “drug” of choice, and what led to that. So that was a good start. I also found that I often treat food as a reward, which is wrong. “Gee, I’ve been good this past week, I deserve a trip to the giant lunch buffet in town and the local ice cream place”. That’s one of the things that got me in trouble. I lost a bunch of weight and thought – well, I can fall off the bandwagon for a little while and still be ok, right? Wrong. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. I had lunch with Stef on October 8th and it was a good time to catch up and get back on track. Since that day, I’ve been VERY strict on my eating/drinking. As my plan entails, I drink a ton of water, cut way back on carbs/sugar, and get plenty of exercise. So thank you Stef for the reminder of my weight goals and for giving me grief about eating burgers and tots every Tuesday at Bar Louie 🙂

So, What Now?

Well, I’m posting this publicly to let you know that I’m back on the Lloyd Plan – and you’ll once again start seeing me post about this on social media. I’ll always tag my posts with #TheLloydPlan so if you want to follow that tag, feel free and you’ll see anything I post about that. I’m also posting this to let you keep me accountable. If you are in my presence and you see me making unhealthy choices, I give you permission to smack me upside the head and remind me that I’m supposed to be on the plan!

Along the way, I’ll post updates and milestones. My next big milestone will be when I get to 250 pounds, which is about 20 pounds from now. I’ll let you know when that happens. I had a small victory yesterday when I went through the entire Halloween day without eating a single piece of candy. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. In my life, this is a battle for my mind, so let’s chalk that up to a victory for my mind and body yesterday.

Thank you again to everyone who has encouraged me along the way. Consider me back on The Lloyd Plan, and if you’d like to follow along, let’s keep each other accountable!

For reference, I’m including my original weight loss Facebook Note that I wrote 3 1/2 years ago. Please continue to read below if you’d like to know more about how I originally lost weight. Let’s do this – again! 🙂

My Monumental Year (Originally Posted 3/1/2016)

On March 1st, 2015 I started a new life. After years of ignoring my health, my weight, my doctor, my activity, my food intake, and in general, my life, I came to a point that I knew I had to make a change. A few days before, I had visited my doctor for the first time in years. Oddly enough, I was avoiding him because I was too embarrassed of my weight. Literally, I thought – I need to lose weight before I see him, to avoid embarrassment. That’s like saying you need to fix the drain before calling the plumber because you’re too embarrassed that you have a clogged drain. It’s stupid… but that’s what this disease does to you. It’s the disease of denial. It’s the disease of rationalization. It’s the disease of procrastination. It’s the disease of using food as a comfort and medication. It leads to an early grave.

February, 2014: 340+ pounds, laughing it off and making jokes.

My doctor shared the bad news with me. I weighed 320 pounds. I had high cholesterol. Never had that before. I had high blood pressure. Never had that before. I had severe type 2 diabetes, with an A1C of 9.5 and a blood sugar level at 170. I had persistent headaches. I was constantly tired. And, perhaps worst of all – for the first time ever – I had a heart condition. I had always thought “well, at least I have a good heart”. Not anymore. The latest scan was showing some blockage. My doctor looked at me straight in the eye and said that this was the worst he had ever seen me. The truth is, I was even worse the year before and I know I had stepped on my scale at home and weighed in at over 340 pounds in 2014. But the fact remained – I could no longer avoid the truth: I was killing myself. Slowly. I was headed for an early grave. Shortly.

April, 2014: 340+ pounds. Ignorance is bliss. Or is it?

My father passed away when he was 54. His father (my grandfather) passed away when he was 54 as well. I come from a long line of men who ignored their health. History was bound to repeat if I didn’t do something about it. My doctor looked at me – and at the time of my visit, I was 49 years old – and he said I’d be dead within 5 years if I didn’t do something right away. So that was it. I knew I had run out of runway. I knew all of the times I had told myself “I’ll work on that later” or “I’ll join a gym sometime” or “I’ll look for a new diet to try”, etc, had caught up with me. I was out of time. I needed to stop my unhealthy habits immediately, or face the fact that I might not see another 5 years. Let alone 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. After visiting my doctor on 2/27/2015, I went to the pharmacy the next day and got a bunch of medications. That night, I went to dinner and had a giant meal of Chinese food. I then went to a party and proceeded to eat about everything in sight. I felt horrible. Like, really, really horrible. I thought I was going to die. In my insanity, I had thought that it would be fun to have a “last supper” and enjoy one last meal. I was wrong. I was miserable.

December, 2014. Shirt size: 4X. Pant size: 44. Chins: 3.

I knew the jig was up. I was fooling nobody but myself. It had been a long time since I was “serious” about losing weight. I had lost a fair bit of weight in 1996 and in 2002, but of course it never lasted. And diets. Oh, my the diets. I tried them all. Nothing stuck. I got in a pattern of losing a little weight and then rewarding myself for losing weight. And then I’d gain it all back, and then some more. I had even gone out and bought a treadmill at one point, thinking that I could walk on it while watching TV. I did that. Once or twice. It collected a lot of dust and clothes over the next several years. I had even joined a gym or two, but failed to go on a regular basis. I used to joke that I went to the gym religiously – once around Easter and once around Christmas. Then I’d joke that I was going to rename my toilet from John to Jim so I could say that I went to the “gym” several times a day. To me, my weight was a laughing matter. It was ok to be fat because I could joke about it. And everyone would laugh. I rationalized everything. I was the fat, funny guy who would make everyone laugh. But I was killing myself doing it.

March 1st, 2015: My first 5k.

On March 1st, 2015 I woke up and knew this was it. The night before I had binged on everything and I woke up feeling absolutely horrible. After work, I went down to the workout center in the office I worked in. I had belonged to the workout center for many months, but had never used it. It’s amazing how just belonging to the workout center is not enough. You actually have to use it. Wow. Who would have ever thought that? 🙂

I stepped up to the treadmill and just started walking. And walking. And walking. I started playing with the settings and saw that I could walk a 5k if I wanted to. I had never done that before – at least, not intentionally. I had my tennis shoes and jeans on and the shirt I wore to work that day. I was very ill-prepared to do any kind of workout of any sort, but I was determined to see this first step through. It took over an hour, but I finished my first official 5k. And I felt great.

April, 2015 in Florida. I was walking 5+ miles a day at this point, but was encouraged by the progress. Notice my fake earring 🙂

I didn’t stop there. I did the same thing the next day. And the next day. I dug out my old gym clothes. My shirts at this point were 3x and 4x. My pants were size 44 in the waist, and I really could have used a 46. My shoes were worn and uncomfortable, but I didn’t know enough at that point to know that I should get better shoes. I bought a fitness tracker to track my steps. My doctor said I should try to get 10,000 steps in a day and I was tracking every step and every item I ate and every pound lost like a hawk. I don’t know why, but something in me just clicked. I guess for anyone who wants to make a change in their life, they won’t get very far until they want it – until they own it – until they resolve to make better choices. For me, it was a daily battle and I had to keep telling myself I needed to do this or die.

May 14, 2015: My blood sugar level has gone from 170 down to 87.

I started to branch out from my usual burger/fry/shake meals and try new things. Not just salads and crappy substitutes – but real nutritional meals. It’s amazing how much you can learn by looking up the nutrition value on any given food, whether it’s bought at the grocery or as part of a meal at a restaurant. In general, I tried to keep my carbohydrate and sugar intake to a minimum. And, I drank a lot of water. I mean a LOT of water. I also cut my intake of diet soda out almost completely. I walked all the time. Even when I took vacations in Florida in March and April of 2015, I continued to walk a lot. I bought new shoes and started wearing old clothes I had not fit into for a very long time. I started to see some progress, and it was very rewarding.

June 9, 2015: Feeling like a million bucks.

Throughout June and July, I took every opportunity to walk that I could. I took every stair. I walked during any break I had during the day. I walked in the morning before work, in the evening after work. I walked every weekend. If it was sunny, I was walking. My doctor had told me NOT to run because running would do more harm than good, especially at my weight. At this point I was still hovering around 255 – 260 pounds, which was far too heavy to do anything too strenuous. I ventured out a bit and did some more biking here and there and other things like the elliptical machine. In general, I was much, much more active than I had been in the past few decades.

August 13, 2015: Well, hello muscles. It’s been a while. Nice to see you again.

It was about this time that a neighbor of mine told me about the Monumental Marathon. He said it takes place in November, and I should try walking the half marathon. I made some goals for myself to try to get to a point where I could do some serious training to participate in the Monumental. When I got under 250 pounds, I started to focus on my muscles. From June through August, I did some intense training on my upper and lower body to try to regain some of my previous muscle tone that I had during high school. I played football, soccer, basketball, baseball and wrestled in high school. Needless to say, I didn’t have a “weight problem”. I was so active that I burned off all I took in and more.

September 13, 2015: From size 4XL to L in just over 6 months.

Focusing on weight training as well as weight loss was both rewarding and frustrating. It was rewarding because I could feel myself getting stronger, but frustrating because the weight was not coming off as quickly as it had been. Still, I could feel my body changing shape. Shirts and pants fit much easier now. I had kept old clothes around in boxes in the hopes that I would someday wear them again. I was going through clothes very rapidly, and about 3 weeks after I started wearing size 40 pants, I was ready to downsize to size 38. In late September, I donated all my “fat” clothing to friends and charities. It was hard to see a lot of my sentimental stuff go, but the clothes didn’t fit me anymore and they reminded me of the “fat” me. I didn’t want them around. My closet and dresser were nearly empty.

September 29, 2015: Wearing an old pinstripe suit I had in the back of my closet for the past two decades.

It was at this point that some real rewarding things started to happen: I actually enjoyed looking for new clothes. I used to loathe shopping. Each time I used to buy something new, I’d be embarrassed at the size of the clothes and how I looked in them. It served as a reminder that I was obese. But not now. I was down to a size 36 in jeans and I had more and more old clothes that fit me that I hadn’t worn in 15-20 years. And, I had a bunch of new stuff that I had bought – not to reward myself, mind you – but just to simply have stuff that fit correctly.Most of October was spent training for the half marathon. At this point, I was walking about 5-10 miles almost every day, so I was hoping that doing 13.1 would not be too hard. I had gone out and gotten myself a real pair of running shoes and some good socks and athletic gear. My gosh, I NEVER pictured myself looking like a “runner”, but here I was wearing running gear and shoes and everything. The day of the race came and I remember getting into downtown Indy really early and just sitting in my car for what seemed like a half hour. I guess it was just some time to think about where I had come and what I was about to do. The race itself wasn’t too bad at all. I listened to music most of the way and walked really fast. My feet didn’t hurt at all. I was amazed to see how many people were there to cheer everyone on. I also had several friends texting me and encouraging me during the race. It was awesome.

November 7, 2015: My friend Jeff Carmichael met me at the finish line. How awesome is that? Thanks, Jeff!

I had heard people say that the last mile was the hardest. That wasn’t my experience at all. In fact, I felt myself more motivated than ever by the last mile. I knew I was doing something I NEVER thought I would accomplish ever, let alone in the same year that I had been given a virtual death sentence from my doctor’s report. This truly was a monumental moment for me. I decided to record some thoughts during my last mile… basically a reflection on the last year and what led me to this point. Then, I crossed the finish line and saw a friend of mine (Jeff Carmichael) who was waiting there to congratulate me. It was truly one of the greatest moments of my life. Here is a link to my recording of my last mile. It’s about 13.5 minutes in length and you can view it here: https://youtu.be/-cE2IeJ7rvU

Kelly and I along with other coworkers and friends celebrate a successful finish in the Monumental Marathon.

After the race, Jeff and I hit a local pub and had a beer. Because, of course, that’s what you do after a half marathon, right? 🙂 Then, I met my coworker Kelly Settles Hamilton and some other friends for more post-race celebrations. It was truly one of the most amazing days of my life. I am eternally grateful to all the friends and family who encouraged me.

Thanksgiving Day 2015: At the Drumstick Dash, having a blast!

Since that day, I have continued to make progress. I continued to walk daily, trying to get my 10,000 steps a day in. I continued to do weight training. I participated in more 5k events, including the Drumstick Dash on Thanksgiving Day of 2015. Surviving the holidays was hard. While I didn’t gain weight over the holidays, I didn’t lose it either. I think I went into a mode where I lost a little and then didn’t watch what I ate and would go up and down a few pounds here and there. This is very dangerous ground for me. This is what got me in trouble in the first place: the idea that I somehow deserve to go back to my old habits as a reward for how far I’ve come. That is what we call “stinkin thinkin” and it will destroy you and everything you’ve worked so hard for.

February 20th, 2016: Taking advantage of record-setting 72 degree weather for a 10 mile walk.

Today is March 1st, 2016 and my “official” weigh-in this morning tells me that I’m at 234 pounds. That’s 86 pounds less than I was one year ago and 106+ pounds less than I was two years ago. I feel like a new man. I have a new lease on life and a renewed sense of energy and purpose. I look forward to exercising and walking. I look forward to competing. I look forward to challenging myself to reach new heights. I look forward to buying new clothes. I look forward to encouraging people as I continue on my daily progress. I welcome any questions you may have, and I’d be glad to set aside some of my own time to help you on your journey. I don’t have all the answers, but I can share what I have learned and perhaps that will help you as well.Even after all that has happened this past “monumental” year, I have a long way to go. I still have 14 pounds to shed to get to the 220 mark, which is the MAX that my doctor would like to see me weigh. I’d like to get to the point where I can maintain my weight under 200 pounds, and that will take some serious dedication and work. And, most of all, I can’t do it alone. Nobody can. We need each other to encourage along this journey. To be there when we fail. To be there to help celebrate when we win. There is no way on earth I could possibly thank all the friends who have helped me along the way, both in the past year and in previous years when I have tried and failed to accomplish this, but I would like to make a few shout-outs to specific people.Thanks to those of you who donated to my campaign to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital during the Monumental Marathon, including: John Purcell, Mike Mast, Kelley Tortorice, Susie Smith, Dave Leininger, Shirley Williams, Kelly Settles Hamilton, Kevin Murray, Cory Johnson, Kathi Knox Hammond, Jenna Looney, Brian Donnelly, Marietta Crawford. A total of $725 was donated due to your kindness! Thank you, and please forgive me if I forgot anyone!Also – thanks to those of you who have been an inspiration or encouraged me along the way. My family and friends have been great. I am lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart and I can only hope that I will be an inspiration to someone like you have been to me. A few specific people I’d like to give shout-outs to that have inspired me or encouraged me along the way (either directly or indirectly) include: Rick Drumm, Steve Drye, John Yarbrough, Kurt Krauter, Kevin Murray, Jeff Carmichael, Mindy Irish, Jenna Looney, Craig Boyer, Finney Jack, Dave Bolander, Mike Buchanon, Todd Stallings, Nate Meyer, Corrie Meyer, Kelly Settles Hamilton, Amy Snow, Stephen Clark, Olivia Ramsey, Tim Long, Kevin Petty, Damon Grube, Bo Railey, Jeff Unruh, Dan Skinner, Steven Isaac Work, Amy Duchemin Work, David Work, Patrick W. Albrecht, Luanna Duchemin Albrecht, Polly Robledo and I’m sorry but Facebook won’t let me tag anymore people, but THANK YOU!

FINALLY – Because I’ve been asked this a ton over the past year – here are some basics for those of you who are just getting started:

  • Go to the doctor. If you don’t have one, find one. You need to be medically supervised during any weight loss program. Make sure you have all things checked out so you can monitor progress.
  • If possible, use some meds. I take several pills for many different “ills”, including but not limited to: Metformin, Wellbutrin, Adderall, Losartan, Invokana and some multi-vitamin pills. That’s a lot! But it’s working.
  • Walk, walk, walk. Don’t park closest to the building – park farthest from the building. Take the stairs. Find any excuse you can to get moving. Get some good shoes. Track your progress with a fitness tracker. Aerobic exercise is best – whether it be walking, swimming, biking, etc. Something that will make you sweat. Save the weight training for later, especially if you have a lot to lose. Focus on getting to a good weight first, then focus on toning.
  • Drink tons of water. Don’t drink pop at all if you can, but even if you do, do it in very small doses. Continually drink water all day if possible. This is very important as it helps flush out your system. Cut out sugary drinks and artificial sweeteners that have aspartame or other harmful chemicals in them. Cut back on alcohol, especially craft beers, which can be very high in calories. If you can cut it out completely, that is best – if not, drink in moderation and be very selective when you do have a drink.
  • Eat right. Pay attention to what you’re eating. Cut down on carbs and sugars. Look up nutritional value for everything you eat. Branch out and try new things. Have lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and other healthy snacks available to eat between meals if you are starving. Don’t binge. If you mess up, don’t sweat it. Pick it up the next meal. Avoid fried foods.
  • Eat appropriate portions. Just because something is put on your plate doesn’t mean you have to eat it all. Take a doggie bag home. Split a meal with someone or split it up front and tell yourself that you’re only going to have half of the meal. The portion sizes for today’s restaurants are HUGE and way too big for one person to eat in one sitting.
  • Slow down when eating. Don’t inhale your food. It takes 20 minutes for your food to reach your stomach and your brain to start realizing that you’re getting food. Try to look up from your plate and have conversation with others at the table.
  • Don’t eat after 7pm. If you need to snack because you’re starving, eat something simple like an apple or some nuts.
  • Don’t put food on the table. I know that sounds weird, but if you have food sitting on the table, you’re more likely to have 2 or 3 portions instead of one. Make a plate – don’t stack it – with simple portions and leave it at that. Same goes for buffets – avoid them if possible; but if you do go, get one plate – and not a heaping one at that!
  • Get good sleep. Research shows that people can’t lose weight effectively without good sleep.
  • Be accountable to friends. This past year has shown me how important having a good friend network is. You CANNOT do this alone. Surround yourself with people who care about you and will help care for you and encourage you. Don’t hang around people who are a bad influence – who are always encouraging you to “cheat”.

That’s it for now. Again, thanks for reading this and thank you to those who have been part of my journey. I look forward to another monumental year with you all!

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Thank You for Coming to See “Another Mulligan”!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over two months since I did a blog post. I’ve been busy! First off, I’d like to thank everyone who came to see Another Mulligan. We did the show for IndyFringe during a 10-day period in late August. I think we were all pretty exhausted after doing the show. I took the month of September to recover and start a new writing project, which I’ll share about later in this post. Secondly, Thanks to the wonderful cast and crew – you all are AMAZING! Thanks to everyone who made the trek downtown (and those who couldn’t make it, and those who made the trek during the one night it was canceled due to a storm). Here’s some stats regarding the play:

  • We raised $3,550 for the Grace Care Center! The Grace Care Center takes care of people in need in Hamilton County by providing a free food pantry, ESL classes, financial guidance, car assistance and so much more. I can’t say enough about how much good this organization is doing for the community – and, they’re expanding to be much larger very soon. So, I’m happy to be able to donate this money to a good cause.
  • We sold out all but one show. How cool is that?
  • One show was canceled due to a power outage. While that was a bummer, we did get to hang out with some folks who came down for the show. We looked at doing a makeup date, but couldn’t make it work with all the cast/crew. For those that missed it, I have put the show up on YouTube. More on that later in this post.
  • We received great reviews and feedback from the show. IndyFringe is mostly an adults-only event, as a lot of the shows are pretty racy in places. Ours was one of the few that kids could come to and enjoy. IndyFringe gave us a great review and said they look forward to us coming back next year!
  • We were the top selling show in our venue (The Firehouse Theater). We’re going to try to get a larger venue next year.
  • We were the 8th best-selling show overall, out of over 70 shows. Wow!
Image may contain: 13 people, including Becca Bartley, Tim Moore, Steve Drye, Nikki Lynch, Lloyd Work, Kate Carpenter, Rick Drumm, Lauren Boughner and Dixie Oberlin, people smiling, people standing
The cast of Another Mulligan. Bottom row: Becca Bartley (Director), Steve Drye (Dave), Molly Mohr (Susan), Nikki Lynch (Denise), Lloyd Work (Co-Writer), Rick Drumm (Co-Writer), Lauren Boughner (Kaylee). Top row: Tim Moore (Joe), Josh Gibson (Troy), Greg Showalter (Jim), Kate Carpenter (Cassie), David Nidifer (Chuck), Lori Lavelle (Gabby), Dixie Oberlin (Sally)

Watch “Another Mulligan” Online!

Zach Rosing from Zach Rosing Productions did a fantastic job recording the show! The cast received copies of DVDs. If you’d like one, please PM me. Instead of paying me, I’d ask you to give a small donation to the Grace Care Center in the form of money or non-perishable items.

When I first received the DVDs, I tried to upload the recording to YouTube and quickly found out that there were copyright issues with some of our transition music (which was hilarious, by the way). So, the version that I wound up with on YouTube is a cut-down version without the musical interludes. Also, I’m by no means a person who does professional videos, so what you will see on YouTube is pretty much the raw footage all spliced together with no fancy intro or credits.

You can view the entire production on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/HCHKUQd6tPo. Feel free to watch it and share it! And, let me know what you think of the show 🙂

Also – someone forgot to bring the programs opening night. That person would be me. Duh. For those interested, I’ve uploaded the program here and the bios for cast members here.

What’s Next?

I’m excited to announce my next play, entitled 12 Days.

Jennifer Hatfield-McCoy has reluctantly agreed to host Christmas dinner for her family and her in-law’s family under one condition: everyone must leave after 3 hours. It’s not that she doesn’t love her family or her in-laws; it’s just that they pose a direct threat to her sanity and sobriety. They say families are like fudge; mostly sweet with some nuts. What starts out as a sweet gesture turns into a nutty adventure when the storm of the century takes a southern turn, leaving these two families that have been feuding for eons stuck together for 12 days with no electricity, no electronics, and nowhere to hide.

Sounds like your worst nightmare, right? Well if laughter is the best medicine, I look forward to providing some healing for you in time for next Christmas!

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Tickets Now Available for “Another Mulligan”

Tickets are on Sale NOW!

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been working on a play called Another Mulligan and tickets just went on sale today. Here is the link to buy the tickets:

http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/another-mulligan

A Play? When is it?

The dates/times for the play are as follows:

  • Friday, Aug. 16 6:00 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Aug. 18 7:30 p.m. 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 20 9:00 p.m. 
  • Thursday, Aug. 22 7:30 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Aug. 24 4:30 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Aug. 25 3:00 p.m.

All shows will start and end within an hour. I’m excited for you all to see it! Details regarding the venue and prices are on the link above. 100% of the proceeds from this play will go to the Grace Care Center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUa07Iol59k. The Grace Care Center provides free food and services including ESL classes, car repairs, car gifting, legal help and more to families in Hamilton County, Indiana. 100% free, 100% no strings attached.

Who is in it?

The final cast is:

  • Chuck – David Nidiffer
  • Denise – Nikki Lynch
  • Gabriella – Lori Lavalle
  • Kaylee – Lauren Boughner
  • Cassie – Kate Carpenter
  • Sally – Dixie Oberlin
  • Jim – Greg Showalter
  • Dave – Steve Drye
  • Susan – Molly Mohr
  • Troy – Josh Gibson
  • Joe – Tim Moore
  • Director – Becca Bartley
  • Writers – Lloyd Work, Rick Drumm, Wes Mathias

You’ll notice that I’m not actually in the play. This is by design as well. I want to be freed up to keep writing, so I purposely have left myself out of the day-to-day rehearsals etc. I’m not worried at all – these actors and actresses and director are top notch and very experienced. I can’t wait for you all to see it!

What is “Another Mulligan”?

It’s a story about second chances in life. What if life had do-overs? Would you do things differently? If you could magically wave a wand and erase a bad event from your life, would you? This is a comedy and based on our first reading, it’s going to hopefully get a lot of laughs. Running time should be around 45 minutes.

What Type of Play Is It?

It’s a comedy. Shocking, I know, right? It’s suitable for adults and kids and there are no language / situation issues. Younger kids might get bored, though. I’d recommend it for teens on up.

What’s The Story Behind The Play?

Rick Drumm, Wes Matthias and I actually first met and discussed this story back in 2013. Rick and I had written a play called An American Christmas that was produced in 2004, and we had always wanted to do that again. Alas, life happened and we didn’t get around to it for almost a decade. We finished the original script – initially called “Another Christmas Mulligan” in 2015. At 61 pages, it was set for a length of 75 minutes or so. Last year, the acting troupe I’m part of produced a play for IndyFringe called Go Be Joan. This was written by Nate Adams, another member of our acting troupe. For those that missed last year’s show, you can still see it this year as it’s being produced here locally July 18-28. For more info, see this page: https://www.facebook.com/fatturtletheatre/

When it came time to figure out what to do for IndyFringe this year, I suggested we consider doing Another Mulligan and everyone agreed that was a good idea. The problem was the length – Fringe shows needed to be less than an hour. So, I went to work chopping and editing and got it down to 35 pages of script (down from 61). I think the result is going to be great and I’ve gotten feedback from other actors in the show that it feels much more tight than the original. There were a lot of laughs at the first read-through and I hope you can all enjoy a night of laughter when you come to see the show.

Another interesting tidbit about this show is that most of the situations presented in the play are based on real-life situations. We took things that had happened to us – or those close to us – and adapted those into scenes. The result is pure hilarity. Also – about the artwork. I created it using a program called Canva. It’s quick and easy and I really enjoy working with it. I took the picture at a golf course on Father’s Day. While the play isn’t about golf, it does use the “mulligan” theme all throughout it… so, I decided that it was best to have a golf backdrop.

What Should I Do Next?

BUY TICKETS! It’s a fun show and you’ll be supporting a good cause. And, stay afterward because I’m pretty sure the cast will go out to a local watering hole after each performance 🙂

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Coming Out (As An Ally)

I bet the title of this blog post got your attention… didn’t it? Well, let’s start things off by dispelling any rumors. I’m not gay. I am, however, coming out as an ally.

What is an Ally?

An ally, also known as a straight ally or heterosexual ally, is a person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBTQ+ social movements, and challenges all sorts of phobias related to the gay community.

Why is this News?

Many of you who know me well know my stance on gay rights. I support them 100% and have for a while now. So, why is this news? Well, frankly, many of you don’t know this about me. Perhaps you don’t know that I’ve marched in Pride parades. Maybe you don’t know that I was co-chairperson of a Pride group at my last company. Maybe you don’t know that I have many gay friends and even gay family members. Perhaps my Facebook profile picture gave a clue to this? 🙂

Obligatory “I’m on top of a mountain!” Selfie – Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Why Now?

First, a little history: I’ve been involved in leadership positions in various ministries for the past 20+ years. In some of these positions, I’ve been asked to be “like Switzerland” – that is, take a neutral stance and not take sides. This has been ok for a long time, but frankly, it’s been a huge struggle internally for me. It seems like I’ve had a balance of friends who are on the left and the right and both can’t seem to get along, no matter what the topic.

Long story short, I can no longer be Switzerland. I can’t stay silent. In fact, I can’t be passive about this anymore. There is a war on gay rights – and human rights in general – in America right now, and our gay friends need us to speak up. They need us to take sides. They need us to leave Switzerland behind. So, I’m doing just that.

Taking Sides

No matter what the issue is, people tend to forget what is at the center of virtually every issue that divides us these days: people. When you get down to it, nothing matters more than people. When choosing a side, I don’t see left or right, I see a person. Behind all the political propaganda is a person, and that person is usually struggling and/or hurting. The last thing they need is to be ostracized from one more thing. They need love. Pure and simple. They need someone to listen to them, to come along side them, to be their friend and be their ally.

I have known a lot of LGBTQ+ people for a long time and let me just say, it has been ugly. Not them, but the way they’ve been treated. The way they’ve been run out of churches and other organizations. The way they’ve been made to feel horrible for the way they are. It just isn’t fair. I don’t remember ever choosing to be a heterosexual, so why is there all this hate and prejudice against people in the LGBTQ+ community? The last thing that community needs is another bigot or Bible-thumper in their lives. They’ve had plenty of that, and that hasn’t done one bit of good. In fact, it’s done horrible damage.

Suicide Rates

Research has found that attempted suicide rates and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ+ people – and youth especially – is significantly higher than the general population. This is so sad to me. I have never been in this situation personally, but I imagine that people who are cutoff from their family/friends, or who are experiencing homophobic reactions from people, etc find themselves backed in a corner where they are waging a war between who they are versus who everyone else wants them to be. And it needs to stop.

I had the opportunity last year while serving in the Pride group at NextGear Capital to hear directly from credible sources as to what’s going on in the community. First, Julie Walsh from Gender Nexus came and spoke to us about the kinds of things that LGBTQ+ people have to deal with – and it’s a lot. Then, a group of us visited the Indiana Youth Group headquarters and got to see first-hand what many of our youth in Indy are dealing with. It is a sad state to be in when so many people are hurting. To see it first-hand is heartbreaking. These kids, in many cases, have been kicked out of their homes and are homeless – with nowhere else to go. They are confused. They are hurt. They are hungry, tired, alone. They need love.

Fortunately, the wonderful staff and volunteers from these organizations – and many others – are making an impact. I have seen first-hand what kind of resources are given to these kids and it gives me hope for a better future for the people in this situation. The web sites for these organizations also have many links to good resources such as education, suicide prevention hotlines, parental guides, health care resources and more.

Here is a picture of the NextGear Capital group at the 2018 Pride Parade in Indy:

It was very hot and we were at the end of the parade, but it was so worth it!

But… The Bible Says…

The Bible says a lot. Believe me, I’ve had it quoted to me many times when I’ve “come out” in support of gay rights. If you want to use your Bible to support your homophobic views, then fine. I won’t stop you. Just don’t try to stop me… because my Bible also says to love God and love others, and that’s what I’m going to do. If I’m at the pearly gates someday and someone tells me I did wrong by doing that, then, well, let’s just say I may not want to enter through those gates. Because that sounds wrong to me.

Jesus was a friend to the poor and the marginalized. If I want to be like Jesus, I need to be the same. I can’t sit back and be a spectator anymore – if I am to have an impact with this community, I need to be up close and personal. For me, that means welcoming people in my life from all walks and all backgrounds and all people in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, I am richer for having known so many diverse people in my life, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be their friends.

Speaking of the Bible

Many of you know that I recently changed jobs. I left my IT Management career so I could work from home and spend more time writing. I started my “new” life on March 11th and I have to tell you, I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories lately and I’m just now getting around to talking to some agents about possible publication of these stories. One of these stories is called “Two Questions” and it tackles the tough topic at the intersection of Christianity and LGBTQ+ issues.

In the story, Matt Barnes is a 19-year old gay man who is given a second chance by parents: Pastor Mike Barnes and his wife Mabel. If he agrees to go back to therapy, they will reinstate his college funding that they took away when he came out. Enter Jesus. Not the real Jesus, but Jon, the young man playing Jesus in the church’s Easter play. While Pastor Mike wants Jon to leave the conversation, Matt welcomes his presence because he says the situation “could use a little Jesus”. Jon – as Jesus – chimes into the conversation periodically to give his two cents but what really changes the course is when Jon asks Matt and his parents to answer two questions: what do you want everyone to know, and what do you want no one to know? The answers from each person in the room changes the course of several lives and reunites a prodigal son with his parents and family.

The cover of my short story, “Two Questions”. Click the picture to download the story in PDF format.

Two Questions

The story behind the story is quite interesting. In 2003, I was in a play called You Can’t Take It With You and our director, Kate Ayres, asked the two questions that I ask in the story. This had a profound impact on the entire cast. Of course, we were all ready and willing to share “what we want everyone to know” with anyone. Go ahead, shout it from the rooftops. That was easy. When she asked the second question – what is the one thing we’d like no one to know – well, wow. I’ve never seen a cast so serious. One by one, we shared that one thing that we’ve kept inside us for so long. The results were amazing. We bonded immediately in that cast, and I got something off my chest that I had kept hidden for 25 years. And no, I’m not sharing that with you here. 😊

The idea for this story first came to me in 2018 when I was serving in the Pride group at NextGear Capital. For the first anniversary of the pride group, we did a video and had people tell their personal stories about coming out. Wow. Impactful. I cried. Ok, I cry all the time, but hey, I’m an emotional guy. In hearing some of these stories, I thought how hard it would be if someone was gay and that was being held over their head – especially if the thing being held back was a college fund – and even hard given the fact that the person showing the conditional love is the pastor himself. This came to me around Easter time, and I thought – wow, what if there was a Jesus character in the room. And, what if the Jesus character had just gone through the “two questions” exercise and then applied it to the young gay man and his estranged parents.

And the result is a short story called “Two Questions”. This is part of a larger collection I’m working on called “Bedtime Stories”. This is a collection of stories – much like “Two Questions” – that I hope will make you think and perhaps act differently. They are short stories that can be consumed in a small amount of time – like a short read when getting ready for bed – or at lunchtime or whenever.

You can download the story in PDF form from here. As the copyright says on the second page, please don’t go copying and pasting this everywhere. I don’t mind you sharing it – but please share this blog post along with it, and hopefully that in turn will drive some good conversation.

Where to From Here?

Are you someone in the LGBTQ+ community? If so, I’d love a hug. Hell, I don’t care who you are, I’d love a hug no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation 😊. If you have enjoyed this post, please share it. I’d love to hear your comments on it. Do you know people in this community? Love on them. Include them. Listen to them. Be their friend and their ally. They really, really, really need it.

If you are someone who is struggling with your identity, I sincerely hope you will get help. There are good resources listed on the IYG resource page here: http://www.indianayouthgroup.org/suicide-prevention-resources and the Gender Nexus page here: http://gendernexus.org/resources/

Closing Thoughts

No matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum regarding this topic, there are three things I’d like you to remember:

  • There is nothing more important than people
  • Showing love and grace to people costs nothing
  • In today’s divisive society, people need love now more than ever

So, my ask of you is this: if you’ve found yourself being homophobic, you might educate yourself on the LGBTQ+ community. Reach out and meet someone who is not like you. You might be surprised at how much we have in common as opposed to how much different we are. If you’ve come out, congratulations – I’m proud of you and your bravery. If you’re having feelings towards coming out and haven’t yet, I hope this post and the included story gives you encouragement to be honest with yourself and with those around you. And finally, if you’re reading this and you’re a heterosexual, perhaps it’s time for you to also stop being Switzerland and start being an ally! Join me and let’s love on some people who really need it 🙂

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Where’s Lloyd?

Hi. I’m Lloyd. Remember me? Today marks exactly one month since my last blog post. This was not by accident; it was by design. I purposely have backed off this past month to finish some writing projects. I’m attending the Midwest Writers Workshop in July and I’ve got some book proposals that are due July 1st. So, I’ve been hunkered down in my office and other creative spaces, working on putting the final touches of these two proposals. The two book proposals I’m working are:

  • Bedtime Stories: This is a collection of short stories that are meant for consumption in a small amount of time. I’m thinking that for those of you who would like to read a short story before bed, these would be perfect. They are all 10-15 pages in length and cover a variety of topics. My desire is that these stories will provoke you to think differently and ultimately respond differently to certain situations. Some of these stories are sensitive in nature and yes, some have some explicit language. In these stories I want to be true to the characters and the situations and as such, I don’t want to water anything down. I want the emotions and reactions to be raw. And, of course, I always have loved stories/movies that have a surprise ending. So, be looking for that. I’ll be putting out a blog post this Sunday with a preview of one of those stories.
     
  • The Steeplewood Chase: This is a novel that takes place in a retirement home named Steeplewood. Jack and Mary Steeplewood have been longtime residents of the retirement home that bears their name. When Mary passes away, Jack is left as the most eligible bachelor in Steeplewood, surrounded by dozens of women lusting over this former Marlboro Man who still has many years left in him. One-by-one, these seemingly nice widows sabotage each other’s efforts to get to Jack and become the next Mrs. Steeplewood. Think of this as “The Bachelor, Senior Edition”. Who will gain Jack’s affection? Who will become the next Mrs. Steeplewood? In the end, of course, there is a twist.

Another Mulligan

In addition to these, I have a play that’s being produced for the IndyFringe festival in August. The cast is set, the dates/times are set, and we had our first read-through with the cast this past week. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this come to the stage! The play is called Another Mulligan, and it’s a story about second chances in life. What if life had do-overs? Would you do things differently? If you could magically wave a wand and erase a bad event from your life, would you? This is a comedy and based on our first reading, it’s going to hopefully get a lot of laughs. Running time should be around 45 minutes. Specific location details and tickets sale details are forthcoming and I’ll share those as soon as I can. Here is the artwork that is going into the IndyFringe program:

The dates/times for the play are as follows:

  • Friday, Aug. 16 6:00 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Aug. 18 7:30 p.m. 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 20 9:00 p.m. 
  • Thursday, Aug. 22 7:30 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Aug. 24 4:30 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Aug. 25 3:00 p.m.

All shows will start and end within an hour. I’m excited for you all to see it! The final cast is:

  • Chuck – David Nidiffer
  • Denise – Nikki Lynch
  • Gabriella – Lori Lavalle
  • Kaylee – Lauren Boughner
  • Cassie – Kate Carpenter
  • Sally – Dixie Oberlin
  • Jim – Greg Showalter
  • Dave – Steve Drye
  • Susan – Molly Mohr
  • Troy – Josh Gibson
  • Joe – Tim Moore
  • Director – Becca Bartley
  • Writers – Lloyd Work, Rick Drumm, Wes Mathias

You’ll notice that I’m not actually in the play. This is by design as well. I want to be freed up to keep writing, so I purposely have left myself out of the day-to-day rehearsals etc. I’m not worried at all – these actors and actresses and director are top notch and very experienced. I can’t wait for you all to see it!

A Little History of Another Mulligan

Rick, Wes and I actually first met and discussed this story back in 2013. Rick and I had written a play called An American Christmas that was produced in 2004, and we had always wanted to do that again. Alas, life happened and we didn’t get around to it for almost a decade. We finished the original script – initially called “Another Christmas Mulligan” in 2015. At 61 pages, it was set for a length of 75 minutes or so. Last year, the acting troupe I’m part of produced a play for IndyFringe called Go Be Joan. This was written by Nate Adams, another member of our acting troupe. For those that missed last year’s show, you can still see it this year as it’s being produced here locally July 18-28. For more info, see this page: https://www.facebook.com/fatturtletheatre/

When it came time to figure out what to do for IndyFringe this year, I suggested we consider doing Another Mulligan and everyone agreed that was a good idea. The problem was the length – Fringe shows needed to be less than an hour. So, I went to work chopping and editing and got it down to 35 pages of script (down from 61). I think the result is going to be great and I’ve gotten feedback from other actors in the show that it feels much more tight than the original. There were a lot of laughs at the first read-through and I hope you can all enjoy a night of laughter when you come to see the show.

Another interesting tidbit about this show is that most of the situations presented in the play are based on real-life situations. We took things that had happened to us – or those close to us – and adapted those into scenes. The result is pure hilarity. Also – about the artwork. I created it using a program called Canva. It’s quick and easy and I really enjoy working with it. I took the picture at a golf course on Father’s Day. While the play isn’t about golf, it does use the “mulligan” theme all throughout it… so, I decided that it was best to have a golf backdrop.

Get Ready – Here Comes A Podcast

I’m working on a podcast! My friend Roger Shuman and I are getting together this weekend to record our first podcast. Roger and I have been friends for many years and we share the same strange brain and we have the same quirky sense of humor. The podcast we’re doing is called The First Five. In the podcast, we’re going to review the first five minutes of movies. Why only the first five minutes? Well, we’re older now and we can’t stay away for an entire movie. And, we can’t hardly go five minutes without having to empty our bladders. So, we’re going to be watching the first five minutes of movies and giving our take on what we see. Sound ridiculous? Absolutely. I can’t wait for you to hear the result!

So – What’s Next?

I’m going to take the evening off and go to a concert. I haven’t been doing that lately and to my concert buddies – I miss you too. I will resume my regular schedule once the book proposals are delivered on 7/1. I’m also planning on publishing my next blog post on Sunday evening. I’ve been working on it and I can’t wait for you to read it and read the story I will have attached to it. The blog post will be focused on the end of PRIDE month and will tackle some issues related to that. In fact, this will be the first of what will be many posts that will tackle interesting topics that are very contested in today’s political arena. I look forward to having civil discussion about these topics and hopefully bring us together with a better understanding of each other instead of splitting us further apart. Today’s political climate is so divisive, it drives me nuts. I hope some of my posts – like my short stories – will make you think deeper about the human elements behind the issues that divide us. When you get down to it, we’re more similar than we are different. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

I hope to see you all soon!

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My Strange Hobby

I have a strange hobby. I guess I’ve always been interested in abandoned things – bridges, railways, roadways, vehicles, etc. Within recent years I’ve taken up a hobby that I call “Bridge Hunting”.

This is a bypassed pony truss bridge over Fall Creek on CR 600 South near New Columbus, Indiana.
http://bridgehunter.com/in/madison/fall-creek-600s/

About Bridge Hunting

Everywhere you go, you see – and most likely travel over/under – bridges. Many of these are new or have been constructed within the past 50 years or so – and those are great – but the ones I’m interested in are the ones that are abandoned. The ones that have been retired. The ones that have been forgotten about.

Each bridge tells a story. Each one was once used to various degrees. Some were used for foot traffic, some carried horses and carriages, some carried other vehicles, and some carried trains. They come in all shapes and sizes, and no two bridges are exactly alike – if for no other reason that they are each located in a unique location that carried unique passengers to their destinations.

The art of “bridge hunting” is essentially about finding and photographing these rare finds before they are “lost”. “Lost” is the term used for bridges that have been either washed away by a natural event, or torn down, or replaced.

Essentially, the “hunt” begins by doing research on a potentially abandoned bridge. I do my research via various web sites, but what I love to do most is find these bridges via Google Earth. You can typically locate these by following abandoned railways (easy to spot on Google Earth if you zoom out enough). Just follow the railway until it reaches some water – there you’ll find a bridge. Or, conversely, you can follow the water paths until you find a bridge.

This page is devoted to the pictures I personally take of these bridges. There are other sites such as http://bridgehunter.com/ that are great for people like me who like to “hunt” for bridges.

This is an abandoned railroad bridge over Hoppas Ditch between Gaston and Fairmount, Indiana. Note: This bridge is not yet listed on bridgehunter.com.

The word “hunt” is a bit of a misnomer, as nothing is harmed during this process. On the contrary, as is with all public parks, the goal is to “take only pictures and leave only footprints”. I am very careful to not disturb the state of the bridge or its surroundings, and I also pay close attention to make sure I don’t trespass or violate people’s privacy.

The Anatomy of a Bridge Hunt

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my “bridge hunting” hobby. A lot of people have wondered how I find these bridges. Well, these are the top ways:

  1. A bridge hunting web site. My favorite is this: http://bridgehunter.com. It has thousands of bridges throughout the U.S. that are listed and categorized. Some are still standing, some are not (called “lost” bridges), some are abandoned or derelict. Some have pictures, some don’t. Some have map coordinates, some don’t. This is probably the easiest way to find a cool bridge.
  2. Google Maps. Using Google Maps in conjunction with the satellite view, street view, and Google Earth, you can easily spot bridges. One way is to follow a river, ditch, stream, etc. Inevitably you’ll find a bridge. Another way is to follow the roads – both regular roads and rail roads – and inevitably you’ll find a bridge. One of my favorite ways is to find abandoned railways. These almost always have the coolest of abandoned bridges.
  3. Drive by’s. I’ve happened upon some pretty cool bridges just by driving by them. Or, driving by a road/path/rail crossing where you know there must be a bridge somewhere. Recently I happened to look off a road I was traveling on and saw a “Bridge Closed” sign. Boom. Had to go there 🙂
  4. Word of mouth. Sometimes people will tell me about bridges they’ve seen that are cool.

Let’s take a look at the first way: a bridge hunting site. For this example, we’ll use a bridge that I’ll be going to visit in Michigan in a few weeks (weather permitting, of course). Here is a page from bridgehunter.com that shows some information on a bridge that was built in 1930 and is now abandoned:

Notice that there are no pictures, and no map. Perfect. That means that this is a hidden gem waiting to be found. The page describes the bridge and the location, so bringing up Google Maps gives us an idea of where it is. Notice the following picture. I’ve bookmarked the road that leads to the bridge. My Google Maps is full of thousands of bookmarks like this. Here is a zoomed-out view of the map:

Notice how James Road goes south, just below my bookmark. You can see where James Road used to go over Stoney Creek and attach to South Stoney Creek Road. The map shows Boes Drain too. Can you see the bridge? Well… from this far away, it’s hard. Let’s zoom in:

Look at the above picture. Look to the right of the words Boes Drain. There’s the bridge. You can recognize the concrete man-made structure as it stands out from the trees around it. It also looks like it has a fair bit of greenery on top of it. I can’t wait to take close-up pictures 🙂

Now let’s take another way to find a bridge: Google Maps. Notice the picture below. This is a map of I-69 near Anderson, Indiana:

Notice the diagonal line with the bookmark on it. This is where I found a bridge. The diagonal line is an abandoned railway system and they are easy to spot on Google Maps. Railways used to be the primary way to go from city to city, so it’s easy to use a tool like Google Maps to find these – they stick out because they’re usually straight lines surrounded by a thin layer of trees. Zooming into the map, you can see the topography a little better:

Notice on the left where it says “Sly Fork”. That’s the small stream that the water goes over. To the right, you see I-69. Then you see S 450 E, where I parked my car to enter the railway system. The railway must have still been in operation when I-69 was built, as they built a bridge over the railway. So, after parking my car, I went under I-69 and proceeded towards the bridge. Here’s a closeup from Google Maps:

This particular bridge was the hardest one I have ever tried to get to. This is because it was a ways away from the entry point (I-69), and the rail system was completely covered in thick, heavy brush… with a ton of downed trees in the way. So, it took almost an hour to get to the bridge. But it was worth it. Here is a picture of what I saw once I got there:

Is that awesome or what?

What’s Next?

I’m still figuring out WordPress, and I’ve got a lot of other things to do this year ahead of many more bridge hunts. However, I will promise to set up a WordPress gallery and start to post some of my bridge pictures I’ve collected over the years. Depending on how much time I have this summer/fall, I may go do some more bridge hunts. Let me know if you’d like to join me!

So… what strange hobbies do you have?

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Don’t Have A Cow, Man

Growing up half Canadian, I spent a lot of summers on my grandparent’s farm in Amherstburg, Ontario. My grandpa (Pipi, as we called him – the French slang word for “Grandfather”) raised cows, among other things. As a young lad, I used to spend a lot of time out on the farm, helping feed the animals and frequently playing in the fields where they grazed. Sometimes, I’d taunt the cows by running past them and making rude flatulent noises while sticking out my tongue. On more daring days, I would fling various projectiles through the air, attempting to start a ground war. It was these kinds of moments that shaped the life of this lively 6 year old explorer.

One day, while out taunting the cows, I had an idea: rather than exit the pasture via the usual way (by climbing over the wooden fence), I decided to see if I could fit through the fence. After all, I was quite small and skinny back then, and using my eyes to judge the distance between the wooden planks, I figured I could make it out ok before one of the cows came after me in vengeance. Note that I now wear glasses, and from this day onward no longer relied on my eyesight to judge any distance, near of far. You’ll soon find out why.

As I slipped through the fence, feet first, then legs, then torso, then body, it became apparent to me that I had a larger than normal head. This was in an apparent attempt to make up for my smaller than normal brain which was often used for such important daily activities as throwing rocks, poop, and random fallen fruit at the wildlife in and around the farm. It was at this moment that I realized that while 90% of my body could fit easily through the planks, my head could not, at least not without a little work. So, I turned my head sideways, thinking of course that I could slip through the fence that way. It didn’t work.

While most people’s heads are oblong, mine seemed to be a perfect sphere, if not in appearance, then certainly in shape. Realize, of course, that this was at 6 years old, long before my wrestling days when my head was warped into its current oblong shape by generous wrestling partners who were much larger than I, often using my head as a butt rest while waiting for the ref to blow his whistle. Astute friends of mine have probably noticed the permanently etched “Everlast” scar on my right temple. But that’s another story… I digress…

Once I had figured out that I could not in fact escape the taunted herd in this manner, the obvious choice was to get back out of the fence the way I got in and then do the regular climb-over method which had worked hundreds of times before. It was at this moment that I discovered that there were in fact several large very mad cows all about me, and they weren’t really thrilled with my attempt to “entertain” them. In fact, they seemed a bit ticked off for some unknown reason. However, they seemed somewhat amused at the predicament I was in. Panicking, I attempted one last time to rip my head through the gate. There simply wasn’t enough time to back out of my plan – Elsie and her posse were now too close and she was carrying one heck of a chip on her shoulder (not to mention the plethora of larger, more odorous chips surrounding her).

Rather than avenge for past atrocities against cowkind, Elsie & Co chose instead to take advantage of my predicament for the simple pleasure of a mid-afternoon salt lick buffet. Yes, it seems that the human head, for all its uses, can be quite a source of salt and water for a bunch of rabid, thirsty, and mad cows. Of course, at the tender age of 6, I did not know that the cows were not interested in eating me as much as they were interested in using me as a giant sucker (pun intended). So, I screamed as one-by-one, each mad cow took their turn licking my big dumb head. All the while, I continued to attempt to break my head free from the fence, figuring that sooner or later either my head or the fence would give. Fortunately, after what seemed like an eternity, I broke through the fence and I was free.

It was at this moment that I vowed never to throw rocks, poop or fruit at any of the cows again. Or, if I did, at least I wouldn’t be so stupid as to attempt an escape through a fence. Duh – how dumb can one be? I mean, it takes a certain level of intelligence to spend ones time throwing rocks, poop and rotten apples, but to climb through fences – well, that’s just plain stupid. So, I walked back to the farmhouse and went into the bathroom to clean up. I chalked that whole experience up to another important life lesson regarding wildlife, similar to the one I learned the year before when I attempted to send my sister’s hamster into outer space. But that’s another story… I digress…

This whole experience would be but a memory in my mind today if it weren’t for my grandma. You see, that night, she gave me a bath and was quite concerned over the dozens of huge scratch marks and gashes that surrounded my neck area. I told her I just had a bunch of itches and scratches that day, but for some oddball reason she didn’t believe me. I finally told her the whole humiliating story, and she laughed. Then she told Pipi, and he laughed. Then she called my mom, and she laughed. Each holiday and Christmas after, for the past 47 years, this story has been recounted over and over at each family gathering.

The story is very funny now, but back then it was not so funny. I developed moo-phobia, which is a fear of cows. For years, I would not get near the cows. I would walk around the pasture to avoid them. I’d feed them from a distance, throwing feed into their bins instead of getting close and dumping them in. Once, a cow got loose and I saw it out of the living room window. I fainted. To this day, I don’t drink milk, I don’t have any close friends that are cows, and I find it somewhat therapeutic every time I drive a knife into a steak.

In a somewhat ironic twist, I also now find myself working in the dairy industry. When I “downsized” my career a few months back, I took on a programming job from Valley Ag Software (www.vas.com). They write software for the dairy industry. So now, my life is full of analytic data and programs to monitor the health and well-being of cows. It’s udderly hilarious, I know. Life mooves in mysterious ways.

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