I took these pictures on February 9, 2012, in Clermont County, Ohio.
I was heading home, about an hour drive west, after spending the afternoon with a child I mentored through a volunteer program I was involved with at the time.
I remember being nervous as I parked my car along the narrow shoulder of the two-lane state road. Cars would regularly blow past me, crossing the double yellow line going 80 to 100 miles per hour while driving, much less sitting still on this low traffic stretch of rural state highway.
Hours earlier, I had noted the decaying farmhouse and barn that sat on what appeared to be abandoned property on my way to my mentoring commitment.
What really caught my eye though was the moss covered rock perched on the weathered fence post nearby. Someone intentionally put it there.
My Canon EOS Digital Rebel camera was tucked behind the driver seat of my gold 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, so, I knew I needed to stop and explore the property on my return trip.
It is hard to believe seven years have gone by since I took these pictures. My mentorship ended a few months later in 2012.
I have not returned to that part of Clermont County since.
I work next to a castle. Kids dig it. So do photo-taking tourists. Below is a then-and-now slide show followed by a little history on the “castle” located on Gilbert Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“The Elsinore Arch (sometimes called Elsinore Castle, or Elsinore Tower) is an impressive stone entrance to Eden Park, with steep stairs leading to the Cincinnati Museum of Art. It was designed by Charles B. Hannaford in 1883 as a result of the Kronborg Castle backdrop for Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ at Music Hall. It was not only intended as an impressive entrance, but also a means for the Cincinnati Water Works to extend the water main supply tunnel, which started at a reservoir in Eden Park. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.”
Looking back, here are eight things I’m grateful for in 2018.
I’ve been pretty shameless sharing with everyone how lucky I am to have started dating Tirza in 2018.
We briefly met once before she agreed to go on a date with me. I sent her a Facebook friend request after bumping into her at a running event in late November 2017.
I didn’t even know if she was single and it took me two months (and a couple of drinks) to muster up the nerve to ask her out.
She agreed to go on grab a slice with me on Friday, Feb. 9, National Pizza Day. She promptly text me the day after that first date asking if I wanted to grab a beer at a local brewery the following Monday. I’ve been pinching myself ever since.
2. New friends
I also met a great new group of running friends because of my relationship with Tirza. I experienced “Donna loops,” was invited into homes for post-run eats and drinks, and endured some gentle ribbing for training with a different marathon running group.
3. And friendships that endure
The new friends only added to the rather large cast of characters already in my life. I’ve known many of the people pictured above for years through running. We tell jokes and occasionally discuss the rough patches we each experience in our lives.
Outside of running, I also got to spend a weekend with an old college roommate in November. We visited a comic book convention, played D&D with his 8-year-old son and just fell back into the comfortable rhythm built on two decades of friendship.
4. Speaking of running …
Even though I felt burned out at times, I ended the year on an up note when it comes to running. I currently feel re-energized and ready to race in 2019.
Here are some stats from 2018:
I made some great memories with my mom, dad, sister, niece and nephew this year. Tirza even impressed my tight-knit group of weirdos with her eating habits and that one time she forgot to meet me at my house for my birthday dinner with them . We all wrapped up the year with great Christmas together.
6. Meeting a few famous people
I was given the opportunity to chair two panels at the Cincinnati Comic Expo in September. I met “Doctor Strange” actor Benedict Wong and Clark Gregg, the man who plays “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” Director Phil Colson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
7. Counting blessings
While saddened to learn of the passing of comic book creator and legend Stan Lee, I was also reminded how lucky I was to have met him in 2016. His passing also was the first of many that reminded me how important it is to appreciate the interactions I get to have with others. In more than a few instances, 2018 proved to be a sad year for those we lost.
8. Pushed out of my comfort zone
And finally, as uncomfortable a process as it has been, I am glad life still presents opportunities that push me out of my comfort zone. I don’t think that I’m the best in front of a camera but work this year has made me get over myself and become more confident in who I am.