Front squatting, cleaning, and pull-upping

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Ah, CrossFit908, my home away from home. Since my last visit, the box has tripled in size, and is now as big as CFD. The entire setup is ideal, with a large space for movable racks, rowers, and boxes, a pull-up bar that easily holds 25 or more, rings permanently attached to the ceiling, a climbing rope (!), and ample equipment — including Atlas balls. Best of all? Tim finally got a haircut. I’ll give his lovely wife, Erin, credit for that. 

The box is without power, so Tim had the doors open. This provided ample light, but it was cold! My hands quickly became numb. 

Back Squat

I warmed up, and then did 5 reps of 135 lb. Tim observed and suggested that I widen my stance, angle in my toes to about 10 or 15%, and focus on my knees going out over my toes as I descend. He noted that my knees tracked in on the descent, but that I corrected my form as I rose. Great advice as always, Tim. I then lifted 5 reps of 155, 3 reps of 165 and 175, and 1 rep of 185. The last lift felt heavy, and I was feeling somewhat unsure of myself. 

Me: Tim, should our last lift really be 100% of our one rep maximum?
Tim (without hesitation): Yes. 
Me: That’s 200 pounds. That’s more than I weigh. Is it okay of I fail?
Tim (again, without hesitation): Yes. 

I went forth and back and finally settled on NOT lifting my 1RM, but instead lifting 5 lb more, i.e., 205 lb. My last attempt at 205 was quite a colossal (I like that word) failure. 

I rolled the bar to the front of the rack, positioned my index and middle fingers under the bar, lifted my elbows and placed the bar on my “shelf”, squatted, and rose! Tim was yelling, “Come on, Paul, finish it!” (Or something like that.)

I placed the bar on the rack and said, “That’s a PR.” Tim shook my hand and congratulated me. What, no cowbell? Just moments later Erin also got a PR — lifting 205 lb as well! I’d like to think that I was her inspiration. 

Tim said, “But you didn’t fail.” 

Hang power cleans

Tim asked me how much weight I intended to lift for hang power cleans, and I said 105 or 115. He suggested that I go lighter, as this was to be a fast met-con with little rest. He said to all, “Choose a weight and a pull-up band that will allow you to complete the workout in les than 10 minutes. You should be able to complete 3 or 4 unbroken reps.” 

Erin backed the car up to the open door, opened the hatchback and car doors, and turned the car radio up as loud as it would go. Tim used his iPhone as a timer. 

I completed the round of 21 hang power cleans unbroken, and pull-ups in reps of 15 and 6. The pull-ups were more challenging than the hang power cleans, and this was due to the pull-up bar being so damn cold! I couldn’t feel my hands on the bar. I completed the rounds of 15 hang power cleans in reps of 5. I failed the 6th clean, being unable to jump and then get under the bar quickly enough. I, of course, didn’t count it. I thought, “This is a clear sign to do 5 at a time.” I struggled on the round of 15 pull-ups, stringing together as many as 6 and as few as 2.

The last round of 9 hang power cleans went much better. I had planned on doing in reps of 3, but felt strong and completed in reps of 4, 3, and 2. I completed pull-ups in reps of 5, 2, and 2. My forearms were aching, and my hands were frozen! 

I finished in 6:07, and Erin finished about a minute later. I said, “Congratulations, Erin, you’re the second place female!” She laughed, and I joined her. 

I might rest tomorrow. I’m not kidding. I might actually take off a day.

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Nick and Chad were the only two in attendance at this morning’s endurance WOD. I imagine that many thought we would be running outside in the cold, miserable rain, but we rowed instead. So, there! Nick and Chad completed the benchmark rowing WOD of rowing maximum distance in 30 minutes; truly a challenging workout, and one of my favorites. We had warmed up with jumping rope, and I could tell then that I was going to be in trouble later…

Dave led the 10am session, and the focus was on the… I’m not quite sure. Dave did have us practice single unders, sprints, and double unders, and we then completed a variety of kettle bell swings. My favorite activity was being beside Amy Scott. She makes me want to dance, so I did.

3 rounds for time:
60 double unders
40 Abmat sit-ups
20 pull-ups

This was pretty miserable, as I was unable to string together double unders. Ugh. I did complete all sit-ups unbroken as well as the first round of pull-ups. I completed the second round of pull-ups in reps of 12, 6, and 2, and the last rounds in reps of 16, 2, and 2. I did not, however, drop from the bar on the last round, and for that I’m proud.

My running shorts ran up my ass whilst completing sit-ups, but as I was stationed far away from the pull-up bar, I had plenty of time to pull them down before I did pull-ups. I do fear, however, that quite a few people got a look at my junk. You know who you are, so I won’t mention any names. You’re welcome.

I completed the met-con in 10:34. Unlike some people, I did not yell “Time!” at the top of my lungs. Because I’m not pompous, like some people I know.

I coached the 11am Community WOD, and there were 18 in attendance. Jeff commented that I’m drawing a “younger” crowd. Ha! Jeff requested pull-ups, and as there were so many in attendance we completed a partner WOD – that included pull-ups. We first focused on flexibility, specifically the hip flexors. We then reviewed proper form for squats, jumping air squats, pushups, Abmat sit-ups, kettle bell deadlifts, and pull-ups. I first had attendees make four lines, two for men and two for women, and observed each person do at least one pull-up or attempt a pull-up. Based upon their performance, I selected their partner, so that teammates could use the same band if needed. The WOD was a 16-minute AMRAP of 7 pushups, pull-ups, Abmat sit-ups, jumping air squats, and KB deadlifts, with partners alternating rounds.


Less lifting, more sleeping and/or shopping

Coach S. led today’s session, and the focus was on the clean. We first did a 5-minute “circle of pain”, and I had the pleasure of joining Paul K. and Meaghan, as the Big Boys enjoyed their own circle. (Notice I didn’t say “of pain”.) With 52 and 35 lb KBs, we took turns either running in place or completing 10 high pulls. All total, we probably each completed 50 or more high pulls with each of the KBs.

1-1-1-1 from position 1
1-1-1 from position 2
1-1-1 full cleans

From position 1, I successfully completed lifts of 75, 85, 95, and 105 lb. Coach S. observed form and suggested (repeatedly and justifiably) that I work on dropping under the bar more quickly and loosening my death grip.

From position 2, I successfully completed lifts of 115, 125, and 135. For whatever reason, I begin to get very anxious when I place 2, 45 lb plates on the ends of a 45 lb bar. I can have 2, 35 and 2, 10 lb plates on the ends of the bar and not feel apprehensive, but as soon as the 45s go on I begin to freak out. I nonetheless felt solid on the 135 lb lift. Coach S. said that I was indeed extending my hips. Yeah, me!

I successfully completed full clean lifts of 145, and 155, my current 1 RM. Coach S., Brandon, Max, Troie, and Griff commented that I should be lifting heavier. Why? Because I was lifting the bar to my chest before dropping under it, and I should be only able to lift the weight to my navel before having to do so. I said, “I shouldn’t be lifting at all. I’m a middle-aged, gay man. I should be sleeping or shopping.”

I felt tormented today, and was struggling psychologically. I failed 165 lb clean attempts 5 times, and then called it a day. On most of the attempts I was this close. Damn.

I also received (perhaps too much) feedback from folks other than Coach S. Enough said. The most valuable feedback I received today was from Coach S., who reminded me to step up to the bar, position my hands, lower my ass, take a deep breath – and lift! I spend far too much time getting ready to lift, even from positions 1 and 2.

I was disappointed that I was unable to lift 165, but I learned much today.

8 minute AMRAP of the following:
5 power cleans (155 lb)
10 burpees

Coach S. encouraged me to use the met-con to work on form, specifically faster elbows and looser hands, and that’s exactly what I did. I suggested 105 for the weight, but Coach S. strongly recommended that I lift 115, and that’s exactly what I did.

This was one of the more difficult met-cons in recent memory. My goal, of course, was to complete all cleans and burpees unbroken, and was generally able to do so. I can’t say, however, that all cleans were unbroken, as most times I dropped the bar and then had to reposition hands to lift. I was very surprised to find the burpees to be even more challenging than the lifts. I had to make myself do unbroken, and many times contemplated stopping after 5 or so to rest. I did pause ever so briefly to record rounds. I completed 7 rounds + 1 clean.

I then had the pleasure of coaching the 7:15 session, including Wendy, Jayme, Brad, Shane, Don, and Karl. I always enjoy the 7:15ers, and they are a genuinely great group of people. Here’s what they looked like at the end of the met-con…

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Jack led today’s session, and the focus was on the press. Not including warmup, 25 presses. That’s many presses.

Most everyone welcomed me back from vacation, and had questions about our biking excursion. Just about everyone said that biking 130 miles in 3 days wasn’t her/his idea of a relaxing vacation. I have both a sun- and wind-burned face and also have a “biker’s” tan, i.e., a distinguished tan line just above my biceps.
Craig: Why do you have a farmer’s tan?
Me: It’s not a farmer’s tan; it’s a rider’s tan.
Craig: Okay, but why do you have a farmer’s tan?
Me: Uhm, because I went biking the past 4 days.
Craig: I know, but I’ll still ask: why do you have a farmer’s tan? Why didn’t you tear off your shirt and bike shirtless? I know that’s what I would do if I were as ripped as you.
Me: Craig, you know that I only take my shirt off as an act of desperation. Besides, so many people who shouldn’t take off their shirts do, I’m trying to even things out. My mother always used to ask my father whom he was voting for, and then she would tell him that she was voting for the opposing candidate – just to cancel his vote. I’m cancelling Troie going shirtless.
Craig: I used to get so anxious as a kid when we played shirts and skins, because I never wanted to be on the skins.
Me: I used to get so anxious when I tried out for band, as I wanted to be first chair, first clarinet. Fortunately for me, I was so talented that I was always first chair, first clarinet.

I successfully pressed, unbroken, 90, 95, 100, 105, & 110 lbs. The weight started to feel mighty heavy by the last round.

30 back squat (225 lb)
Row 1000m

Uhm, I’m not going to BS 225 lb, as that’s 5 lb more than my current 1RM. Jack informed us that we should BS 65% of our 1RM, and for me that’s just a little less than my bodyweight, so I used 145, i.e., my bw. I warmed up and thought, “Perhaps I actually did get some exercise these past 3 days, as my legs feel very, very tired.”

I completed BS in reps of 15, 9, and 6, and in less than 2 minutes. I failed to set-up the flexfoot on the rower, and wasted valuable time doing so. Max said something like, “Way to stall for time, Paul.” Audrey, tell your man to shut his pie hole. I rowed 1000m in 3:48, averaging 30 s/m, which was my goal.

Craig was on a rower beside me, and Jack kept encouraging and directing him (all the while ignoring me). Try as I might to not pay attention, I couldn’t help but overhear Jack say, “You’ve got 100m left!” at just about the time I had also 100m left. My seldom-seen competitive side emerged, and I increased s/m and finished strong – in a time of 6:07, and one full second faster than Craig.

Max keeps telling me I should row as a lightweight. Ha! 

I then had the honor of coaching the 7:15 session, with visitor Steve, Irina, and Jayme in attendance. Nice job, athletes!

Biking to Ocracoke

Jeff & I traveled to Beaufort, NC yesterday to begin our biking vacation, and on the way passed CrossFit Carteret. Under my breath I said, “I wonder if they have a 6am session tomorrow.” Jeff replied, “I’m sure you’ll be there if they do.” 

Jeff knows me oh, so well. 

I attended the 6am session, led by owners Todd & Rhonda, and attended by 3 others. We warmed up with pushups, Abmat sit-ups, OHS with PVC pipe, and double unders. 

The skill was the press, and I lifted 3 reps of 105, 115, and 125. 

Kettle bell snatches left then right arm

I used a 35 lb kb. Until 1 master the KB snatch, I ain’t goin’ heavy. One of the women asked Todd about KB snatches, and (as I mentioned that I had gone to cert) he asked me to assist. I demonstrated the “hand through” technique. 

My goal was to do all rounds unbroken. I did so in a time of 4:41. 

Our shuttle to the start of our biking tour was delayed numerous times due to Cathy’s (name changed) irritable bowels. We get on the van, she’d excuse herself, we’d get out of the van for yet another group photo. We’d get on the van, Cathy would once again say she wasn’t quite ready, and we’d wait yet again. Ugh. 

We biked from Smryna to the Cedar Island Ferry Terminal. Jeff and I chose to bike the maximum distance of 38 miles. The day was slightly overcast and the temperature was in the low 70s — perfect weather! Six of the miles were particularly challenging, as we rode across a marsh and the was a very strong headwind. A great day of biking!

Cathy’s biking partner, Stephanie (name changed) didn’t realize that we had added a loop and miles, and we came upon her unexpectedly when she was off of her bike and beside the road. Suffice it to say that we caught her with her pants down. 

I napped for about an hour during the 2.5 hour ferry ride, and it was good. 

Kayaking was cancelled due to high winds. Tomorrow is a 52-mile bike ride! 

If running is bad, I don’t want to be right.

I began the morning with a 2-mile walk/run with Luke. He’s one goofy, gentle giant.

I coached the endurance WOD, with Laura, Katie, Jayme, Nick, Sarah, and Irina in attendance. (Michael Kelley was at CFD but did not attend the WOD. I think he was scared.)

Run 5 min @ 85% effort
3 min rest or active recovery 
Run 4 min @ 90 % effort
2 min rest or active recovery
Run 3 min @ 95% effort
2 min rest or active recovery
Run 2 min @ 95 – 100% effort

Running by feel and effort is always a challenge, but particularly for those who may be new to running. I encouraged athletes to use their breathing to help determine effort: 5 to 6 steps/breath for 85%; 4 steps/breath for 90%; 3 steps/breath for 95%; and 2 steps/breath for 100%. I probably ran 2 or more miles with runners, as I ran up to some and back to others.

I did not attend the 10am session, but instead asked Dave  permission to do my own WOD. He kindly agreed. Dave is occasionally nice, and by occasionally I mean weekends and holidays.

5 rounds for time of the following:
Run 200m
20 pull-upsRun 200m
20 pushups
Run 200m
20 air squats

Uhm, this is a “Paul WOD”, but it was nonetheless challenging. Do the math: 100 pull-ups, pushups, and air squats, and 3000m running. My goal was sub 25 minutes. I achieved this goal.

I completed all rounds of air squats (no surprise) and pushups (somewhat of a surprise) unbroken, as well as first 2 rounds of pull-ups. I completed third round of pull-ups in reps of 15 and 5, fourth round in reps of 12, 5, and 3, and final round in reps of 10, 4, 3, and 3.

Total time was 23:21, and splits were 4:25, 4:30, 4:45, 4:50, and 4:50.

I led the Community WOD, and there were about 16 or so in attendance, including some who had never been to a CrossFit box before. Today’s focus was Russian kettle bell swings, and the WOD was a 12 minute and 30 second AFAP/AMRAP of 15, 12, 9, 6, 3 (and then ladder back up if you finished) kettle bell swings and pushups, with a 200m run before and after each round.

No rest for the weary

Yeah, yeah, I need a rest day, and I’m not keeping the promise I made to myself regarding 3 days on and 1 day off. Unlike most people, when I am awake I cannot make myself go back to sleep. I was wide awake at 3:50—a full 19 minutes before my alarm was to sound.

Luke has quickly adjusted to his surroundings, and appears to very much like his new cushioned bad. I had to awaken him, and he was very happy to see me! I enjoy slobbery kisses. As I was awake so early, I had an extra half hour to play with him after we went for our morning walk. This might be my new morning routine!

I still had my regularly-schedule morning cry on my way to CrossFit. I’ve decided that I should become an actor, as I can now cry on command. I merely need to picture Xander to do so.

Jack! (exclamation point intentional) led today’s session, and the skill was the press. I set up a rack and once again went solo. (I did, however, get to observe Brandon, Griff, and Troie “encouraging” each other. I’ll say this once again: if they were much, much better looking, it would make for some really good gay porn.) We were to lift 5 rounds of 3, but I mistakenly thought it was 4 rounds. I love math. I confirmed with Jack that our last round should be 80% of 1RM. My current 1RM is 135 lb. I lifted 3 reps of 75, 85, 100, and 115 lb. I focused on keeping my elbows up, resting the bar on the “shelf”, tightening my abs and my ass, taking a deep breath and holding through lift, lifting the bar straight up, and putting my head through the “window”. Paralysis by analysis? Not really, as these habits are becoming second nature to me now.

I asked Jack to observe the last round, and asked Kristen to record. I was pleased that Jack said my form was good. I let him know that I had completed 4 instead of 5 rounds, and he let me know that my reps of 75 and 85 should’ve been warmup lifts. I asked, “Should I attempt a few more lifts at a heavier weight?” Jack said, “Yes, but don’t go much heavier. Just put another 5 lbs on the bar and do 2 instead of 3 reps.” I did just that, and Jack once again observed as I pressed 120 lbs 2 times.

Can I press my current bodyweight just one time? That’s my goal.

10 rounds:
3 power snatches (115)
3 burpees

As I’m still working on form, I knew I wasn’t going to go heavy for the power snatches. I warmed up with 75 lb, and told Jack that that was the weight I was going with. Jack, in all his wiliness, said, “Put 5 lbs on both ends of the bar.” I does what I’s tolds.

Uhm, I truly enjoyed this met-con, and this came as a shock to me. Why did I enjoy it? First, it was a challenge given that it included power snatches. Second, it was a met-con where there was no excuse to not do all rounds unbroken. Third, I’ve really begun to enjoy being cheered for—if it’s not Griff who’s doing the cheering.

I took my time with the power snatches, ensuring that I was set-up before I lifted. After the third round, Jack reminded me to place my feet closer together. I did so for the remaining rounds, and my lifts were much better.

Time 6:17

Kettle Bell “Fran”

Today was to have been a rest day, but a friend from my place of employment, Yael, asked if she could attend this morning’s session, so I joined her. I think I’ve gotten very used to resting on Wednesdays, because I felt incredibly tired and weak.

Coach S. led the session, and we warmed up with (you guessed it) yoga stretches and then FS, press, and thrusters using the 45 lb bar.

I set up my own platform, next to perfect-form-Kristen, and completed 3 reps of FS @ 135, 155, 165, and 175 lb (88% of 1RM). Lifts felt much better than expected, and Kristen was very complimentary.

“Fran” was today’s benchmark WOD, and early this morning I had decided that I wasn’t even going to attempt. At the last minute, however, I decided to do a modified version, based upon what I learned this past weekend.

Kettle Bell “Fran”
Kettle bell thrusters (35 lb each hand)

This was much more fun than it should’ve been. I originally thought 35 lb was going to be too heavy, but I think I chose the correct weight.

I completed the first round of both thrusters and pull-ups unbroken, the second round in reps of 9 and 6 (again, for both thrusters and pull-ups), and the last round in reps of 6 and 3 for thrusters, and 6, 2, and 1 for pull-ups. I just couldn’t get in the very last pull-up! I forgot the valuable lesson I had learned about not dropping from the bar, and I did indeed drop from the bar between reps for both the second and last round.

Time – 4:31


Too few double unders, just the right amount of burpees, far too may dead-lifts

Jack led today’s session. I showed pictures of Luke to all who would give me their attention, and then showed Meaghan a painfully delightful hip flexor stretch.

Jack then led us through what can only be considered a warmup for runners. We then spent a considerable amount of time attempting max height box jumps. Yours truly had a tape measure with him, so I was even more popular than usual. I jumped 39″, 1″ higher than my previous max jump. A new PR!

I had initially been looking forward to today’s met-con but enjoyed it less and less with each passing minute.

15-minute AMRAP of the following:
10 burpees
15 dead-lifts (185 lb)
20 double unders

I completed all rounds of burpees unbroken, as well I should have.

I talked with Jack just before the start, and informed him that I planned on doing all dead-lifts in reps of 5. He suggested that I do the first couple of sets unbroken — and then he hovered over me to make sure that I did! Smart man, that Jack. Well, smart as far as lawyers go. I completed round 3 in reps of 9 and 6, round 4 in reps of 7, 5, and 3, round 5 in reps of 6, 5, and 4, and round 6 in reps of 5.

I skinned my knee during the kettle bell cert this past weekend. I walked to the shelf where the band-aids are stored, but forgot what I was looking for once I got there. A medicine ball? No, don’t need that. A jump rope? I have a jump rope. A water bottle? I forgot mine.

Thus, I re-skinned my knee doing dead-lifts. Ouch.

I only completed 2 rounds of double unders unbroken, and this was a big disappointment. What was the problem? I was sweating so profusely that sweat was running into my eyes, and I kept having to blink away the sweat. Where’s a sweat rag when you need one? I also started over if I completed less than 10 out of the gate. No one knew this but me.

I completed 6 rounds + 10 double unders. Not bad, but not all that good, either.

For perspective:
70 burpees
90 dead-lifts
140 double unders 

185 if 56% of my 1RM and 127% of my bodyweight. 

I dead-lifted 16,650 lb, 185 lb at a time…

Luke, I am your father!

As many readers know, I lost my best friend, Xander, this past September 28. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t cried numerous times. (6:15 CrossFitters, my puffy eyes were not caused by a lack of sleep…)

After having read my blog about Xander, Sandra, a former CrossFitter and (as I later discovered) faithful blog reader, sent me a message requesting my e-mail address. While I did send her my address, I asked her not to send anything that would make me cry. She responded with the following (I’ve not included the entire message) sent September 30:

A friend of mine finds homes for pets before they are put to sleep and I felt something special for this dog and told her I would foster care him until we found the perfect home. Then I read your story. I have 3 dogs now so having 4 is a little much but I couldn’t bear this dog to be put down. He is half boxer half lab and 6 months old. His name is Harper. Take your time and you are welcome to come out and meet him if you like. 

She then sent this picture.

We corresponded a few more times, and then she sent me this message on October 6:

I got Harper Tuesday. He is a sweet dog. He loves people and is so friendly. He really has such a fun, energetic energy. I would love to keep him … he is special …no doubt.  He runs around investigating everything. He just jumped into the fed ex truck here making a delivery. So freaking friendly and smart. I hope that you and Jeff will come meet him and see if he can warm your heart.  

 She sent this picture.

 I sent her this message the following day:

Thank you for thinking of us, and for sharing the news about your visitor. I’m having a very difficult week, and am not yet ready to consider adding a member to our family. I know I will in time. I fear, however, that the time may not be in the very near future. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

 Sandra waited a week and sent me this message:

Yes I am writing you again. I figured you could just ignore me or just say NO. I am not a quitter. I do feel like a stalker because you don’t know me and I keep emailing you. When I first started CrossFit I signed up for your blog and was motivated by your great workouts spirit and personal writings. I wondered how someone could have so much energy writing and working out with such passion. Nevertheless, when I quit CrossFit to go back to my basic training class here in Hillsborough that started up again last month I was still receiving your writing via the CrossFit blog.  So that’s why I know about your loss of Xander.  I don’t know why I feel so strongly that you should meet my foster adoptee. I keep thinking about your loss and know your pain. I cannot stop telling you about Harper. He has such very happy spirit and I am stopping many times during the day laughing or smiling at his cute and crazy activities. He is so intelligent and so full of life. You can’t help but smile when this dog walks in the room. He reminds me of your energy the times I saw you at the gym. I just think this dog is so special and he deserves a great home that I know you will give him and you deserve to smile again. I am sure Xander would not want you to be in such pain. Just come and meet him.

Yet another picture, and this one was particularly wonderful.

That Sandra is quite persistent – and persuasive!

I finally agree to meet him. I did, however, meet him without Jeff present. Why? Because I knew I was going to be an emotional wreck if he were there, but that I could somewhat compose myself if he weren’t. Selfish, I know. And, if truth be told, Jeff’s the lover of cats and I’m the lover of dogs. Any cats we adopt will be drawn to Jeff, and any dog will be drawn to me. Jeff and I complement each other very well.

I finally visited him this past Sunday, October 16, and it truly was love at first sight. What convinced me most that we should be together, though, was when he followed me to my car. I opened the back door to see if he would hesitate to get in. He did not. He immediately noticed Xander’s collar and leash (I still can’t bring myself to remove them from the car or wash his nose prints off of the windows), and he sniffed them and then looked at me as if to say, “I understand.”

Sandra suggested that I take him home for an evening so he could meet Jeff and the cats. I did so yesterday, and I merely referred to it as a sleepover. I knew in my heart that this was The Dog.

He’s playful, somewhat uncoordinated, and very affectionate.

He hasn’t left my side any moment that we’ve been together. Well, except to steal some cat food. Ha!

Thank you Sandra! As I told her, “Fate has brought Luke and I together, and by ‘fate’ I mean ‘Sandra’. My new nickname for you is ‘fate’.”

Here’s a picture I just took. Does he seem at home? I think so!