Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Year

Today is Earth Day, but you know what?

Every day is Earth Day.

I try and live my life like I actually believe that. As an avid outdoorsman, I feel connected to the earth most when I am in a natural setting. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than taking a hike, a paddle or a bike ride on my favorite path, lake or trail. When I am out in it I hate coming across other peoples' trash. I don't know how people can litter and live with themselves. I think a lot of it is in how we were raised, but that's just a guess.

One of our mantras when we're canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is "Leave no Trace." We frequently brought out not only our own trash, but a bag full of other peoples' trash as well. In my mind, to litter such a sacred place as the BWCA is even more unforgivable than littering an urban area.

As humans we need to realize that we're renters here and we need to stop acting like we own the planet. It deserves our respect. It is our gift to our grandchildren.

One of the stupid little things I do every day when I'm walking the dog is try and pick up at least one piece of trash (as well as my dog's droppings). As dumb as it may seem, I figure, if I did nothing else for the earth that day, I did that. Now, I also walk or bike to work most every day - in part for fitness, but also because it's dumb to drive 1.65 miles when you can walk. I'm certain people think I'm a lunatic, but it keeps me in shape and is less wear and tear on the car - not to mention the planet.

Anyone who thinks that they can't make a difference or that their choice not to recycle that one water bottle that one time, well, multiply that times 6 billion. That equals a large floating island of garbage in the ocean. Bottled water is evil anyway, but that's a different story.

Today I went out and picked up trash and recyclables at a local park. I'm sure people thought I was the homeless guy picking aluminum for bringing to the redemption center, but frankly I don't care. It is my way of feeling better about the role I play in God's creation. If that's what it takes to feel good, well, I'll keep on doing it. (FYI, Unlike years past, the trash was really hard to come by this year, which gives me great hope.)

So, as always, the subject of Earth Day has made me all preachy again. I can't help it. I am an ecology nut, and not even as nutty as some people I know. I just think it's important that we realize our impact and try and minimize our footprint.

I'd encourage you to do your part, however small. Because again, multiply small time 6 billion and it becomes much greater.

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Swedish Resilience

Well, my mom turned 85 a couple of days ago, and while I will probably get in trouble for stating her actual age, I wanted to mention it because I am blessed to still have her around. A lot of my friends have lost their moms/dads these past few years and I can't imagine how tough it must be. I am also lucky to still have both my in-law parents around. Heck, these days I'm grateful to have anyone older than me around. Life is weird that way.

And while my Mom is an octogenarian, she is still more active than a lot of people much younger than her. She works a part time job, she's part of a book club and a card group, exercises when she feels she needs to lose weight and drives her car. She's smart though and knows her limits. She doesn't like to drive at night, will turn down social events if there's too much walking, and she has learned to say no to anything she's not up for. I think those are rights you get once you hit 80.

Mom continues to cheer the whole family on. Us kids are all in our fifties and sixties, but she still congratulates us, encourages us and gives us advice when we seek it. For example, she keeps asking me how many reviews I have on The Portland House. She tells people they should be leaving reviews and then tells them to buy the paperback because I get a better cut than I do from a Kindle book.

She is 85 and acting as my agent, here.

But, as a parent, I realize that's what you do. You don't ever really stop being a parent and caring about your kid. You cheer them on regardless of how old they are. You say, "Hey, that's my kid up there!" It comes with the territory.

I dedicated my book, The Portland House to my mom because, although she came and went in the book, she was the real hero of the story - of our/my life story. She bucked up when things got tough, then tougher, and she pulled us all through. She could have checked out, or given up. But her pride and resilience and faith pulled her through, with all of us in tow.

She wasn't perfect, but no one is. (Last time I checked, I have a few parenting issues of my own.) We do the best we can though, and she did pretty well given all the adversity and sadness she had to deal with in her younger days.

One last story.

At my St. Paul book signing at SubText books, Mom made it a point to introduce herself to virtually everyone in the place. She is genuinely interested in my friends and readers and how they know me. She then thanked them for coming. It comes back to the pride thing, trying to push me to the top of the book charts. Ha!

So, that is why I appreciate the ability to call my mom and find out what's new in her life. She's been there for all of us through it all.

And we're lucky to have her. Happy 85th Mom!

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Artists In Bloom

It was an art-filled weekend around my community these past few days, and that's always a good thing.

I took Friday off to stay home and write, something I need to do once every couple of months just to maintain my sanity. I hang out at the library and a coffee shop and check out of reality and into my Work In Progress (WIP). It was a productive day and it brought me back down after a high energy week at work.

Then, that evening, I was part of the AllWriters Friday Night Free For All event at Cafe De Arts Roastery in Waukesha. This is a quarterly event sponsored by AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop. The event features 5 readers from inside and outside the studio to read from their WIP or, in some cases from a recent publication or book.

This one had a new twist to it in that it brought in a musician/songwriter named Carter Hunnicut. Carter's mother was a writer and was a mentor to Kathie Giorgio (AllWriters' director) when she was young.

Carter did a great job of explaining the songwriting process and his love for the craft. He's part of a couple of bands and his music is available Here. He and his band, Exposed 4 Heads perform 80's music satire. 

The music was a great addition to the many talented writers who read during the evening, including Kathie Giorgio, Kathrine Yets, Kerry Crowley and myself. There is something so cool about spoken word events. It is live art, performance art in every sense of the word.

If you know me, you know I look back with great fondness to the beat generation for their contributions to poetry and art. But there is also part of me that realizes we cannot go back to those days and that events and communities like this ARE the beats of today. This is our moment to be heard and touch people.

I had a couple of people come up and tell me how my reading had spoken to them. That right there is the reason I do it and enjoy it so much. This is the closest we can get to a beat moment for me. It was a great night.

Then, yesterday, I went to Art In Bloom at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Donna had an extra ticket and asked if I would go with her. She explained to me what it was and while I didn't fully understand what it was, I am so glad I went.

My Personal Choice.
Basically they had area florists and floral artists put together flower and plant arrangements for 46 different works of art at the museum. A sort of ekphrastic art. The arrangements are intended to evoke the essence of the painting they are built around. It was so incredible to see the work these floral artists put into these displays. The works were judged, and as the public, we got to vote on our own favorites. I chose The Wood Gatherer by Le Pere Jacques, a stunning display of flower and wood and beauty.

The rest of them were amazing as well. I have the utmost respect for people with this artistic eye. I have none of it. (Words are my gig.) It reminds me of the immensity of the human brain for creativity and beauty.

Donna and I wandered around and marvelled at some of the other fantastic pieces of art in the museum and even talked of getting a season pass. I really enjoy all art museums and would probably go more if we had a pass.

So, if you get a chance, I would encourage you to support the local arts. Be it spoken word, a musical production, theater, art or some combination of all of these.

It not only supports the local artists, but it will warm your soul. Something we could all use during this unusual spring weather.

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Last Saturday night I attended Rob Bell's "Holy Shift" presentation at Turner Hall in downtown Milwaukee. I'd never been to Turner Hall, a magnificent structure currently decked out in twenty first century-haunted house/money pit decor. Bell was accompanied by Peter Rollins another contemporary and perhaps equally controversial spiritual author/scholar.

There are folks who have called Rob Bell some hateful things. His books have been pulled from conservative church bookstores. He was run out of his home church for some of his progressive ideas.

I've read his book, Love Wins and while I'm not crazy about his writing style, I loved his message; a message of Love first, judgement maybe never. Furthermore, listening to his podcasts drove me a little crazy too. Something about his speech pattern. So, needless to say I had low expectations. I went in with a bit of a cynical attitude.

Well, he came out and smashed any doubts I had about his style and message. He told engaging stories for an hour and a half without looking at a single note. His message was about the concept of holiness in the world both its bad manifestations (holier than thou) and its good, everyday manifestations.

The message resonated with me for a number of reasons. As I have mentioned many times, watching my brother get sick and pass away changed my perspective on EVERYTHING. It also increased my sense of clarity about what is important and a recognition of things that are "holy" in life.

These includes moments of conversation with a friend or loved one, natural settings that cause a sense of awe, and even a rock concert or author reading. All of these things can be holy events if you have a sense of connection with the rest of the world and its people around you.

It was the best, most timely message I've had the privilege of being part of in quite some time. Time after time he had me nodding in agreement.

He even brought to light the role our suffering in our anxiety and struggles in life, a theme I can definitely relate to at this point in my life. Lots going on in my life right now. But for a moment at least, Rob Bell helped me understand that it is part of our holy journey. It may not seem like it, but I think what he was saying was that when it passes, we are forever changed and perhaps brought to a better understanding of why it happened, or what role it played.

But for me it was his story telling about moments of holiness that made me say "Yes! I've had that experience." Time after time he had me nodding in agreement.

These events seem random and unscripted at times and maybe the difference is some people recognize them easier than others. Maybe it depends where you are on your journey to an awareness of God. Maybe it's just a case of being awakened by a tragic event. Or maybe its just an appreciation for all of life. I don't know.

But I know I needed the good reminding I got by Bell on Saturday night.

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Water Woes

As any homeowner knows, things never fail one at a time. They cascade like all tragedies, usually in threes. Each failure of course is slightly more expensive than the previous. I am convinced there is no home appliance repair that costs less than $200, with most being much more.

We experienced the start of the great cascade about a month ago. I was sitting in the living room and kept hearing like a high pitched moaning noise coming from the basement. When I went down there I followed the noise until I pinpointed it to the water softener. The box on top of it which controls the on/off cycling was howling like a ghost.

So I did what any homeowner would do. I unplugged it hoping it would reset and repair itself.

No dice.
It's the doohickey valve. That's the problem.

I tried Plan B. Hit it.


The unit is 20+ years old and is simply worn out. I know that. I also know that it is likely a $1000.00 outlay.  The significantly cheaper, short term fix is to unplug the howling unit. So I did.

There. Fixed.

Three days later I heard a knocking coming from the basement. I went down again and discovered it was coming from the water heater. When we first moved into this house we heard the same sound, an indication that there is sediment buildup in the water heater.

Now I know that it is likely just coincidence, but what are the chances that just the action of turning the water softener off three days prior would trigger sediment knocking? Nothing works that fast. It is just the dreaded cascade effect.

Well, I figured there is a known fix for the sediment issue, so I YouTube'd it. The video I found stepped me through draining our aging tank. I brought in the hose from the garage, turned the water heater to Pilot and hooked up the hose. Of course when I went to turn off the cold water intake valve, it was corroded open, requiring a Vice Grips to crank it open.

Because nothing is easy with an old house.

I opened up the drain and let the heater drain. I put the end of the hose over a piece of screening by the floor drain because I wanted to see what kind of sediment drained out. Of course, there was no visible evidence of sediment showing up in the screen.

Well, this is odd.

When I looked at the drain outlet on the water heater, it sits about 2" above the bottom of the thing. So, in essence, you would have to have 2+ inches of sediment to get it to start draining out.
"Hey, lets put the bottom drain
not on the bottom."

What genius designed that drainage system?

In any case, I let the entire heater drain out just in case. Then I put the hose back in the garage.

And as I write this blog, the heater is knockin' away.

On to Plan C.

Turn up the music!

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 5, 2018

It Takes A Village

On Monday I was instituted as poet laureate* for the Village of Wales. It marked the last day of Paula Anderson's tenure after a year and nine months.

I showed up at the Village hall and awaited my turn on the agenda. I came after a couple of zoning changes and new business approvals. Being in government, it was a process I was quite familiar with as part of the Parks and Land Use staff at the county.

Before I was brought before the board for approval, they recognized Paula with an appreciative word and after her outgoing poem, they presented her with a cake. The cake was frosted with the words to one of her short poems. Paula was a publisher of a small poetry journal and was one of my first acceptances as someone new to the craft. I always hold folks like that near to my heart. Her and Sarah Sadie, another poet and ex-laureate for the City of Madison, are two of those people.

I was introduced next and invited to speak. I felt extremely welcome and warmed up to the board right away. They seemed to like my work and even laughed at a few of my jokes about my writing and my journey afterward.

And so my tenure is one year and it involves reading at the monthly board meeting as well as some outreach activities. I've plans to do a couple of things including trying to gather signed poetry books for donation to the local high school library. Additionally I plan to help organize the poetry open mic's at Mama D's in Wales once a month.

So, while it is all part of my sub-atomic-micro-fame, it is still a lot of fun. Beats working, anyways.

More on it as it progresses.

Blogging off...

*For those who don't know a poet laureate is charged with increasing awareness and appreciation for poetry.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Shrink Wrapped

It is Easter weekend and we are blessed to have both of our kids home for the weekend. My daughter came down from Minnesota on Thursday because she was done with classes and "needed to get away." Ben was down in Florida until Friday when he was dropped off in Waukesha as his roommates continued on to Madison.

And we have been fortunate to be together as a family for much of the weekend. We had dinner together then watched Pirates of the Caribbean on Friday night - an unexpected surprise having them opt for a night home with family instead of local friends. Then, they got up on Saturday morning to go to coffee with us as an extension of Donna and my Saturday routine. 

Today they will attend church with us and then we will have an early Easter dinner with my brother in-law and his partner. 

The weekend reminds me that these moments are to be treasured. We are all healthy, happy and glad to be with one another. When we gather around a table there is intelligent discussion, gentle teasing and laughter. We talk about our crazy dog and our stupid cat who has taken to watching us as we eat dinner. We discuss the kids' school classes, their friend groups and all the adult responsibilities that they are navigating during their collegiate experience.

They hug us unprovoked at times in part for us, but I think they need it as much as we do.

When we met with old friends to watch the Loyola/Michigan game they interacted with adults in ways that made me proud to call myself their parents. I love being around them and laughing about our lives, both past and present. 

So, I've become a sentimental sap of sorts. But I miss my kids. They are an extension of both of us and I love watching them experience the beauty and nuttiness of day to day life. If I could take this weekend and shrink wrap it to preserve it forever, I would. 

But for now, I'll have to simply savor it and count my blessings.

Happy Easter.

Christ is Risen!

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Guns And Rose'

A couple of nights ago I was part of a reoccurring event called Jesus and Wine. It is a monthly event at the Spring City Wine House in downtown Waukesha. It is the sister event to Jesus and Beer that is held at Bernie's Taproom in Waukesha on the second Tuesday of every month.

Both of these events are intended to open up the dialog to people who are curious about the life of Jesus. I say it in such a broad context because it is attended by everyone from the dechurched, to active church attenders, to people who question God's purpose in their life and our world, to those how have been wounded by the church or other Christians. It is all of these types of people and everything in between.

It has been termed Pub Theology and is a form of that. There is a part of me that likes it just because it is held in such a non-traditional place. Oh, and I like beer, too. The thought is that we are all adults and capable of having a social drink or two while discussing heady topics with people that are asking the same questions. It is church for grown ups.

On Tuesday night the subject was violence in the country and the world. A question sheet is handed out with ten or so talking points. The questions ranged from  asking if God supports war to whether Jesus was a pacifist.

Before the discussion begins each session, the ground rules are laid out. People are asked to be civil, to listen first then react with courtesy. It is the pursuit of dialog not conversion or convincing. We are asked to respect the opinion of others in the hopes that we can carry that respect out into the world when we are done.

We wasted no time jumping into the whole gun argument. And the crowd covered the spectrum from people who had no guns to those that had multiple. The argument was largely that the perception was that guns helped people manage their fear. It is not my place to question whether or not that is a good way to handle their fears, but it was kind of interesting to know.

The NRA got dragged into the conversation and drew some interesting discussion. So did the second amendment. People talked about concealed carry, gun permits and mental health. They talked about how ugly those same topics get on Social Media. Part of the beauty of the Jesus and Wine events is that people are face-to-face instead of some faceless cyber person. The respect factor - seeing someone as a human being just like themselves - takes precedence over a nameless Facebook flaming/trolling.

Being a closet extrovert, I really enjoy going to these events. They make me think and help me to see the perspectives of others - sometimes radically different perspectives at that. I like it because it brings contemporary subjects up in light of our walk as followers of Jesus. I also like it because it is casual and respectful and challenging.

Next month we will be discussing sexuality, so that should be fun. ;-)

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Coffee And A Dragon

This afternoon I had coffee with a Vietnam Veteran. Bob Goswitz served a year overseas in the 196th infantry division in 1971. I consider it an honor to sit with someone of my generation who served in a war that marked my first exposure to military conflict. I was only 10 years old when he served, but I remember watching the news at night and seeing snippets of guys in combat. People have said that the Vietnam War was the first war that kind of came into peoples' living rooms. Well, Bob lived it and was fortunate to be among those who made it back home.

I have an elevated respect for the men and women who served that war. It was a war that should have never happened, certainly not to the level it went. The soldier who returned were never treated as the heroes they were, a travesty in my opinion. It was a contentious time in our country with civil and racial unrest at levels never seen before and the debate about the war was a large part of it.

Anyway, Bob has written a book titled The Dragon Soldier's Good Fortune, due to be released July 21st, 2018. The book is fictional but is based on his experience as a soldier during that time. During our talk he mentioned that originally he was pitching the book as a memoir. Then, his agent asked him what made his memoir unique from the hundreds of other Vietnam memoirs. This caught him off-guard and he began to rethink the framework for his book.

To make his book more unique and appealing, he researched Vietnamese folklore and mythology and found that much of it is based on dragons. He worked a dragon into the story and added a degree of magical-realism to the book. I will be reading an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of the book to try and give him a review, and I can't wait to dig into it.

He was looking to pick my brain a little on the intricacies of book promotion and I was happy to help. I still say I'm making it up as I go, but have a few years experience so am glad to mentor where I can.

Bob taught special education for thirty-plus years after his duty and has been retired for 11 years. He mentioned how good it was to be able to talk to another guy about writing and publishing. There seems to be a 4:1 ratio of women to men in our writing circles, so to come across someone about your age and fairly new to the writing craft is sort of refreshing.

I look at these meetings - cool people whom I admire and appreciate - as one of the intangibles of the writing life. Bob came to one of my Dirty Shirt reading/signings and has been a fan ever since. Without my books there would be no friendship.

And because of my books, my readers and my writing network, life is that much richer.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Rundown

Some random thoughts from my stream of consciousness.

  • My son is a freshman at UW Madison and he and a friend have a radio show from 12:00 to 1:00 PM on Thursdays on WSUM. They do a good job bantering back and forth. My wife and I both listen to it in part because it helps us feel like he's in our living room again. The show is centered around recent news events and then they slide into taking questions from listeners. It is fun to hear their thoughts and ideas and he says it is a nice diversion from the stress of classes. Here's the Link.
  • I was talking to a friend tonight who is a roofer. I've always admired guys who do that kind of work because it's such a hard job. He says he has that "falling off the roof" dream every so often. I just thought that was kind of interesting. (Coming from a guy who is terrified of heights.) 
  • In the past week two friends have told me they lost co-workers to death and that they were "around their age." This is just a little too close to home for me. We need to cherish every day. Each one's a gift.
  • My 12 year old Cairn Terrier is becoming a nightmare to walk. He used to be spry and chipper as we walked, now he just wants to smell everything and linger. I end up dragging him around the block in twice the time it used to take. I guess that's what getting old does to a dog. It's a (literal) drag.
  • My computer has been locking up lately, so I flashed the BIOS. This is techno-speak for basically giving it brain surgery. The best news is, the patient booted up after all was done and things seem to be working again. 
  • The Portland House is up to it's 9th review on Amazon. All of them are good too! 
  • I feel like I'm on a bit of a treadmill with a sadist at the controls right now. It's all good, but I need a vacation methinks.
  • Some nights are frozen pizza nights. Tonight is one of those nights. 
Blogging off...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Showing Off The (Portland) House

As part of my book promotion, I run a giveaway contest that encourages people to send me photos of themselves with my book, The Portland House. I had a lot of fun with the same contest for Dirty Shirt, so thought I would do it again with this book. The prize for a couple of randomly drawn winners is a signed copy of the book.

Social media has made people much more willing to share photos of themselves, so doing it with the prospect of maybe winning something garnered some creative photos.

A House on the Beach
Quite possibly the most creative one was by Jody Morris, who owns a goat farm in Upstate New York. She showed that goats are more intelligent than we give credit for. Here's one of her goat pictures.

Then, there were a fair number of people posting pictures from warm places. Florida, California and Mexico were a few of the favorites. As hard as it was to know that they were somewhere I wanted to be, it was still great to see that they were reading my book on a beach somewhere.

Pets were a new twist to the giveaway too. There were a couple of cat pictures, one even shown reading the chapter on Pets. LOL. 
And not to be outdone, my friend Philip had a picture of the book with his dog looking on, waiting to hear what happened to my dear dog, Lance. 

There were some funny ones too. People just joking around or letting their kids pretend to read the book. One person even mentioned trying to get a picture of the book with an Alpaca. Still waiting on that photo. 

There were a host of other great ones too. Ones taken from planes, with food or just around the house. All were entered into the drawing that took place yesterday. Turns out the winners were my friend Pat Spahn, a character in the book, and my cousin, Mary Jensen. 

Which reminds me that I am continually seeking pictures of people reading the book in obscure places. My step-sister is an airline attendant and will likely post pictures in a foreign country before too long, so watch Facebook for those, as I post them.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed a photo, a review or just those who have purchased the book or offered an encouraging word.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stepping Off The Board

This past Friday marked the end of my two year term on the Wisconsin Land Information Association's board of directors. WLIA is a statewide organization that works to advance Land Records modernization and distribution. Basically it's about 850 geospatial and GIS geeks.

The association organizes three gatherings a year, one annual conference and two regional meetings. In past years I always attended the annual conference but rarely made the regionals. I was a member of WLIA for 20 years before I finally ran for a position the board. It always seemed like a daunting commitment and one that I was hesitant to take on.

Now, having served on it for two years, I can only say it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I wish I had gotten involved earlier. Oh sure, I did some peripheral things, sitting on a committee here and there, but it was only when I got on the board that I was able to meet some peers that I would maybe have never gotten to know. I'm not one to go outside my circles to meet people, but when you are put in a position where you have to work alongside them, it changes everything.

And while Robert's Rules and long, drawn out board meetings are great, (sarcasm) I've discovered getting to know my peers was the best part of serving on the board. The people I met including:

  • Jim. The running joke during our tenure together was a play on our name because we were both named Jim and both our last names started with L. Tall Jim, and slightly less tall Jim, Jim v. 1.0 and Jim v. 2.0, Gopher Jim and Badger Jim and so on. Turns out Jim is building his own kayak from wood, a skill I admire from afar. A technically talented guy who pours more sweat and time into WLIA than most anyone I know.
  • Emily. A long time peer of mine that works in Milwaukee. She was brave enough to run for WLIA President, again something I admire from afar. And she killed it. She ran meetings tightly and organized a phenomenal conference. She is always smiling - even when things are going badly - a sign of someone who has the confidence in what they are doing.
  • Peter. Another guy who likes kayaks. Just for kicks Peter went to Greenland last summer for a kayak trip and in part to say he visited one of the least populated continents in the world. He has some amazing stories from his time there, both in and out of his kayak.
  • Ann. She is the Executive Services Manager for the association and I wouldn't be too far out of line to say she is the engine behind the whole organization. Without her we would not be where we are today. She is irreplaceable and now a good friend.
  • Martin. He was president my first year on the board and was a taskmaster. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind when he needed action taken by one or more of us. I remember at the board retreat I was sitting on the couch and he sat uncomfortably close to me, just because he knew it bothered me. (I told him as much and he stayed right there, which cracked me up.) It was the start of an ongoing back and forth between he and I over the past two years, and now we are good friends. Again, I may have never gotten to know him had we not served together.
  • Christine. She and I were sort of kindred spirits. We are both quiet introverts, but not afraid to speak our minds when the time is appropriate. We even had a back and forth over our last month on the board, but both of us respects the other enough to talk through our differences. 
  • Eric. A long time friend and confidant that also took the leap into running for President. I knew Eric well going into my term, but now feel like we've been through something together, which makes our friendship a little better. 
  • Tammy. We talked for a long time about concerts and music venues. She is a music nut like me, a quality I wouldn't have known had I not been on the board.
  • Mitch, Tony, and a host of other cool people on the board that I am not afraid to say hi to or email or call if I need advice.  
Because things were changing so dramatically at work, I couldn't commit to another 2 years on the board, so I stepped down after one term. I may run again someday.

I guess my point is that my regret with getting involved with WLIA is much like my delay in getting my writing career going. I wish I'd done both sooner. 

If you're on the bubble for something you don't feel comfortable I would urge you to:

Not wait for "someday." 

Take the leap now. 

You won't regret it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Another One In The Books

Last night was my Saint Paul bookstore debut at Subtext Books in downtown. I have been trying to get a St. Paul reading/signing gig for quite some time and was finally able to get into Subtext. The city of Saint Paul is the setting for the book, so it was a sort of homecoming for both of us.

When I arrived, I thought I had everything under control, but as the place slowly filled up, my nerves ratcheted up a bit. As much as I do this whole public appearance gig, I still get jittery from time to time and this was no different. I thought I'd be better in the company of family and friends, but it may have made it even a little more nerve wracking.

I started with an introduction which fed right into the readings. I typically do three readings per appearance. The three stories give the readers a feel for the book. In this case, I did two humorous stories and one more serious heartfelt one. The first was a little rough, but I managed to power through it and the other two and came away feeling pretty good.

Overall, the audience seemed genuinely engaged and laughter was sprinkled throughout.

But the best part of the evening was seeing so many family and friends show their support. The place was packed! There was standing room only at the back and I would guess there were 40-50 people in attendance. The crowd managed to buy ALL the books that the bookseller had purchased ahead of time, so I sent my wife and sister in law to the car (thank you both!) to get more from my own personal stash. They sold an additional 11 of those. It was a lifesaver. There's nothing worse than going to a book signing and not getting a book, right? They did an amazing job at the whole event and I am eternally grateful to Sarah Cassavant and Sue Zumberge of Subtext for hosting me. We need to support these small businesses!

Among the guests were two guys I went to grade school with that I had not seen since. I have been Facebook friends with them for some time, but when I saw them, I had to hug them. When people go out of their way to show their support for you, you reciprocate. It was positively humbling for me.

Then, a group of five women that I used to hang around with in college surprised me by showing up. Again, I hadn't seen any of them since my wedding, and it was SO GOOD to see them. We didn't get much time to catch up with each other, but they all looked fantastic and despite the passing of nearly 28 years since we saw one another, it was like picking up where we left off. I thoroughly believe that good friends are a gift from God and I was so glad to see them all again.

Jen, the sister of my good friend Pete from high school and college, also showed up with her husband, which was sweet.

Add to this my entire family, a cousin, and a friend and his whole family from my time at Montgomery Wards, and it was just overwhelming.

As I said at the reading, I was listening to REM on my iPod on the way up to St. Paul from Milwaukee. For some reason, REM always makes me reflect and I was thinking "It's good to be going home." Then it occurred to me that in two days I would be thinking the same thing heading back to Waukesha. "It's good to be going home."

But what it boils down to is my network of family and friends in both places makes them equally home. And when I mentioned that I'd like to have coffee with each person in the audience and talk about their life, I was serious. My writing has opened my eyes to the fact that everyone has a story. The fact that they can sometimes relate to MY stories only makes me want to hear theirs.

The evening ended with a social event at the Spot Bar a mile away from the reading. Again, quality time laughing and telling stories with family and friends.

The entire night filled my heart to full. I am surrounded by beauty and love and support and am immensely privileged to be able to do something I love and share it with others. It feeds me and is the impetus for doing more and more of it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Spring Jog

My alter-ego writer/author/poet life is busier than usual lately. Couple this with a day job that has taken on a new urgency since my boss retired, and well let's just say that life has gone from a casual winter stroll to a healthy spring jog. I barely have time to change shoes here, but I'll try and run down a little of what's going on from a writer/author of sub-atomic micro fame.

  •  I will be in my hometown, Saint Paul, Minnesota this coming Saturday for a reading/signing for The Portland House. The event will be held at Subtext Books in downtown. I am told that my event is competing with Lucky Palooza, so if you come, the best parking option is the parking ramp across the street (Lawson Ramp) or try and find metered parking. I am hoping turnout is door-busting, mostly because I want this place to remember me for future events. So, please come, bring a friend and buy a book. Note: Following the event there will be a social gathering at The Spot Bar a ten minute drive away. Please join us for that as well!

  • I have tentatively scheduled a signing with the Clement Manor Center for Enrichment in the fall. This is a continuing education program for seniors and was one of my better signing events for Dirty Shirt. When I contacted the director, she said that she had been checking my site to see when The Portland House was coming out because people were asking about getting me back. That is what an author lives to hear.
  • The Portland House received its fifth review on Amazon this week! It retains a 5 star rating. And I can't say enough how much it means to me when people take time to write a review of one of my books. If you haven't done so, please do. Amazon takes note after a certain number are credited to a book. I could use your help.
  • I begin my stay as Poet Laureate for the Village of Wales in April. I am looking forward to all the outreach and education that that position entails. 
  • There should be a review of The Portland House in the Pioneer Press (or at least online) this week. Mary Ann Grossmann was kind enough to read and review it for me.
  • I received an Author Packet from Unsolicited Press, publisher of my forthcoming chapbook, On A Road. (For those who don't know, a chapbook is a collection of up to 25-30 poems.) This is basically a packet containing all of my details regarding the publishing. They are requiring me to round up 25 beta readers, so don't be surprised if you get an email from me asking you to read a portion and say a few words about it. It is due out on 10/21.
  • I got a random email from a reader this week that said her husband read The Portland House and kept commenting how I was a good writer. You know, that made a really crappy long day into one of the better ones in a while. 
  • I continue to forge ahead with my WIP (Work in Progress) about my high school days. In addition, I am working on pieces for two different poetry themes, one on Love and one on the whole gun mess.  
  • I am serving on a panel for a Path to Publication workshop through AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop in May. AllWriters' has helped close to 100 authors get published, which is sort of amazing if you think about it. And I love talking about my publication experience, so am looking forward to this panel! Details are here
Whew. So that is a rundown of all things written. It is all good and keeps me from running the streets at night. Because we all know that's the kind of thug I would be if it wasn't for writing. Ha!

And, as always, I have to thank all of you for your continued support and words. I seriously want to have coffee with each of you at some point. (That's definitely my closet extrovert talkin' there.)

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shape Shifting A Book

An interview with Carrie Newberry
author of Pick Your Teeth With My Bones

As most of you know, I am part of a writing community at AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop. This has brought me exposure to a number of gifted writers, poets and authors. Carrie Newberry is one of the authors I met at a writing retreat. She has written a book titled Pick Your Teeth With My Bones, which might have one of the coolest covers I've seen in a while. I interviewed her to help you get a feel for what writers think and feel during the writing process.

Tell me a little about how you got into writing. Was it a lifelong love or more recent?  

Lifelong, definitely. When I was a kid, I loved to play pretend, to tell myself stories and pretend I was a character in those stories. Writing lets me play pretend as an adult.

Do you write longhand or computer? Why?  

Computer.  I do most of my writing on weekends in marathon sessions.  If I wrote longhand, my hand would give out long before my imagination did.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book Pick Your Teeth With My Bones?
It started when I went to see the Fellowship of the Ring, the first Lord of the Rings movie. The character of Strider really captured my imagination, so I started a story about a ranger who turned into Kellan, the main character of my book. I set the book in Madison, because I love the idea of this other supernatural world being right under our noses. But really, the heart of the story was born when my younger sister died. I think the currents of family, immortality and loss really all stem from that, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. It was the story I needed to write to help myself heal.

Where was your first piece of writing published? 

That’s easy. This is actually the first piece of writing I’ve ever had published. I got very lucky with my publisher.

If you could have dinner with one author, past or present, who would it be? 

Authors are like movie stars to me, so that’s a tough question. If I had to choose, I guess I’d go with Charles de Lint. He’s a master of urban fantasy, fantasy that’s set in the real world. His writing blows my mind, and I’d love to bask in his presence for a few hours.

Describe your experience working with your book publisher.  

It’s been completely surreal. The people at EDGE are amazing. They’re so patient with me. The editing process was so hard – Pick Your Teeth With My Bones was about 20,000 words longer than they wanted it to be. Cutting chunks of the book was like cutting chunks out of my flesh. Each one had to be debated, weighed, mourned. But my editor, Heather, was wonderful.  The woman who does marketing for EDGE, Janice, is a beautiful person. She’s the one I go to when I need a confidence boost. I still don’t really believe that this is happening. I’m so happy.

In one word, describe your experience as a student in AllWriters Workplace and Workshop?  

Humbling. In a good way. And empowering. Did you say just one word? You can see how my manuscript got to be so long.

I know you are also on staff at AllWriters. What would be your advice to anyone considering an online class as opposed to onsite?  

Well, the online classes are great because you can take them in your pajamas with your dogs lying on your lap. No, seriously, the onsite classes are wonderful. There’s nothing like sitting in a room full of writers. The energy follows you home. But that’s not an option for a lot of students, people who live too far away or who work too early in the morning to travel to Waukesha for an evening each week. So the online classes allow students in other states and even other countries to take AllWriters workshops. Plus, if you go with the online course, you can work with me.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what?  

Rock music. Pick Your Teeth With My Bones was written to disc one of Metallica’s S&M album. A lot of writers don’t like to write to music with lyrics, but I love it. The beat, the bass line, and the fact that if I get stuck, I can sing along for a while.

In your opinion, what is the hardest part/process of writing? 

Going all the way into an emotion. I find myself skimming the top of emotions sometimes, not wanting to dig all the way in and feel it completely. But that’s what you have to do if you want to put it on paper and make it real – you have to feel it. No turning away, no turning back.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee, hands down.

What writing project(s) are you working on at the moment?  

I’m editing the sequel to Pick Your Teeth With My Bones, and I just started a new book. The main character is a retired hitman. He’s a lot of fun. I have no idea where it’s going, but I find myself excited to get back to it.

Ever get writers block? If so, how do you get past it? 

Yes, when I start worrying about the big picture, I get blocked.  The best way for me to get past it is to sit down and start writing.  Even if it’s just to describe what I’m feeling in that moment, or to vent my frustration with my favorite swear words – get something on the page, and keep going.  Even if it’s “blah, blah, blah-de-blah.”

If you had one piece of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be? 

Trust your writing. So often we get caught up in wondering what this piece is, where is it going, how will I get there, will it be worth anything to anyone? That’s a great way to drive yourself crazy. You have a drive to write what you’re writing. Trust that. Let go and enjoy the ride.

How can people get your book?

Get it here!

How can people contact you or follow your work?

Twitter: Carrie Newberry (@shifter979)

Thank you Carrie and continued success in your writing pursuits!

Thank you, Jim!!!

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Uninterrupted Java

One of my favorite times of the week is Saturday morning. My wife and I have developed a routine of going to a local coffee shop, The Steaming Cup, for coffee. I don't know how it started, it just sort of happened one Saturday a couple of years ago and we thought it seemed like a good thing, so we just kept up with it. We are there with the rest of the regulars almost every week. It's like the TV show Cheers, but with coffee.

I think it started as a kind of "lets go for coffee and talk house projects," way back when and became a ritual. Now it has become a chance for us to catch up with what went on over the week as well as what is in front of us for the coming week. The best part of it is we have each other's undivided attention for an hour and a half. No distractions, no dog, no kids, just us.

The things we talk about cover the gamut. We talk about our kids; when they were little and the cool kids they've become. There are times when talking about them that Donna gets near tears, not out of sadness, but out of love. During our hectic weeks, we don't often get a chance to talk at such an intimate level and sometimes memories get triggered, and that's okay. Our kids have become great young human beings and that's all we can ask for.

And we laugh too. We laugh hard at the insanity that is our life from week to week. A couple of weekends ago we spent 10 minutes setting up a "Home Screen" for her phone, something I assured her would make her life easier. After some quick tips, she was off and running. We laughed that she's spent 2 years without this simple trick to make life a little easier. We also laughed because it's how we roll. We tend to put projects off for months or years and when it finally gets done, we're always hard pressed to figure out why we waited so long.
Running for a refill!

With both of our kids now away at college, this time every weekend has allowed (forced?) us to rediscover who the other person is and why we fell in love nearly 28 years ago. When we were first married, we used to go grocery shopping on Saturday afternoons. Afterwards we went out for pie and coffee at Baker's Square on the East Side of Milwaukee. I used to love those outings for all the same reason. And I realized that these new coffee dates every Saturday at The Steaming Cup stand as a sort of return to those days at Baker's Square.

The time gives us a chance to talk about our worries and concerns as well as our excitement and dreams. Donna is in a class right now about the book "It's Never Too Late to Begin Again" and it was fun talking to her about how it is stretching her as a person - in uncomfortable ways. We talked about her childhood and how it differed from my own, in part because of our parents, but in part because of our personalities.

I'm sure most people don't need this sort of one-on-one time every week. People might say that's what they do at home every night, and that's fine. I only know that it is something I've come to consider precious time. It's US time and it rounds out a crazy week and sets me right before the next one. In fact, if she has to work or something and we can't do coffee, I miss it.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Intersection Of Literature And Theater

So I went to a poetry reading last night. (These are the quotes you don't often hear me sharing in the boat with my fishing buddies but, hey, it's who I am.)

This one was held at Mama D's Coffee shop in Genesee Depot, about 15 minutes from my house. The event recognizes a featured poet, in this case Stephen Anderson an accomplished, prize-winning poet from the Milwaukee area. The way the event runs is the featured poet reads for about 30 minutes and then the microphone is open to anyone else who wants to share their work.

The event is run by Mama D's, with oversight by Paula Anderson, poet laureate for the Village of Wales.

Now, I know poetry is not for everyone. I get that. But I also know there is a lot to be gained from live performance art - which is what this is in every sense of the word. It is the intersection of literature and theater. (And, this goes for book reading/signing events as well.) The poet/author is not only putting their written work out there for people to react to, but they are in a sense performing it as well.

And this is what makes a good poetry/literature reading a great one. If the reader has an engaging stage presence, a commanding voice (or at least in command of their own work), it can make all the difference. In my last blog post I mentioned how I tend to start out my events nervous and choppy. Once I settle in, I can feel the change in my voice, inflection and demeanor. That is when it becomes more like a visceral experience - and a lot of fun.

But I've strayed from my point.

What I wanted to get across is how, if you haven't been to a live reading event ever, or lately, I would encourage you to try one out sometime. They are intimate affairs and can touch upon the human experience in ways that impact you. I look at it as another form of entertainment. I've been to a number of them in support of my writing colleagues and I'll be honest some are better than others. (For the really bad ones, there are even occasions where you beg for mercy, or wish you could vaporize and slide out the heat vent.) The key as an author is reading your audience and knowing when to stop. Like anything, doing it well requires a lot of practice.

Another cool part about this event was meeting a couple of the guys there afterward. They were both about my age or a little older, both male, both poets. We all talked about our work; One of the guys, Robert Nordstrom had a book out, The Sacred Monotony of Breath, and the other was just getting back into writing. One asked where he could get a copy of The Portland House. In turn, I may buy the other guy's poetry book because I liked his readings. It's all about connections.

At the event I was also formally introduced as the new poet laureate for the Village of Wales, effective in April, which was a nice shout out. I am looking forward to what all of that brings into my life.

Anyways, my point is, support local authors and poets. You won't regret it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Feared More Than Death

Yesterday I celebrated the launch of my latest book, The Portland House. It was a long awaited celebration after the online release of the book on January 23rd. (The publisher wanted lag time to insure that the books made it to me before the launch.)

Now, I've done a ton of these presentations with Dirty Shirt over the past 3.5 years, but I still go into them a bit of a nervous wreck. I've never liked giving speeches or presentations, but as I've been forced into doing them for Dirty Shirt, I've become much better at it. I didn't say more comfortable, but better.

Plus, I'd done the Dirty Shirt spiel a dozen times or more, so could almost recite it in my sleep. But this was a new book and new stories, so I wasn't sure how I'd do.

Before the signing I was tired and nervous. I tried to take a brief nap but it was mostly futile. I did a little yoga (now, there's a picture) and it seemed to help take some of the tension out of my body - always good.

I always use the first 15 minutes of a signing to do a meet and greet. It gets my conversational tone going and sort of serves to warm me up.

So, when I started with my introduction, I was nervous. I thanked a few folks and then gave an intro into the first story. When I started reading, my tempo was choppy and shaky. Within the first minute though, I got my first laugh from the audience.

And everything changed.

There is something about that first laugh, or that first gasp, or that first audience reaction that reminds me that I am okay. It is a reminder that they are listening and genuinely hoping to be entertained. That they are rooting for me. Then, when I get the second and third laughs, I settle in. I'm in the zone and back to breathing natural and reading like I hope to read.

At the end of the last reading, I kind of didn't want it to end - which is totally weird, given my feelings 15 minutes earlier. I do get a bit of a rush by people responding positively to my work. It is humbling and makes me grateful I get to do what I am doing.

To write is a gift, to read and get audience feedback is privilege.

And I am glad I get to do it.

Thank you to each and every one of you who showed up to help me celebrate my work. It meant the world to me.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amongst The Shell Casings

With all the pain and hurt of yesterday's high school Valentine's Day massacre, I thought that rather than feed into the rage and sadness that plenty of others are taking care of, I'd share some beauty.

Because, there's nothing beautiful about assault rifles. Mental illness aside, I've never seen an unarmed mentally ill person kill 17 people in a matter of minutes. Maybe I'm missing something, though.

So beauty it is.

Beauty is the 18 month old girl that sits behind us with her mother every Saturday at coffee. She smile melts my heart. Whenever I see such innocence, it restores my faith in humanity - at least momentarily. 

Beauty is serving dinner alongside a few others to 40 adults and children in poverty at a local church. The program is called Coming Together to Get Ahead or CTGA. It is designed to give people opportunities to get training, education, counseling and a hot meal.

Beauty is my wife asking if people could step up and help cover a meal for the Guest House of Milwaukee and getting an immediate response of enough to cover 3 meals. I am convinced that people want to help and are just looking for a conduit to do it through. Changing lives, one meal at a time.

Beauty is a local family I know who have 5 foster kids (8 total kids) and are currently working on adopting 3 of them. Pulling kids out of hopeless situations to help them experience love and safety.

Beauty is my daughter texting me yesterday asking (in her 5 year old voice) "Will you be my balentine?"  Yank my heart out and stomp on it, already.

Beauty is a friend sharing her poetry cards with the world on Random Acts of Poetry and Art (RAPA) on February 20th. She does this on her own dime of her own volition. Solely because she believes in the power of words, art and positivity.

Beauty is a winter sky.

Beauty is hearing my son on WUWM radio every Thursday with his friend Ethan, talking about silly news stories, giving advice to strange questions, etc. Students getting their 60 minutes of fame every week in the name of fun.

Beauty is a number of my author friends donating books to my WLIA Annual Conference silent auction. The money raised from this auction goes to fund student scholarships. With tuitions being off the charts expensive, every little bit helps these kids get through college.

Beauty is hearing an encouraging word about my writing - almost always when I am at a serious point of self-doubt.

Beauty is reading a book like Confessions of a Funeral Director. This author uses his experiences with death to change his perspective on life, living and the "death negative narrative." This book should be required reading for anyone who has dealt with a lot of loss. 

So I would challenge you to find some beautiful moments in every day. A smile from a kid, an encouraging word, a sunset or a great song.

Because we could all use a lot more of it lately.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Writing Roundup

A rundown on all things writing related.

Portland House Giveaway

As part of my Portland House book release, I am running a giveaway contest. I ask people to take a photo of them with the book in a unique place, or even just around the house somewhere. Then, on March 17th, I plan to draw two winners from the entries and send them a signed copy of the book.

I ran the contest with Dirty Shirt and had a lot of fun with it. I look at it as a unique way to engage people with the celebration of launching a book as well as getting a chance at a free book. In this day and age, people are all about selfies and pictures from their phones, so it seems like a good match.

To date, I've had 11 entries and suspect I will get a bunch more after the formal launch parties/book signings I'm having in the coming weeks. (Feb. 17th in Waukesha and March 10th in St. Paul, MN.)

Some of the entries have been from sunny beaches, including Florida and California. Others were taken with pet cats and even a goat. I can't wait to see what else comes in as more people get the book.

On a Road Chapbook

In an interesting and unexpected development, my chapbook On a Road was recently accepted for publication by Unsolicited Press. For those who don't know, and it appears more don't know than do, a chapbook is a collection of less than 25 poems.

This one is a series of poems about a road trip to California that I took with a couple of friends in 1984 when I was just 22 years old. It is styled after, and in homage to, Kerouac's novel, On The Road. I don't know much more than the contract that I signed is being reviewed, but it is certainly exciting news on the heels of The Portland House book release.


There is a good chance I will have a review from The Shepherd Express newspaper this week. They typically come out on Thursdays, so look for it wherever you find the Express!

There is also a good chance Mary Ann Grossman from the St. Paul Pioneer Press will be reviewing The Portland House in the next couple of weeks. This is huge visibility for me. I also have inquiries out for a couple of radio interviews, but no word yet. Fingers crossed.

More good news

There is another very exciting development brewing. I can't say much about it until it actually happens, but I will certainly make it known if it does.

A Plea

I am always looking for Amazon reviews. If you've read the book and enjoyed it, I'd love to get a few words on the Amazon site for the book. I am up to four, but for a little perspective, Dirty Shirt has 41 reviews. They help me as an Author and don't take too much effort from readers. It is appreciated!

So, it is all coming together. I am blessed to be where I am with my writing right now. Lots of work, but all good.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Winter's Lemon

It seems full-on winter has finally arrived. We had a lot of that cold with no snow crap for the first two months, but last weekend we finally got enough of a snowfall to enable a little skiing.

I have been cross country skiing since I was 18 years old. In Minnesota is almost a mandatory skill - or should be, in my opinion.

So this past Sunday, before the Super Bowl, I took a little jaunt on my new skis that I got last year. It was a cold affair, but a beautiful windless day, so I had a blast. I am a fool for speed, so I even blazed the trail on the big sledding hill. I've long purported that I have a zeal for speed that regularly exceeds my ability to control the whole hurtling humanity element.

Well, after such a successful day on the slopes, I was determined to do a little night skiing tonight. I'd done some night skiing probably 15 years ago and enjoyed the quiet and darkness so much I thought I'd recreate it.

A few days ago when I mentioned that I was thinking about going out after work tonight, my wife said, "In the dark?"

"Yep. It's great."

"Do you have a headlamp?"

"Nope, but there's enough light. I've done this before." (The only thing missing was, "Trust me, I'm a professional.")

"Well, don't fall and break a hip or something."

Well, tonight was fun, but there were some moments of clarity and revelation, let me tell you.

For starters either my eyes are getting worse, or it's darker in the winter than it was 15 years ago. Or, maybe both. The hardest thing was keeping in the tracks. My eyes played tricks on me as I drifted in and out once the darkness hit.

It was almost like I could have used a headlamp or something.

Then, on my first challenging downhill I sensed the tracks were a ticket to too much speed, so chose to kind of snowplow it in the middle lane where the skate ski showoffs ski. Well, the middle was fast too. I had it all under complete control until I didn't. I fell in hip breaking fashion and managed to come out unscathed.

It was wicked fun.

I continued on, huffing and puffing to the next challenging downhill. Determined to master the center lane snowplow technique, I opted to go that route again. And 3/4 of the way into it I wiped out hard. This time I fell to my right side and as I was getting up I thought to myself:

Oh, please don't let my phone be crushed. (In case you're wondering, I carry it so I can call 911 when I break a hip.)

It wasn't which made this fall as wickedly fun as the last.

So, I have to do something about this need for speed. I aim to work on my technique of course, but if you're thinking I'd be better off staying home, I can only say it's not happening.

I would rather die from a broken hip from a skiing accident than sit on the sidelines worrying about the inherent dangers of a little bunny hill type XC skiing. I'm not dumb enough to get on downhill skis, maybe ever again, because that would be giving a flamethrower to a pyro. I know my limits.

Plus, for a few minutes, when I stopped among the trees in the darkness the quiet was soul soothing. I'm out there trying to make lemonade out of this lemon called winter.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Not So Super Bowly

Super Bowl Sunday is a local day of mourning around this house. With a combined 9 Super Bowl losses between the Vikings, (4) the Bills (4) and the Packers (1) this day has ended badly more than well. 8 of the losses were redeemed in 1997 when the Packers crushed the New England Patriots in SB 31. It was a great day, Brett Favre on his game, Desmond Howard showing up for special teams like he had all year, and even the outcast Andre Bad Moon Rison catching his big TD. We both finally felt what it was like to win it all.

And it was very good.

That glory was short lived when they lost next year by going into Denver over confident and were outplayed by veteran Elway, loser of 3 Super Bowls himself, determined to get his own redemption. I always liked Elway and couldn't help but feel a little happy for him despite the sting of the loss.

Then in Super Bowl 40 when the Packers went from squeaking their way into the playoffs to Super Bowl Cinderellas, We again got to experience the feeling of total victory. For me is was especially redemptive because I've hated the Steelers since they beat the Vikes in the Super Bowl of 75. (I know, I need to get over it.)

So as my various teams were eliminated from the playoffs, (Vikings, Bills) i was left to root for anyone who played the Evil Empire New England Patriots. And I was pulling for Philadelphia until their fan base showed, AGAIN, who they really are. Namely, the worst fans in all of American sports. They treated the Vikings fans like a bunch of hoods and my allegiances shifted on Monday Morning.

I normally root for the underdogs, but the events of that Sunday have changed all that. If anyone knows me, they know that while I like to win, winning with sportsmanship and class will take precedence over the final score every time. I think back to the Vikings playoff loss where a fan threw a whiskey bottle at a ref and cut his head, It made me cringe. I was ashamed to be a part of that fan group. Losers who lose with grace and poise have my allegiance.

So, today I will cross country ski. I will probably watch the game, maybe with the sound turned down. And I will reluctantly root for Tom Brady to win his 15th Super Bowl, based entirely on the actions of a fan base. Plus, I have always thought he's the greatest of all time, and today, regardless of the outcome, he will retain that title.

So, go Patriots. If you have to. I guess...

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 1, 2018


My wife and I are what might be called seasonal empty nesters. We have two kids in college (can you say money drain?) and so for 9 months of the year we are us. Her and I. Me and her.

And our two cats and our dog.

But for the most part, our nest is empty.

We've gotten quite used to it already. Nothing against our kids of course, we love them to death. But sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. I've noticed a few things that I am kind of getting used to. Things like:

  • I own a car that I'd forgotten I owned. It's a 2004 Hyundai and it's kind of nice being able to take it when I want it and not have to schedule it a week out or sign a rental agreement to drive it. 
  • Along those lines, when I get in this same car, my seat is exactly where I left it. And there are no water bottles left in the cup holders. It's weird, but I like it this way.
  • My phone charger has not been stolen, borrowed or forgotten at a friend's house. 
  • I am sleeping better not worrying what time my kids will come home. Even past 18, as adults, I worried until I heard their door close every night.
  • My internet speed doesn't really suck. I have absolutely no issue with it. Of course I'm not multi-player online gaming on my PC while my phone streams Netflix. The complaints are frequent and editorial during the summer months. 
  • Our weekly trash is about 1/3 of what it used to be. 
  • If the house is cold, we put on more clothes. There are no complaints between us two.
These things said, there are things I genuinely miss.

  • Dinner around the table with my kids was always a time of catch up. How was your day? What's going on in school? What's your week look like?
  • Believe it or not, I kind of miss my son jumping out from behind closed doors or when I open the bathroom door. It's a mean thing to do, but we both always get a laugh from it.
  • I miss their hugs.
  • I really miss their smiles and laughter. Even if it is while they're playing a video game, it is music to me to hear them laugh.
  • I miss their calling me out on things. Sometimes my age shows and they are quick to point it out. I know they mean no harm and it kind of keeps me honest.
  • I miss their wicked senses of humor.
So, there are upsides and downsides to kids in school. Talk to me mid-summer, but there are moments I miss them greatly and moments I want them to be doing exactly what they are doing. 

Living their own lives. 
Making their way in the world.

Because they are doing great at all three, and I love that about them.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sub-Atomic Micro Fame Revisited

A little less than a week ago The Portland House was released.

My second memoir and my fourth book.

If you'd have told me as little as eight years ago that I would be saying that I would have laughed my head off at you. Yeah, right. A writing fool. 

But here I am. And, whenever I get all puffy chested, I always bring myself back to earth by referring to my success as just a glimmer of "Sub-atomic micro fame."

No best sellers
No Pushcart Prizes
No early retirement
Not selling out Wembley
No national book tours
And certainly no movie rights

The only way to go is up from here. That's a good philosophy for all of life, not just writing.

At the same time, my writing journey has helped me in so many intangible ways.

  • It has given me a community of writer friends both locally and nationally. Friends that feel like family, these people encourage me, bolster my confidence when I'm doubting my work and cheering me when I hit a win. It is two way though, as I do the same for them and celebrate their victories as well.
  • My book, Dirty Shirt had quite a long road show that went with it. It usually meant a 45-50 minute presentation and reading in front of big and small groups. Initially the thought of doing this caused me great distress. As I started doing it more and more, I got better and better at it and have to admit, almost kind of enjoy it at times. Again, eight years ago, if you'd have told me I'd be getting up in front of people and not mind it, I'd still be laughing. 
  • My writing studio's director has helped me by recommending me for panel discussions and, more recently, an all-morning Meet the Author session at the local high school. There is also talk of getting some of our books into the County Jail for a book study among those inmates interested. These events have elevated my confidence and presentation savvy. These skills carry over then into my work environment as well. A win-win.
  • Overall well being and happiness. There are days where just knowing that I have two books out in the world makes life so much richer. Sure it's sub-atomic micro fame, but it makes a difference in my mental health and happiness. 
So, because I can never say thank you enough, I want to again thank everyone out there who has read my work, bought my books, supported the magazines I'm in, left a review, shouted me out on Facebook, sent an encouraging inbox, cheered me on, or believed in me when I myself did not. I've always been my own worst critic, and it helps having folks out there reminding me to shut that crap down. 

Thank you Donna, thank you AllWriters, thank you family, thank you friends, thank you Electio Publishing, and thank you Lord. 

This is about as cool as it gets right now and I didn't do it alone.

Blogging off...