Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rainbow After The Rain

I last posted about a place that I and many others just refer to as "Up North." It holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of my family, both immediate and extended.

As I mentioned, I had a chance to fish with my daughter, Sarah, when I was up there. She was looking forward to getting out on the water in my buddy Steve's boat to hopefully catch some bass and spend time with us. 

We met at the launch of Eagle Lake in Conover, hugged and got ready to launch the boat. Once we got it in the water, Steve struggled a bit trying to start the motor. On the fifth pull, the engine started and Steve stood there with the ripcord dangling in his hand. 
Like any good motor, the ripcord is supposed to retract and, more importantly, it's supposed to stay attached to the motor. 

Steve looked at me like a deer in the headlights. Sarah and I looked at him and laughed that tragic sort of laugh when something so bad happens that you can only laugh. I think I may have said, "I don't like the looks of that!" 

Shortly after that it began to rain. Because, like the old saying, when it rains it pours.

Luckily, he brought his tools, which he went and retrieved. In a half hour he had the thing running like it should. 

So we set out in the rain and fished for 3 hours. 

We had some great laughs and the only one who caught fish was Steve. But the thing that struck me most was that I did not hear one complaint from my daughter the whole time. Not about the broken motor. Not about the rain. Not about the fishing line snags. Not about the cold. By the end of the afternoon her jeans were soaked, but she kept on fishing. 

Because she's my daughter. Like me, she's obsessed with fishing. Like me, she's experienced the adverse conditions of remote places like the Boundary Waters. I think she even said "A little rain never hurt anyone."

She told me a story about her roommate Nate who is working with her at her internship. She said the two of them went fishing in the canoe and needed an anchor. She corrected Nate on how to tie a rock to a rope so it would hold. She said "I've seen my dad do this a hundred times in the Boundary Waters."

It kinda made my heart soar with pride. You work with your kids to raise them right and show them the beauty and majesty of the great outdoors. You teach them to try and be no-nonsense/no drama kinds of people. You tell them to be polite, engaging and work hard.

And when they come to be adults and begin to reflect many of the values you try and instill and you see that they've become all grown up, well, there's nothing much better than that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Way Past Wausau

I am writing this on Wednesday evening and by the time this is posted on Thursday, I will be 300 miles north. It is another fishing trip for me in my favorite part of the state, namely, "Up North."

As part of this trip we will be visiting my daughter who is up there working on an internship for the Clean Boats/Clean Water program. It is focused on invasive species awareness and education. She will be spending the wholes Summer there. While I originally feared she'd be homesick and bored, all reports are quite the opposite.

She says she's never coming home.

I can't say I don't envy her. She basically has a dream job that is 4 days on, 3 off, spent at various boat landings. On her off days she fishes, reads and hangs out at her cabin.

Yesterday she texted me a couple of fish pictures, and while they were small, she was fishing and I was not. In fact, her friend/roommate from the cabin actually went back home to get a canoe so the two of them could get out on the water for better fishing. It's these kinds of things that make me think I've instilled the love of the outdoors in my kids.

It's hard to explain what makes this place we call "Up North" or "The Cabin" so special in out family. We've been going up there nearly every year for the past 15 years or so because we are drawn to it. There's something about the slow change in the terrain once you pass Wausau. The trees get taller, the sky gets bigger and the air gets cleaner.

Once we're up there, the noise level drops and you become aware how noisy your life back home is. If you're on a lake, you have access to beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I can feel my blood pressure lower the minute I get out of the car. It is a magical place.

And for the next three days, I'll be part of that magic.

Off the grid.

Fishing pictures pending.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Making It Up As I Go

Today is Father's Day.

There are lots of theoreticals that I could formulate about things that my father would have done for me had he not been taken at a young age. The places he would have taken me, the values he would have instilled and maybe even the things he would have failed at. But these would be just that, wild ass guesses as to what might have been.

Instead, I'd rather focus on the job I undertook when my wife and I decided to raise children - only two - just like we'd told to our pastor when he was giving us our "pre-vows" marriage class.

It has been twenty one years of the craziest movie anyone could have ever written. Our lives  switched from scene to scene as they progressed from dependent infants to terrible two-year-olds, to grade schoolers and finally to adults who we can talk and laugh with on an adult level.

There are far too good times and memories to list, but here are a few things I will always remember as a dad:

  • Loading Sarah's baby seat into my Honda Civic on our way home from the hospital after delivery and realizing I was suddenly responsible for this third being. It felt like a great weight upon me, but it was also the moment I realized that a two door compact car just wasn't going to work.
  • Seeing Ben get whisked away to infant ICU after cutting his umbilical cord. He'd had the cord wrapped around his neck and his blood pressure and heart rates were dangerously low. What a helpless feeling.
  • Seeing both of them off to their first day of Kindergarten. I have to admit, I got a little weepy with both. I'm just a sentimental sap sometimes.
  • Watching Sarah's violin recital at Randall Elementary in 5th grade. Squeaky and pitchy, yes. Beautiful and heart warming, absolutely!
  • Watching Ben play Upwards basketball all season only to get his first and only basket in the last 5 minutes of the last game of the year. 
  • The look on Sarah's face when we turned the corner at Custer State Park and came upon a herd of bison standing in the road. This came after being told the buffalo were all in pens, to which Sarah said, "I don't want to see buffalo in pens." One of those timeless family moments.
  • Ben coming back to help me with my Duluth pack as I struggled on the BWCA portage when he was 16. This is when you know your kids have turned the corner from thinking only of themselves. 
  • Sarah burying her head in my mom's shoulder as she cried after watching the video of my brother Rob at his celebration of life party. Her heart is huge and the reality of our reality was hitting her hard. 
  • As we were driving out of the Adirondack Mountains, my wife got a text that Ben's friend Andy had passed away after battling cancer for months. Ben cried as hard as I'd ever seen and before long everyone in the car was crying. 
  • Watching both of them get baptized at church. Their faith is strong.
  • Seeing both of them graduate with high honors and get accepted at Big Ten Universities.
As I said, there are far too many moments in fatherhood where I am stopped in my tracks and think to myself,

"So, THIS is what it's all about? Now I get it!"

But it's also in the moments that are less than spectacular. The worrying, the hand wringing, the correcting, the encouraging, the restless nights when they were sick, etc. Those are part of it too and it is the collective sum of all of these moments together that make a family strong and united. And now they will be off to face their futures alone in a few months and the worrying and hand wringing will start up again. 

And while I wish parents would get handbooks about how to raise healthy, happy, successful kids, I now understand that part of it is that we're learning too in the hopes that they are learning from us. You only get one chance to raise your kids, so you better make it good. I learned what I could from my mom and from there pretty much made it up as I went along. 

The whole fatherhood ride has made the craziest movie ever into one I wouldn't trade for anything.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We Closed It At Wolski's

Tomorrow marks 27 years married for Donna and I. It's one of those "tween" years, maybe a date that means less than the others that end in 5 or 0.

But still.

Twenty seven years is a long time. With the divorce rate still around 50%+, I'm tend to take each anniversary I hit as a victory, not that divorce was ever in my thoughts - it wasn't - but I'd like to hope that after 25 years it gets easier to stay on the good side of that statistic.

So what's different at year 27 than at 1?

We live in a different city, work different jobs, live in a house not an apartment and somewhere along the way we raised two kids.

In fact, it would be easier to quantify what is the same; namely, us.

Because while the circumstances in our lives seems to change with every passing day, we evidently love each other enough to be there and serve as a foundation for the other to lean on when the rest of the pot is boiling over.

None of  this is meant to brag or boast, I'm just looking in the rear view mirror to see where we've been and try and figure out what's worked for us. While there's certainly no magic bullet, I can say that laughing together goes a long way. So does having a common faith, a family that loves us and friends who are cheering us along as we go.

So tomorrow we will celebrate with our usual low-key fanfare. We always agree to save the money we would spend on those $6.00 Hallmark cards and use it towards our dinner out. We will go out to a nice restaurant and have dinner - maybe with a couple friends - and then, as part of our newest tradition we'll go down to Wolski's Tavern in Milwaukee and have drinks.

For those of you who do not know the story behind Wolskis, it needs a little background. When we were dating, we lived on Milwaukee's East Side. One of our occasional haunts was Wolski's, a bar in the middle of a neighborhood, with narrow streets and an old time Milwaukee history to it. (Their trademark is giving out bumper stickers at closing time that read "I Closed Wolski's. Milw. WI" These bumper stickers have been seen all over the world, but I digress.)

Anyways, we were supposed to meet our friend Bill there that night, but he never showed. Donna had about 3 Gin and Tonics and suddenly, out of the blue said, "I just want to get married to you and have babies."

To which I replied, "Wait a minute. Are you proposing to me at Wolski's Tavern?"

Or course she looked me in the eye and said, "Yes, I guess I am."

I said "Okay," and figured that was the end of it.

I assumed it was the gin talking, but the next afternoon as we were driving to Minnesota, I said "Do you remember what you said to me last night?"

She said, "Yes, I do. And I remember what you said too!"

So the rest is history, and as a recognition of another trip around the sun as Donna and Jim, we go to Wolskis and celebrate. (Donna's not the fan of Gin and Tonics like she once was however. LOL.)

We have some interesting times ahead. This fall our nest will be empty 9 months out of the year, so it will be a period of adjustment for sure. We will be forced to re-discover each other in some ways, something we've been working toward with our weekly Saturday coffee hour at the Steaming Cup.

But we've been through changes before and are richer and more loving because of them. It's my hope and prayer that these changes will lead to something even deeper.

Here's to the next 27 years.

For those who don't know how we met, there's more HERE.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Commencing Countdown

Well, the graduation has come and gone. The last cooler is dried out, the chairs are all put away - but still need to be returned to their owners, and the leftovers are socked away in one of our two refrigerators. It was a great, great day.

If you've been following me, the focus of many of these last few blogs has been the preparation going into the big event - Ben's high school graduation. To say that Donna and I have been maxed out these past four weeks in preparation is an understatement. There was an ongoing "list" of things that needed tending both indoors and out. We clicked them off one at a time and I'll be danged if we didn't hit them all.

When GO time arrived, everything came together. Thankfully a friend loaned us a pop up tent and we were able to use it to keep the sun off of us. The weather cooperated and, as I said, it was a great day.

I counted on today being a day of rest/recuperation, but it too has been busy. An oil change and car wash for Sarah before she heads back to her internship in Vilas County, followed by a run to Gander Mountain for some fishing gear for Sarah (and me) to insure she gets enough fish this summer. (She's having a blast, so this is as fun for me as it is for her.)

From there it was back home and putting the house back in order in preparation for more family coming in tonight. My sister in-law and her two girls are coming for an overnight on their way to visit colleges for Mandy, her youngest. The house is presentable again and ready for another brief celebration.

In the process of all of this work, I've been re-enlightened as to the rigors of parenthood. We work and work and work to give our kids a leg-up. We want them to be happy, fulfilled and successful. You think once you're out of the grade school years it gets easier, and in some ways it does, but you're still a parent. Then, high school sets in and there's the emotional/intellectual growth and struggles that go with it - work in a different sort of way.

Then, senior year it's all about prep for the next chapter, college, tech school, work or military. You hound and nag because you want them to have what you had. Parenting is a full-time, lifelong, exhausting and fulfilling labor of love.

And when the graduation day came and I watched my son interacting with his friends, I can safely say, it was all worth it. He is courteous to everyone, well liked, engaging and kind.

And on that same day when he reached out and hugged my wife and thanked her for all she's done for him this past year, I kind of got a lump in my throat.

And later when he hugged our good friend Jill, and told her he loved her and uncle Steve, well, I think to myself, who told him to do that? After some though I realize it was now part of his nature to be grateful for what he has been given. And being grateful requires humility - if you're doing it right.

A bit later he walked away from his friends for a bit and took time out to come up and talk to the adult circle. He was working the crowd, part out of obligation, but partly because he loves each and everyone that came to recognize his accomplishments.

I don't know what the next four years will bring while he's away at Madison for school, but I'd have to say he's off to a great start in life. While we will continue to worry, and work, and pray and encourage him, because that's what parents do, I think he's going to prove that the foundation we've set will help him reach for the stars.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

High School Exodus

As you probably well know, my son graduates from high school this weekend. He is certainly ready to move on with his life, has been for about 6 months now. He keeps asking why he can't just go to college and skip these last few weeks of senior year.

So, today marked the last morning we had to wake him up for school. And I say we, because it is a corporate affair. Donna starts the process about 7:10, and hammers him every five minutes or so. I interject and shake the bed when I pass his room during my morning routine. For all the sadness that goes with having your kids grow up and eventually move away, this wake-up routine is not part of the experience I'll miss, nor will my wife.

Not that he won't be around, but there are some moments from his school years that I will always treasure - moments between father and son, as well as family moments. Here's a few:

  • During our years in Elmbrook's Boy's Club, we took a trip up to Waupaca every summer for a trip down the Mighty Crystal River. (Not mighty). They equipped father and son with ridiculously small canoes and we spent a couple hours floating down the river. One time we flipped in the rapids and both of us came up laughing. It was a great adventure in 3 feet of water.

  • I took Ben to a few Brewers baseball games over the years. On one memorable night we had really great seats down low. Ben was too cute as a four year old, so I told him to go and see if the ball girl would give him a ball. She couldn't resist his dimples and gave him one. We also managed to get a couple player signatures on his glove too. A cool night!

  • There were countless soccer, T-Ball, football and swim meets we sat through as Ben learned the importance of teamwork and physical activity. He's now enrolled at a gym and I think the physical work ethic is solidly ingrained in his psyche. 

  • Two summers ago we were in the BWCA on a long, bug filled portage. I was laden with a pack and the canoe. Ben got to the end of the portage then came back and asked me if I needed any help. He took my pack and finished the portage out for me, while I wrestled the canoe. It was one of those moments where you go "Hey, he's growing up!"

  • Last summer I gave him a sledge hammer and told him to break up the sidewalk we were slated to replace. He threw his whole body into the project. After that he helped with pouring concrete, digging post holes and drilling deck boards. Helping out his old man - something I never got to do.
I guess everyone's kids grow up. It's what we do as parents. And for those who can't or choose not to parent, there's nieces and nephews to call their own too. As they grow we cheer them on, correct their course, hover - then back off - and finally push them out of the nest. We've rented them from God for 18 years is more like it.

As Khalil Gibran said so eloquently:

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and he bends with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 4, 2017

View From The Lido Deck

The Madness Of House Projects Continues...

About 15 years ago or so, some friends and I tore down a shed that was attached to our one car garage. The shed was beat and the floor was caving out from under it, so we took chainsaws to it, busted her down and put it in a dumpster all in an afternoon.

Because my wife and I are YFP, yard fail people, the resulting square footage sat unused like that for the next 15 years. Oh, I did build  a terraced garden out of some of it about 8 years ago, but the bulk of the area became our RGWB, rock garden weed bed. Every summer we'd let the weeds grow until I couldn't stand it any more and then I'd spend an hour doing a job I hated more than anything. Weeding.
Weed barrier prep

Over those same 15 years we talked about a few possibilities for the area. We basically came up with about three options.

1. Break out the surrounding concrete frame and just seed the area.
2. Build an expensive deck on the area. Having helped a friend build a deck, this was my last choice.
3. Put paver stones in.

None of these appealed to us and, like most homeowners, other projects beckoned, so we got real good at weeding and pretending the area would create itself.

Then we saw a friend's patio that was made from crushed and compacted "Spardust" a colored granite. We got some advice on how they did it and I even helped them re-compact it this spring to see how the process went.

So, with the graduation of our son looming, this project took priority this summer. I have been working hard on all phases of it for the better part of a month. This included building a flagstone wall, removing dirt and shifting the remaining around in an attempt to level it.

Once that was done, I put down some weed barrier, which I got from one of my three trips to Home Depot. Because, no project is complete without at least three trips to Home Depot/Menards/Lowes.
Compactor man.

Then, I spread the first layer of Spardust and rented the compactor from, yes, Home Depot. Today, with the help of my graduating son whose graduation is the catalyst for the craziness, I compacted it, added a second layer and compacted it again. I returned the compactor to, wait for it....

Home Depot and purchased a "manual tamper" to help with the touching up of areas that need it.

In all, I think it came out pretty good, despite the resultant hernia and spinal compaction I endured moving rock and 200 lb compactors.

These past few summers, I've taken to sitting out back with my dog, Toby while I write and have my decompression beer of the evening. There are cardinals, swallows, squirrels and rabbits. It is a nice change from the noisy street out front. I've grown to love my back yard and I hope to spend even more time there now that this area is done.

And when it was all done, my wife and I looked at each other and said, "Why did we wait 15 years to do this?" We agreed that things like raising kids and other home projects got in the way of this and many of other projects.

But mostly we agreed it was because we are yard fail people.

Don't judge.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cats In The Cradle

As the days wane on having kids around the house, I seem to get more and more wistful about them flying the nest. I'm a sentimental sap, so not only do I dwell on what used to be, but I also worry about whether we've properly equipped and prepared them for life beyond our doors.

I worry that we've over protected them at the same time I worry that we haven't protected them enough.

There is nothing any parent wants more than a child who is successful, socially adept and, most of all, happy. And when I think of my own life, I think I've hit all of those. Well, I'm still working on the socially adept part, but hey. At the same time, I cannot live their lives for them. There is a time and a place to set them free and see what happens. That is when you hope that the values you instilled kick in and while you encourage them to be their own person, you hope that they make good choices and decisions along the way.

I continue to be surprised by their successes and accomplishments - all of it done with little fanfare. (I seem to be the one with the boasting problem, not them. LOL). My daughter makes the dean's list every semester, and I am the one who has to look it up. She never tells me. Ben continues to get good grades despite (his past) swimming and now working at his new job.

It's almost like they expect more from themselves than I do.

And while I was never as good a student as either of them, my mom instilled enough of the core values that matter to allow me to succeed as well. She's 83 now and I think she still worries about each of us in different ways. I guess that just never stops.

So, as she's 300 miles away for the summer working the landings in northern Wisconsin for the Clean Boats/Clean Water program, I am getting reports that she's having a great time and some fun new experiences. This makes me so happy in a living-vicariously-through-her sort of way. These are the college experiences she will always remember.

At the same time, Ben grinds out the last days of his senior year in high school, and he cannot wait to graduate and get to this next phase of his life. Having been in the shoes of a kid with senior-itis, I remember this feeling well, and know he will do well at UW Madison next fall. I still say my college years were some of the best years of my life and I'm sure he'll follow suit.

And when it's all said and done, I need to spend more time being grateful and less time worrying. Because I think we're all going to be fine.

Blogging off...

Monday, May 29, 2017

List Killing

My wife and I have never been yard people. We do not enjoy "getting our hands dirty," planting or growing things, we do not have a vegetable garden, and most of our flowers are potted annuals that come from Aldi. 

The reason I bring this up is, we have a graduation party looming on June 10th. It is outdoors, for the most part. This means we have been spending the bulk of the past few weekends busting our tails to get the yard and the house in shape.

It's enough to push a person to small condo shopping.

If you're anything like us, you get comfortable in your home with things not working quite right. And there's nothing like 40-60 people coming into your house to make you see every one of those things. This turned the righting of the neglected into an obsession for both of us. Lists were made, tasks were assigned, weekends became a thing of dread (for the work involved) and trips were made to Steins, Home Depot, and Piala's Nursery.

Faucets, kitchen islands, light fixtures, drawer organization, closet cleaning, new furniture purchases, bushes, dirt, mulch, flowers, and general deep cleaning and tidiness. Whew! Are we there yet?

We're knocking the projects out one at a time, and I have to say, it feels pretty good. It gives a person a certain peace of mind to know that several projects that have been in the back of one's head are finally checked off. 

One of the bigger projects is the back patio. It is a 10' x 12' area and will be actually a kind of nice area to sit once it's done. 

And I think I'll sit there every night for a week and just catch my breath after the whole graduation is over. 

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rio Not-So-Grande

For some unknown reason, I have always liked small cars. This probably sounds strange coming from a man who is 6'4", but it is a fact. I think it is the frugal person in me. I hate spending money on gas, so an economical car just seems too good to pass up.

My first couple of cars were compacts. Out of college, I bought an '83 escort with power nothing, AM radio and a 4 speed squirrel-fed 1.6 liter engine. It was as weak as it sounds, but at the time was all I needed. I'd like to say it served me well for the 5 years or so I had it, but it really didn't. Back then the American car market wasn't what it is today, so it seemed it was forever failing me in one way or another. When she started blowing white smoke, usually a sign that your head gasket is gone, I knew it was time to upgrade to my dream car.

A 1989 Honda civic hatchback.

Dream car, you say? Yep, I always wanted a Honda, so I got one. It was much more reliable than my escort. I loved the civic. I only got rid of it because we had our first child, and suddenly a two door hatchback seemed about as inconvenient as it was.

So recently we purchased a Kia Rio with the intention of selling it to Sarah after she uses it up north for her internship this summer. It is another small compact and I guess I have driven vans and SUV's for quite a while, because driving this is a TRIP!

For starters, you feel every bump and crack in the road. Part of this is because you are literally sitting about 8 inches from the pavement.

Plus, you feel every MPH as you work up to the speed limit. If you treat the squirrels nicely, you can get up to 60 by the end of the merge ramp. 70 and 75 MPH require emptying your pockets and a nice tailwind, not to mention holding on to the wheel for dear life.

Add to all of this the plebeian manual locks which makes for a circus-like exercise anytime you're getting groceries or packing the car.

Did I mention it has no cruise control? Oh yeah. It's a lot like my Escort that way. At least it has A/C which my escort did not.

At the same time the car is a perfect first car for a college student like Sarah.

  1. You can fill the tank for $18.00 and make it to northern Mexico on that tank.
  2. You can park the thing anywhere. Heck, you could probably park two in one spot if you tried hard enough.
  3. It turns on a dime. You can scoot through intersections effortlessly and turn a u-banger without even leaving your lane practically. 
  4. It has only 38,000 miles on it, so it'll go a while. 
As I packed it last night for her internship, I was doubting I'd have enough room, It surprised me again with how much it could hold. It reminds me of our post-wedding trip home from New York in Donna's Chevette. Packed to the gills, and happy to be on the road.

That'll be us today in our Rio. 

Blogging off...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Plumber's Helper Of A Different Sort

The view from below, minus my head.
With Ben's high school graduation coming in a little less than three weeks, we have been catching up on many badly-needed house projects, both indoors and out. There's nothing quite like having 50 people come to your house to get you to take a look around and see what needs work. As a result, we both have mental lists in our heads and whittle away at projects as we can.

Today we tackled our kitchen faucet, a project we've been putting off for about a year now. Our old faucet had built up so many mineral deposits that it didn't even pivot to the second sink. Like so many aspects of home ownership,
we just kind of lived with it thinking...someday. Besides, who uses that second sink anyway, right? Well, just the rest of the world, that's all.

I have said many, many times on this blog that I don't consider myself "handy". On the other hand, I've said equally as many times that I don't give myself enough credit. I said it when I put the dishwasher in, I said it when I fixed our dryer belt, and I said it when I replaced our oven ignitor. It goes along hand in hand with my fear that I will try fixing something and end up messing it up worse - sometimes even requiring getting some professional to fix my fix.

The thing I dreaded about this job was the cramped space. I'm a large man with large limbs, so fitting my upper torso under a sink is no easy feat. Never mind that you are laying in gunk that is all of questionable nature - chemicals and sprays, food particles and other unidentifiable crumbs. Add to that trying to manipulate stuck bolts, washers and fittings in dim light and, well. you have all the trappings of a curse fest.

So I set upon my task with fear and trepidation. After I shut the water valves off, and unhooked the water supplies, I went about taking off what I thought were the only two screws holding the faucet.

Hey, this ain't so bad, these things come off easy!

Once they were off, I got out from under the sink and pulled the faucet. It didn't move. As it turns out there was a lock washer on a long, threaded brass inlet.

This is where the cursing started.

Because it was such a tight space and the nut was locked by deposits I couldn't budge the thing. Eventually, I told Donna to look at it. Now, she is much smaller than I so was able to get a wrench around the nut and while I twisted from above, she twisted from below.

After a bit, lo and behold she said she'd loosened it. This is the beauty of a good marriage. Teamwork kicks in when one or the other is struggling.

Well, after she got that loose things went much smoother. There were still some terse words at a couple of junctures, but overall, it was a piece of cake compared to what we'd just been through.

When it was finished, my wife asked me why we always wait so long to do things like this that are so simple. Then we joked about how nice the new faucet was and said "This is how the rich people live!"

And so it goes. I will continue to consider myself "not handy" and I will likely continue to surprise myself with projects that I successfully complete.

And I will also continue to procrastinate and gripe about them for 12-18 months before I do any of them.

Because that's how we roll around here on College Avenue.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Out Of Service

Some places are better than others with customer service. It seems in this day and age that you have fundamentally three levels of service.

  1. Overly friendly, generally great service.
  2. Meh-I'm-just-making-a-buck-for-a-living service
  3. Dreadful, awful never-shopping-here-again service.
Today I had the misfortune of a number three experience. It was the local Office Depot, where I had placed an order for bookmarks, a placard and some color copies. The service was bad when I placed the order - the clerk had to ask me twice for the flash drive with the files on it because he never saved them to the computer's hard drive. 

This was followed up the next day by a phone call saying he needed one of the files on the flash drive and could I email it to him?

But he left no email address on the voice mail, of course.

I emailed the file back and yesterday later I got an email telling me my order was done. So today I went to pick it up. 

And...they couldn't find the order.

It seems that clerk Jarrett had put 2/3 of the order somewhere and despite being an area the size of my living room, none of the three clerks could find it. Meanwhile, they took turns punting my problem between themselves while one or the other:

  1. Helped another customer
  2. Called Jarrett (No answer)
  3. Looked in the same places the clerk before them had just looked
Of course when I was eight miles away, I checked my phone and there was a message that they had found my order and I could turn around and come get it if I wanted. 

Um, no.

It was up there as one of the more disorganized operations I've worked with. I've worked with them in the past, because they're one of the few print services that do things that I need for my book promotion. They're much cheaper than buying those kinds of things on the web via Vista Print or other such places. 

The downside to this is you get what you pay for. 

Another example of crappy service was the other night when we took my mom out to a favorite old steak place of ours in St, Paul, Mancini's Char House. We used to always love going there with mom and it's been eight years since we went, so we thought we'd try it.

When I checked with one of the hosts, he was short with me and pointed me in the direction of another. She was rude also and told me to go wait in the lounge and they'd call our name because they were "backed up."

In the lounge the waiter (a young kid) didn't offer to clean off our table and was short with us too. 

The waitress was a bit better, but the mood had been set. We probably won't go back. When you spend the kind of money we spent to eat, you expect a level of service more like #1. 

My wife and I get that #1 service every Saturday when we go to coffee at the Steaming Cup. Friendly clerks, friendly waitstaff and people who seem to enjoy their jobs.

In this day and age, with so many businesses competing for consumer dollars, customer service is critical. People need to be aware of that. I am quick to write a good review, but will do the same for crappy service. I think it's only fair that businesses know how they're doing.

Blogging off...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Lifetime Commitment

Typically, in the past I've always written about my mother on Mother's Day. But today I wanted to touch upon a different mother, namely, the mother of our children.

I do this in large part because she's earned every accolade she gets. She keeps the ship running tight and while we are still a team, still a village, she is what keeps the village from burning down.

Early into motherhood, we tried the whole day care thing with Sarah. At first Donna took Sarah to work and tried to work that scenario out. It wasn't long before that didn't work any longer and we set Sarah up with a babysitter. When that broke down, we determined that we were better off having her take a part-time night job and stay at home with Sarah and later, Benjamin.

I remember those days well. When I got in the door I was often met with a mother who needed adult stimulation and conversation. Often times it was "tag you're it," as she passed the kids off to me while she got things done that having two kids doesn't permit. (Things like showering, reading more than a paragraph at a time, etc.)

All it took was a couple of Pampered Chef conferences where I was left with the kids, to understand what her day was like. Diapers, formula, play time, meals, trips to the park, naps, more play time, bath time, more meals, story time and collapse in a blubbering heap time.

I quickly realized that, despite the pressures of a nine-to-five job, I was the one with the easy job, not her. I got to go to a (relatively) quiet office with my own space, uninhabited by extremely short people toting sippee cups full of milk and interact with real live adults. It doesn't sound that great until you've changed your third diaper of the day, stepped on a few Legos and answered thirty seven questions about where something is, or how come this, or can we go here?

It's enough to make email look appealing.

And she did it well. I think the best gauge of parents is how your kids turn out. And we've been blessed with a couple of smart, empathetic, funny kids. I am confident that we had a role in some of that. And I am even more confident that they would not have come out as good as they have had she not stayed at home during those early years. This is not to say day care is bad - everyone has different situations - I guess it is to say that I am glad we were able to work our situation out on one and a half incomes. I think it paid dividends.

So, now the kids are both almost off to college, and she's still rallying the troops. She has about three more weeks of shouting Ben's name upstairs every morning to wake him for school. Then, four more years of FAFSA (Student Aid), college registration dates, requirements, move ins, move outs, and finally launching them into the world.

And while yes, we're working as a team, she's up in the booth, calling the plays.

But there's three of us who are trying to drown out the crowd noise and execute. And we know the play will work, because she's the best in the business.

Happy Mother's Day, Donna!

We love you completely!

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Strange Ways Of The 70's

I've taken to listening and watching YouTube videos of bands from the seventies and eighties. Because YouTube's algorithm actually puts similar videos as recommendations in the suggestion panel, it makes it easy to roll back through the hits of the day.

And no matter what age you are, the music of your teen years seems to always stay with you. It's such a formative time of life, that the music of the era seems to be life's soundtrack.

On top of remembering the songs, the words and the tunes, you associate the songs with certain situations or time frames - music is really cool that way. A few examples.

Firefall's song "Strange Way", puts me right back in my 68 Cutlass driving to Afton Alps skiing with some high school friends. I don't know if it played on my radio that night, but it was certainly a huge hit at the time. Because Top 40 was all there was for rock n roll radio choices, it was frequently played.

The Seekers "Georgy Girl", brings me back to the house we rented on Hubbard Avenue in Saint Paul after Dad was killed. It was kind of a dump, but was a marked step up from the housing projects we were living in before that. For some reason, I remember Mom telling me that dad always liked that song.

Vanity Fair's "Hitchin' a Ride" and Blues Image's "Ride Captain Ride" both take me back to the beach at Bayport in the early 70's. There was a beach house where you could play pinball, buy chips and a frozen Charleston Chew, (Crack 'em up!). Hooked up above the door of the place was a big speaker that blasted music for all the beach goers. These were a couple of the songs.

Shocking Blues "Venus" was a song that I absolutely loved as an 8th grader, So, when a classmate's band got up in the gym and played it along with a few other songs, I was floored. Furthermore, it was a super quiet girl who is the last person I would have ever suspected playing in a band, and there she was playing the bass - all cool like.

Badfinger's "Baby Blue" takes me back to my buddy Ross's apartment where we drank many cheap beers and listened to his kicking stereo. Ross had a thing for Badfinger. They were never my favorite, but I could appreciate them. And when you're at someone else's place, they have DJ trump over you.

There are so many more and believe me it can be a big time-suck for me once I've fallen into the pit of YouTube classic videos of these songs. But it sure is fun some times.

Music is magical to me in the way it can take me back to an allegedly simpler time. The music of the 70's will always be part of my story.

What were your memorable teenage songs?

Blogging off...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Spring Sprint

Well, spring is fully upon us and that means many things.

It seems everywhere I turn I am blown away with a budding tree or bush. I can tell I'm over 50 because every year I am more awestruck by the beauty that each season brings, especially spring and fall - birth and death. Having a phone in my pocket makes passing these up without a photo nearly impossible. Why is that? Now I have a phone full of flowering crab trees. What good is that? I don't know, but I can't help it. It's a strange affliction.

My yard beckons to be tended to - a pastime I loathe deep to my core. We're hosting a small party for Ben's graduation in about a month, so something needed to happen. As a result, yesterday and today I spent some time tilling soil, picking rocks, picking weeds and even planting some bushes. It actually made me feel better - like progress was being made. Don't get me wrong, I still hate it to great depths, but at least I feel better.

Kids are approaching year end. This coming weekend my daughter will be done with school in Minnesota, so we will be taking that 5 hour trek to fetch her. We will only have her home for two weeks before she heads up to her internship job in northern Wisconsin, but it means our family will be back to whole again. At the same time, my son is finishing up his final exams and his Advanced Placement exams which count for college credit (almost always). There is just a whole lot of logistics that goes with all of this as well as the preparation for this fall. And don't even get me started about the financial stress. Yikes.

Fishing season opened this weekend, and I didn't wet a line. As I mentioned, the house takes priority at the moment, but I will be going when we take Sarah up north for her internship in a few weeks, so I will be fishing soon enough. It will serve as my reward for busting tail on the gardens/yard.

With all the nice weather, my bike beckons as well. I managed to get 22 miles in this weekend on three different outings. I'm one of those weirdos that, if I don't get a chance to stretch my legs and work out the stress of my day, I get crabby. So, being able to bike most days of the week keeps me sane.

So, while I love the season, I feel a little like I'm running in front of the train with only one shoe and the other one is not properly laced. It should slow down a little after Ben graduates, but it'll heat up again in the fall. This is called the cycle of life, I believe. And as crazy as it is, we'll get through it.

I hope your spring season brings hope and happiness after our long winter.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Book Wrasslin'

Well, I finished the second complete edit of my book-in-progress. (Still untitled)

The good news is I don't completely hate it. In fact I'm sorta falling back in love with it. It's like the girlfriend you've been around for 5 years and recently broke up with, but then you realize she has some really redeeming qualities, so you call her up again.

And you say, "Hey, wanna get Chinese?"

So, I guess I'm at the Chinese stage of birthing a book.

We're dating again.

Talking civil again.

It is really amazing what a good thorough edit can reveal. Several times I fixed repetitive words of the week. Sometimes there times where I fixed things like times, like, multiple times, times two.
From the Porch of 1121 Portland.

Finding these "words of the week" as we call them in my writing workshop, has become a skill after correcting myself from them over a period of years. Yet I still do it. I guess the important thing is that they get caught before it goes to final edit. But still, you would think after doing this for eight years or so this kind of pen hacking would cease.

But that is the nature of writing. It is an ongoing struggle to master the English language and form cohesive streams of thought.

Now, I started my third edit last night and came across another annoyance. In the first paragraph of the book where I start by talking about our porch, for some unknown reason I end the paragraph talking about our solid maple doors.

On the porch? I think not!

What the heck, man. Have you ever written before?

While the talk of doors might have fit somewhere else in the book, it certainly had no place where it lay. The question is, how did I miss it the first time through? And how did my workshop colleagues miss it?

What the heck, man. Haven't they ever written before?

There were a hundred other little annoyances in edit #2 as well. Paragraphs that were too short. Sentences that were too long. Subject changes mid paragraph and repeating an event that was mentioned earlier in the book.

All of this stuff makes reading more arduous for the readers. Authors should look at their readers' time as precious and not beat them up with writing that reads like a seventh grader.

And so I'll go through it a third time, hopefully with considerably more ease than the second time. From there I will pass it on to my friend and editor in Michigan. She will go through it essentially a fourth time.

From there, we should be good to go. Overall, I'm keeping on track, despite occasionally sounding like I'm writing while knocking off a bottle of Scotch.

Stay tuned.

Blogging off,,,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Among The Fellowship

Yesterday I attended the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Spring Conference at the Park East Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. This is a statewide group of writers and poets who come together twice a year at various locations around the state. Because I've only been a member for a couple of years, and I'm busy with other writing pursuits, conferences and, well, to be honest, life, I haven't had the chance to attend a conference. But when I heard they were meeting in Milwaukee, I decided to make it a point to go.
Featured Poet: Mark Doty

I'm glad I did.

There were about 110 people there, a turnout much higher than I expected, frankly. Their agenda featured everything from a business meeting, to "Roll Call" open mic poems by people in the audience to featured poet Mark Doty. 

While the group was heavily tilted on the over 50, white female crowd, there was a decent cross section of age and race as well. I noted a lot of grey hair, to which my wife reminded me of my own grey - what is left of it anyway.

Demographics aside, there were lots of moving words and powerful voices despite a mic system that was more annoying than helpful most of the time. (From my perspective, The Park East Hotel is in need of some significant updating, but I digress.)

Some of the highlights of the day were:

  • Finally getting to hear Marilyn Taylor (ex. Poet Laureate for Wisconsin) read in person. I now understand why my writing instructor worships her. She was fantastic.
  • Ex Milwaukee Poet Laureate Matt Cook had the crowd in stitches with his brilliant work. He takes the benign of daily living and makes it absurdly hysterical.
  • Hearing a couple of "Milwaukee Voice" poets recite great poems about racial unity and division. A teen did a memorized prose poem about the murder of 15 year old Emmitt Till by Klansmen in 1955 that brought the house down.
  • Talking with fellow poets I'd met on Facebook, but never in person. Facebook is the great uniter for building community and because of it, you see someone at a conference like this and suddenly, you have an instant friend.
  • Reading one of my own poems titled Wednesday's Child in front of 100 of my peers. 

Poetry is such a niche genre. People who read fiction and non fiction often times have no time for poetry. They "don't get it" and I get that. Some of it I don't get, either. But in a setting like this with all the talent and diversity, if you sit long enough, there is something for everyone. 

Of course, poetry, like any other artistic endeavor, has a few crackpots and eccentrics. That's part of the reason I go to things like this. It broadens my vanilla-white-middle class-male perspective on the world. It's the eccentrics and the crackpots that keep it interesting, colorful and beautiful.

And when they can write phenomenal stuff like some of these folks it makes the world a better place.

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Time Warp

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm having a hard time here.

It's this whole kids growing up thing and the looming inevitability of an empty house in less than six months.

I'm not a fan.

I know this sounds crazy from someone who should look forward to those quiet nights without having to worry where he or she is, or waiting to hear the car come into the driveway. After all we work hard to raise good, responsible, equipped children, so when they start showing signs that they're ready to leave, we should rejoice and push them gently out of the nest.

Well, I'm not ready, just yet.

Last night was yet another reminder that our time together under one roof is short. We attended Ben's Scholar/Athlete Banquet at Waukesha South High School to see him accept his award along with 260 other students. This award is given to any student who participated in at least one sport and maintained at least a 3.5 GPA for their first semester.

Now I'm the proudest father around, that much is true. I always say I don't know what we did to get such a smart couple of kids - way more academically adept and engaged at that age than I was. So this event nearly brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Hearing some of the stories about kids overcoming adversity, or excelling in their upperclass years after joining a sport late, was nothing short of inspiring. To see my kid up there with the top achievers both athletically and academically meant the world to me.

But I don't want it to end.

And then, last weekend we had to watch him prepare and set off for his last prom. We were reliving our own prom experiences in a conversation with some friends and were commenting about how nervous we remember being. Now, he was likely feeling the same. And while I think he was more than happy to have it come and go, I didn't want it to be the last prom I'd have to take pictures for for my kids.


Part of me wants the little kids dancing in the living room at ages 2 and 5 again. I want trips to Frame Park where I push them on the swing. I miss watching Sarah screech and squeak her way through a 5th grade. I want to cheer Ben on at the soccer field again. I want picky eating, and tiny, little Velcro sneakers and cute little sweatshirts.

As strange as it sounds part of me will miss the chaos of mornings where the bulk of the action is getting one or both of them up out of bed and off to school. I'll miss Christmas concerts and "Family Fun Nights at the grade school where we sugar them up with Pixie Sticks, play some games and hang out eating bad hot dogs in the sweaty gym with the music blaring.

I know these feelings will probably pass, and may even do so much quicker than I think. But I think the only thing I can do is appreciate the days I have left with Ben hanging around. The other day, he left me a cinnamon crunch bagel in a bag from Panera where he works now. They give the bakery away at the end of the night and he was thoughtful enough to set one aside just for me.

Now you might think it a strange thing for a 55 year old grown man to do, but I kinda got choked up. Part of the cause was knowing that this kind of thing is soon to stop as well.

But it also means we did something right.

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Boat Time

A few weeks back, I wrote about a friend of mine from back when I was in high school. His name is Pat and he and I have been friends ever since. My point was that there are certain friends in your life that impact the person you are, what you think and believe. Pat is one of those guys, especially in regards to helping me form my faith.

So in keeping with the spirit of writing about close friends, I have to mention another of those guys, my friend, Steve. He and I met through our wives over 25 years ago. Our wives worked together at the Southeastern Wisconsin Center for Independent Living (SEWCIL). I still remember the first time we met, the four of us went out to a movie (in 1991 or so) and then went back to their apartment where we grilled out and talked.

Over the years, our wives grew to be best friends. We attended Brewer games, bowled together, helped each other with house projects, attended the same church for a while and much, much more. While Steve and I were friends, we were still sort of the fallout of our wives friendship. The two of them were what kept the two of us together.

I guess if I had to pinpoint what changed our friendship, it would be a fly-in trip to Canada that we took in 2006. Steve's wife gave him the trip as a Grad-school graduation gift. Donna arranged to have me go with as part of it, and it didn't take a lot of arm twisting to get me to say yes.

The trip brought 5 days of driving, fishing, laughing and talking. When you're thrown together for extended time periods like this, you're kind of forced to get to know each other at a deeper level. While we talked about life, our spouses and our faith, the biggest revelation might have been that we both share a love of fishing that runs deep. I still say the night we found a great walleye hole was one of the best nights of fishing of my life.

Well, the rest is history. We had such a great time fishing Canada that we went back two other times, both of which were even better than the first. We also fish locally when we can and he even helped me learn the ropes of Musky fishing and was part of helping me catch several fish of lifetime.

All of this time in a boat together has forged a friendship that will last the rest of our lives, of that I am confident. I refer to him as the brother from another mother and the passing of our brothers from cancer, literally within 12 months of each other made that statement strikingly real and relevant. Our losses only served as another commonality between us. When you lose someone as close as a brother, it brings everyone a little closer, especially a good friend.

And for that I am thankful.

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Using Caffeine to Find Heaven

I have mentioned in past posts that my Thursday mornings are spent drinking coffee with anywhere from one to four other friends at Café De Arts in Waukesha. We typically try and work our way through a book, often times by an edgy Christian author like Brian Zahnd, Peter Rollins or Rob Bell.

While I don’t always align 100% with the teaching or proclamations of each of these books, I cannot deny that they all challenge me to think outside the box. They often show me that I am comfortable putting my faith or my God in my own little box. I won’t go into specifics of each, but I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am not questioning what I’ve always believed, then how will I ever grow in my faith.

Anyways, a bit of a tangent there.

Our discussion today turned toward heaven and hell, but mostly heaven. We started by postulating what heaven was like. It made for some interesting and, as often with this group, some far-out ideas. Those far-out ideas would take turns and devolve into humorous abominations of the original idea. In other words, we sometimes stoop to laughing about it because it is such an incomprehensible subject that we don’t know how else to deal with it.

Some of the ideas were:

Working 24/7 – Someone had the crazy thought that what if when you got to heaven, you got a shovel and a wheelbarrow and were set to work to make Earth a better place? That maybe if your time on earth was well spent (Well done, good and faithful servant) that God put you on the fix earth team. And that for eternity, heaven wouldn't be lounging around on clouds, but work - enjoyable, rewarding work, unlike any here on earth, but work nonetheless. I guess I never thought of it that way. It lead to one of the guys asking if there would be break times. Because. that's important.

Singing 24/7 - Or maybe we will spend our eternity singing as a form of worshipping God. One friend admitted singing wasn't his gift, but his grandmother would be ecstatic. The guy went on to say that it might get to be a little much after about the first 1000 years of singing. "Okay now, verse 3,446,410. Sounds a lot like the last one."  Of course someone asked if there would be breaks.

Hobbies 24/7 - Maybe heaven is nothing but things you enjoy the whole time. Or maybe you're limited to One Thing. (What would yours be? Mine would be fishing.) The consensus was that even something you really love would get old after the first 1000 years. This led someone to ask if we could maybe take breaks from our hobbies to work a bit on some emails for work or something? Never thought of having a hobby become old and tiresome before.

Sunsets/Sunrises/Natural Beauty 24/7 - Maybe it is that stunning waterfall or rock formation or Redwood tree or maybe all of them in a constant loop. 

Father/Son or Parent/Child Moments 24/7 - This would actually be one of the more appealing ones. If you were on a constant loop of moments between Mother and Daughter, or Father/Son, but maybe you saw it for everyone that's ever lived. Kind of a cool thought, With breaks of course.

Not every Thursday goes this deep or this philosophical, but it's always a great way to jump start my day. We don't pretend to know all the answers to any of it, but it's great fun poking at ideas and seeing what seeps out. This week we didn't touch upon Hell much, but maybe that will come up next week.

What would your ideal Heaven be? 

Blogging off,,,

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An Alleyway Reality Check

I helped a friend with his patio yesterday. He is a longtime friend and over the years we've taken to helping each other out with home improvement projects. It is what good friends do for one another - like family without the blood relations.

While the day was good, spent with a friend, followed by a drink on their deck afterward, it was not what stood out to me on the day. No, that was something much more sobering.

As we were driving out to pick up the gas powered compactor, we came across his neighbor, Bob who was puttering in the alley. Bob was probably in his early sixties and was hobbling around like he was in pain. When Steve stopped and said hi, he asked Bob how he was doing. Bob told us he was in a lot of pain. He'd had a couple of cortisone shots in his back a couple of days prior, but it hadn't touched the pain he was having. He went on a bit about his options coming up and after a couple of minutes we told him to take it easy and went on our way.

Then, after we had compacted Steve's patio, we were driving down the alley and came across another neighbor down the block. His name was Mike.

Steve said, "Hey Mike, I see you grew all your hair back. How's it going?"

"Well, the Doctor said I'm 'stable,' whatever that means."

We talked a good while with him. Turns out he has brain cancer. He showed us a 7 inch scar on his scalp and said that there was much of the tumor that they couldn't safely remove.

After some more questions from us, he revealed that he was terminal. Doctors say they don't know how long it could be, but likely 3 years or less. Mike is about my age - mid 50's.

Now, before yesterday, I did not know Mike from anyone. I still barely know him. But his news and his circumstances were positively sobering. Steve and I both shared our stories of losing our own brothers to cancer in the same year. Cancer was our common thread - our connection point.

And it shook me up.

It made me realize once again that what matters most is hearing from other people that they are thinking of you, that you are praying for them, and that they care. It made me reaffirm how I need to keep looking at my life and living it with a sense of urgency. There are important things to be done, and hoarding material possessions or envying someone else's house, or dwelling on petty grievances, building wealth, worrying about having enough for retirement and other such things is a monumental waste of precious time.

Help someone, tell your kids you love them, spend time with friends, feed the poor, pick up litter (and tomorrow, pick up more), mind your diet and health, love your spouse or significant other or niece or nephew or parents.

I don't mean to preach, but life is short. Do it well.

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Climbing The Ladder

Today at work we were talking about our kids and how we want them to be successful in their careers and that as much as we would like to, we can't live that part of their life out for them. They will have to make the choices, one at a time, that take them through their working life. They will question their choices, weigh the benefits, and probably take a fall or two in the process.

My son has already had a couple of jobs and is currently embarking on his third one at Panera Bread. Of the first two, one was a pretty positive experience (groundskeeper at a church) and the other was not so good (checker/cart boy/bagger at Woodmans). The not so good experience gave him a taste of how bad management and policies can make a job not-so-fun. He was finally let go when he was sick with pneumonia - including a doctors note - and was unable to cover his shifts. He bid good riddance and is a better person for it. I've heard from many people that Woodmans' management policies are pretty laughable.

Anyway, my coworkers and I were talking about how we got to where we are today. In my case, I took a job right out of college doing manual map drafting for a Minneapolis mapping firm, Markhurd Aerial Surveys.)  The job was pointed to me by my girlfriend at the time. This was a woman I dated for only a few months - one of those connections that I'm certain was put in my life to get me a job.

The interesting part of this job was that it only paid $5.50/hour.

With a college degree.

My friends pretty much laughed at the fact that I would even consider it. My point was that I was doing a job I loved, in my field of study, and gaining valuable experience in the process.

Well, it led to a layoff. Then, a job offer in a place called, Waukesha, Wisconsin to do "CADD mapping". It was a significant pay increase to...$7.50/hr! Now, most people thought this was hardly worth moving out of state for a $7.50/hr job. But this time my rationale was similar:

Take a job that I would love, in my field of study, gaining even more valuable experience, for a little more money!

That was the leap of faith I would tell my kids to take today if they were doing the same thing. I would question it, no doubt, as my own mother did when I moved. But I think it is these leaps that give us the most growth. I was scared to death driving across the state of Wisconsin, but I am glad I followed my instincts, because it lead me to a career that I have been blessed to have.

So this summer my Sarah will be taking an internship in Vilas County, Wisconsin. It will give her valuable experience, for a little pay and give her a sense on whether environmental science is what she wants to pursue.

And we will be right there with her, cheering her on.

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

From The Podium

Ever since the release of Dirty Shirt, I have been forced to do a fair amount of public speaking and presentations. It is one thing to write in a bubble, as I am doing right now in my living room with headphones in, but quite another to take your work into the world. It is also absolutely essential for any author to get out there and push their book once it is published. In many cases this requires writers to go WAY outside their comfort zone and do fun things like readings, signings and schmoozing with the public.

Now, I'll admit that the idea of this requirement was one of my biggest fears when I first heard that Dirty Shirt had been accepted. I don't much like the spotlight and other than a few work presentations, I really haven't done much public speaking since college. It's not my favorite thing to do. I'm a bundle of nerves and it typically shows.

However, now that I have been at this for coming up on three years, I have become much more comfortable at public appearances. In fact, in a couple of days I have another poetry reading in New Berlin at the library for an hour. Unlike my Dirty Shirt presentation, this one is just reading some of my work and talking a little about the inspiration behind some of them. My Dirty Shirt schtick is much more involved with slides, mixed with readings and other things.

So tonight I was able to book another Dirty Shirt book signing for September 1st, 2017. This time it is in Minnesota at The Paperbacks Plus Book Store and represents only my second signing in my home state. On top of these two appearances, one is in the works for Tribeca Gallery and Books in Watertown, Wisconsin sometime in May (or, worst case, July).

The kicker is, I never thought I would be doing book signings and appearances as long as three years after a book comes out. I figured a good year and things would dry up. While I understand you are never really DONE selling your book, I figured the opportunities for selling it would become much less frequent than they have. Not a bad thing, mind you, just surprising.

Even more funny is the fact that just about the time the signings slow to a snails pace, my next book will come out. (I am hoping for a year end acceptance and a spring or early summer 2018 release.) So if I think that soon enough I'll have time to breathe and relax for a bit, I am dead wrong.

At that time, it will all ramp up again. All the peripheral stuff that goes with promotion, including lots of soliciting of bookstores, libraries and the like, will become my "other full-time job" as I like to refer to it.

And you know what? I'm really okay with the thought of that. It's what it's all about.

For more about my coming events, visit:

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