Sunday, February 16, 2020

Picture My Life - 1999

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This picture was taken in Hackensack, Minnesota, which not only has a great placename but was also the source of my Minnesota family's cabin for a few years in the late '90s. My mother was always good about getting the whole family together at a cabin for a week every year. It started in
Forest Lake, then moved to Aitkin for many years, later to Hackensack, and finally up to Mercer, Wisconsin.

This week away was always highly anticipated by both adults and kids. It was a chance to fish, swim, read and relax for 7 straight days. The tradition continued until about 8 years ago when the kids were starting to get jobs and such that made justifying the trip a little harder. Now it's dwindled to single families going up, usually on different weekends when they can.

But this trip in 1999 was when everybody was in. We drove 8 hours from Wisconsin to get there, which is no small feat given the ages of our kids in this picture, Sarah (4) and Benjamin (1). I remember those car rides - feats of strength and stamina. 

One of the things I love about this picture is how young and happy we look. We were just starting up into the hard years of parenting where it seems that some days, all you do is meet the physical needs of your kids - eating, dressing, pooping, repeat. Oh, to have some of that energy back. Young kids are nothing but energy and happiness and tantrums and work. It's amazing that we actually got them to sit still for this shot.

Pictures like this make me miss their littleness. I used to love putting them on my shoulders or carrying them around on my hip. The tickling and the snuggling and the wrestling. Loved the wrestling. The time goes so fast. I know I made the best of it at the time. I made it a point to be there for my kids, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't give a few days of my life to go back to this time for a bit. I guess that is what grandparenting must be about.

There are a couple of things that caught my eye about this shot. Donna is wearing a Myrtle Beach T-Shirt. Myrtle Beach was another vacation destination for our young family every few years. We met Donna's family down there and we all hung out on the beach and by the pool. 

I am wearing a Geomedia T-Shirt which was a GIS Software from a previous life. A year later, in 2000, we switched to ESRI's software, so now I wear those T-shirts. Ha! I was three years into my "new job" at Waukesha County and beginning to build a legacy there. I am fortunate to still be there 21 years later. 

Those days at the cabin with young kids were good years. Fishing on the dock with them, swimming, catching frogs, boat rides and lots of time with cousins and aunts and uncles. The adults would get together over some well-earned adult beverages while the kids played together. I specifically remember getting a 2-hour reprieve from kids on the last night and going fishing with my brother Rob. The only reason I remember it was because we laughed so hard in that boat over the difficulties of parenting. I almost split a gut. It was cathartic. I miss that boat time with Rob.

I sincerely feel that those times together with extended family brought all of us closer together. It gave us the chance to get below the superficialities of life and laugh a little while we all relaxed and had smores over the fire together. I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Picture my Life - 1989

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This post's picture is of my wedding day, obviously. We were married in June of 1990, so I'm not sure why this picture was filed in the 1989 folder, but it happens.

The occasion was certainly one of the happiest days of my life, despite the 93 degree mid-June heat. After months of planning from 750 miles apart, we were finally in the midst of our day. 

My whole family made the trek out to Canandaigua for the wedding. Many of them continued on in a sort of east coast vacation afterward. I can't say enough about how much it meant that they all made it out. 

We were married in a beautiful, quaint Methodist Church in tiny little Gorham, New York. It was like Mayberry without Andy Griffith. The church was warm and my best man saved the day by handing me a Bounty paper towel to wipe my brow every few minutes. He knew I was sweating for more than one reason. Ha!

After the wedding, we drove 15 minutes to the Geneva Rod and Gun Club. It was situated on Seneca Lake and the lake breeze gave a little respite from the heat. After a meal and some speeches from the wedding party, the DJ took over and we all cut a rug. As you know, dancing is my thing. I love it. Until I see myself on the videotapes of that day when I get a little horrified. But, as I said in the past, the dance flo' is where I lose all inhibitions. That's what it's for. It's cathartic.

But I digress.

When the reception wound down, a large boat pulled up and Donna and I boarded. We motored across the lake to Donna's Chevette (A bit of a reality check, here.) From there we drove to the Taughanook Inn where we spent a couple nights on our honeymoon. The whole day was dreamlike. 

This summer we will celebrate 30 years together. It all started in a small town on a hot day surrounded by family and friends. Life is crazy.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Picture My Life - 1987

I'm taking a new approach on my blog posts for the next while. As a creative exercise, I've decided to write about a picture. I'm calling it the blog series, Picture My Life. I will try and write how this photo, this moment captured in some cases decades ago, has made me who I am, or changed how I look at life.

I keep all my pictures on my laptop ordered by year. And because I have a zillion photos on my laptop, I decided to walk my way through with a method to my madness for determining which one is chosen.

To choose it I will take the date of the post and use it as my criteria for which picture is chosen. For example, I'll use the month as what drives the subfolder I choose, so February would be the second folder. Then, I'll choose the picture from that folder as the day of the post, so the 9th would be the 9th photo in that folder.

So, starting with my first folder, the year is 1987, and the photo is me and my godson Nicolas, goofing around with a Jack in the Box at Christmas.

This picture was taken by my mom. It was around Christmas time, if not on Christmas Eve and I think it almost speaks more for itself than I can put into words.

Nick and I have always had a good relationship. As his godfather, he was favored over some of the other nieces and nephews, but I have always loved all of them. They were my "kids before I had kids."

At times he had anxiety issues to the point where he'd work himself up to an upset stomach. I remember one time at Como Zoo, when I was with him and my niece, Erin, Nick told me he wasn't feeling good. Knowing his history I hustled him over to a garbage can, picked him up and held him there waiting for him to puke into it. He must have had stage fright, because it never happened.

It was one of those uncle/nephew bonding moments, you could say. Ha!

But, as I said the good times we've shared over the years have far outnumbered any bad. There was the time I took him kite flying on a hillside in Maplewood. I just remember him running with the kite in jeans and some new cowboy boots, which he'd taken a recent liking to. Simpler times, but for some reason the memory has stuck.

We've had many other great moments together, including paddling and camping in the BWCA and sharing a cigar in Cozumel where he married his beautiful bride, Janet.

But probably the one story my wife remembers about Nick was the first time she met Nick. She and I were engaged at the time and went to Nick's house for a visit. When his mom told him that this was Donna, who was going to be his aunt, he stormed away and said, "She's not going to by my aunt!"

It seems Nick and I were so close, he didn't want to share me. Ha!

Needless to say, he got over it the same day and realized she wasn't so bad. The ironic thing is, about 6 years later, we chose him as our daughter's godfather.

So the relationship came full circle.

In any case, Nick grew into a fine man and now has a son of his own. He's an airman in the Air Force and just returned from a tour of duty in the Middle East. And I hope there may come a day when he's sitting with his own son, scaring the hell out of him with a Jack in the Box. (One of those toys I sorta love/hate.)

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Attention Deficit

Some random thoughts, because I'm finding it difficult to stick to a single train of thought today.

  • It is a weird time of year for me. That first week after the Super Bowl is always a little disjointed. I don't watch like I once did, but I really don't watch any other sports, so it seems like something is missing. It's a first-world problem though, one that will pass soon enough.
  • Speaking of Super Bowl, I thought it was a phenomenal one to watch. A back-and-forth affair for 3 1/2 quarters until it got out of hand. I was glad to see KC win.
  • Like everyone else in the world, I have my opinion of the halftime show, but unlike many others, I don't feel the need to express that opinion. 
  • I was invited to take part in a Poet Laureate reading in Sheboygan at the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Conference in May. I consider it an honor just to be in the same room with some of the others that will be there. My 8 minutes of fame.
  • I am halfway through season 2 of Outlander. What a great series.
  • This empty nest thing is growing on me. The house is quieter, my wife and I have more mind-space, and we have discovered what brought us together in the first place. Getting very used to it.
  • The writing slogs ahead. Working my way through my work-in-progress for the third time. Some days I hate every word and think it's dreadful, some days I think it's really good. I'm getting good feedback, so I think the latter is more true than the former. So, I will continue to slog onward.
  • The job goes extremely well. I am blessed with an amazing staff and great leadership.
  • Each day gets a little lighter when I come home. Spring can't come soon enough.
Blogging off...

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Walking Toward It

It is a tough time for our country politically. An  impeachment hearing is probably as divisive an event as a country can go through. People get ugly about it. I know I am guilty of spending entirely too much time on Twitter lately which from a political standpoint is a toxic wasteland. All it does is enrage me. I need to stay off. I've always said I'm not a politically outspoken person, but in these times, it's hard not to speak up.

I'd be better served to notice the points of light and goodness around me than contributing to the cesspool of vitriol.

For example, on Friday morning of last week, as I was walking to work, the first two people I encountered said, "Good morning." It immediately changed my mood from nondescript to cheery in a matter of four words. The next person walked past looking down, but the next two I passed both said good morning as well. Altogether, 4 out of 5 gave some sort of greeting. Just a day prior it was only one of three.

Just to be clear, my rule is, if I establish eye contact I will initiate a greeting. If they are looking down or distracted, I don't bother. This is partly my introversion, partly respect for peoples' privacy. In fact, it's not that I'm even looking for people to say hi to as much as to assure them that I am not a threat. I realize a 6'4" white male walking anywhere in this day and age can be perceived as such, so my intentions are noble.

With regards to that, I respect when a woman walks by without looking up, because they've got to be on guard much more than men, which pains me and is a sad statement for our world. Everyone should be able to at least walk the streets without fear, but alas, there's crappy, creepy, bad people everywhere you go, I guess

At the end of my walk that day I realized how those little interactions - something as simple as someone saying "Good morning" with a bit of a smile - can make the day lighter. We need more of that in this ugly world and it doesn't cost a dime.

So, as bad as this political crap is - and it doesn't look to change real soon, in this an election year - I urge you to look for the light in people. At the same time, look inward and see where you need work as well. It's easy to jump on the name calling wagon, just look at both sides of the political aisle and you'll see our "leaders" stooping to middle-school level name calling. It's embarrassing to say I voted for any of them.

Instead, find something good to say to someone tomorrow, the next day, or next week. The world
could use a lot more of it about now. Compliments look good on you.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Stout Faith

My wife and I have a small group of friends that take part in a bi-weekly book study. This group is unique in a couple of ways. For starters we are focusing on books of a spiritual nature. The book we are currently working through is Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr. Father Rohr comes from the Franciscan tradition of Christianity whose focus is mysticism. His concepts make a lot of sense at this point in my faith life. He kind of blows up the simplicities within the, say-the-prayer-and-be-saved-and-that's-all mentality.

The other part that makes the book study unique is we meet in a bar or brewpub. We were meeting at Raised Grain, a local microbrewery, but have moved to a smaller, quieter venue. Raised Grain is cavernous and hosts a lot of corporate events that get a tad loud. The House of Guiness is a much tamer venue, lending better to conversation.

But anyway, the book study is always relaxed and fun. Rohr's concepts are thought-provoking and paradigm shaking enough to spur great conversation. Much of his precepts are built on the thought that if God, or the Christ, created the world, the essence of God must be part of everything and everyone. This ripples into the fact that when a friend grieves, we grieve as well, because we're all connected as humanity. I'm way oversimplifying it here, you'll just have to read the book.

The real beauty of these study-sessions is the combination of friends, good beer, bars and books. Throw into that an exploration of our faith, both individually and as a group, and well, it doesn't get much better. We typically focus on the book for an hour and spend another hour solving global problems and airing our grievances. Things are generally over by 9:15, so it makes for an early evening, something we all agreed was a good thing.

I look at the group as another outgrowth of my friend group that are all in the throes of an empty nest. When we were all raising kids, we could never do these kinds of things, especially on a weekday. But, now things like this are possible and make a nice break in the week.

Much like my Tuesday coffee with the guys, this has become something I really look forward to.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 26, 2020

January From The Bright Side

Well, we are in the heart of the winter season and so far, so good. I always get a serious case of dread in October and November knowing what is in front of us, namely darkness, snow and cold.

So, this winter I was determined to make things better, determined not to hate every day of it. And maybe it's because it's been a fairly tame winter thus far, but I also think a lot of it can be credited to attitude and some other adjustments I've made.

Probably the biggest problem I had with it in the past was the early darkness. I'm an outdoors person so being cooped up indoors after work every night cramps my routine. What I've done to remedy some of this is come to the realization that there is a season for high activity and a season for rest. I've come to look at winter as my season to dial my outdoor sports back a bit.

The problem with this is it typically means I gain 8-9 pounds every winter which makes me feel like a fat boy. To remedy this, I try and walk to work on any day that the weather is above the teens. The 3+ mile round trip keeps me in some shape.

This year though, I felt that wasn't enough, so I bought a bike trainer. On days I don't walk, I try and put 30-45 minutes on the trainer. I do it while watching Outlander on my laptop with headphones, so it works out well on all accounts. It pales in comparison to road riding, believe me, but it helps get the heart and lungs working hard.

I've also taken to trying to meditate for 5 minutes twice a day. I've heard many good things about meditation, so use it to try and clear my head. One quote I read said meditation will never leave your head empty, but it will leave it emptier. That is what I'm hoping. So far, so good. More on that in a future post, perhaps.

When I walk the dog, or walk to work, I have been trying to see the good parts of the winters day, one day at a time. Maybe its the fact that it is a windless day, maybe its above 32, or maybe its the sunset - albeit at 5:15 PM. There is beauty in all of it, sometimes you just have to look harder.

I've also resolved to getting a little more sleep preceeded by a little more reading time. Between these two and bingeing on Outlander on Netflix (a mindless habit, I'm brutally aware, but I'm hooked), I've determined that life goes on if I'm not up until 10:15 "writing" (i.e. cruising Facebook with occasional sentences of writing). It's okay to not be productive 24/7. The memoir/poem/fiction story will wait.

And finally I will take on new activities when I can. Studying a Richard Rohr book while drinking beer with good friends every other Thursday night is one. I also went cross country skiing today, another benefit of winter I do enjoy.

So, winter ain't all bad. I just have to keep telling myself that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Demise Of The Corner Grocery

Since today marks 2 years since the release of my book, The Portland House, I thought I'd take a walk back to the old neighborhood.

I saw a post recently on the Old Saint Paul Facebook site that triggered some great memories. It was on the subject of Corner Grocery stores. This post will likely date me because these places are a thing of the past. The Woodmans and Walmarts and Krogers of the world made sure of that. 

We had one near us when we lived on Portland Avenue in St. Paul. I'm not sure, but I think it was even called Corner Grocery. It was on the corner of Grand Avenue and Dunlap, about 3 blocks from our doorstep. 
Site of former Corner Grocery on Grand Av.

As kids we spent many summer days walking to Corner Grocery with our allowances or other change we'd begged from Mom by leaving her a note to read before she left for work everyday. We bled her dry one quarter at a time in the summer - nickle and diming she used to call it - all in the name of a sugar fix. Sometimes it required a chore like weeding the gardens for a dollar, but sometimes it was just out of sheer exhaustion she'd leave change.

The store was a mom-and-pop owned place, I'm sure, not much larger than the ground floor of my current house. It had shelves stocked with a few cans and boxes of everything. The place was a fallback whenever Mom needed a loaf of bread or a half gallon of milk in a cardboard carton. Gallons were too heavy to carry the full 3 blocks, plus back then, they were only packaged in carboard too. 

But more often, we never got too far past the front area near the register which was where the candy was kept. They had it all at Corner Grocery, candy bars, licorice, Dots, Whoppers, Boston Baked Beans, candy cigarettes, tootsie pops and Charms suckers. 

I remember the Charms the most, They kept them in a vertical holder and if you picked one that happened to have a red mark on the bottom of the stick, you got to pick another free one. I didn't really care for Charms much, but being a cheap kid, I managed to try my luck at it a few times. 

Along with the candy were the sports cards and collectibles, like Wacky Packages. This was my little heaven. At a quarter a pack, I almost always spent at least a portion of my money on football cards. Some marketing genius figured that one out early. Tease kids by putting one player from their favorite team in every 5th package or so, so they buy them until they're broke. I held up my end of the bargain for sure.

It's funny what you remember about those old places. I remember the smell and the cramped aisles and the friendly clerk who put up with our .50 sales one kid at a time, almost every day, as there was always a kid from the neighborhood doing the same thing I did. 

So it's kind of sad that these places went the way of the video stores and drive in theaters. I think they were a sort of cornerstone (pardon the metaphor) for our communities. They brought kids out of their homes and were a draw from blocks around for what they had to offer. This particular place was bought by a hairdresser, Ernesto. He styled Mom's hair once a week for years and probably did a much more lucrative business than Corner Grocery. 

Ernesto's was eventually bought out by something else, further proof that nothing is forever. It's a shame these places don't exist anymore, but it sure is fun looking back at them. I'm grateful they were a part of my childhood.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Battle Of The Bays

Between the two teams I cheer for, Minnesota and Green Bay, today will mark the 17th NFC Championship game that I've watched actually means something to me. The Packers will meet the Forty Niners to determine who goes to the Super Bowl as the NFC representative.

Seventeen. That's a lot of games.
My copies of the XXI & XXXII Super Bowl programs

Of those games though, I've only been on the winning side six times, three each for the Packers and Vikings. That means my disappointments outnumber my euphoric moments by a margin of almost 2:1.

There have been some heart breakers for sure, almost too many to list.

For the Vikings there were:

  • The Cowboys Hail Mary pass
  • The Gary Anderson missed field goal in the Randall Cunningham years
  • The 41-0 stomping at the hands of the NY Giants during the Randy Moss years
  • The infamous Brett Favre interception versus New Orleans
  • The recent beating at the hands of the  Eagles
And as a Packer fan, I've had my heartbreaks too:

  • The pounding by Emmit Smith and the Cowboys
  • The infamous Brett Favre versus the NY Giants (I see a trend here)
  • The Seahawk meltdown of 5 years ago. What a disaster!
  • The 44-21 thumping laid on by the Atlanta Falcons
For the Vikings, their NFC Championship victories were so many years ago, I barely remember what I felt, but I am sure as a young boy, I was thrilled. I lived and died by Tarkenton, Foreman, Osborn, Gilliam, Washington, Eller, Page, Marshall and the rest. It was idolatry at a young age. 

I remember my mom, stepfather and sister once met Gary Larsen at a bar in northern Minnesota when we were at the cabin. (Gary Larsen was the relatively unknown "fourth" Purple People Eater lineman for the Vikes.) He was sweet on my sister and I was introduced to him. I shook his hand and stood there relatively awestruck. But I digress.

Because they are more recent, I do remember vividly the Packer NFC victories however. The first one was when they beat the Carolina Panthers to get to the Superbowl with Brett Favre, Reggie White, Edgar Bennet, Andre Rison, Don Beebe and Desmond Howard. I'd lived in Wisconsin for 10 years and most of them were with brutally bad to mediocre teams, so this one seemed like it was for real. 

That win over Carolina was a fantastic feeling, eclipsed only by the eventual win over New England in Superbowl XXX1. 

This year's Packer team has surprised me again and again. I picked them to go 9-7 this year and they proved me wrong, finishing 13-3. 

And while I realize it's a boys game played by men and the Packers are underdogs today, I will still watch in hopes that they can pull out an upset. They did it against Chicago in 2010 to go on and beat Pittsburgh in Superbowl XLV. Besides, I have a win/loss ratio that needs to be evened out.

Go Pack!

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Booking Of Revelation

I was the featured poet last night at Mama D's in Wales. I've been looking forward to this evening for a long time, as it was a chance to showcase my two latest poetry books to a new audience.

When I scheduled it, I took the month of January for myself because I figured that if turnout was low because of the weather, I'd be the one to take the hit. I'd rather the other poets I schedule get a decent crowd than myself.

Well, as expected, the event was lightly attended. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated very much those that did come out, but to be truthful, as I started, it stung a little to see so few people.

But by the time I left, I had a different take on the evening. Like so many of these events, the best part of the evening came in the connections I made. For example, a middle school teacher I'd worked with on a student writing camp last year. Her name is Nancy and she came because she'd seen my posts on Instagram and had always wanted to come to a reading. She brought her kids and we had a wonderful chat about writing and its importance in the early years of students. I was touched that she thought enough to come out on a rainy night to hear me.

Another surprise was a woman, Grace, who's come to a couple of my readings now. She is looking to get into writing more poetry herself, so we had a great chat about the intricacies of getting a poem published and how that can pave the way for a book. A great connection with a person I hardly knew a few months ago.

Then, later, my friend and fellow author, Bob Goswitz came up after the reading and we caught up on his writing endeavors. Bob is a Vietnam vet who published a fictionalized account of his experience in the war. In talking to him about the ups and downs of writing, we both concluded that although we are both fledgling authors, we wouldn't trade any part of our lives. While we both are working on our next book, we agreed that if nothing ever came of them, we'd still exceeded our expectations by getting that first book published. He's a great guy and it was so great to see him.

On top of these folks - friends from my literary circles - the poetry reading experience is always one I treasure. With these small groups of people the setting becomes even more intimate, like people gathered in a living room. To me it is art of the spoken kind, meant to be enjoyed, and then it vaporizes. I love being a part of that process.

Furthermore, there were the familiar faces, Sara and Ed, Colleen and her husband, who come through thick and thin and support whomever is behind the microphone. They are the ones who keep me going when these doubts creep in.

As I said, I walked in with a set of hopeful aspirations. But, after the interactions transpired., I walked out with an entirely different outlook. Poetry has never been about selling the books. I need to get past that. It is about the art and creativity and immediacy of it all. It is performance and interaction and beauty and friendship and connection.

So, in that respect, it was a memorable night and I'm glad I had the opportunity to be part of it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Showing It, Not Acting It

Evidently, I'm not 23 anymore.

I sometimes forget that I am closer to sixty than to college. Sometimes this reminder comes on stronger than others. I'm not ready to admit my limitations yet, but the other night was a good example of the difference between my cerebral age and my actual physical abilities.

As part of our church's holiday party, we were allowed access to a gymnasium on the old Concordia College campus in Milwaukee. I'm told that the Milwaukee Bucks used to practice in this particular gym back in the early 70's when they won their championship. That statement piqued my interest knowing that I might be playing in the shadow of Kareem Abdul Jabbar - a long shadow indeed.

Anyway, I've determined that something in my brain snaps when I get in a gymnasium. I don't quite drool, but I feel an instant rush and a need to prove my basketball prowess. I was NEVER a good basketball player, but that didn't stop me from trying. People always assume with my height that I must be good.

Well, ya gotta shoot good too.

So after a half hour of random bucket shooting, I challenged Ben to a game of PIG. The game requires you to make the shot of your predecessor from the same spot, or suffer a letter. First one to spell PIG is out.

Ben and I are equally bad at hoops, I discovered, it must be a genetic defect of some sort. We struggled mightily and went back and forth. I decided to try a reverse layup, a bit trickier than a regular layup but nothing I haven't done a hundred times before.

As I approached the basket at top speed, my foot got caught underneath me.

This was the start of what seemed like a 3 minute fall. My ankle twisted and I landed hard on my butt, with limbs crashing all around me as I spun and fizzled. I broke my fall with my good shoulder and a shock wave went through my whole upper torso. My glasses fell off and skittered across the floor, as I narrowly missed landing on them. I lay there in an inglorious heap of humanity.

And the only thing I could think at the time was, "What is happening? It was only a simple reverse layup!"

Ben and a friend who witnessed the fall came rushing over and asked "Are you okay?"

I jumped up quickly, embarrassed by my ungainly shot, and said, "Yeah. Oww. I think so, yeah."

I went on to shoot a few more shots, but they were much tamer. To be truthful, I'm still a bit sore from the evening, some of it the result of the fall.

Now, in my defense, I was in bad sneakers, jeans and a long sleeve shirt, hardly the attire for a hoops star. But at the same time it was a humbling wake up call that I need to temper my enthusiasm and remember that I am closer to an AARP member than a Bucks practice squad member.

The hardest part is, I've always loved sports, ball sports or outdoor sports. So, I think I have to come to grips with the fact that I can't just go from 0 to 60 when I see a court like I could at 23.

Part of the issue though is recent effort to lose my winter weight. I have about 10 pounds to lose, which you may not see, but I do, and my clothes remind me.

The moral of the story is, while I've come to recognize my need to move in the winter months, maybe a better way to do it is to get a bike trainer, which I did. I've set it up upstairs and have used it the past couple of days. I feel better already, and chances are I won't break a hip putting my miles in. This makes my wife happier than crashing to the gym floor.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Raising The Literary Art Bar

Last night I attended a book launch for a poet friend of mine. Kathrine Yets' chapbook is titled, So I Can Write, and it is her first published book of poetry.

The event was held at Art Bar in Riverwest. I'd never been there, but I love the whole Riverwest scene, so was glad to be able to attend. Having lived on the East Side of Milwaukee many years ago, I miss the nightlife and eclectic crowds that were part of living in that area. The suburbs are so blase' in comparison.

The Art Bar features a lot of art within it, obviously, and was hoppin' busy when I got there at 6:15 or so. It was a diverse, youngish crowd with a great vibe. I'd say these are my people, but I'm probably a bit too old and suburban to get away with it. It's fun trying though. Despite my age difference I felt comfortable enough - I think the Riverwest crowd is cool with you no matter what your makeup is, old, white, bald dudes included. It sure seemed that way to me.

Anyway, I wanted to be there for her launch because she has supported me over the years. She is a talented poet currently teaching at the university level. I can also attest that a first book is pretty huge for any author/poet, so there's that as well..

She read from her work and then held an open mic downstairs afterward. There were a handful of people that read, young and old, including me. It is my hope to get down to the other open mic poetry venue in Riverwest, Linneman's sometime. Anyway, it was a cool evening all the way around. I'm glad I went.

If you're interested in her book, you can get it here.

And, finally, she and I will both be reading at the AllWriters' Friday Night Free for All event a week from tomorrow. Check it out here.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Comings and Goings

I have some public appearances and readings lined up that I am pretty excited about. And frankly, 10 years ago, I never would have thought that would be something I would be saying. I once was a shy boy - still am actually - but duty calls and part of being an author/poet requires reading/signings, so I try and honor that. Every time I do it I get a little more comfortable, so it's not as terrifying as it once was.

The first will be on January 15th at Mama D's in Wales where I'll be the featured poet. As you may know, I organize that event every month and after a few years since I did it last, my turn has come up again. I scheduled it after the release of my two new poetry books, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV and Genetically Speaking: Poems on Fatherhood

Mama D's is a quaint setting and a cool coffee shop in Wales. Attendance has been really good at the past few readings, but this being January in Wisconsin, I'm not sure what to expect. The event features an open mic afterward for anyone who wants to read a poem or two of their own work. There have been some memorable moments from some notable performers here, so it is a lot to live up to.

The second appearance will be a couple of days later on Friday, January 17th at Cafe de Arts for the AllWriters' Friday Night Free for All. I'll be reading with other local published authors and poets from AllWriters' studio.

The focus of my reading there will be my 2018 book, The Portland House: a '70s memoir.  Each of the readers at this event have different credentials, like first published book, first accepted manuscript, etc. My category is multiple books. I'm flattered to be part of this event and again, if you'd told me 10 years ago that I'd be featured as a multiple book author, I'd have laughed you out of the room.

The last event I wanted to share is actually an international reading. I will be part of a multi-poet event at The Poetry Cafe in London in September! When my publisher, Kelsay Press, mentioned they were forming a group to read in London, it piqued my interest, because we were thinking about taking a trip to Scotland anyway. As it stands now, we (my wife and I) will be flying into London for 3 days and then taking a train up to Scotland for 10 day afterward.

This trip is still being planned and fleshed out, but I am very excited about the prospect of saying I'd read my work in London. It is a bucket list item I'd never put in the bucket. The event happens on Saturday, September 26th at 2:00 PM. Stay tuned for more on that.

So, my writing life is busy again and that is good. I'd love to get a few more readings scheduled, so lets hope something cracks that way. Until then, I'll keep writing and working away. This gig is rewarding in ways it is hard to describe. When I'm not weeping and gnashing my teeth, it is a sort of Zen-like experience. LOL.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A Return To Routine

I returned to work today after a 9-day vacation for the holidays. I always look forward to those "break" weeks every year, but every year, by the end of them I'm pretty much ready to go back to work.

It's not that I don't like being home, nor is it that I wouldn't like retirement. It's more a matter of having a more complete plan for the break than "writing as much as I can". That goes great for the first seven days, but after that, I get sort of lost.

This past break I binge-watched the Netflix series The Crown. Well, when I say binge-watched I mean a couple of episodes a day for a few days. Watching TV is something I rarely do except when I have nothing else better to do. This week seemed to be a good chance to knock some of them out.  The thing is, I don't like myself when I do something this passive. It's not who I am. At the same time, I had to admit that it was a nice break from the things/goals I had set for writing and house projects.

The other thing I discovered is I have a bit of a vacuum obsession. I typically vacuum the whole house on Saturday morning, so it's always been my job. But when I'm around the house like every day is Saturday, I always see it as an opportunity to touch up the living room with a quick once-over with the Shark. I'm glad I know this obsession about myself, but it might be something to watch over time.

Dirty dishes in the sink is another habit I can't take too much of. All things must go in the dishwasher. So I scrape and rinse and load as I make them. It's not a bad habit, but again, something worth keeping in check.

I got some decent, normal, fun things done over break too - it wasn't all aprons and pearls. I managed to get to see the new Star Wars movie with my son, which was really good. I finished some poems and a bunch of edits as well as entering a few poems/books in contests and/or journals, and managed to get two late December bike rides of 10+ miles in. I slept in a couple of days and took an occasional nap as needed.

But it was a 9-day reminder that I need a plan for retirement - still a handful of years away - before I can safely say I'm going to retire and not drive my wife mad. I have lots of goals that way, guitar, fly fishing and maybe even pursuit of an MFA, but none of those are hobbies I much have time for until that day I hang up my real job.

So, while it was tough to go back to work today, in a little way, it felt pretty good.

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 29, 2019

An Even Dozen

As I close out 2019 with my final blog post, I looked to see how long I've been blogging. The history feature of Blogger tells me that I've been doing it since 2007. Twelve years! I started sporadically, but since 2010 I've been doing two posts a week.

I guess it doesn't seem that long, but lately time passes so quickly that nothing really surprises me anymore.

I started this blog by a different name, "MrMomForAWeek" in 2007 when my wife went on a mission trip to Guatemala for church. I wanted to track the events of the week as a single parent. I did it partly as a writing exercise, partly as a documentation of events and partly to entertain my friends and family.

And if I think about it, those three precepts still hold true today. I still use this space to keep my creative writing muscles limber and to hold me accountable to write at least twice a week. I haven't wavered too far from it, though have missed a post nearly a dozen times this year. For example this post is #94 and if I was doing it twice a week, it should be #104. So it goes.

There have been several occasions where I've considered stopping, but the disciplined me won't seem to let me. I am committed to doing it, and as a writer, one should really have a blog as part of their entire platform.

So I keep at it, keep mining my thoughts and my days for material, with the hopes that I'm keeping it fresh and interesting. I've had more than a few readers of my books say that they first started following me on my blog. Encouraging to know this, as sometimes it seems I'm shouting down a hole.

It is my hope that 2020 holds for me even a shadow of the success I experienced in 2019. I doubt there will be two books released in 2020, but if I continue to get published in magazines and journals and press hard on my memoir in progress, well, that would be sufficient to hold my interest.

I hope you all have goals and interests of great pursuit in 2020 as well.

Happy New Year!

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Keepin' It Real

The Christmas tree I got this year looked bigger on the lot. It was a phenomenon similar to how fish look bigger in the water than when you get them in the boat. Or, it looked bigger in your imagination this year than it did in your boat six years ago when you caught it.

In any case we got a tree and after we decorated it and put the lights on, it looks fabulous. Sometimes smaller is a nice change. I know I'll thank myself when it is time to haul it out to the curb, so I have that going for me.

We have always had a real tree in this house, and even in the apartments we had before we became homeowners. We both grew up with real trees and never saw the reason to change. This year we gave a passing thought to an artificial tree, but passed on the idea. It has always been my job to pick out the tree and I don't really mind the task, so we can't use the excuse that it's too much work. The family used to come along with me to choose it, but that stopped about 6 years ago, so I go to Steins and try and get one in 15 minutes or less.

Shopping for them always brings back to mind the trees of my past. Mom always took one or more of us to get a tree. Usually it was at the YMCA on University Avenue in St. Paul, where they had a lot called "Y's Men's Trees." Because we didn't have a van, it usually meant tying it on top of the car. I do remember at least one trip home where we had to stop and re-tie one of the ropes because we nearly lost the tree. At least I think that's what happened. Maybe it was just a fear and I ended up making it real in my head.

There were many years we 'd catch the cat trying to scale the tree. One year it actually brought ol' Tannenbaum down when it was climbing. Mom walked into house one year after picking my brother Rob up from the airport to find it laying on its side. She was mortified. Of course we propped it back up, but no good Christmas tree ever looks the same after it's fallen. This was no different.

It did lead to a trend every year afterward of tying the top of the tree to the stair banister spindles using fishing line to keep the thing from toppling over. This is a tradition I've used on more than one occasion myself. No one ever sees it!

Back in the early 70's Mom used the big bulbs that clipped onto the branches and proceeded to get real hot. We never started a fire, but there was a carpet burn or two in there somewhere. Thankfully they went out of fashion before we managed to burn the whole house down.

The whole idea of bringing a tree into your house is pretty weird anyway, if you think about it. It is part of our tradition though, so as long as I can put up with the needles, the watering, and the tree-lot shopping, I plan to keep having a real one.

Blogging off...

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Panic Shopping In The '80s

There was a time when my brothers and I were all single and in college and living with all the irresponsibilities that come with those parameters. Paul and I lived at home and commuted to college at the University of Minnesota, while Rob was in New York at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

And I'm not sure when it started, but there were times when two or three of us banded together on Christmas Eve to do our Christmas shopping. It sort of defies any rational thought, waiting until the 11th hour to embark on getting presents for everyone, but as I said, we were young and untethered to conventional rules.

Our trips to Daytons or Rosedale Mall were usually launched on the downside of a couple of beers to get us in the mood to brave the insanity. When we arrived, we were usually in the company of other wide-eyed men looking frantically for a good sale or a size for something that sold out two weeks prior. It was a fraternity of futility, but we always made it happen, one way or another.

The best part about it though was spending time with one or both of them, laughing at the position we'd put ourselves in again. The three of us must have been a sight, twenty-somethings, all over 6'2" wandering the aisles laughing and price checking everything. It was an inexact science but reflected how much we really hated shopping and the whole mall scene - so much that we'd prolong doing it until nearly the final buzzer. We may have even capped off the spree with a beer somewhere on the way home, or maybe back at home during the wrapping frenzy.

My mom always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. For many years we had her sister and families over, but it just got too big, so she retrenched it back into a family-only affair. With six of us kids and our eventual spouses and kids, that too grew into a mob scene, one that continues today, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Those trips to the mall or a department store and all the camaraderie that goes with it have given away to online shopping via Amazon, which is sort of a travesty when I think about it. It's been reduced to a point and click thoughtlessness for myself and an entire generation. It might be a better, more efficient way of shopping, but it certainly won't be as memorable as those days in the aisles with the brothers.

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Day Unlike Other Days

I celebrated my 58th birthday a few days ago. As one gets older, birthdays are more and more just another day at work, albeit with a little special edge to it. This one was no different. It was one of those days where work was one meeting after another with a holiday party thrown in at the noon hour to make it just a little more upside down. The nice thing about the busyness was it made the day go by quickly.

But as I said, there were some things that made it special, like:

  • Cupcakes from my wife for both the GIS staff and the County Christmas party. Everyone deserves cake (or pie) on their birthday. 
  • A text from my daughter wishing me a happy birthday.
  • A call from Ben in Madison, wishing me the same.
  • When I got home a gift from Sarah awaited; a much-needed pair of slippers!
  • Over 100 Facebook birthday wishes. There is much to hate about social media and Facebook in particular, but it does serve this purpose very well. I very much appreciate my Facebook friends and love scrolling through the many wishes.
Perhaps the best part of the day though was joining some good friends at a nearby Irish pub for a couple of beers. It was a spontaneous sort of thing, in celebration of both Donna and my birthdays and one I'm glad we followed through with. 

When we arrived, it turned out we walked into something called "Whiskey Club" where a group of whiskey aficionados was taste-testing multiple brands of Whiskey. They brought us about four half-shots before we could tell them that we were not part of the club!

Outside of the whiskey club interruption the rest of the couple hours we spent were good. We talked and laughed and speculated on what we were all going to do in retirement. It was really good to close out an otherwise average birthday with good friends. 

As every year passes, I appreciate the people in my life more and more. They keep me laughing and young at heart as we struggle to figure out this thing called life together. I hope to spend many more with them!

Blogging off...

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Radio Shift

I took a county vehicle from work to a meeting downtown today. It was a Chrysler Pacifica. The vehicle has some interesting quirks for sure, some of which I found confounding and borderline ridiculous.

Now, I know it's highly un-American, but I've been a fan of foreign cars for years. To me they are better engineered, run longer and need less maintenance. The two American cars I've owned as an adult were fairly disappointing machines. The first, an 83 Escort that was ready for the junk heap at 90,000 miles (Head Gasket + a myriad of other less major issues.) The second a Plymouth Voyager, a slightly less disappointing machine that was ready for the junk heap at 112,000 mi. (Too many issues to list. Am happy they gave me anything for it.)

Because I've driven largely Japanese and Korean I've become accustomed to the layout and functions of the cars - not to mention they work well for a long time.

But I digress. I am talking about the Pacifica here and thought the layout of the thing was so bizarre it deserved mention.
Shifter on left, radio on right.

Starting with the shifter, which is a big knob on the dash. Nice concept, but for me it is precariously close to the radio and heating control KNOBS. The last thing I want when I'm looking for a better station is to shift into Low gear and blow my engine up. Now, I trust they have controls in place to prevent drivers from doing this; Maybe an electrical shock if you touch the big dial while moving or something of the sort. I wasn't about to test it.

But my point is, why put it there in the first place? Was it ever a good idea?

Then there is the heater. The thing is driven by another knob with "Mode" printed on it. A bit unintuitive perhaps. It only took me about 5 miles of driving to figure out how the thing worked.

When I got going I realized there were two speedometers, one analog, one digital. I don't know if it they are covering the bases between the digital and analog ages, but I thought it was sorta stupid. Why not two tachometer readouts too? Heck, I'd settle for one good heater readout over the second speedometer.

The seat didn't go back far enough for a guy my height - thanks Chrysler. Add to that my knee hits the console in front, so my options to stretch my leg are limited. Thanks again.

The light switch is yet another knob on the dashboard. I thought they did away with those about 15 years ago. I'm so used to it being on the blinker stick that it took me 3 minutes of looking to find it on the dash.

The county also gets their vehicles installed with back-up beepers for liability reasons. It's safe, but adds another level of annoying to an annoying vehicle.

There was one nice feature about the car. It has a little light that comes on in the side mirrors when another car is in your blind spot. It's ingenious. They need to pay that engineer more and have him redesign the entire dash.

So that's my review for the day. But don't let it sway you!

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Art and Appreciation

Yesterday was my wife's birthday. It was also a really, really good day.

It started, as most every Saturday does, with our weekly coffee date at a local coffee shop. This time together is where we talk through what has transpired during the week, we look to the future, talk about our kids and our friends, and ruminate about politics, culture and our world. It has become sacred time to both of us. We both miss it on those weeks we have other commitments or are traveling. It grounds us and sets the stage for the coming week.

From there, we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum. We have a membership that we bought last May and haven't used, so we thought we'd squeak a visit in. The nice thing about a membership is you can see the special exhibits any time they come. We strolled through three of them, taking our time and admiring the art. Then we moved into the Portrait of Milwaukee portion and stepped back in time through the black and white photos of the city we both love and call home now. These trips to the Museum are always cathartic; a chance to slow down, appreciate the gifts of a multitude of artists.

After the Museum we went to IKEA to look for window treatments. We're not really shoppers, but still we go in with a target item in mind and almost always come away with a couple extra items.

When we got home, I went off to write, while she watched a movie. After that we moved a heavy dresser into our newly painted bedroom and got that situated. We closed out the evening watching the Badger football game together with the pets on the the couch.

The day sort of signifies what our marriage is all about. We enjoy each others' company over coffee, while taking in art, culture, sports and even shopping on occasion. We also recognize that we need time apart pursuing our own interests - too much time together is never good, and I say that with great respect, not to be cutting. And with regards to the dresser, we recognize the importance of working together to make our home what it is - as humble as ours is. And, trust me, we have a humble little house.

I don't proclaim to have a perfect marriage - I don't know of anyone who does. I do think it takes work and sacrifice and patience. We need to recognize the rhythms of each other and roll with them. It isn't always easy, but when you have a good day, it can be really, really good.

Blogging off...

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Eagles, Gophers and Badgers, Oh My

We had a great Thanksgiving weekend in Minnesota, despite a snowfall that went on and on and on. It was never debilitating, but certainly could be categorized as annoying.

After a nice dinner on Thursday, we hung out at the hotel most of the day Friday. I took a brief walk at a local regional park and had the privilege of seeing four eagles roosting in the same tree. One had flown off only seconds before I got there otherwise there would have been 5 in a picture I took. It was as majestic as it sounds; an almost spiritual experience.

That night we had our traditional chocolate fondue with Christmas gift opening at our daughter's apartment. When we were younger, Donna's parents often came to town for "Thanksmas" where we celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday and Christmas on Friday. Now that we have kids in other states, we are doing the same thing, it seems. The important thing has always been that we are together, not so much the date, so this is a great compromise.

On Saturday afternoon we watched the Gopher/Badger football game. As a gopher alum, I hoped for the best, but sort of had a feeling that they'd struggle with the Badgers, as they often do. It was an exciting first half, but true to form, the wheels came off in the second half as the Badgers rolled on to win it very decisively.

Much like the Packers, I've become a Badger fan due to proximity over the years, but I was really pulling for my Gophers this year. They've been so mediocre for so long, I thought this year might be different. Alas. Nonetheless, it was a great year and maybe they'll get some good recruits for next year. (Though I"m sorta sick of saying, wait till next year.) In any case, I'll now root for the Badgers to beat Ohio State and go to the Rose Bowl and for the Gophers to win whatever bowl they end up in. It's nice to have options.

In any case, Thanksgiving was a good warm up and I am looking forward to the Christmas season.

Blogging off...

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Beyond Turkey and Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving has always been a little bit of the prologue holiday for me. The warm-up act before the headliner Christmas. The holiday with a dash of a letdown. I remember as a kid, appreciating the fact that we were all together as a family, but when all was said and done, what was the point of a big, delicious meal, if there was no gift exchange afterward. Of course, my thinking was antithetical to what Thanksgiving was all about, namely being thankful for everything. Your family, your house, your school, your government and even the food before you.

As a kid, those holidays were always big affairs. Of course everything seems bigger when you're young. A couple of times we held it at my grandmother's community room at the Lexington Apartments on Jefferson Avenue. She had some of the affair catered and for some reason, my wife remembers the chef in charge of cutting the turkey had a missing finger, victim of his own knife skills perhaps.

My cousins from White Bear Lake came to these "off site" Thanksgivings and between the two extended families and kids, it grew into a mob affair. The football game was always on the TV and one year even featured the Vikings and Cowboys - It may even have been Herschel Walker years - it's unclear. In any case, it never felt completely the same as when mom or Aunt Helen hosted the holiday.

Thanksgiving on those years at the Portland house set the bar for how to do a  big family dinner, and Mom did it with middle-class elegance and grace. She'd put the bird in the oven at 10:00 it seems, sometimes maybe earlier, it's unclear. She always cooked the dressing inside the bird with sausage and spices that made it moist and delicious - a point of contention amongst those that prefer it cooked separately. I'm sticking with what I know - inside the bird deliciousness.

Everyone invited to Thanksgiving was charged with bringing a dish of some sort. In the later years when we were all adults, my sister Pat became known for bringing the "Green Stuff", a Cool Whip, marshmallow fluff, pistachio pudding concoction with maraschino cherries and other surprises in it. It's a dessert/non-dessert travesty of a recipe, but for the sweettooths in the family, it is a favorite. I love the Green Stuff and eat mountains of it every time I get the chance.

My other sister Jane has built her Thanksgiving notoriety on her dessert selections. She not only overwhelmed the table with a selection of goodies, but she always made enough so everyone had their fill + seconds. The display was photo worthy and a bit of a miracle considering she had three kids to take care of and keep out of dipping into them before the trip to Mom's.

Younger brother Paul always brought his trademark vegetarian lasagna, offering a meatless option for those so inclined. I think it was the product of a spell where he was vegetarian, but I think he's since reverted back to his carnivorous tendencies (though somewhat more selective).

The rest of the family filled in around the edges. Grandma Dagney always brought the much dreaded oyster casserole, an unsavory combination of oysters, mushroom soup, green beans and Lord-God-in-heaven knows what else. My stepfather, Jack, once complimented her on them and she took that as a sign to bring them every year. The adventurous among us would dip into them only if coerced by Mom out of courteous obligation. We recognized that they were prepared with love and good intentions, despite the appearance otherwise. After she passed, they've become the running joke every year.

In the years since Portland, the affair has moved around the family, from sisters to brothers. It has landed squarely at the eldest brother, Tom's house the past number of years. He has a split level house that is conducive to breaking up the mob a bit and spreading the noise and chaos to two levels.

And it seems no matter where the affair is held, it is always shrouded in the love of family, siblings, cousins, grandkids, in-laws, outlaws and friends. There are conversations on who's graduating, who's pregnant and the trials of young parenthood. The uncles tend toward job issues and trials. the fishing season of the past year, the Vikings playoff hopes and the environmental cause of the day. No real problems are solved, but it feels good to have someone who's been there listen for a while over a beer or pumpkin pie.

Because that's what Thanksgiving is really all about. It's not so much the food as it is the person across the table from you. It's taking a few hours out of our frenetic lives to say, these are the important people in my life. And from year to year, the faces change. As a family, those of us in Wisconsin only make it every other year. This year my nephew Nick is in the Middle East in service to our country in the Air Force. He will be missed, especially by his wife and new little boy, Roy, named after his great grandfather, another soul not around the table.

So as you gather with your own family this year, be sure and look around and take it all in. Because if we are not thankful for what we have today, we are probably doing it wrong.
The Green Stuff!
Happy Thanksgiving All!

Blogging off...

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Having Fun With It

Yesterday I launched my two new books into the world. In a sense, I had a twin birth. Though these twins are as different as my own two biological kids. One serious, self-motivated and introverted, the other creative, whimsical and a socialite.

I've been looking forward to debuting these two books since about June when I found out I would have two released at the same time. By the grace of God, I received my copies of Genetically Speaking on Wednesday of this week, just in time for the Saturday event. My publisher assured me they would be here probably by the 21st. I worried myself sick until they came on the 20th. God has a sense of humor sometimes.

There was a great crowd at Cafe de Arts, I'd estimate there were more than for The Portland House debut. I was pleasantly surprised by a few faces I had not expected to show up. These are the little joys one needs to focus on in our day to day life. People coming out to support you on a hugely busy Saturday before Thanksgiving.

One of these was a fellow author and colleague, Nancy Jorgensen. She and her daughter Elizabeth both co-wrote a book, Go Gwen Go, about her daughter Gwen who won a gold medal in the Olympics for the triathlon. I've run into one or another of them at three different events recently and was so happy to have Nancy there.

There were so many other surprise showings as well as the faithful dozen that show up to all of my signings. It was a great reunion.

I was humbled by Kathie Giorgio's heartfelt introduction. At one point she referred to me as a "reluctant hero" which I thought was an interesting term. I'd never heard it before, but it seemed appropriate, I guess. I never expected to have one book to my credit, so these last couple have come as sort of a wake up call to the fact that I've built writing into my life. She and her studio got me into this whole writing gig and I've never looked back. I think I'm a better person and have a richer life because of it, so am grateful to the AllWriters community.

The reading went really well, save for a spilled bottle of water that I clumsily tipped over during my talk. The poems were well received  and the audience seemed engaged with their laughter and attention. I first read from Thoughts from a Line at the DMV and finished with half a dozen books from Genetically Speaking: Poems on Fatherhood.

There was a mix of humor and heart throughout the reading, something I like to do to keep interest, but also to show people that I have a serious side to my writing. One never knows what people really think until it's over or until weeks later when they say, "I really enjoyed your reading a while back." We writers perseverate on the perception of people, so to hear a positive comment after the fact is uplifting to say the least.

All in all it was a fantastic afternoon with friends over coffee. Great thanks go out to all of those who showed as well as those who wished me luck despite not being able to make it. A gracious thank you to Ayhan Munzur for opening his shop, Cafe de Arts Roastery for the event. Purveyor of the best coffee in Waukesha, and always a gracious host.

To anyone looking to get books, please email me and I will mail them for the cost + shipping. They make great holiday gifts!

Blogging off...

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Performance Art

Last night was the monthly Poetry Night at Mama D's in Wales. These affairs have grown in size over time, and depending on the featured poet, there can be a problem finding a place to sit.

Well, last night we had a poet, Colleen Nehmer, who has quite a following. She had a number of fellow supporting poets come from Milwaukee to hear her read as well as reading their own stuff. It was the most eclectic gathering of personalities we've had there since I've been coordinating it.
Tim Kloss and The Fall of the House of Usher

I was surprised to see Ken Woodall there. Ken is a Milwaukee poet who I saw at a GIS Day event a few years back. I had a great chat with him and found out about his own poetry night at a coffee shop in Riverwest.

Then, there was a 16 year-old who'd never read her stuff in front of a group before. She nailed it and did it with confidence and conviction. Very cool.

But the capper on the night for me was watching Tim Kloss, a well known Milwaukee poet, recite the first several paragraphs of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." He did it without reading a line, all from memory. It was nothing short of amazing. I admire people who can do that kind of thing, as I can barely memorize my PIN number for my debit card most days.

Like I've said before, these spoken art events, like sand art on a beach, are cool in that if you weren't there to experience it, you miss it forever. That's true of any concert or theater event as well. Being there when the energy is good, well, there's nothing better. So, I'm glad I was.

Blogging off...

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Poetically Speaking

As many of you are aware, I have two new poetry books that were recently released. The first, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, came out in late September. This is a collection of 50+ poems about all sorts of subjects. It is the culmination of about three years worth of work, and I love everything about it.

But it is accompanied by a more recent release, Genetically Speaking: Poems on Fatherhood. This is a much smaller collection of 30 poems, called a chapbook. It was the product of last April's NaPoWriMo, which stands for National Poetry Writing Month. NaPoWriMo is a challenge to write a poem a day for the entire month of April. I entered a challenge by Local Gems Press where, at the end of the month, we were to submit our manuscripts for consideration for publication. Well, mine was one of the ones selected and suddenly I had two books "in-process" at one time.

So the publication process began, and proceeded along at the pace these things usually proceed. Ever since I submitted the final edits, I've been checking Amazon to see if it was up there for sale yet.

Well, at last, on Friday I found it was. (Get it here.)  And though this is my seventh book, there is still a wave of excitement that comes over me when I see my work out there. There is nothing quite like either seeing your book on Amazon or getting that first shipment of books in the mail.

Because of the subject matter, this book holds particular significance and meaning for me. You all know my family story by now, and this book touches upon all the sensitive touchstones of fatherhood for me. Every level of fatherhood is touched upon in it. Biological father, stepfather, father in-law, father figures and, of course, my own fatherhood experience.

Without giving away all of it, suffice it to say the book revealed some deep-seated emotional issues for me, for every level I mentioned. It is not all happy stuff. There is some deep sadness, a little anger and other fun emotions that I don't usually express well. I don't know where it came from as I wrote, I only know I wrote it from the heart. No one has, or is, the perfect parent(s). So, the book addresses the good the bad and the ugly. It is a little outside of my stylistic tendency, but that's maybe what I like about it. It shows the joy, the rawness, and the beauty of fatherhood.

I might add that I am ecstatic about the cover. When the publisher asked for images, I sent them three, two pictures were of the cabin we go to every year, and the third was a picture of my dad with 5 of us 7 kids. The one chosen was my favorite and it came out great. I'd love to know what you think of it.

So, this Saturday, November 23rd, I'll be launching both of these books at Cafe De Arts in downtown Waukesha at 3:30 PM. It will be a lot of laughs and I hope you can make it out. If not, I am also willing to ship one or both signed books for the cost + shipping. Just send me your address.

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