Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Science Of Where

I don't often write about my work. Part of it is intentional - a distancing between work and family life, and part is just because people don't dig GIS like I do. Mapping is great, but most people think I sit around making globes all day. It's a bit of voodoo.

But as part of my job my colleagues and I all go out to San Diego for a software users conference every year. It is a gathering of 18,000+ GIS (Geographic Information Systems) professionals where we come together to network and learn about what is coming, software changes and exciting developments. It is an invaluable week, one I look forward to every year. None of this is to mention that I think San Diego is about the best place in the world, climatically. The best.

This year was made even better as Waukesha County was recognized as a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) Award winner. Every year ESRI, the software company, awards a small percentage of their user base this award. We were last recognized in 2004, so this was a repeat visit for us, which was nice. It made the trip out west even more special.

As part of the recognition, there is an official ceremony where everyone who is interested can get their picture with the owner of the company, Jack Dangermond. Jack is a Forbes billionaire, but you'd never know it if you met him. He is forever humble and seems interested only in helping make the world a better place through the tools and technology of GIS and the people who run it. (He just happened to make a little money along the way, but his passion for making the world a better place is glaringly evident at this conference.)

I take pride in my work and it was good to be recognized. I owe a debt of gratitude to my co-worker, Kim who weathered the winds of change with me around the office when our division was cut in half by a retirement and resignation. She is dependable, supportive and helped me keep my sanity during what I would call the hardest two months of my career, anywhere. Coupled with her and my two new employees Chris and Andrea, I am psyched about where we can take the program.

Otherwise the conference was a whirlwind of technical sessions mixed with vendor meet-ups and networking with peers. This event is always a mixed blessing for me however. The closet extrovert in me rises to the occasion and I absolutely love the time talking and socializing with friends and colleagues. At the same time after it is over I go into hermit mode for 3 days as I try and re-energize after a draining week.

I love/dread it - all of it. Does that make me a bad person? Ha!

Anyway, it was a great week and if all the stars align I will get out there again next year.

Because I LOVE San Diego.

Blogging off...

*(A special shout out goes to my ex-cohorts, Don and Bill who are not pictured but whom played big parts in getting this award.)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

All That Matters

It has been sort of a trying two weeks for me. My mom has been battling some health issues and there have been some tenuous, life stopping moments for all of us.

About two weeks ago she had a small stroke. It was discovered when she was talking to some friends and not making much sense. (I do it all the time but they never call mine strokes, but I digress.) The next day she went into urgent care and was immediately admitted.

Well, those moments when you get a text that reads, "I'm with mom at the hospital..." pretty much stop you in your tracks every time. Reading on, I saw that mom was being treated for a stroke, but was in good spirits and talking coherently. When I called her, she sounded fine. She stumbled for a few words here and there, which was very unlike her. That was the weirdest part. Mom has always been very good in conversation, so to hear her stammer once in a while was, well, strange.

Her vitals progressed well though and she was released a few days later with some meds. We were all assured that with each day that went by without another stroke, her odds of not having another one would get better.

A few days after her release she had a second small stroke.

Again, the text from my sister stopped me in my tracks. Life has a way of closing in on you sometimes and this certainly qualifies as one of those events that causes one to pause.

Once in the hospital the conditions started to cascade along with the various diagnoses. (I'm one that's convinced Doctors are just really good educated guessers, but that's just me.) There was pneumonia, Arterial Fibrillation, low blood pressure, low oxygen and other things. Sometimes these medical things are just weirdly fluid. Fix this and it affects that. Fix that and this changes. Fix the change and a fourth thing comes into the picture.

It was like medical whack a mole for a while.

After a week and a day in the hospital, she was finally convinced to move to Transitional Care. It is an on site facility where they can give patients twice-a-day Physical and Occupational Therapy. The goal is to get them strong enough and rebuild their independent living skills to the point that they can live on their own again.

When I talked to her today, I equated it with being in jail and the only way release is granted is good behavior. She laughed and said, "Exactly!"

Anyway, she sounds better and said she is feeling better. She'll work her way out of the joint, because that's who my mom is.

As we all age, it is important that we remember that all we have is one another to lean on. So be sure and tell people you love them at every chance you get.

It's really all that matters. Love.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Writing Short Sentences

As many of you know, I am serving a term as Poet Laureate for the Village of Wales. This appointment has ramped up things in my poetry circles, which gives me a nice break from all things nonfiction. (Though I continue to do that too.) Here's a breakdown of a little of what's going on poetically.

  • My monthly readings at Wales Village Hall are going well. The group seems to enjoy my work as well as the guest poet I feature each month. I lead off the meeting and the group is respectful and engaging. Lots of laughs too.
  • The monthly poetry nights at Mama D's in Waukesha are underway and we are booked through February of 2019. The first event featured Marilyn Zelke-Windau and was well attended. 
  • The cover for my forthcoming chapbook, On a Road is finished and it is magnificent. I am SO happy with the way it turned out. The team at Unsolicited Press did a terrific job right out of the gate. Can't wait to reveal it later this fall. 
  • The signed poetry book drive is up to over 20 donated books so far. This is a good number, but I hope to more than double it by the time I am done in the fall. If you know of any poets who would like to donate a book that will end up in the Kettle Moraine High School library, please have them contact me. I love to see poets giving back to the world. It's what they do best in both word and deed.
  • There will be another 100,000 Poets For Change event in the greater Milwaukee area this fall. We are looking for dates in late September/Early October. Stay tuned. 
  • Mama D's is hosting a Poetry Slam on July 23rd at their Genesee Depot location. These are typically competitive events where poets memorize their work and compete to be the last one standing. Never been to r competed in one, but it sounds like fun!
  • I am currently seeking a publisher for my next poetry chapbook about my dad. More to come on this as I hear back from the more than eight publishers I sent it to. Fingers crossed!
  • I have a number of poems submitted to magazines and journals around the country as well. I hope to hear from some of these in the coming months.
  • My recent poem, The Guest House was accepted for publication in the Wisconsin Chapbook Against Hunger, organized by Ed Weinstein. This is a great cause. Again, let me know if you'd like to purchase a copy and I'll set you up.
So, as I mentioned things are busy in the small story (poetry) world right now. I love keeping busy with all of it and 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Moving Toward Gratitude

If there's one thing I hate more than moving, it's moving someone else. But I've moved enough to know that you can't do one without expecting a little of the other. You help because you are helped. There will come a day when we move we will be grateful for those that help us move, much like the folks we help move are grateful for us.

I would go as far as to say no one likes moving. So maybe we can help each other hate something for a shorter time. It makes me think of a quote from Michael Perry that I saw earlier this week that reads:

"There is the idea among psychologists that gratitude can be cultivated. Put it out there and it comes back to you." - Michael Perry

I think the same goes for a bit of selflessness now and again. Selflessness cultivates selflessness. I have a friend who helped with a move this past week that is probably the most selfless guy I've ever met. It's a quality I both love and hate. I love it because it reminds me what Jesus was like - or his recommended Modus Operandi. I hate it because I like my selfishness at times. I want to be selfless when it's convenient, on my terms, when my schedule allows.

But watching this guy give and continue to give pushes me to do the same. (Or, if not, to feel guilty for my selfishness again. It's a cycle.)

Anyway, we worked alongside one another for nearly eight hours moving some friends. It was without a doubt the hardest move I've ever done, but I realized the family moving had no other help, so was determined to finish the job. We did it and there was gratitude waiting for me at the end.

Every time I move someone, I am reminded of a few of the bad moves I've made before. If you've helped people move, you know what I'm talking about.

During one move years ago we were literally pulling clothes out of closets and dressers and throwing them in boxes. It was like the person was surprised to see us show up to help them. Either that or the thought that "moving help" meant literally starting with the first box.

It was that move when my wife and I agreed that if you are getting people to help you do a project, be it building a fence, painting or moving, you need to make sure things are ready to rock when they get there. Anything else is just an abuse of their time.

The move this weekend was well packed and ready to go. There was just a ton of stuff. They are a big young family, so it made sense.

Regardless of how much stuff any move has, they are always reminders to me that I need to minimize - especially before a move, but day to day as well. It is my goal not to burden my kids with a garage/basement/attic/storage shed full of crap when I die. How much stuff does an old couple need anyway? Downsize as you go. My mom has done a phenomenal job of that and I plan to do the same.

And my kids will be grateful for that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Gettin' Cranky

I ride my bike nearly every day in the summer. Lately my pedal crank has been sounding a little funky. I figured the bearings are probably shot and it might be time to start looking at taking it in. I figured I'd put it off until after July 4th before I went on a trip.

So I'm out biking the trail today and the crank didn't seem to be making noise like it did. It healed itself, I thought. I love it when that happens.

Well, at some point when I'd gone 3.8 miles I turned around. A couple tenths of a mile later, I noticed my crank looked like it was unscrewing from the frame. Maybe it's supposed to look like that, I thought. I'll nurse it home just in case.

Then, for some reason my bike shifted to the smaller front sprocket. By itself. When I tried to correct it it made a racket. At this point the only sprocket that worked was the middle one. When I thought about why the highest gear now fit around the middle sprocket, the fact that the crank was pushing everything to my right made sense.

Well, soon enough everything jammed and I couldn't pedal at all.

Of course it was 3.5 miles from home, because these things never happen in your driveway.

So I started walking with my bike. Several bikers rode by without stopping, which is fine, because I'm a stubborn, stoic Swede and I don't need any help, thank you very much.

After walking for a quarter mile I thought maybe I could stride the bike like a bike with no pedals. So I did. I got the bike up to about 8 MPH for most of the time. But let me tell you, it's not the most efficient way to travel. Plus it tends to hammer on your nether regions, if you know what I'm saying. It truly is why God made pedals, to allow us to one day procreate.

So I strode away looking like a weirdo. At street crossings I walked it because I didn't want to look like a complete dork. But let me tell you it totally beat walking. I'd still be out there walking if I hadn't of resorted to it.

Well, about 1/2 a mile from home a friend drove past and asked if I needed a ride. Luckily he had a pickup truck so I threw it in the back and he gave me a ride the rest of the way home. It was a lifesaver because I was pretty gassed at that point. Not to mention I looked like Fred Flippin' Flintstone on a bike.

We all have our bad days.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Seeking Light

I'm not one to get too bent out of shape by negativity on Facebook. I see it all the time and most of it rolls off my back.

This week was different for some reason. 

There was just one thing after another. People fighting about everything from the message behind Melania's jacket to separated families to the evident corruption all throughout the US government. 

And I can't deny that all of it needs attention, they're all big issues. I was just overwhelmed by how much vitriol was there everytime I looked at Facebook and Twitter. 

So I want to focus this post on some of the positives I've seen in the past few days and weeks.

  • Our school district was enforcing a stupid rule that students that had outstanding school fees couldn't even walk across the graduation stage. A woman from our church felt that needed addressing so organized a fundraiser to see that a number of students could walk and get their diplomas. People helping others feel their true worth.
  • Purple Door Ice Cream has and continues to donate free milk to a number of shelters and pantries around Milwaukee. Furthermore, they would hate me for calling them out for it. They are super humble business owners. The business has always given back to the community which is part of why my wife likes working there so much. People giving selflessly of their profits to help others.
  • A local poet tapped into a Bards Against Hunger initiative and made a call for poetry to go into a publication called the Wisconsin Chapbook Against Hunger. I submitted a poem and lo and behold it was accepted. I will be buying a copy for myself and one just because the cause is so cool. Poets lifting their heads from the page to see a need, then helping.
  • Another writer friend of mine is donating 100% of her profits from her book sales to charity. Writers writing for love and giving more of themselves to help others.
  • I continue to donate $1.00 from my The Portland House book sales to the Guest House men's transitional housing agency. Writers helping people rewrite their stories.
  • A half dozen people donated money and food to enable my wife to assemble five meals for the guys at the Guest House - all because there was a gap in meal serving that she saw and filled. People helping foodies do what they do best. 
  • People starting up spontaneous funds to help the children separated from their families at the border. People recognizing their common humanity and doing something to help.
These are the stories you don't hear enough about. These are the stories that give me hope. They help me realize that the world, at its core, is not a bad place. There is light and beauty and graciousness. 

And I would encourage everyone to see it next week. Along with that, call it out instead of some useless political meme. 

The world will thank you for it.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Fishing Knot That Binds

This past Father's Day, I got a text from my daughter wishing me a good day. She lives in Minneapolis and is settling into a new life up there by my blood family. In the text she mentioned how she misses us and that we really need to go fishing again soon.

This melted my heart a little bit.

Last night at a poetry open mic, I read a poem titled Queen. It is a piece about fishing with my daughter up north. Between it and her text and my son's latest interest in fishing I have been thinking about all the great times we've had as a family in pursuit of finny critters.

The activity requires a lot of patience but also allows lots of time to talk about life. It also gives you "fish stories" that will last a lifetime. Times like:

  • When Sarah crouched on the doc at 4 years old and fished until we pulled her away. She caught over a hundred fish in 3 days one year (Not that we fisher folk track these things.)
  • When Uncle Tom caught a huge bass in the Boundary Waters Canoe area and let Ben reel it in. That is a true fisherman there, letting someone younger than you take your fish because you want them to have the experience and also because in your lifetime, you've had your share.
  • When everyone caught their first trout in a reservoir in Rapid City South Dakota. A fun day!
  • Catching Walleye in the BWCA with Sarah (The full story is in Dirty Shirt)
  • Ben catching his first Muskie last summer.
  • Sarah catching a nice Northern Pike off shore in the BWCA after being frustrated the night before.
  • Countless stories of fishing with their cousins. 
  • Both Sarah and Ben fishing with my friend who they call "Uncle Steve."
  • Taking Ben or Sarah along with my friends' young kids to fish a local pond. Here were my kids teaching the next generation how to do it.
  • Hearing stories of Sarah fishing up north last summer as she worked her intern job near Eagle River. (They're doing it on their own now!)
  • Same thing for Ben taking his buddies fishing at Devil's Lake last summer. This makes me most proud of all, my kids teaching other how to do it.

The list goes on and on. And I guess fishing is an acquired taste - not for everyone. But for me it is meditative and relaxing and nothing but fun. I think I've passed on the love for it to my kids and hope to one day get them up to Canada where the best fishing in North America happens, in my opinion. Perhaps that is a retirement goal. Because we would have a blast - of that I'm sure.

Until then, local lakes as often as we can will have to do.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Portal To The Past

It is a warm August evening in 1989 and my girlfriend and I are sitting at the bar of Wolski's Tavern on the lower East side of Milwaukee. We are awaiting our friend, Bill, for a couple of drinks and maybe a game of darts, the real steel-tipped kind with chalkboard scoring. The music system, complete with octagonal shaped speakers that hang from the ceiling, belts out hits of the day by REM, New Order and The Cure. Flags of foreign countries and other places cover the ceiling in parachute fashion and the cash register is the old fashioned kind whose keys requires a two handed forceful push, followed by the drawer opening and a ca-ching. Everything about the place has an old Milwaukee feel to it and it is a recent favorite haunt of mine since I moved to the East Side.

I am drinking a Point Beer because it's cheap and a nice change from Miller products. Donna is on her second or third Gin and Tonic and is getting that dreamy look in her eyes. She has a bit of a grin on her face as she gazes at me. We're in love and infatuated with each other, something the gin is amplifying, apparently.

Wondering what her grin is for, I ask, What are you thinking?"

"I don't know. I just love you and want to marry you and have babies with you." She replied.

Sitting there a bit shocked having been taken off-guard, I laugh a little and say, "Are you proposing to me at Wolski's Tavern?"

"Well...yes, I guess I am." She answered.

"Okay," I said, not sure what she would remember.

My friend never shows up and after another half hour we head back to our cute little apartment on Lake Drive.


The next day as we were driving to St. Paul, Minnesota to visit my family, I asked her if she remembered what she asked me.

"Yes, I do. And I remember what you answered too."

It is June 15th, 2018 and the temperature is beginning to heat up on the edge of an approaching hot spell. My wife and I are sitting at a table at Wolskis Tavern in celebration of our 28 year anniversary. The music is a mix of '80s favorites including the Replacements, The Cure and New Order. In fact, other than a new floor and the absence of a cloud of cigarette smoke, the place is nearly as we left it. Same speaker system, same pictures on the wall, same flags on the ceiling.

All of it. 

I am drinking a Lakefront beer made a mile away, and Donna is drinking a Guinness, what she calls her "safe beer," mild, smooth and coherent. We await our longtime friends who represent the longest friendship we have with anyone in Milwaukee. Eventually they show. We have a ton of laughs and do a bit of reminiscing about our past and our hope for the future.

In every sense of the word, Wolski's is like a portal or time machine for us. It's unassuming interior doesn't allow for people to put on airs. It's a working class bar, but all are welcome. It is part of our story and in a world of constant, fast paced change, it is timeless. 

We met the owner as he came to the table to see how we were doing. I told him our story and he said he was probably there that day. Of course he was. His presence completes the picture beautifully. I asked him if we could get a couple of their world famous, "I Closed Wolski's bumper stickers and he kindly obliged. One of them was an old favorite and it reads, "Wolski's Tavern: Adventure, Danger...Romance."

I, for one, can attest to the romance part.

Happy Anniversary, Donna!

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Portland House Pays Itself A Visit

So a while back, I sent a copy of The Portland House: a '70's memoir to THE Portland House. It was a suggestion by my sister, Jane. She thought it would be a cool idea to surprise the owners and let them know that their house was famous in a sub-atomic micro fame sort of way.

I sent them the book with a short note basically telling them that it was the house I grew up in  and I thought they might enjoy reading some of its history. I also told them that if they felt compelled, they could leave it for the next owners or even share it around the neighborhood. I sort of hoped for a response, just to see what they thought.

Well, today a card came from The Portland House family.

The card was written by the wife of the current owner - the same owner who bought it from us over 32 years ago. She said that they did a big renovation five years ago, including a new garage from what I can see. They also removed the open porch and put on an enclosed one. She said they had 3 boys and that the grandchildren love coming over.

The card closed with an offer to show me the house any time I was in town. She also gave me her email address. I will definitely follow up with her and possibly take her up on her offer.

As I've said during some of my readings, our houses represent a vicious cycle of move-in, live, move-out, repeat. And within the structure we create the memories, we take those memories with us along with the couch and kitchen table.
The Portland House was where us kids became who we were to become, if that makes sense. It formed the framework for our identities that we carried into our own homes as adults.

And looking at the love, success and joy in the lives of each of my siblings, Mom and that old house did our family pretty good.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Watching For It

Like most people, I go through peaks and valleys from week to week, month to month. Unlike some, I am fortunate that the peaks far outnumber the valleys for me. I sincerely believe that part of that is because I try and focus on the positive. Negative people and thoughts bring me down, so I try and minimize them in my sphere. I've been known to hide Facebook friends who are continually negative or crass. People griping in person are hard enough, I don't need to see it on social media. 

Anyway, this week on several occasions (usually while walking the dog) I was overcome by feelings of gratitude for the direction my life is going. By this I mean the people I call friends, my beautiful wife and kids, my job and my church. A few encounters I had this week served as reminders.

  • On Monday, I went before the Village of Wales Board for my monthly poetry reading. This is a great privilege for me - something I look forward to. This appointment to Poet Laureate was brought forth by a poet friend/contact of mine. 
  • Tuesday, I went back out to Wales, across the street from the Village Hall at Mama D's Coffee. This was to meet with a (relatively) new friend who asked to meet and talk about writing. She would like to write her memoir and wanted to pick my brain. We talked a little writing and a lot
    about our upbringing and our pasts...for two and a half hours. Her story was heartbreaking and redemptive all at the same time. All it took was for me to show up. And it made me realize how far I've come with recognizing that we need to lean into people's lives to make our own richer.
  • On Thursday I had coffee with my normal Thursday guys at Cafe De Arts. These outings sometimes start slow, but by the end of them I am always disappointed that we have to leave. We talk about deep topics on God, culture, politics and how we are supposed to interact with the world. Great guys who challenge me to think and press my faith to new levels. Oh, and coffee that rockets me through my morning.
  • I never cease to be amazed by the fact that I have four books to my credit. This week I saw a preview of my cover for my forthcoming chapbook, On a Road (10/21/2018) and it just kind of hit me that here I am doing what I'd always wanted to do, and low and behold, it's actually working. I still tell people I'm just kind of making it up as I go, because I am. I don't know what the hell I'm doing, but it sure is fun.
  • Last week was spent training a new employee. With the recent retirement of my boss and the moving on of another employee, our office was decimated to half the staff it once was. At first it was initially incredibly stressful and overwhelming. Recently though, I have come to realize that I am as happy as I've been at the County in a long time. We are developing a new GIS team, a new rapport and an overall healthier work environment. What I once feared and dreaded has turned out to be all good.
  • The people in my church community never cease to amaze me. Always watching out for one another. This week when my mom was admitted to the hospital, they made a point to pray for her at a Wednesday meeting. I've been to all sizes of church, but the one that makes me feel the most connected to other people of faith is this one. Small, house based communities of people who care about one another and the world they live in trying to make a difference.
So, sorry this post was so happily positive, but like I said, I try and focus on what's right in my life, because there's enough wrong out there without me adding to it.

Keep your eyes open for the good in your week, this week. Because it's out there.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 7, 2018


It's that time of year where the Summer weekends start getting booked up and before we know it we'll be at Labor Day and staring Fall in the face.

I am determined to make the most of the nice weather while it's here though, so have already squeezed in a couple of outings and am looking to get a lot more in before the end of Summer.

Last Sunday I made use of a gift certificate for golf that a friend gave me a while back. I went to Moor Downs with Ben and we golfed nine holes. There were several memorable moments or comments.

  • When Ben pointed out how ludicrous the sport is and what it must have been like when the Scotsman told his friend, "Yeah, see this little ball? Well there's a hole in the ground to hell and gone over there, and you have to hit it into it." We laughed about how it probably took them playing a hole or two to determine that having a flag in it would make it easier to see. 
  • In a 9 hole outing, between the two of us, we must have lost a dozen golf balls. We were being pushed a bit by the "capable" golfers behind us hacks, so we never spent more than a couple of minutes looking for a ball. We have a zillion of them in our basement, and we both determined that life is too short to spend more than 5 minutes looking for a $1.00 golf ball.
  • That a golf cart for two golfers, one with a hook and another with a slice, is really a waste of money. 
  • Scoring is for people who care or are good at golf.
  • When you think you've cleared the water, you probably did not.
  • Golf is a rich man's sport and is 98% a mental game.
  • Life is too short for a really bad drive. Take as many (up to 3) until you're happy with one. If you can't do it in 3, move along.
  • One sliced drive he had managed to send one of his balls a fairway over. When we golfed the next hole, lo and behold there was his ball. Bonus! Take away one stroke.
The best part of the day was being with my son for a couple of hours. I love his wit and his laugh. We were a bit like Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield out there. It helps that neither of us will likely ever take the sport seriously, but it sure is fun farting around on a nice day.

Blogging off...

Watch and Learn

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Nod To Those Before Us

I spent Thursday at a GIS conference in Delavan, Wisconsin. One of the speakers had a fascinating presentation about the prehistoric Native American burial mounds that dot the state and the region. His description of the purpose, makeup and art involved with these sacred places was captivating.

He mentioned that over 200 of them had been excavated and destroyed by people looking to study and/or loot them of grave goods - which they tended not to have. The vast majority of them contained human remains of one person, usually a person of nobility among the tribe.

Delavan oval mound
The thing about his talk was that after it, we were able to go outside onto the Lake Lawn Conference Center grounds and see a few of the mounds. They were simple in shape, one oval, another shaped like a reptile or turtle.

The speaker spoke with reverence and respect about all of the mounds he detailed. He made it abundantly clear that the way they were disregarded and disrespected in the years after white contact was nothing short of a travesty. He reminded us that the very place we were congregating was occupied by people thousands of years before us.

Man Mound - Near Baraboo
He even talked about "Man Mound" near Baraboo that is in the shape of a man. It is right outside his house and he has taken to painting the legs of the Man that were destroyed when they put a road right through them. He said there was a Native American woman in the community who will no longer drive the road that cut through them, out of respect for her ancestors. I think that is so awesome.

We have our own set of mounds in Waukesha, a couple of which are just up the street from where I live, on the campus of Carroll University. There are others outside the library. The whole talk spurred me to revisit these and read the plaques that had been placed there. I've included a few in this post to give you a sense of the magnitude of them. I also removed a discarded water bottle someone had left on the big one at the library. People are so irreverent. It bothered me. I have nothing but shame about the injustices done to the Native Americans in the past. The least we could do is respect what they left behind.

I studied archeology in my college years, so this kind of thing fascinates me for some reason. I get fairly obsessed thinking about people of the past, hence my memoir writing passion, I guess. At the same time, I think we need to understand the past to understand our place in the present day too.

In any case, I can't stop thinking about these now. It will fade, but every time I see one, it will make me think of those who went before.*

Blogging off...

Cutler Park Mound near WC Library
*On a writing-related note, my poem, First, will be published in the WI Fellowship of Poets 2019 Calendar. It is a poem about these very mounds and how we are immigrant visitors to this place. They were here first.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Coffee With Friends

Yesterday I continued with my The Portland House: A '70s Memoir promotion. This time it was at Mama D's, an intimate local coffee shop in Wales, Wisconsin. Mama D's reached out after a friend tipped them off that I had a new book out and that I was also poet laureate for the Village.

It was a warm day and by the time I started to read, the place was pretty much full. I was so happy with the turnout. One never knows how many people will take the time to drive there, especially on this - a holiday weekend.

There were several friend groups there. Some of my poet colleagues came and brought friends, some folks from my church, Collective MKE, and even a couple of brand new friends who have been itching to get my books.

While I usually get pretty nervous at these things, I had a sense of calm and confidence about this reading. I don't know if it was because it was largely friends there or whether I'm just getting better at this. (Or maybe my writers little helper pill is to credit. LOL)

I read three stories and the crowd seemed engaged and attentive. It was a little tricky with customers entering and the blender whirring up coffee drinks from time to time. But for the most part it was uninterrupted and fun. People laughed when I hoped they would. No one fell asleep.

But the best part was afterward. One woman asked if my book was available on audio book. I told her it wasn't, that it can be cost prohibitive. I think she enjoyed the reading so much, she wanted to hear me tell the whole story, and she isn't the first person to ask the question. I would love to have my books on audio book someday, but I get the ROI thinking too.

In any case I was flattered to know that despite my pre-reading worry about how I would come across was all for naught. People have said again and again that they enjoy my readings.

Another case was a friend who posted that she'd never been to a reading before mine and now she planned to make it to more of them by different authors. Again, a compliment I hadn't expected and one to build my confidence on even more.

So someday I might not dread these things like I sometimes do. As I mentioned to some friends afterward, there are times I even get a bit of a charge out of talking in front of groups. It's totally not who I am, but once I'm up there it's sometimes hard to shut myself up. (Not to mention it takes me 3 days to recover from the buildup and presenting.)

And, finally, I hate to gush, but every time I do an event with any of my books I realize how privileged I am to be able to talk to people who actually buy them. There are a ton of other forms of entertainment that people can spend their dollars on, and I'm lucky to be a small part of any of it. Besides, people say such nice things and all of it bolsters my self confidence and reminds me that while writing is an isolating practice, the rewards are great.

So now, to find another venue to do it all again.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Spectrum Of Adventure

A friend of mine is hiking the Pacific Coast Trail for the next few months. Yes, his plan is to hike the WHOLE thing, all 2600 miles of it. He is doing it to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis Research. He's calling it the Hike for a Cure and he has a Go Fund Me page if you're interested in donating.

But that's not the reason I'm writing. It is to say how much I admire him for following his heart. He essentially put his life on standby to do something he'd have regrets about later in life if he didn't follow through.

And it is pure, 100% adventure.

I am sort of living vicariously through his Video Log (vlog) and his periodic Facebook posts. I've even kicked around the idea of flying out and hiking a section with him for support.

As I've mentioned before, I am working my way through Paddle For A Purpose, a book by Barb Geiger, an author friend of mine. She and her husband committed to paddling the length of the Mississippi River. THAT, my friends, is adventure. A commitment to excitement, danger, risk and a healthy dose of outdoors.

I like to think of myself as adventurous. After all, I've been to the BWCA a dozen times or so, I've fished and camped a fair amount, and even hiked a small peak in the Adirondack Mountains a few years back.

The problem is, on the spectrum, I would fall into the weekend warrior category of adventurers. Adventure has levels of magnitude. Mine have been pretty safe and True adventurists put themselves out there for extended periods, or in extreme conditions. (Think polar explorers, Appalachian Trail hikers, etc.) Most of my adventures pale in comparison.

Oh, there was that time we took a fly in fishing trip. While they were loading the gear, they also loaded on two or three 55 gallon drums of diesel for the generators. If we would have crashed, we would have burned...real good.

So that was sort of adventurous. Being in such a remote location made it feel different too, although we were only one radio call and otter flight away from a hospital, so it was still on the edge of weekend warrior.

I've gone down some rapids in whitewater a few times as well. Once on the wild Menomonee River before I was married, and twice since on much milder trips with our kids. Those trips down the rapids felt as much like adventure as I guess I can ask for.

Anyhow, suddenly I'm aware that my days of adventure have an end date to them. If I'm going to jump out of a plane, hike the Camino, or summit a 13,000 foot peak in Colorado, I'd better get going because I'm not getting any younger.

I'll expect your full support and encouragement as I quit my job and pursue these adventures.

Uh, yeah, just kidding.

Blogging off...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Writers Talking Writing

Yesterday I spent my afternoon as part of a panel of authors for an AllWriters symposium on how to get published. The panel was comprised of a dozen or so authors, all of whom had been published with traditional small presses. Many of them had multiple books and a few even had multiple books in multiple genres.

The group fielded questions the audience had written and submitted prior to the panel. I was flattered to be a part of it but it also felt a little surreal to me. I still consider myself new to the whole writing thing and like most writers suffer from the self-doubt/self-loathing bug, so facing the music that I might be able to help others still seems like a stretch.

But me and the rest of the panelists did alright. Some of the questions were pointed to specific people based on what they'd published and others were just opened up to the whole panel.

During the question and answer period I found it interesting that my inner extrovert comes out of his shell when I start talking about writing. It is one of my bigger passions right now - even though I'm still new at it, still faking it till I make it - so when I get going, it's hard to stop. Part of it too is that I really want to help people. Like any endeavor, brewing beer, fishing or setting up a GIS system, I love sharing what worked and what didn't. There's nothing to be gained by keeping your success secrets to yourself.

So aside from the fun of networking with other writers - something I can't get enough of - there were pieces of advice.

  • There is no proper discipline for writing. Just doing it is discipline.
  • Don't let the story you think your writing get in the way of the one that is supposed to be written.
  • Don't worry about your audience or yourself. Focus instead on writing a good story.
  • At some point students may outgrow the need for a peer review/critique group. Everyone is different. Do what works for you.
  • Outlines are not essential. Writing the story is. Then, organize it. 
  • Most writers would rather die than present their book in front of a group. (Truth)
  • When writing a trilogy, don't try and sell it as a trilogy. Sell the book you've written and mention that it is part of a trilogy.
It was a great afternoon and fun to see some old friends. I've found that there's always something to be gained by hanging around with peers. 

And this was a good bunch of them.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Chapters In A Book Called Life

Last weekend was a whirlwind. As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter graduated from the University of Minnesota on Sunday. It was a highly emotional day for me, having been a student at the U back in the days before the internet and cell phones. While the past memories and present moments of great, enormous pride swirled around my head throughout the ceremony, it was what happened afterward that was the weirdest thing.

We went out to an early dinner at Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis. It was a nice wind-down from the chaos and running of the previous two days. From there we dropped Sarah off at her apartment. It was unlike any goodbye I've ever said to a child of mine.

You see, her plan is to stay up in the Twin Cities. Her boyfriend is moving out there from California and they plan to make a life together in Minnesota. This meant I didn't need to move her home. But it also meant, she was changing my life as a parent forever. She would no longer be living in my house for anything more than a "visit."

Which is not a feeling I like.

But the goodbye was weird for her too. She was not only saying goodbye (for a time) to her family, but she now no longer had school to worry about. As a super achiever, I am sure that felt weird for her. As we hugged goodbye, she said "You'll come and visit right?" We assured her we would, as most of my family is up there anyway.

So it was weird all the way around.

The night prior, I gave her the journal I talked about in my last post. She cried as she was opening it, saying "I know what this is." It was an emotional moment for all of us.

The last entry of the journal kind of summed up everything that went into it. I've transcribed it below:


In two days you'll begin a new chapter in your life. These chapters in this journal are all part of a beautiful, wonderful, joyful life you have given to Mom, Ben and myself and the rest of our family. Every time I think of you and Ben, I smile knowing the world has two loving souls who will do their part to make it a better place.

I've said it numerous times in this book - too many to count - but I'll say it again. I am so very proud of all you've become. You are beautiful, caring, thoughtful, funny, courageous and adventurous. Your strong will and independent spirit will carry you far in life. My prayers for you are happiness and contentment as you write the rest of your life story. Always remember that you're my sweetheart.

I love you forever,


So, it appears I've got a new life of my own now and I'm not sure how to deal with it. But somehow I'll manage and I'm sure she will too.

Blogging off...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

It Takes A Village

This weekend we spent with family and friends celebrating our daughter's graduation from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

As part of that celebration, yesterday we all gathered at a local microbrewery in Hudson, Wisconsin. We caravaned up to the cities with our good friends from Milwaukee who have been like an Uncle and Aunt to both of our kids. 

And I can't really put into words how nice it was to look around the crowded open space of Hop and Barrel last night and see everyone so happy. People were making the rounds, talking to different groups of cousins, aunts uncles and of course the grandmother, Nanny. The energy in the room was electric with love and no one really wanted it to end. 

Then, today we went to Mariucci Hockey Arena to watch Sarah walk the stage and enter a new chapter in her life. The keynote speakers, Senator Amy Klobuchar and David Gerbitz, one of the top executives at Pandora music streaming, gave exceptional speeches about the coming generation and the hope that they bring to the world. 

There were several moments during the speeches and ceremonies that I was on the verge of tears. Partly because I'm a sentimental sap, and partly because I want to believe that this generation is our hope. I know that my daughter and son have shown me that their world is vastly different than mine, and in entirely better ways. Diversity, acceptance, globalism, connectedness, and most of all, love.

The weekend was also spent in the company of my dear sister in-law and her two daughters. She lost her mother this past week and had to deal with the difficult combination of grieving and celebrating in the same weekend. A painful reminder that life isn't always great and wonderful.

I think these types of weekends are put into my life to remind me how lucky I am to have the family and support systems I have. Not only that, but how lucky I am to have been granted a chance at a college education and now am able to witness it for my own kids. As the keynote mentioned, we all know how brief life is, so we need to keep in mind what Mary Oliver mentions in her poem, The Summer Day, where she writes:

"Tell me what it is you plan to do
with your one wild, precious life?"

-Mary Oliver


Blogging off...

Thursday, May 10, 2018

An Only One Bestseller

When my daughter was born, I started a journal.* Knowing I loved to write, I was in charge of keeping track of life's little moments of her life that touched me. The journal starts literally within the week she was born. In the early years, my entries were frequent, sometimes many to a page. As she grew older they grew more lengthy and were usually a page in length.

It was my intent that when she turned 18 I would give her the book. Well, at that time, it just didn't feel right. So, I moved the date out to "when she graduates from college."

Well, that date comes this weekend.

The book is full of great moments including:

  • Her first week with us when she was fussing in her bassinet, which she hated.
  • A day out in the back yard when she 3 or 4 and was swinging on the swing, singing away - something she never did. But that day she did. It was magical.
  • The day I took her to Eble Park skating as a 5 year old and for some reason it touched me enough that I had to write about it.
  • The night after Ben was born, I wrote about how she shared her toys with him.
  • One entry was about how she wanted me to say "Mommie's prayer." I told her I didn't know it and could she say it. So she said, "Now I way me down to sweep..."  Slayed me!
  • I wrote about her catching her first musky up north and how proud it made me.

There are a ton of other entries in there. Part of the fun of getting it ready to give to her was looking back on some of these things that I don't even remember.

The whole thing made me realize again how quickly life passes. I am so glad I took the time to put down these fleeting thoughts. I only wish I'd done it more often - though the book is only about 10 pages from being filled.

I often tell people, it is one of the two most important books I'll ever write.

The other is to my son, Ben who I've done the same thing for.

I highly recommend this practice to all you young parents or grandparents out there!

Blogging off...

*The book itself was actually a gift to us from our friend, Jacqui White, when Sarah was born.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Write From The Start

It seems like my writing life is busier than ever lately. It is all good, but I thought I would run down what is going on in part to help those who want to know and in part to help me keep it straight. Ha!

  • The Portland House continues to get good reviews. I love talking to people about it as many of them can relate to the big family thing. It is up to 12 reviews on Amazon, but I am always looking for more, so if you liked it, please let the world know.
  • Work continues on the next book about my high school experience in an all-male, Catholic, military high school in the late '70s. Again, lots of funny stories some of which make me shudder as a parent, but hey, it was a long time ago.
  • Yesterday I sent a book to WCCO radio in Minneapolis in hopes of getting an interview or maybe a plug. A friend of my mom liked the book so much that she sent a text to John Hines one of the radio hosts telling him about it. Figuring that was my lead, I sent him an inquiry. He made no promises, but told me to send him a book. It would be some great exposure.
  • I am also working on a chapbook about my father's life and death. It will be a collection of 25  poems or so. It is a challenging one to put together, but is therapeutic in many ways. More on this as it develops.
  • I have a tentative date for a book signing/reading at Mama D's in Wales. May 26th I will be reading from The Portland House and signing copies afterward. Mama D's is a cool coffee shop in Wales.
  • I had the privilege of having one of my blurbs being on the back cover of Paddle For A Purpose, a paddling adventure memoir by local author, Barbara Geiger. Check it out here.
  • I was also asked by my writing instructor Kathie Giorgio to provide a blurb for the back of her forthcoming book, Today's Moment Of Happiness Despite The News; A Year Of Spontaneous Essays. These blurbs are such an honor to be a part of. Plugging for peers and mentors is a small way of giving back.
  • Not much to report on my forthcoming poetry collection, On A Road. We're in the lull time between acceptance and publication. Still, I am very excited to have it coming out this fall. 
  • I have several pieces out for publication consideration, many of which I feel have a strong chance for publishing. Time will tell.
  • Tomorrow I will do my second poetry reading as Poet Laureate in front of the Village of Wales Board. I have a couple of my favorite poems, one by me, one by Richard Brautigan. It will be great fun. 
  • I have been asked by a friend to discuss her ideas about writing a memoir. I am no expert, but am humbled to be asked. I love talking about my experience to anyone interested in getting into writing.
Photo Credit: Ellen Enriquez

  • Dirty Shirt is up to 42 reviews on Amazon. Thanks to all who left a review!
  • A nonfiction piece and interview of me were both recently posted in Portage Magazine. Check them out Here
  • I have ten more ideas for books and poetry collections, none of which I can take on at this time, but this is a great problem to have.

So, life is good. I still feel like I'm living in a dream. I am incredibly fortunate to have this "second job" and am just happy to be able to share a little of myself with the world.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Artistic Moments

I've been thinking a lot about artistic expression lately. Not personally, although my writing is certainly an extension of my own expression, but more along the lines of seeing it in others and recognizing it for the beauty it is.

This past weekend for example I went to the Jazz Estate in Milwaukee to see a band named Devil Met Contention. They were preceded by a band named Pay the Devil. (I see a theme here.)

Both bands were really good. The folk band that played first took turns with solos from the mandolin to the guy playing the washboard to the guitarist. I love watching live music. But what occurred to me was how everyone in the audience was enjoying themselves in THAT moment. As anywhere a  few clueless folks were obsessed with their phone, but for the most part, people were giving their full attention to the music of the moment. That is what musical art is; notes played into space in this case only to fade out. Its a temporary state of joy.

The same goes for visual art. If you're at an art museum, you're taking in the creative beauty of someone you don't know and it somehow changes you. You walk to the next piece, and you are changed again - in small, maybe insignificant ways, but changed.

And it occurred to me how the appreciation of these arts is such a core human need or pursuit. It separates us from the animals, except those crazy painting elephants. We desire it. We need it. And yet it is always one of the first things cut out of a school budget, a family's expenses, or any other discretionary purchases.

Art gets no respect.

Then, on Monday I was in writing class and a woman who is 70+ years old read from her children's book she is writing. It is a story about a singing flea and it is nothing short of creative genius. And again I was amazed that there were so many other things this woman could be doing after 70, and here she is creating something beautiful, hopefully to one day be enjoyed by children.

It truly is art in another form, knowing no boundaries of age or gender. And the 10 of us crowded around the table were there to appreciate it of our own accord. Meanwhile it changed us in small ways - perhaps giving us ideas or simply a smile and an appreciation for the moment.

Tonight I will attend a play featuring my brother in-law as the lead. I am certain it will be yet another example of being there, in the moment, pummeling the right side of my brain.

Because art takes many forms, and I am of the age where all of it requires my recognition/appreciation.

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Adventure With A Purpose

A couple nights ago I attended another book launch. I've been doing my share of this these past few years, as it seems many of my writing friends have reached the point of completion for their novels, memoirs and poetry books. I can confess that writing a good book takes years, especially if you're trying to hold down a full time job to boot. The whole "write a novel in a month" thing, well, it doesn't quite happen that way, I'm afraid.

Anyways, Friday night was the launch of an adventure memoir titled, Paddle For A Purpose, by Barbara Geiger.  It was an especially cool event for a number of reasons. When Dirty Shirt was released, I did a reading from it at a local event here called Friday Night Free For All. After my reading, Barb approached me and mentioned how she'd enjoyed the book, but also mentioned that she was working on her own outdoor paddling memoir. She went on to say it was about a trip down the Mississippi River with her husband in a homemade kayak she'd built.

I was instantly hooked on the story.

It turns out that she'd built the canoe with her dad and her son, making it an cross-generational project. Then, when it was done, her husband said, "So how about we take it down the Mississippi River?"

She laughed and said, "The whole river?"

Her husband said, "Yes!"

As you can imagine she was just a bit trepidatious.

I won't tell the whole story, but suffice it to say, it started with a frozen tent at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Itasca State Park, then moves to flipping over in the rapids and gets more adventurous from there.

But there's more.

The trip was planned around doing service projects at stopping points all along the way. Barb and her husband are people of faith and they believe in giving of themselves, their time and their resources. They worked with Habitat for Humanity and several other agencies throughout the trip.

To me, this makes for a much better story than just your average kayak adventure. As she described during her book launch, they met a number of "River Angels" along the way. People they feel God put in their way to help them along. People who gave them a meal and a bed or simply a word or prayer of encouragement. Each of these became a character in the book - albeit unintentionally at times.

Another reason it was so cool was the fact that I got to see what was basically an "idea for a book" actually come to fruition. I talked to Barb many times along the way and was curious how it was coming along. When she mentioned she was in the final editing stage, I was elated for her.

Once it was finally done, she was looking for a publisher. I mentioned Electio Publishing, my publisher, who might be interested seeing as how they gave me a shot with all of my books. I mentioned they were a Christian-based house which would make for an even better fit than mine. Well, they ended up accepting her book and the rest is history. She even asked me for a blurb, which made it to the back cover of the book. It is always an honor to be asked!

More coolness in that she put together an interactive map plotting their route with photos and links. As a map guy, I can really relate to this. While I did a Story Map for The Portland House book, Barb did her own, based on Google Maps. It works great and you can check it out Here.

Perhaps the coolest part of the whole book is that she plans to donate ALL of the proceeds from her book sales to charity. It sort of brings the whole journey full circle - service, selflessness and giving all along the way.

So if you're looking for a good outdoor adventure memoir with a noble cause to it, I'd say give it a look. It's for a good cause!

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Support Call

So we had a bit of a techno-meltdown this past weekend. My wife's phone was acting strangely. One day it started rebooting at random moments. Then, it would go into a cycle of reboots that would sometimes number in the twenties before it could she could even get into it. When she finally was able to get into it, it would work fine for a number of hours before it would cycle with reboots again.

We couldn't figure out what was triggering it, but it seemed to be worse when it was trying to connect to a new wifi connection. But not always.

Being a tech-geek, I am all about the wipe and replace method. Once I got her go-ahead, I wiped it to factory condition using the settings. After setting up her multiple accounts, it worked for an hour before it rebooted on her. Then, the cycling began again.

Also being a cheapskate, I was determined to get it working again. Nothing a couple hundred google links couldn't fix, right?

One of the suggested fixes was to delete the cache partition at the operating system level. I was sure this would work.

No dice. Reboots again. I get the look from my wife.

After some more googling I decided to give it one more try. There is a restore at the operating system level that seemed to be worth a shot. For all I know it did the same restore that the app did, but it was much more primitive in how you went about it.

This will do it for sure.

Yeah right.

Well, after doing battle for a few days, I came to the end of my rope. My time is worth something too. So off we go to Best Buy on Saturday morning. Within an hour she had a brand new Samsung Galaxy S9. Ironically enough she was literally one month into the "no payment" zone. I swear they have timers on these things.

The whole ordeal reminded both of us how stupidly dependent we are on a working phone. Donna was most concerned about losing her calendar, which has all of her work appointments on it. Luckily the backups have gotten much better so nothing was lost. (That we've found yet, anyway...)

I really feel they do more harm socially than good. There is nothing more rude than having a good  conversation with someone and have them pull out their phone and start futzing. Some people are better than others with this, but some have a real problem.

When we were at a CollectiveMKE church event a couple nights ago, one of the icebreaker questions was, "Tell us about an invention that will save the world." A friend of mine said, "I think it would be really cool to have a phone that is hooked to a wall, with a cord, that you could never take out of the house."

I think he's onto something.

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Year

Today is Earth Day, but you know what?

Every day is Earth Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Swedish Resilience

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

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

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

She is 85 and acting as my agent, here.

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

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

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

One last story.

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

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

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

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Artists In Bloom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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