Sunday, February 17, 2019

Running It Down

Things have been active and changing on the writing front these past few months. Winter seems to give me more time to write, submit, edit and stare off into space waiting for the next line. That last part is where I probably spend 50% of my "productive time."

Sometimes it only becomes apparent how many plates I have spinning when I step back and take a look at all that I'm doing. I tend to add things one at a time and before long they add up. Here's a rundown of all things written.

  • I was recently asked to be part of the Program Committee for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. This committee organizes one of the bigger book conferences in the state. It looks like I'll be part of the Authors in the Schools portion of the committee, but it is also nice to be behind the scenes and have input on how the conference is constructed.
  • I was also asked to be the nonfiction judge for the Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring Contest. This will entail reading a number of manuscripts and picking a winner and some runner ups. It is something I've never done before, but I was honored to be asked. Things like these remind me that I have arrived, to a certain extent.
  • The book about my high school experience continues to move forward. I've slowed on the new content and am focusing on a good edit. I am probably about 60,000 words deep into it. I want to get it ready for my return to an AllWriters workshop. I've taken a couple of sessions off and it has given me time to recharge and focus a little more intently on poetry.
  • Along those lines, I am currently marketing my latest poetry collection to a number of publishers. This is a mix of nervous hopefulness. It is a full collection (about 45 poems) but I am also shopping a smaller version out as a chapbook. We shall see.
  • In the past two weeks I've had 5 different acceptances of my poetry in 5 different journals and magazines. This is about as good as it gets. 
  • The Portland House got a great review from Mary Ann Grossmann in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press today. Check it out here
  • I also had a nonfiction piece accepted by Story News, which is very exciting. This is a pair of parallel stories about racism and hatred in America over the past 50 years. 
  • In March I will be part of a Middle School young writers symposium at Carroll University. My friend Bob Goswitz set it up and I'm fuzzy on details, but it sounds fun!
  • In April I will be one of two featured poets in Portage Wisconsin as part of their Poetry In Portage series. Should be some decent exposure to a new region of the state.
  • I'm still carrying out my duties as Poet Laureate for the Village of Wales, Wisconsin. As part of that, I organize the Poetry Nights at Mama D's Coffee in Wales. We were fortunate to land Wisconsin's newest Poet Laureate, Margaret Rozga as the featured poet this coming Wednesday, February 20th. It should be a packed house!
  • Over the past few months I've read at a couple of Bards Against Hunger events. These feature poets who contributed to the Bards Against Hunger anthology and are designed to raise food and funds for local food shelters. I intend to set up one of these events for Mama D's in Wales for June or July of this year. They are a great cause. Poetry trying to change the world in a small way.
  • I've had a couple of nice emails and reviews about The Portland House from people that used to live in the neighborhood. It is always good to hear feedback about my books and I can't emphasize enough how much an Amazon review helps an author. 
  • I was part of an interview for Brain Hackers last week. They talked to me about my writing process a bit. I'll post a link when it is live.
So, yeah, there's a lot going on at the moment. I love all of it and wouldn't trade it for anything. There are days I feel like I'm running blindfolded through a cornfield though. 

But I will keep plugging.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy To Be Here

So as a few of my last posts allude to, I am powering through this winter trying with all my might to make it through to ice-out so I can get my kayak back in the water and find my zen. It is a grueling stretch of winter for me and my better half. We have each other to laugh through the looming "Winter Storm Warning." so that counts for something.

On Tuesday we got another 8-10 inches or so. I woke up early as I often do the night after a storm and set to work on the driveway and walk. About 3/4 of the way through the process, I twisted wrong and blew out my oblique muscle. It is right below my rib cage on the back side and I knew it was bad when I did it.

I treated it with ice, Naproxen and an Epsom salt bath. It seems slightly better today, but I suspect the healing will take a while.

But the untold benefit of it was that even in my pain, I realize how good my life is and how lucky I am. My wife was nice enough to finish up the shoveling and followed up a time or two as the snow kept falling.

And while I realize this is no fun, I also know it will heal and I will be fine. There's others with chronic pain who will not heal, so I am fortunate. I will take my good health less for granted when I am back to full strength.
Me, being happy.

Also, while winter is bad, it too shall pass. I have a house with a furnace, two cars and all the modern conveniences a person could want. I am content. I absolutely do not take for granted that I am among the top 10% of the richest people in the world. THE WORLD. Most Middle Class Americans are. I work hard and hope I can bless others along the way. But I also know how easily it can be swept away and hope I would still retain my joy and sense of urgency about every day I am given.

The other night I got a random text from my son that simply read; "Goodnight Dad. Love ya!"

My kids seem to know the best times to drop reminders of how much I am loved. I love the fact that they make it a priority, even after not hearing from them for a series of days. We're all busy, but never should be too busy to send a three word text.

I'm one of those guys that can also honestly say I love my job. I work with great people and we all maximize the others' skills. It is energizing to be around young, motivated co-workers.

I don't know why this post went this way. There are days, more and more frequently, when I just look around at everything that life has given me and am incredibly awed by how fortunate I am to be a part of the world today. Oh sure, the times are not perfect - the world is full of problems - but there is a whole lot, a WHOLE lot of beauty, and joy, and positivity and happiness around us as well. And I try and tap into that every chance I can get. Because life is short and negativity is life sucking.

I wonder if these realizations aren't part of some sort of mid-life crisis or something? Or does everyone experience them? I remember I was happy at 30, but I'm not sure I was this wistfully happy about just being granted another day, one at a time. That must come with grey hair and an empty nest.

In any case I'm going to run with it. Because it's February and spring is just around the corner.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Grinding It Out

Well, it's finally happened. It's that time of year when I am officially done with winter. DONE. We had the most boring super bowl game ever and now with regards to sports, I have nothing to look forward to until next fall's football season. To add to that, the quirkiness of the weather we've had the past few weeks has pushed me right over the edge.

The problem is, we still have 38 days until the official 1st day of spring (March 20th.)

This seems entirely too long, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When this time of year hits, I fall into my power-through-it mode.

Having said that there are some things I pledge to between now and then to get me through it.

I HEREBY PLEDGE TO:


  • Continue to drag myself out of bed in relative darkness, do my stretching, and drink my coffee as I plow through my workdays. Work is good. Well, it's warmer than my house, anyway.

  • Keep over dressing to almost clownish proportions at home on the cold days. This includes rotating through my 4 fleeces, wearing my Stormy Kromer hat at night to keep my head warm and a scarf. Yes, a scarf indoors. Looking good, I am sure. 
  • Skate to work on this godforsaken skating rink that we've been blessed with after the last freezing rain/ice storm. I'm waiting for the first big fall of the season, so stay tuned. 
  • Take my dog for extremely short walks. He looks at me and guilts me into taking him out into near zero weather. Most times we get to the end of the driveway and he stops, looks at me and says "Nah, I think I'm good." We went out on the ice yesterday and he was sliding all over the place. Good for a laugh if nothing else.
  • Drink tea. I don't drink a lot of tea from March to November, but in winter IT HELPS.
  • Take my Vitamin D. Sunshine in a pill. IT HELPS!
  • Stay as busy with activities in writing, poetry and church group activities as I can. They get me out of my chair/scarf/Kromer and keep me intellectually engaged.
  • Salting and shovelling as needed. However I am about three weeks from my give up point where I say, "It'll melt" and quit shovelling altogether. Everyone gets to that point.
  • Keep attending outdoor shows and watching fishing videos. It's hard to believe the lakes will ever thaw, but it happens I'm told. And when it does, I'll fish again. The Milwaukee Musky Expo is next weekend. I'm planning on it.
  • Continue to blog about how much I hate winter. Because, IT HELPS.
  • Keep checking out books from the library. Those late night hours (after it gets dark at 5:00) can make for some serious reading time. Just finished William Kent Krueger's book Thunder Bay and am currently working on Ram Dass' book, Grist for the Mill and, Grounded: Finding God In The World by Dr. Diana Butler Bass and The Sun magazine which I read cover to cover every issue.
  • Finish my binge-watching of Schitt's Creek on Netflix. I should pick a series every winter and plow through it like I've done with this one. Between it and NFL football, it is the sum total of my TV watching.
  • Ski. If we get another decent snowfall I may even cross-country ski one more time. Maybe, yeah. Unless its to cold/rainy/dark/warm/deep. So, maybe.

Before I know it, it will be March 20th. I keep telling myself this and I know it's much longer than that until "real spring" hits but IT HELPS.

Blogging off...

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Home Pet Surgery Meets The Civil War

It has been a strange week of weather round these parts. We started with an 8 inch snowfall last Monday, followed by polar vortex 50 below wind chills mid week followed by 40+ temps for a few days, followed by a freezing rain/ice storm.

I mention it because it is how our discussion began over coffee this morning with my coffee buddies. As I've mentioned, we meet every Thursday, as an informal book study, one that sometimes doesn't get to the book at all. In fact as a preparatory text last night Claude, the guy who kind of rallies folks every Wednesday evening, said that Thursday's discussion would be Chapter 4 which was mandatorily optional. That's sort of how we roll.

For no one reason, I really love this hour of the week. I love the randomness and the deep thinking and the laughter that it brings. It's like scrolling through Twitter for an hour, but way better.

Today's discussion took a winding road. We went from the weird weather to:

One of the guys' books that was beat up and highlighted in complete with worn pages. He said he bought it on Amazon in "Good" condition. We agreed it was good compared to maybe the other books in the basement that this one was in with. That led to,

  • the same guy saying that during the cold weather last week he looked out his window to see his a house burning in his subdivision. That led to,

  • Claude speculating that it was a fire caused by dryer lint. He said you can buy endoscopes to see through dryer vents. That led to,

  • Randy saying that you could probably do home pet surgeries using the endoscopes. That led to,
  • Me saying, "We're only looking for a few polyps, Toby." Which led to,
  • Someone redirecting our attention back to the book. We talked about Monastic life and how people are leaving organized church and religion in record numbers and why was that? Which led to,
  • Each of us speculating about our kids and how we brought them up through the church, but at some point you have to let them go and be themselves and hope that some of it stuck. This led to,
  • Someone else directing us to how the language of this book, written in the '70s was changed in subsequent editions to take out the '70s colloquialisms like the "far outs" and "heavy". This led to,
  • Nick, the guy with the 70s copy saying that he never understood why books written in a dialect needed to be neutered or changed. That they were a reflection from the period. Which led to,
  • Me asking if that is similar to tearing down statues of Robert E. Lee in order to rewrite history. (I was playing devil's advocate). This practically raised a guy out of his chair when he said,
  • Lee, like Benedict Arnold was treasonous and you don't see a lot of Benedict Arnold statues around. His point was that while the statue is gone, the history of both men is still there. It is just not adored of idolized. Which led to,
  • Me mentioning that I'd been to Stone Mountain which has a huge high relief etching on it of Robert E. Lee on it, and how do we erase that? Which led to,
  • Claude saying how he'd melted a camera while photographing something in his foundry one day.

And on and on. 

Stone Mountain - Georgia

It is a caffeine-fueled, philosophical, goofy, challenging, mind-bending, working out of the world's problems, personal issues, political corruption and spiritual growth all rolled up in the name of a book study. 

It's the best hour of the work week. 

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Cooking 101

Last night as part of my wife's corporate holiday party, we were treated to a cooking class at Braise restaurant in Milwaukee. For those that don't know, my wife works at Purple Door Ice Cream in Milwaukee. It is owned by two of the coolest people going, Lauren and Steve Schultz. Every year as a recognition to their staff, they have a post-holiday party of sorts to recognize the hard work of their staff.

So when it was announced that this year we would be spending the evening in a class where we learned how to cook a couple of appetizers which we would then eat, I was both intrigued and a little mortified.

You see, I'm not much of a cook.

Oh, I can get by and am capable of the basics, but as a rule, it is really not my thing. I can do it, but to me it is drudgery and work. I know it's weird, but it has never been something that "relaxes me" like it does for my wife.


Well, at the class, there were six cooking stations with 3 people to a station and a chef up front doing all the instructing. We were going to make two Asian dishes. 1. Fried Pot Stickers and, 2. Spring Rolls. I was at a station with my wife and her brother and his partner. Somehow they agreed that I should do most of the up front work, as it would be good to learn.

And I know it is completely stupid and unfounded, but I was worried and a little stressed out about it. I didn't want to mess up, and I knew I was beside a couple of amazing cooks (my wife and Jake) and an amazing baker (Mark). Me, well, I do a really good grilled cheese - when I'm not burning it.

Well, thankfully these sessions are extremely well scripted. And, also thankfully, you can drink beer while you're cooking. For starters, all the ingredients were set before us ahead of time, in the amount they were to be used.

Then, he talked us through everything and I had big help from the two cooks to my left. Once I got into the swing of things, the anxiety went down and I actually found it kind of interesting. At the same time, it is very much like art, in that you have to know what goes well with what, as well as a good idea of what the end result will taste (or look) like. At one point he was squeezing limes into a spring roll mix to introduce acid into the mix to do something or other. That's the kind of stuff I wouldn't intuitively do, though could probably learn over time.

We got to eat our dishes and both of them were really, really delicious.

It was a great time with some fun people. I could almost see myself taking to cooking more if I took some more classes in it. I would likely be treading on my wife's territory though, as she sort of takes over a kitchen. I will be completely honest, I was well aware of her cooking savvy when we married and I haven't regretted one minute of it.

Even if it has perhaps squelched my own experimentation with cooking.

And on a related note, it is really cool to see my kids Sarah and Ben both starting to get into cooking in a big way. Ben will actually cook meals at his apartment and sell them to his roommates. It is a win-win for both. Sarah and Sam are also into it including getting a few knives and pans for Christmas gifts, because they like it so much.

Food is the great unifier. And last night I learned it can be a lot of fun.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Cantarctica

But hey, it's sunny.
It's a little cold where I live.

Just a bit.

Most of the Midwest is in the grips of another polar vortex. These are weather events caused by aberrations in the jet stream which are caused by melting polar ice, which is caused by too much carbon in our atmosphere, which is caused by years of fossil fuel burning, etc, etc.

And I don't care what your stance is on global warming, I do know that this pretty much sucks whatever is causing it. (From my perspective, I agree it's caused by what they say it is, but that's my editorial perspective.)

Yesterday and today temps hovered around -25 Fahrenheit with a feel-like of -45.

As you may know, my house is 97 years old. It breathes like a bag of onions in the winter. While this transfer of interior air to the outside might be good for air quality, it makes it just a tad drafty in here. My workplace closed the past two days due to the temps, so I have been on modified house arrest. Yesterday I managed to start the car and run it for 5 minutes, but otherwise did not leave the house for fear of death.

Today is much the same.

So the dog is in a deep depression and has mastered doing his duty in 14 seconds on three legs. He looks at me when he's doing it with a look of "What the hell is going on out here?" I know, buddy. It sucks for me too, although I'm not peeing in a snowbank.

It also makes for some interesting dress around the house. At the moment, mine involves long underwear, a Stormy Kromer hat, lots of fleece and a scarf.
Don't judge.

Yes, a scarf.

Indoors.

It is not pretty.

The chair I sit in is near the stairs and the draft coming from upstairs blows right down my back. The scarf helps. Any sense of fashion has taken a back seat to what I call "gettin' through this".

When I start the car, it whines and makes noises I've never heard before. When I took it out this morning, it felt like the wheels were square. I'm certain they flattened on the edge that was on the pavement.

They were like Lego wheels.

We were also told to change our thermostat to Hold at 68 degrees. So our furnace has been running almost constantly for 3 days. Thankfully it is only three years old. At the immediate moment, I love my Carrier.

Yesterday, Wisconsin was colder than Antarctica. And not even a penguin to show for it.

We have rolled-up towels at the base of both the front and back doors to slow down the influx of frigid air. The cats are camped out in front of the heat vent, Toby the Dog is in a deep canine depression and Donna and I are living each moment waiting for the next furnace cycle to blow warm air again.

It was so cold that when I made a video of throwing boiling water to the air, some of it splashed on my hand and literally did not hurt. No damage done.

It ain't right, people.

And from an entertainment standpoint, there is only so much Netflix and Facebooking a person can do. I miss the outdoors. I miss walking. And I sure as heck miss shorts and my bike. That day might never come again.

The last time we had a Polar Vortex was in 2014 and I managed to get frostbite on my fingertips to the point where they get cold/numb fairly quickly now. So I've been here before and know to stay put.

And so I look ahead to the future. Saturday is supposed to be 40. FORTY! Four Zero. ABOVE! Sunday is 43, Monday is Forty eight. I might go kayaking! Paint the garage! Rake the lawn!

Until then though, I'll be here in my scarf.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Pattern For Change

Yesterday I took in two hours of the 25th Annual Woodland Pattern poetry marathon. This event is a fundraiser to sponsor programming for Woodland Pattern Bookstore throughout the year.

The way the event works is people are asked to get sponsors to donate on behalf of them, then they read for 5 minutes during an hour that they sign up to read in. Personally I think it is the perfect event for someone who says they don't like poetry. The reason being, you are exposed to such a broad range of poetry styles and poet personalities, that if you don't like someone, just wait 5 minutes and you'll get to hear someone else. It's a poetic smorgasbord.

I actually read at one of their events about 5 years ago as part of an AllWriters' sponsored hour. I remember being super nervous. It was the event where I joked that I was Wisconsin's tallest poet and someone from the audience with a slightly less disjointed sense of humor corrected me and said he knew of someone taller.

Hence my moniker as "Wisconsin's second tallest poet." (Again, it's a joke. Really.)

Huston passes the torch to Rozga
This event featured the induction of a new Poet Laureate for the State of Wisconsin. Margaret Rozga was named the 2019/2020 poet laureate, replacing Karla Huston. Margaret was part of the Father Groppi protests of the late 60's and has always been a voice for racial justice and unity. As someone said yesterday, I cannot think of a better person to be holding the post at this point in our divided country's troubled present. She will be amazing.

The hours I was present featured a group of my colleagues from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets as well as multiple past Wisconsin Poet Laureates. It was some of Wisconsin's finest all gathered in one room.

Anyway, the two hours I was there were really inspiring. It is clear that poets have a passion for the world, for our children, for the pain of life and for the beauty of all of it. There were gay and lesbian, young and old, fat and thin, and, yes, short and tall. Like anyone, I liked some better than others.

One poem in particular by Bob Hanson stuck with me. It was titled Symbiosis and it talked about the interrelated nature of everything and was very much on point.
Marilyn Taylor

But there were too many good ones to talk about There were poems on politics, the environment, death, life, social justice, gender and age issues, nature, work, travel and on and on.

The message of many of them though was we need to treat each other and the world with more respect. We need to stop hurting and do something ABOUT the hurting. We need to stop oppressing and do something FOR the oppressed. We need to stop worrying about the environment and do something to HELP it.

It is too bad that these voices were contained to a small room in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee. The messages should be required listening for every politician and military leader in the city/state/country.

And while some would argue that the words will not have any effect on changing the world, I would beg to differ. The words changed some of the people in the room, myself included, and those people can then go out and change the world in some small way.

I, for one, plan to be part of that change.

Blogging off...

P.S. Margaret Rozga will be reading from her book Pestiferous Questions at Mama D's in Wales on February 20th at 7:00 as part of their featured poet series. Don't miss it!

Wisconsin Fellowship of Poet Readers @ WP Poetry Marathon

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Cars, Crowns And Colonoscopies

So my 23 year old daughter bought her first car this week. She is in living up in Minneapolis and recently moved out of college and into her own apartment. While she was a student, mass transit worked just fine for her, but now she needs a car to get to work among other things.

Now, it's hard to say I ever had a pleasant car purchase experience. Ever.

But here's the deal. It sucks but it's part of life. It's part of being an adult. I rank it right up there with a colonoscopy or a dental crown on the fun scale. I'd sooner get blasted by a fire hose, frankly.

I hate looking for cars. I hate test drives. I hate negotiations. I hate pushy salesmen.  I hate pushier finance guys I hate the paperwork and I hate sitting in sterile cubicles of salesmen who are likely looking for another job.

Some people get a charge out of a new car. I am not one of those. To me, a car is a good way to get from here to there. Simpler is better, but hey, if I have to have seat warmers and a back up camera, well I guess that'll be okay.

For starters, she was looking on Craigslist. That was until she fell for a scam deal that was a "spoof sale" by a well know scammer. She didn't send the scammer any money but she did get a fake-O email saying how this owner was willing to get rid of the low mile vehicle for cheap because her "husband" died of a heart attack and the car gave her bad memories. To my daughter's credit, she googled the woman's name and found out other had been scammed by the same email. The whole experience was a good cautionary exercise for her. People are nasty sometimes.

So when she started sending me pictures of cars from legitimate dealers, I started to get all defensive of my daughter. I wanted to be there to help keep the salesman and finance guy from fleecing her for the "extended warranty-undercoating-seal coating-scotchguarding".

Because, she's my daughter see. She's my little girl, right? And she's a good person. Treat her nice you snakes! And if you don't I'm gonna come up there and talk to you.

But because I live 5 hours away, this wasn't really something I could do. Plus, there is the whole life skills element of it. I bought my first car at her age and got fleeced. They sold me stuff like insurance and an extended warranty that I did not need. It made me physically sick because my payment was $50 more a month than I expected when I bought the thing. I actually went back and had them take off some items to get it back to where it should have been all along.

On the night she bought it she texted me that the salesman was "a nice guy, very helpful."

To which I said, I believed her but she should wait till the finance guy talks to her. THEY'RE the problem. (Having just bough a new car ourselves a month ago.)

The next text read:

"Oh boy, you were correct, the salesman was very nice but then we got the old man strong arm trying to sell me paint coatings and windsheild coatings and dancing monkeys for my dashboard and hamster wheels for my engine."

I laughed hard! Welcome to reality, babe. May the force be with you.

To her credit, she didn't bend on any of it and got away with an affordable payment and a 2010 Honda Fit.

More importantly though, she got a life lesson in pushy salesmen and the bureaucratic nightmare that goes into a car sale.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Kansas City Here I Come...

My friend and I have this ongoing joke about the Kansas City Chiefs football team. It dates all the way back to 1989 or so when Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach and guys like Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and Christian Okoye (aka the Nigerian Nightmare) were making a name for themselves.

Bill in the CAD room at Intelligraphics circa 1989ish.
At the time, the Packers were pretty brutal, so I was big on watching teams that showed a little promise. The Buffalo Bills were my in-laws' team and were really good with Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and the rest. I loved to watch them but they lived to disappoint, much like my Vikings did back in the 70's with all those super bowl flops.

But I remember seeing the Chiefs and thinking this team was really something. Back then I was working at Intelligraphics Inc, a sweatshop employer in Waukesha focused on utility mapping for phone, electric and gas utilities. I had a good friend, Bill Lee who worked there too. We went to the same gym and made jokes about our weightlifting abilities. And on those weeks where we got our dime raises for the year, we'd take it out on the heavy bag.
Derrick Thomas

One time at the gym we were talking football and I said, "KC is the team to watch. Mark my word!" Bill thought that was kind of prophetic or something and we both had a good laugh about it. As they quickly bowed out of the playoff race that year, Bill reminded me, "Hey, KC. Team to watch. Mark my word."

Well, after Bill took another job somewhere else and we sort of lost touch. On occasion when I'd run into him, he said, "Hey Jimbo. KC. Team to watch?" To which I replied, "Mark my word." We'd both have a good laugh and go our own ways until next time.

Years passed and we got back into touch through the magic of Facebook. We've gone out to lunch a few times, hung out, collaborated on a couple of book trailers and even watched a Packer game together a few years ago.

So, for every year the Chiefs have been in the playoffs, including 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, I've sent him text messages saying, KC. Team to watch. Mark my word."
Christian Okoye

Without fail, EVERY YEAR they seem to find a new way to lose in the playoffs. The two of us have a good laugh and wait until the following fall. Then, when they win their opener, I start the texts again. "Hey. KC..."

Well, this year the Chiefs have ratcheted it up a notch and are one game away from the Super Bowl. They look better than all the other Chiefs teams I've seen over the years, so I think this might be the year. Mark my words.

I do know that if they win today, against the evil empire New England Patriots, I will have to go to lunch with my friend Bill, for Reuben sandwiches at our favorite deli downtown, to laugh and strategize on how we're going to pull them through the big game. Because it's been a few years since a team I cared about was playing in the Super Bowl. (Packers, 2010 for the win.)

So, today I'll say it again.

"KC. Team to watch. Mark my word."

And this time I mean it.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dealing With It

It seems I'm approaching that angsty time of winter where I exude my discontent with darkness and cold weather. Yesterday I saw the forecast calling for snow and possibly some sort of "Polar Vortex Split" that is going to throw parts of the country into a deep freeze.

This is not happy news. Neither item.

Now, understand that we have had a weak winter thus far. A little cold in November and December, but almost no snow. Literally none on the ground right now and it is mid January. So, what am i griping about? I mean really, it could be worse.
January 17th, 2019. Wha?


These past few years have been adjustment years for me. I have begun to give into slowing down during the winter months. For eight months of the year I am outside as much as I can be. It always made me angsty to be cooped up like this, but I'm growing into it. I think the winter season is a reminder that we need to rest and recoup.

One of the biggest adjustments has been heading to bed and shutting the lights out earlier. I have this warped sense of needing to "be productive" until 10 o'clock every night, particularly in regards to my writing. So, giving that up at 9 o'clock to go up and read has taken some work. You know what though?

I really, really like it.

Besides, I think to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. I'm just doing what I believe in, right? I need to stop feeling guilty for slowing down for a few months.

I've also learned that I can still be active (weight lifting instead of biking) without being outdoors. Lifting weights is about as benign and boring activity ever invented, but I had to do something or gain thirty pounds instead. (Step away from the eggnog!)

And if nothing else, it IS staying lighter with each passing day, so that's some serious hope I'm going to latch onto and run with. There's something like 63 days till spring, so yeah, that's another point of light.

I'm also trying to appreciate the here and now a little more. We talk about it every week at coffee, both my Thursday group of guys and my Saturday coffee with my wife. As much as it's hard to see in the day-to-day grind, every day really is a gift. How we use it determines our happiness, so I'm going to try and take each one as far as I can and quit my grumbling.

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Other Peoples' Kids

I don't often talk about my nieces and nephews, but I have a whole lot of them. One of them, Alison, just graduated from Winona State University and it spurred me to think of how much I appreciate them. Each has their own unique gifts, personality and demeanor.

Because my sisters started their families first, with quite a break before my brothers and I did, there is almost two generations of nieces and nephews. My sisters' kids are all in their thirties and forties, while my brothers and I all have kids that are twenty-somethings.
The coolest thing is they all get along great. My kids love their cousins and really enjoy being around them. They grew up together. They are like the siblings you visit a few times a year. My son Ben even went so far as to say that at Christmas Eve he felt cheated, that we all had to leave by 10:30 PM, so he didn't get enough time with his cousins. That is when you know you did a good job exposing your kid to their cousins.

3 of four of my sister's kids live in California. Because of this my kids don't know them as well as their "Minnesota Cousins." But when Ben and I went out to San Diego a couple of years ago, Ben clicked with Erin and Johnny like he'd known them his whole life. I remember him saying "Johnny is hilarious. He's cool. I really like him."

And the "first generation" of cousins sort of raised this second generation. Now that they are all adults, they can reminisce about those trips to the cabin, or their own college years or whatever, with their younger cousins. It does my heart good to see them get along so well with so much love.

So as this second generation of cousins all go through their college years, it is fun watching them interact and share their experiences. One is in South Dakota, one in Illinois, one in Minnesota and my son is at Madison, Wisconsin. All unique experiences, but all sharing a common goal.

On the other side of the family and the other side of the country, we have nieces and nephews in New York. They also grew up with our kids and are very close in age. The whole college experience is shared by them at the moment. When they get together there is a lot of reminiscing about trips to Myrtle Beach, the Adirondack Mountains and other places. Their friendships are as close as their Minnesota cousins.

While I had some good experiences with my Minnesota cousins, fishing at White Bear Lake being primary, it was nothing like the relationship these kids have with their cousins. I'm not resentful, just happy that they have each other to lean on and share life with.

Blogging off..


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Oneness, Meditation And The Zen Of Paper Straightening

In the past I've mentioned that I have a group of guys I have coffee with at Cafe De Arts for one hour every Thursday. I once jokingly called them the Thursday Theologians because often times our talk is religious or spiritual in nature, though not always.

They're a hard group to summarize, really.

I would call them my "best-friends-for-an-hour-each-week" but that would be sappy and besides the name is too long.

They are friends though. Most of them are part of my church CollectiveMKE, but not all. It certainly isn't a requirement, though as I said, our conversation often drifts into spiritual discussions.

We usually pretend to be sort of a book study, though we're all slow readers and take forever to get through a book. The book is more of a reason to show up than anything we really delve deep into. If we didn't purport to have anything "in progress" there might be impetus for someone not to show. We need an anchor, so a book it is.

Our discussion is willy-nilly and meanders on random tangents and rabbit holes. Today was a good example when we started down the path of meditation. It led to a sidetrack of "paper straightening" and how a certain level of that is healthy, or even meditative, but if you do it too much, it becomes an unhealthy OCD thing. It is these sorts of extrapolations that make the conversations interesting.

Then I asked if anyone in the group had ever meditated. It met with a lot of head shaking. Some guys offered alternatives that they would consider meditative. Methods I'd never thought of that cleared their minds, which is part of what meditation is, I suspect.

Later, one of the guys today asked "How do you know if God is speaking to you?"

Uh...

It was the source of some deep discussion. Everything from people not hearing God to those hearing him in nature, to those experiencing him when they're in their friend group. But we also concluded that we can't really refute someone when they say "God told me," because, well, how do we know he didn't? It is really a personal thing, if it's a thing at all. We also agree that people may even be using the "God told me," line to justify something they don't feel comfortable about. Maybe, maybe not.

We are currently reading a book by Ram Dass, titled Grist for the Mill. It is about experiencing oneness. Dass was kicked out of Harvard in part for hanging out with Timothy Leary and, well we all know what he was famous for.

In any case the book is one we're just getting into. We're all looking to expand our worldview in hopes of increasing our faith, and this book is an extension of that exploration. In the past, if we don't like a book, we sort of agree to move on. Maybe this book will do that to us, I don't know. So far, I like what I've read.

Anyway, I digress. What I started out this post wanting to say is how fortunate I am to have this hour every Thursday to talk about everything from automotive maintenance, to engineering feats, to political postulating to paper straightening.

We are literally all over the map.

We're not a Bible study, but the Bible comes up almost every week in some capacity.

We're not a book study, but we touch on the book almost every week.

In fact, I'm not sure what we are. I do know that each week I come away asking a new question or in some way challenged or enlightened. (No, not like Timothy Leary enlightened. Just drug-free  enlightened.) I also know that I look forward to my Thursdays more than any other day during the week (except Fridays, of course.)

It is my one hour, caffeine fueled, mind-bending, deep dive. It's cool!

Blogging off...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Art Appreciation 101

One of my latest obsessions is art. Don't get me wrong, I've always appreciated it and I credit my college Art History 101 class with helping shape that appreciation. Art is one of those things that helps me appreciate the human race. Our innate desire to create accompanied by some wildly talented people makes good art happen.

Now while I claim to be a writer, I lay no claim to any artistic skills outside of words. I not only have no sense of proportion or depth, but when it comes to thinking of something to create/draw/paint, I kind of draw a blank. It's certainly a gift that God gave to some and skimped on with others. I would fall under the latter category.

My wife and I like to support local authors and have a few friends who are crazy talented in that realm. Names like Sara Risley, Jill Kenehan-Krey, Walter Jack Savage, Stacey Ball and others come to mind. Because the best way to support artists is to buy their work, we've made it a point to try and do just that. When a coworker pointed out that my office walls needed some art, I took it as a chance to get some prints and class the place up a bit.

Here's a few of my latest acquisitions and a little about why I like the particular piece.


Birch Forest (My title) Tape Art by Sara Risley
Sara Risley is an artist and friend whose style has always captivated my interest. Her styles change over time. She was once into using photography as her base. Then for a time she moved into using tape as a medium. Since then she has branched into using alcohol inks, another amazingly colorful technique. The piece above, a tape painting, was one that captured my eye as well as my wife's. She mentioned it looked like birch trees. As with all of the art on this blog, the picture doesn't do the piece justice. Her website is Here. Check it out.


St. Paul Skyline, by Walter Jack Savage

Walter Jack Savage is a friend I found on Facebook. His artwork has appeared on several magazine covers and books. When I saw this piece, a downtown St. Paul scene with the familiar 1st National Bank building, I knew I wanted it to remind me of home.

Fishing by Walter Jack Savage
Savage is retired and is also a prolific writer as well as a Vietnam Veteran. He hails from the Twin Cities and now lives in California. 

I've followed his work and so when I saw the piece with a fisherman show up in his feed, I knew I wanted that one as well. Because he's sold or given away many of his more popular pieces, I was only able to obtain a copied print. Because I love to fish, this piece holds special meaning for me. It puts me in the boat. Walter Jack Savage's website is here. Check it out.


And finally, there is a piece by Steve Kilbey. Kilbey is the lead singer and bassist for the Australian prog-rock band, The Church. I wanted his piece in part because they are my favorite band and also because I admire artists who are adept at more than one art. Kilbey is a singer/songwrite/artist and poet. This piece is psychedelic and reminds me of the dreamy nature of their music. His website is Here.

So, while I'm not an art collector - far from it - I don't think you need to be to appreciate the talents of artists. Like writers, they pour a little bit of their soul into all of their work. I'm grateful that they do and my way of showing my appreciation is to support them 

They make the world a little more beautiful.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Fighting Back At Winter

Well, it's officially 2019 and we are in the dark cold months of winter. If you know me, you know I am a shorts and t-shirt kind of guy. I like to come home from work, get shorts on and take a 45 minute bike ride to decompress. In the spring/summer/fall months I do that as often as I can.

So when winter rolls around, I go into a sort of inner-funk. It's not a depression per-se, but I can certainly see it from here. There's something about the dark/cold combination that wears on me. If I had an unhealthier nature, I could become a real slug and never do anything from November until March. I've found I have to work at staying active or pay the price with pants that are too tight and butt prints embedded in my living room chair. Not good, either of them.

In an effort to keep my sanity and not sleep for 15 hours a day, I do a few things. All of them are "fake it till you make it" solutions to staving off the blues. So far so good.


  • I walk to work pretty much every day except Thursday. This is largely because if I didn't I literally wouldn't see the sun for more than 10 minutes a day. This way I get at least an hour.
  • I take a vitamin D tablet every day. I call it my happy pill. I don't know if it helps anything, but it is sort of my sun replacement. Once we're past the Winter Solstice, my mood improves ever so slightly. Knowing we're on the upside, is motivational.
  • Because my pants were tight at the waist,
    I started lifting weights in my basement. My basement is a dank, cold place, so you get a feeling for how desperate I am to have to resort to going there to get a workout in. I don't do gyms because the only place I'd be less likely to go to than my basement is a gym where I'd have to get in my car and go workout.
  • I've become a fan of going up to bed nearly an hour earlier than I do in the summer. From there I'll read for a bit and then sometimes shut the light out a half hour earlier than in summer. I've decided its OK to not have to stay up and "be productive." Rest is okay and I think in some respects that's why God gave us winter. A time to slow down.
  • A friend gave me a Lambeau Field Stormy Kromer hat that I have taken to wearing indoors when the wind is bad. It is very warm and despite looking like a 6'4" Elmer Fudd, I've come to love it.
  • I drink a fair amount of herbal tea, egg nog and dark beer in these months. Part of this habit has triggered the need for working out and I understand that it's cyclical, BUT I NEED IT! Ha!
  • This weekend I will attend the All Canada show. It is an indoor expo where I'll go with a friend to plan that trip for 2020. Sometimes just looking at pictures of unfrozen lakes and people holding big fish to keep a person going.
  • I surround myself with lots of friends on occasion. It helps.
  • I count every day without snow as a blessing. 
  • Same for every day above 32 degrees.
  • If it does snow significantly, I plan on getting out cross country skiing. If it doesn't though, I am really okay with it. Really, I am.
  • Wool socks. Big fleeces. Slippers. They help.
So that's a little of what I do to keep from putting my head in the oven during the dark months. If you've got additional ideas, I'd love to hear them. Because we're still about 90 days from any kind of relief.

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Guest Appearance

Well, it's almost new years eve, and all of my teams have ungracefully bowed out of the NFL playoffs. I've watched less football this fall/winter than I have in recent memory mostly because the Packers and Vikings were playing such mediocre ball this year. I am of an age that barely has time for good football, let alone mediocre. Thankfully I was part of something bigger today.

Today I was part of a Guest House meal assembly with eleven other people. This is an event organized by my wife, funded by donors and assembled by volunteers. She sets up about four of these assemblies every year and because I'm a bit of hack in the kitchen, I never really took part in one.

As I've mentioned before, the Guest House is a transitional housing agency for 86 men. They provide job training, help with residency, AODA counseling and health care for homeless men.

Donna assured me she could use my help, so I went along. I was put on sandwich duty with my brother in-law. It was so cool to see the kitchen buzzing with activity. These are folks who gave up a Sunday afternoon to help others and you'd have thought it was a party. People who'd never met were getting along like old friends. Everyone was helping and within two and a half hours we knocked out five meals for 86 men.

It feels good to give back. It feels good to help. And it beats the heck out of bad football.

I love so much about our work with the Guest House. And I hope to do more of it in 2019.

Blogging off...

Thursday, December 27, 2018

2018 Put To Words

Today was the start of the second half of my Christmas/New Year break. I took advantage of it doing what I love to do most during down time, namely writing. I managed 1500 words over a few hours at it, not too bad for a day's work. I know to some 1500 words seems measly, but I'll take a 5 page day anytime.

This time of year I always like to look back on my writing accomplishments. I never really know what to expect from year to year, as I still look at this as a part-time gig, fitting it in around the edges where I can. That said, any and each published piece is a small victory in my eyes, and in that respect 2018 was a pretty good year, maybe the best yet.
Journals, magazines, books and
newspapers with my work.

From a book standpoint, any year where I have two books released is a good one. In January The Portland House was released by Electio Publishing. I tell people it is the second memoir I never dreamed I'd write, let alone get published.

Then, in October, my third poetry collection/chapbook, On a Road was released by Unsolicited Press, my third different publisher. (What?)

If you'd ever told me I'd have two books and three poetry collections within 10 years of starting to write, I'd have said you're nuts. Seriously. Frankly, the whole journey seems like a really long, really good dream. It also feels so out of control that I'm just hanging on for dear life. And when people ask me how I do it, all I can say is that I just throw my all at it - my heart and soul - and then I just let what happens, happen. Most of it is good, but like anything that is good, there are some downers too. It's all part of it.

It was a good year for getting my work into magazines and journals. I had nine poems, two nonfiction stories and one flash fiction piece accepted for publication in a number of different journals. I am grateful for each and every acceptance, and take none for granted. These acceptances fuel me. It's hard to explain, but I can't imagine not doing it, submitting that is.

I try buying at least one copy of every publication I'm in, so I can keep a visual log of what I've done. It's shaping up to be a body of work, I guess. And while it's important to look back every once in a while, I can only think about the works I have in progress.

Which takes me back to where I started this blog. I'm currently 56,000 words into Cretin Boy, a book about my high school experience. I had big aspirations for finishing it in time for my 40th class reunion in the summer of 2019, but I can safely say that is not happening. Nonetheless, the book has become my latest obsession - the cute new girl on the block, if you will.

Throw into that my appointment as poet laureate for the Village of Wales, a few book signings, this ongoing blog and a couple of co-authored events and, well, it doesn't get much better for someone of my sub-atomic micro fame. As best I can, I'm livin' it.

So I press on, hoping that 2019 is at least half as successful as 2018 was. Even if it isn't, I am having fun just sorta winging it. And that's all that matters.

Blogging off...


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Together - Wherever

Christmas celebrations have been an evolving thing in our family these past several years. As kids get older and houses are bought and sold, we move things and people and dates around to accomodate everyone as best we can. Our BIG family Christmas has moved from;


  • Aunt Helen's house in White Bear
  • Portland Avenue
  • Mom's new house on Larpenteur Avenue
  • Tom and Patty's house in Shoreview
  • Rob and Jane's house in Shorveiew
  • Sister Jane's house on Sterling
  • A Maplewood community center
  • Sister Jane's new house


So the location changes, but the occasions are steeped in family togetherness. Over the years we've had boyfriends/girlfriends who became spouses, and some who did not. We've had friends who had no family in the area that we've invited in over the years.

But the strength of our holidays has always been that everyone knows Christmas Eve is reserved for getting together with mom and the aunts and uncles. This year brings three new babies and two new boyfriends to the mix, so it stands to be the biggest gathering in recent history.

It will be chaotic and loud and joyful and, most of all, filled with love. We have been incredibly blessed over the years to still get along with one another. The death of our brother Rob seven years ago only served to strengthen the bond. We are all grown now, successful with beautiful families and each of us is flirting with the idea of retirement in the next 5 years.

So we continue to meet at this once a year holiday gathering because we know how important it is to laugh and catch up with one another. We know that every year with good health is a gift, so we celebrate that while we celebrate the birth of our savior.

I'm fortunate beyond measure to have both my immediate and extended family my life. I look forward to tomorrow's gathering with both a fondness for past Christmases as well as hope for future ones.

I'll leave you with a poem I've written about the holiday that speaks to these thoughts.

The Visitor                 by Jim Landwehr

If the ghost of my Christmas past
paid me a visit
what would I see?
I’d see ribbon candy and mixed nuts
and a living room buzzing with relatives.
I’d smell rib roast and potatoes
beneath a haze of cigarette smoke
I’d taste pumpkin pie with cool whip
and egg nog from a dainty glass.
I’d hear shouts of “Thank you, Mom!”
“It’s perfect!”
and “Save the bows!”
And I’d feel like I was enveloped in love,
I’d feel safe and warm, and I’d feel
like I never wanted the night to end

If the ghost of Christmas present
paid me a visit
what would I see?
I’d see my two twenty-something kids
in their pajamas on Christmas morning
I’d smell coffee and ebelskivvers
and the scent of evergreen.
I’d taste the marshmallow and fruit
of our chocolate fondue tradition.
I’d hear carols seeping from the stereo
Bing, and Perry and Nat King Cole.
And I’d still feel enveloped in love,
I’d feel grateful and fortunate
like my heart was given a great gift.

If the ghost of Christmas future
paid me a visit
what would I see?
I’d see that family always comes first
I’d smell the victory in Christ’s birth
I’d taste the sweetness of a life well lived
I’d hear the call to be present and love big
and I’d feel like I’d lived a beautiful dream.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Blogging off...


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Friends Of Old

Having had three days in Minnesota during my concert visitation/book signing, I made it a point to reconnect with old friends.

The day after the Bob Seger concert, my friend Pat and I went out to eat at Perkins. Back in the day, we spent many late nights at Perkins, usually after a night out. It was our go-to location to catch up on life and share a meal. Our discussions over food were always deep, but were also sprinkled with lots of laughter. Neither of us knew what our future life would look like, so all we could do was talk about what was going on at that point in time, give advice and show support. But most of all what we did was listen. Neither of us needed to dominate the conversation, so we went back and forth as friends do.

At this particular outing, we pretty much picked up where we left off, even to the point of Pat ordering his trademark Omelette and me ordering a strawberry croissant french toast platter. It seems the more we'd changed, the more we were the same.

We talked and managed to go through the usual pot of coffee.

After breakfast we went to shoot a little pool at the place we used to play. When we were in high school and our early college years, we spent hours in Lee's Billiards shooting pool. It was our way of killing time back then and Pat thought it would be cool to revisit the place.

The ownership has changed and now it is called Al's Billiards. When we walked in it was like going back in time thirty plus years. The place hadn't changed much at all. The tables were the same and as I chose a cue, I laughed at the thought that it might be the same one I used in 1982.

I can't say enough about how fun it was to spend the day with a friend doing the things we did as a couple of young guys so long ago. I'm a nostalgic nut, so these kinds of things resonate with me. We put My Sharona and George Thorogood songs on the "iTunes" Jukebox and it was like getting in the Delorean and going back to '82.

Fun stuff.

The next night I spent with a bunch of friends I used to work with at Montgomery Wards. One of them owns a Tiki bar in Stillwater called the Tilted Tiki. We met there and reconnected with each other. It is a fun establishment with lots of delicious tropical drinks and cool decor.

This was the first time a couple of us had seen each other in years. It felt so good to talk about where we were, what had happened over time and what our kids were up to. These guys have always been a fun group, so we had some laughs - to the point of near tears at times for myself.

With both of these outings, it was like picking up exactly where we'd left off last time we were together. I think that is how you can tell a good friend from a more casual friend.

On my drive home I reflected on how lucky I was to have these friends. We share a past that wasn't perfect, but it made us who we are.

And I can appreciate each of them for who they've become. Old friends!

Blogging off...

Friday, December 14, 2018

Still The Same

These past couple days have been one of connecting with an old friend, Pat. I've talked about him in the past. He and I were best buddies in high school and much of our college years. He was in my wedding in New York, and I was in his in Tulsa.

Over the years, as we were growing our families and living our lives we dropped out of touch. There was an occasional letter, and then an email, but for the most part we drifted.

This last reconnect was driven by a text exchange we had last summer. He was texting about how a Bob Seger song, Like A Rock, had a big impact on him one night on his deck. We'd seen Seger together in 1980 and, like our friendship, we just sort of lost touch with his music over the years.

Well, just for grins Pat looked up to see if Seger was still even alive. When he did he saw that he wasn't only still alive, but he was in the middle of his "Final Tour." Pat was always "spontaneous" so he pulled the trigger and got tickets for us, mine as a birthday present.


We found a lot right across the street from the Exel Energy Center. On an interesting side note, when we went to the show at the Met Center in Minneapolis in 1980, two tickets cost $24. This time, parking alone was $30! The two tickets were $258.00.

Times have changed.

We went to dinner at Patrick McGoverns on West 7th and had a great time catching up with one another.

When we got to the concert, Pat was a little shocked at the age demographic of the crowd. He hadn't been to a concert in years, so was unprepared for the old, grey, balding crowd that made up 70% of the audience. I told him we might be part of that demographic, but I wasn't sure. Ha!

We found our seats which were the equivalent of where we were in 1980, namely, upper level about 5 rows from God.

The concert was awesome. I'd venture as far as to say it was better than the 1980 show, though memories fade things. Seger was in good voice and is still a great performer, playing acoustic guitar, piano and of course his gravelly vocals. As I said, I've sort of fallen away from his music over the years, but it was so great to hear the songs that I grew up with. This was a greatest hits show and did not disappoint.

The whole thing was just cool. It was a step back in time, with a foot clearly in the present. Both Pat and I have become brutally aware of the brevity of our time on earth, and we are of an age where you just don't let things like this pass by. You jump on them. We were both well aware that this $400 venture was a frivolous luxury. But we also knew that life is too short to miss something like this. And in doing it we created a memory we will both have and cherish the rest of our lives.

We might have both been part of that over 50 crowd, but for a couple of hours we were both 18 and carefree again. To some it probably seems sappy and nostalgic, but to me it was moving, powerful and epic. During my stay with Pat we talked about what we might have changed about how we grew up. We both kind of agreed that while we were not A students and not perfect kids, we were the best we knew how to be.

Our pasts shaped our present.

And our present is pretty dang good.

"I was eighteen
Didn't have a care
Working for peanuts
Not a dime to spare
But I was lean and
Solid everywhere
Like a rock

My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock"

-Bob Seger from Like a Rock.

Blogging off...

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Shockingly Normal

So I will turn 57 on Tuesday. This is both a non-event and a shock to me.

I say a shock because it is hard for me to believe that I am on the far side of fifty. I tell my wife that most days I feel like I'm twenty eight. On those days I do too much around the yard, house and on my bike, I am quickly brought back to reality that I am every bit of my 50 plus years. Those days are usually followed by mornings when I wake and every joint needs a little encouragement to get moving.

But I can't complain. My weight is the same as it was 20 years ago. Ever since I turned 40, it has been much more difficult to keep at a constant weight, but I've managed fairly well. It's an ongoing goal of mine not to increase my waist size on my jeans, (like Jerry Seinfeld) because, well, it's a slippery slope. Before you know it, it's sweatpants all the time, including at the grocery store.

And I am fairly healthy too. Sure I have some chronic things, like numbness in both my feet caused by a back injury at 40. But I suspect most people do, and considering some of the issues of this age, well, a little numb foot ain't so bad.

I say it's a non-event because, except on the decades and to a lesser extent, the fivers, birthdays are just another day. As I get older I have a harder time thinking of something I don't have that I would like for a gift, so it's low key from that perspective. My wife's birthday is on December 7th so we usually agree to not get each other gifts.

Instead, we've made it a tradition to go out to dinner with a couple of friends, whose birthdays are near ours. We used to go to the same restaurant every year, but that got old, so now we switch it up.
Last night we went to a classic Milwaukee establishment called Thistle and Shamrock. The establishment was rated one of the top 10 places for fish fry in Milwaukee, so we thought we'd check it out. It was a delicious fish dinner with great service and even live R&B music in the bar area. The owner even gave us each a bottle of wine. He said it was what he did every year to recognize his customers in lieu of having a full-on Christmas part. The place was old-time Milwaukee cool and was everything we'd hoped. It made for a really great meal.

So, it may be tell-tale when you start looking at birthday experiences like this as a bigger deal than cake and gifts. It's probably a sign that you're old, but frankly I don't much care. We talked and laughed our heads for a few hours together. It was one of those nights that made me realize how rich our lives are and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy a good meal in December with longtime friends. 

Today another old friend of mine sent a quote from GK Chesteron that kind of sums things up.

“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?” - GK Chesterton.

At almost 57, this is my new mantra.

Blogging off...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Confluence Of Adventure Stories

A week from tonight I will be in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am headed back for a couple of reasons, one of which is to co-present with another author at Subtext Books. Barb Geiger and I will be presenting our books, Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir and Paddle For A Purpose.

This promises to be a fun event as we discuss our adventures on, off and IN the water. Most of you know that Dirty Shirt chronicles trips I took up to the area in remote Minnesota with friends, brothers and, later, our children. Barb's book has a similar adventure theme to it. It is the story of how her husband's idea of paddling the length of the Mississippi River went from an half-joking crackpot idea to the actual pursuit of carrying it out.

But their journey takes on a noble purpose when they decide to volunteer for service projects at various stops along the way. While the boat carries just what they need to live on, at many of the stops, they put their hands and feet to work for non-profit and church-based agencies.

During the process they discover that in trying to bless others with their work, they in-turn are blessed. One of the ways this manifests itself is in the form of what they call "River Angels." These are complete strangers who open up their homes and offer food, money and resources to the Geigers as they progress. These angels seem to come along at opportune times and make the trip easier to bear for Barb and her husband.

When Barb was writing her book, she was part of the same writing studio (AllWriters) that I was. I was fascinated to follow her progress as she got closer to finishing it. At submittal time, she asked if I thought it would be a good fit for my publisher, Electio Publishing. I replied that I thought it would be a PERFECT fit. Electio accepted her book and Barb was ecstatic.

I had the privilege earlier this year to speak at Subtext Books for my second memoir, The Portland House. I am hoping we will pack the store and have a good showing of support. Small bookstores make a community more vibrant and Subtext is proof of this.

The format for the evening will be loose. There will be introductions, readings from our books and short interviews of each of us regarding the writing process and how our books came to be. Then we'll open the event up to questions from the audience. Of course we'll have books to sign afterwards.

And nothing makes a better holiday gift than a book signed by an author. But that's just my opinion.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 13th, at 7:00 PM
Subtext Books
6 West 5th Street
St. Paul, MN, 55102

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