Wednesday, December 23, 2009

White Rain Unleashed

At last, I've reached Christmas break. I thought I'd never make it. Long days leading up, coupled with the stresses of the holiday prep. I sit here with my Swiss Miss poor-man's hot chocolate and watch the snow pile up. Whoopee!

I went to writing class tonight. There was 4 of us, including the instructor. It was 2 more than I expected there would be, actually. A nice, quaint group, which was a nice change. There is a new woman in class who is trepidatious, much like I was when I first started showing up. Not sure of her place yet. Brought some poems tonight. Good stuff. She started off by saying they were probably not very good, but you know what? They were.

That is what I love about this group. It is SO supportive to the cause. The cause of writing, that is. People offer criticism with the best intentions at these sessions, and it is so helpful. Just to hear someone tell you what they liked about a piece, alongside of what they didn't like, or what confused them. It will make all of our writing better. Better writing, better writers. Better Bread, Better Subs.

It shows the desire of some of the people in the group to show up in the middle of a blizzard on Dec. 23rd. These people love to write, and are willing to take the criticism in order to make it work. Throw in a hairy snow-laden ride, two days before Christmas and, well, you get the idea. Passion!

The next two days are low key. Hanging out at home, watching movies, eating good food, wrapping and unwrapping gifts, going to church. I love this time of year. Then, it's off on a 12 hour drive to New York. There shouldn't be any snow between here and Upstate NY, right? Yeah.

Well, Ben is asking to watch a movie, so I have to cut this short. Will try and post more tomorrow or on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas all and Happy 2010!

Blogging off...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Yule bLog on the Fire

I sit by the furnace vent, with the laptop's lithium battery warming my knees. We got a 7" snowfall today and I got to try out my new (used) snow blower. Now, I'm he world's biggest critic of all things powered by a gasoline engine. They're loud, overdone, and emit enough exhaust in a single session to wipe out a village of asthmatics. I always cursed them upsetting my shovelling peace, where all I heard was my labored breathing.

Everything changed during the big sell-out. I'm so ashamed. I've become what I loathe. It's like aliens have taken over my body during the night. They started out by brainwashing me into thinking that these machines are man's friend. Soon enough I'll have a pot belly and keel over dead while blowing snow, because I'm out of shape from not shovelling snow. Oy! Such a tangled web we weave.

In the meantime though I am going to have to say that this machine will make my life much simpler. As I was out there last night blowing, I thought, this thing could make me maybe not hate winter as much. I think one of the problems I had with the whole winter thing was the thought of the heavy snowfall shovelling. Problem solved. I could have had my whole drive and walk done in 10 minutes today. I felt generous though and did the two neighbors' walk too. I may do that regularly, we'll see.

In classic Wisconsin winter form, the snow has stopped, and now the temps are falling into the ridiculous lows. Tomorrows High? About 12 degrees I think. Throw in a 30 mph wind and you've got a good old fashioned deep freeze. Needless to say, I won't be walking to work tomorrow. That's why God made cars and buses.

I come home tonight to Donna telling me the tree had two strings of lights that went out. I tried to push each bulb in methodically to find the problematic bulb. That went OK for the first ten minutes until I tired of it and decided to try the random, willy-nilly approach. That as you might have guessed, went not so well. In my frustration, I took three strings off to find the troublesome strings, and then had to restring one of those, as the other two were toast. Did the pioneers ever have to deal with bad lights from China? No, they were too busy pouring buckets of water on their house as it burned because of the real candles they used on the trees.

Writing class was cancelled tonight because of the storm, and that sucks. I miss it muchly. I tend to slack if pages are not required from week to week, so am anxious to get back in the groove. Sounds like most of my peers are anxious too.

I actually want to get to some of my writing tonight, so think I off for now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Yule Be Glad You Did

It is upon us now isn't it? Winter has descended with an iron fist and let us know it hasn't forgotten us. We were spoiled by an extremely mild November, so I've kind of been in denial. No more denial for me. Tomorrow I'm going out to get some gas for the snow blower. The sell-out is complete. I've become a complete suburban chump with a snow blower. What's next, an Escalade?

Sarah got a new laptop on Thursday night. It's a sweet Toshiba running Windows 7. Lucky. I wish I had one. :-( Oh well, the Craigslist cast-off Dell I'm typing this on will have to do. Some should have it so rough.

I went out with the kids today and got a Christmas tree. We were mock-singing "Go tell it on the mountain" with Frank Sinatra on the way there. It was corny, but family fun. The kind of stuff one of us may remember. Or not.

The writing workshop continues to work for me. I enjoy the heck out of it and it stretches me every week. I've just signed up for my third 10 week session, so we'll see how it goes. I hope to continue my work on my memoir as well as some poetry and perhaps start on my next piece. I'd also like to get my short story piece published somewhere too. Lots in the hopper at the moment. Exciting times.

It seems we're going to get the whole family together in a few minutes to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Everyone seems to be in the spirit today, so we're going to ride it while it's here. There's something about bringing a living, drinking tree into your house that changes peoples mood. Everyone's getting excited, so that's a good thing.

That said, I'll be...blogging off.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Service

Today we spent the day with four other families volunteering at Community Warehouse in downtown Milwaukee. They are focused on providing donated building materials to low income homeowners for low cost. It is a great cause and the space fills what was one of the old tanneries on the south side of Milwaukee.

I am so proud of how hard my kids work that I can barely express it. They busted their tails and didn't complain at all. Donna and I agree that it is so important that the kids see us volunteering in a number of different ways. Neither of us was much raised in that environment, but we want to instill that love for service in our kids. There is so much need out there that if everyone would do a small amount, the world would be a much better place to live in.

Needless to say we are all whipped. As I type, my lids are heavy. So, I think I'll try and write more tomorrow, when I'm fresh.

Blogging off...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Neglect and Reason

It's been a while since my last post, for which I am truly sorry. Time passes quickly during these short November days, where it's dark by 4:45. It's tough to get much done after work at all because it's so stinkin' dark. That and that phenomenon I've come to love and hate, Facebook. It should be called "Time Suck", because that's what it does. To what end, is the question

Last night I was Kid-Chauffeur ("home, James") for both Ben and Sarah. I get home to find out Ben needed a ride home from a friend's house. Then, an hour later, I had to take Sarah and a friend to Skateland for roller skating. It was eye-opening how far I've come since my younger days, when I would run wild on Friday nights. Now I'm relegated to driving a gender neutering white mini-van around town, while the youth that I once was runs wild. Sigh. Getting older is a strange, strange deal. On the upside, I feel great this morning, so there's that at least.

Got a new phone about a week ago. The thing does more than my old windows 3.1 PC, I swear. You can take pictures, record video or audio, and then send them to another phone. Surf the web, sure. Download software and ring tones, absolutely. Oh yeah, and you can make calls too. I can e-mail, text, and IM. I can do stuff I haven't discovered yet. I can do stuff I'll never discover. Oh and stuff that I could do, but cannot figure out.

Like the other day, when I inadvertently deleted the Camera function from "My Menu". I didn't mean to, really. It just happened. Now, I can't seem to figure out how to get it back. Now, like all computers, there's at least two other ways to get to the camera function, but...I need three! Must have three! I did figure out how to replace the empty spot with the "Messaging" function, but that's not what I want there. CAMERA, must have CAMERA. I haven't given up yet, but things don't look good. I'll let you know how I do.

We managed to corral the dog and clip his facial hair. Now he looks like he has a tiny skull. It's hard to look at him with a straight face. I'm sure it's humiliating for him, but we'll both get used to it, in time.

I've really missed my writing workshop the past couple weeks. The instructor is in Arizona, and returns this week. It will be good to get back into the submit/critique mode again. I feel like an athlete that's been sitting on the bench for 2 games now, muscles atrophying.

My BWCA memoir is taking a weird turn, now that I'm blending in a trip that I took with friends and not family. I was encouraged to include it by the folks in my workshop, and I'm not sure where it's taking the whole story. The jury's still out. It's strange though trying to follow the evolution of this whole story. It went from a short summary of the years me and my brothers went up to the BWCA, to a three generational story where I work in my kids and Dad, to now a summary of many of my trips up there, including friends and family. I'm not sure where it's going, but will sure make my editing job tougher. Stay tuned.

Well, its a gorgeous Saturday, and I've got a ton of stuff I want to get done, so I'll be blogging off...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


So another holiday season has begun. It seems as though I just got the lights down and the last of the needles vacuumed up. Where DOES the time go? It won't be long and I'll be firing up the new snow blower I bought from a friend. Yes, it's true, I sold out. I've gone over to the dark side. I think the last very snowy winters did it to me. I don't mind the 4-5 inch snowfalls, but those 8-10 or greater ones are horrible.

Halloween was a great time spent with friends last night. Lots of food, desert, Abbie's birthday party. scary costumes and of course, candy! Not my favorite holiday, but over the years, we've learned to try and make the best of it. Ben was dressed as a soldier and Sarah had a T-Shirt with "IDK" on it for I Don't Know. It was original anyway.

I also saw a couple of great 8th grade football games this weekend. They played at Carroll college in what is known as the Waukesha Classic. It brought back great memories of my days as a middle school player. I can't wait till next year when Ben will play for the South Junior Blackshirts. Most of his friends are on it, so it should be good for him. I plan on doing my job as a vicarious parent.

I had my first, and likely my last, Karaoke experience the other night. It was actually the Video Game Rock Band. I ended up as lead vocals for "More than a Feeling", Renegade and Flirtin' with disaster. It was about as awful as I had figured it would be, though there was a smattering of applause after I ad-libbed a bit on the end of More than a Feeling. "Marianne, she's walkin' away". I think I'll keep my day job. If I don't, I'm pretty sure we'd starve in a month if I was relying on my artistic pursuits.

Gotta go. Blogging off...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scrabble Cat

It seems I have a cat who likes to play scrabble. I came home from walking Toby and lo and behold the Z and S keys were removed from the laptop's keyboard. Knowing their catlike curiosity, after all they are cats, I traced it to Chester. Luckily the one key was on the keyboard and the other was under the laptop, but nonetheless, I'll be closing the top from here on out. I was trying to guess what word he was trying to spell with Z and S. Maybe Zeus, or Zits. (Do cats get zits?)

It took some doing to get the little buggers back on, and the stupid z keeps poppin off, but I'll get it worked out.

Ben's last flag football was today. It was a cold, grey morning game. The two teams had met earlier this year and Ben's team took a beatin'. This game was different. A defensive battle to the end. Ben started at QB and did a great job, moving the team for one of its 3 first downs. Then, after handing off on a double reverse, he was trying to throw a block, and ended up going kneecap to kneecap with another player. He went down in a heap in what I was sure was a blown ACL. It looked like ACL type agony, and he needed to be helped off the me. Had it been an NFL game, it might have been a cart.

As it turns out, it was just a good bruised kneecap. He sat out for two series and then, at my urging, he went back in on Defense. Uncle Steve was there watching, he had come from Bayview, and I didn't want to have him have to watch Ben sit on the sideline.

Ben played the rest of the game. As I said, it was a 0-0 game until the Giants (Ben's team) threw an ill-advised, across-the-field pass that was picked off deep in their territory. The next play they threw a pass to Ben's receiver who was double covered by Ben and Brandon, and the kid caught it in the end zone and scored. The kid was a head taller than Ben and to Ben's defense, he defended him the best he could. It was just a well thrown pass to a taller kid. Whats a boy to do? It's like Terrell Buckley and Michael Irvin. OK, bad analogy.

I tell you though, I am so proud of that kid. He made every practice and was a good sport about every game, every play. He said the other team was trash talking, but he never did. I know Ben, he wouldn't do that. He's just better than that.

The Giants got the ball back for two more plays after the touchdown and succeeded in getting;

1. An illegal procedure penalty

2. An incomplete, almost picked off pass

After the game we all headed to Marty's for end-of-season Pizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzza. There's that stupid z key at work again.

I did get to talk to Ben's offensive coach at length and found out he has his own business recycling cell phones. If you've got one, contact:

It seems like a noble cause. Taking old cell phones and either recycling them, if they're too old, or getting them to lower income or third world countries.

Is it just me or are the colors of the fall trees exceptionally vibrant this year. God is amazing!

Donna's grandma passed away yesterday. While my initial thought was that it was very sad, after giving it some thought it occurred to me that she's in a better place and is finally reunited with her husband, Ray, after so many years alone. That's a great thing. That and meeting Jesus. Sweet!


There it goes. Mind of it's own.

I think my cat wants me to hurry and finish this because he's thunk of a word. (Is thunk a word?)

Writing class continues to stretch me and challenge me. My friggin' memoir has become much bigger than I ever intended it and I may never finish it. If I should croak before it's done, it's in my C:\Jim\Papers folder. Please paste the sucker together and get it published for me posthumously. It's the least you could do for all the work I've stuck into it.

So with regards to doing the Mr. Mom thing, as I am, I have a few questions.

1. Where do you draw the line between the "colors" and "darks" clothes sort? Is grey considered a dark? What if it's grey and red? Color or dark? How about a dark blue towel? Blue is still a color.

2. Does making your bed matter when the kids don't care? If I wasn't so anal about the way it looks, I probably wouldn't make it.

3. If you stop making your bed, is the next step not folding clothes? From there it's leaving the milk out to spoil, seventy three emaciated cats, drinking vodka straight from the bottle, tin-foil on the windows, electricity shut off, human garbage and feces on the floor, an obsession with Betty Davis movies, and Lord knows what else. I think it's just easier to make the bed.

4. As I ran onto the field when Ben hurt his knee today, I thought how odd it would be if Aaron Rodgers's dad ran onto the field when he got hurt. Hey, that's my kid!

5. I think we're having pop tarts for dinner. Is that wrong?

I caught my first Musky last week. What a trip. Just a great fish. Small for a musky at 36", but I'll take it. I was shaking for 10 minutes. My friend Steve took me up for my first musky fish and now I'm hooked. It's hard to describe how it's different from regular fishing, but it is. I still love both, and will probably only go musky fishing once a year, but who knows? I still like to catch ALOT of fish, but catching one REALLY BIG one is cool too. Thanks so much to my good friend Steve and his friends John and Julie for use of their cabin.

Well, my mixed load of colors and darks (yes, I gave up) is ready to be hung on the line, so for now I'm blogging off.


Friday, October 23, 2009

No Cash for this Clunker

Detroit dies a slow death
while Escalade drivers search
for an open gas station

General Malaise for the working stiffs
unionized to prevent profits from ruling
over the “rights” of entrenched lifers

Imports infest one model at a time
seeping into the culture like an arsenic drip
picking off jobs right down the line

If we took all the Hummers, Yukons and Suburbans
and melted them all down into a new mindset
would it still be too late to salvage this Detroit junker?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Chill In the Air

Well, the fall winter-is-coming angst is upon me. I was putting on the two basement storms today, running to the dump and getting the basement and garage in order. I'm like a squirrel storing nuts away for winter. There are supposed to be flurries in the air tonight and tomorrow, and it's only Oct., 10th for cripes sake. What's a man to do?

Writing workshop was good last week. It was a week where everyone brought something, so I didn't get a chance to read or get critiqued. It works that way sometimes and I'm OK with it. It actually buys me some time to get ahead on the next assignment.

I was a bit discouraged about the comments on my character outline of the brothers on my last piece. I need to deal with it and revisit, revise, and rewrite the thing I think. Here I was thinking how great I was and the instructor just kind of brought me down a notch. Valid points nonetheless, but they still stung a bit. Writing is such a personal, heart-thing, that when criticized, even in a constructive manner, it stings. It's like telling your son he's naughty. He's not naughty, he has a naughty nature. We all do. I'm not a bad writer, just a decent writer who had a bad day.

In any case, I'll ask the teacher for clarification and be done with it. It doesn't help to dwell.

As I approach what I think is the end of the memoir material, I'm getting more excited about finishing it and getting it to copy. I'll likely go the self publishing route and see what kind of experience I have with that. It's likely a bit of a cop out, but it will get me where I want to go.

Ben's flag football game was today and they got whacked pretty good, 26-6. I had to play ugly parent/coach when a kid who Ben "tackled" (grabbed his flag) and the kid, when Ben went to give him the flag back, threw a shoulder at him. He did it right in front of me and I screamed something like "Hey, you can't do that!" Scared the ugly dad right out of me. I didn't think I had that in me, but evidently I do. Alas.

Well, much to do yet, so I'll have to blog off for now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ides of October

The leaves are starting to fall and change. My fleeces are coming out of storage. Packers take on the Vikings. Aiieee, I can't wait for spring!

Did I mention it's dark at 7:00 PM. Soon enough, I'm going to start going to bed earlier than I would like, then the scaly skin will start. Throw in a bad cold for good measure and I will be in my full glory. Oh if it were up to me, I'd live in CA. Alas.

Boys club this coming Tuesday is Map Reading and Understanding a Compass. Being the map guy, I am in charge of running it. I think I'm going to try and run the 3 leg compass game. What it involves is the kids walking 10 paces, turning the 360' dial a 120' then walking 10 paces, and so on for 3 turns. Ideally they should end up exactly where they left. We'll see how it goes. I may end up taking 100 steps and then taking 100 more in the same direction.

I have looked into the self publishing thing and am pretty certain that is the route I'll take for my BWCA memoir. It looks painfully easy, and should come out pretty nice. I've got to get more material written on it though, so I'm...blogging off.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fallfest is the bestfest

Our annual trek to fall fest was yesterday. A great event by a gracious couple who are kind enough to invite a horde of people to their property in Dodge County. This is a gathering that takes place on the last Saturday of September every year. We have been going to it for at least 10 years and have enjoyed every one.

It is an event that is hard to explain, but it's basically getting a bunch of friends together to celebrate fall-ness. Carla, the hostess, always roasts a turkey on the grill, Patty Barrett always brings her fat-a$# beans, as they are so warmly termed, and Donna is in charge of the apple pies. There are lots of other dishes featured, but those three are annual staples that we do not do without.

The one exception to this was the year franz, Patty and Brad's dog, got into the beans on the drive to fallfest. Not wanting to feed the dog-tainted beans to the rest of us, she fessed up and we all went beanless. I'm sure the ozone is in better shape as a result.

This year we had a GREAT day after stressing through an overcast, rain threatening day, all day. It was a beautiful half-moon evening, warm enough to sit in a t-shirt by the fire if you so desired. One of the unexpected pleasant surprises was a band playing just down the street played some great music from the 80's and 90's. It was loud enough that we could hear, but not too loud to drown out conversation. Van Halen, Tom Petty, Bryan Adams, they knew all the good old ones.

We played a fair amount of "Cornhole" which I guess is the actual (though strange) name of the beanbag horseshoe game. I figured out pretty definitively that I suck at it. Six games and a ton of trash talking verified that fact. I think I'm distance challenged or loft-challenged or something. It was a good time despite the fact that I was cheering when my bags would land before the wood and then roll up onto the wood for a point. A silly game, but it annoyed me that I wasn't better at it.

I am thoroughly enjoying my writing class, though it was cancelled this week because the instructor has bronchitis. It is such a pleasure to meet with people who share the love of writing and are good about giving supportive, constructive criticism. It is exactly what I need at this point in my life. We'll see where it takes me.

Right now I have to go take a nap, so I'm...Blogging off.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reading for a Cause

Here's the poem I read at the Open Mic poetry reading tonight for
It was a great night for a great cause.

Diesel Kingdom

Aisle sitters demand their space
an orphan seat calls me
standers are losers
this is my house
King of the Bus
(Ruler of none)
but King nonetheless

Smokers, drinkers, loners, crazies
all fall within these borders
of glass and steel
subject to its shuddering confines
they eavesdrop
on neighbors’ wayward drivel
wishing they’d shut up

People incapable of quiet
fondle Alexander’s electronic Bell
workers gaze looks of gloom
out rain-spit windows
a serf up front asks for change
I’d like some change, alright
the King of Change

The bus stops here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Still going...

Well, I hit the 1000 mile mark today on my bike. (Picture at left shows 1005.1) That's double what I put on in a season, so is a decent accomplishment, at least for me. I expect to put on another 200 or so before it's over completely too. Some observations and statistics:

  • I average 14 MPH, so I figure the total number of hours in the saddle is 71.4

  • I killed 1 chipmunk

  • I had two bee incidents, one with a sting

  • I saw 3 deer in two encounters

  • I saw a mink and several cranes

  • One fly in the mouth (Ptew)

  • I did not get one flat tire

  • I only got rained on 3 times, one of them hard

  • Almost all miles were logged on the Glacial Drumlin Trail or on my work commute

So, it is done. It got to be a bit of a grind by Late Aug.; more mechanical in some ways, than enjoyable. But it again proved that I can do anything I put my mind to which is due in part to my self discipline, and part due to my obsessiveness. Thanks Mom!

My question now is what do I do for a follow-up next year? I'm thinking of sky diving or starting my quest to hike the entire length of the Ice Age trail. (1000+ miles). If this stupid mid-life thing would leave me alone, I wouldn't have to do anything. :-)

Stay tuned for the next Non-Celebrity challenge. For now I'm...blogging off.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Little Nothings

Random Observations:

  • I got to witness firsthand the annual flying ant launch last night on my bike ride. They were everywhere. A weird experience, and fairly annoying, from a biking perspective anyways.
  • Grasshopper season was last week. Bees for a couple of weeks before that.
  • The sumac is taking on color. This is beautiful. Beautiful, bad news.
  • The French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Pugs at the dog park make the funniest noises when they get excited. Its all that nasal stuff crammed into such small spaces, I guess.
  • The weather has been scary nice for 5 days and the forecast calls for 4 more of the same. Scary.
  • I've dealt with Chat Support for ATT and Dell in the past two days and suffice it to say that I'm tired of over-courteous non-English speaking tech supporters. Both calls I ended up just saying "I'll figure it out myself." Who has time for that?
  • How come all I wanted was a laptop with internet and Word on it and now I'm tempted to wipe the functional laptop that is mine out with an OS install just because I don't know what the previous owner had on it. Does it matter what he had on it? If it's working, it probably doesn't matter, eh? I have an obsessive streak in me like my mother I guess. It's just proof again that we're never really satisfied now, are we?
  • Packers will go 11-5, Vikings 10-6, both in playoffs.
  • My fantasy football team will end up 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
  • Poetry is like trying to compress an entire story into less than 100 words. That's why every word matters.
  • I love this laptop, even if it has some unknown junk buried deep within it.
  • More soon, as I'm...blogging off.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On the Road Again

I hit Mile 893 today on my quest for 1000 miles this summer on my bike. The end is in sight, and frankly, I'll be glad to get there. It's been a bit mechanical these past couple hundred miles. So much so, that I sometimes forget to enjoy the ride. I get in the "just grind it out" mode and forget all the beauty that is whizzing by. Once I've finished, I'll slow down to normal pace again and hopefully renew my "live in the moment" mode.

School started today, much to the delight of my wife. SHe tried to accomplish everything that's been on hold for the last 60 days in a single 8 hour stint. I told her that I wasn't sure, but that she might have tomorrow and the rest of the week to get to some of it as well. She was not amused.

Sarah said she likes all of her teachers except for one who, in her words, is boring. Ben's of the the opinion that this school thing is kind of messing up his whole summer thing. He said it makes the days seem "like an average day." I guess when every day of summer is a party on the patio, school can seem a bit dry.

This past weekend was the garage sale. We cleared about $150 as a family. Kind of disappointing actually, but still good to get the crud out of the garage and basement. I consider the money made to be a bonus.

Typing this on the new laptop. I's a dream machine and should allow some freedom to write more, and more frequently. That was the intent anyways.

Will try to post more later this week. I really have no excuse not to now that I'm empowered!

Blogging off...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Diesel Kingdom

Diesel Kingdom

Aisle sitters demand their space
An orphan seat calls me
Standers are losers
This is my house
King of the bus
Ruler of none
But King nonetheless

Smokers, drinkers, loners, crazies
All fall within the borders
Of glass and steel
Subject to its shuddering confines
They eavesdrop
On neighbors wayward drivel
Wishing they’d shut-up

People incapable of quiet
Fondle Alexander’s electronic Bell
Workers gaze looks of dread
Out rain spit windows
A serf up front asks for change
I’d like some change, alright
The King of change

The bus stops here

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Briefs, not Boxers

Got out from writing class a bit early and was feeling inspired.

I'm still struggling with the difference between being a "writer" and just someone who likes to write. Is it that it must be a profession to qualify as a writer? Being published? I think those two would certainly qualify, but I don't think you can discount the lover of writ.

I'm not sure why it's bugging me, but I'm sure I'll work through it.

I need a laptop. Or even a second PC. Something with a keyboard that is off limits to anyone under 18 in this house. Is that so wrong?

I am at mile 830 on my 1000 mi. bike quest. It's beginning to lose it's allure and has become a bit more like grunt work. I'll finish it, to be sure, but it will be more of a relief than I would have guessed.

Part of it may be that I ride the same trail every day which is my fault, no doubt. It's just close, easy to get to and off limits to cars, so seems like the best way to get to 1000.

I've already begun to think about what next summer's bucket list item will be. Hmmmm...

Ben's Open House for 5th grade was tonight. The new teacher seems nice enough. A new teacher to Randall, but in his 3rd year of teaching 5th grade. He's a big dude, so should command their attention. (Though, remember Arnold S. in Kindergarten Cop. "It's not a tumor!")

Summer is screaming to and end and I hate it. The thought of cold and snow makes me itch. Sure we have the holidays and all that, but given the choice, year round summer or no holidays, well, pass me my sandals and shades.

No word from the fine folks at Ewald Kia. What a joke. If this post dissuades ONE person from shopping at Ewald KIA in Oconomowoc, WI., it will have been worth it. I sent them a nasty gram, expecting some sort of follow-up call and I got nothin'. So goes the world these days, I guess. No one cares about the customer anymore.

Well, I am weary and my book is calling. (Truck, by Michael Perry, I highly recommend it) So, for now I'm...

Blogging off.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Willy Nilly

It was kind of a random Saturday, a term that my kids use to excess. So random goes the post.

Walking the dog tonight was serenely comforting. It was (is) a completely still evening, where the humidity is present like a stifled, restless 4 year old, but not so much in your face as a boorish sports fan with too many overpriced beers under his belt. Kind of just there, reminding you it's August, not July; too dark, too early; and not September crisp and lacking humidity altogether.

Having lived five years longer than my dad, I realize the need to appreciate every day, and sometimes, when moved, every minute. It's hot, but you know what? Hot beats not here, so bring it on.

"Subdivisions", by Rush, was on the Ipod. A song that speaks of the crud that goes along with cloistering ourselves in the suburbs. Walking through the city that is truly a city, though is looked upon by most as a suburb of Milwaukee. One native said once, "Waukesha was here first and Milwaukee grew to it". I think there's some truth to that. We'll never be 4th and Water street, but you try and stand in the middle of College Ave. sometime and tell me that we live in a "quiet suburb". The crime might be lower, but we're still in a city, no doubt about that.

Passed a garden in front of Randall Elementary where Ben goes to school. The garden is a Memorial Garden to Laura Westbrook, a 5th grader who died of cancer a couple years ago. There's that living each day for what it is thing again. People spend too much time and energy being angry. A whisper you see, is all we are. Why do we insist on shouting?

Toby stopped by the beautiful perennial-filled English garden up the street to smell the flowers. It occurred to me that he is smelling the flowers for entirely different reasons than humans. Why this seemed funny is beyond me.

I was thankful that the Packers were playing their first pre-season game and that made the streets that much quieter. Is there a game that's any less relevant than the first pre-season game for any team, any year? I think not. And I'm a fan. I'm a fan and I cannot justify 3 hours of my life watching that. Maybe I'm really not a fan then. You know what? I'm Ok with whatever the heck I am, or am not. If others could be OK with that, we'd both be better off.

I DVR'd the game and can zoom through the highlights in about 7 minutes tomorrow. Seriously.

Why so reflective? Summer's coming to a close and that tends to happen, for whatever reason. Wait 6 months or so. Talk to me in February when it's dark at 5:00 and I can't wait to get in my pajamas every night. That's called "gettin' through it" and it's part and parcel of what most Northerners do. We try, by skiing and ice fishing and pretending that it ain't so bad. It really is. Not a terribly joyful time of year. But I digress.

Had a great breakfast with my son at Denny's today. Talked about all kinds of thing. Angels and Demons, ghosts, friends, lots of stuff. He ordered chicken strips...for breakfast. I guess if that looked better to me than bacon and eggs, (it didn't) I'd probably order it too. I could have been a mean old dad and said "No, you need to eat breakfast food!", but where would that have gotten me?

These monthly breakfasts come up so fast, but I want to continue to honor them. "Date your Daughter," they say. "Take one-on-one time with your son," say others. It's because of these words rattling around my brain that I continue to drink bad coffee and eat eggs that seem to have come out of something other than a shell. Besides, I've got that guy with the scythe standing behind me, in the dark cloak goin' "Hey you, are you busy?"

One of the few memories I have of my father was when he took me to the Silver Coaches Restaurant/Bar (Now the North End Depot). He had a beer and I had soda. I still remember the dark bar, the woodwork and the high stools. They had the best peanuts I'd ever had, likely Beer Nuts. Another reason I take them out to be special. Something might stick. Maybe they'll remember the way I put one sugar packet in each cup of coffee. Maybe it'll be the booths we sit in, or the smell of bacon. Maybe they'll remember what we talked about on any given date. I know I'll remember it, and maybe that's why I'm doing it. For purely selfish reasons. No, it's not that, I can assure you.

I won't be getting my corn dog at the state fair this year. That is a sad thing. It's OK though, as I think part of last year's is still in carotid artery. Or maybe in my left thigh. In any case, it's there. I can almost taste it. Slathered in mustard, on a sharp stick. Don't run with a corn dog in your hand.

I'm struggling a bit with the fact that my vacation is over and done with. It doesn't mean summer is over with, but without having something to look forward to, it might as well be.

Who in their right mind ever thought it a good idea to paint any auto white?

Les Paul died this week. Waukesha native and inventor of the electric hollow-body guitar and multi-track recording. A sad thing. There's that death thing again. Man, I gotta stop reading the paper. Life is such a great thing, I don't want to ever take it for granted. I hope people don't think I'm obsessing about death. I think it's more the opposite. I'm obsessed about life. How short it is. How messed up people's priorities are. It's about being with others. Rejoicing with them. Enjoying their company. Admiring their achievements. Snickering at their quirks. But most of all just appreciating that God put them in your life for his own good reason.

I've been around a while and one thing is pretty clear to me. It's not about stuff. Stuff breaks, disappoints, requires care, and ultimately ends up on the curb or gets sold at the estate sale after you're ashes are tossed to the wind in San Diego. You've got to have some of it to get through life, but when you worship the stuff more than the stuff-maker, you've got a problem. Besides, stuff can't help you put up a fence, build a deck or listen when you talk about the problems you're having at work.

So I challenge you all to look inward at your life. How old are you? Are you 1/2 way to dead? Not quite? If so, who do you need to say sorry to? How about "I love you?" Anyone? Do it. As the group The Killers say in their song "Smile Like You Mean It". Hug that child. Kiss that parent. cuddle that dog. Be nice to that waitress. Be patient. Be randomly nice, with regularity. Write a note. E-mail someone a nice thought. Text them if that's your thing. Get over your grudge if you have one. If someone's got one against you, try to work it out. If not, walk away and be better for it.

I'm going to spend time with my kids now, because they need me. And I them.

Blogging off...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Travels and the Trivial

Our recent trip to the Shoreview MN and on to the North Shore of Lake Superior was quite a whirlwind tour, some of which I'll touch on here.

The week started with the long drive to MN. We stopped for lunch at the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI. Being a Friday, Donna and I opted for the fish fry and all four of us had pie for dessert. The blueberry crumble was fabulous!

I headed out to my 30th High School Reunion on Friday night. What a trip back in time for me. I hadn't darkened the doors of my old school since '79 when I walked out them. It was weird walking through the doors again.

It was great to see my old friends Pat, Pete and John, who I hung with most of the night. We all agreed that if one or the other of us wouldn't have made it, the others wouldn't have.

One of my ex-classmates had a few too many MGD's and managed to make a fool of himself. If there's one mistake you shouldn't make, that's right up there. People remember that kind of thing.

A couple of guys came up to me and after seeing my name said, "We were all wondering who that tall, bald guy was." It turns out it was only Landwehr.

Saw my old homeroom teacher, who's since quit teaching and is now making a decent living as a magician. He's still as nice as ever and hasn't lost a step in the magic arena either.

Overall, it was a very good experience, despite our trepidation about what it would be like. We agreed that High School wasn't all that traumatic after all and that most of the jerks have mellowed over the years.

Saturday morning was golf with Pat and Pete at the Highland 9 hole course. We all managed to golf like it was our first time again, but had a TON of laughs along the way. We got a nice picture and vowed to do it again.

Saturday night we had the second half of our reunion at Costello's in St. Paul. My classmate Mike Costello actually owns the place. It was a mellower occasion as most of the revelry had taken place the night before. Besides, I had to cut out at 8:30 to head to my sisters for a family and friends' 70's party.

The 70's party was really a great time. Jane spared no expense, and missed no details. She had a tent, sound system and a portable dance floor, complete with disco ball. I had forgotten how great the music of the 70's was. Three Dog Night, Boston, Billy Preston, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac. A friend of Jane's had a 30,000 song ITunes collection and managed to find every song I requested and more. He was a DJ stud! A good DJ can make a good party great.

On Sunday we packed for our BWCA/Superior Shores trip. I plan on adding the BW trip to my work-in-progress memoir, so will save that for my upcoming book. (Seriously.)

Our Superior Shores adventure requires it's own space, so I'll save that for later.

Blogging off for now...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lutefisk and Swedish Meatballs

Our vacation to the Northern reaches of Minnesota was awesome. Much to tell. Still recovering and unpacking mental baggage. Will post soon, I promise. So tired...

Blogging off.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Four Walled Box

In lieu of a decent posting, I offer this not so decent attempt at poetry. It was inspired while I had the house to myself when Donna and the kids were in New York.

Four Walled Box

They’re gone now
All three, gone
Silence echoes
Stillness permeates
Solitude stains
Loneliness sets in like cancer
Small at first, a lump
The memory of
misplaced socks,
Then ravaging, it eats away.
The touch
The voices
The emotions
Electronic chemo fails
So alone in this Four Walled Box
One miracle cure
They return

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting Away From it All

I went shopping for our upcoming BWCA canoe/fishing trip today. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

What camping is really, is trying to recreate your home in the wilderness. Therefore, you have to buy many things in an effort to simulate your house and lifestyle.

The unfortunate thing is that trying to recreate your life at 1/2 the weight and size, it seems, takes a lot of money. I wonder how the homeless can afford it?

I looked at Therma-Rest self inflating sleeping pads thinking they'd run about 17 bucks. Yeah, right. Try four times that. Those things run about $80 for my size. Now, if I sleep crappy on a regular air mattress camping, is spending $80 to sleep crappy going to solve anything? No. I couldn't bring myself to do it. That's not to say I won't be renting one (I will), because hey, I'm not 27 anymore.

Life jackets are another story. Ring three of them up at $90. Ca-Ching! Gotta have them though.

Throw in a sleeping bag for Ben and various unsundries to the tune of another 80$ or so and we're off and running. I'm beginning to think Disney World might be cheaper.

It WILL be a blast though, I know it will. Hopefully the kids will have a good time and we'll create some awesome memories. I would kill to have had a BWCA experience with my dad. Alas.

I got Ben his first pocket knife. I know in this day and age it's not necessarily PC, but you know what? I had one at his age and I'm no serial killer. It's a rite of passage as far as I'm concerned and hopefully he'll remember the trust I instilled in him to use it wisely and safely. I can remember Tom giving me my first "Buck" knife that was small and sharp. I used it and kept it safely tucked away in my tackle box. It was a great sense of security and power, even though it was just a two-blader.

I also picked up my outfit from Goodwill for Jane's 70's party next weekend. Cutoff Jeans, a silk shirt, high tube socks and aviators. Should be stylin'.

Well, gotta get running again. A busy day in stores makes a man very weary. Even if it is shopping for man-stuff.

Blogging off until next time...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A One and a Two...

Feeling a bit frazzled at the moment. Got a few writing things hanging, including this blog, so wanted to get one or more of them out of the way. Not the way I want to look at my something to get out of the way. It needs to be more sincere than that.

Kids can sense when you're not sincere. So can readers I think. Can you? ;-)

I'll try and be sincere. Seriously.

San Diego was absolutely fantastic. What a great, beautiful city and climate. Tons of homeless folks from what I could tell, but I think that tends to happen in the warmer climes. Up north here people tend to say, nah, it's easier to find a job than to freeze my butt off sleeping outdoors. I don't mean to make light of it, but I think there's a certain element of truth to it.

Got to hob-nob with the prez of ESRI, the software company who was hosting the conference. (Above) Most people don't know this guy from Adam, (Jack Dangermond) but he's big in the industry. Nice guy with a Humanitarian spirit about him. That and he's a multi-millionaire too, I'm sure.

So back to CA. What a great state. It's probably my most favorite place to visit. So much to see, so close. I can't wait to go back.

I'm not sure what to make of guys who yell stuff out the window when I'm walking the dog with my Ipod. Do they warrant a reaction? I pretend to ignore, even though I'm flipping them off on the inside. Is that wrong? Probably.

I think Donna's ready for summer to be over. Sarah actually mentioned she misses school today. I corrected her and said, "No, what you really miss is your friends, right?" She agreed.

I'm not being sincere enough, so am going to quash my creative nosebleed and go and watch a movie with the kids.

Blogging off for now...More soon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Same Bat Time

I'm back from San Diego. I will probably post again later this week. (Thurs.) Much to tell. Stay tuned, bat fans.

Blogging off.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dogless in Waukesha

Toby was taken over to our friends' today, so it's just me and the two cats. Or in other words, just me. They're such pitifully bad friends those felines. Dogs on the other hand worship their owners.

This will be the last post for a week or so as I'm headed to San Diego for the ESRI Users Conference. San Diego, home of the most consistent weather in the continental US. What a great place to live.

A good, though busy day today. Not much time for doing what I want (like writing). In the middle of the day I had to trek to Ewald Kia and get a new key for the van. Well, the one they gave me got stuck in the ignition and they had to have a service guy come and extricate it. This was after the sales guy and another guy tried the same thing I did. Turn harder. Pull harder. Yep did them both.

It was a frustrating end to a frustrating ordeal, but we did get a new one, with promises to get a new FOB next week.

In any case, I miss my family. It's going to be a long week in CA. Conferencing is an absolutely draining experience. Lots of walking, eating out, socializing, late nights, early mornings, more walking. Beats working, but not by much. Exhausting.

Things I miss about my family:

  • Donna's updates about what's going on this week/day/hour
  • Sarah's playful sense of humor
  • Ben's socks in my bed, under the couch, or on the kitchen table
  • Laughing with Donna over whatever
  • Sarah's elfish grin
  • Ben's shouting "Dad!" from two rooms, or floors away
  • Donna's cooking!
  • Sarah's sarcasm
  • Ben's slamming the back door to go out and play with Juanito

It's weird, but the rattle and hum of family makes this house what it is. Without them here, it's just a big empty shell. I might as well be living in a refrigerator box. Seriously. It's not a home without them, it's just a house.

Well, I've got to finish packing, so fro now I'm...

Blogging off.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Awoken with a Loud Clanging Sound

You'll never believe this. (I know I don't).

A poem woke me up this morning. No, not one that was written, but one that was forming in my cranium. I gotta stop going to this writing class. It's starting to affect my sleeping pattern. Too much neuron stimulation and I'm a mess. I'd rather be dumb and rested. (Not really.)

It startled me with it's beginning;

"Lonliness rains on his heart
like a velvet mist"

and then left me to stir from 4:54 AM until 6:15 when the alarm throttled me. Of course I had to pursue it, so got a pad of paper and skipped my yoga workout and fleshed the thing out. I guess I never fancied myself a poet, but this is a good one.

Like all my writing (See yesterday's post) I don't know what to do with a rogue poem that seems like an orphan with one shoe and a bad limp. I can't really publish ONE poem. Should I type it out and carry it in my wallet? Put it on my tombstone? Fish wrap? Bird cage lining? A Nobel Peace Prize?

You realize what it's done now don't you? Now I have to write more. This class has stretched me to express myself in new ways, and poetry is one. Can you say mid-life? What the heck's going on? I not only enjoy reading it, but now I'm smitten with writing the stuff. What's next? The symphony and a developing taste for red wine? Furthermore, for the first time ever I'm considering writing some fiction. Why? Because it'll stretch me. Nothing more. And I want to see if I'm able to actually pull if off.

See what I mean? Why do I need stretching? What's so great about elasticity? Or rather, what's wrong with rigidity? Is this a temporary thing, or am I going to take up glass blowing next month? Trade in the SUV for a Saab? Hair transplants? Botox?


Is this all part of the deal? Like acne for mid lifers? Something you have to get through to move on to the next thing, I guess. Well, let me tell you, I didn't expect this. I'm like a hormonal woman for crying out loud. (Crying out loud probably comes next.) Afraid of what I might be asked to do next. I do think guitar lessons are in my future though. They're definitely on my list of things to try. That and jumping out of a plane. For now though I'm...

blogging off

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mr. Me for a Week

The house is as quiet as, well, as an empty house. Donna and the kids flew out to NY today for a week with family, cousins, the pool and the dog. I am attempting to get some extra posts in during this stay of execution. Watch, I'll fall into a pit of writers block when the chance to write is golden. WWWWD? (What Would Walt Whitman Do?)

The dog, is begging for the rest of my sandwich that he is unaware, is inside my stomach. This is why dogs don't lead the country. That and they lick themselves in places no politician should. I'm still waiting for that scandalous headline.

Writing class tonight was so awesome.

For someone who weekly wonders why I write and where it's taking me, it is always so clear to me after class that this is exactly what I was starved for. I'm no author, but it sure is cool to be producing again and getting critiqued while I do it. Listening to poetry, some brilliant, some mediocre makes the class so interesting, so cerebral. We're all growing in our craft, some are much more mature at it and many are better, but no one is overly critical. It's a supportive group all focused on the same goal; writing as art. It's bleeding out of me like a bloody nose that won't quit.

Funny the thoughts that go through my head in class. I'm sitting there thinking "what does any of my writing matter to anyone" (That would be the cursed inner critic that we talk so much about.) I'm in the middle of a Boundary Waters memoir that just keeps growing and I'm not sure it will ever see the light of day. Should I show it to the brothers? Keep it in a cigar box under the woodpile in the basement? Publish it? (Yeah, right)

The conclusion I've come to is that it really doesn't matter what I do with it. Sure it would be nice if someone saw it and appreciated it, but ultimately it is simply, what it is, as trendy as it is to say that. I write because I crave it, need it. It's a cleansing kind of thing. If I don't write, I get word constipation. Now there's a visual. I pray because it represents the completion of my relationship with the one true God. I write because it completes my humanity. It's like yoga. I don't do it because it's trendy, I do it because it helps me. Writing helps me be me. Jim the author who wrote mainly for Jim. That sounds downright unhealthy. Probably is.

So enough waxing philosophical. What else happened this week of note? Somehow the speakers on my Santa Fe got blown. I have a hunch that it happened when the Boys from Boys club turned my radio up full blast unbeknownst to me. When I turned on the ignition, it was, well a bit of a shock. Gotta love those kid shenanigans. Yeow!

Now I'm stuck with buzzing speakers. Near as I can tell, it's only on the left side though. So either I have to drive while facing out the passenger window to get the full stereo effect from front and rear speaker, or I need to get new driver side speakers. Since driving with my head at a 90 degree angle sounds painful as well as dangerous, I think I'll have to get the driver speakers fixed. Ca-Ching!

This week Ben suffered a goose-egg knock on the head while fleeing some fireworks that we had set in the driveway. It was a hard knock too, poor boy. He was worried about brain swelling, but I reassured him that if he wasn't crying tears of blood, he was probably OK.

He also wondered this week if he was having a heart attack at one point. Oh yeah, and he was concerned about getting swine flu on the plane. Boy's got to stop watching Discovery channel, or Dr. G or whatever he's been watching. I know when I was 10, I didn't even know what brain swelling was. We feed our kids too much information and wonder why they're freaked out when they get gassy. We've created our own problem.

Two more days until I get rid of this cursed temporary crown. I've chewed all my food on the right side of my mouth for 1 1/2 weeks. I'll have to re-learn how to chew correctly when all is said and done.

The trip to the dentist I am not looking forward to. I am confident it WILL generate a post, because dentists are such easy targets for me. She told me this should only take 15-20 minutes. It takes her that long to tell me what she's going to do. Hopefully though, because she's squeezed me in between 2 other patients, it won't take long. I might not even have to sit down for it.

I've got a 30th High School Reunion coming up in 3 weeks. I plan on going and seeing how bald and fat the rest of my class has become. At least I only fill out the first half of that description. It should be a trip down memory lane. I suspect it will be enough to tide me over for the next 25 years. (I went to my 5th, and now the 30th.) Wasn't a big fan of my High School experience. Why would anyone be of an experience free of any contact with girls, civilian life and long hair? Especially at that age. Man, if I had it to do over...but I don't. So because of that I'm...

blogging off.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Scam-a-Rama Auto Sales

Everyone loves the car shopping experience, right? I know I do. The waiting. The BS. The bait-and-switches. The waiting. The small talk with 3 different people, none of whom you wanted to meet in the first place and post-purchase, hope to never see again.

My wife and I had that wonderful experience last night. Oh, it was so special. The circumstances surrounding our hasty purchase need outlining first.

When we went to the same dealer last week, they had one vehicle that we liked, except for the color (white). Well, the sales manager said "Never fear, I'll find you a vehicle in the color of your choice in the next week." Let's note this as lie #1.

After not hearing from them for a week, Donna calls them yesterday and the same sales manager had a completely different tune; like he'd never heard of us before. "Vans are hard to find right now," he says. Last week he sounded like they were falling out of the sky. Funny, those sales guys, evidently they have no sense for the car market from day to day. They only deal in it every day, so I could see how you could totally miss the mark like that. Look at Meteorologists, for example. At least Meteorologists have the excuse of dealing with the laws of nature. Car salesmen, well, I guess that's why they are where they are. No Einsteinian breakthroughs coming from this group.

So, not being able to find a reputable dealer with any Kia Sedona vans in the area, we went into a bit of a panic, being that our van is on it's last legs. We did manage to google one dealer with a few of them on hand and found out that he had a handful of convictions to his credit. As I said, we are not dealing with Eagle Scouts here. Shady characters, the lot!

Anyways, lying sack # 1 tells us if we hurry, we can still get the white van, but to hurry because he's had two other parties interested in it. Note this as likely lie #2.

We rush over to the dealers lot with the crippled Chrysler product followed by the Santa Fe, in case parts were to drop off.

I was driving the van and Donna the Santa Fe. Instead of a long, slow, memory laden ride to the dealer where the Van and I traded stories about our travels together it was more like a tumultuous, loud fiery end to the relationship. Since the muffler had fallen off, she was roarin' like a Harley Davidson that had just been neutered. Pissed off was she. I sensed she knew she was going to the trading block. She seemed to pull even more to the left than usual. Furthermore 1/2 the way there the fuel light came on. At least that still worked. Served the crooks right that we leave them with nothing but fumes.

To make a long, sordid sales story shorter, suffice it to say that we were almost scammed out of $2300.00 by the crooks that call themselves sales associates at Ewald. It seems the Financial Guy neglected to tell us that the "bumper-to-bumper warranty" was not included in the 10 year/100000 mi "Certification" that cost us $500. When we saw the financed amount, it seemed a bit on the high side. Like 2 grand high. Like alot high.

Thank God for the sharp eye of my wife. Her hackles went up when she pointed out the "high-ish" number. This caused the financial guy to become very flustered and nervous and apologetic when he explained that the "warranty" was different than the "certification". Note deception #1 occurs here.

Our point was, why wasn't this number, a SIGNIFICANT number no less, ever explained to us? "Well, the sales associate can not do that; it's not his job." Fine, when were YOU going to tell us then? Snakes, slimy, sleazy snakes.

Needless to say that when Donna pointed this out he suddenly was able to give us the "employee", or "weasel" price as I like to refer to it. That dropped $800.00 off of the price. We were never near walking out, but there was a point where I would have been OK with taking NO extended warranty.

Did I mention they're spineless parasites? It's true.

So we have a van and believe you, they are getting a nasty gram from this car owner. I intend to get my pound of flesh. Jellyfish flesh perhaps, but flesh nonetheless.

I'm pissed because they took us for fools. That and blatant deception and sleight of hand.

I'm going to quit for now, before I get more upset. I will keep you posted. But now I'm...

Blogging off.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Two Point Five Hours in "The Chair".

So I got my crown yesterday. My crown + a filling replacement with composite. A double header so to speak. Two and a half hours of unbridled pain and suffering. All I can do is thank my maker for Novocaine. It is the wonder drug of all time. Now if they could invent a drug or earphones that would neutralize the sound of a high-speed, water cooled drill penetrating my cranium, I'd be all set.

It really isn't the pain thing, thought there is something to that. It's really about the noise, the smell, the agape-ness of my mouth, all of it. It's a bit like being awake for major surgery, really. Let's see, what is the strongest bone in your body? Hmm, your teeth. Let's grind away at those and see if we can make them better. I'm having a hard time with that.

So here's how it works. It's the strangest process I've ever heard of. They started by numbing both sides of my mouth, because my crown was to be upper left and my filling was lower right. Right there, you've got a man who cannot speak, so as a dental professional, stop asking questions. One time I meant to say "Yes, certainly", and it came out as a death moan. She responded "Are you OK?" to which I could only give a thumbs up. Poor boy's been reduced to sign language.

Anyways, once numb, they drilled out both existing fillings, top and bottom. This took what seemed a month and a half. No pain, just a jackhammer resonating in my head for the duration. I shouldn't say no pain, there were moments where I saw Mother Theresa, but they were brief. She says to say hi.

Once drilled out, they then filled the fillings, which seems a bit cyclical to me, but hey, what do I know? Once the filling on the crown tooth had dried, she then pulled out the cursed drill again and started to work on the "remaining tooth" that was outside of the filling. This was done to "shape" the tooth for the eventual crown. Now to see the drill after having been on the receiving end of it for so long, I began to wish bad things about my dentist. Is that wrong? I think so.

Luckily, the post drilling drilling wasn't near as intense. It was still not my first choice for what to do on my summer vacation.

Next they took an impression. Actually they took two impressions, because evidently I'm not good with first impressions. I seemed to have over compensated in biting down on the impression. It's weird how having a big piece of foreign material with bathtub caulk in it in your mouth, will make you do that.

Actually, they took three impressions. Because I failed so bad with the regular impression, I had to take a "bite registration" to send to the flunkies at the lab so that they could account for the guy who couldn't bite normally with a half pound of rubber in his mouth.

Finally, to cap it all off, literally, they super-glued some sort of fako-temporary crown to the remnants of my previous tooth. "Don't chew on that side, brush, floss or enjoy life at all, for the next two weeks. Oh, and pay the lady on the way out."

I was then released to pay for my suffering to the tune of $301.00 out of pocket. "Thank you ma'am may I have another", I thought. What a world.

I took shelter in my vehicle, which given the state of shock and Novocaine after-effects, I should probably not have been driving, to cry into my shirtsleeves. Mama, tell your kids to floss and brush, because I'm...

Blogging off.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farrah, Michael and Ed

What a week! So many icons of my youth dropping in a week makes me a bit introspective. It all fits into that death and dying thing that seems to be creeping up everytime I begin to forget about it.

Life is but a whisper, and everyone thinks it's just a big long winded story. Not always, my friend. Sometimes its like a sneeze. Sometimes it's like a quick leap over a crack in the sidewalk. Sometimes it's like a raging river and sometimes it's like a muffled scream.

So again, to my point of a few posts ago. Embrace every day. No, embrace every minute of every day. See joy and beauty in the small things.

I saw a college girl walking toward her dorm tonight. Flip flops, hippie purse, skirt and bandana. It occurred to me how simplistic and happy those days were for me. Not the skirt/purse part, but the college student part. I was (am) idealistic, convinced that I was never going to buy into the system of a house in the burbs and 2 cars. Alas, "sigh"...

My point however is that I can still feel how that felt. It seems like last week. While I don't wish it back, I do realize how quickly time passes. Farrah was 62! That's 15 years away for me? And she took good care of herself. I can SEE 62, and I don't know that I want to get there as quick as I'm heading. If you can think of a way to give me the illusion that it's taking longer to get there, let me know. Because I don't want to be blogging this same thing at 62 about becoming 77. I want to be talking about how 62 feels like 47.

Enough ageisticizing.

Went shopping for a new Van today. A super-nice man named Chris helped us. It turns out that by saying we didn't like the white van, another man named Chris said he'd get us a different color for roughly the same price within a week. Sweet. The bad economy makes car shopping a bit less of an ordeal.

I cannot believe how much I miss Sarah's presence. 5 years and I won't have the chance to get her back for good like I do tomorrow. (She's at Camp Invasion for church.) I miss her wit, her beautiful smile and her kisses goodnight. She's a good kid who will hopefully come out of the teen years as "a good kid", or adult, as it were.

Well, it's like 85 degrees in this room and the ceiling is practically bleeding moisture, so I'm going to cut this blog short.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Camping to Clear the Mind

I'm on a 3 day sabattical at the Boys Club Crystal River campout. There are sure to be some tales when I return, so check back because right now I'm...

Blogging off.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Three Steps to Insanity.

I was tasked with building a set of stairs to our back yard this past weekend. We have a 24" drop from a rock wall on the upper to the lower backyard area. It seemed like such a simple project. Silly me.

First of all let me start by saying there's a reason I'm not a carpenter or tradesman by choice. I don't much care for it. The other reason I'm not is because I am just not that good at it. I do OK for most projects, but am my own worst critic and so am never completely happy with anything I've done. (Kind of like my writing.)

That said, I took the project on as a challenge to reassert my architectural aptitude.

After much research online and through men friends of mine, I had a good idea of what needed to be done. It was really 3 simple steps.

  1. Secure a 2X6X40" board to the wall
  2. Screw the stringers to the board in #1
  3. Screw the steps to the string

No where was mentioned "Screw up", but that came without provocation anyways.

Shopping Trip #1

The shopping trip was a bad omen from the start. I went to Menard's and Home Depot and got all the wood and hardware. 3/4 of the way home I realized I'd bought a 2 stair stringer, which wouldn't work and that I'd have to return.

Shopping Trip #2

Return to Menard's and get correct stringers and another deck board for the under appreciated third step.

I then start the project. I drill with all my might to make first hole. Change drill bit. The first anchor goes in like a champ. "This is easy" I think to myself.

Change drill bit. Drill with all my might again. Second anchor hits a dead spot and ceases its entry into the concrete. Change drill bit. Remove anchor. Change bit. Drill with all my might and a bit of reaming. Change drill bit and think "I really could use another drill at this point".

I re-try to sink anchor and get it 3/4 of the way in. Then I ponder if that's good enough. It looks like crap, but we'll see how the rest go. Maybe it's good enough.

Change drill bit. Repeat drilling with what might is left in me. Re-fail at sinking any of these other anchors more than 3/4 of the way. Being a man, I use my secret weapon, brute force. I proceed to snap 3 of the anchors off. This misfortune causes much self loathing and doubt to the point that I give thought to abandoning the project.

I then plugged in my radio. It turns out that NPR had the "Prairie Home Companion" radio show on. It seemed to lighten the mood and change my spirit.

Shopping trip #3

I run to the hardware store and buy 8 more shorter anchors. I get home and these remaining 8 sink much nicer than the rest. Things are rolling now.

I go to attach the stringers to the now-anchored 2X6 and break an embarrassingly fundamental carpentry rule. I'm not telling what it is it's so stupid. Ask me sometime and I may tell. Or not.

Otherwise, the stringers go on without a hitch.

Shopping Trip #4

I run back to the hardware store and pick up 4 more deck screws that were necessary because of the underappreciated third step.

Otherwise, installing the treads also go hitchless, except of course for the first one which is cockeyed, because my wall is cockeyed, because my yard is cockeyed. Luckily the Skil Saw has a setting for cockeyed.

6+ hours, 2 Coke Zero's and 4 trips to the store later I've got the ugliest, most beautiful three step staircase on the block. Boy that was easy. This is why I do GIS and not deck installation.

Tomorrow is my 19th anniversary with Donna. I hope to blog it, but we will see. I love her so!

Blogging off...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Whiling Away the Night

<<<<------------My New Bike.

Got a few minutes free so thought I'd sneak an extry post in with more random thoughts.

I saw a GM truck the other day that had those obnoxious stickers on the back window that are the sign of a true "wingnut" (That's the nice term). This one said "Eats Fords, Shi** Dodges".

I thought it was quite a statement given that GM is bankrupt. At this point I think GM is eating anything it can get it's grimy little hands on. Come to think of it so is Dodge/Chrysler. Unfortunately you and I are paying for more of their bad decisions than they are at the moment. I wonder why they didn't see the writing on the wall when gas was first nearing $2.00/Gallon and start making Priuses instead of more Tahoes. Alas hindsight is 20/20.

I had read the other day in my High School Annual Update Newsletter that a guy from my class had passed away suddenly. A real nice guy at that. It brought to the forefront once again that whole death thing that has been haunting me lately. It's just everywhere I turn lately; friends, relatives, rock-stars I once thought were ageless, you name it. It's not really scary to me so much as sobering. When I think that every one of those people could be me, it's a bit of a wake up call.

So, what am I going to do about it, I often ask myself? I am going to:

  • Kiss my wife and kids before I leave for work every day AND when I return.

  • Appreciate every morning regardless of the weather. This is a gift from God, use it!

  • Take that class I've been meaning to take but put off for so long.

  • Forgo the cursed TV for ANYTHING else. What an unholy waste of time.

  • Write the words of praise to someone that I wouldn't have the courage to say to them.

  • Thank God for EVERYTHING, big and small.

  • Travel as far and as often as I can.

  • Listen to music. It takes me back to my youth, helps me soar, mellows me when I need mellowing, inspires me, makes me dance badly when nobody's looking, puts life in perspective, reassures me that what once was is no more, but is not lost.

  • Pet my dog. Kiss my Cats on the top of their head.

  • Live in the moment, or even the minute.

  • Save gas, ride my bike or walk to work, buy CFL bulbs, save water, recycle, pick up trash, love the planet that God made.

  • Do not buy crap I don't need. Simplify and declutter.

  • Reconnect with old friends using Facebook, e-mail or whatever means necessary

  • Work hard, play hard, rest, repeat.

I am pledging to do these because these years called my forties have put a sense of urgency to my spirit. I can't explain it, but it's most definitely on my mind.

Enough introspection. It makes me think too hard.

We are coming up on our 19th anniversary on Tuesday 6/19. It was such a great day in my life. Probably the greatest. Definitely the greatest. Who can take a single day in their life and say it is when the indescribable richness began? The day that shaped my life more than any other. It really deserves its own post entirely, so perhaps I'll leave it for another day.

Today was the last day of school for the kids today. I remember that feeling. FREE! A whole summer of running with robbers, thieves, pirates and sports legends. The whole neighborhood was our playground back then. Not much was off limits. This is another subject that deserves its own post, so I'll stop for now because I'm...

Blogging off.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Braces, Bicycles, Broken Brackets, and Biographies

Ah, Wednesday. Blog Day. There is a song by Morrissey (Formerly of the Smiths) that is titled "Every Day is like Sunday". I wish every Day was a blog day.

My beautiful daughter took that leap into adolescence known as brace face on Tuesday of this week. This is a right of passage that I never new, nor did Donna. So we were not "braced" for the resultant fallout from Sar. Poor girl got it tough it seems. From her description, her orthodontist was trained by the same sadist my dentist was. (e.g. Steve Martin in "Little Shop").

It wasn't enough that she had to have them all put on, but within one hour of when she had them installed, if that is the term, one of her brackets busted off. Or perhaps came unglued is a better term. I'm sorry, unglued was the description of Donna when she heard the part had broken.

Needless to say, Sar had to go back in for an adjustment of sorts today. While they were repairing the broken brackets, they noticed that her lower front gum looked like hamburger. Evidently this is not normal. Again, not knowing what to expect, I figured it was just her complaining. Hows that for "Mr. Sensitive". If she was under my care, she'd be drooling through the hole in her lip by now. Hopefully I won't be the focus of some future therapy session for her. (I love you hon! Oh, and you shouldn't be reading this.)

How I lucked out with not having braces is beyond me. It hit 4 out of 7 kids in my family. I think as punishment for that, God gave me the bad dental habits that led to all these fillings I'm having fun with as I stumble into middle age. I think God does have a great sense of humor, and I mean to have a chat with him about some of it when I get there. Hopefully this conversation happens later than sooner; else the joke is TRULY on me.

The new bike is working out like a dream. Other than some butt cramps from a bad seat that I replaced tonight, I haven't had any complaints about it. The seat I upgraded to tonight is a slightly larger Gel seat, that I'm certain would be the scorn of any serious biker. You know what? I don't care. I'm 47 years old and if you don't like my bike seat, I'll shoot you in the knee caps.

Which leads me to my next point. I think at 45 you stop caring about some really irrelevant things. Washing my car for example. I used to be pretty good about it. Not weird good, just pretty good.

Well all that changed a couple years ago. Now the only time I wash the truck is when I can't see out the passenger windows. Is this a bad thing I ask myself? Am I a bad person? Should I seek professional help? Maybe a lithium pill or something. I'm not sure, but I do know that until I care or find time, I'm not going to worry about bug carcasses on my vehicle so much any more. I once saw a bumper sticker that read: "A clean car is the sign of a sick mind". I now understand.

What else stopped mattering at 45?

  • A meticulous lawn (not that I ever got there anyway)

  • Worrying if I went over 3000 mi. between oil changes

  • Nicks in the paint of previously mentioned vehicle(s).

  • Sweating the forecast.

  • That my eyebrows have decided to take their own path.

What matters more at 47 (2 years later):

  • Spending time with friends and family

  • Sending sympathy cards to grieving people

  • Volunteering for church and community events

  • Hugging kids who won't want to hug much in a couple years

  • Enjoying the moment, and every day that isn't -10 below

Finishing up, a week from today starts my writing workshop. I'm still psyched! I've picked out a few pieces of work compiled previously that are rough, to put it nicely. I plan to roll them into the BWCA paper I started a few years ago. Not really a full biography, but kind of a memoir of the BWCA trips my brothers and I took.

I'm not sure what to do with it once it's done, but feel that it needs to come out of me, so this seems like a good outlet. I may share it with the brothers eventually, but am not sure. It's one of those things that I guess artists struggle with, (not that I claim to be one) is art for art's sake. I do it because I enjoy it and it makes me more complete I guess, for lack of a better description.

Well, it has been a blast. I can't wait till Sat/Sun to write again, so check back then because now I'm...

Blogging off.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is it Summer Yet?

A strange day at the Landwehr Compound. Random news factoids and points of minimal interest to cover, so if you're in the mood for cohesive thought, I'll have to say you're out of luck.

Ben's last game was this morning at 10:00. I'd love to say he went out with a splash, but it sounded a bit more like a convertible Fiat tumbling down a canyon wall, leaking fluids and landing top down. Graceful it was not. It's always fun to watch, but when you lose 5-1, it takes the "funness" down a level.

On the upside, Ben played at an intense level after his initial slow start. It seemed like the first 7 minutes of the game he was still with Sponge Bob and Patrick on the couch, where he was 30 minutes prior to game time. (The story of getting him dressed and ready for each practice and game is one I'll save for later. Suffice it to say that it's like trying to motivate and dress Jello.) Once they got a couple goals scored against them, and he moved from defense to forward, he seemed to kick it up a notch, so to speak.

In any case, his team had a great year finishing with a record something like 5-3-1. The important thing is that they improved significantly from last fall. Winning isn't the only thing, but it sure beats the other option.

When we got home from soccer, we'd learned that our neighbors' boy had his bike stolen. It was laying on the side of the house, sometimes for days on end, and it seems some jerk took off with it. Now, having had this done to me once, literally in front of my eyes, I can say that NOTHING bugs me more than thievery. I cover a lot of ground in the neighborhood walking the dog and such, and I promise if I see some 15 year old punk riding this kids bike, I'm going to chase him down and make him publicly humiliate himself by returning it and apologizing to this boy. (Note that this boy is one of two kids in a single parent home, which makes it an even crueler crime.)

Now I also know from past experience, that a stolen bike will only happen once to a kid. They learn quick and will (or should) lock it every time they get off it from that day forward. I can distinctly remember my older brother giving me the lecture after mine was stolen.

On the lighter side, speaking of bikes, I made the big purchase myself today. I got a Trek 4300 Disc, which means it has disc brakes. More bike than I'd intended to purchase, but when the salesman said he'd take $75.00 off the price , it was only about $80 more than I would have spent for the other model.

Do I really need a bike with disc brakes? Probably not. But I figured it was a $25000.00 savings from the Harley Davidson I'd really like. Besides, I'm a Renaissance man who is of the thought that if we've got the technology, why not take advantage of it. (Is that what a renaissance man is in 2009? Hmmmm...)

14 years ago when I bought my last bike, I was Renaissance-ian when I got a bike with a shock. Now they're almost standard on all bikes.

I bought a ton of accessories to go with it too. The clerk asked me if I would like them all mounted for me. Now there was a day when asked that question I would have said, "Nah, I'll take care of it." But I'm at the age where if some kid clerk asks me if he can save me a little work, I'm all over that. So, they put everything on it for me, except the computer.

The computer I got came with directions in, I kid you not, 12 different languages. These are: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Dutch, Polish, Netherlands (Didn't know that was a language), Cestina (Wha?), and Magyar (Wha again?). What, no Swahili? My goodness, I know we're a global economy and all that but my goodness.

In any case, I've given up trying to program the computer using the English instructions. I figure it might be easier to learn Portugese and try those. Seriously. They have 3-D diagrams showing you the buttons you have to push to get the thing to do certain functions, but when I look at those things for some reasons it's like palm reading. I just don't see it. I have the same issue with assembling furniture. If it's a 3D diagram, rather than words, I should just return it to the store. When they ask why, I would just have to say the guy I bought it for is an idiot.

As it goes, I wanted to say so much more, but will have to defer it to another day, another post, because I'm...Blogging Off.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Instruments of Peace

I went to Sarah's final band concert on Wed. It was held at Carroll University in Shattuck Auditorium. I'm figuring for Middle Schoolers, it's the equivalent of Carnegie Hall. A beautiful, acoustically-sound facility it is.

The seventh graders were up first and were slated to perform 5 songs. They did a great job for the most part. There were some parts that sounded like the tubist got kicked in the privates in the middle of it. Other parts sounded like one of the clarinetists was playing under water, or perhaps inside an overturned port-a-potty. But like I said, overall they were pretty tight as a group. Sarah's flute of course was spot-on for the duration. Being a "beginning band instrumentalist", she was encouraged not to do one of the songs and because of this slight, the song was horrible. That will teach 'em.

The eighth graders did well too. They've got a drummer though who kept dropping one of his sticks, much to the instructors' chagrin. She stared laser daggers at him while he fumbled about picking them up. Sarah even confirmed that this teacher was very capable at giving "the look". We all laughed when she demonstrated it for us. Ben attested that he has a teacher with that same skill. I think it must be part of the Teaching Degree;

"The Look 101: This class explores the situations deserving of the look needed to strike fear, stop foolishness, bring students to Christ, make them wish they were never born, and if nothing else bring on shame and public humiliation. Such techniques will be discussed as:

  • The "Tsk Tsk" - Is it dated?
  • Is a look more powerful than words?
  • The eye roll
  • How long is too long to hold the look?
  • Is blinking a sign of weakness?
  • Is the look more effective when done over your glasses?

This class is sure to carry you far in your teaching career. It can also be used in social situations, during parenthood, when arguing with a spouse and even when arguing a call with a sports official. Prerequisites courses: The under your breath cuss 101, Patience and Pills 301, and Healthy Anger Outlets 301.

Of course I brought my video camera to the concert expecting to capture the whole event for posterity and You Tube. It has been a troublesome piece of electronica lately for me however. I spent the better half of the first 2 songs trying to get past the black screen of death. After paging through every menu on the camera at least twice, including the french language option (just in case), I gave up and almost hurled the thing at the bass drum. As it turns out the thing is on the fritz for real, and it was not my technical ineptitude.

As many people will attest, I tend toward the technically adept side of the spectrum. For some reason though, this camera is just beyond me. It has a manual that is as thick as a phone book and reads about the same. I think you can do some great editing, make movie greeting cards, google subjects of interest, draw mustaches on people in the films, and probably make phone calls with this thing.

But frankly, all I want to do is one thing...record. Unfortunately to do that you must also be willing to browse fifty three menus while your "low battery" light flashes that you only have 5 minutes of battery life left. Great, even if I could get the thing running, I'd only get through one and a half songs anyway. So alas, I'm left to record the concert in my brain, as it was meant to be in the first place. The replays aren't quite as clear, but they'll never be lost in a drawer somewhere.

To finish, I did want to say that during the switch from 7th to 8th place, there was an 8th grade girl who played George Winston's rendition of Pachobel's Canon that actually brought tears to my eyes. It was absolutely flooring. To see this beautiful music coming from the hands of such a young person was, well, inspiring. Kind of like listening to Sarah practice her flute and violin in her room in days gone past. I'm going to miss that as she opts to pursue other subjects in 8th grade. Who knows, maybe I'll pick up violin at 50.

Right now though, I'm blogging off.