Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Closing Comments

Well, it's the end of a decade today with a New Years Eve celebration pending everywhere but here. We're keeping it low key tonight. Donna and Sarah have to work the early shift at Matteos, and then Sarah's going to a party/sleepover at a friend's house. It will be just the three of us and I'm OK with that. New Years is one of those blah holidays that I never much got into. We used to spend it with the Barretts, but that tradition has gone by the by the past few years. Ben and I will probably rent a movie, have a sprite and a beer and maybe even cash it in before Midnight. Maybe we'll do the NY midnight instead. :-)

As always, this is a time for reflection on the good and bad of 2010. In some ways by targeting both, you can have a frame of reference for how you'd like 2011 to go. With a focus on the positive and the good, I'll run down my top ten happenings of 2010.

1. I got published! Not just once, which would have been sufficient, but 5 times using 9 different pieces. (8 poems and 1 magazine article.) It has been the best year of my life from a writing perspective. I feel like I'm being stretched, I'm writing with great frequency and it is absolutely way beyond where I expected to be at this time last year.

2. I finished out my 4th year of Boys Club Leadership at Elmbrook. The boys were a joy to lead and I saw amazing SIPS growth (Spiritual, Intellectual, Physical, Social) in all the boys including Ben. God is good!

3. Things at work went much better than in 2009. I had a great year with my co-workers. I feel we're in the process of building a great team for 2011 and it will be a year of some great new applications.

4. The family vacation to Colorado has to rank as one of the best on record, if not THE best. We saw and did so much. Estes Park, Whitewater Rafting, horseback riding in Red Rocks, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Pikes Peak, Air Force Academy, Durango, and Mesa Verde. Good all good!

5. I stayed enrolled in the AllWriters Workshop and Workplace all year. This has been an incredible support network for me regarding my writing. The people are a lot of fun and the feedback I get is invaluable. They are my buds and I've grown to really appreciate their input.

6. I'm involved as a leader in the Mosaic Ministry atElmbrook. I really had intended to be done with leadership at Elmbrook, but when they needed leaders, I stepped up. I guess God had other plans for me. I'd add that it has been an absolute blessing for me. I'm learning as much as the kids.

7. My health and the health of my wife and kids has been good. Other than a few colds and some stomach issues, everyone has been pretty healthy.

8. I ran in a 5K race with Donna in July. It wasn't really a goal of mine, but when she said she was training, I decided to support her. I finished in 29:25, so was pretty happy with that. I realized I still don't like running that much. I debated doing a duathlon, but that will have to wait until next year, if at all. As I said, not crazy about running.

9. I did a ton of travelling, including Canada again with Steve and Dave, I went to San Diego with Donna, musky fishing with Steve and John Ford, as well as a few trips to MN and one to New York for NY Eve (last).

10. Caught my second muskie, albeit a small one. This may seem like a trivial accomplishment, hardly worth mentioning, unless you are a muskie fisherman. Then you understand.

All in all, 2010 was a pretty good year...with one exception. It was the year Rob had the tumor removed from his spine which prohibited him from going to CO. Then a few weeks ago they found that it had returned and they removed another tumor. Then we find that it has spread to his lungs. I tell you if I could trade you all 10 items above for a healthy brother, I would in a heartbeat.

Here's to a 2011 of appreciating the one's you love, telling them as much and realizing that life is a precious gift.

Have a great 2011 everyone. May God Bless you and your family.

Blogging off for the last time in 2010...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vacation Holiday

Wondering what day it is today? I took these three days off in the middle of this week, thereby stringing together a 10 day work free stretch. It has been absolutely rejuvenating so far. I've been able to sleep in, do what I need to do around the house, spend some time with the kids, travel to see Rob and the family, write when I want, and just recharge my batteries. It's not that I was burned out at work, it was just that with all that is going on in the family and the holidays and everything else, it came at a very good time.

The whole week is giving me a little glimpse of what retirement will be like and, while there are moments of sheer boredom, I could get very used to it. In fact, as I'm typing this I'm watching the Minnesota Wild/San Jose Sharks hockey game. Now I only watch hockey when I'm bored to death. That's NOT to say I don't enjoy it, I very much do. I also plan on watching a lot of hockey in my retirement. Why? Because I suspect I'll have the time. Also, it is really the one sport other than football that I enjoy watching on TV.

Basketball is too much scoring and only meaningful in the last two minutes.

Baseball is too slow moving. Just pitch the dang ball already. And you, get in the batters box and hit the ball and stop messing with your stupid batting glove.

Golf, well, are you kidding me?

So hockey it is.

I submitted a story to The Sun magazine today. It is the tail-end story to my memoir about the trip that Tom, Rob and I took up with the kids in 2009. The Sun is a GREAT magazine that has a good combination of memoir, fiction and poetry in it. I heard about it from my mother-in-law who actually got it sent to her as a gift by someone who has not revealed themselves.

When she brought it out, she said she thought it would be a great fit for my style of writing. After I read the first issue, I had to agree with her assessment. So, after looking at the terms for submission as well as the possible payouts, I thought it was worth a shot.

I also submitted three poems of mine as well. They don't pay as well if published, but I figured go with the numbers thing and hope for the best. It'd be nice to get another article published for my portfolio, but even better would be some cash to go with the deal. Writing is all about feeling and is an extension of my persona, but cash pays the bills, if you know what I'm saying.

Not much to update on Rob's status. I texted him briefly last night during the Vikings/Eagles game last night and he was joking about how bad they were, even though they eventually won. He said he didn't want to watch the game, but there was nothing else on. You know the vikings are doing bad when Rob says something like that. It is encouraging that he'll be home on Friday, so I'm going to take that as the victory it is and run with it.

Tomorrow I'm going to continue my temporary early retirement and love it as much as I did today. Life is short and precious. Embrace it, Live it to the Fullest, Eat, Sing, Dance, Love, Rest and Pray.

Blogging off...

Monday, December 27, 2010


Just returned from visiting my brother at the Mayo Clinic for a couple days. He looks great, albeit a bit tired from time to time. It was so great to see him and his family and to share some laughs with them. It was a much more upbeat visit than a week ago when I went alone. This trip everyone was focused on getting him back home. If all goes well with his radiation treatments, he should be home as early as Friday.

Details still need to be worked out as far as ramps, access, etc. He is moving around pretty good getting from bed to wheelchair, etc. He still gets fatigued when sitting up for long periods of time. This is what we often times forget. Because of his good outlook and upbeat attitude we often times forget that he's in almost constant pain. That tends to beat a person down, to where they need frequent naps and rest. Throw in radiation treatments, twice a day OT and PT, and wall to wall visitors, and it's no wonder he's always tired.

Much of the family was there yesterday. His father, mother and brother-in-law, my mom, sister, brother, and their kids, as well as Tom's sister-in-law Rose. The visits with him in the hospital and the rest of the family back at the Staybridge Suites were timed very well. The kids were very well behaved at the pool and back in the bedroom of the hotel while the adults caught up on things around the cheese tray and some wine. It was as good a Christmas as any of us could have hoped for given the circumstances.

At five o'clock, Tom and I went over and picked up Rob. It turned out that he was slated for receiving communion at 5 (it was Sunday), so we all took communion as well, which again, was pretty meaningful for me; breaking bread with my brothers. Pretty significant stuff in the big picture, IMHO.

Tom wheeled Rob over to the hotel for dinner. We had lasagna, wine and some good laughs. Rob had gotten a Wii fishing game, so he played that and actually landed a couple of fish along with his nephew Hunter.

I wheeled him back to his room at about 7:00, and we all said good night. We then went back to the hotel. Tom, Patty, Rose and the kids got on the road back to Shoreview as they were not staying the night. Rob's wife Jane came over to our room while the kids were in hers and we had a great chat for about three hours. What a woman she is. We had some great laughs too remembering old times and talking through our issues and emotions.

So it was an awesome twenty four hours really. It was a bonus to see my sister and her girls as well as Rob's in-laws. I sincerely feel God brought us all safely together for that short time to enjoy each others' company and rejuvenate ourselves through our love for each other. Mission accomplished.

Blogging off...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

T'was the Night Before the Night Before

I was one of the one million people in the Milwaukee metro area that was doing their shopping tonight. WOW, is all I can say. Sheer madness on the streets of WI. Despite scaling our Husband/Wife dollar amount to $50, I covered a lot of ground, and the whole thing took me four hours. I was frazzled by the time I got home and I have to believe that this is NOT what the season is supposed to be about.

The whole experience made me appreciate my wife's role in doing the shopping for the rest of the family. She does four times what I did and all the while keeps a sanity about her. Well, most of the time anyway.

This Christmas has taken on a new meaning for everyone in my immediate and extended family. With all that's going on with Rob, everything has been shaken into it's proper place. Worry about the economy, world affairs and politics has taken a back seat along with everything else to the importance and family. I've enjoyed being with my wife and kids more than I ever have. I've connected with Rob every day for the past two weeks, and my prayer life has taken on a new vibrancy (and urgency).

It's sad that it takes a shot to the head like we've had to bring a person or family back to center, but I'm going to try and learn from it and carry it through into the future.

And so with the meaning of Christmas more clearly defined than ever, I'll make the best of it. The birth of Jesus was more about the gift God gave us than any gift we'll give or get from anyone here on earth. I plan to run with that philosophy for the next while.

May God bless you and your family this Christmas season. Hug your spouse and kids. Tell them you love them. Put your differences with your extended family aside for a bit and just enjoy their company. They are all you have and that's a gift from God.

Blogging off...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Publishing Advice

Met with an old friend this past weekend while I was in Mayo visiting Rob. The friend is in the publishing business, so was giving me some advice on what to try with my memoir. He recommended that I take a layered approach where I try one of three ways to pitch, sell and publish my book.

Plan A: Get an agent and let them take it from there.
Plan B: Agent the book yourself
Plan C: Self-Publish with Print on Demand

His idea was that if the first approach doesn't work, you go to plan B, then plan C. Obviously Plan A is the most desirable of the three, but by far the most difficult.

It was an interesting discussion for me because I have no idea on the whole process, so it was all news to me.

The rest of the weekend was spent with my brother Rob and his family who are dealing with his cancer. The topic is just too sensitive for me right now so I won't be going into any details. All I ask is for prayers from any or all readers. This is pain like I've never known.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


There's this thing that's come into my life. It's a huge thing. A very complicated, haunting huge thing that I'm wrestling with. I don't like the thing or what it's doing, but I have no control over it. The thing has the ability to bring me to tears in an instant. It is also capable of triggering a memory that I haven't had for 30 years too.

Despite my hatred for the thing, I realize I must come to terms with it. I want to smash it to bits most of the time. Other times, I want to wish the thing away. It's a big, ugly, mean thing and it has no friends.

I pray to God that the thing will just go away; back to where it came from. Maybe he'll listen and work one of his miracles and kill the thing. Or maybe he'll use the thing to somehow strengthen my faith in him; I don't know how, but who am I to doubt God's plan and work? He does strange things with things sometimes.

And so if you have a thing like this in your life, know that I feel for you. Everyone's thing comes in a different form and size and hits them in a different way. If there's a way to make the thing go away, I'm all ears. Because I hate this thing.

Blogging off

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Most Melancholy Season

As we prepare to head to my sister Jane's holiday party this weekend, we got word last night that my brother Rob was rushed to Mayo for emergency surgery to remove a small, ping-pong ball sized growth from his spine. He was having trouble walking, so they went to the doc, and he recommended right away that they go to Mayo. At the clinic, they injected dye into his spinal column and found the growth. They determined that it was best to get it out right away.

He was in surgery for 6 hours from 6:30 - 12:30 or so. Word is that he looked good this morning and today, so that is encouraging. He will however, be in the hospital for a week recovering.

The whole thing just about knocked us over. We ALL thought Rob was in the clear, and on the way to a full recovery. This just stopped us in our tracks. I could barely think last night after I heard it. It's not fair and it just shouldn't happen to someone so young and vibrant. I was so emotional today and last night that I would tear-up at the weirdest moments. Totally unprovoked emotion. Sibling ties and emotions run deep I think, deeper than I knew.

All of this again has tweaked the old "life is but a whisper" notion that has been haunting me these past few years. I'm pretty sure it's a result of mid-life, but man, I just thank God for every day, and every person in every day.

Not to drag this blog down completely though. On the up-side, he did come through it with flying colors. He will be subjected to radiation though in an attempt to kill any additional cells that might be lingering. I hope he can be home for Christmas with his family.

It has been a tough year for a few people in our family and I frankly will be glad when 2010 is put to rest. 2011 has got to be better.

Writing class was great again last night. The two new women in our class are nice additions. Cathy wrote a funny piece on baby names and Ellen wrote a short start to a story about her husband's stroke. I love the new blood and I love Wednesday nights. It is complete release for me to get my stuff critiqued.

Snow tonight prohibited my attending the GIS Holiday gathering at Bar Louie. The snow isn't even that bad, but considering that I've got a 5 hr drive in front of me tomorrow, I didn't want to trek out tonight into the great white unknown. I think it's supposed to turn to freezing rain, which will make it even slicker later. Life is too short to put myself through all of that. No thanks, home is good.

On to age 49 I guess. Blogging off for now...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Heavy Bear Fame

I got word on Friday that my poetry was published on the online magazine Heavy Bear. It is very exciting for me to have some of my work out there that the whole family can see. Most of my stuff so far has just been print publications, so it's been difficult to get them to be able to read it. They would have to go to the website and order the mags, or subscribe, and most people aren't willing to go to that kind of trouble.

The poems are some of my favorites. Someone asked me if they were based on real events, or strictly made up, and I said that most of my poems have some element of a life experience that resonates in them. I also said that when I'm writing them it's almost visceral the way it happens. I hate to sound cliche in that it just "flows out/through me," but that's really what it is. If you call that a gift or a talent, I do not know. I just know that it feels great to get it down, when it's coming out.

Well, we got the tree up today. Lights are on, but we didn't get to the decorations yet;that we will tackle tomorrow night.

Coupled with this time of the year, having a lit tree in my living room always causes me to reflect on the past year as well as the current blessings in my life. I'm a sucker-sentimentalist, and I know it. This Christmas brings up memories of every Christmas prior, and all of those were good. We should probably keep the tree up all year, but then the novelty would wear off and it would become just like a coffee pot, a couch pillow or my son's dirty socks; something that would need to be cleaned under, cared for or washed. Not to mention it would dry up and become a freakin' fire hazard.

We met our "new" Senior Pastor, Philip Griffin at Elmbrook today. At first glance (second really as we "met" him a couple of months ago) he looks to be a phenomenal teacher. He started by telling the story of how he was preparing for a baptism at his church in Texas, and was frantic about getting hose to fill the baptistry.

As he was getting ready to leave, he was approached by a man who wanted to talk to him. He was tempted to hurry him along, but found out that the guy was gay and was ultimately on his way to commit suicide before he stopped at this church. When Pastor Philip asked him how he planned to do it, he said he had just bought a garden hose and was going to duct tape it to the exhaust and run it in his window.

And some people say God does not work miracles anymore.

Turns out he had a long talk with the man, he accepted Christ, the church accepted him and'll just have to listen to the sermon from the website.

I'm so psyched about the potential that this man of God shows for leading our congregation. He's young, vibrant, and you don't at all get the impression that it's about him. The jury is still out for sure, but he shows great promise. I'm sure he wouldn't be here if God wasn't behind it in some way.

No sign of my new laptop. This could be the last post from the clunker (Jetbook) for a while, if not forever. We'll probably keep it around as a spare for the time being. I've found that my writing has increased 20 fold since we got that Dell and this Jetbook, so I only see good things coming down the pike in the future.

Gotta run for now. Blogging off...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cyber Thursday

After getting all razzed over the possibility of getting a laptop cheap on Cyber Monday, I failed to convince the folks at Dell to cut me a deal on the machine I wanted by upgrading the processor. After negotiating with the sales clerk for a half an hour on a chat, I finally succumbed and said that I'd wait until the outlet came along and had another 15-20% off sale. I was hoping that would spur them to make an offer, but alas, they didn't.

Well all good things come to those who wait. Today I get an e-mail from Dell advertising a 15% off deal at the Dell Outlet. I took it as divine inspiration and jumped right onto the site. I found the exact machine I wanted for $459.00. After the discount, it dropped down to $390.00. It is a SWEET machine for that price. I was told by a couple of people that these refurbished machines are as good as the new because they've been so severely tested. Here's what it has on it:

320 GB Hard Drive
2.3 GHz Intel Processor - Dual Core
6 Cell Battery
15.6" Screen
Card reader

I am actually using the money I made from selling my article to Boundary Waters Journal, so it's not like it was an impulse hit to the credit card. (Even though it was. LOL)

I figure I've been working on "has been" laptops for a year and a half now, and that I deserve a better answer. My writing is taking off a bit, so I want to be able to do it without being tethered to an outlet (the batteries on the two laptops I have are shot), a bad operating system, or a slow internet connection. Oddly enough the Jetbook that I am typing this on right now that has been so flaky in the past, has actually been working remarkably well the past couple of weeks, and I'm not sure why. Probably because I just bought a new one, eh?

AllWriters workshop was awesome again last night. Turns out we have two new students, Ellen and Kathy, as well as a student who left and returned (Alita, which is a beautiful name IMHO). Neither of them brought anything to read, but it was good to have new blood and perspective in the circle of writers. I got some good feedback on the piece I presented on portaging (from my BWCA memoir). The great thing about this group is that they are SO supportive, but not afraid to tell you where you fell down.

Kathie Giorgio, the teacher, said that once she went to a workshop where she was instructed that the class was only to give positive feedback. No criticism. Her point, and it's completely valid, was how can anybody learn anything if they're not corrected? If you want touchy-feely feedback only, then read it to your family. If you want to grow as a writer, read it to your peers and see if they think it sucks or not. Ha! Writers are honest, sometimes brutally so.

We have one writer in our group who went to a workshop where they told her "Don't quit your day job." Nice! That's the opposite end of the spectrum, where you tear a person down. That's never good in any learning environment. Hopefully you can find something in-between. That's what AllWriters is. I love it and look forward to it every week.
Winter arrived this week. Temps in the low twenties all week and the threat of 5-7 inches of snow this Saturday. Yuck! I guess we've been lucky so far, so will try to look on the bright side.

It's my brother Paul's Birthday today. He's 3 years younger than me. He was always the artist in the family, getting his degree in Landscape Architecture. He's also a drummer and has always had a flair for the arts. He's a great brother, as are all my brothers, and I'm lucky to have him. My sisters are great too!

So, Happy 46th Paul. God Bless ya for another year, bro!

Blogging off...

Monday, November 29, 2010

What's a Cyber Monday?

Today was Cyber Monday. It is a day I did not know existed until today. It is a date pushed by online retailers to get people to purchase stuff online at a decent discount. I looked around a bit at Dell, Best Buy and a couple others in hopes of getting a new laptop cheap. I came extremely close to pulling the trigger on a Dell Inspiron 15.5" laptop at Best Buy for $379.99. The only problem was it had a wimpy 1.6 GHz processor. While that is probably enough for what I need (Mainly writing, e-mail and internet), I want one with a beefier processor, so the thing isn't obsolete in 10 months. Oh well, maybe next Cyber Monday.

I was saddened to hear that Leslie Nielsen died today. His acting in Airplane and the Naked Gun movies was second to none. He was a natural talent and he will be missed, surely. (And stop calling me Shirley!)

Otherwise, today was very much a Monday. Tough returning after 5 days off. I think I'll cash it in early, as I've spent most of tonight editing on the laptop and am ready to stop looking at a screen.

Blogging off...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkeys, Harleys and a Pinata Flogging

We just finished our 2010 version of Thanksmas around here. In case you don't know what that word means, it's our family's combining of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We celebrate it every two years on the "off years" when we spend real Christmas in MN.

Typically, this festivus-style event involves either meeting at a central place (e.g. the Sandusky, OH Kalahari water park) or a home in Waukesha or New York, depending on the year. This year brought the NY clan out west and we did Thanksgiving on Thursday, and Christmas on Friday.

Thanksgiving was a great time with the cousins playing together and working on various art projects together. They get along so well, at least for a couple days, after that all bets are off. As they get bigger, they've become much easier to manage and allows adults time to be together and catch up on things. We had an amazing dinner, followed by a rousing round of the Game of Things. The family got to meet Jake, Mark's partner and he was warmly received. He's got a wicked sense of humor and fit in with the whole family right away. (The kids barraged him with a nerf gun assault as proof, on Wed. when he least expected it.)

Friday John, Jill, and I went to the Harley Davidson Museum. John bought a HD this past year, so wanted to check it out. It's a great facility and very well laid out. There is even a section at the end where people are allowed to sit on a variety of different bikes. I was skeptical going in, but it proved me wrong. The only downer of the whole thing was the highly overpriced gift shop at the end. I guess being part of the HD machine comes at a price.

I said to John and Jill that bringing me there was a mistake. While I appreciated all the bikes there, it only made me want one worse than ever. I am many years away (if ever) from getting one, and if I did, it would be a used one. If that unexpected windfall of money would come from my long lost Aunt Irma in International Falls, MN though, it would be the first thing I bought. Alas...

After the HD museum, we met the rest of the family at Mark and Jake's new apartment in Bay View. There we had a nice Mexican dinner, followed by a pinata beating in the basement. This probably is the strangest Christmas ritual we have ever created, but hey, like I say we had fun with it. The pinata was dressed and quartered and all of it's spoils were split among the children. We followed that up with a gift opening. From there we went to our friends Jill and Steve down the street for drinks and laughter. Good friends, food and family.

Otherwise, it was a good vacation. Of course there was the usual family dynamics and dysfunction that we ALL go through during the holidays, but nothing more than we've seen in years past. We all just kind of roll with each others' neuroses and everyone has a good time. I think a festivus pole, complete with an airing of the grievances, would be a nice addition to the whole affair.

Thank goodness we have two days to recover and recapitulate. We're both kind of exhausted, if not from the work of it all, from the socializing. Tomorrow is a true day of rest, and I plan to use it as such.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Much to Give Thanks for

Here's some of what I am thankful for this year.

  • Kids and cousins giggling at the kitchen table playing board games
  • In-laws bringing truffles from New York
  • A warm house, full of food for the holidays
  • My Faith. It's the foundation of who I am
  • A wife who loves me unconditionally
  • Two great kids that understand right from wrong, good from bad
  • Two cats and a dog. Dog has bad hair, but we love him still
  • A city with great services (to go with its high taxes)
  • A great job with good people
  • A working laptop
  • A family in Minnesota that supports each other
  • A mom who is the greatest
  • Good health
  • Good friends (esp. Steve, Brad, and Pat)
  • A gift for writing and the privilege of being published
  • Freedom of religion

What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Heavy Bear Comes Through

I got some more good news last night. I had submitted 5 poems to the Heavy Bear Online Journal and I got an e-mail that they liked all of them and will be publishing them in their December issue. Great news! It was especially cool to get all 5 accepted. Usually you submit 3 or four and hope for one. The editor said that I "use some strong images." It's great to get some positive feedback. It's what drives me as a writer.

For someone who considers himself a writer first, or a writer who "likes poetry too," I seem to be having decent success with the poetry thing. I'm not sure what to do with that, but am darn sure going to enjoy the ride while it lasts! Seeing any work published is a good thing and if you're not energized by it, you have something wrong with you. Sure, I agree we all write for different reasons, and most, (me included) do it out of passion first, it's just that it's nice to get recognized periodically.

The other nice thing that comes out of this was that she mentioned that when my book is finished, she offered to interview me on her radio blog talk show. That would be sweet! The only problem is it requires writing a book. I told her I hoped to have it done by next Christmas, even though I was originally hoping for this Christmas. It's nice to know that I've got a couple of publicity ties already (her and Boundary Waters Journal, who has also offered to plug my book in their magazine. I guess this means I really have to finish it after all.

Three days until Thanksgiving, two days until our guests arrive, and one day of work (I'm taking off Wed.) It should be a great holiday and we are cruising into it fairly relaxed, Donna and I. We got much work done this weekend, so are ready for them.

Well, the Vikings fired Brad Childress today. Poor guy, never had a chance after the whole stadium was calling for his firing yesterday. I guess something needed to happen. I feel sorry for the guy, but won't for too much longer because he's leaving with more money than I'll make in a lifetime. You couldn't pay me enough to be a head coach in the NFL anyway. Talk about pressure. Yikes.

Am going to cut this short. Hopefully more soon!

Blogging off...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life is "Bittersweet"

I've been reading this book Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist for the past week or so. It is a great book about dealing with adversity and relishing in the good times. The book leans a bit on the feminine side which makes me a little uncomfortable at times. :-) But once you get past that part of it and see what the underlying messages are, it's really quite good.
What I like about her books (I've read Cold Tangerines as well) is that they're about her imperfections and resonate with my own experience as well. She talks about a messy house and all the stresses of daily life and how that she doesn't always react to life in a perfectly Christian way. There are times where, despite knowing that God is there and loves her, she doesn't always feel worthy of everything he's given her to care for.
So in this period of preparing for the upcoming stresses of the holidays, it fits quite well into my situation. We've got family coming for Thanksgiving, and then in two weeks, for my birthday weekend of Dec. 11th, we're travelling to Minnesota for my sister's holiday party. Yesterday, while we were frantically cleaning and prepping the house for my in-laws arrival, I keep thinking back to the book where she describes that despite having a house in chaos, the important thing about the holiday is not the house, it's the people in the house.
It's about being together and laughing until our sides hurt. It's about hugs and love and catching up with where people are at in their lives, and we're all at a different point than we were the last time we saw each other. Middle school, high school, job and responsibility stresses and changes.
We share these stories, the laughter and the re-hashing of old memories over great food and beverages in the confines of our warm, closet cluttered, corner-dusty, house in the hopes that no one will see those things. If they do, we hope that they have enough grace in their hearts to forgive us, (we're trying our best here) and if they don't, well, that's too bad for them.
Because it's not about what we're doing wrong with our house or what cool new appliance or gadget we don't have. It's about the fact that I haven't seen you in 6 months, 8 months, a year or whatever, and "How are you? How is your life right now? Are you OK? It's REALLY good to see you."
As much as I claim to be a loner, I really do need connection. Those relationships in my life do matter, and while I sometimes lament about this person's issues, or that person's bad habits, I really do love those people. It's just that in our stupid selfish fallen state, we tend to look at the bad first and gloss over the good. People probably do it to me as well, and Lord knows I have my share of faults. (It does make me wonder what the bad things people say about me are though. :-)
I guess then, that I'd have to give this book four stars ****, if for no other reason than it has caused me to stop, think and put things in perspective. I would really recommend both her books as well as anything by Anne Lamotte . Lamotte's stuff is a little edgier, but once you look past that to the message, it's pretty cool.
Now that I've endorsed two female authors that tend to write about largely women's issues, I'm a little more uncomfortable than I was even a few paragraphs earlier. This can only mean it's time to blog off and go lift some heavy stuff, drill some holes, cut the grass, change some oil, shave, clip my toe nails on the bathroom floor, watch some football and a few Clint Eastwood movies, read some Jack Kerouac, and clean the garage. Because that's who I really am.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Good Life

I've been having a lot of really good days lately.

Good as in just appreciating being alive, my FAITH (First and Foremost, my Faith), having a great family, good job, holidays looming, a car that runs, (despite the oil leak and the fact that she needs a tire balance) a roof over my head, and enough food that I can give some of it away to the food pantry.

I think people are so caught up in more, more that they lose sight of the "all, all" that they have. Greed tends to roll downhill and gain speed. Greed breeds greed.

Take Christmas for example. I love the holiday, love getting the family together, love getting gifts and all the rest. This year though when prodded for a list by my mother, I had a hard time thinking of anything that I needed.

I need a stapler that works. That I DO know. This writing class I'm in has me using a stapler every week. The one we have sticks in a down position and it is super annoying. I showed Donna last night and then told her how I have to pull it back to right using my teeth. "Don't use your teeth!!!" I believe was her response. So, now I use one of these over sized paper clips. It seems to do the job well.

This is why I need a stapler. No one should have to suffer with bent staples or a run to the emergency room with a staple in their cheek. It's not right.

So yeah, I need that. And blue socks.

You see there's 400 things I really need, but really don't. For starters I could use a new desktop computer. Then again, I can continue using the 7 year old Dell beast that I'm typing this on too. Yeah, that would work. It could fry tomorrow, but may last another 7 years. My point is, do I REALLY need it? Can the landfill wait for another day? (I'd recycle it of course, but you get my point.)

We live in such a one-up society, and I'm not buying into it. I don't want the story of my life to end with a pile of junk.

Which brings up the point of death. My wife and I were talking about death and burial/cremation the other day and we are kind of on the same page. We both want to be cremated. I want to be cremated in my corduroy fishing shirt with a black tee-shirt underneath. Oh yeah and while wearing my Ipod blaring with Green Day.

Is that wrong?

Then, I want my ashes sprinkled in the BWCA, and a bit in Canada. People say don't you want a place your kids and grand kids can go to see you? Yeah, I do. It's called a photo album. I sure as heck don't want to be fossilized in some concrete vault in the ground with the threat of some day being exhumed because the stupid cemetery couldn't pay their taxes.

That would suck.

So burn me up, man. Put me in a hefty bag, inside the safety of a Duluth Pack and take me camping. Oh, and San Diego too. You can sprinkle some of me in the best city on the planet. I'd like to live there for eternity anyway. (Picture above)

It seems Donna is in agreement. She wants some sprinkled in various spots too, like Savannah GA, the Madison farmers market (sounds like a breech of some sanitary guideline somewhere) and San Diego.

We're just not great sentimentalists. (I am more than her). I told her that if she could get away with it, she could bury me in the backyard with the cats (Bogie and Jez). I told her to be sure and make it good and deep.

But enough on death. As I started to say, life has been very good lately. I think my medication must be working. (Only kidding.) There's something to be said for "Don't worry, be happy". It's really that simple.

Worrying isn't fun, no matter how you dole it out. Stinks in the morning, worse at night. So why do we like to dwell in it? Human nature I guess.

I'm screaming toward my 49th birthday, and I've a strange feeling that that is what provoked this blog post. Some continuation of my mid-life philosophical crisis. For that I am sorry. Sorry I pulled you into it.

I think the whole writing obsession of late is a manifestation of the recognizing my mortality. Now that I see how much I truly enjoy it when I do it seriously, I realize that there's so much I want to write before I die. Poetry, memoir, non-fiction, fiction, prose. I want it all, so I'd better get to work.

On that note, I'll be blogging off for now...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It Could Be Worse

Woke up to cloudy, and slightly cooler weather today than we've had for this whole past week (which was gorgeous!) Then I go and read that St. Paul and Northern Wisconsin could get as much as 8 inches of snow. Ha! What am I complaining about? Not that I'm a winter hater (I am), it's just that I'd prefer to stave it off for as long as possible. Three months of cloudy, cold, crappy weather is plenty.

Watched a couple of movies with the kids last night. Black Sheep, which was much funnier than I remember it being when I saw it 16 years ago. Chris Farley did physical humor better than anyone I know. It's too bad he fell into the trappings of Hollywood and ended his life in a haze of drugs and alcohol. He was a funny man who used his body like a weapon of humor.

The other movie was True Stories. Featuring, David Byrne and John Goodman, this is one of my favorite movies of all time. A classic parody of modern culture in general and Texas specifically. Ben didn't like it as much as me, but we had a few good laughs during the fashion show, where people were wearing clothes made out of grass, etc.

Day three of Mr. Mom-hood and I've got a busy day ahead. Much to do around the house as well as trying to keep the kids occupied and squeeze in some writing too. Maybe I'm setting the bar too high, but hey, that's what Saturdays are for, right?

Well, much to do as I mentioned, so I'd better blog off for now...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mr Mom for a Weekend

Day one of single parenthood went OK, I guess. I did have one speed bump in the morning however.

I dropped Ben off at school at 7:05 and returned home. I had to drop Sarah off before work at 8:00, so thought I'd get a quick shower in. Well, then the phone rang with a caller ID of "Waukesha Schools". I pick it up and it's Ben. "Hi Dad. Can you bring four cans of canned goods for the food drive this morning?"

"Uh, wha?" I thought.

Seems he forgot that he needed 4 canned goods for a project that would eventually end up in the food drive. Argh!

So I said I would, but it would be after 7:30 when I took Sarah to school. He said that's fine and that the teachers would let him wait outside until I got there.

Not so much.

When I arrived he (and everyone else for that matter) was nowhere to be found.

Did I say Argh? Oh yeah, that was before though. Argh!

I tell Sarah to go in and drop the four cans off with the person manning the door. She of course was muttering about having to cover for her mentally challenged brother. It was a painful dose of what my wife deals with on a weekly basis. Two kids, completely opposite personalities. Go Figure.

I cooked ravioli tonight for dinner. Thank goodness for frozen ravioli and canned sauce. A little french bread from the toaster and we were good to go. I tried to do the right thing and eat a salad from what I thought was lettuce in the fridge. It had a weird texture to it. For a moment I thought I might be eating a Cale salad. Sarah and I had a good laugh with the thought of it. Then, she said "Isn't cale poisonous if you don't cook it?" That created an anxious moment or two for me. I can see the headlines; "Man dies while trying to eat healthy".

Not what I want on my tombstone. Died of cale salad poisoning.

Sarah sent the question to "Cha Cha" on her phone. Cha cha is a service where they'll answer any question you send them by text. Much like a modern day equivalent of calling the reference desk at the library, except faster. They've yet to respond back, so if it is it must be a slow reacting poison.

So with regards to laundry, if you sort the whites, colors and darks, and you don't have enough of any three for a full load, is it OK to mix the darks and colors? Will it make the colors muted, or will it add color to the darks? Is that better than adding the colors to the whites? What is the wash basket etiquette I guess is my question?

Last night at All Writers workshop was a good time as usual. Small group of us, but some good laughs, especially when we got off topic. This session ended last night, so I'll be signing up for another 10 week session next Wed. It's still my favorite night of the week, in many respects. Great to be able to share stuff with my colleagues and get some great feedback. Fun listening to their stuff as well.

The instructor is talking about hosting a marketing class in January, so that sounds interesting. I just hope it's affordable.

It's 8:33 PM, and I haven't checked the mail yet. Can you tell I'm single parenting it? I'd better go do that and blog off for now...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Indian Fall

It was close to 60 degrees today and so nice out that I took Ben and two friends to the skate park for what is probably the swan song skate park outing. I was going to try and write using the laptop in the car, but the glare from the sun was so bad that I only managed to get one paragraph written before I gave up. I could barely see the cursor, which makes editing oh-so fun.

Yesterday was a long day around the house. Donna and I volunteered to do the food setup for the Mosaic Ultimate Overnight event. This meant rising at 4:00 AM and getting to church by 5:00. We scrambled to get the tables lined up with cereal and milk. Then, the 285 kids started streaming in. They were bleary eyed and tired. The coolest part of it all was that probably 80% of them said "Thank you" when I poured their milk. Good kids. God Kids.

When you see this kind of event and all the good friendships and stuff coming out of it, you can't help but think how much better the country would be if people would start returning to church. There is immeasurable bad in our society today, and much of it has to do with the fact that people don't respect each other OR authority. If we got back to that, we'd be a better community, a better nation, and better people.

Unfortunately Hollywood and its toxic culture breeds greed, violence and disrespect. (Just take that stinking Toyota commercial with the bratty kid. I would send that kid to his room, after I lectured him for 20 minutes on RESPECT. Kids see that kind of stuff and don't know how to filter it. A good blog post on it is at the simple dollar blog. Look for the article on kids and materialism at

Saw a couple of movies last night with the family; one clunker and one good one.

Iron Man II was a great movie with decent special effects and some great lines by Robert Downey Jr.

2012 was an absolute bore. Bad acting, predictable plot and over produced. It felt like it was going to run until 2012.

Tomorrow begins another week. Dark nights are here with the stupid time change, so time to double up on the Vitamin D, I guess.

Blogging off...

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Big Fat Map Sandwich

Just returned from another successful EWUG conference in Middleton, WI ( This conference is for techy, geeky, GIS types who get excited about new geoprocessing tools and functions, server apps, and software upgrades. Typically we talk shop until the wee hours because we forget that we have families and the like. It's really sad actually.

In all truthfulness, it's not as bad as that. We try to abide by the rule that there is to be no GIS talk after 9:00 PM, which is probably a good thing anyway. If there is to be GIS talk, it has to be kept light, like software slamming or sharing the dirt on someone who was fired, etc. No talking about how to properly set up a spatial index on multiple attribute columns in a SQL Server 2008 Release 2 database. Ooops, there I go again. I'm sorry.

The keynote speaker for the conference was Clint Brown from ESRI. He was mildly engaging, but what caught my attention was how he kept referring to applications that allowed you to make a "map sandwich". I'd never heard that phrase before, but I kind of like it. Of course, no one but a GIS professional would understand what it is, but that's who he was speaking to anyway. He did it right before lunch, which kind of got everyone in the mood to eat. LOL.

I actually spent two days in Adobe Flex training after the conference on Wednesday. Flex allows you to create some really cool, flashy GIS applications. It was nothing short of intense for me, a non-programmer, or as a programmer-wannabe. Programmers have to think on a different level, I'm convinced. I picked up quite a bit of it by the end of the class, but needless to say, my brain is fried and I'm putting it on ice for the weekend.

Every time you think you have the code written correctly, you save it and run it and you get a nasty new error. I got better at debugging it after two days, and maybe more importantly, better at preventing the need to debug. It was a decent training course, with the exception of the manual, which stunk, frankly. I'm not the only one with that opinion, the guys I was with had the same shallow opinion of it.

So, suffice it to say I'm happy to be home. Three days is a long time to be away from my wife, kids and pets. I missed them greatly and I think the same is true for them.

Tomorrow morning I have to help Donna server 300 kids breakfast after Elmbrook's Mosaic Ministry's Ultimate Overnight. It is an affair where the kids do a variety of activities in the course of staying up all night. It includes, bowling, inflatables, video games at Dave and Busters, swimming/lazy river, pizza and more. It sounds like a blast for a teen, a nightmare for anyone over 40. We have to be there at 5:00 AM to setup the cereal, juice and make coffee. It sounds brutally early, but sure beats having to stay up all night, so I'll take it.

That's my week and weekend in a nutshell. Thanksgiving and the whole holiday brouhaha looms.
I'm sure not ready for that.

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Another Halloween is upon us which can only mean one thing; the Christmas mania starts in full force tomorrow. Aaaaaiiiieeee!

This Halloween was a diversion from the normal routine of going to the Barrett's and trick or treating and celebrating Abby's birthday. I miss the chaos and taking the kids out door to door, frankly. Both of our kids went out with their friends' in other neighborhoods. Donna and I passed out candy to the 5 groups of kids that showed up. Strangely quiet.

When I think about it real hard, this was a sad day. I'm certain it is Sarah's last trick or treat night. That means that my kids are growing up and the days of walking through neighborhoods with them while they beg for treats are over. While there were days that I wanted my kids to grow up and be independent, now that they are doing that, I want them to slow down. The empty nest is actually visible from here, and I'm not sure I like it.

Sure we have several years left, but the days of snuggling with them, taking them to the park, playing in the snow with them are all but over. If this is what getting old is like, it kinda stinks. I want my kids to be a bit like Peter Pan where they stay an age forever. I'm not sure what age I'd like to order, but I don't think it's Teenage. (LOL).

I carved the pumpkins for them today, or at least cleaned them out. Sarah did the detail work, while I did the slime removal. Donna said she thought that I needed to do the pumpkins more for me than the kids actually wanting to do them. In a way she's right. We always have pumpkins, so by golly, I was going to see to it that we did this year too. It's a weird traditionalist thing in me. I'll probably do a pumpkin when I'm 60 because I think it keeps you young, that kind of stuff.

Gorging yourself on Halloween candy is also part of it, and I excel at that. M & M's were my thing this year, and my wrecked mouth is proof of it. Can't help this sweet tooth thing, I guess.

A mellow Sunday around here. We're watching our friends' dog, Bentley. He's a good dog, but it's a bit like having an adopted two year old around the house. You have to school him on respect, boundaries and what he can and can't do. With our brand new carpet, it's been a bit of a vigilant watch for a leaky bladder too. No problems so far. I have to remember to let him out every hour or so though.

Headed up to Madison on Wed. for EWUG ( and some training for work. I hope to get some writing done in the hotel when I'm alone, but I've said that before, so we'll see. Hopefully I'll fit a post in then.

When I look back on my life lately there are entire portions that I almost never think about anymore that bring great memories back to me. Much of these memories are brought back when a song from the period comes on my Ipod. It is weird how the brain works that way with song and memory and imagery. Amazing stuff, and I thank God for it. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Blogging off for now...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Plumber's Helper

We had a nice clog in the tub this morning when I woke up. Turns out it was clogged last night when Sarah took her shower, but no on managed to tell me. Of course the cat thinks its just his big water dish (Yuk) and kept trying to drink from it, so I had to steer him away.

I plunged until my arm was like a strawberry twizzler, to no avail. I finally gave up and went to work. I came home at noon to try and snake it out and had no luck. Donna helped me with working the drill operated snake, and it turned into a bit of a marital comedy. She would run the drill, while I fed it down the drain, and at times she would get a bit too zesty with the trigger and the thing would coil up like a friggin' spring. Then she'd run it in reverse to uncoil it and then more of the same, only in reverse.

We managed to put a couple of right angle kinks in the $25 snake to the point where it wasn't going down at all. I extracted it and said we're calling our friend the plumber. I figure that was cheaper than a divorce lawyer. ;-) (Just kidding, we were fine.)

So our plumber friend comes over and takes his pressure power plunge thingy and blasts the clog right out. Donna says he didn't take more than 15 minutes. It cost us a hundred bucks, which I'm guessing is a deal because he's a friend and wouldn't screw us. Still, a little hundred dollar shot to the kidneys in the middle of our week is never a happy day.

It was one of those unpleasant reminders that we live in an OLD house. One day we won't, and I will miss none of this nonsense. New plumbing with new electricity, and new insulation, and new windows, and a new condo mortgage. That's all I ask.

Since the plumbing incident, all I've wanted to do is go to bed, and that's where I'm going.

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Anxious Moments

It is that time of year where I am overcome with a great sense of unease. I'm not sure if it's because of the impending winter, the decreasing light or just some hormonal thing. I can't explain it really. Just restless, I guess. On Sunday's it's the worst. I wander around wondering which task is most important and whether it's what I really want to do. The house and yard beckon, and I tend to some of those as I feel led. I also feel the need to get some last bike rides in before the snow flies, a feeling that only a true cyclist feels.

Lately I feel the pull to write and that just adds to the unrest. If I don't get my time in at the keyboard, that doesn't feel right either.

What I need to remember is that I'm doing fine. I've got a great wife and kids, a good job working with good people, great friends and most importantly, I have my faith. A God who loves me and cares about what I do and how I feel. I mean really, what's to be anxious about? I think when it comes right down to it it really is a fear of the dark, long winter. To remedy it, the only solution is to move to a warmer climate, and I don't see that happening for a few years.

I remember talking to my father in law a few years back. He said that the thing he most hated during his teaching years was Sunday nights. It was the same thing I feel. I love the blessedness and the slow pace of Sundays, but dread the work week that comes with a Monday morning. He said that that kind of goes away with retirement, but retirement isn't happening any time soon either.

So how do I channel my unease? I stuff it, mostly. Is that healthy? No, probably not. I sometimes think that if I keep moving, putzing, cleaning, working out, that will fix it, and it never does. Believe it or not, writing this blog right now is actually helping; almost therapeutic. Sometimes if I talk things through, using my muse or some sort of outlet, it seems to help me work through things. It's a bit like I'm on the couch right now, and you're playing Dr. Phil, so thanks for that.

On a different subject. I wonder how the Landwehr Hunt went this past weekend? Rob was going up for the whole weekend, Paul on Saturday, and Tom for a few hours somewhere in between. I do miss the camaraderie of the hunt, but I really wanted to go musky fishing again this year, so something had to give. I can't say I won't say the same thing next year. I just LOVE to fish. Love it!

As with all weekends, this one went too fast. I spent much of yesterday at the skate park with Ben and two friends. They had a BLAST and to their credit, they were outside the whole time and getting a workout while they were at it.

And so, to quell my own anxiety, I think I need to go for a quick ride. (Call it adult ADD).

Blogging off...have a great week.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hunting Memories

I was never much into the hunting thing. Oh, I tried it a handful of times, even had my own shotgun for a number of years. It just never did anything for me. After a total investment of probably $300.oo in guns and shells, my net take was a single pheasant and a grouse. Even the grouse was "disputed" with my buddy who claims it was his shot. (It probably was. I think I let him have it anyway.)

I bring this up because this weekend is the weekend of the annual Landwehr Hunt. This is a longstanding tradition in my family that goes back to the days of my father, one of the original instagators of the event.

It began as "the brothers" hunt back in the 60's sometime on the farm property of a good friend of my dad and his brothers. Typically there were no guns brought to the hunt and it consisted mainly of playing cards and raising cain.

I only made it up to the hunt once, back when it was held in Dent, MN. It was a crazy weekend, but the highlight had to be listening to Uncles Tom, Willie and Jim tell stories about my dad. At this point, the oral tradition is all we have left to go on and these were the guys that lived closest to him. Heard some great stories of him and some of the other brothers. (There were 7 brothers and a sister in dad's family)

The other good memory was getting to know Coe and Don a lot better. These were cousins who I never really knew as a kid, so it was cool to meet them and get to know more about them and their stories.

One of the stranger events up there was called "shotgun bowling". It entailed lining up ten bowling pins about 30 yards away and taking aim with a shotgun. The pickup truck was nearby, blaring Johnny Cash of course, making it a scene right out of Smokey and the Bandit. When things got dull with the shotgun, Coe pulled out his .44 magnum (yes like the Dirty Harry gun) and they took to using that. It was a gun I had to try once, and all I can say is, it was scary powerful. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it.

So they're all up there for the weekend. I would be too, if I hadn't had gone musky fishing last weekend in northern WI. A man only has so much time and money, you know?

Within a one hour span today I went from remorseful, to feeling incredibly blessed when I passed a low-income area of our neighborhood, to extrememly nostalgic about my college past when a song came on my ipod. It is amazing how our brain works to bring those feelings to the surface based on what we see, hear and feel.

I submitted a blog post to for a blog contest on the theme "The time I won". I gave them a story about my 8th grade football season. We'll see what comes of it. It is very nice now because I am starting to build up a collection of writings that allows me to pull stuff out when those kinds of things come out and present them. Allwriters has been good for me in that respect.

Well, speaking of which, I'd better get to a bit of editing, before it gets too late.

Blogging off...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Season Finale

Waukesha South's Freshman girls played their last games of the season tonight in the Classic 8 Tournament. Like much of the rest of the season, they got smashed in almost every game. They lost to Mukwonago 2-0 before I arrived. Then, they took on Waukesha West, who they started strong against, and promptly fell apart. That sent them to the consolation round versus Waukesha North.

Understand that Waukesha North is one of the few teams that South has beaten this year on a couple of occasions. Even they proceeded to put the beat down on South in the first two games of a best of five match. Game three was different, though.

The score was 24-22, and South was losing. If South loses, they go home without a win. Who comes up to serve, but Sarah. I'm tense thinking, if she misses the serve, North wins and South goes home. DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN, I'm thinking. There is a still small voice in my head saying, wouldn't it be cool if she kept serving enough to win the game? A long shot I know, but hey, a dad can dream, right?

She serves the first one perfectly over the net and North blows it. Score is 24-23. All I can think is at least she didn't miss that point.

Next thing I know she serves again and North muffs it again. 24-24. Sweet! "Nice job, Sarah!" I say. Now I'm starting to think, she can win this game! Serves again, a slight volley, and South gets another point! 24-25, South is now one point from winning.

Now I know exactly what is going through her mind at this time, in part because the same thing is going through my mind. That is, if she makes it and South scores, they win and force a fourth game. Neither of us really wanted that at this point in the night because we just want to go home.

At the same time I'm hoping and praying that they score and she's a heroine. In fact, I'm thinking if she does, I was going to run on the court and embarass her by giving her a hug.

She winds up and serves another good serve that gets volleyed a bit and then North ends up getting the point.


North then gets the next two points and wins the game 27-25. Oh the humanity!

In any case, I was so stinkin' proud of her that I almost cried. She stuck it out the whole season, and then finished out the year by serving better than she has all year. She's said on several occasions that she's not playing next year, and I can't hold that against her. She did what we asked, didn't like it particularly much, but finished it out. Good for her. I think she's a better person for it.

And so the season ends. The total wins all year can be counted on both hands, but a great ride. I was just happy to be a part of it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Musky Fest

Just got back today from what I call Musky Fest. It is really a focused two-day fishing trip up to the Presque Isle, WI area for a stab at boating a musky or two. We had OK success this year in that we landed two musky in our boat and one rogue northern pike. The Musky were small, I got a 26" and Steve managed to get a 36" Tiger Musky that was a nice looking fish. Both were caught and released unharmed, to live another day.

The northern I caught yesterday was a 25" and was more of a nuisance than anything. There was a day when I wouldn't be calling any 25" fish a nuisance, but when you're fishing for Musky, anything less is a pain.

It was a great weekend weather-wise. (Great for standing in, not great for catching fish.) It was about 63 and cloudless on Sat. and the same and cloudy on Fri. A beautiful October so far, that just keeps on going.

Ben's team won their last football game on Saturday, and I heard he did very well. He and another player chased down a runner on a breakaway run and almost made a touchdown saving tackle. It sounded like a good game. They won 14-6. He makes me so proud.

He did tell Donna that he was sad when they were handing in the equipment. He said he'd miss football and all the new friends he'd made. I think that he's finally liking it because he likes it, not because I want him to play. It's good he's built a bit of passion for the game.

Heard some funny and crazy stories while I was up north this weekend. One of the funnier ones was by a shop owner who said every once in a while you see a truck and boat trailer roaring by that has blown out a trailer tire, unbeknownst to the driver and has worn the tire right down to the rim. It'd be driving by and sparks would be flying, driver clueless to it all. Funny stuff.

Otherwise, nothing much is new. Sarah finishes up volleyball tomorrow with a tournament at Arrowhead that should be fun to watch. They're playing three teams and she can't wait until it's over. I have to giver her credit, she finished out the year. Good for her.

Much more catching up to do in other areas at the moment, so I'll be...blogging off.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Bit of a Sports Rant

I had to miss Ben's game today, as I was at the Michael Perry Celebrity Saturday writing workshop at AllWriters. It's probably a good thing I did miss it because I'm told he only played the opening kickoff, and then no more.

So what gives? This is a sixth grade team. Not High School, sixth grade. My problem with it was the fact that many of the boys played the whole game on both sides of the ball. The whole game.

Now I know what is going through these coaches heads. It's a close game (turns out they lost 6-0) and they want to win. I get that. But you know what? I know of at least two other players who did not play a down and a couple more that got a play or two. The "star" player almost passed out because it was hot and he was running a lot. Did I mention it's sixth grade? Oh yeah, sorry.

My son's not a star. I get that. I wasn't either. I had no problem being a second stringer, but in SIXTH grade I got in every game, for significant time. My coaches thought that was important. Back then it was important. Kids were kids, not little stars.

I know playing in 6th grade spurred me to wanting to play 7th, 8th and 9th. I loved the game; lived for the game. Practice was part of it, because I knew I would play some in most games. There's something to be said for instilling a love of the game, team and comraderie at the expense of sitting your star players for a series.

I can't continue on this topic. It makes me so mad, that I want to spit. So onward.

The Michael Perry workshop was outstanding! He is a memoirist after my own heart. He rambled for much of the time with humorous anecdotes dotted with crystalline insights and periodic flashes of wisdom. He is not only an incredible author (and poet) but a great speaker. He said when he found out that he'd landed his first book and they expected him to do readings, he went to several book readings in the Twin Cities to see what he could learn from them. He said some of the great authors he saw, could "be a bit dry" as speakers. He swore he would try and be better, and he does not disappoint.

I'd seen him before at a book signing, so knew he could captivate an audience. When he does it among his peers, (not that I'm claiming to even be close to being a peer) it's even cooler.

He did give me some good advice about self publishing and took much of the doubt out of that for me. I'd heard that some people say that self publishing may blacklist you as an author later on. MP's had four books self published, and said it can be a great way to get started.

It was also quite an eye opener as to the whole writing, publishing and marketing process. He works incredibly hard at his craft. Much harder than I've ever worked on ANY of my writing. It was educational for me as to how I need to step it up a bit.

My beef with all of this though is that I have this thing called life that I have to live too. (I'm not saying he DOESN'T by any means.) I'm just saying that having a job, wife, two kids, dog and two cats keeps me busy. Real busy. Not busy enough so that I can't write, but busy enough so that I can't just immerse myself in my writing, at the expense of my family. I guess I could, but I don't want to be "that guy". I refuse to be a bad father/husband just to do what I want to do. These years with kids at home are numbered. The magic numbers are 3 and 6, and I intend to be available for them. Granted I can still write, but not to the loss of time/experiences with my kids.

The cool thing is that I'm just getting started. I've stumbled upon something that I can do well into my senior years, and when I say senior, I mean post 50. (Sorry to offend anyone.) It's like the best hobby/pasttime that I've ever found, and I'm just getting going with it.

The trick is to keep it fresh for myself and still get an occasional piece published to keep me wanting more. That's the goal at least.

One quick story to finish up. I asked Michael Perry if he had any brought any books to sell/sign. He said he did up in the car in the parking ramp. Turns out I was in the same ramp and walked him out. When we got to his car, he opened the door of his silver VW station wagon which was loaded with books and band equipment, and when he swung the door open, a bag of something fell out.

He said. "Ah, life on the road."

To which I laughed and said, "It's not all it's cracked up to be, is it?"

It showed me the reality of trying to make a living schleppin' books across the country. Part of me would love the opportunity to do it for a summer. Only one summer. That would probably do it for me. God Bless him, man.

I'd better cash this in. Not before I point out that you, the reader, MAY have been the 1000th reader of this blog. If you want to find out, go back to the top of this page and look at the number on my Counter right below my facebook picture.

When I posted this, it was at 984. If you hit 1000, Congratulations! You've won a free copy of my book when it's done. Just remind me, LOL. (It may be a year or two...)

Blogging off...

Friday, October 8, 2010

MS Support Try #3...Oh the Humanity!

Tried again last night to get the whole XBox Live thing worked out. Spent an hour and a half with an American gentleman (thank goodness) and still did not resolve the issue.

I swear, I was five minutes from breaking into tears. I had to hang up, or I would have gone off on the guy. He was in the process of "escalating" me again to someone who had access to more tools than he did. Can you believe that? It took him an hour and a half to realize he didn't have the right tools? I'm glad he wasn't fixing my dryer.

Anyhow, my cell battery was about dead, I was toast myself, and at that point I'd forgotten why I called in the first place. I suspect I'll try again someday when I'm feeling lucky.

I DID manage to fix my own dryer this week, however. A friend had mentioned at Ben's football game last week that fixing a dryer is easier than you would think. So, on Monday, I busted it open and took a look. It seems the belt had jumped its track, and was not allowing the drum to spin. With Donnas help, I was able to get it back on and put the thing together in an hour and a half. We turned it on, crossed our fingers and viola! It worked like it once did.

I attribute the quick fix to a combination of frustration and a cordless screwdriver. Those things make any job easy and quick. I'm no longer afraid of appliances like I once was. I've now made decent repairs on my stove, dishwasher and dryer. Keepin' my day job, but trying to save a few bucks too.

Tomorrow is my Michael Perry Celebrity Saturday workshop at AllWriters workshop

I'm looking forward to it. It should be a great chance to learn from a memoir master whose style I love. I'm not sure of the format, but was told to bring something to read to the group as well as something to write with/on. Sounds like a good day.

The only drawback to it is I will be missing Ben's football game. They play at noon and this workshop goes from 9-2.

So the Twins are one game from elimination again in the playoffs. Go figure. It must be early October. Just can't seem to get that Yankee monkey off their back.

It has been a week of pristine Indian Summer weather around here. Just Gorgeous. No humidity, low 70's and clear skies. Can't beat it. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

My volunteering at Mosaic is going great too. It really is amazing how God puts you where you belong, especially when you're not sure what you're supposed to be doing. I love working with the middle schoolers. Turns out four of them were in my Boys Club group before this, so there's familiar faces. They're more mature (mostly). It's like Boys Club for grownups. I just hope I can have an impact in some way. As a friend, a listening ear, or a positive influence. Time will tell.

It's nice being able to see Ben during the teaching to see his reactions, yet not have him in small group. It gives both of us our space and yet we're experiencing the same teaching etc. Brandon Brown the pastor is incredible at passing the message to this age group with passion and conviction. Truly a gift. He's teaching me things, and I'm not even a teen. LOL.

Well that's all from the engine room. I'll try and post again with how Michael Perry goes later.

Blogging off...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Microsoft Support - Part Two

So my new 25 digit code came in only 24 hours. I guess a day = five to ten days in India or something. Needless to say I was impressed with the speed that they were able to get it to me.

I would have been really impressed if it actually worked.

When I went to plug in the number, I got the familiar message that the account did not have enough information.

Dial 1-800-Not-XBox

I spent 45 minutes with a nice lady, proceeded to give her all my personal information, much like I did with GFI1 and GFI2. This included at least one iteration of my 25 digit code. After trying my now-changed username and password twice, once from the console and once from the computer, she determined that she needed to "escalate" the issue to her support manager.

Enter guy from India #3.

He proceeds to get some of my vital information, blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol and a few other incidentals, including my 25 digit code.

"Bothersome, Tedious, Grating, 2, 3 dash Dumb, Yapping, Joyless, 7, 3, dash Migraine, Stupid, Flawed, Yapper, 4, dash Futile, Rude, Condescending, 6, 1, dash, Bonehead, Idiot, Demeaning, 5, Gomer."

"Thank you Mr. Landwehr, please hold"

There's Mr. Landwehr again. Who invited him?

And guess what the outcome was? I got a message saying there was not enough information for this account.

His answer was the worst, most lame answer I'd ever gotten from a support person at any level.

"Well, perhaps your user name is locked in our server somehow. Perhaps try it later and it may work."

Seriously. That was his answer.

The kicker is I got a survey today asking how my XBox support "experience" was. A bit like a root canal where the drill bit was left in the socket is how it was. Sandpaper on my nose. A lemon juice eye rinse. A cactus jockstrap. Bamboo ear piercing.

None of them were quite bad enough to encapsulate my feelings, so I gave it to them. We'll see where it goes from here.

Stay tuned. Blogging off...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome to Microsoft Support - Part 1

Well, I've had quite a go-around with the fine folks at Microsoft regarding my son's XBOX repair and XBox Live Account over the past week. It has been extremely frustrating and almost comical at times to the point where I said to myself I HAVE to write about this. It will ultimately be therapeutic, so here goes.

Ben's xbox, which he purchased with his own money was giving him a strange problem. When he started it up every time, he would get a grey filminess to the screen. We determined that to fix it on our good TV, he had to unplug and then re-plug in the yellow video plug. This didn't seem right to me, so I sent the unit back to MS for repair a few weeks ago.

Last week, the unit showed up at our house with a free 30 day trial of XBox Live. This came despite my complaints that we should receive a year free for our trouble, but hey, that's better than nothing. The trial is redeemed in the form of a gift card that has a 25 digit redemption code.

So Ben goes on to try and redeem the code. No Joy. It blocks him from redeeming the code because he needs a parental account. I go on and redeem the code for him only to discover that because I was logged in as the parent account, MY gamer tag/avatar was granted the rights to the 30 day trial. No Joy.

This was not a good moment for Father and Son. Knowing that a call to MS Support was in my future, (and we all love MicroSoft support, right?), I gritted my teeth and dialed them up.

Enter "guy from India #1" or GFA1 as I'll refer to him.

"Hello, thank you for calling XBox Support, may I please have your Last Name, First Name, Address, E-Mail, Social Security Number, Date of Birth, XBox Serial Number, Model Number, Software Version, Firmware version, Warranty date, Gamer Tag ID and password, favorite snack food, Visa Card number, License Plate number, and political affiliation."

It wasn't as bad as all that, but sure came close.

"OK, thank you for all of that information Mr. Landwehr, I hope I can assist you with your problem today. What seems to be the problem?" says GFI1

"I seem to have registered the 30 day gold membership to the wrong account, much to my son's dismay" I say, trying to relay the sense of urgency that I have a very upset 12 year old I'm trying to deal with.

Not sensing the urgency, GFI1 then proceeds to reiterate the problem I just described to him and asks, "Is that a fair description of the problem, Mr. Landwehr?"

Yes, it's pretty much how I just described it to you, I'm thinking as I start to get highly annoyed.

"OK Mr. Landwehr what is the 25 digit code you're truing to redeem?"

I start the long litany of numbers and letters.

"Bravo, Tango, George, 2, 3 dash Delta, Yankee, Justice, 7, 3 dash Michael, Sunshine, Football, Yankee, 4, dash Flipper, Robot, Car, 6, 1, dash Bravo, Ice, Dixie, 5, Golfer." I painfully read to him.

GFI1, then reads them back to me using the correct military terms for all of my letters, which takes another minute of my life away forever.

He then informs me that it may be 24-48 hours before this number can be switched over, which is almost unfathomable to me in this day of modern computing.

Before he can carry this transaction out however he needs to "escalate the problem" to his support manager, who I'll call "guy from india #2" or GFI2.

"Before I transfer you Mr. Landwehr, is there anything else I can do for you today?" GFI1 asks.

Yes, frankly there are a couple of things:

1. Stop calling me Mr. Landwehr, like you care, know or respect me. The fact that you're transferring me proves otherwise.

2. You can fix my problem, like I called you to do.

He doesn't do either of these things, but does carry through on transferring me to GFI2, so I'll give him that much. Not before he annoys me on hold for 2 minutes while I listen to a commercial about the great benefits of an XBox Live subscription, including 24/7 support. The blood begins to boil at this point.

GFI2, starts out by saying "Hello Mr. Landwehr, thank you for being so patient. Before I can process this transaction, I need a little information." He then proceeds to ask for:

My Last Name, First Name, Address, E-Mail, Social Security Number, Date of Birth, XBox Serial Number, Model Number, Software Version, Firmware version, Warranty date, Gamer Tag ID and password, favorite snack food, Visa Card number, License Plate number, and political affiliation.


I ramble painfully through all of it again and he then asks what the 25 digit code was that I was trying to redeem.

I thought I'd given that once already, but I must have been mistaken. It was so long ago, I forget.

This time I'm a bit edgier with my military terms as I read off the 25 digit code:

"Bothersome, Tedious, Grating, 2, 3 dash Dumb, Yapping, Joyless, 7, 3, dash Migraine, Stupid, Flawed, Yapper, 4, dash Futile, Rude, Condescending, 6, 1, dash, Bonehead, Idiot, Demeaning, 5, Gomer."

It wasn't all that bad, but it was certainly what was on my mind.

So he continues to pepper me with questions and calm reassurance that my problem is his biggest concern. He then finishes up with what he called "expectation setting" by telling me that it could take between 5 and 10 days before the transaction could be processed.

"Hey, GFI1 just told me 24 to 48 hours, what's with that?" I thought to myself and politely relayed to GFI2.

"I'm sorry Mr. Landwehr for the mis-information from our previous analyst. It will take 5-10 days for this."

He's calling me Mr. Landwehr again...

"Fine." I answer.

"Before I hang up, is there anything more I can do for you today?" he asks.

No, I'm pretty much fried. I just want a nap.

Check back sometime this week for part 2 to the saga, because reliving this saga has made me so I need a nap.

Blogging off for now...