Posts

Showing posts from 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 d…

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 …

Whew!

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 yest…

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.…

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...

Things

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.…

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-u…

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 ar…

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 4 GB RAM 2.3 GHz Intel Processor - Dual Core 6 C…

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…

Turkeys, Harleys and a Pinata Flogging

Image
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 …

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 gamesIn-laws bringing truffles from New YorkA warm house, full of food for the holidaysMy Faith. It's the foundation of who I amA wife who loves me unconditionallyTwo great kids that understand right from wrong, good from badTwo cats and a dog. Dog has bad hair, but we love him stillA city with great services (to go with its high taxes)A great job with good peopleA working laptopA family in Minnesota that supports each otherA mom who is the greatestGood healthGood friends (esp. Steve, Brad, and Pat)A gift for writing and the privilege of being publishedFreedom of religionWhat are you thankful for this year?

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…

Life is "Bittersweet"

Image
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…

The Good Life

Image
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 p…

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 i…

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 mutteri…

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 wo…

A Big Fat Map Sandwich

Just returned from another successful EWUG conference in Middleton, WI (www.ewug.org). 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…

Happy Halloween

Image
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 snugg…

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 wa…

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? …

Hunting Memories

Image
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 …

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 lon…

Musky Fest

Image
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 d…

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…

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

Image
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 allow…

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 Migr…

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…