Thursday, September 23, 2010

Flash Update (No, not Flash Player)

The week is as crazy as I feared. I made it down to Sarah's game tonight. They played well, but lost two out of three. I was one of the few parents who made the trip. It was a bit ridiculous to drive all that way down for an hour, but I think Sarah appreciated it. I really enjoy watching the games though, in part because I love playing the game.

Mosaic leadership went OK on Tuesday night. It turns out my group had only 3 kids in it and two of them were from my old boys club group. They are good kids and I'm glad I listened to my heart and went and did it. It's really where I belong and it just felt extremely right. Funny how God works sometimes.

Writing workshop went well too. Got to hear from one of the new students who's writing Young Adult fiction. She's writing about kids entering into a closet fantasy world. I put forth three poems, two of which were crap, or so I thought. The class thought they were OK. The one I thought was the best was received as just OK. That'll learn me to keep my expectations low I guess. ;-)

Otherwise, same old stuff. Weird weather this week. 86 degrees today at 6:30. Kind of nice this late in the year.

The rest of the weekend is jam packed. I don't even want to talk about it. It'll all be good, I just don't know when I'm going to fit my writing for the week in. Maybe I'll print out my blog and bring it in.

I've been lusting after Dell laptops at the Dell Outlet site: http://www.dell.com/us/en/dfh/notebooks/ct.aspx?refid=notebooks&s=dfh&cs=22

As I see it the $ I earned from my article to BWJ, I am going to put toward a new, fully functional Windows 7 Dell laptop that has a battery with more than 30 minutes to it, and four gigabytes of RAM. I was a bit like a guy in a new car shop. "Oooohhhh, shiny!" These old XP laptops are great, but they've kind of whet my appetite for something better, so I think in the next few months I'll pop and get one.

I have my annual physical exam tomorrow. It's been over two years since I've gone, and I get Health Advancement Program points for going, so I thought I'd get it done. I can pull out my list of owies and rattle them off to the Doc. The good news is that I have no recurring issues with my back, so I can't complain.

And given that Ben spent time after school playing with a friend from his school who had a brain tumor removed 6 months ago and is still not doing well, well, lets just say that puts my elbow tendonitis in perspective.

We ALL (this means you) need to realize EVERY DAY how precious life is. Take joy in your good health. Relish time with your family (as they are growing up/old fast). Take care of yourself. Say you're sorry. Forgive, forget, live, dance, sing, play, run, and get 8 hours sleep. That's all you need to do, and you heard it here first. No extra charge today, because I'm blogging off...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Giving God a Buck

I've volunteered to help out with Elmbrook's Middle School Mosaic Ministry http://www.elmbrook.org/students/middle-school.aspx on Tuesday evenings. They were desperate for leaders, and well I fit the bill for desperation, I guess. I had kind of resolved to quit leading after Boys Club last year, but was floundering a bit with not feeling right not doing anything. I was being incredibly selfish and self-righteous about "having served for four years" in Boys Club. "Look what I've done. Aren't I a good person?" All the while, feeling a restlessness with having both my kids and my wife still involved in some form of ministry.

And so it hit me last week Thursday. I was feeling especially dumpy about the whole thing on my bike on the way to work. About a third of the way to work, I get a fairly clear signal from God, or the Holy Spirit or whatever that I NEED to do something. It was a bit like Jesus was on the handlebars or something. Back when I was a kid, we used to call giving someone a ride on the handlebars, or the seat, or in extreme cases on the luggage rack, a "buck".

"Give me a buck to the store?" someone would ask.

"Sure, seat or handlebars?"

Handlebars were always the preference of the driver because that would assure him/her of getting the seat to themselves. I can tell you the handlebars are the less preferred by the rider for sure. You talk about a perilous seat. If you fall forward, you get "tired". Backward and you lands on the bar of the bike. Neither has a very happy ending.

So there I was, giving Jesus a buck on the handlebars, or so it seemed. How else would it have been that clear to me? I think he was gracious enough to get off and walk up Barstow Hill. :-)

Anyhow, so I get to work and Donna had e-mailed me that Brandon the Middle School pastor was looking for leaders. Well, if the combination of the two situations in the morning wasn't enough for me to find clarity as to what I should do, nothing would.

I e-mailed Brandon that day, he called me back today, and I start tomorrow night. My only reservation about leading is that I would prefer not to lead Ben's group. This is because I led his group for four years, and I think he might be more inclined to open up and/or grow in his faith if it's coming from someone else for the next few years. It's not that I don't like being around him, I just think he needs some autonomy without my oversight.

This week will be crazy. We've got something going every night from tomorrow through Sunday. Some people love that kind of schedule. Me, not really. I need some down time, much like my kids do. We all operate best on 3 days a week of social anything. The rest of the time we want/need/love to be at home together as a family. (Ben is the lone exception to this. He's more like a 5 day social being.

That's about all that I have in me for a Monday. If I get a second to myself the rest of the week, I'll try and post a "Hey". Until then I'll be blogging off...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Without Blemish



Spent the early afternoon at Ben's football game. It was a marquee matchup featureing the Waukesha South Jr Blackshirts vs. the Waukesha West Jr. Wolverines. This is a great rivalry for this area. At at the High School level it is a lopsided one, in favor of West.

Evidently last year West beat South in the (then) 5th grade game "by cheating" in some form, according to Coach. So, he was out for revenge in a big way. He motivated his players by saying he wanted the 'shirts to "smash West in the mouth". My first reaction was that seemed a bit violent for the sixth grade level. Then I remembered that football is a violent game of brute strength. It is smash, or be smashed. Frankly I would prefer my son is on the smasher end, not the smashee. Turns out, it was good advice after all.

So the Blackshirts got the opening Kickoff and went right down the field and scored. Then they kicked off and I got to see Ben "clean up" on the tackle. I count it as a 1/2 tackle, but hey, I'll take it.

South went on to shut them out 32-0, which was sweet! In three games, they are now 3-0, and have not let the opponents score. Their 3 games were scored:

42-0 (vs. North)
6-0 (vs Catholic Memorial)
32-0 (vs West)

Not too bad for a team I didn't have much faith in. (South's varsity program has a long history of losing, so to see ANY south team win is a bit of a surprise.)

Ben seemed to enjoy this game more, mostly because he got some more playing time. It helps that every other series, South was kicking off, so he got on the field a lot that way. He also played some as receiver.

Sarah, Ben and I went to the South varsity game last night and saw them get whipped 42-26. It is good fun to go with the kids and pay $5 to yell at the refs. (Only kidding). It's cheap entertainment though. What I realized yesterday as I was watching a team that I have no special connection too, yet found myself screaming and cheering for, is that I just LOVE the game of football. I love the mechanics, the strategy and the battle of it all. It doesn't matter too much who's playing, I'll usually pick a team and pull for them based on my gut.

Speaking of strategy, Milwaukee Pius who played South last night had a "trick play" where the lineman put their hands on their knees when the QB said "Down". Then when he said "Set", they all stood up and turned at the same time. This caused the defense to jump offsides. In the first series, they did it four times and South jumped offsides 3 out of the 4. All of this was after they started the game by trying an "onside kick" (unsuccessfully), another trick play. Then, they tried it another 4 or 5 times throughout the game, with diminishing success each time.

Now here's my take on it. I'm not opposed to "trick plays". They add spice to the game. They can break a game open, and serve to keep the opponents on their toes. But when it becomes a major part of your team's game plan, I start to LOATHE them. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Start trying to fool me every 6th play and you need to grow a pair. Only sissies rely on repeated trickery. Play the game, you weasels. If you can't beat us using finesse and brute force, then take up chess or something. Argh it was annoying. Bunch of pansies.

Sorry, did I say all of that out loud?

There is nothing like a New Glarus (Octoberfest) Staghorn beer on a 64 degree fall early evening, with apple pie/applesauce aroma permeating the house. Every season has it's great qualities. The crisp fall air and the renewed energy it provides (after the stagnant heat of summer) is really a welcome change. Until about November that is when it gets not cool, but COLD.

We downgraded our TV package last week to the "Family Package" from the U200 package of Uverse. U200 got us about 200 channels, and the Family puts us to about 70, which is about 30 more than we want, and 60 more than we need. We really need local channels, for football, news and American Idol. After that all we really need is:

Food Network
Discovery
TLC
ESPN (One we Don't get with Family :-( )
Bravo

And not much else. We're not a big TV family. There are so many other uses for one's time...

I got a nice note from Verse Wisconsin regarding one of my poems. They said they forwarded it and a few others on to Peninsula Pulse as an example of what is in VW, and so it may show up there too http://www.ppulse.com/ Not a big deal, but I'll keep my eye on that site nonetheless.

Next week should be a bit crazy. Sarah has a game on Tues, Thurs, and then Sat. is a tournament. Saturday Ben also has a game and that night is our favorite holiday of the year "FallFest" up by Holy Hill. It should be jam packed fun all week. Hopefully I'll get a post in somewhere along the way and let you know how it's going.

So for now I'd better go. I'll be blogging off...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Naked Lunch On the Road In Watermelon Sugar

One of the best periods of literary discovery for me was in the early 1990's when I was introduced to the Beat Writers of the 50's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_Generation. It was here that I first read Brautigan, Kerouac and Burroughs. It was such a diversion from any other kinds of writing that I had seen. Incredibly refreshing and different. Very unconventional as well. It led to reading Hunter S. Thompson who, albeit over the top at times (one would say, most times), was my first foray into Gonzo Journalism.

I remember distinctly in Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America where he describes a trout stream and uses phone booths as units of measure. Wild, crazy, fun, beautiful stuff. I intend to get back into some of those old books, prose pieces and poetry, as they are incredibly inspiring for me.

Granted most of them were drug addicts, alcoholics, and depressives, but in part that's what fueled their creativity. There's something to be said to living hard, expressing yourself the way they did and then going out in a fiery crash. Beats the safe, "civilized" monotonous lives that some of us live.

Anyhow, the whole beat poet thing inspired me to write the poem below. Good bad or otherwise, here it is in it's raw, unedited form.

Brautigan’s Cubicle


If Richard Brautigan had done all of his writing

from inside fabric-covered cubicle walls,

how different it might have been.

In Watermelon Sugar might have read

like a battery charger user manual,

or the back of a ketchup bottle.

Trout Fishing in America

like a home therapy remedy for rickets,

or the possible side effects for Cialis.

Willard and His Bowling Trophies

might have been sketched out on Post-Its,

and accidentally tossed away by the cleaning staff.

Revenge of the Lawn

may have been about fertilizer application,

and its effect on water quality.

He might never have written past 4:30 PM

or drank port wine on the job,

and his life, not his death, would have been the real tragedy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dude, Where's my Saturday?

Yesterday was a bit of a lost day. As it worked out, Sarah had a volleyball tournament that ran from 9:00 until 4:00 PM. Donna took that duty as I had to stay back and go to Ben's football game at Catholic Memorial at Noon. Ah, the joys of a being a two fall sport family.

As I was sitting at Ben's game, another parent asked me where Donna was. When I told them she was at an all-day tournament, they just kind of said, "Well, you got the better end of that deal, eh?" I had to agree. Though it was killing me not to be able to get to BOTH events. I really WANT to be there to support Sarah in her volleyball. Based on Donna's perception though, there weren't many parents that stayed for the entire tournament. I think we should be happy that both of the kids' events were covered by at least one parent.

Turns out the Waukesha South Freshmen Volleyball team didn't win any of the games yesterday. The only benefit of that was being able to leave after only 7 hours of action. Donna said they were a bit flat at times and need to work better as a team.

I was so proud this week when Donna showed me a sheet saying Sarah was one of the captains of the team. When I mentioned it to Sarah, she said "Yeah, captain for this WEEK." I guess they all get a turn at being captain and her turn was up. Then she got all cynical on me and said that being captain means you're in charge of setting up and taking down the nets and calling the coin flip at the start. Sounds like a chump assignment if you ask me. And why can't they just assign captains to the two best girls (or best leaders)? Are we that afraid of hurting feelings in this PC era, that we can't just call out a couple leaders?

Ben's 6th grade football team had a bit more success. They won 6-0 over the Catholic Memorial Crusaders. They scored their only touchdown on a 50 yard interception for a score. CMH actually had the ball as far down as the 14 at one point, but South held. So they're 2-0 and feeling pretty good about themselves. We'll see how they do next week versus a very good Waukehsa West squad.

Ben was upset that he didn't play more. It didn't help his case when on the first play they sent him in for right before the end of the half he didn't get set in time and was called for an illegal procedure penalty. In his defense, the receivers coach didn't send him in until the last second, and then it was sketchy which play was going to be called. Nonetheless, he needs to be cognizant of the urgency and get set.

It was not entirely his fault, but I think coach held him out for all but two other plays and kickoff duty. No one likes standing on the sidelines that much, so I don't blame him. I DID need to remind him to relish in the victory a bit. (He couldn't because he "didn't help them win") I said you blocked good on the two plays you were in, so you helped. Well, he didn't want to hear that either. Sigh...

Well, today is a glorious day outside, and the opening of football season, so I'm going to DVR the Packer game and take the dog to the dog park now so he can run his energy off.

Go Jr. Blackshirts! Go Blackshirts! Go Packers!

Blogging off...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Volleying for Answers

Things I don't understand about the few weeks worth of High School Freshman Volleyball that I've seen, including tonights match against Milwaukee Pius. (South lost 0-3)

  1. What is a Libero, and what is it used for?
  2. Is it 3 games to a match, or 3 sets to a game. I also heard it may be 3 games to an "event".
  3. What is with the hip-hop music before the varsity games and is it really necessary?
  4. Since when can you get a point if you're not serving? Now every play results in a point for either one team or another.
  5. Why can't they put the manual scoreboard in a better spot so fans can see it?
  6. We almost got charged $13 admission for the three of us to see Sarah play. Can't you cut a deal for the freshmen? (We got off with a $5 charge because the lady was nice and it was all the cash we had on us.)
These are the things that remind me that I'm not getting any younger. I'm what you call old school I guess. So old, that I'm blogging off...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Great Minnesota Get Together



Just got back from a weekend in Minnesota for Labor Day. We drove up on Saturday and spent a couple days with the family. It was a fast and furious weekend, jam-packed with activity. We wouldn't spend vacation any other way now, would we?

We stayed at Rob and Jane's house for the weekend. Always gracious hosts, their accommodations are perfect for us. The kids play together great and we hardly know they're there. The kids have a blast with their cousins and every time we go we're sure they're creating lifelong memories. We never had this kind of relationship with our cousins in St. Cloud, MN, but did alright with our cousins in White Bear Lake, MN. Our kids are totally comfortable with their cousins in Minnesota and NY.

It was fantastic to see Rob up and around again! He looks good, albeit a bit frail and thin, but his spirits seem high and he seems to be determined to get back to normal as quickly as possible. At one point yesterday, he showed us his CT Scan X-Ray images and it was fascinating. We saw the two 12" rods and 13 screws he has in his spine, as well as the mesh cage where his vertebrae were. My brother Paul calls him "Iron Man" jokingly, but it's really not too far from the truth.

While he has a long road ahead of him, he appears to be on track for recovery. I continue to be humbled by his condition and pray for his marriage and his healthy recovery. This whole ordeal must be taking a huge toll on the family and Jane is to be commended for carrying all the extra burden. She's a pillar!

Saturday night we spent at sister Jane's place. She was having a BBQ for the family, including Nick, who was on military leave from the Air Force. The whole family was there, with the exception of Paul and Pat. It was a great time, with lots of laughs and catching up with people. Nick harassed me about Brett Favre and probably will continue to do so for a while. (We'll see how the division shapes up. LOL)

Sunday we spent at the Minnesota State Fair http://www.mnstatefair.org/ It was the first time in 14 years for Donna and I. It still stands as one of the best fairs in the nation and now I know why. It is huge and has everything you'd want in a fair on a mega-scale. Things not to miss at the Minnesota State Fair include:

  • Pronto Pups (Corn Dogs with a twist)
  • Malts and shakes at the Dairy Building
  • Tom Thumb or Tiny Tim donuts (Ate almost a whole bag myself)
  • All you can drink cup of milk for $1.00 (Chocolate or white)
  • Deep Fried Candy Bars (Sarah had two)
  • Deep Fried Cheese Curds (Heart attack and death is almost worth it)
  • Pork Chops on a stick (Didn't get to this, but they're awesome.)
It was a long day at the big show along with 229,000 other people. I can't say I'll wait another 14 years to return, but if I do, I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

All in all, the family is doing well. It is great to have family that still longs to get together and appreciates each other when they do. I am blessed. I am also blogging off...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Life on the Sidelines


Sarah had her first couple volleyball games this past week. On Tuesday she played against Waukesha West. While they lost all three matches, I was so incredibly proud to see her out there in uniform I almost cried. She is so tall, that I think this is the perfect sport for her.

She played in the first game (therefore, I can say she "started") and did OK. A couple of legitimate gaffes (foot faults, muffed serves, etc) but had some shining moments too. They lost the first game 25-15, second was 25-19 and the third was 15-12 (called on time). The two teams are cross-town rivals and don't like each other very much. The kicker was we had to stay and watch the Varsity play 2 of their 3 games after that. Of course, they didn't play RIGHT after Sarah's match either, there was a 30 minute difference. So, we did not get home until about 8:30.

To follow it up, last night she had to play in a 5 team invitational at South. It started at 5:00 and did not get finished until 8:30. With cleanup, etc., Donna did not get home until 9:00. (I was at writing workshop).

They went 3-5 on the night in matches for Sarah's team. I got to see her win her first game, so that was cool. She is clearly one of the top six players on the team at the moment. I really think that if she decided to apply herself to this sport, she could do quite well. I hope and pray she does, but we'll have to see how this year goes.

I don't know how multi-sport families do it from season to season though. Between volleyball and football, the van is always going to or from Waukesha South, it seems. I LOVE the fact that my kids are involved in sports at this level, but it is a huge commitment for the whole family. I probably will be very happy when mid-October arrives however...

Class last night was good too. We have a new woman, Stacy in it, though she didn't get a chance to read her stuff, so I'm not sure what she's writing. Looked like fiction to me.

I got some discouraging words from the instructor on how we'd need to "beef up" my page count by, oh, a hundred pages or so if I want to try and publish it via conventional methods. That may have a huge bearing on whether or not I go that route. I'm going to focus on re-writing what I have and trying to make it fuller. (is that a word?)

Well, I have to go and get some writing done, so I'll blog off for now...