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Showing posts from 2011

Mountains and Valleys, Version 2011

We got back from our trip to Pigeon Forge, TN yesterday. It was a good trip, albeit a lot of driving. The cabin was nice. It was part of a multi-home development that went up the mountainside. I can't say I agree with the mentality of destroying mountains with this kind of developmental blight, but the view was spectacular.

While we were there, I saw the need for hiking to the top of the mountain. It was a small mountain, but the climb was steep at times. Once I got past the paved section of road, it turned to gravel, so it wasn't that difficult of a climb, just strenuous. It was far from a nature hike in that I passed lots of empty electrical and water utility boxes that were set into the ground as part of future development. It looked to be a case of a development that had either lost its funding in the housing bust, or was just planned for slow development as the money came in.

When I got to the top, I took a few pictures and the bad video you see on this blog. It was a gre…

The Night Before The Night Before

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In my youth, this was not a good night for me. You see, we typically would open all of our gifts on Christmas Eve. Way back when us kids were all quite young, we would pile into the car and trek all the way to White Bear Lake to our aunt Helen's house. Her family and my grandma and grandpa would meet there, have a huge dinner in the basement family room and then, after every dish was done and dry, we would head upstairs to open presents. It was for this reason that I grew into adulthood thinking presents should be passed out and opened on Christmas Eve. I still do.

Because we celebrated on Christmas Eve, I spent most of Dec. 23rd wishing it away. I would watch the hours tick by, not wanting to wait until the next day to open all my gifts. I would work myself up so much that sometimes I would be on the verge of throwing up. Working myself up to the point of being sick. I've always been an internalizer, so this was the perfect storm of worry and anxiety, and excitement and joy.…

The Drumming of my Heart

As my obsession with my own mortality continues to dominate my thoughts, I've become incredibly attuned to commonplace things of beauty on a regular basis. Lately it's been in music.

Take for example Middle Schoolers singing Christmas carols. Last night was a "worship night" at Mosaic's Sunday PM which is the 6-8 grade ministry at church. I lead a small group of about six boys in the sixth grade, but they are part of hundreds of middle-schoolers that attend regularly. Usually our night is divided up into 3 areas; gym time, large group teaching and small groups. Because we're so close to Christmas, they just made last night to be mostly singing and then released to small groups.

There was a single guitarist/vocalist, Jayden Lee (formerly of Sons of Korah) who lead the group of students. Because their voices weren't drowned out by the usual over-accompaniment of drums, bass, etc, the student voices were more audible than usual. The young voices filled the r…

The Spirit of Now and Then

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I'm working on trying to get into the Christmas spirit, whatever that is. We've had our tree up for a couple of weeks and the same goes for the Christmas lights outside. There has been no snow at all around here, so it's looking more like March outside than December. (I'm REALLY okay with that too. Really.)

It seems that you can't force the spirit upon yourself. You can surround yourself with lights and carols and shopping and feasting, but if you're not content, none of that stuff is going to make you happy. You can't buy, eat  or see happiness, it just is. I always think that once the lights and the tree is up, then I'll be "in the spirit" and magically change my attitude, and am always a little shocked when it doesn't happen instantly. For me it's like a slow burn that builds up as Christmas gets nearer. I always manage to hit Christmas Zen, but sometimes it's not until as late as Christmas Eve service, which is fitting anyway,…

A Look Back at the First Fifty

This is likely the last post before I officially become an AARP target. This Sunday I hit 50 and I'm having a little problem with it, frankly. It's not even because I feel old, per se. It's more about what else it means. It means when I read in the paper that someone died at 61, that I'm only 11 years from that. I can remember vividly the surprise party for Donna's father's 50th birthday. Her father. He was old then. That would make me...old, I guess.

A list of things I was glad I did in my first 50 years:

1. Worked and paid my way through my last two years of High School and all of College. (With ZERO debt, mind you.)

2. Lived in a dumpy first apartment. It allowed me to appreciate the nice ones more later.

3. Took a job in mapping for $5.00/hour out of college to gain some valuable experience. If I would have snubbed that job I might never have known the joy I've had working in GIS/Mapping all these years.

4. Moved away from home to take my second job. I …

December Thoughts of a Sagittarian

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December 2011 is upon us. It was unusually mild today with clear skies and little if any wind. November was fairly mild too. There was no snow to speak of in November and no real cold snaps either.

You don't know how happy this makes me.

I am not a big fan of winter. I don't like ice fishing much, and am not really a downhill skier. I cross country ski and when I do, I really enjoy it. At the same time if it meant not skiing all year because there was no snow, I'll take the no snow, every time.

So if you throw in a mild week at the end of November and no snow as of Dec. 1st, well, that makes winter just that much shorter for me. Seriously, I appreciate every mild or snow/rain-less day.

I know, I know, if I don't like winter what am I doing living here? That is the question.

I did get my outdoor Christmas lights on today. I started this task 2 weeks ago but ran into two strings that were defective, so I just quit. Donna picked up a couple of new ones, and so I got them…

Cyber Monday

Had a really good, relaxing trip back to Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Because we left on Wednesday, and I took today off of work, it's been a good recharge of the batteries for me. We had extraordinary weather while we were up there. Thursday and Friday were spectacular; in the high 50's and low 60's both days. I was actually shooting hoops in a t-shirt for an hour and a half on Friday. Unbelievable really. Usually it's snowing and 30 degrees.

I managed to avoid black Friday madness for the 49th year in a row.

We stayed with my sister in-law's family again. She's a great hostess, and our kids get along so well. We call it the Landwehr hotel, and we are grateful she opens her house to us the way she does. My brother wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Looking back on the weekend, I have nothing but good memories to store away from it. We had a family "Amazing Race" game before Thanksgiving which was a blast. We had to find clues around the Shorev…

A Moment of Pause

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving, I wanted to touch on some things I'm thankful for.

1. My Mother. She continues to amaze me with her strength and love in this, the toughest of years.

2. My Wife. She helps to run a tight (but fun) household. I am extremely blessed to have had her for 21 years (and counting).

3. My Sarah. Her academic talents, huge heart and strong faith are dizzying. I love her wit.

4. My Ben. His free spirit, compassion for others and his love of all things social, are my envy.

5. My brother Tom. I credit him with giving me my sense of humor and my love of all things outdoor.

6. My sister Pat. She's always got my back. She defends and supports me with a mother's furor.

7. My sister Jane. Her love of family and her kids is evident every time she opens her home to us.

8. My brother Rob. For teaching me how to live for and love today and quit worrying about tomorrow.

9. My sister in-law Jane. Her strength, perseverance and smile. What a light!

10. …

Writing For My Life

An update on  my writing is in order, as it's been a while. 
I continue to try and blog twice a week or so. This keeps my skills up and forces me to get something down at least twice a week. Without it, I would be left to my writing class only, and I think it's important to keep active in many areas to keep you sharp. Sometimes the blog feels forced and other times it rolls off readily. When it does that, it's almost visceral. I kind of get in a writing zone and things come easily. These are some of my best writings; funny and succinct. Usually they are driven by an event that happened that calls for a humorous post.
I'm still in AllWriters' workshop on Wednesday nights. This has become one of my favorite nights of the week. I get the chance to rub elbows with other writers and just be "cerebral." As I told my wife many years ago when I was taking a continuing education class, it just makes me feel like I'm doing something with my life when I'm in s…

A Slightly Above Average Weekend

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It was a fairly average weekend. At the same time, I'm learning to appreciate average in ways I've never known before.

Friday night I had the house to myself for about 3 hours. Ben had a sleepover and Donna and Sarah had to work. It was a chance for me to write a bit, surf the web, listen to the stereo at my own level and just be alone. I'm one of those people who's very comfortable being alone and tends to want to do too much when it happens. This time I allowed myself to do just enough. It was great. While the alone time was good, it was nice to greet the girls when they got home too. We just had pizza and hung out.

I learned there's peace in being alone, and peace in being together with family.

Saturday morning was filled with the usual busyness. Cutting the grass, cleaning the house, walking the dog. In the afternoon we  all went down to the east side of Milwaukee for Ian' Pizza for a kind of belated birthday lunch for Sarah. I had a slice of Mac n Cheese …

Bio Fueled Squash Mobile

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I just finished making a car out of vegetables with Ben. It was a school project for the STEM academy that he attends. STEM for those who don't know is a charter school that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It is in its second year and all in all, seems to be better than it was its first year. Year one everyone was new to everything, so the communication was bad, the curriculum was confusing and the students were disoriented as to the new expectations.

Year two has seen some improvements in the communication for sure. Ben's teacher from year 1 was an email fanatic. Some days we'd get 3 or 4 emails. I'm all for communication, but my time spent reading email is valuable too. Lets keep it to two, or better yet one. Ben seems to be doing better as well. We've been trying to work with him on remembering homework assignments BEFORE he leaves school. He's doing better than early in the year, so something must be clicking. In fact, he even came do…

Out of the Blue

Got a random phone call yesterday at work from a friend I'd lost touch with for the past 20 years or so. I thought he was a user of our GIS system at work.  He caught me off-guard by saying his name and then saying could you take down this email address and send him mine. When I heard that I realized it wasn't a person from the public, but rather and old friend, I felt embarassed that I didn't catch it earlier. At the same time, what would have prepared me for someone I hadn't heard of for twenty years?

In any case, it was great to hear from him. I'd been thinking about the guys I used to hang with back in the day ever since Rob got sick. I thought I should probably tell them of it, but then thought it might be too weird after such a long time of no contact to pull them into such a grievous situation. Rob actually hung around them a few times after I had moved out of state, so he has seen them more recently than I.

So we caught up on a few things over the phone. It…

Halloween

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Another Halloween is upon us and we whiffed on it. Frankly, I'm alright with all of it. This year we didn't buy so much as a pumpkin. Usually we get pumpkins at the Fall Fest that we spend with friends in early October. Because we missed it this year, we never really got around to getting one at the store. I stopped by the grocery store the other night, but all they had were Charlie Brown pumpkins, so I passed.

Neither of the kids is interested in Trick or Treating this year. Sarah's too old and Ben said none of his friends are interested in it this year, so we're just hanging out at home. It's a bit of a crossroads for us as a family, and thus a bit bittersweet for me. I've never been a big fan of Halloween, but I did enjoy getting together with our friends Patty and Brad to walk with our kids through their neighborhood. It was sort of our tradition, and this year even their kids weren't interested, with the exception of their youngest, who's birthday …

Time is of the Essence

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Had a tough day today with regards to Rob not being with us anymore. It sneaks up on me and overwhelms me when I least expect it. I don't really know how it comes up, but when it does, its not a pretty thing. It does cause me to think pretty deeply about what life is all about, where I'm going and what is important. It may be the only positive thing to come out of the whole momentary deal.

It always dredges up great memories that we shared together, which is a good thing. The down-side to it though is that it sparks me to thinking that we'll never be able to make any new ones. What's done is done. That also is one of the last things he said to me when I was telling him how we'd never have the chance to make new ones as we both reminisced about the past. He said "You can't go back," which is true. I'm not sure that's what I want to do, but my tendency is to color the past better than it was, and in turn, mourn the loss of the good old days. (Th…

Wrong and Right

From where I stand here are ten things that are wrong and ten things that are right with the world today:

Wrong
1. That people waiting in line for anything can't leave their cell phone alone for 5 minutes.
2. Drive through lines at Walgreens to get prescriptions. It's no wonder we're sick. We're too lazy to get out of the car. (Have never used the drive through lines, personally) 3. Penalty challenges in the NFL, College Football and many other sports. Spare me the 5 minute stoppage. 4. Intersection cameras. Two words: Police state. 5. Leaf blowers. Can you get any more annoying and offensive? 6. Vat-o-popcorn at the theatres for, like $11.00. C'mon! 7. Talk radio nut jobs. Left wing/Right wing, all of them. Think for yourself.
8. Any TV over 50 inches. Why?
9. Overblown team introductions for ANY sport. I saw the Buffalo Sabres introducing the assistant Medical Trainer over the PA last weekend for their opener. Glad I saw that.
10. College tuitions. Out of site. Educatio…

Patience in the Tempest

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I spent much of last weekend fishing for musky in the northern reaches of Wisconsin. The weather was, oddly enough, very fall-like. We left from Waukesha on Thursday morning in a steady drizzle and drove for 5 hours in an almost constant rain. My friend who went with admitted he was in a funk and a bit on the cranky side. We got up to Presque Isle about 2:00 and the rain just kept on coming. It rained so hard and long that we didn't even get a chance to fish on Thursday which was part of the reason behind leaving early. We hung out and watched baseball and football that night with the intention of getting a full day of fishing on Friday.

Friday we woke to high 40's and a light rain and winds gusting 20-25 mph. We got our warm clothes on and covered it with our rain gear. We committed to trying one lake and if that was too choppy or slow fishing, we would try another. We stopped in town and got some live bait, sucker minnows that were $7.50 each. (Yikes). These are big fish, i…

Homecoming Revisited (Is that redundant?)

I went to the Waukesha South Homecoming game tonight. It was a 34 - 7 blowout where South was never really in the game. It was much like the other games I went to this year. Tough to watch, over by halftime for the most part. It's not a knock against the football program, but I guess it probably is ultimately.

Going to these games brings back memories of homecoming games when I was a student at Cretin High School. Cretin was much like the Waukesha South team at the time. A not-very-good team in a tough conference. I don't recall seeing them win a game, actually. I would usually go to these games with a few friends, mainly to goof around and flirt. (Which is pretty much what my daughter does at them too, so some things never change.) I'd watch the games of course, but they were always such blowouts that I'd lose interest and end up goofing off...and flirting.

It's kind of ironic because now Cretin has a good team that is consistently in the State Championship game t…

Mid-life Monday

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Had a bit of a mid-life moment today. I was riding home on my bike, like I did last week, and the month before that, and the year before that and the job before that, thinking I've been here before.

No, no that wasn't it. It was the thought that my life has become as predictable and as boring as the morning paper. Yeah, that was more what it was. That was it.

There is a rut in the road from my doorstep to my workplace that my bike tires have worn. I knew exactly what my evening would bring even as far as writing this blog. I knew it would be an evening of a bike ride, a bit of the evening paper and a walk of the dog. Then I'd pick Ben up from practice, eat some dinner, watch 12 minutes of the football game, feel the guilt that I wasn't writing, start writing and go to bed at 10:00.

Tomorrow will be strikingly similar. Strikingly.

What I really want to do tomorrow is Para sail. Or get kicked by a kangaroo in the outback of Australia. Or eat a chocolate covered insect i…

Momentary Sports Mecca

It's a good time of year to be a Wisconsin sports fan. I'll admit I am pretty much a one trick pony when it comes to sports. I LOVE NFL football, but don't have a ton of time for the rest of sports. I'll watch the standings for all teams from WI and MN, but really other than pro football, I don't really care who does what. When the baseball playoffs start if the Twins or Brewers happen to be in them, I'll start watching, but don't really watch much more than the standings during the year. That probably qualifies me as a fair weather baseball fan, but you know what? There's only so many hours in a week. I feel guilty enough watching two Sunday games and a Monday Night game.

Basketball is even worse. Any game where they score points every minute just don't do anything for me. If I watch a game, it's only the last few minutes of one, because why watch the first 100 points? Again, fair weather? Probably, and I'm OK with that.

Now, I do enjoy th…

The University of Traffic

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This is a post in the hopes that the Dean of Carroll University does a Google search on his own school and this blog comes up as one of the top 3 hits.

I have always loved living near Carroll University. I loved it even more though when it was Carroll College and it was a smaller, quaint college tucked inside the center of Waukesha. What has happened is they have grown the college by leaps and bounds. They are building apartment/dorms exponentially and filling them.

Now I'm all for free enterprise and growth. I guess bringing in people to spend money in the city is a good thing. They will eat at our restaurants, buy our groceries (and beer), and shop at our stores.

That said, much comes along with the growth. First and most obvious to me is the traffic. Foot traffic, auto traffic, bikes and scooters. They cross the road wherever is convenient for them and I've almost hit a couple on my bike. It's perilous at 7:30 in the morning and continues throughout the day. Added to t…

You Took

Below is the poem I wrote for my brother's funeral. It speaks of Rob's overcoming adversities as well as God's righteous plan, albeit mysterious at times.  I miss him unbelievably, but realize we'll be reunited one day.



You Took                                  By Jim Landwehr

You took away his hearing,

So that he might become a friend
to those You also chose for deafness.

So that he might better appreciate
the touch of his loving wife and beautiful daughters

You took away his hearing, Lord
but he listened to You still.

You took away his sister,

So that he might be a blessing
to his brothers and sisters remaining.

So that You could show him the love
of stepbrothers and sisters that he might never have known.

You took away his sister, Lord
but he trusted you still.

You took away his Father,

So that he could be a better father
to his own daughters

So that he might more completely love
his Mother, whose love never ceased.

You took away his Father, Lord
but he loved his Father in heaven stil…

Musky Men

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While we were up in Mercer, WI a couple of weeks back, I had set a goal to catch a musky with some of the equipment Rob gave me the last time I saw him. He gave me his musky rod and lures because he knew I would use them. It meant more to me than most of my possessions. It's weird how sentimental you can get about such things, but when someone very close to you passes away, you kind of grab on to what you can of them in a desperate attempt to heal some of the pain. To some it's jewelry, some a car, and some it's fishing stuff. My friend Steve got his brother's golf clubs and he treasures those.

Mercer is where my brothers Paul and Rob both caught their muskies. Paul caught his first when one year he decided to try fishing for musky - a very difficult fish to catch - after having such crappy luck fishing for anything else on Spider Lake. We wished him luck as he headed out with his rod and a very large lure. Turns out he caught one on his first cast, a feat that is nea…

Coming Up for Air

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It has been a brutal couple of weeks. As most of you know, my brother passed away on Tuesday, August 30th after a long, courageous battle with cancer. Much has transpired since then, too much to list here. I do want to talk a bit about our trip to Mercer, WI two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, when my family gathered at my brother's house to support each other, the idea was postulated that maybe it would be a good thing if they all went up to Mercer to be with us and heal as a family. When we got word that that was going to happen, we were very excited. Because of Rob's quick passing, I never got the chance to get home and be with my family during their grieving. This would give them the opportunity to come to me, in some respects.

We drove up on Friday after work with our friends Jill and Steve who had planned to come with us all along. They were fairly trepidatious about the thought of being caught in the middle of our family's mourning. We assured them that we wanted them there…

Summer's Looner Eclipse

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This time of year always reminds me of the summer's-end vacations. Those vacations squeezed between summer vacation and school, or between summer and fall.

Long ago it was when the brothers and I would typically take our Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip every year. We would usually drive up Labor Day and spend most of the week in the BW. We loved that time of year because it wasn't too hot, and the bugs were almost a non-factor. The nights got a little cool, but nothing unbearable and the days were usually in the low 70's and not too humid. The fishing was slightly better than in the heat of summer, but really you needed to wait a week or two later to get the good action, at least I'm told that.

The other vacation that we took this time of year was usually a trip to the cabin in Mercer, WI which I never knew until just now, is the Loon Capital of the world, whatever that means. I mean who's to say it's the Loon Capital other than the Mercer Chamber of Commerce?…

Where Are They Now?

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I was thinking about old Viking football players today, for no good reason. As I ran through the names, I began to wonder where they are now. Where do football players end up after their gridiron careers are over? I'll cover a short history of a few of my boyhood heroes.

Carl Eller was one of the original purple people eaters and one of my biggest heroes. He had his share of battles with substance abuse after his career and is now trying to sue the league for it's unfair medical and compensation  of retired players. He still makes an appearance at old-timer homecoming games.

Alan Page, another PPE original has had a very successful career as a Judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court. My mom once saw him on an elevator and thought to herself, I know a boy who used to idolize you. (That would be me.) He doesn't like talking about his playing days much. He'd rather talk about what he's doing right now. A great man.

Jim Marshall was another PPE who, sadly, announced he is …

The Party of the Third Part...

It has been a weekend of parties for me.

Last night we started with a going-away party for our friends from church. They are moving to the Albany, NY area as the result of a job move. This family has grown closer to us over the years and so the fact that they're not going to be part of our lives anymore kind of hurts. Their son went on the Dominican Republic trip with Sarah. Donna has become fairly close to Jana, so they'll miss each other greatly.

They both have been faithful servants in the church, in the student ministry, women's ministries and others. They were the family that loaned us their truck when Donna was home alone and the serpentine belt fell off the van. It was never a question for them and they were quick to offer. That's what church people do, and that's what family does.

The second party was a couple of hours later in Bayview. It was hosted by our oldest Wisconsin friends, Jill and Steve. We've been friends with them since about 1990 when Donn…

The Small World of Minnesota

I am writing this on my new laptop which I picked up from a UPS Customer Center. I mention it only because of the strange, albeit cool encounter I had with the staff.

I walk in wearing my Twins shirt that Rob had given me a few months ago. Now I get more people connecting as Twins fans than I ever thought I would. I don't watch many games, but I follow them in the newspaper pretty close.

So this UPS driver says "Hey, a fellow Twins fan!" and comes up and shakes my hand. We talk a little baseball and I find out he was born and raised in MN. When he asked where I was visiting last weekend I said Shoreview.

"That's where I grew up!" he said.

Well it turns out that I ended up talking to him and the woman behind the counter for about 10 minutes. I told them about Rob's situation and many of the events around it. The guy and the woman were seriously distraught and compassionate about the story. He said it sounded like I had a really cool, close family.(See ye…

Family Strength

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It was a good weekend to be a Landwehr.

We went to St. Paul this weekend to help Rob and his family with some painting/staining projects and got more than we gave, as usual. By this I mean that we were so uplifted by the love and support and joy of our family that what we came to do, paint a fence, actually became a side project to the bigger one of connecting with family.

It started with stopping by Mom's place where we had an hour and a half chat with her and my sister Pat. It was great to see Pat again and catch up with all that they were doing.

We moved on to Rob and Jane's next where the cousins immediately reconnected and went off to their lair in the basement. They are such good friends and enjoy each other's company so much. It helps us adults have time to catch up on all that's new with us.

Donna and I treated Nick and Janet to dinner at Senor Wong's in downtown St. Paul. It is an eclectic blend of Mexican/Asian food (hence the name) owned by a friend of …

Back in the Saddle

I started back at my writing class last night. It was good to be back around heady writing types again. We're a motley bunch, but we all understand each other. We encourage each other, point out our redundancies, point out our redundancies, give each other hints and point out our redundancies. It is a great climate to work in. No one is overly critical in part because Kathie won't have it. She said we need to be critical, without tearing down. No one benefits when a person gets insulted to the point where they question their ability.

We've got a little of everything in the class. Memoir, poetry, and lots of fiction. It is fascinating to follow the stories from week to week and see how they develop. It's a bit like I'm reading 10 books every week. (Or a chapter for 10 different books each week.) We listen as characters get killed, experience death and divorce, morph into zombies, grow old or die young.

While we work hard, we have a lot of fun in class too. The conve…

Saturday Searching

Today was a good day.

Today was also an emotionally hard day.

It was filled with good stuff. Coffee with a new friend. The farmer's market for a loaf of good bread. Football equipment hand-out for my 13 year old son. A little house cleaning. A bit of editing. A long bike ride. Saturday service at church. Brennans for some goodies with Donna and Ben. A beautiful evening walk with my iPod and my dog. A dinner with the good bread from the market.

And yet there was this cloak of sorrow that prohibited it from being all it could be. It could have been a completely satisfying and perfect day.

Only it wasn't.

It was almost perfect.

People have told me there would be days like this. Days where you try to run from the pain and sadness, but you can't seem to outrun it. You try and keep real busy thinking life is all normal.

And it's not.

A thought comes along and there I go, wailing like an Iraqi.

A song plays on the iPod and there I go again.

Today the sight of a tree made me c…