Monday, January 31, 2011

The Night Before the Storm

Awaiting the onslaught of snow they're calling for tomorrow and Wed. It's actually snowing now, as we're supposed to get 2-4 tonight, then 10-15 additional tomorrow night. We'll see. It could blow south and be a big nothing. Or, I could be optimistic and it could really stink.

Whatever the case, I'm prepared. The blower is gassed up and ready to kick butt. Doesn't make me like it anymore, but maybe it'll get me out XC skiing for the first time this weekend.

I know one thing, if I don't feel better by this weekend, I sure as heck won't be skiing. Why do that to myself? I'm already driving to work, because walking sounds like so much pain. I can't shake the congested head and cough, chills and aches. It sucks.

In fact, just talking about it is making me want to go crawl into bed, which is what I think I'll do. I hope to be back to full strength soon with some longer posts, but we'll see how this crud manifests itself next. Right now I've had it, and I'm...

Blogging off.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Woodland Pattern Poetry Marathon, 2011 - Review

The 2011 Woodland Pattern Poetry Marathon was a great time. I got through 5 poems and they came off without a hitch. From all I could tell were well received. There were about 30 people in the audience I would guess. The other presenters from AllWriters were Kathie Giorgio, and Alita Baker, and Marsha Roberts. Kathy Bram unfortunately wasn't given a chance to read. They all did great and it was nice to have some supporters in the audience. A hearty thank you to AllWriters Workplace and Workshop for sponsoring the hour we had.

The rest of what I saw varied in quality from brilliant and entertaining to boring and unintelligible. A great variety. If I had felt better I would have stuck around longer. Perhaps next year. The most entertaining presenter I saw was Author Paul McComas. He sang a song from a father's perspective about dating his daughter that was hilarious. Very entertaining. The other memorable ones outside of the AllWriters group were James Roberts and his piece on the Rainbow girl, and Charlesetta Thompson and her poem about Africa.

As with any poetry readings, there were some clunkers as well. Either too far out, esoteric or sublime to keep my attention, or just badly presented. The beauty of this event is that if you've got a clunker of a poem, at least you've got another 3 or 4 chances to redeem yourself. It's hard to bomb 4 or 5 in a row. Not impossible, just less likely.

I'm still trying to figure out my place in the world of poetry. I thoroughly enjoy it; talking about it, writing it, presenting it. At the same time, I view poets at a creative level different from me. They are the free spirits who are supposed to dance to the music in their heads regardless of who's looking. They dress funny, sometimes talk funny and can be kind of spacey. I guess I'm generalizing, but that was my perception coming in. It's changing, but I still have a ways to go before I determine where I fit.

All in all, it was a great event; a fundraiser for a great cause. Look for my mugshot on their website in the near future. I'd do it again in a minute. And you should too.

Blogging off...

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Near-Death Experience

I seem to be on the up-and-up after a 3 day battle with the flu. I'm nowhere near 100%, but am well enough to stay awake for more than two hours at a crack. I swear I have bed sores. It was horrible. I daresay the worst bout of flu I've ever had (have). Everything hurt. My eyes, my stomach, my head, my nose. Accompany all of this with a lung searing cough, and a ceaselessly runny nose, and you have a recipe for misery. Heck, I was even getting charlie horses in my calves for some reason. I'm guessing it was because I was in bed so much and not walking around.

Oh it was (is) horrible. Ben still has it pretty bad though is at least able to stay awake a bit more today. That's ALL you want to do is sleep. Sleep until one or the other of your arms is numb from laying on it. No motivation to eat, watch TV, read or anything else. Those things I resorted to only out of complete, absolute boredom.

My wife is a saint for having put up with us, as we were a motley couple of sickos. Tissues, water glasses and cough drops everywhere. It was disgusting, but we couldn't help it. There haven't been many instances in my life where death seemed appealing, but this actually made the idea kind of entertaining. Man, it was wicked. My eyes would spontaneously start watering for no good reason. They felt like they were enlarged, too big for their sockets, and it hurt to look around. Sarah even said, "Dad, your eyes look terrible."

Thanks for noticing.

Sarah has been exempt from getting it so far. Donna has a weakened strain of it. (Cough and some stomach pain.) In any case, her compassion quotient ran out about 8:00 last night when Ben and I went to bed. She doesn't get this sick and I'm not sure why. Someone told me that men are more susceptible to viruses than women, who are more susceptible to thing like MS.

Whatever the case, she was fairly patient with us, considering our pathetic state. She did put us in the same bed for the past two nights so we wouldn't pass our germs to anyone but each other. It was funny, but at one point two nights ago, we both woke up at 4:15 and were passing each other Kleenex and water, and coughing our lungs out. God it was horrible.

At one point Donna said she was just going to drag our mattress out to the front terrace. It was sick bay #1 in that bedroom.

To further make the issue miserable, because I was sleeping so much, I managed to get a wicked knot in my left shoulder to the point that between that and my tendinitis (in my left elbow), it was difficult to lay on my left side. I don't sleep well on my back, so that leaves my right side only. Did I mention it was horrible.

The only upside to how rotten I felt (feel) is that when I start to feel better, you appreciate EVERYTHING more. Getting an appetite back is a beautiful thing. Not having to worry about where the Kleenex box is is wonderful. Little things that add up to big things.

The other thing I've learned through it is that we should never take good health for granted. I was just thinking the other day how lucky we've had it this winter with regards to illness around this house. Then, this happens. If you've got your health, even with life's little aches and pains, you've got everything. An event like this makes me respect much more the idea that the flu can kill people. It takes away every motivation to care for yourself and I could see if you were elderly, it might just be all that's needed to push them over the edge.

I don't know how you feel about flu shots, but I'm looking at them with a new found respect. Call it a racket, but if I could have bought relief from this bug for $25, I would have gladly paid that and more. The say well, sometimes they give out a different strain than the one that goes around, to which I say, at least it's one less I'll get. Sign me up man, cuz I've been there

Also wanted to put in a quick plug for my reading at the Woodland Pattern Poetry Marathon tomorrow. It's a fundraiser for the bookstore and our AllWriters group has the 11:00-12:00 slot, which should put my reading at about 11:45. I've got 6 poems I'm reading including:

Brautigan's Cubicle
Pop and Hiss
Doctor Recommended
The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
House Homicide
Left Behind

If you want to support Woodland Pattern you can sponsor a reader (me) on their website. If you'd rather attend, admission is $8.00 and allows for re-entry at any time during the 15 hour event.

With my new lease on life, I'm blogging off...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pardon the Interruption

Last night I got hit with the flu bug that Ben had. It is hard to quantify the pain and suffering of it. EVERYTHING hurts. Will post when I get in the flipside.

Blogging off and going back to bed...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Typhoid Larry

I stayed home with Ben today. He is feeling horrible, sniffling, fever and a sore throat. He started fading on Saturday night, and has gone downhill until today. He'll likely miss at least one more day of school, poor boy. It always pains me to see my kids sick. I know the feeling all too well, and it sucks. All you can think about is feeling better. Hopefully it's not strep throat and he'll be back on his feet in a couple of days.

Well, the old Packers did not disappoint this weekend. It's almost too good to be true. If you'd have said at the beginning of the season that they would be in the super bowl, even without all the injuries they had this year, I would have called you crazy. I still thought they were a year or two, and a star player or two away from having a super bowl team. I think Rodgers carried much of the team this year, but really it was a team effort. Many guys contributed, even unknown names like John Kuhn, and Sam Shields.

So we're going to get on the Packers Super Bowl Bus and ride it all the way to Dallas, baby! I love the two weeks leading up to the big game. Sure there's too much hype and sure it's over publicized, but I don't watch much TV anyways, and I just like all the excitement. If you're a football fan at all, this is what you watch week-in and week-out for. Anyone can win a playoff game; few make it to the BIG GAME. I think they can win and actually I feel that they will win. Pittsburgh is tough, but they were there 2 years ago. It's been 13 for us, and we want it just a bit more I think. Time will tell. Until then, Go Pack Go!

My brother is doing as well as one could hope. I've emailed him a couple times today and texted during the game yesterday. He was rooting for the Bears of course, but in the end thought Jay Cutler gave up. I think he's right. Still can't figure that one out, but am not surprised. Rob is still in great spirits and my prayer for him is that he keeps fighting and keeps the great attitude. Those are both important qualities in the cancer fight.

Tomorrow is back to reality and the harshness that is January in Wisconsin. I said to Donna that when I retire I want it to be in place where I can go outdoors in January without looking like an eskimo. Is that so much to expect?

Watched Star Trek (the newest one) today with Ben on Netflix. Some pretty bad acting in it all the way around really. Especially, Jim Kirk. Lousy. It's pretty bad when you say that William Shatner was a better actor than this guy, but it's true. The whole cast was bad though, really. With the exception of Leonard Nimoy who was pretty good for someone who's 79 years old. He could teach a few of the younger stiffs in this movie how to do it a bit more naturally. Chekov for example had the fakest, most contrived Russian accent I've ever heard. (He was born Russian, but does not naturally have the accent says crap, eh?)

So my non-professional rating is about a star and a half. The special effects were OK, I guess.

That's my view from the sick bay.

Blogging off for now...

Friday, January 21, 2011

On the Edge of Antarctica

My laptop's temperature gadget's reading 2 below zero as I write this. Throw the 5 mph wind into the mix and you have a windchill of about 13 below. The furnace is pissed off.

Now I've seen worse, much worse actually, as I'm sure many of you have. That doesn't mean I have to like it at all, which I don't. I keep trying to think of what good this weather is. What purpose does it serve? If the freezing point is 32 and that kills most everything living, why do we need any temps below that? Why did God make a wind chill index?

I'm sure there's a reason for it. If you find it, be sure and clue me in.

It was another week of loss for some friends of ours. A couple who lost a father a few weeks ago lost another father on the wife's side just yesterday. It has been a weird, eerie winter that way for a number of people in our lives. Throw into that the cruddy weather of late, and its enough to make anyone go fetal.

My brother came home from the hospital today, so that is a praise. He got through chemo pretty well and all news from home is that he looks good. I hope and pray that this is the secret to his cure, and that they can get back to some level of routine again. I'd say normal too, except that I don't know what "normal" is anymore. Their normal is new, and so is ours and everyone around them. We'll all adapt to it, it's just going to take some time and some adjustment. Big adjustments in some cases, including my own life and perspective(s).

That's what's hitting me most lately is how the journey changes every day for us. It ebbs and flows based on reports about how he's doing, but depending on what else is going on in my life, certain things come more clearly into focus, and things I've not thought about much in the past are suddenly in my thoughts several times throughout the day. I think for me, it's all a bit amplified because I'm approaching my 50th year. Couple that with all the pain and emotion that we're going through here, and you've got a nice mental fireworks show that you didn't really ask for.

So tomorrow, I'm going to get up, eat my breakfast, deal with all that the "new normal" day brings and make the best out of the crappy January 22nd, 2011 that can be made. Because that's all I know how to do, and I ain't no quitter.

Blogging off...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Black, Blue and White All Over

So the NFC Championship is going to be Packers/Bears. What a great rivalry and a great match up. I think it will be a good game, but am really hoping for a Packer blowout like they had on Saturday versus Atlanta. Wow, what a fun time we had watching that game. We went over to some friends' house and had a little playoff party that was a blast. It's always more fun watching those games with someone else. Family is fine during the regular season, but those playoff games deserve better.

I don't want to get too jazzed up about it until it is certain that we've won and are going to the super bowl. That would be so cool and as I said in my prior post, if we can knock off Atlanta, we can beat anyone, including the big, bad Jets and Steelers. This game in some ways is always a bit more of a nail biter than the actual super bowl. If you don't get into the big show, nobody remembers who lost the NFC Championship in {fill in the blank year}. You've got to at least MAKE it to the super bowl to get the respect due.

My brother started Chemotherapy treatment today and has been on my mind all day. It's a 3 day treatment plan, followed by 3 weeks of recovery and then 3 more days of chemo. My prayer for him is that this is the beginning of some great healing. He goes on to clinical trials after this, depending on what sort of progress they're seeing. As I said before, I hope someone wakes me soon from what has been a very long, bad dream. Chemo-healing would be a great step in that direction.

Waukesha got 6 inches of snow today. Got to fire up the ariens and have my fun. I really don't understand why I waited so long to get a snow blower, for crying out loud. It's the best $225 I ever spent, that's for sure.

Tomorrow night is Elmbrook Mosaic, Middle School Ministry, Wednesday night is AllWriters Workshop and Workplace and Thursday is the All Canada Show. Shaping up to be a busy week, per usual.

I do LOVE the All Canada show though. It is hard to explain, but it gets me "up to Canada" in a way, in the middle of January. Just walking around the booths and looking at fish pictures, crunching numbers with the vendors and having a few laughs with the fellas is a great escape for me. I usually go with Steve and Dave. Despite knowing that we're going to return to the usual place, we still go just to check things out. This year we're actually talking about changing locations, so will have a renewed interest in the offerings.
I hope you all had a chance to reflect on the great things that Martin Luther King Jr. did for the country and the world on this national holiday. He was a great man of peace and civil rights.

Blogging off...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Zodiac Pack, Jack!

So the whole zodiac thing has people wondering what they are. Aries are now Pisces. Sagittarius's are now Ophiuchus. Well, that would be me and you know what? I ain't buyin' it.

In fact, I'm not buying the whole zodiac thing at all. I am who I am, not who some distant astrologer says I am. If that's the case, maybe I should read my hocus-pocus horoscope too, so I can live in fear (or unfound hope) of something that someone else dreamed up. People that live by that credo crack me up.

This week has been tough for our family. Rob's situation got a bit more defined this week and it's been exceptionally hard on Sarah. She has such a big heart (as does Ben) and sees the whole thing as so unfair, which it is. The whole deal has brought great clarity in our family as to what is truly important and the chaff that makes up the rest.

My own struggles with it have been mounting for some time as well. This week I feel I've had some increased understanding with why we're being put through this. It's tough to describe, but suffice it to say I'm a week further at peace with what's going on than I was last week. It continues to shape the whole extended family in ways that none of us expected. There is a circle of love and closeness that is amazing to watch. Things are falling into place, and now all that's left is the healing and God's miracle.

Before I close I have to talk of the forthcoming Packer/Falcons game. I don't know what I can say that hasn't been said by the countless sportswriters covering the hoopla. I just hope they win. That would be sweet, because I think they can beat Chicago or Seattle, no prob. Bring it on.

That's my week. Blogging off...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What Matters

is not the money you make - Doesn't buy love

or the person you're holding a grudge against, - Resolve it!

or the car you drive (or long to drive) - Your kids will drive it when it's crushed and recycled

or the house you live in - Soon to be occupied by someone else

or the clothes you wear - They'll look good on that third world person soon enough

or the job you have - Someone's waiting in the wings for it anyway

or what party you belong to - For every Democrat there's a negating Republican and vice verse.

or the iPhone you have or want - Seriously? Please.

or any other hand-held or electronic gadget - A new version that will make yours obsolete


Faith, Family, and Friends in that order.

Relish each day. Life is a vapor. Live, Love, Dance, Laugh.

Blogging off...

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Treadmill Called Life

I just posted on facebook a question of; Why is it the more I do, the more I feel like I'm not doing enough? It seems that now that I'm writing on a regular basis, something I used to say I never had time to do, I spend more time than ever beating myself up over how much I'm not doing. Sure, I KNOW I'm doing a good amount, and I KNOW I've had success with it and I KNOW it's more than I used to do, but I still feel like I waste an incredible amount of time doing things that could be better spent behind the keyboard.

Now, the lazy sot in me says I should just do less, because then I may still feel as though I'm not doing enough, but at least I wouldn't have to work as hard. Ha! Like anything, there's a balance to be attained, and I'm still trying to find it.

For now though, it's monday night and I'm beat. Blogging off...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs?

The season is upon us. The packers are in the Wild card this year and are lucky to have that, in my honest opinion. I saw in Sports Illustrated where Peter King of ESPN has picked Green Bay to face New England in the super bowl. I just don't see that happening. The team is a bit enigmatic this year. With a sparse running game and inconsistent offense, I just don't know how they're going to get past Chicago and Atlanta. Heck, I see them having trouble containing Vick and the Eagles.

I don't mean to be a naysayer. I hope they go all the way. I am a realist however and don't see this one going much past Sunday. Hope they do, wouldn't bet on them. Hope I'm proven wrong.

Maybe the Seahawks will be the first team to finish 7-9 and win a super bowl.

Yeah right.

My brother Rob actually got out ice fishing today. It is so cool that he got the chance to get out there. After all he's been through, it is so satisfying to see him get out and do what he loves to do. I'm praying that he catches a big fish to make the day even more memorable for him.

I'm not a big fan of ice fishing, probably because I never had a portable shack of my own. I've a few memories of sitting outside in the cold and looking into an icy hole, catching nothing. Since those days of long ago, I've gone a couple of times with Tom and Rob and their shacks, and had a decent time. If you get out of the wind with a heater in your shack, it's not a bad experience. That's not to say we actually caught a fish, but hey, you can't have everything.

Got some decent writing time in at Le Caffe Bistro today. I can get more done in two hours there than about six at home. I've made it my weekly pilgrimage on Saturday, and it's been very effective. Donna has been especially supportive with my need to get there and get it done, so that's cool too.

Well, I have to run Ben to a sleepover, so I'll be blogging off for now...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Now Available in Print

Well, it's finally out. The winter edition of Boundary Waters Journal came out this week. My article is on pg. 27. I was surprised at how little editing was done to it. It is almost all there. I can't stop being excited about it. It's such a huge step for me, despite being one measly article. There's something about getting that first recognition that lifts you up. I guess it's why writers write.

I won't dwell on it anymore, lest I make myself a bore, but I will tell you it is available at Barnes and Noble retail outlets (not sure about online), Gander Mountain also carries it. I'm not sure about other outdoor stores or Cabelas, but they may if they sell books and magazines. Also I believe you can get it from Boundary Waters Journal online (I think they sell single, current issues.)

So, support your local author, a small publicher and your local sporting goods store. Buy one for a friend too!

Saw a house on my walk with Toby tonight that kind of freaked me out. You know how they have those 3 candle Christmas light things in the window? Well this one had that in every window. That much isn't bad, it's just that the bulbs were an orange color, and a bit too bright that they gave the impression when you first looked at the house, that the house was on fire. I kid you not. It looked like flames in every window. It was perhaps the worst Christmas decorating attempt of the year for me. Just an observation.

Well, my brother Tom was appointed as Minnesota's DNR Commisioner today by Governor Mark Dayton. I'm so happy for him and proud too. He's so deserving of it, as he's worked his whole life in wildlife preservation and management. I can't think of anyone more qualified. He'll do a great job and the State of Minnesota is lucky to have him.

I got a half-invitation to sit on a panel at the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival this summer. My writing instructor said she was thinking of me sitting on a panel to discuss submission, publication and writing. She wanted me to represent the people who "fall into" writing. Her example was how I came to her studio to write a memoir and ended up doing poetry, (among other things). It'd be great exposure, so I think I'm going to accept if she finalizes the details. Plenty of time to think about that.

Blogging off...

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Excerpt from my Memoir

A short excerpt I just finished for my memoir. Bear in mind it hasn't been edited yet. Note too that the song names are links to audio samples of the songs. This way you can share my insanity.


Our trips were always electronic-free. That is to say, we did not bring radios, tape players or Walkmans, those Ipods of the 80’s, for those of you who are wondering. Of course cell phones had not been invented yet, so they were not an issue either. We all agreed that being unplugged for a week was a good thing. The silence of the BW was refreshing to our souls and we knew that all the electronic noise would be waiting for us when the week was over anyway.

There were times though that the noise would follow me into the wilderness and not leave me alone. It always took the form of a single song that would haunt me the whole week long. Often times it was a song that I’d heard on the car stereo on the way up. With Paul being in a band, me a music lover and Rob and Keith hard of hearing, we tended to listen to music at ear splitting levels for much of the trip. It sometimes served to kind of weld the song to your synapses so that no degree of silence could shake it loose.

For me, one year in particular it was a song by U2 named Another Time, Another Place. The song is a great, driving rock anthem and their best song in my opinion. It begins with a guitar fade in by lead guitarist, the Edge. This is followed by a pounding drum intro, Bono’s wailing and the thrum of the bass player. The drum beat throughout the song is a marching beat and is almost hypnotic in the way it sets the pace of the song.

There are a multitude of classic guitar solos and transitional, bridge moments in the song that make it simple to commit to memory; too simple in my case. I must have replayed parts of the song in my head a hundred times a day for most of the trip. Sometimes it would be the fade in guitar introduction. Other times it would be the middle part where Bono holds a note for five seconds. Still others it would be a searing guitar solo near the end of the song.

It usually started first thing in the morning and went for most of the day. It served as a cheap form of entertainment at first. There were times in the day when it broke monotony of sitting around camp. After a while, it began to get annoying. It was a bit like the teenage kid who played the same song over and over in his room to the point that you wanted to scream “Turn that thing off!” The problem was I couldn’t. I tried thinking of other songs, I tried ignoring it, I tried napping it out of my head, but nothing worked. Eventually I gave up and came to terms with the fact that at least it was a good song and not Air Supply or something like that.

The following year it was a Greatful Dead song. The year after that it was a song by Material Issue named Valerie Loves Me. In that song the singer talks about a girl that has no time for him, despite his delusions and he builds to a point where he screams “Valerie loves me!!!” That one about drove me insane. It only took a week to ruin that good song.

One time on a fly-in fishing trip to Canada I was cursed for three days with Tom Petty’s song Zombie Zoo stuck in my cranium. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Tom Petty. He has a multitude of great songs and a number of hits. He also has one of the silliest, most annoying songs ever written, namely Zombie Zoo. I can pin it down to being the last song on the stereo when we got out of the car. Now, Uchi Lake in Ontario Canada will forever be the location of my own Zombie Zoo.

During the year of the U2 song, I was talking to Paul about my radio-head ailment and he said he often experienced the same kind of thing. He said there’s something about the pairing of words with music that allows the brain to remember every little nuance of a song, every subtle chord change, the timing of the pauses, everything.

The brain is an amazing, wonderful, mysterious thing. Regrettably it has no mute button.


Blogging off...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year Hopes

I fished around for a title for this post and this was the best I could do. I don't mean to jump all over the New Year bandwagon, but given the way 2010 ended, I have to focus on what might be or how I can change to make what IS happening, better or maybe more bearable.

Here's what I hope to do better in 2010:

  1. Listen to people better, especially my family. This is still my weak point. If you know me, please help me with this.
  2. Read fewer "Comments" on JSOnline articles (Our online newspaper). These people do not deserve the time or energy. Most can't write a coherent, complete sentence.
  3. Take more opportunities to have coffee/cocoa with Ben and Sarah at Steaming Cup. I had such a good time with Ben playing Boggle today, I almost cried. 6 years and he'll be off to college. 3 for Sarah. Time is short.
  4. Keep in better touch with my Mom, brothers, sisters and in-laws.
  5. Break up my routine; be it small things or whatever.
  6. Give more of my time to service opportunities for church.
  7. Complement people deserving of it more
  8. Pick causes worth pursuing and leave those not.
  9. Follow my first instinct, not my second excuse out of it.
  10. Do occasional "media fasts"

Our pastor today talked about how as God's people, he is continuously chiseling away at us. My spin on his message is that if we choose not to follow, the chisel stops and we tend to get lopsided or misshapen. If you have some hatred, or greed or lust, or gossip, or slander, or malice, or deceit, or selfishness, or vanity, or pride, or envy, or any other sin on your frame, and won't let him chip it off, it will not only make you difficult to like or love, but serves to disappoint Him.

It might pay to let the master craftsman work on you this year. I know that's my intention.

Blogging off...