Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Milepost Up Ahead

I was out running today training for the American Cancer Society Run in Madison in a little over a week. It was such a nice day out 45+ degrees and sunny, that I was determined to make it count. So, after walking 3.5 miles to and from work, I come home and run. Earlier in the day I committed to finishing the full 3 miles, just to get it off my mind that I'll never be in 3 mile shape by the time of the run. I set off and felt pretty good most of the way. When I got in the house I was surprised to find that I had finished 3 miles in 24 minutes. An 8 minute mile is pretty good for an old guy.

As I labored through some of the tougher stretches of the run, I thought of Rob and it kept me going. I thought of how he would give anything to be able to run anywhere. It was very motivational in a weird, sad kind of way. I honestly can't imagine life without him around. My hope now is that his Celebration of Life party on April 17th is a GREAT experience for him. I hope he's in good health and spirits on that day and that it's all he hopes it is. He deserves at least that much. Like my brother said, he's been kicked in the face too many times, he deserves this party. Give us all that much.

On a different note, Ben got a phone last night. He's been bugging us for a while, and to his credit, he is away from home much more than Sarah is, and she has a phone. It would be a long summer for Donna if he didn't have one. Turns out he got a Samsung for only $20 and then it's only an additional $10/month on the plan. The clerk tried to sell Donna the internet plan for an additional $30 per month, but she didn't bite. (Good woman!) It will give us all peace of mind knowing that we can reach Ben and is a bit of a reward for getting his grades up.

My writing instructor was on Milwaukee's "Morning Blend" show on WTMJ 4 today. The interview was about her book and her studio and though short, was still a good plug for her. Give it a watch.

This weekend will be busy. Tomorrow night I'm chaperoning the Mosaic Masquerade Dance at church. That goes from 6-10 PM. Then at 7:30 the next day, I'll be a bus captain on the service day project for Elmbrook Serves. Sunday is church and then we're having good friends over for an afternoon dinner, Tapas style. I think I'll just camp out at church from Friday afternoon until Sunday and save some gas. It's all good and all God, all weekend!  If I don't get a post in, you'll understand why.



Blogging off...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rock and Roll Philosophy According to "Jet"

Music as many of you know has always been therapeutic for me. I'd rather listen to music than watch TV any day. Talk radio? No thanks, give me music. If I'm in the car by myself, on goes the radio. This is unlike my wife who enjoys the serenity and quiet of the car.

As a teen I had a kicker stereo with not two, but four, large speakers. I had (still have, actually) a decent record collection, a ton of tapes and eventually CD's. My wife will attest that my thirst for music hasn't subsided much over the years. Oh sure, there were some "lull years" when the kids were young and before I had my iPod, but those were short lived, and I still found ways to get my music fix.

About 3 years ago Donna got me my iPod Nano for Christmas and it renewed my love for all things music. I transferred all my CD's to .mp3's and loaded up my 'pod to the max.

Well, in the mundanity (is that a word?) of walking the dog today I had my iPod on and Paul McCartney's song Jet came on. I have some trigger or switch in my head that transported me back in time to 1973 the instant this song came on. Along with that change in place come feelings of serenity, simplicity and happiness.

I thought to myself why is this? Why this need to go back to that time? Why do I get these good feelings from a song that's over 35 years old? Was I happier then? (Perhaps, but perhaps not.)

I'll tell you what Jet means to me. It means sitting on the front porch on our house on Portland Ave. It means 7th grade's coming soon. It means Vietnam is becoming a bigger boondoggle than ever and Nixon's looking more and more guilty with every passing day.

Again, was I happy and care free then? No. Why then does the song evoke that emotion? I think its in part because we all like to romanticize the past much more than it was. I know that's why I tend to listen to older music with great fondness. It's not that I'm not happy now, it's just that I always tend to think I was happier in the past than I really was.

When people ask you when were you happiest in your life, I would have to say today. OK, maybe yesterday. Because, if you're not happy to be here now, you've got it all wrong. Call this a revelation of a 49 year old, but that's how I feel. That's how I'm forcing myself to feel.

Ultimately I think I'll be happiest when I'm retired. All day to do nothing but what I want, right? That's the definition of happiness, right? Now the truth is, I'll probably have some ailment or another at any given time that will keep me from doing some of the things I want to do.

So there's that.

Then, there's the whole money thing. I'm incapable of splurging for much of anything now, when I'm making a decent living. Do I think that that will change when I'm retired and making 66% of what I make now? Not likely.

So there's that too.

Time passes faster when you're old, or at least seems to, so your days will fly by and I'll never likely get everything done in the days or weeks of retirement that I'd like to anyways.

So yeah, there's that.

There will probably be cats, dogs, lawns, grandchildren, houses, cars and other personal belongings that will need fixing, care or comforting more frequently than expected. So that fishing that I was going to do more of in retirement, well, it's not a slam dunk either.

And that too.

My point is that the past isn't what I make it out to have been. The future likely won't be what I make it out to be. That leaves me in the present, which I'm determined to be the happiest time of my life. See how that works? I'm glad I talked this through, because now it all makes sense to me.

But getting back to Jet. I've always had a problem with understanding lyrics in songs. I get what I think the singer said in my head and it sticks for years. In the song Jet here's what I think Paul is saying:

"And jet, I thought the Major was a real lady, sufferin' jet."

When in actuallity the words are:

And jet, I thought the Major was a lady suffragette.

Close, but not quite, Jim.

Another line I interpreted as:

"Our maker, won't jet to always love you"


Which the actual lyrics read like:
"Ah, matter, want jet to always love me"

Not only got the words wrong, but the subject (me, not you) there.

So this is what I struggle with. It's pretty hilarious and frankly I think most people suffer from this affliction. I'm sure you can think of one song that you got the lyrics wrong to in your lifetime. I think of Frank Drebbin in Naked Gun when he's singing the National Anthem and he messes up the line:

"lots of bombs in the air.."

or

"...that we still had a flag"

Good stuff.

Blogging off for now...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Walking Philosophy

On my walk to work today another inspiring song from Michael Franti came on my iPod. The song is named Life in the City and like many of his songs lately, it spoke to me when I was in the depths that I've tended to step into lately. I'm not sure if he's a Christian artist, but he seems to focus on the need to appreciate life everyday and always has an upbeat tone to his music. Another good one of his is Hey Hey Hey. That song is my lifeline right now. I need something upbeat like it everyday to get through.

In the past two days I've had two people reach out to me and talk about how I'm doing with my feelings about Rob. I call these kinds of peoples angels-on-earth. They just show up sometimes and ask how I'm doing and they genuinely care. Both had cancer take one of their loved ones, so could relate in that way. One even prayed with me which meant a lot. 

This is the kind of thing I talk about when I say that the journey I'm on is taking me to places and people that I never anticipated. I've experienced sadness and despair unlike I've ever felt before and I'm trying to figure out what that is doing to my character and my heart. Is it making me hard hearted (I think not) or is it softening it even more than it already is?  Is it setting me up for future tragedies and sorrows? (Yes I think it is). In any case, it's a strange trip I'm on, but I'm starting to understand the wheres and whys a bit more with every sad day.

So tomorrow I'm going to make the best of the day that was given to me. (That's always easier when it's a Friday.) Take nothing for granted. You can't save love up in the bank. Give it away. The returns are immediate.

I just came across a blog that sums up much of what I've been thinking lately. I urge you to read it, here's the link

Blogging off...


Monday, March 21, 2011

Ecclesiastical Thoughts

Back to the grind after a great weekend with my brother Rob and his family in MN. I found work to be particularly difficult today. Extremely tough to get motivated when you've been exposed to such a sad situation. It weighs heavy on my mind, like a cold damp blanket. He and his family are constantly in my thoughts, to the point of distraction. If I was one prone to it, I'd likely crash into a depression. Believe me, this is as close as I want to come to one.

Trying to find a positive in the whole situation though, we did have a very good time when we were with him and his family. The adults had some great laughs with Rob on a number of different occasions. There's one thing for sure he still has in abundance, his sense of humor. He and Jane can laugh in the face of adversity which is testament to their love for each other.

The prognosis is not out yet on whether or not he got his hemoglobin up to the level necessary to qualify for the clinical trials, but he wasn't 100% sure he wanted to try anything more. Given the difference between how he looked this weekend versus how he looked during Chemo's 1 and 2, and frankly I'd take less days with the healthy Rob too.

The whole journey has brought Ecclesiastes 3 to my mind on a daily basis. Ecclesiastes is not the most uplifting book in the Bible, in fact it's quite the opposite. There's a place for it though in keeping your life real. Our time is short, and that book reminds us to use it wisely and not chase after the wind and the riches of this world. Wise words.

Tomorrow I will get up, get dressed, plod forward to work, try my best, and then come home to be the best Mosaic Middle School Ministry leader I can. I think that's all I can do at this point, and hope that the pain stops. It likely won't, but life goes on. So it goes...

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Re-Evaluation

I had this moment after last night's writing class. It was not a good moment.

What happened was during class we got to discussing what the average count is for re-writes or revisions. It seems that the average number of revisions for a short story is 11.

Yes, 11.

My instructor said sometimes she looks and revises a story up to 25 times.

Yes, 25.

I am on revision number two.

Yes, 2.

I figure at this rate, I should be done with my book when I'm 83. I'll be absent minded, and will have to be told every day that the story is about me. I'll have expanded it to 849 pages, and it will actually be the first of a trilogy. A trilogy that will be complete when I'm 164 years old.

It will be pointless at that point because books won't exist. Most people won't be able to read more than 3 sentences without being distracted or needing to take a nap. Furthermore, words won't exist. Tweeting, texting and acronyms will have turned everything into nothing more than three letters in length and most of it will be emoticons or glyphs.

None of this will matter because most of our entertainment will be either visual or we'll be plugged into a speed-cast that will finish an entire story in 49 seconds. It will be 1/3 as satisfying as actually sitting down with a book for a week and finishing it, but people won't care because it will allow them that much more time to watch their holograph TV's.

So, sorry about that futuristic tangent there.

My dilemma, that I diverged wildly from there, was this:

1. Should I go ahead and finish this book as soon as I can and run the risk of releasing a half-assed effort in the name of getting it done and getting it to my family and friends?

or

2. Edit it until it is an epic.

There are parts of me that think either of these is the best option. Part of me just wants it done. I'm getting tired of looking at it. The other part of me thinks I can do so much better with it and that's the route I should take. It's a tough spot to be in. There are days I wonder where the whole thing is going.

So help me out. Encourage me. Tell me to keep at it. Remind me that there is nothing like the feeling of getting published.

And remind me to thank you.

Blogging off...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grounded Perspectives

It's been another weekend of reflection for me. Not too much going on around the house, so lots of time to think, write and ponder. My brother's situation continues to help me shift priorities, realize what's important and take time for meaningful conversations with friends and family. I talked to my Mom on the phone tonight and she said that everything in her life right now has become meaningless, except her family and her friends. That's about where I am right now.

I was telling her that things like the Madison mess certainly command my concern and attention, but only for a brief moment each day. I will keep that kind of crap, and that's really what it has become, in perspective. Small things in the big view. To some the issues have become all consuming. It is what they live and breathe from day to day, week to week.

Don't get me wrong here. I am glad there are people out there championing their cause, because there have been some travesties pushed through the Legislature these past few weeks. But right now, and likely into the future, these are very small things to me. As I've said to many people, all I can do is sign my petitions and recall votes, and sit back and wait. That's all I have emotion and time for right now. There are bigger things in my life, including my brother and my work with the Middle School Ministry. Faith, Family and Work, in that order.

Today I got quite a surprise when I went to Gander Mountain to get my Musky Rod. I walked in the door and they had a display of fishing rods that said 25% off. I checked a few out and lo and behold there was the exact St. Croix Triumph 7'6" Musky Rod that I looked at last week. I couldn't believe my eyes. I got it up to the counter expecting the guy to say that it didn't have an orange tag on it, but he didn't. He'd seen me looking at them at the 25% off display and rang it up as $97 or so. It was a sweet deal. Waiting one week saved me $33.00.

The whole daylight savings switcheroo kicked in today and I am exhausted. We were up till midnight last night which is actually one o'clock, which is actually three thirty AM for those close to fifty years old. :-)

So I'll close again with reminding you to appreciate each day. Put every worry and concern in it's proper place in the big picture. Love your kids, hug your spouse, work hard at your job, build up your boss, do your best, and give all the glory to God.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Signing: The Home for Wayward Clocks

Tonight I was at the Author book signing at Martha Merrells for the book The Home for Wayward Clocks, by Kathie Giorgio. It is Kathie's (pictured above)  first novel and the place was packed with what I would say was 50+ people. The signing was preceeded by a catered dinner (which I had to miss) and a short presentation by the owner of Little Swiss Clock Shop. She gave a brief history of a number of clocks that they had on display on a table in the bookstore.

It was fascinating to hear some of the history and specifics of the wide variety of clocks that were there. There was a large Mantle Clock that I recognized as one that my grandmother had in her apartment. It was a beautiful timepiece and served as the "graveyard clock" in Kathie's book. She also had on display a knock-off Felix Clock that was an electric clock of a cat whose eyes and tail moved in synchronicity. A classic piece of 60's Americana, amongst the "old dependables" that were chiming and gonging through the night. The chiming and gonging actually made the evening more enjoyable. If nothing else, it added a relevant ambiance.

After a short history of what went into reading the book, Kathie read a chapter from it. It was a chapter that furthered the relationship between James (the clock keeper) and Cooley (the rebellious teen). She did a great job and interjected points of interest asides when necessary. Judging from the raucous applause at the end, people were entertained and excited about the book. Kathie then took some questions and signed books for those interested. It was an entertaining evening among peers and friends for me.

It made me dream of the day when I might be in the same position; hosting a signing of a book. I can't imagine the thrill of having something I've put my heart and soul into being pitched at such an event. It may be two years out, it may be twenty, but it's certainly on my bucket list. Maybe the BWCA memoir is it (I hope it is...) maybe not.

Time will tell.

For now though, I'm blogging off...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dreaming of Warmer Days

Woke up today to a 2 inch snowfall and wanted to scream. As I was laying in bed, I thought I'd heard a snowplow go by and thought, what the heck? It was raining pretty hard last night and must have switched over to snow at some point. Needless to say, I was shocked and dismayed at this new "beautiful" snowfall on the ground. I am so ready for it to stop.

Top this off with the fact that I have to get in shape for the American Cancer Society's 5K run in Madison in a few weeks, and well, I'm sick of winter. I don't want to run on ice with mittens on. Not fun. Perilous, yes. Fun, not so much.

Feeling all of this cabin fever rage, I felt compelled to go to Gander Mountain today and look at Musky rods. I 've been fairly obsessed with getting a new rod, despite only fishing for them once a year, but hey, I have to obsess about something, right? Doesn't everyone? Besides, I have some money burning a hole in my pocket, so that drives me too.

I'm looking at the St. Croix Triumph rods. They're a nice mid-level rod. When I say mid level, I'm talking about $130.00. That's midway between insanity and lunacy, but as I said, I'm obsessed. The clerk at Gander Mountain actually pushed me toward the Gander Mountain model which ran $40, but I wouldn't bite, in a manner of speaking. The $40 one is probably all I need, but it felt like a $40 rod. The St. Croix felt like a musky rod should feel. It's like casting with a telephone pole. Nice and sturdy to hold those honkin' big lures.

Now the other end of the insanity is the St. Croix Premier rods. These run about $180, and are even nicer than the Triumph's. Furthermore, they're made in WI, unlike the Triumph's which are made by the same company, but are manufactured in Mexico. There's something to be said for keeping all the $ in the USA, but a man has his limits. As I told a friend, maybe some of that money will trickle down to the workers in Park Falls, WI. Or maybe not, but in any case, it's at least a Wisconsin based company.

My brother Paul and my friend John both have the Premier rods and swear by them. They both fish a lot more than me, esp. for musky. Furthermore, they both have exquisite, expensive taste. I always trend toward the more conservative spending...in case any of you who know me didn't notice.

I'll report back when I've actually pulled the trigger on my purchase.

Last night was spent shuttling kids here and there. First Sarah to work, then Ben and three friends from skateland to home to pickup an overnight bag, then back to a friends house for a sleepover. I need to put a meter on the dash and a light on top of the van. Yellow taxi disguised as a white Kia Sedona.

Tonight dinner with friends. Life is good.

Blogging off...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mean People

I just want to speak a little about the mean people in the world. From where I sit it seems that the world is becoming an increasingly mean place. I'm not sure why this is, if it because of the media, technology, the "advancement" of our race, the increasing population pressure or what. All I know is that now, if you're not mean, you're a bit of an outsider. You're looked upon as either self righteous, a prude or a throwback. Meanness is now laughed at by other mean people and it is now not only tolerated, but almost expected (or respected.)

If you don't get what you want, be mean.
If you don't agree with someone, be mean.
If someone isn't like you to your liking, be mean.

This goes for politics especially. You know who you are. Democrats and Republicans alike. You're both mean and neither of you has all the right answers, contrary to your belief. Stop shouting at each other. Stop name calling, pigeonholing, generalizing, stereotyping, bashing, and grandstanding. You're not that great. Obama's not the answer, much like Bush wasn't the answer. Let's support the people that were elected in a fair election and move on. If you don't like who's in office, well, keep voting and deal with it.

I am sick of liberals and sick of conservatives. How about we all try being citizens again? Citizens implies a kind of civility, where when I think of the L and C words, all I get is fired up; over both for that matter. They both should be ashamed of what they've become. Can't we build each other up instead of tearing down? Or do we need to be mean because we think someone's going to step on us and take something we think we should get?

Facebook has been absolutely flaming with political vomit these past few weeks because of what's been happening in Madison. Friends are screaming at each other (i.e. being mean). Christian friends of mine have said things to people that mortify me. (Only to be responded to in an equally distasteful manner. What do you expect?) I've tried to stay away from it all because it's such a hot topic and I figure there's enough being spewed without contributing more. What is it about that FB medium that makes people say things they wouldn't shout out their front door? That's what they're doing, only worse. Facebook makes it forever. It's in print and for all the world to see. People would do good to think about that before saying the first thing on their (mean) mind.

I see meanness in the grocery store lines. I see it in sports coaches at every level, including middle school. I see it in TV shows especially. (Everyone should shoot their television right now. Of course that would be mean too.) I think TV is at the foundation of much of the country's anger (and hence meanness) because something as stupid as a sitcom may make meanness seem funny, or hip or cool when it's really not. It's just mean, and it sucks.

It's funny, but this whole journey with my brother's battle with cancer has changed my life and outlook in ways I'd never imagined. I see the meanness in people and I wonder why are they this way. Who spat in their oatmeal? Life is short. We can use it for good or evil. What do you want to be remembered for? As the guy who was always griping and complaining or someone who kept to themselves and tried to see the positive in everything? What are you going to be known for? Ask yourself. Seriously. Is the complaint you're waging today on,

the state of the economy
the wait at the drive through line
the weather
the Republicans or Democrats
the Fox or MSNBC commentator (who are mean people in their own right)
your neighbor
your co-worker
your family

really worth all the anger it's festering in your soul? Is it? If so, then you need to get yourself a heavy bag and hang it in the basement and whack away. That's a whole lot more constructive than spewing hatred toward any of the above. What does that accomplish other than to make someone else as miserable as you? Great, now there's two unhappy people in your circle. Great, pass it on and before long everyone will hate everyone and evil will reign. What a great legacy you've created. Thanks for doing your part in making the world a meaner place. Lord knows we all need that. I haven't been shouted at in at least a week, so am looking forward to the next mean person in my life.

Sorry about the rant there. My point, in case you haven't figured it out yet is be nice. Put it on your calendar to be a nicer person tomorrow. Then copy and paste it to the whole week, the whole month. Make it a point to wait your turn. Say thank you. Tip the person who cleans your hotel room. Open a door for someone. Resist the temptation to beat down a political adversary. Listen to them instead and hope your caring resonates more than your shouting would have.

Love people for crying out loud. Is that too much to ask? No one ever went to their grave going "I wish I'd been a meaner person."

It's really quite simple. Put people before yourself. Love one another. Be a blessing. The world deserves more people like you.

Blogging off...