Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Warehouse of Fun

I write this from the friendly confines of a gutted, now defunct Menards store that has been renovated into an indoor Mountain Bike course. It's called Rays MTB and while it's a liablity nightmare, it is a very cool place. What they've done is purchased an old Menards and built a ton of bike ramps for all skill levels. As I write, kids are zooming around me, and above me, getting exercise in a relatively safe environment. The floors and ramps that they ride on are all wood, so even if they take a digger (and they just helped a kid off who had been hit in his gut with his handlebar) it is onto a forgiving surface for the most part.

The place is actually only open for 8 months of the year Oct-May. This is the last day it is open until fall, and it is fairly busy today. Ben and his friend are trying to convince the other friend to go down a ramp that he is hesitant to try. I can feel for the kid a bit, as I know how it used to be when your friends wanted you to do something really badly and you had to build up your courage to do it. I also can relate to Ben who just wants his friend to experience the rush of going down the ramp. Neither one is wrong, just kids being kids.

So I missed the entire Royal wedding. Does that make me a bad person? I hardly know Will and Kate. I doubt they missed me.

For some reason, ever since the Celebration of Life party, I have been having much fewer crying jags about Rob. This doesn't mean I'm less sad about it, but I think the party helped me deal with the grief and the grieving process in a healthy way. It was a turning point of sorts. It made me happy to see him happy, as happy as I've seen him in months. That's all I wish for him at this point; that he be happy. I don't expect him to be 100% healthy at all times, but if he can keep positive and happy during the good times and the good days, that's about all I can expect. Sure I'd like to be able to fish with him, and sure I hope he gets out when he can, but most of all I just hope he stays happy.

A little more about Chicago on Thursday.

Sarah loved Chicago, which was not surprising. She was digging the whole hustle, bustle thing and seemed to really like the whole international, cosmopolitan edge to it. I was telling Donna that I could totally see her as an aspiring young professional living and working in Chicago, maybe not owning a car, taking public transporation everywhere. It's not a place for everyone, but it is for Sarah, I think.

Ben liked it too, but I think he's going to be a wide open spaces kid. Maybe Colorado? Time will tell.

Well, the rock music is beginning to get to me and I've been here 4.5 hours, so I think it's time to pack it in for now. Bye Rays MTB...see you in the fall.

Blogging off...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chicago in 12 hours

We did the Chicago power trip today as a family. We woke early at 5:00 AM and drove to Kenosha. Hopped on the Metra and an hour and a half later we were at Oglivie Transit station. From there we huffed it down to the West Egg Cafe for some breakfast. It was a phenomenal breakfast. I had the french toast which was made with raisin bread, and sausage on the side. I then ate the rest of Donna's scrambled eggs and some of Sarah's pancake. (Hey, walking built my appetite!)

From there we hiked another mile and a half or so down Michigan Ave, and back up again to the Art Institute. This was the high point, by far. We saw Impressionists, Modernists, Realists, Cubists, and even a few Artists. To see some of these paintings almost brought me to tears. A few of the more memorable ones were the Rembrandt portrait of a Man with Gold Chain, which was positively moving in it's detail. Another was Van Gogh's self portrait and his La Berceuse paiting of a woman. Salvador Dali's works were amazing.

I have nothing but complete respect and admiration for the talent of these masters. I can only think in two dimensions, these guys see in four. Their mastery of light, nuance, detail, color, subtlety, and shadow is mind numbing. I wish I had some of that artistic talent. Writing is one thing. Visual arts are a whole different sphere of the brain I think. One that I must have bumped playing football long ago.

After the museum we did Millenium Park and had a good time taking pictures by the bean. We finished up at Giordano's pizza and had some amazing deep dish.

It was a great day and I'm exhausted. Too exhausted to write anymore.

Blogging off...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Desperate Rain

The rains of April have not disappointed this year. Coupled with the unseasonably cool spring we've had and everyone's just kind of in a weather holding pattern around these parts. Winter is surely behind us, but we're a ways from the warmth of summer too from the looks of things. It's enough to drive a person mad. At least we have the sunlight thing going for us.

On an unrelated, but equally despondent note, the Buffalo Sabres have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. After being in a commanding 3-2 game advantage, they dropped the last two games, losing tonight 5-2 to the Philly Flyers.

I don't pretend to be a huge Sabres fan. I am a huge Sabres-in-the-playoffs fan. It's kind of the same thing with the Minnesota Wild. If I watch a few games a season, that's a lot, though I follow their record in the standings. When the playoffs come around though, I'll try and watch both those teams, though the wild seem to miss the playoffs more than make them. Some would call me a fair weather fan. I like to think of it more as budgeting my time around the games that really mean something. Maybe when I retire I'll get a big, fat satellite dish so I can get every game by both teams and watch them all winter. Yeah right.

Ben went to a great indoor bike park today with a friend for spring break and had a blast I guess. The place is named Rays MTB and features a number of ramps and jumps that you can ride mountain bikes on. He texted and said it was amazing and that he had snagged a couple of free passes that have to be used before Sunday, so I know what I'm doing on Saturday I guess. As I look at it it's a great, athletic activity for him that he can do with his friends, so that's cool. It's a wee bit spendy at $30 for the day, $40 if you want to rent a bike. The boy needs a job.

Otherwise things are status quo around here. Writing class tomorrow. I was editing a bit last night and got to laughing at the story I was writing. I wondered if that made me a "bad writer", like a comedian that laughs at his own jokes. I don't think it does, it only shows that I'm having fun doing it. And after all that's what it's all about isn't it?

Blogging off...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Groundhog Day Everyday

I mentioned to Donna how every day seems like a repeat of the day before lately. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. It's like I'm living a Hollywood script that I've memorized to the letter. Sure, there are slight variances in each day that keep things interesting, but for the most part, Tuesday was a lot like Thursday.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not depressed or anything like that. Donna and I talked it through and attributed the fact that there's a cloud of sadness hanging over all of us. A cloud that makes the mundane tasks of life even more mundane, and the joy filled ones a bit muted. It's great to have her to bring me back to reality once in a while. Here I am thinking I'm the only one mired in my own sorrow, and she reminds me that we're all going through it and it will get better someday.

Writing group was great again this week; one of the high points of my week, every week. Kathie was in Chicago, so her husband taught the class. As usual, the stories coming out of the group are always so entertaining. A story about a teenage green witch, another about a boy who wanders into a fantasy land via his closet. Another woman is writing about a rock star named Nick that gets into a fight where a guy gets killed. The great thing about this group is that none of this stuff is real, yet it all reads as though it is. It's like reading 4 or 5 short stories every week.

Of course all of this is supplemented by some great tangents and dialogue from the various writers in the group. This week we got on a tangent about the word weenis, which is an actual word by the way. It led to some places you can only imagine, and was pretty much the end of any rational thinking in the group. Luckily it came at the end of the night.

Tonight it's just me and the dog. Ben's at a sleepover and Sarah and Donna are at work. I get lucky in that there's a Buffalo Sabres playoff game that I get to watch while I write and blog. It's been a thinking man's heaven really. Pizza, hockey and blogging. What more can a man ask for? Besides, the rain is coming down pretty hard. Not a nice day.

Time to move on to some BWCA editing.

Blogging off for now...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Celebration of Life

Yesterday (Sunday) was Rob's Celebration of Life Party. We arrived at Rob's house on Saturday, about 1:30 and saw that he was not having a good day. He had a fair amount of pain in his clavicle area and the lower part of his left lung. When he coughed, the pain seemed to be overwhelming. His oxycodone was not helping like it normally does. He didn't seem his usual upbeat self and we were all worried that he'd be in rough shape for the party.

It was not a good start to the weekend for me. I was hoping to find him sitting in his recliner, ready to talk and have some laughs, when in reality, he was never feeling good enough to get out of bed. We let him rest and he seemed to sleep from about 8:00 right through the night. We were all praying for a better day on Sunday.

Sunday was a clear, sunny day with a high in the low 50's. Not bad for April, considering we had driven through snow on the way up in central WI. Rob woke up and looked like a new man. He was upbeat, psyched for the party and finally eating again, after skipping dinner the night before.

While he was eating, his cousins on Janes side of the family came and decorated their driveway and yard with yellow balloons reading "Be courageous and strong. Live for Rob Landwehr." They then lined Rice Street with a balloon every quarter mile or so. It was so cool to experience.

When we got to the hall it was buzzing with activity. People were helping set up tables, balloons and the AV equipment. Paul, Tom and I helped get Rob's recliner onto the stage where he would sit, as his wheelchair gets uncomfortable after a while.

Rob showed up about 2:10 and for the first hour never got more than 10 feet inside the door. The greeting line started and it was a 1/2 hour wait from start to finish. Everyone got their pictures and got to catch up with him (in 3 minutes or less). Eventually he moved to the stage and the reception line continued there. There were over 350 people there and it was nothing less than overwhelming to see.

The party was for Rob, but I got so much out of it as well. I got the chance to catch up with family, cousins, friends, etc. that I hadn't seen in years in some cases. I had some great laughs with the McKasy's my step-family from so long ago. Their family is close to our to this day which is a great thing. I had the chance to talk to Don Landwehr, a cousin who I've corresponded with a lot lately, but not in person. Just a thrill to talk to some of these people.

Rob and Jane then had a few touching words for each other in front of the crowd. It was moving, and many people were brought to tears. Then, we sang happy birthday to both Jennifer and my mom both of whom had birthdays. They made mom a cake with a picture of her and the six of us kids in it from 1969 or so.

Rob then gave Jane and the girls some flowers and offered a toast to Rob. We closed the deal out with his tribute video that seemed to be a big hit. Again, there were many tears.

The silent auction was a great success too. Thanks to all that made that happen.

I cannot say enough about how happy I am with the way the day turned out. I feel it was God's doing that Rob felt well energized and able to make it through his day. Phenomenal, the whole deal. Amazing. Touching. Moving. Words cannot say.

Rob's closing comments when he gave his speech was that "Someday, if you behave, we'll meet again. This
is not goodbye, but rather, see you later."

He has no idea how comforting that was for me to hear coming from him.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brevity for Brevity Sake

Another week is quickly slipping through my fingers. We had outstanding weather today, 65 degrees and sunny for most of the day. The shoe is about to drip however, with the coming cold front. I even heard the 'S' word for Saturday, although now that's been changed to just the 'R' word. Nonetheless, the nice weather makes life much more pleasant. I was so sick of winter. Not so much even the cold anymore, just the darkness. Once daylight savings kicked in I was like a new person.

I was thinking as I was walking to work today how lately there are days I'd like to just stay home and cry. I've never felt that emotional urge before, so it's pretty weird. Then, after I think about it a bit more, I realize that doing that would really accomplish nothing. It sure sounds good some days though. (Though crying is actually more work than work is.)

On a lighter note, and I'm in constant search of lighter notes these days, I found out my "official time" from the 5K this weekend was 24:19. I had figured it to be about 28:00 minutes, but evidently my math on figuring how long it took me to get up to the starting line was off by, oh, 4 minutes or so. (Me, bad at math, imagine that). I know it's trivial to anyone but me, but I could not figure how whenever I trained, I was running about 8 minute miles, and suddenly when I run in a race I'm running 9+ minute miles. It didn't make sense. Well, then I found the official timing site and set the record straight. A couple of other interesting tidbits about my time was I finished 30th overall and 5th out of 24 men in my age/sex class. Not bad for an old guy.

All of this has me jazzed up to run in another 5K next year, perhaps the ACS run again if Rob's Mob reconvenes in Madison. I swore I'd given up running, but there's something sickeningly alluring about it. I LOVE the comraderie of being around other runners. Pair this with always trying for a better time and well, I'm just a dumb jock sometimes.

The drafts for Rob's video are all wrapped up. He's got it narrowed down to two choices. Both are quite good and should be a good finish to the party on Sunday.

Blogging off...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Running for His Life

There was a great turnout for the ACS Run/Walk yesterday in Madison, WI. The team total was 26 people I believe, and we raised over $1085.00 toward cancer research. The entire event raised over $36,000, which is awesomr. It was an amazing and inspiring day, despite being cloudy and a bit chilly at race time. (It turned into a beautiful day later though.)

Team Waukesha/Milwaukee got up to Mad-Town about 9:00. Team Twin Cities got there shortly thereafter and we got our shirts, race bibs from Stephanie and caught up with each other. Mom and Jane bought a commemorative flag that lined the course while Steph made sure that the whole gang had bracelets.

After a few group shots of the whole team giving the "I Love You" sign to the camera, we gathered at the starting line, walkers at the back, 10K'ers (Nick and a couple buddies) at the front, and 5K'ers in the middle. I ran a good race, finished in about 28 minutes, though I don't have an exact time because the stupid ACS site gives a Page Not Found error when I click on the link for Run Times. Nick (my nephew) finished the 10K in about 48 minutes which is pretty good. I think my best 10K time was about 50 minutes.

I can't say enough about how much it meant to me to see family, Mom, sister Jane and her three kids, as well as extended family there to support Rob. The whole journey I've been on through Rob's sickness has shown me the power of love. Love of family, love of friends, and perhaps all of it can be attributed to the love of God. I feel He's using this whole experience to make us stronger as a family, to weld new bonds with Rob and Jane's friends and to re-establish the correct perspective on what life is really all about. It's not your house, it's not your car, it's not your income, it's just the people around you that love you for who you are. Pure and simple. Thank God for all of them.

I wore a picture of Rob on my back because I wanted to be reminded of why I was there. I actually crossed the finish line backwards so Rob could cross the line first. It was a small gesture to show him how much I wish he could have been there with us.

After crossing the finish line, I met my mom and cousin Mary who were tasked with taking finish-line photos. Mom's knees were bugging her and Mary didn't want her to be alone, so stayed with her. We got some great shots of all the finishers, runners and walkers alike.

We went back to the hotel they were staying at which was about a half hour away. Then we went to State Street and had Pizza at Ian's and walked the Street. It was a great day, and a good chance to catch up with some of the family and cousins.  I feel like I got to know my 2nd cousin once removed (Mary's daughter) a bit better; she's quite a character.

The whole day was tough. Started out the race with a lump in my throat and started to tear up soon after I started running, but kept it together for most of the day otherwise. I had a couple of emotional moments but was able to stifle them for the most part. It was good to be around family, as that helped a lot. I don't know how people go through something like this alone.

To top it off, as we walked into Ian's Pizza, what was playing on the sound system but "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

Indeed he is.

Blogging off...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Go Time for Rob's Mob

Well it's here. Race day tomorrow. It's the reason for all the training, all the stretching, all the slogging, running, breathing, gasping, wheezing, coughing and spitting. I LOVE the energy of a large run like the one tomorrow. Hundreds, or maybe even thousands of people looking to team up and run/walk for a great cause. I love the challenge, the excitement and the anticipation of the starting gun.

I hate the running part, but the rest is really cool.

Seriously though, the running isn't that bad. I've re-discovered in these past two runs (Last year's run for cancer at the Milwaukee Zoo, and tomorrow's run) that I really don't like running. Now, approaching fifty, running doesn't like me either. My recovery time is a little longer than it was at 27, my knees hate me and my hips feel like they're 90. Sounds like a healthy sport doesn't it? I think I'll be taking up biking a bit more once this run is done. Even my Doctor says running isn't the best thing for my back (that's a surprise?). Gotta listen to the doc.

The family and cousins made it down to Madison this afternoon and are "training" tonight for the 5K walk. It will be good to see them all and see how they're doing. It will be a GREAT day for a GREAT cause that has stricken a GREAT man.  As I said, I'll post "post race" with thoughts, feelings, pictures and maybe even my time. I'm shooting for under 25 minutes (8 min miles) but will be satisfied if I come in under 30. I think last year I hit 29:25, so if I beat that, I'll be happy.

Blogging off and running for my brother...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life in Limbo

It's been a good week around these parts, but I'm ready for it to be the weekend. Had a GREAT night at Mosaic last Tuesday. I have got the best group of kids in my small group which makes my job much easier. We had a good discussion on what it takes to Live and Love like Jesus, our theme for the year. These young men really just want to hang with friends and be heard. If the talk is about spiritual issues, all the better. Many of them have legitimate, tough questions, and I don't always have the answers, frankly. Nevertheless, they're all trying to be the best kids they can and I have nothing but respect for every one of them. I am privileged to be leading them.

Last night was AllWriters which was good too. The group is up to about 12 people now, including Kathie the instructor. I really enjoy being around other writers and stretching myself as one. I brought three poems, only one of which I felt very good about. I hadn't expected to read, as I read last week, and usually it's an every other week thing lately. I got some great feedback on the two clunkers I had, and the one I felt best about, people liked a lot. Funny how you can tell when something is good versus not so good. People can pick the wheat from the chaff pretty easily.

My running has been going pretty well in preparation for the 5K in Madison on Saturday. I say pretty well because Monday's 3 mile run almost killed me. At about the 2.5 mile mark, I almost quit and started walking, but then, thinking of Rob and how he would kill to be able to be running, I was inspired to push on. I ran the last .5 and when I got to my house, I was gassed. I sucked wind as fast as it could get into my lungs. It was not my finest hour, to be sure. Despite all of the training I've done, I think my lung capacity must just suck or something. (Although today was much better.) Running is such a hit/miss thing. Some days you feel great and can run 3 without issue. Other days are not so good and I get gassed after .75 miles. I think it has to do with pollen, pollution, and your metabolism too.

My work on the Video Tribute for Rob is coming along well. I've hammered out the music a bit more and am actually going to be getting some more pictures from my sisters this weekend. I didn't have a lot of pictures of them with Rob, so they're looking at getting me more. Picasa is a bit flaky with regards to audio, but I think I've got that worked out. Up and Up!

Everything in my life seems to revolve around the April 17th date, and I am VERY OK with that. I can't tell you what I'm doing after that, but I know what I need to do before and I know it will be a Great day. I can't wait.

Blogging off for now...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wall-to-Wall Weekend

It's been a full weekend already. Friday night was the Mosaic Masquerade at church and it was great. I helped set up from 3-6 PM, and then was in charge of a group of 30 kids who moved from one room to another for 3 different dance lessons. My group started out in the Swing Dance room. Because they encouraged leaders to learn the dances, I took part in the Swing dance. This was until they encouraged people to partner up when I backed out. Chaperones dancing with students is, well, creepy. Furthermore it was patently forbidden in the instructions we were given at the start of the evening. No problem here. I had fun just watching the kids have fun.

It was interesting because in the first lesson, students were shy and hesitant to dance with the opposite gender. Then, by the third lesson, everybody was much more comfortable with each other and mingling quite well.

The second lesson was freestyle. In it we learned dance moves like the "reject", the "wobble", the "lapel pop" and a couple of others. It was taught by a fun instructor and had the whole room having a blast. It was proof positive though that white guys over 6'3" and over 45 years old shouldn't be dancing. As the saying goes, it ain't right.

Wherein lies the problem. It became glaringly apparent to me last night that dancing is all about having fun and getting rid of all of your inhibitions at the same time. If you worry about what other people are thinking, you're not dancing. Just have fun. It's the most freeing activity I can think of. Reckless abandon, and it usually shows in my case. :-)

Then, yesterday was Elmbrook's Service Day where 800+ people took on over 10 projects in Waukesha and Milwaukee. It was an amazing day. Pure spectacle to see that many people mobilized to help serve as the hands and feet of God in making our community a better place to live and work. I served as bus captain for one of four buses that went to Minooka Park in Waukesha. Our project involved several different activities including trash pickup, cleaning up an old dumping ground for everything from tires to rusted non-descript items, garlic mustard pulling, fencing extraction and mulching. It was so cool to see entire families engaged in service, excited to be helping improve the park.

Last night as a family we watched a great movie titled Music Within . It was a wonderful story about the man who developed the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. There was a bit of coarse language in it, but I feel that outweighed the good in it that the kids got out of the movie; namely that people with disabilities are people too, and they need to be seen, they need access and they are not stupid or less than anyone else.

This understanding came clearly into focus for me in 1985 when I visited my brother Rob at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, (NTID). It was here that I humbly became a minority. Everyone around me was signing and had a hearing loss of some sort. When I first got there, I felt totally isolated, shut out and excluded. Most of it was my own doing, but it was incredible to be seen, yet not seen. Or heard, but not heard, as the case was.

The outstanding thing was though that I was forced to see life from the deaf perspective. I was an outsider trying to get in, or get heard. I was a minority in every sense of the word.

My awareness about the need for a voice for the disabled was furthered later by Donna's career at Independence First. That agency is focused on developing independent skills of the disabled. It is a wonderful agency and has a world class staff running it all headed by Lee Schultz. I miss being around that group and plan to someday reconnect and serve. (Retirement?)

Today, we have 7 friends and family coming over and I've got a lot to do, so I've gotta run.

Blogging off...