Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Little Taste of Heaven

Well the fishing event with Rob, Keith and the brothers was a rousing success. I cannot believe how well everything went from start to finish.

We started at Rob's place where the wheelchair accessible van met us at 2:30. Rob's wheelchair was rolled into the van and then I packed our gear and rode along with him and the driver. Rob commented how nice it was to not have to do four "lifts" from his chair into and out of  the van. Those manuevers really tire him out.

We got to Tally's Dockside right about 2:45. As we were waiting for Tom, Paul and Keith to show up, I heard a beeping alert on the radio inside the fishing office. There were tornado watches in effect for Scott and Carver counties, a few counties to the southwest. My first thought was, here we go, we get this far and then the weather doesn't cooperate.

Then after Tom rented the pontoon with a 40 hp engine, (it was a dog and moved at the speed of a Mississippi barge) the owner told him "You see any lightning, and I need you to come right in."

More thoughts of dread ramped up again. The clouds we saw sure looked ominous and surely there would be some lightning at some point.

After we wheeled Rob down the ramp, we all got on board and got situated. I set Rob's line up with a slip bobber and a small jig that Paul gave us. I topped the jig off with I rigged up my own line next the same way. We were out for crappies, but like always, would take anything with fins.

About 20 minutes into our fishing Rob landed his first fish, a small crappie. I've never been so glad to see a small crappie in my life! I was hoping for more and bigger fish, of course, but thought at least he wouldn't get skunked on the day.

Then the rains came.

And they came hard for about 20 minutes. We pulled Rob under the canopy and all gathered together under the small roof. (I joked that it was more like a landau roof, as it made for a cozy few minutes together.) The nice thing about the rain was it cleared the lake of a lot of boats, which gave us room to move about.

Later in the day, Rob managed to land a 17 inch largemouth bass that was a beauty. Bass season hadn't started yet, so we had to throw it back after a few pictures. He also managed to land a small northern pike, a perch and a nice fat sunfish to finish out the day. He not only caught the first and the most but he managed to catch 5 different species of fish. Coincidence, or some sort of mystical intervention? I'll leave that up to you. I know what I think.

Meanwhile, the rest of us all caught fish, except Keith who always seems to struggle to catch when we fish with him. I really think he enjoys being around us and, hey, a boat ride with your friends and a few beers beats pretty much anything. I landed two largemouth bass (and lost a third fish of unknown species.) Tom lost a fish and managed to get a northern to finish out the day. Paul also got a nice largemouth to his credit.

On top of the plentiful fish, we saw a number of loons and even an eagle soaring overhead, a rarity for that close to the cities, I imagine. Rob mentioned after the fact that while we were all joking and talking in the boat, he was just taking it all in.

I cannot help but feel that the hand of God was present throughout the trip. Everything from the weather, to the fish, to Rob's health, to the accessibility, even down to the loons and eagle. Lord knows we had enough people praying for the situation. When all was said and done, it was the Boundary Waters without the serenity and seclusion. It was as close as we could hope for, given the circumstances, and I thank God for all of it.

A couple of videos of the day:



Blogging off...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Concerts Come and Gone

My wife went to Bon Jovi last Saturday and her friend sent this picture. It reminded that it's been a very long time since I've been to an arena for a concert. I've been to a fair number at the Marcus Amphitheater, but that's outdoor, so really doesn't count. I'm talking about the hockey arena venues that are acoustically awful. Nothing like steel and concrete to muddy the words of a searing vocal solo. Throw in the echo factor and well, you get what you get, unfortunately.

Now this is not to dis arena rock entirely. Some of my best concerts have been at arenas. Santana in 1981 was one of those. I had great main floor seats at the old Met Center in Mpls, before they tore it down. Of course Carlos Santana could play in a subway and sound phenomenal, so I guess that counts for something. The other thing that made that show better than most arena shows was the fact that I was on the main floor, like 15 rows back or so. Being that close tends to make the echo factor a bit less annoying. It's when you're in the nose bleed seats and the band all look like they're 6 inches tall that you wonder why the experience is any better than the album.

That's not to say the main floor is always a perfect acoustic experience. I managed to land main floor seats for the Rolling Stones on their Tattoo You tour in '81 also. Great seats, too dang loud! The saxophone drowned out everything on a couple of songs. It was a good show, just not their best. As I recall, by the time it was done, so was I.

I went to most of my arena concerts at the St. Paul Civic Center. It was more of the same. Designed for hockey and conventions primarily, it was not a great musical venue. Again, some good (Eric Clapton, who I saw there 3 times) and some not (ELO). ELO happened to be my first concert in 1978, and I still say it was the loudest. They put on a phenomenal stage and laser light show, true cutting edge stuff, but something with the string instruments, combined with too much volume and the venue itself, and it was just OK.

I've never been to a show at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, but I'm guessing it's probably very similar to the Met or the Civic Center.

Frankly, some of the best concerts I've seen have been at smaller halls. The Church once played the Barrymore Theater in Madison. GREAT show. One of the most riveting performers I've ever seen was John Lee Hooker who played in bars (The Cabooze in Mpls and  the Green Toad(?) in Milwaukee. More recently, Sarah Groves, Casting Crowns and Third Day all played in churches and were phenomenal shows. About a year ago I saw Norah Jones at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee and it too was really, really good. (It's nice to be able to sit for most of a show too.)

I can say too that all of my outdoor concert experiences have been positive. Alpine Valley is a perfect place for a show. Saw the Grateful Dead there as well as Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. There's something softening about being outdoors where the music just takes on a life of it's own. As the wind blows, the notes change and carry differently. Good stuff. I've even been to a couple good shows at the MN State Fair (Rod Stewart, Kansas).

All of this was spurred by my trying to remember the last arena rock concert I'd been to, and I think it was Eric Clapton at the Civic Center during his August tour in 1986. A great show too.

I think going back to an arena rock show sometime has become a new bucket list item for me.

Blogging off for now though...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Student Driving

Took Sarah on a doomsday driving lesson today, her first ever. We figured since the rapture didn't come off as planned, we should probably plan for the future and get her some time behind the wheel. I hate when cataclysmic events are a letdown.

We went to an abandoned WalMart parking lot and switched drivers. I familiarized her with everything from the mirrors, to her seat adjustment, the gas and brake pedals, how to shift, etc. It's funny, but when she tried to shift, she didn't hold the button in, so it wouldn't shift. It was then that it occurred to me how much we take for granted as drivers. That was also the moment I began to get a bit uneasy. She really didn't know the first thing about what she was doing. I remember the feeling, but that didn't help a great deal, sitting in the seat where my mom once sat.

She started out slow and things went OK. She had a tendency to want to horse the wheel back after a turn, to which I told her, let the car do some of that for you. She was treating it a bit like a video game Ala Mario Kart. At one point, I had to grab the wheel and help her turn left or risk crashing the cyclone fence and ending up in the retention pond. I never dreamed I would do something as "old man-ish" as that, but when you are fearing for your life and your car insurance, you take action. She laughed and said that "steering and working the gas and brake at the same time is hard."

This is when I began to get a tad more than uneasy.

The rest of the time she did pretty well. There was one occasion where I had to tell her to come to a complete stop, because I did not like what I was seeing and wanted to tell her what she was doing wrong. Another time she took a right turn a bit tight on the curb and went up over it a bit, but hey, we've all done that right?

Now I consider myself a fairly laid-back guy. I don't sweat the small stuff, I'm not chronically early or hyper organized, as you all well know. But this was a test of how laid back and calm I could be, or at least appear to be. I know from driving with Donna that being in the passenger seat gives you a WHOLE different perspective on how fast you're going, what obstacles you're facing and other key variables. You have a sense of "non-control" that the driver doesn't. I always kid her when she grabs the door handle when I'm driving, then I get in the passenger seat and I grip the dashboard. There's something about not having access to the brake pedal, I guess. Plus, you can't get inside the drivers head to know if they see what you do. It's a fairly defenseless feeling and I'm not fond of it. I'm much happier in the driver's seat.

The weirdest thing is that I've reached this point. It seems like yesterday that I was strapping her into the car seat. Soon enough, she'll be strapping me in with my orthopedic shoes and my hearing aids and driving me to the senior center for arts and crafts. Time flies, especially when the rapture fails to happen.

Blogging off...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Official "End of the World" Post

With the coming rapture tomorrow, I'll probably not get around to another blog post in this lifetime. Unless there's a wireless connection in paradise, I guess. Then I'll try and sneak one in just to let you who didn't make the cut know how it is. (And it will be magnificent!)

Being a Christian I have to look at these claims objectively. If Harold Camping was the real deal, why was he wrong in 1994? Prophets, at least the good ones, aren't typically wrong, especially about things as significant as...oh...say the end of the world. Those they tend to nail a little better. Evidently his math was a little off and after further review, May 21st, 2011 is it. I've seen the math and, frankly, it made my head spin. Most math does though.

In any case, it seems like there are a number of broad based assumptions that went into this oh-so-precise doomsday prediction. My favorite part of the whole thing is the 6:00 massive earthquake prediction. Someone called into a radio show about that timing, and asked what time zone it was related to. Furthermore, what happens in states like Indiana where Daylight Savings Time is not recognized? Does it come an hour earlier within those boundaries?

It's all very confusing. I'd rather it just happen on like September 26th 2022 or another random date And while I'm at it I'd prefer it happen on a Monday, because Mondays suck anyways, and getting pulled up to heaven surely beats the drudgery of my Monday morning work routine. Frankly I'd really rather not know when it's going to happen, and I'm sure not going to stock up on guns, water and Spam. That's because I fully intend to not be around to need it.

You see I can poke fun at this guy and his prediction because, as I say, I have nothing to fear. My wife and I had this discussion last night. There's a question about the numbers that will be chosen as God's elect, something like 3%. Small numbers when you think about the total percentage of people that claim to be Christians.

Yet at the same time there are several references in the Bible, and might I say the entire tenet of the Christian faith is based around Romans 10:9 that reads: "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

I say, if the "chosen elect" is based on something hidden over and above this tenet that I and millions of other Christians did not know about, well then, that's terribly, terribly unfortunate for us. However, I tend to trust in the perfect love of God and have complete faith that Christ was sacrificed for our sins, so that those who see that, recognize it, and respond accordingly (the important part) are going to see Him again in heaven. If I didn't have confidence in that, I wouldn't be so snarky about an 89 year old crackpot preacher who didn't like any church he was in, so chose to start his own. After all, the Bible speaks repeatedly about false prophets too. Kinda makes me wonder if Mr. Kamping's going to be in heaven when I get there.

I try not to get too political or spiritual in this blog as they can be fairly divisive subjects. However, I also refuse to hide my faith. If you know me at all, you know how much it means to me.

On a lighter note, today was a beautiful spring day. Put together with yesterday, it actually strung 2 nice days together. It's been a miserable spring so far, in fact the other day when I got home from work I heard the furnace on. In May. Mid May. Not right.

My daughter got her license temps yesterday. I took her to the DMV and we waited in all the various lines and waiting areas. It's a brand new facility and is much nicer than it used to be, but still a bureaucratic process to be sure. We started at the "Information Desk" where everyone starts so they can tell what they're there for, be given a number, and herded to a waiting area. We waited until the photo guy called her name (not our number that was given us mind you, but her name) and she got her picture taken. Then we sat back down until her number was called by an automated voice.

We stepped up to a out appointed counter and she took a vision test that was a farce. She was asked to read line 4 and when asked, the automated voice started talking and I couldn't hear any of the letters she was saying, and I don't know how the clerk could have. She passed though and we were instructed to wait by the issuing window, which we did. 5 minutes later her name (not her number) was called again and we picked up her license and were on our way.

Now that was easy, wasn't it?

I felt sorry for the people in line behind us who forgot to get a birth certificate for their son who was trying to get his license. Been there before...

Well, tomorrow is a big day, obviously, and I've got to finish some painting before the big earthquake, so I'd better go for now.

Blogging off...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Another Year Gone

Tonight was the closing celebration for Mosaic Middle School ministry. We closed it out with outdoor dodge ball and the Talent Show. I've never played dodge ball outside, but it was actually kind of fun. Nice to be outdoors and there's something to be said for a wind advantage when you've got a 12 MPH wind at your back when you're chucking with all your might.

The talent show was a lot of fun. I have nothing but complete respect for every contestant in the show. I could never have the nerve to get up there in front of everyone and sing a song or dance. Maybe in a group of peers, perhaps, but never A Capella. Most were VERY good, and a couple were, well, not. Even the bad ones got good supportive applause. That's the beauty of Mosaic. It's all about building each other up, not tearing down.

It has been an interesting journey, this year as a leader in Middle School. I originally looked upon it with great trepidation, not knowing what to expect. I always thought "I'm not good with teens," but you know what? God said differently. All He asks sometimes is that you shut up and jump in. Then let Him help you and you'll be fine. It's been that kind of year for me. I was blessed with a great group of kids, well behaved and respectful. I got to keep in touch with Ben and yet not lead him, which was a nice change from Boys Club. It's not that I don't want to be with him, I just think it's good that he has another person to teach him through Middle School. I co-led him through Boys Club. Change is good.

If I could point out one thing I've learned this year from leading these young men, it's that these kids just want to be heard. They want your attention and approval. They want to learn more about God and how he fits into their life. Their bodies are changing, their emotions are up and down, and they're just looking to see where they fit. My job was to tell them that they are talented, gifted and valued. That was easy.

And so next week is the Leader Appreciation Dinner where some of the Student Ministry Team (SMT) actually serve the leaders dinner. I am going with Ben and it should be a good night.

Blogging off...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Silence

It's Saturday morning Donna has left for a Bible study with three friends and the kids are still asleep. I was going to start vacuuming the house, as I do every Saturday morning, but I thought I'd sneak a post in while it was quiet and before the shooting starts.

Ben has a new video game called Brink and it entails the good guys trying to maintain an area (the Brink) which requires killing the bad guys with much gunfire. It is obnoxiously loud and frankly, stifles any creative thought coming from his father. It's a bit like trying to write a novel in the middle of Baghdad during Desert Storm. I tell him to turn it down, but then it's just like I'm hunkered down a bit and the bullets are flying over my head.

The game is rated "T" for Teens. That is one of the rules we laid down when he bought the XBox mostly out of his own pocket; No "M" (Mature) games!

Now has he tested us about getting M Games you ask? "Why, yes he has," I reply. Like every other week or so.

He uses many tactics and arguments to try and get us to cave.

"All my friends have Call of Duty: Black Ops."  To which I reply, "Would you like to go live with your friends?"

Or the old "There isn't much blood in this game." To which I ask, "Is it rated M?"

"Yes," he replies

"Well, it's M for a reason, be it blood, language, violence or others, so the answer is no."

He's tried: "On this game, you can turn off the swears," To which I ask, "Is it rated M?"


Now I'll admit I'm a softie. I cave more often than I should with some disciplinary things. Fortunately though, I know that the problem with a lot of kids today is that their parents want their kids to be their friend, not their kid. This is tough to do when you feel strongly about something and you stand up to it. It's our JOB to try and instill good values and choices in our kids. If that means keeping them from that which was deemed offensive by a panel of people designed to QC such things, then so be it. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. I'll continue to use their recommendations to block TV channels, movies, web content, video games, and any other infiltrating attempts. Crap, most of it!

So I'll stand with the "No M Games Declaration" for a few more years. He may hate me for it now, but my guess is that when he's old enough to understand, he'll thank me for it, or at least begin to see why we made the call.

For now though, he's awake, fed and the battle is about to begin. I'm going to fire up the Eureka and run for cover.

Blogging off...

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Slow Rolling Steam of Spring

Spring approaches like a reluctant dog
On it's knees
Crawling in submission
Like people are going to hit it
Its eyes dart left and right
Leading with a cold, grey wind
A sunless sky
A wicked smirk on its face
Its cheating us one day at a time
Of that which we are past due
Our deposits coming
In the hell called
December through March
Despite its slow approach
It leaves little teasing promises
In the flowers and buds
And a rare jacket-less day
But then the seasonal sadist
Is back to its same old tricks
A cold rain; threat of a shower
Sky the color of a basement floor
The rain brings life to everything
But us humans left to live in it
There are times when spring
With all it's hope and promise
Really just turns out to be
Winter without the snow

Blogging off...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Furthermore...and in Conclusion

I was thinking about the last post regarding sprinkling of my ashes when that day comes, hopefully far into the future, and I wanted to complete the thought.

A friend of mine had a retort to his wife who said that when she died, she wanted people to have a party. He said he wanted the saddest music you could find and each song should be dragged out so people would be weeping uncontrollably. I thought that was a hilarious comeback, and it actually made me think about my own music on that day.

I would want the proper reverential songs during the service. (No "On Eagles Wings" please). There's so many good ones that our church plays, but I just can't think of any that I would love to have, other than In Christ Alone and Mighty to Save, two of my favorites. If you could get Sara Groves in there live to do a couple songs, that would be good too. Or maybe Third Day.

I say that because it is proper and right to be reverent at a funeral as it means handing over a loved one to God, where ultimately they're complete anyway.


I want the last song to end on a searing, scorching three minute electric guitar solo, complete with ear splitting feedback. If this can be done live it would have to be done by U2's The Edge, Carlos Santana, The Kinks' Ray Davies, or maybe George Thorogood  or BB King in a pinch. Whoever it is, and it would be nice if it was live, should end the solo by smashing their guitar and then a couple of pyrotechnics could go off. It sounds a bit heavy handed and a tad edge and maybe even irreverent, but that's how I want it. I want to go out leaving an impression.

If you're wondering why I would want something like that, it's because despite my calm, laid back demeanor, the searing solo is what is really going on in my head most of the time. It's how I want to live life. I want to turn it up to eleven and go out in a fog-machine cloud. Besides, it might shock a few people, and that makes me laugh.

Mothers day was good around here. We went out for coffee at the Steaming Cup after church. That has become our newest favorite thing to do as a family. I love supporting a local (non-chain) business and the place has such a cool ambiance. Their coffee is outstanding and they make a cinnamon roll with butter cream frosting and caramel that is phenomenal.

The coolest thing about our trips there is it's one of the best chances to talk as a family, relatively uninterrupted, for an hour or so before we all go racing off to our other Sunday activities. We laugh, tease each other, discuss the upcoming week, talk about dreams and vacations, the sermon at church, and school and work and relatives. I cherish those times because before you know it we'll be putting Sarah off to college and Ben won't want to go out with us alone. These are the slow-down moments of a Sunday when we reconnect, look each other in the eye and share our feelings. Good stuff.

My other favorite recent activity also involves the Steaming Cup on Saturday mornings when Donna and I sometimes sneak away for a couple cups before the kids get up. For many of the same reasons, communication and catching up, I love the one-on-one time to be able to listen to her uninterrupted. I'll admit that going through the week, I listen at 3/4 speed to most of what everyone says, including Donna. That's the pull of work, home life, writing, Mosaic, etc. It's not a conscious bad habit, but a bad habit nonetheless. That is why I like the Saturday sessions. It gives me a chance to listen to her, tell her I'm sorry I don't listen better, and just enjoy each other and remember why we were attracted to each other in the first place.

So that's my latest passion. A "Steaming Cup" of coffee with my family. Because it's all that's right about life right now.

Blogging off...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ashes to Aspens

Donna and I have had several talks about our plans for once we die. It's clear that we both want to be cremated. The thought of anyone hawking over our corpse at a funeral is not at all appealing to either of us. We are still in disagreement a bit over whether we would want them buried in a plot somewhere. I'm kind of the thought that it would be good to have somewhere that our kids and grandkids could go to recognize us. Donna says we're not there anyways so what's the point? I tend to agree, but I'm not sold entirely on the idea yet.

We are in agreement that we would both like to have our sprinkled in various locations. So, for the record, here are my top 10 spots I would like mine sprinkled and the reasons why:

  1. Coronado Beach, San Diego, CA. It is one of my favorite places on earth. The City of San Diego itself is my dream home, but the beach at Coronado makes it even better.
  2. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Many great memories of trips with the brothers and friends. I told Donna to pack some of my ashes in a shotgun shell and shoot me over the BWCA. That way I go out in a blaze of glory, so to speak.
  3. The Madison Farmers Market. I love a Saturday stroll around the capitol square with good cup of coffee and a sugar donut.
  4. Myrtle Beach, SC. A close runner-up to Coronado. The weather can be a bit sketchier, but still some great memories with family and in-laws on the white sandy beaches, complete with palm trees.
  5. St. Paul, MN on the lawn of the Greek Orthodox Church where we played football as kids. Best memories of growing up occurred here.
  6. Waukesha, WI. My home away from home.
  7. Black Hills, SD. I love the area. Visited it as a crazy 19 year old and went back with my kids and saw it for all it is.
  8. The highest point on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfathomable beauty and breathtaking vistas at every turn.
  9. The shore of Lake Superior in Duluth MN. The lake holds incredible mystique for me.
  10. Uchi Lake, Ontario Canada. The spot of my first Canadian Fishing fly-in trip. Great fishing, great times, great adventure.
By the time the sprinkling is done with, there may not be much of me left to go around, but if so, a few runner up spots would be:

1. Linwood playground, St. Paul MN, where I played organized football for the first time
2. The Glacial Drumlin Trail, Waukesha, WI. I'm happiest on my bike on this trail. (See last blog post).
3. Spider Lake, Mercer, WI. The place of numerous fun family vacations with the MN clan.

Morbid post, eh? Perhaps, but I'm at the point in my life where this kind of thing doesn't scare me anymore. It's actually kind of a relief to talk about it.

That said, I'll be blogging off...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Venom Culture Revisited

The theme at my church's middle school ministry (Mosaic) is venom culture and like many of the weeks past, I'm learning as much as the kids from Pastor Brown. He speaks to their level so well, but what he may not realize is that he's teaching the adult leaders as well (or at least me...or maybe I'm just a teen at heart). The message was basically that the same mouth we use to praise people and build them up is used to tear them down and ridicule them as well.

He went on to show some pictures of a friend of his from this past summer who had "cut" herself on her arms and was scarred heavily. She had internalized all of the hateful things said about her and the only way to emote was to disfigure herself. It was sad. So very sad.

In any case, while I know it affected the kids, I know all of the adults were looking around going "hmmm, I say some pretty crappy things sometimes too...sometimes to people I supposedly love." So, like the kids, it's something I'm going to work on. Lord knows I need it.

I got my first 10 mile bike ride of the spring in yesterday. It was not gorgeous out, but it was warm enough to wear shorts and a fleece and not freeze. It felt great to be back out there. We've had such a crappy spring; cold and wet. It still is one of my favorite places on earth, on my bike on the glacial drumlin trail. All the stresses if the day fall away and it's just me and the road and my thoughts.

Oh and they shot Osama Bin Laden Sunday. Lets hear it for the good guys.

Blogging off...