Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another Piece of Me

I was back to normal
for an evening
but now there's another piece of me
that has gone MIA

There's traces of him
here and there
wrappers, magazines,
a rogue Nerf dart

I wonder if he has
any idea of how much
I miss him
or love him?

Today I felt like an amputee
missing an arm
after just having my leg
reattached on Saturday

He's likely been gunned down
in a paintball firestorm
and has a tale to tell
of the shot he took in the neck

I miss him breaking into song
while camped out on the laptop
or riling the dog
right before bedtime

In two days he'll return
from Jesus camp
and the peace I have will be
replaced by the piece I'm missing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shaving in the Pacific

It is gorgeous out today. 75 degrees and no humidity. It is San Diego gorgeous. That is absolutely my favorite city on the planet and when we get a day like today, I long for San Diego. I would live there in a minute. Unfortunately, on my salary, I'd be living in a refrigerator box and driving a shopping cart with one squeaky wheel. My address would change daily, a little like odd/even parking. It would be tough pressing my shirts when every day after work, they would get stored in a big garbage bag, along with my mismatched socks.

I would love the weather, but my beard would eventually take over my face, as I'd have to shave in the ocean or in the sprinklers, which only run at night in the city. Ocean shaving would be tough, especially when the jellyfish are mating or migrating to Los Angeles. They sting your calves, and swatting them with an Atra razor does little good.

I could probably eat pretty good because I'd have no mortgage, rent, car payment, cable, internet, magazine or newspaper subscriptions, not to mention no homeowners insurance. My homeowners insurance would have to be the gun I'd have to carry around, or maybe a shiv, if I couldn't get at gun permit because I didn't have an address.

Eating good is no fun though when you're a lousy cook like me, so I'd live on fast food and end up with a gut on me, high blood pressure and cholesterol that would be through the roof; if I had a roof.

My family would have left me shortly after we'd relocated to the beautiful city and were evicted because we couldn't pay for our house that was, oh about, $450,000. They'd have tried to understand my love for the weather enough to tough it out, but after a few days on the streets, they'd move back to Wisconsin, or maybe Pittsburgh.

I'd have an amazing tan, or, more likely an all-over burn, because I'd be exposed all day, every day. I know the ladies dig homeless guys with that all-over burn and long beards, so it wouldn't be long before I'd remarry.  My vagabond lifestyle would be too much for old whatshername and she'd leave me too.

But the days on the ocean front picking up cigarette butts after work to support the habit I'd have taken up because work is so stressful because my boss would be critical of my hygiene habits, particularly my beard with sticks and portions of yesterdays stir fry stuck in it. He'd want me to see a shrink, and I'd lash out and say, "I don't need no stinkin' shrink!"

This would not please my boss and coupled with the allegations that I was stealing pens and post-it notes and had been seen peddling them in the Gas Lamp district late at night, would force him to put me on occupational probation.

So smoking second-hand butts it would be.

And all of this because of a good climate. I'd better stay in the equivalent of climate hell until at least the kids are out of the house.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In and Out of Country

Summer came in at about 120 decibels today, pretty much from sunup to sundown. It started with my neighbor's son re-roofing a small portion of their roof for the second time in less than 3 years. It seems he's a country music fan and like most people working on the outside of their house, he likes his music on the loud side.

Now I don't want to sound like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, but you see I have a thing about country music. I'm just not a fan. Never have been. Can't be. Won't be. Tried it. Don't like it. Never will probably. Keep thinkin' it might grow on me. Doesn't. Just grates on me.

So I am likely to be accused of being labelled as un-American, or perhaps a socialist for saying such a thing, but hey, it's a free country. If it could be a country-free country, well, that would be even better.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a grudge against people who love country music. I don't understand their allegiance, but they likely don't understand my allegiance to rock, blues, reggae, world, alt, indie, or jazz. I like all of those, and as I said, I've tried to include country, but it just never sticks.

I don't know if it's the sometimes phony drawls or the scripted format of "my dog, my truck, my woman, my bad luck, my country, my gun, my, my, my..." but it's just not happening for me.

Now I'll give you Waylon and Willie, but that's about it. I'm nit biting on Alan Jackson, George Strait, Hank Williams or the guy who sings "High Places." (Is it Garth Brooks?) Again, no offense to those who like it, but it's just not me. I can't like it. ;-)

There was a period about 4 years ago where I was really into smooth jazz, and I never really liked jazz, especially that kind of jazz. But all of the sudden, it just struck a chord with me and I couldn't get enough of it. I'm over it now and am wondering if the same might happen with country music.


In addition to the country blast from the neighbor, I enjoyed a full day of Harley pipes, dragsters, lawn mowers, edgers, car stereos, sirens, and neighbors. I even contributed my portion using my palm sander to refinish our back door. I did it inside the garage to spare the neighbors, but am sure I did my share. Overall, summer is a very noisy time. It's no wonder I and the rest of the world are going deaf.

Huh? What?

Again, I'm starting to sound my age, and I realize it, and I don't like it. I'm going to try and not become a crotchety old man. Now, get off my lawn and turn that music down!

My daughter Sarah returned from the Dominican Republic last night. It's hard to describe the emotions I felt seeing her walk down the steps of the school bus knowing the experiences she had probably had. It was overwhelming. I am so proud of her. It sounds like she had an amazing time and made a ton of Dominican friends. I'll talk more about the pictures she showed us and the stories she told in a later post. Suffice it to say that my goal for next summer is to get Ben and me over there.

As I said I'm working on refinishing our back door. Yesterday I took it off the hinges and sanded it down. I really don't know what I'm doing, whether I'm sanding too little or too much, but I'm giving it a go. I always tout how I AM NOT handy, but I manage to get things done to a decent level every time I take it on. I'm confident this will be no different. I've found that you can google anything and find a video on how to do it. We really have no excuse not to tackle any project anymore. It's how I fixed my dryer, some of my plumbing clogs, etc. It's been a great help. I owe a lot to the fine folks at Google. They're likely invading most of my privacy, but they've been there for me too.

Blogging off...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Little Piece of Me

There's a little piece of me
on an Island
far out in the Caribbean

She's got my DNA
my long legs
and some say my face

But she's on an island
in the Caribbean
and I can't even call her

I wonder if this piece of me
has any idea
how much I missed her today?

I have a picture of the piece
on my desk
and it helps to look at it

But the island thing
in the Caribbean
makes the rest of me sad again

I know she's probably doing fine
so far away
but me...not so much

In four days she'll leave
the Caribbean island
and return to me my peace

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Longing In My Heart

My daughter is gone. She's a couple thousand miles away and I miss her. It is amazing how quiet a house becomes when it goes from 4 down to 3. She's a pretty quiet girl anyway for the most part, but I really miss her presence. It's spooky quiet most of the time, even with Ben and his friends over. It's like the house is missing it's furnace or something. Something major like that. There are moments you forget it's there, but without it, the house just isn't complete.

She is in the Dominican Republic in Jarabacoa on a mission trip for church. She wanted to go of her own accord, and we weren't about to stop that. Anytime one of our kids wants to do a church event, especially of this magnitude, we aren't going to do anything but get behind it fully and completely.

I think it's important for her to see what real poverty and need is like, even though I think she has a much better understanding of it than most 15 year old girls, and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. She has a zeal for seeing the world and a big heart to go with it. She thinks internationally whereas when I was a kid, I could barely think anymore than regionally. It's a different time now than it was in 1976 when I was 15. The Internet has made the world a much smaller place.

And so I wonder what she's doing at this very moment. Is she hanging out after dinner with the team, talking about their day? Is she mingling with the locals in some sort of social event? Journaling? Worship? Prayer?

Because they are in the remote mountains of Jarabacoa, they have very little outside access. We got an e-mail today from the lead pastor who said they had arrived safely and were facing a long week of laying block for the orphanage they're working on. The leader told us to expect her to be tired from all the work.

I was thinking about her yesterday and how she'll do and it occurred to me that she'll be fine. She is an A+ student, and works hard at everything she does. She's a perfectionist and doesn't want to let anyone down when it comes to team projects. She'll work to get as much done as she can before she returns. It's just the way she's wired. She's a worker bee. There's times she wants to be the queen bee, but she's a worker bee at a minimum.

I miss her greatly, but know she'll come back a changed person.

Speaking of worker bee, I spent 3 hours Saturday on a church service day event. Elmbrook hosts these events 4 times a year where we go into the community and volunteer. This one had some of us going to West High School. We were charged with cleaning lockers and desks. The desk cleaning meant scouring the tops with soapy water, but also scraping gum off the undersides of the desks.

To say it was disgusting is an understatement.

The picture you see above is the sum of all of our work, and we only covered 4 classrooms worth. We were joking how the gooey stuff was from the last week of school. We wondered what to sculpt with the finished product, but decided to let it speak for itself as a single mountainous mass. We also joked that we'd have to do a blindfolded taste test to anyone who didn't pull their weight.

In any case it was a great day of service. The kids worked hard, especially when we moved from something boring like locker cleaning, to something gross they could relate to like chipping gum off desks. Gotta love that kid spirit.

And finally, I'm moving my blog to a custom domain to make it easier to remember how to find it. If you want to set a new bookmark, set it to

The link should redirect you to the new one, but I just wanted to make you aware of it.

Thanks again for checking out and/or following my blog. It's a fun way for me to keep my writing fresh and to keep brushed up on my skills.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Among the Monks

I spent last weekend at the AllWriters Retreat in Techny, Illinois. It was a great weekend, away from all distractions with large chunks of time where writing was the main focus.

I got down there good and early and settled in to my room in the "Maria House" dormitory where most of the weekend was spent. It was actually what made up the convent of the entire complex, which is quite large. The grounds included an enormous, beautiful Catholic Church that brought back many memories of the church I grew up in in Minnesota, namely St. Lukes, which oddly enough has been renamed to St. Thomas More. I'm not sure how or why they renamed it. It's a little like the abolition of limbo. How does that happen, just all of the sudden?  You take something that people have believed in for years and say, well, it never really existed after all. What? I would think that St. Luke would be a little hacked off by the slight, myself.

The grounds of the place were beautiful. There was a stations of the cross circle that was pretty cool. There were beautiful walking paths, ponds and fountains and a plethora of statues. A nice quiet, serene locale for some deep thinking and writing.

The weekend came off like this. Friday we had dinner as a group at a local buffet. Then we returned to Techny Towers for a kickoff/inspirational lecture on "Writing the Rough Stuff." This session was on how to write "rough drafts" as well as how to right "rough topics." Kathie did a great job and we finished it up with a collaborative poem exercise (see below). The night wound down until the wee hours with a social hour and music provided by Mario Medina, a gifted musician and a heckuva poet.

Saturday we had breakfast and then were given the whole day to free-writing. It was blissful. Some people spent the day in the common room, some outside (despite the cool temps), but I chose to stay in my room most of the time, so as to not be distracted. I got a ton of writing done, but kind of wish I'd had one more full day of writing.

That night we had dinner on-site and spent 4 hours critiquing each others submitted work. This brought us to 12:00 AM when most of us decided to retire to our little nun beds for the evening.

Sunday morning we had a light breakfast and hit the road running early with critiques from 8:00-12:00. After lunch we had a "liftoff motivational lecture" and a creativity exercise that was a lot of fun. Each of us was assigned a paint color chip with 4 colors on it. From this we were to use at least 3 of the 4 colors on it to describe a character in a 5 minute piece.

Once we were done with this we were dismissed.

I can't say enough about the weekend. The best part of it was being around other writers, many of them way better at the craft than me, who struggle with the same kinds of issues I do. Scene setting, dialogue, point-of-view, chronology, etc. It was weird having 14 people hammering me during my critique time, as I'm used to only 6 or 8 at a sitting (at the Wed. night class). I had some great chats with friends old and new, and an informative and helpful 20 minute consultation with Kathie, the instructor.

I hope to make more of these kinds of events in the future. This weekend brings the Southeast WI Festival of Books to UW Waukesha, so that should be a good start. I'm really enjoying my writing outlet. I'm meeting tons of new, interesting people and it's been really, really good for me.

Blogging off...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Smoking is so....Regal

A couple of weird things happened today that have been rattling around my head, so I thought I'd get them out by writing them out.

I was in the store today and in front of me was a gentleman who asked the clerk for a carton of Pall Mall unfiltereds.

Now for starters, I didn't even think they made those things anymore. I seriously think it's a misdemeanor to smoke them in 9 states. You need a permit in 6 others, I'm guessing. Seriously. Those things pack a punch. In my twenties, I had about a half of one and got so dizzy I couldn't drive. Seriously. And this guy was buying a carton of them? I would think you'd need at least a doctor's note to even buy a carton of them. (Dr. Kevorkian in this case.) I figured this guy was aiming to end his life tonight. in a cloud of smoke, so to speak.

Anyhow once I got past the fact that they still make Pall Malls, and that people still smoke them, I watched the clerk ring it up to the tune of $84.00!


I got Pall Mall-dizzy all over again when I saw that come up on the register.

I guess everyone has their vice. Mine is the occasional $2.00 cup of coffee, which is a travesty in its own right. I'm also grateful that I never took up that habit to the tune of ever needing to buy a carton. Thank God for small mercies.

The other weird thing that happened today was that every time I turned around, there was a Buick Regal . Now the weird thing about this is that my brothers and I were just talking about these on our fishing trip a few weekends ago. We were joking on how the median age for drivers of them is about 82 years old, which is pret' near the truth.

The ones I saw were not new either, most of them five years old or so. They are not a stylish car at all. They are like the Ford Taurus for people over 65, I think. They are boat-like in appearance and likely handle like a boat. But my question stands. Why did I see so many today? Was it because I'm attuned to the whole Regal thing, thanks in part to my brothers? Or is Waukesha just a big Buick market?

I don't know, but if you see me in one in 20 years, tell me to stay in my lane.

Blogging off...

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Bit About Sisters

I realize I have given undue pages and preference to the brothers in my family, both in my BWCA memoir and in this blog, especially in light of what's been going on with Rob lately. I don't want to short shrift the other third of the family, namely my two sisters Pat and Jane. I also had a sister I never knew who died at age 5. I often wonder how any or all of our personalities would be different if she had lived to adulthood.

I love my sisters as much as my brothers, that much is true. They both started their families at quite a young age. Us boys all started much later, so our kid's are almost like two different generations. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, it's just how it worked out. Pat and Jane's kids grew up with one another, and my own kids and the other three brothers' kids have grown up together too. In that sense, we have seen and done more with them than the sisters.

It is in these emotionally difficult times that I've come to appreciate the sisters on a new level. My sister Pat has made very expensive trips out from California to see Rob. Jane's love for him runs so deep that she can hardly talk about the whole deal, at all. I see that and I recognize it. As a friend of mine said, everyone grieves differently, so you need to respect that. All I know is it's great to have sisters to hug when you're working through all the crap that makes up a cancer journey.

I have some great childhood memories of my sisters. Both of them were notorious for throwing high school parties when my mom was out of town, and I, being the goody, goody always threatened to tell mom. I was such a nerd. I don't ever recall actually telling on them, but somehow Mom always found out about it anyways.

Pat was always the dictator around the house. I remember her throwing our winter coats and boots down the basement steps in an attempt to clear the refuse before Mom got home. She was a relentless and frightening matriarch, and I'm glad to say we all lived through it.

Jane was always the emotional, dramatic one of the house. Her moods could change like the weather, and Lord help you if you crossed her. She was known to throw shoes, phones, and whatever she could reach in an attempt to make a statement. It certainly got our attention.

I don't mean to paint a bad picture of either of them. They were both doing the best they could in a situation where they were essentially in charge of mothering 3 of us (Me, Rob and Paul) during the hours that Mom was at work. They did a great job, as none of us turned out to be ax murderers. We all get along with our sisters, no black sheep in the whole family, so something must have been done right somewhere along the line.

So that's what I wanted to say. I wanted to say that I have sisters who would give the world for me and I know it. They always speak good of me, despite the fact that I'm miles away from both of them. We are family. I got both my sisters and me.

And that is a great thing.

Blogging off...