Monday, September 26, 2011

Momentary Sports Mecca

It's a good time of year to be a Wisconsin sports fan. I'll admit I am pretty much a one trick pony when it comes to sports. I LOVE NFL football, but don't have a ton of time for the rest of sports. I'll watch the standings for all teams from WI and MN, but really other than pro football, I don't really care who does what. When the baseball playoffs start if the Twins or Brewers happen to be in them, I'll start watching, but don't really watch much more than the standings during the year. That probably qualifies me as a fair weather baseball fan, but you know what? There's only so many hours in a week. I feel guilty enough watching two Sunday games and a Monday Night game.

Basketball is even worse. Any game where they score points every minute just don't do anything for me. If I watch a game, it's only the last few minutes of one, because why watch the first 100 points? Again, fair weather? Probably, and I'm OK with that.

Now, I do enjoy the NCAA Tournament in March. Do I watch any games other than the one's Wisconsin and Minnesota (rarely) are in? No. As soon as the Wisconsin teams are out of it though I lose interest. I'll root for the teams from my bracket, but only from the standings in the paper. You won't see me tuning in to LSU vs. Oregon St.

Having laid that out there, I AM excited about the Milwaukee Brewers at the moment. It's been 29 years since they won a division title, so when they won it on Friday, it was fun to watch. I even registered online for the opportunity to buy tickets if my name was drawn from the lottery. I got notice on Saturday that my name was not drawn, but I would be eligible for the NLCS or World series if they get that far.

Now, this is a small market team that has built a pretty good club from the ground up. In 2008 they won the wild card almost solely on the arm of CC Sabathia. This team is a much deeper club in many ways. Their pitching can be suspect at times, but they have plenty of offense and know how to win at home. It would be nice if they could get home field advantage and help themselves out.

Meanwhile the Packers are starting hot as well at 3-0. Their wins have been ugly, but are wins are wins. I expect they'll go deep in the playoffs and be right in it at the end.

Then, the Badgers are 4-0 as well. Their first real test is this weekend vs. Nebraska, so we'll see what they're really made of soon enough.

To round it out Ben's Jr. Blackshirts are 3-1.

Until then though, I'm taking a baseball team with a playoff berth, two unbeaten football teams and my son's team on the right track and running with it.

Blogging off...

Friday, September 23, 2011

The University of Traffic

This is a post in the hopes that the Dean of Carroll University does a Google search on his own school and this blog comes up as one of the top 3 hits.

I have always loved living near Carroll University. I loved it even more though when it was Carroll College and it was a smaller, quaint college tucked inside the center of Waukesha. What has happened is they have grown the college by leaps and bounds. They are building apartment/dorms exponentially and filling them.

Now I'm all for free enterprise and growth. I guess bringing in people to spend money in the city is a good thing. They will eat at our restaurants, buy our groceries (and beer), and shop at our stores.

That said, much comes along with the growth. First and most obvious to me is the traffic. Foot traffic, auto traffic, bikes and scooters. They cross the road wherever is convenient for them and I've almost hit a couple on my bike. It's perilous at 7:30 in the morning and continues throughout the day. Added to this is the traffic for the schools nearby as well as people trying to get to work.

This has served to make me a crabby man.

They need to build a bridge over the Barstow/College crossing. Traffic trying to turn left AND right are both backed up because students are crossing to get to classes from their dorms on Grand Ave.

They now have a campus security cop-car wannabe, a couple of student shuttles to shuttle the students 3 blocks and the other day I even saw a Campus Security Harley Davidson. I couldn't believe my eyes. A motorcycle to go in a 3 block square? Seriously? The thing will never see second gear for crying out loud. What's he going to do, write out warning tickets? Does he get orange and white lights instead of red and blue?

This is a sign that Carroll University charges too much for tuition. That and the fact that they change the flowers in front of the dining commons and the campus arches every 30 days, whether they're dead or not. It's out of control spending caused by out of control tuition increases.

All of this is happening because there was no plan. No campus plan for traffic, controlled growth or neighborhood impact. My advice to the Board of Regents and other University mucky mucks is to now figure out how to fix what they broke. Wake me when it's done.

Blogging off...

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Took

Below is the poem I wrote for my brother's funeral. It speaks of Rob's overcoming adversities as well as God's righteous plan, albeit mysterious at times.  I miss him unbelievably, but realize we'll be reunited one day.

You Took                                   By Jim Landwehr

You took away his hearing,

So that he might become a friend
to those You also chose for deafness.

So that he might better appreciate
the touch of his loving wife and beautiful daughters

You took away his hearing, Lord
but he listened to You still.

You took away his sister,

So that he might be a blessing
to his brothers and sisters remaining.

So that You could show him the love
of stepbrothers and sisters that he might never have known.

You took away his sister, Lord
but he trusted you still.

You took away his Father,

So that he could be a better father
to his own daughters

So that he might more completely love
his Mother, whose love never ceased.

You took away his Father, Lord
but he loved his Father in heaven still.

You took away his legs,

So that he might better see
that it’s people that matter, not circumstances.

So that he might fully proclaim that
no disability can keep a good man down.

You took away his legs, Lord
but he walked with you still.

You took away his life,

So that we might stand and recognize
the way he touched our lives, each one of us.

So that his memory shall resonate
for decades to come; an echo he hears in heaven

You took away his life, Lord
and now he’s with You, and us, forever.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Musky Men

While we were up in Mercer, WI a couple of weeks back, I had set a goal to catch a musky with some of the equipment Rob gave me the last time I saw him. He gave me his musky rod and lures because he knew I would use them. It meant more to me than most of my possessions. It's weird how sentimental you can get about such things, but when someone very close to you passes away, you kind of grab on to what you can of them in a desperate attempt to heal some of the pain. To some it's jewelry, some a car, and some it's fishing stuff. My friend Steve got his brother's golf clubs and he treasures those.

Mercer is where my brothers Paul and Rob both caught their muskies. Paul caught his first when one year he decided to try fishing for musky - a very difficult fish to catch - after having such crappy luck fishing for anything else on Spider Lake. We wished him luck as he headed out with his rod and a very large lure. Turns out he caught one on his first cast, a feat that is nearly impossible. Musky are known as the fish of 10,000 casts, though they say with modern stocking and tackle/techniques, it is now more like 3,000 casts. In any case, they are not the fish of one cast, that's for sure.

Seeing Paul catch one, sparked the interest of Rob and the next year (2006) he caught his first musky (above) in a spot very near to where Paul got his. (No, not tellin' where.) A few years later I managed to get my first one in the same county, but on a different lake. All of this left Tom, my eldest brother, as the only one without a musky to his credit.

So, as I said, my goal was to catch a musky in Rob's honor. I got up early 3 days in a row, by 6:30 and got on the water. I fished using Rob's rod and reel, and I fished using my own new rod and reel. I threw lures from big to small. I tried it early in the morning and literally 10:00 at night. (Fishing at night was a first for me and quite a strange experience, especially with steam rising off the water which created an eerie scene.) I tried the old spots and familiar bays and the new spots including the narrows and other areas. I threw and reeled, threw and reeled and threw again.

I threw until my fingers were blistered and my shoulder blades were sore. I was desperate. "Must catch fish. Must catch fish."

While we were busy trying the whole weekend, so were my brothers Tom and Paul. Paul was trying solely for Musky and Tom for anything with fins. We had heard from a guy on the lake that he'd landed two musky on Saturday, but we had not so much as a follow to our credit.

We came home Sunday night to report that we had failed yet again to get a fish. It looked like there would be no musky this trip. I walked down to the big family cabin at Pine Forest Lodge where the bulk of the family was staying. When I walked in, I quickly found out that Tom had caught a 36" musky that evening about dusk.


In fact, I thought the only thing better than me catching one with Rob's equipment would be Tom catching his first during the trip.

A side story to the catch was that when Rob caught his, my sister Jane went to town and bought him a shirt with "Muskie Man" and a man in a superman outfit on the front. Well, Rob's wife Jane brought the shirt up to Mercer with her with instructions that whoever catches the musky during future trips must sign the shirt and gets to keep it until the following year. Tom got the honors this year. I'm sure Rob was looking down from heaven and smiling.

I'm booking for that shirt next year.

Blogging off...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming Up for Air

It has been a brutal couple of weeks. As most of you know, my brother passed away on Tuesday, August 30th after a long, courageous battle with cancer. Much has transpired since then, too much to list here. I do want to talk a bit about our trip to Mercer, WI two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, when my family gathered at my brother's house to support each other, the idea was postulated that maybe it would be a good thing if they all went up to Mercer to be with us and heal as a family. When we got word that that was going to happen, we were very excited. Because of Rob's quick passing, I never got the chance to get home and be with my family during their grieving. This would give them the opportunity to come to me, in some respects.

We drove up on Friday after work with our friends Jill and Steve who had planned to come with us all along. They were fairly trepidatious about the thought of being caught in the middle of our family's mourning. We assured them that we wanted them there to support us and hoped they would carry through. They did and it turned out to be a good thing for everyone.

After unpacking, settling in and saying hello to sister in-law Jane as well as John and Cheri, the proprietors, we went down and said hello to my family. Steve and Jill were reluctant to do that, but were gracious enough to carry it through. When they did, they said that the whole experience of meeting my mom and some of the others in the family was touching for them as well. Steve lost his brother (47, same age as Rob) to pancreatic cancer last December (2010). He said he was touched by my mother's mentioning his loss and her genuine nature about both of our situations. It made me proud to be called her son, and proud to be called his friend. Jill was moved by the whole situation as well, and it was really, really good to finally introduce my good friends to Mom.

After introductions, Steve, Jill and Donna saw to it that I spend time with my family out on the deck of the big family cabin, while they went back to our cabin. I went back and there they all were, Mom, Tom, Pat, and Jane. Paul didn't get up until Saturday, but the rest were there. Just being there was absolutely healing. Laughing with them, telling stories of Rob and sharing other family memories and just being around them was therapeutic. It was a night to remember...and part of a morning too.

There was much fishing all weekend long, with few results as expected at this very difficult lake to fish (Spider Lake). One of the funnier things that happened was that over the course of the weekend, Steve's fishing rod kept falling out of the boat into the water. The first two times he lunged over the boat side to grab it before it sunk to the bottom, and each time he got it. The third time was at night and I managed to hook his rod with my very large musky lure on the back side of a cast. When I flung it forward he said "Jim, that's my rod!" as it flung into the water in front of me. I reached over with my own rod and managed to hook it before it sank to the bottom.

It was then that we joked that Rob was playing with us and seeing to it that our rods were always falling overboard. We said he was jealous that I was already fishing with someone else, and to make matters worse, I was doing it on "our lake." It was a lightening joke to an otherwise heavy weekend.

The weekend had so much more to it. So many layers of grief, sorrow, healing, renewal, growth, memories and memory making. As time goes on, I'll try and recount some of those on this blog. For now though, I'm going to slog forward, grinding through my grief and sadness and try and see where I land when the dust has settled on this incredible loss in my life. Rob's passing has made heaven so much more real to me than it ever was, and for that I am grateful. At the same time, there are moments in every day when I cannot believe he is gone. Fortunately I know that the former is where I know we'll meet again, and that is the source of incredible hope and relief for me.

Blogging off...