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Showing posts from 2012

2013 -- Ringing It In

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Another New Years Eve is upon us. It is not one of my favorite holidays, but I can't really tell you why. It's just kind of vanilla; kind of cheeseburger.

There aren't many New Years' that stand out as exceptional when I try and recall them. There are several that I recall as being just OK, but few that rival say some of the Christmases or Fourth of July's of the past.

There was the New Years that ended up with me at Perkins with my friend and his sister. I remember it being so cold out and my 1968 Cutlass wouldn't start, so I had to pop the hood, take off the air cleaner and open the carburetor butterfly valve. It finally started, thank goodness, so I guess you could call that a good "start" to the New Year (1978-'79).

And there was the one where Donna and I had a New Year's party and it fizzled and popped because we tried to mingle 3 groups of friends and family and the mixing never quite happened. Throw on top of that starting it too early…

What Can I Do To Make You Feel Well Today?

I went into Walgreens yesterday in a simple quest to get some AAA batteries for a remote control that was dead in the water. I went to the battery section and found a 4-Pack for $3.49. I noticed the sale price was only good "With Card", ($5.49 without). Now, I've been pestered a few times at Walgreens to "get a card," which I've flatly refused. The last thing I need is another key fob or piece of plastic in my wallet. Suddenly it seemed like a good idea. I figured I would get one at the register and save myself a couple bucks in the process.

I walked up to the empty register and told the clerk that I wanted a card if it wasn't too much trouble. She assured me it wasn't and then began taking my name, phone, and other information. In the middle of the registration, her phone rang and she answered it.

"Thank you for calling Walgreens. What can I do to make you feel well today?"

This struck me as an odd and somewhat intrusive greeting for a cl…

Over The Rivers

Our upcoming trip to the Twin Cities for Christmas brings to mind the many trips there and New York in years past. The treks are always long and weather occasionally makes for some interesting rides. A few come to mind as standouts, (not outstanding, just standouts).
There was the trip to Minnesota shortly after marrying when we hit a very bad snowstorm from Madison to Eau Claire. The snow was building up in the road to the point of having ruts. We had Donna's '87 Honda Accord and promptly surrendered in Eau Claire and stayed at a Motel. Word from Mom the next day was that if we had toughed it out for another 15 minutes we would have been out of the worst. There was no way I could have driven for another 15 minutes. I was fried.
Then, there were the many trips to New York. These were long, drawn out, overnight affairs and almost always included some bad weather somewhere along the way. Usually we hit some lake effect snow in Erie or Buffalo and things got white knucklish. If n…

A Birthday Wish

Today would have been my stepfather Jack's 83rd birthday. He died in 1997 of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP. This is a disease that affects 1 in 100,000 people over the age of 60. It is characterized by loss of balance, changes in mood, inability to control eye movements, depression and a host of other bad things. My mother and he divorced in 1985, so I didn't see him much after that.

Though he was far from perfect, he was the only dad I ever  knew. He liked his drink and it was the cause of both of his failed marriages. The outcome of his marriage to Mom was that we inherited a great step-family that we still see and love. We actually lived on the same street as his first wife, Portland Avenue. More ironic is the fact that her name was Mary, as was my mom. At one point there were two Mary McKasy's on Portland Avenue, as if the post office didn't have enough trouble getting things right.

While Jack had his faults he gave me many things in this life.

He gave me t…

Newtown's Wake

I'm not sure how to approach the subject of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings. It is a tragedy of such unthinkable proportions it's hard to even fathom. When I heard the news from my wife, my first thought was "Again?" Noteworthy was the fact that I didn't first think "How could something like this happen?" It's happened enough that surprise is not the first reaction.

Only when I asked how many casualties there were and she said 26, did the shock truly set in. Before that I was sickened by the news, but when I heard 26 (later changed to 28, including the killer,) my jaw dropped. When she said that most of them were children, my heart broke.

Later in the day, I repeatedly broke down in tears. This tragedy had an effect on me that no other national event has since 9/11/2001. When I heard the magnitude of that day, I wanted nothing more than to get home, get Sarah out of school and huddle with my family. It was so gut wrenching that someone (or in the…

Christmas Revisited

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As we rush headlong into another Christmas, I need to remind myself of what I want to get out of the season.  Per usual, I tend to think most about what I'm going to GET. Its the world's shortest 4 letter word, especially this time of year.

What am I going to GET? What should I GET (someone else)? What if I GET something that isn't what I really wanted? How much will I GET? What if my kids aren't happy with what they GET? Did we GET them enough?

Do you see where I'm going with this? Every year I say it should be so much more than the GET or even the GIVE. As low key as my Wisconsin family tries to keep it, it always seems to come down to spending too much and we end up not looking any different than the rest of the world.

At the same time, I've found I can enjoy the moments despite the craziness of shopping, lights and decorating. The day we were decorating the tree, I was watching the Packer game with the sound turned down and Nat King Cole playing on the sur…

Always Right

My son became eligible for a phone upgrade this past week, so I took him out to get one on Tuesday. We started at WalMart, which was our first mistake. Frankly, it's not my favorite store. I know it's one of the biggest employers in the US, but that doesn't matter. I still cringe at the thought of having to shop there. Ben had seen that they had his phone for $30.00, so I thought we would give it a try.

In the parking lot I told Ben that if I had a bad feeling at all while dealing with the salesperson I would give him the signal, and we would bolt.

The woman we got was less than helpful. When Ben told her he wanted to buy the Sony Xperia Ion which was on sale for .97 cents, she asked him "Why don't you want an iPhone 4? (Which was also on sale for .97). She went on to ask what was so good about the Sony vs. an iPhone. Ben came through with a decent answer, but that's not the point.

When a customer asks for something, you don't counter with a question. You…

Saturday Coffee

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One of the things my wife and I have taken to doing lately is going out for coffee on Saturday mornings. We get up around 7:30 and head over to the Steaming Cup, a local coffee shop about 6 blocks from home. In the summer months, we would even go to the Waukesha Farmer's Market afterward and buy produce.  Now that it's winter, we just go for coffee and a cinnamon roll. What once started on a whim, has become our ritual and I have grown to love it for a number of reasons.

First and foremost is it gives us the chance to talk uninterrupted for an hour or so. We could probably do the same thing at home, because the kids usually sleep in on Saturday AM, but it wouldn't be the same. When you're home, the appliances beckon. Projects beckon. Technology beckons. When you're at coffee none of that is a factor. Even our phones don't come out until it's time to go home. Getting uninterrupted time used to be a bigger deal when the kids were smaller and pulling us in al…

The Microsoft Repairman

I guess I might be called the IT Administrator for our household. This is not a well paying position. In fact, here's the job description.

Household IT Administrator
Starting wage: $0.00

Overview: A voluntary, no pay position is now available for an enthusiastic technology geek over fifty years old. This position is a full time, permanent position with no opportunity for advancement or any sort of pay or benefit increase. Annual reviews will not be conducted, however if you should inadvertently cause someone a  technological inconvenience, (i.e. rebooting, conducting a diagnostic test, or slowing down the internet, since evidently its speed is dictated by you) you will be verbally flogged and harumphed.

Qualifications: Candidate must work full time on computers at work and enjoy coming home to do the same on an as needed basis. The work may include: software installation and removal, software updates, scanning and removal of malware and network troubleshooting which includes cursing …

Nerve Racking (sic)

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There's a reason I'm not a carpenter, or a handy man.

Those people think differently. Try as I might to "enjoy" working with my hands or to love creating something with power tools, or appreciate "working with wood", I just can't. Saturday was testament to that distaste in so many ways, its hard to describe.

It started with the idea of buying a fishing rod rack that I saw in the black Friday sales flyer for Menards. Bear in mind that I NEVER go out on black Friday, but we needed solar salt and a furnace filter anyways, so I figured I'd see if I could save $15 on the rack and get my salt and filter too.

This was my first mistake.

Menards was a madhouse. The pace was frantic and exhausting. I found myself buying right into it when, at one point I had a fleece throw in my cart that cost $1.50. Later on, I was looking at $14 dog beds for no good reason. Luckily, I came to my senses and abandoned the throw on a shelf and skipped the dog bed. I got my ra…

Thinking of Thanks

This day calls for pause to consider the things we are thankful for. Some of mine are below.


My Faith. I credit my good friend Pat for discipling me during our college years. His method was not to beat me on the head with scripture, guilt and judgement. Instead he showed me what compassion and love and true friendship looked like. God took it from there.My Immediate Family. A wife who I can laugh with and two beautiful, smart kids. I keep wondering how I managed to get this lucky.My Extended Family. The past couple years has made me realize how much I took them all for granted for so long. They love me and my kids unconditionally and were there for each other in times of hurt.My Dog. He is the third kid in this family, though intellectually he's stunted at 3 years old. His goofy look and cocked head makes me smile daily. Truly man's best friend.My City. I was out in downtown Waukesha last night and was amazed at the vibrancy of this small city. Compared to what it was even 10 y…

The Meaningful Things

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Last week I got my reel back from Badger Reel Repair. The reel (pictured above) was given to me by my brother Rob the last time I saw him, before he passed away in Aug. 2011. It was the second time I've had it in for repairs. The first time it didn't seem to be working right, so I brought it to BRR and it cost me $25 to clean, oil and repair it. When I tried it again this summer, it still did not seem to be working right.

Now, normally, I probably would not have spent any more money on repairing the reel. The reel only cost Rob $75 at the time, so putting much more into it would seem frivolous. Because the reel means more to me than just an average reel, I thought I'd go ahead and get it fixed. It was $15 to repair, which seemed like a deal to get a functional keepsake.

The whole process got me to thinking about things that mean something. You know the items. Things that you would want to take to the basement with you in the case of a tornado. Things given to you by loved…

Waiting Out The Traffic Jam

I am what you might call in-between writing projects at the moment. I am currently working up to marketing my BWCA book to publishers. The book is "done" although, like any work, I think it could probably be better if I spent a couple more years on it. (That is a joke, but not too far from the truth. Ask any writer.)

At the same time, I am working piecemeal on my second book, an as-yet untitled work about the house I grew up in in Minnesota. Initially the stories came fast and furious, as I recounted the best ones first. I think of this as a sort of creative vomit, for lack of a better description. The stories flow readily because they have been recounted several times at family gatherings, and if not recounted, replayed in my head. Getting them down is relatively simple. Getting them cleaned up is a bit harder.

In addition to those two projects, I am coming off a handful of fictional short stories that I wrote to stretch myself. I think it's important to push the bounda…

Ten At Fifty

A few observations about life after 50.

1. I can't hear you. I seem to be going deaf. At the same time I will never admit I'm old enough for a hearing aid. The concerts of the 80's are catching up to me.

2. I'll wear what I want. I used to not be keen on wearing anything with a saying or logo on it for fear of what people would think. At 50, I suddenly don't care anymore. My two favorite T-shirts at the moment are my black tee with the Superman logo on it and the other is one that reads "Shut up and fish."  Hopefully these are not predecessors to the "I'm with stupid --->" T-shirt or the sweatshirt with the sunset and howling wolf on them. If you see me in these, try and understand.

3. Stretching is not optional. My morning routine involves 25 minutes of yoga/stretching immediately after waking. If I don't do this, I can still function, but I just feel better if I've done it.

4. I talk to my dog. Around the house, around the block and…

Everyone Has A Story

I went to the Moth Story Slam with my wife last night at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee. In case you are not familiar with it, it's basically a story competition. People put their names in a bag if they have a story to tell, then names are drawn out of the bag and people get on stage and tell their story. There's a few guidelines that have to be followed:

1. The story must be true.
2. Keep it to 5 minutes, with penalties for going over.
3. No notes.
4. The story should have a beginning, middle and an end. (Conflict and resolution are always nice too.)

When the person is done, the emcee' then calls on the 3 teams of two judges each to score how they did. They allow 10 people to tell stories and the whole thing takes a couple of hours. Each story is interspersed with the emcee reading audience responses to a question. Last nights question was "Tell about an accident that ended happily." That made for some interesting diversions from the main act of listening to …

Faking It With Zeal

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My wife and I have been a part of the Middle School Ministry at church for the past three years. Prior to that, I worked with my son's Boy's Club group at church for four years from grades 2 through 5. The tasks have changed a little over time, but the goals are essentially the same. Provide a safe, fun, encouraging environment for our kids to establish their young faith while helping teach them the basic tenets of the Christian faith.

How am I qualified to this task, you ask? I frequently ask myself the same question. The answer is I'm not. I have no theological training to speak of. While my faith is strong, I would not say that I have any firmer grasp of the Bible than the guy sitting in the pew next to me. One might think that I should be good at teaching kids to be able to do the job. Well, wrong again. Nothing special there either. Just average in my dealings with young teens.

What I do have is a willing heart. Couple that with a bit of old Catholic guilt and deep-f…

Obsession Defined

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It's that time of year, mid fall, when I take my trip up north in pursuit of one of the greatest fish in the freshwater ecosystem. I'm speaking of Esox masquinongy, aka the Musky. I always look forward to this trip for a couple of reasons. For one, it's the last blast of fishing for the year. While I probably could get out once or twice more now that I have a kayak, I always look at it as my last chance on the water. 

Secondly, fishing Musky has become my newest passion. It is so uniquely different from fishing for other fish, that I want to learn all I can about it; become better at it; catch a bigger one. As I describe in my account of my first experience, it is not so much like fishing for them as it is "hunting" for them. They are few and far between, these creatures, so you have to be crafty, incredibly patient, and a little johnny on the spot to get them.

They are called the fish of 10,000 casts for a reason. They're finicky and smart. It takes serious w…

Shouting Down A Hole

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I was hoping I could leave the ATT post as a single ranting post and be done with it. Their corporate arrogance and ineptitude make that impossible however. Bear with me for one more post as I try and put this problem to rest forever.

I called back today to tell them I hadn't received the forms to declare my employment/discount eligibility via email like I was promised on Friday. Well, of course the first guy couldn't handle it because only customer service can do that. So, I was promptly transferred to someone cleverly disguised as a friendly customer service clerk. She was pleasantly patient and seemed to be eager to help. Well after repeating my name, address, and my wife's last 4 social security digits another time, she assured me that if I were to take down the 14 digit account number and give it to the representative at the first number I called, it would all be done.

Seems easy enough, right?

Wanting to finish the procedure (and being 20 minutes into the process at…

...And I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

I got the chance to deal with ATT again this week. This company might have the most confusing and ill conceived upgrade/data/transfer phone plan that has ever existed. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

About a month ago I got a new smart phone. As part of the move to the new phone, we wanted to begin a Family data sharing plan. We were originally set up with Donna and Sarah both having a 2 GB plan and Ben and I with nothing. So when we got my phone, we opted to upgrade to a single 10 GB plan. Part of the incentive to go with a 10 GB plan was that we were supposed to receive a 15% discount that I get from work.
The following Monday I get a text that the discount had not been applied and will require proof of employment. Two seconds later I get a text saying the discount WAS applied. So, which is it?
Well, because of the way billing cycles work, we had to wait a couple of weeks to find out if all of this shifting around really took effect. Guess what? 
It didn't. 
It turns…

The Story Behind The Stories

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I went to another writing event last Friday night. It's an event called the Friday Night Free For All and it takes place at the AllWriters' writing studio in downtown Waukesha. It features readings from four genres including poetry, memoir, fiction and novel excerpt. Usually a guest speaker is also featured, but this particular event used a panel of students who submitted their work to the Ampersand Review. These poems were supposed to be "Found Poems" which are poems compiled of other snippets. These could be literature quotes, movie titles, or in this case, email subject lines.

I realize that these events are not for everyone. You have to appreciate books, stories and storytelling. It also helps to be familiar with the writing process, though that's not requirement. Many of my friends would not be caught dead at something like this, and I really don't hold that against them. As I said, it's not for everyone.

The fact of the matter is that I really do e…

Relative Alter-Ego

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I am about halfway through my deceased uncle's (Jack) second manuscript. Recall from an earlier post that I was given both of his books by my brother to read at my leisure. It turns out that he had acquired them from Jack directly in an attempt to get some publishing interest. My brother has had a couple of books published and so Jack figured Tom might be able to help him out. From what I understand, Tom tried to market them to a few places, but none bit.

The second book is titled LUM'S and it is about two brothers who own a grocery store in North Central Minnesota. The plot is a tad slow and is centered around their attempt at expansion of the business. With both books I am learning a lot about my uncle, but also using some of the skills I've learned in my writing workshop to see why maybe these books didn't catch any interest.

None of it is meant to detract from my admiration for his effort and all of the work that went into each. As a fledgling writer myself, I har…

The Color Grey

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Fall has definitely become my favorite season. Well, maybe I'll qualify that by saying "early fall." The months of August through October, to be precise. The older I get, the more I appreciate the color of the trees. I've always thought that this is such an "old person" thing to appreciate. It's weird how it happens, but at about the age of thirty, I suddenly started to notice them with a greater appreciation. It was probably on one of my many road trips back to Minnesota that I first took note. I can also remember vividly my brother Rob saying how he started noticing the colors too. It's funny how in your teens and early twenties you just don't notice that kind of thing, or at least Rob and I didn't. Then one day, a switch flips and...boom...trees are cool!














My latest fascination is with trying to capture some of their beauty on camera when presented with the chance. There are a few examples shown here, but unfortunately none of these does …

Fishing For An Upgrade

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I was out fishing on Friday on "Secret Lake," and if you're a fisherman, you get the joke, and was catching fish at a rate of about one every six minutes. 30 fish in 3 hours, it was a blast. I was the only boat on the lake and was just having a great time. At one point I heard a clunk like something falling. I figured it was my travel mug of coffee shifting or something like that, so I didn't pay much attention. Ten minutes later, I look down and there is my cell phone sitting in a half inch of water on the bottom of the kayak. Now, it was an old crappy cellphone, but needless to say, I felt pretty dumb. It was fried of course; stuck in an endless cycle of reboot and then, eventually, a white screen of death. RIP crappy cellphone. I loved that phone.

My wife jokingly accused me of doing it intentionally in the name of getting a new smart phone. Of course that's not true, but we had been talking about me getting one eventually anyway, so it was meant to be.

We we…

Closing Thoughts On Past Posts

I'll take a post to wrap-up a couple of recent posts, namely No Brother of Mine and A Home For Willie. As you recall, I had some issues with my wife's laptop not being able to print to our brand new Brother printer. I tried a half dozen software uninstalls/reinstalls to no avail. Desperate, I notified support by email. They were prompt in getting back to me, but their response was kind of a joke. It consisted of a web link to a list of an 8 "part" series of solutions, with each "part" having multiple steps. This list would seem daunting to a technically adept person, of whom I consider myself. I cannot imagine how someone technophobic or techno-illiterate would feel. I'm sure most would take the printer back immediately upon opening the email.

I worked my way through all of the steps to no avail. Then, what occurred to me was how can someone put a product out that is so tough to setup that it requires 8 steps of troubleshooting after the consumer has al…

No Brother Of Mine

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I'm writing this as I muddle my way through the 5th install/uninstall of the printing software for my wife's laptop. Our printer took a dump the other day, so we got a nice, shiny Brother MFC-J825DW All in One Wireless printer. Thus began my long saga.

The printer installed perfectly on my Dell laptop and within 10 minutes I was printing fine. This was easy I thought. Repeat the same process 3 times for all the other laptops and I would be done in no time. Next up was Donna's because she needed it the most. I run through the wizard the same way I did on her very similar Windows 7 64 bit laptop and again it appeared to be easy. I go to print and, wait for it, wait for it, nothing!

This is where my beef with all things Windows comes in. Why if you have two very similar laptops, neither with very much software on it, do you get two different results when installing the same program? Grrr.

Being real scientific about it I thought I'd try it on a 3rd laptop to see what happ…

A Home For Willie

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A couple of years ago after finding out that I've been working on a book, my older brother told me that my deceased uncle John (Jack) was a fledgling writer who had actually finished a book. Evidently he never had any luck getting it published, but details are sketchy as to how hard he tried, what channels he used, etc. I told Tom that I would love to see the book sometime and he finally remembered to get it to me when we all met up in Mercer, WI a couple of weeks ago. As a writer, I can fully appreciate the effort that must have gone into this manuscript. The countless hours of research and composition, all followed up by hundreds of edits. None of us knows what to do with it, so we are left to reading it and passing it on to the next family member.

The book is titled Willie. (Cover page above.) I am less than 1/3 of the way through it - it's over 300 pages long - but find it interesting for unconventional reasons.

The story takes place in St. Cloud, Minnesota in the early 1…

Cabin Fever

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As I mentioned, our time at Pine Forest Lodge last weekend was phenomenal. Good family together time, great cousin time, a blue moon party in Rob's honor, and a really big fish to boot. I couldn't have asked for more. Because it was such a great time at a place that is near and dear to us all, I thought I'd recount some of the memorable moments of years past "at the cabin". I do this not to the exclusion of those who have never been to PFL, but rather to the inclusion of anyone out there that has been to "the cabin." Most everyone has a favorite summer place they have been to as a kid or an adult and likely will be able to relate to some of the moments I describe.

First Fish: While not everyone's first fish was at PFL, most people in our family caught their first fish at a cabin. Sarah used to sit in what we call her African squat on the dock in Hackensack MN for hours and catch bluegills. It is where she caught her first fish as well as her first n…

One For The Ages

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We spent the weekend in Mercer, Wisconsin again this Labor Day, much like we did last year. The mood was certainly less somber, though distinctly muted by the absence no one could ignore. Rob was the guy who would just show up at your cabin with coffee in hand in the morning, or a Budweiser in hand after noon, and talk. He loved being around family and talking about anything and everything. At the same time, the dynamic of the family is as healthy as it ever was. Everyone seems to appreciate everyone else a little more than they used to. Rob's absence has definitely pulled us closer together and the change is for the better. It was part of his legacy that he hoped he would leave and it seems to be happening that way.

It was a "blue moon" on Friday and it was a gorgeous night by the fire with family and friends. Everybody was in high spirits and glad to be with each other. The moon was beautiful and we even had a few people around the fire that knew the words to the song…