Friday, January 27, 2012

The Ten Dollar Check Out

I saw Mission Impossible 4 tonight with my son. It was amazing. Great action, riveting plot and lots of technology and special effects. It's one of those movies that is best experienced on the big screen. (Most movies are, but action thrillers even more so.) Lots of explosions, perilous falling scenes and gunfire. Was most of it far-fetched? Of course. But that's why we go to the movies. Escape. Total, pure escapism.

I'm glad I took the time to see it, especially with my son, Ben. It seems I'd fallen into my winter routine funk and was reminded of it by my wife. One dark winter day seems to blend into the next. I know as well as my wife,  that all work and no play makes Jim a dull boy. When she mentioned doing something to shake it up, I thought about taking Ben somewhere. It's been a while since we did a boy's night, so I checked into a hockey game. The  Milwaukee Admirals game had no good tickets left, so I opted for a movie instead. MI4 it was.

When I saw the preview for this movie with Ben, I said "We gotta see that one, Ben." He said that would be cool, and so I wanted to follow through with it. We like seeing these together because they are more "guy movies."

We both came away saying the same thing. "That was cool." I know Tom Cruise is a bit of head case and I don't really follow him much on the "Hollywood circuit." At the same time, he makes a GOOD movie. Whether he was scaling the world's tallest building, swimming out of a submerged car or chasing a villain in a sandstorm, he was epic. It's kind of like sports stars. If you admire them on the field and then kind of tune out their wacky, sometimes dysfunctional personal lives, you appreciate them much more. Its when they get busted for having a trunk full of dope or beating their spouse that you lose respect. I prefer to put the blinders on in the case of Tom Cruise.

Tonight I got to jump out a window from the 130th floor of the world's tallest building in Dubai, I blew up the Kremlin, I was in a car chase in India, I had contact lenses that can scan documents to a printer, I fell down an elevator shaft only to be caught and suspended by magnets, I jumped from a speeding car and watched it head-on crash into another, I fought hand-to-hand on several occasions, and to top it all off, I managed to disarm a nuclear warhead headed for Seattle.

And I did it all for $10.

That is why I go to the movies.

Blogging off...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Draw Like an Egyptian


We got some great news today from my daughters school. She had entered a piece of her artwork in a competition set by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.  Her piece (above) was a self-portrait done with pastels. There were a few thousand from the state and her piece was selected as one of the Gold Key winners. This is a pretty significant achievement given the number of entries. She was excited, but in typical Sarah form, she is humble about it. Like many of her achievements, I am more excited than her.

Part of what I admire about it is that I have never been good at art. I used to love to draw football players until someone pointed out that their head was pointed in one direction and their feet in another. They looked like Egyptian glyphs if you know what I mean. My players were "Walking like an Egyptian." When the friend pointed this out to me, it kind of ruined my love of drawing. To top it off, he was able to draw football players and make them look real. Really real, not Egyptian real. It was an epic moment for me in some ways realizing I kind of sucked at art. It was also an epiphany for me too though in recognizing that there are people who are just gifted at it. You can probably train people to be better at it, but they'll likely never be as good as those to whom it comes naturally.

This evening after I get home from work I see a post on Facebook by my wife saying she wished she enjoyed exercise as much as she enjoys cooking. I commented that I wish I enjoyed cooking even a smidgen as much as I enjoy working out.

What it boils down to is everyone has their gig. Everyone is gifted at something. A couple of my guy friends are good at woodworking. Me? I can't see angles, measure poorly and am dangerous with a saw. (Though I did lay some mean quarter-round this weekend in our office.) They are good at it because they like it. I don't like it. There's the difference. I do it when it needs doing, but often cursing the process and the experience the whole time. There's no love there.

As I said my wife loves cooking. Absolutely loves it. It's her way of relaxing. Something is always on the stove or in the works for tomorrow's menu. Again, I can do it, minimally, if I have to, I guess. It's grueling and painful to me. It's totally like work to me, no pleasure. Donna knows that and respects it, and I do the same with her in regards to working out. It's what you call an understanding.

My gig is writing, I guess. Most of my friends say that what I like to do would kill them. They hate it. Again, I think you can teach people to write better, but unless they want to do it (and are gifted at it) they will never be as good as someone who enjoys it.

The point is, find what you enjoy doing, then do it. It will make you better and if you're good at it, it WILL make the world better. It WILL make your family better. If you're not doing it, you have to figure out what it is. The world is waiting for you, but it won't wait forever. Dream, stretch, and grow. Leave the world a better place because you were in it. Right now I'm going to go do that, so I'm...

Blogging off...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Breakfast Club


I had breakfast at Blues Egg with a couple of close friends this morning. The food was great as was the company. As a trio, we're going to try and make it a monthly thing, getting together and talking about life. All three of us have been in Bible Studies and/or some sort of men's group in the past and while they have all been relatively good experiences, when all was said and done, we didn't come away with any close true friends. We've got friends who we see at church or who we respect, but none that we would call buds. It's not to say that those groups don't build those kinds of relationships, I'm just saying that none of us had that kind of luck.

None of us are the types to call each other a couple times a week, as we're not big phone people. We will frequently text during a football game we're watching or attending, but that's about as personal as we get. (It's a guy thing). We're all busy and trying our best to be loyal spouses, good dads/uncles, and great employees. That takes effort enough, and while we don't keep in constant contact, these are the guys who I know have my back.

They're the ones who lend me tools when I need them.
They're the ones who help me build/fix what I need built or fixed.
They're the ones who love my kids like uncles and would risk their lives for them.

We all met through our wives, in kind of a roundabout fashion. They, like me are both Christians, and value the three F's as much as me. (Faith Family and Friends in that order). We share similar political views, but don't always agree about everything. There is enough respect though, that we're able to agree to disagree. This past year we have all celebrated at least 20 years with our spouses, which shows that we locked into the marital bonds with a sense of purpose and duty. I don't mention this to boast, but rather to point out that it is these kinds of things that hold us together. Mutual interests, values and morals.

These are the guys I've watched the Packers win championships with.
These are the guys I've celebrated New Years Eve with.
These are they guys I've camped and fished with.

This past year we've also all shared significant losses in our families, close siblings and parents. I cannot tell you how it has helped me having these guys (and their spouses) to lean on when things were tough. There were times where I just needed them to listen, and they did. But along with that, they sent cards, texted, watched our dog and cats, sent food, offered money, time and love. They were there when we needed them.

The wonderfully sad thing was I knew that they understood how I felt because they were going through the same thing. We were all in sort of a synchronized grief. It was horrible, but thanks to them, manageable. It's almost like the loss of a brother has led to these guys filling the hole left in his absence, or at least to slow the bleeding.

For that I am grateful.

Blogging off...

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's a Free For All!

Last Friday night was an event called the AllWriters' Friday Night Free-For-All. It is an event held quarterly at the writing studio that is free to the public. It features short readings from 4 different students, namely poetry, memoir, short story and novel. There were also readings from Kathie and Michael Giorgio at this particular event in recognition of the studio's 7th anniversary. Kathie has done a wonderful job at building a successful creative writing business that has even weathered the current recession we're experiencing.

I'm not one who particularly likes public speaking, but was asked by the Director to do a reading from my memoir I'm working on. I was honored to be asked, so picked a story about one of our foibles at a canoe launch in the BWCA. I was a bit nervous going in, but for some strange reason, not as nervous as I've been in the past. I got up and read my 12 minutes worth and it went off without a hitch. Judging from the crowd's reaction, it was well received. The good feedback actually helped calm my nerves quite a bit, something to remember the next time you hear someone speak.

The rest of the readers were amazing too. My friend Deb Tetzlaff read from her novel-in-work about a woman who prays from her apartment balcony for cars driving on the freeway. She's got a knack for story telling and it comes out great in her emotion-filled reading. Michael and Kathie's readings were outstanding too. Michael had a couple of short fiction pieces and Kathie did a re-make of the Gift of the Magi that was moving, to say the least.

After the readings, I hung around and socialized with some of the other students and spectators. Though the event is open to the public, it is heavily slanted toward existing students and their supporters and families. I got to meet a couple of cool writers from the Tuesday class and talk shop. Like any conference, it's good to network with people who have the same interests. We can talk about struggles and successes, rejections and acceptances. These folks have been there and can relate.

Blogging off...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Looking Up



The start of a new year is always a time of reflection and renewal for me. As part of my annual tradition, I do a purge of my closet and dressers to rid myself of clothes that I haven't worn in the last year. It also gives me some much needed space in my closet and dresser. More than anything though it gives me the satisfaction of "lightening." The older I get, the less I think I need. This is despite the fact that the "want" never seems to cease. It seems you can't outgrow selfishness.

I had an interesting chat with a friend after writing class last night. She is a relatively new friend that shares several common tragic threads with me. We seem to connect because of what we've been through, yet each of us is determined not to let our tragedies define us. Life is too short to not look forward or to let something horrible from your past stifle your future. Anyhow she is a kindred spirit and we've had some great conversations.

Last night we talked about the role of grief plays in your life. She said that as much as it hurts and we don't like it, like joy and happiness, it is something that very much shapes us. How we deal with what it does to us is up to us and she cautioned repeatedly about not getting embittered. I don't think I will, though I think there was a time a while back where I was pissed and kind of bitter about Rob's situation and passing. I've moved beyond that, in part because I now understand that while he is where he is as part of a plan, I also am where I am as part of a plan.  My whole "what is the point?" perspective has become clearer now that I've reached a different stage or grief reconciliation (if that's possible).

Today she sent me a brief email that was pretty inspirational. Here's a snippet:

"and you must be able to bear your sorrow;
even if it seems to crush you, you will be able to stand up again,
for we are so strong;
and your sorrow must become an integral part of yourself,
part of your body,
part of your soul
you must not run from it, but bear it.

do not relieve your feelings through hatred, do not seek to be avenged...

Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is due;
bear your grief honestly and courageously and clear a decent shelter for your sorrow..

for if you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand,
then you may truly say life is beautiful and so rich."

Roughly quoted from AN INTERRUPTED LIFE by Etty Hillesum

The picture above is what I saw on my way TO work this morning. Again, bad camera, but what your looking at is jet airline exhaust tails in the sky in geometric patterns. For some reason, they were suspended and absolutely stunning against the blue sky and sunrise. I was awestruck by the beauty and magnitude of it all, so snapped a shot.

I'm not sure why God has me looking skyward so much lately, but my guess is that he wants me to stop looking at my shoes and in doing so maybe catch a glimpse of Him. I'm convinced he's saying "Don't miss it. Don't miss today. Don't miss this. Don't."

So, I'm trying my damnedest not to.

Blogging off...