Sunday, September 29, 2013

Just Go

It was a busy weekend for me, in many ways busier than I would like. At the same time it was exactly what I needed. This is often the case with me and my introvert self. I always look forward to the weekend for a number of reasons, but the main one being - time alone. It's my chance to do what needs to be done around the house and once that's done, utilize my time as I choose. This usually entails a decent amount of outdoor time, some writing time and just loafing.

This weekend was different. I was slated for stuff all three days of it, Fri-Sun. Friday I spent at the Waukesha South High School football game. Both of our kids wanted to go, so all 4 of us, including my wife went. We like to support them and know a few kids on the team, so wanted to cheer them on. It was good, but the best part of it was catching up with a couple of friends before and during the game. Had I not gone, I likely would have stayed home and whittled the night away on my laptop. Seeing a football game - even a blowout - and sitting amongst friends beats the former scenario every time.

After racing around yesterday trying to get everything I needed done by early afternoon, I spent last night at what is known as the Greater Krey Open or GKO. It is a golf event put on by my friend and his family as a cancer fundraiser and as a tribute to his brother who died of cancer almost 3 years ago. I didn't attend the golf portion, but I did go to the dinner/raffle benefit portion. The raffle was well stocked and I actually came away with a couple of prizes - a dozen golf balls and a T-Shirt.

More importantly though, the raffle raised over $1500 for cancer research via the American Cancer Society. I always come away from events like this feeling pretty good because cancer hits so close to home for me lately. To see the event take in that kind of money from a group of about 50 people, was really cool. Will it cure cancer? No. But it is people working toward that cause, making the world a better place while having a little fun, enjoying each others' company and remembering loved ones who were taken by cancer. Some people, including Sal, the owner of Papa Luigi's where the event was held, gave big prizes and contributed a lot to the cause. Good people trying to do good in the world.

Today I finished out the weekend by serving breakfast at the Guest House in Milwaukee again. Again, this was outside my realm of usual weekend activity, though I knew from past experience it would probably be the highlight of my weekend, and it was. We're a bit more familiar with a lot of the guys there now and are much more comfortable talking and joking with them.

These guys are down on their luck, but most of them have not lost their sense of humor. They can laugh at each other, and at us at times, and it is really like being around a big family dinner table at times (even though there are several tables.) They are grateful, courteous, generous, helpful and thoughtful. Deep down their flawed, imperfect people just like I am. On the surface, they're just trying to do their best to get through each day, which is just like me too.

On this particular morning, we had a friend come and help us serve and she brought two friends as well. They learned the ropes and I told them what I knew about the Guest House programming and some of its needs. It was great hearing the story behind their wanting to help. Again, if I would have slept in and just gone to church like any other Sunday, I would have missed this chance to meet and share with these people. Good people trying to do good in their city.

And so it's come to Sunday evening and I'm fairly exhausted. Being social sucks the life out of me. It wears me out. Bear in mind that I really, really, enjoy talking to people at the time I'm doing it. At the same time, I dread the thought of having to do and usually look for excuses to avoid it.

But what I need to remember, and what I need you all to hold me accountable for is "getting out". Getting out of my comfort zone. Getting out of my routine. Getting out of my house. Getting out into a needy world. Turning my introvert self inside out, in the name of meeting some really cool people. Because it goes against something that I am genetically wired with. It gives me experiences that I will never forget. I don't get to many of those in my living room or within the walls of my house.

So it's my goal to remember that Getting Out has a really simple acronym and it is:


Blogging off...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The March to Parchment

I just got back from "Senior parents night" at my kids' High School, and no that does not mean Senior as in old, but Senior as in after Junior. It was an informational meeting to give parents ideas on timelines, financial aid, application deadlines, college requirements, etc. It was very informative, but brought to mind my own college prep experience of almost 35 years ago and how different mine was from my kids.

I went to a private, Catholic, all male, military high school. I went there in large part because my brother went there. Mom was always good about wanting a private education for us, in part for the academics, and part for the religious aspect of it. Four out of the six of us kids ended up graduating from Catholic schools so obviously it was a priority. Most of us graduated from college and none of us has entirely abandoned our Christian faith, so I guess you could count that as a double win.

But as we sat there talking about ACT scores and weighted grading and super-scores and all the rest, all I can recall is that my decision and my process was much more simplistic. As I said we had 6 kids in the family and that meant that Mom's funding for college would be minimal at best. It also meant that going to school out of state (or even out of the Twin Cities) was not really an option. I recall having two choices; the U of MN or the College of St. Thomas. Since St. Thomas was easily double what the U was, I really only had one choice. Again, I went where my brother went because it was just easier.

Back then, everything was done by mail. I don't recall even bothering to apply for St. Thomas, as the U was my first choice anyway. I initially applied to the Institute of Technology which was one of three colleges within the University system. There was:

  • Institute of Technology
  • College of Liberal Arts
  • General College
Because I was dreaming of a degree in computer science, IT was my natural choice. Shortly after I applied I got the Dear Jim letter saying I hadn't qualified. I quickly applied to CLA and was accepted. It turned out to be for the better as I struggled with my academics early on. I had a little trouble with applying myself my freshman year and spent the next few years working hard to get my GPA back up. 

Financial aid was as much a hassle back then too. I guess some things never change. Because my mom hadn't remarried yet, I actually qualified for a full grant my first year. I was awarded a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (now defunct) which covered tuition for the year. Mom remarried during the year and the new combined income of her and my stepdad ripped the rug out from that sweet deal. 

On the upside, I got a decent paying job (for the time) at Montgomery Wards and through working 3-4 nights a week and, with a little help from mom, I was able to pay my tuition without one cent in student loans. There's not too many people from my day who can say that. 

Of course, tuition was actually almost affordable back then. Now its ridiculous and getting more ridiculous every year. UW Madison is listed at about $24,000/year for tuition and room and board. You'd have to be CEO of Montgomery Ward to pay off that debt. 

Be careful while I sound my age here.

I also lived at home and commuted to school using my motorcycle, the 52F freeway flyer bus, or I got a ride from my stepfather who worked on campus. It was simplistic and cheap and again, I am grateful to have come out debt free. Mom was always good about living at home. As long as you were going to school, you could live rent-free. As much as I do regret not living away from home for at least a year, I did take advantage of the free rent deal for the full 5 years I was in school. I knew a sweet deal when I saw one. 

In short, I can't believe we are actually this close to seeing our daughter out into the world of higher academia. It seems surreal. I will never forget seeing her walk confidently into school on her first day of kindergarten while Donna and I teared up. I was surprised that she didn't cry herself, but realize it was part of her breaking free from us. She's been doing it ever since, and College will only be the final culmination of all of it. It will also signify that we did good, very good. Of that, I'm sure.

Blogging off...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Morning Wake Up Call

Today was a perfect fall day. Temps in the lower 60's, crystal blue skies, no wind and just a hint of bite in the air. A good day to work in the yard, get a long bike ride in and walk the dog. It capped off a great weekend for me. Over the course of the weekend I got the chance to go fishing, get some book submissions in to some publishers and agents and see some old friends at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books.

For as good as the weekend was, the thing that sticks with me the most was something I saw in the paper first thing this morning. I don't normally spend much time looking at the obituaries, but for some reason one jumped out at me. In the middle of the page was a guy I used to work with who just retired about a year ago. He was 62, and the obit read something like "taken from this life way too soon."

You're not kidding.

I didn't work directly with this gentleman, but I knew him and said hi whenever I saw him. I wasn't close to him, we never knew each other out of work, but to know that he is gone is just one of those shot-to-the-jaw moments.

Now, I consider 51 as young. Heck, in this day and age, 62 is young-ish. I'm in good health so I don't often think of myself dead. It's not a terribly healthy thing to do. Besides once you're dead, you'll have the rest of your death to think about it.

What I have been thinking about a lot lately is what to do with the rest of what's left. What matters? What's important? What's not? What will people remember? What will last? What do I sweat about and, when it comes right down to it, does that really matter?

I want stuff to matter. I want to be a part of making a difference, be it in a relationship, a cause, or the life of a friend or family member.

It makes me think about a friend whose two daughters were so taken aback by the homeless they saw while they were on vacation in California that they felt compelled to start helping the homeless here. I don't know if it was guilt, or shame, or just God working on their hearts, but I do know it is beautiful. They have prepared hundreds and hundreds of sandwiches for the Guest House homeless shelter with their Girl Scout troop and other friends. This is one family taking action. Think about the possibilities if, say 30 families did this with their friends. Doing stuff that matters.

As I continued to read the paper, I saw the statistic that 39 people were killed by terrorists in a mall in Kenya. (The updated number is up to 68.) A page later, read 5 dead in a sudden rise in Chicago shootings. Then a few pages later I read that 92 people were killed in car bomb attacks in Iraq. 92 people! Dead. People that I don't know, for sure, but part of me hopes they had a chance to make a difference.

I took this glum news to church with me later this morning and listened to our pastor talk about the new series on being "called". He started the series with the Moses/Burning bush story. It resonated with me in part because of what I had just read in the paper. While it was a bit about being called within the church, he said it goes for anything, vocation, goals, social justice, and many other. But there it was again. It was another headslap from God. "Hey, mind your calling. And it'd be nice if it mattered, too."

The pastor then went on to reference the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. In it Screwtape, a demon explains to his nephew, Wormwood, that people tend to dwell in the past or the future while God deals in the present. So, he says, we need to keep humans focused on the past and the future.

I thought this was poignant give what I'd just read. I am guilty of both dwelling in the past and worrying about the future. While I've been better about focusing on the here and now, I still need to work on it. I need to relish the moment, the day, the hour. Love the now. The best thing you can do for the future, is do something that matters now. Help a friend, listen to a coworker, even if its that annoying one who talks too much. They are part of your now and that's for a reason.

Figure out your calling now. If not now, at least quit worrying about the future or embellishing the past to make it something it wasn't anyway. If you combine the now with love, like the love of the sandwich making Girl Scouts, tragedies like the Kenya mall, or the Iraq bombings, will still be tragic, but things in your sphere of influence will be better. Furthermore, someone else might see what you've done and want to do something equally as good. It's a snowball effect. Nobody ever got credit for waiting. The clock's ticking.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Books for the Bookish (and everyone else)

This Friday there is an event happening Waukesha called the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. It's a series of workshops, talks and book signings that takes place every year at the University of Wisconsin Waukesha. There are tons of speakers, panels and sessions to attend and it's all free to the public. If you get a chance and live in the area, I highly recommend it. It's a great way to meet some great new and up-and-coming authors as well as maybe get a book signed by them. The talks are usually quite good too and are often audience interactive with questions at the end, etc.

One of my writing instructors, Kathie Giorgio is actually giving the keynote. She has just published her third book Learning to Tell a (Life)time, and will be reading from it and talking about the writing process as well. She and her husband and the AllWriters' studio have been instrumental in helping me jumpstart my writing. They work hard and push everyone to be better, to write better and to critique other writers better.

There will be a ton of other authors there as well, too many to count. It's my guess that a fair amount of writers (both published and non-published) will be in the audience, but there will be lots of readers too. I know at least 5 other authors, Summer Hanford, Mary Jo Balistreri, Ellyn Lem, Chris Werkman, and Johanna Siragusa, most of whom will be there with their books and they're all big talents in their respective genres.

I think it is important to support my colleagues and friends who choose to write. It is a hard thing to do well. It takes a lot of time, energy and thought. At its worst, it's like self flagellation. At it's best its visceral release - all good. On any given day I can swing from one of these to the other, sometimes in between sips of coffee. I'd like to say the good times are the most prevalent, but that's not always the case. It's not to say I don't love the whole process, but rather that there are some parts that are like bamboo across the back of the neck, or like mental UFC matches. Last one standing wins, you or your keyboard.

These authors that have "made it" deserve all the kudos they get. They took their lumps along the way, many of them getting multiple rejections before that "happy response," so they've earned their place in the sun. Getting a book deal is the "zenith" of any writer's career and comes at the cost of a lot of blood, sweat, cutting and pasting. I applaud them all.

I have begun marketing my book in the hopes of getting published and standing alongside these people one day. I admit, I am envious of all of them. I know it's not healthy or right, but I can't help what I feel. They have something to their credit that I want. While I have absolutely nothing to complain about from the standpoint of getting some of my shorter work published, I really am looking forward to my first full book contract. It seems like a natural progression for me, having had success in the nonfiction short story and poetry realms, to move on up to a book. So that's what I aim to do. From what I've heard this process can take months, and sometimes years. I guess I'll do whatever it takes.

In the meantime, while I wait to hear, I intend to keep writing. A little work on book #2, a few fishing stories (of course), some poetry and anything else that strikes my fancy. Because writing for me is like they said in the old Army commercials, "the toughest job I'll ever love."

Blogging off...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Other People's Kids

I got to spend a few hours with my nephew Nick and his wife today. They were in Madison and decided to make it a full weekend and came down to Milwaukee for a Brewers game. Nick has always liked the Brewers hearkening back to his college days when he used to come down for games when he could.

Nick is my godchild and we've always had a pretty close relationship. Over the years we've continued to make a point of getting together whenever we're in each others' range. We've been through some hard stuff together, but a lot more good stuff than bad.

We were recounting today how when he met my fiance' (at the time) Donna for the first time, I said to him, "This is Donna, she's going to be your aunt." Because Nick wanted no part in sharing his uncle with anyone, he said "She's not going to be my aunt."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Nieces and nephews are weird, beautiful things. When they are young, they're like rent-a-kids. You can have lots of fun taking them places, sugar them up real good, and send them back to their parents. They're like checking books out from the library, except there's no fines involved. If you don't have kids of your own, like I didn't through my 20's, they're a good way to test drive how you like parenting. Luckily I had some really great experiences with my nieces and nephews that convinced me that being a parent was a good fit for me.

I have 12 nieces and nephews all together. They vary in age from mid 30's to early teens. Their personalities are all over the map, much like their ages. As they've grown up, we've all stuck pretty close together. When Nick and his sister were both college students at UW Madison, we opened up our house whenever necessary so they could do their laundry, get a hot meal or just get away from school for a weekend.

Now, with our daughter going to college, most likely in Minnesota, my sister and Nick and Steph have said that it's their chance to pay back some of our hospitality to that we showed to them over the years. Aunts and Uncles looking out for kids, then nieces and nephews looking out for one another. That's what family is all about.

Our kids love their cousins that are their same age, but lately have come to really appreciate their older cousins now too. They can relate to them because they are closer to their age than us, and they have that whole cousin-gene in common.

I also have a niece and two nephews in California. While we don't get a chance to get together much, we do see each other at the ESRI Users Conference every year. It's just a matter taking time out to see family whenever we get within each others' radar. It's important and we always make a point of it.

We also have some friends who our kids refer to as "aunt" and "uncle" even though they aren't. They are good friends who are like family and never had kids of their own, so consider ours like theirs, if that makes sense. They used to get to "rent the kids" when we wanted to get out of town for a while and our kids loved that time they got to spend with them, and vice verse. Like a real aunt or uncle, they could spoil them and then return them.

I guess my point is, don't take this level of familial relations too much for granted. I am lucky to have 12, but all it takes is one special one to help you appreciate your brother's or sister's kid and all they bring to the table. Mine are all cool in their own ways and I can't really imagine life without them.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Silicon Joy

I got to experience a little silicon joy today. (No, not that kind.) My son's computer finally is up and running only 3 weeks after we initially started working on it. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's backup a bit.

About six months ago Ben decided he wanted to build his own gaming computer. One of his friends had built his own and among the gaming community, it's the thing to do. You can build a much better machine for the money than you can buy out of the box.

Now I'll be honest, my first reaction was why? Why go through the pain and agony when you could buy one pre-built and get all the guarantees that come with it. If you build it and it doesn't work, you're left to figure it out yourself. These are not very happy thoughts coming from someone who considers himself technically capable.

After talking to a couple of friends, they convinced me that it was fairly easy and would be a great project to take on with my son. I liked that idea a lot. A few years back I tried to get Ben into model building, so helped him start out on a plastic model car. Half an hour into it he was so concerned about the vapors from the glue causing cancer, that I put the thing away and it's still half-started in my basement. I used to LOVE building models, but evidently as hobbies go, it's passe'. It would probably be equivalent to my dad trying to get me interested in shooting marbles.

I agreed to help him build the computer. He scraped and saved for 6 months, including mowing lawns, allowance and birthday money. He researched the parts he wanted and ordered all of them. They came in 3 boxes and after both of us watching tutorial videos, we set to work on the dining room table.

As we worked, we both were fairly nerve wracked. We didn't want to mess anything up or plug something in the wrong place. We were extremely cautious with static electricity and of course I double and triple checked every connection via the manuals. After installing the CPU, CPU Cooler, RAM, power supply and graphics cards, we went to try a "test boot". When I went to plug in the monitor I realized it had the wrong plug (VGA not DVI).

Well, of course it was wrong.

Off I go to get a new one, hoping that it's a $4.00 part. I stopped at North American Computer in downtown Waukesha. I explain my dilemma and show him a picture of the connector I need. The clerk checks and it turns out he doesn't have any in stock.

Well, of course he's out of stock.

Off I go to Radio Shack to get my still hoped for $4.00 connector. Radio Shack has one thankfully but it's $16.00.

Well, of course it's four times what I was hoping.

I buy it anyway because I have a computer carcass sitting on my dining room table and a teenager waiting to see if our Frankenstein has any life in him. At this point it looks like this.

Bear in mind that what you're looking at there is a $700+ computer. Or really a computer fetus at this point. Or maybe an embryo.

I get the plug hooked up to the monitor and plug the monitor in and we come to the moment of truth. We "short" the power switch to see if she powers up. Sure enough all the fans start whirring and looking healthy. The only thing missing was a failed boot message on the monitor.

Well, of course there's no failed boot message.

After retesting the monitor cord, all connections, RAM configurations and then resorting to some heavy duty praying, we had no luck.

I take it in to North American Computer on Monday and tell them what happened. They said they could run diagnostics on it, but it sounded like a fried motherboard to them. The diagnostic charge was $25.00 and they would apply that to the build if we wanted them to build it.

Well, of course it's a fried motherboard and of course it's $25.

I send it back to New Egg for a replacement and I send the CPU Cooler back as well, which the guys at NAC told me was an unnecessary (and cheap) part. I fill out a 37 field online form for New Egg and package it all up for what I hope is a $5.00 shipping charge. I take it to UPS and it turns out to be $16.00 to ship. (Not to mention a $4.00 restocking fee on the $16 CPU cooler).

Well, of course the shipping is 3 times what I'd hoped.

Three weeks later the new motherboard arrives. At this point I just want the PC to work. I know that I am done with futzing with it. I don't have enough confidence or desire to replace anything other than RAM or a hard drive in a computer, that much I've learned through this whole process. So, when Ben asks if I can help him try a "test boot" on it, I say no way. I'm going to take this to NAC and let the professionals build it.

While we're there they ask if he or I wants to help. I say no thanks, but Ben hesitated. I could see he wanted to be part of his investment. We left with the understanding that they would build it. That night Ben couldn't rest, and finally asked if he could call them and ask if he could watch or help. He emailed them and told them he'd be down after school.

The next thing I know he texts me and said it was done. I drive down there and when I go in I ask the guy how it went, he said Ben had put most of the thing together himself. A couple of emotions came over me. First of all, I felt like a bit of a failure for having given up so quickly. With a little time and patience we might have gotten it together as a team. Or maybe not.

The other emotion I felt was pride. I was proud that Ben had taken it upon himself to email the shop and express his interest in helping build. I was also proud that he had done it and learned a lot along the way. I was proud he stuck it out, persevered and finished what he started.

It then occurred to me that his "model car hobby" was my "PC build hobby". It was nothing against either of us, it was just that was not our particular interest at the time. I now better understand his Modus Operandi and I think he understands mine. I think the whole ordeal might have even brought us a little closer.

And you can't put a price on that. (Well you can, but it's about $800.00)

The finished product.

Blogging off...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Looking Back Forwardly

Two years ago last week, I lost my brother Rob to cancer. Throughout my life he and I were close. He helped shape who I am. We hung out. We were best buds. We raised our kids together. Our families were close. His passing was without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with.

Like any tragedy or sadness, I'm doing my best to move ahead. While I miss him every day, when I look back at the last two years, his absence has taught me many things. It's brought clarity to what's important. Some of what I've taken from his passing is shared below.

I have no patience for negativity. Life is just way too short to be around Debbie Downers and people who are constantly negative, pissed off, or complaining. Because you know what? Life is hard sometimes. The problem is, it's hard for everyone at times. So quit your complaining and think about the people living in refugee camps elsewhere in the world. That will put your first-world gripe in its proper place. I'm not saying you have to be sicky-rosy-sweet, but really, think about what your problem is, then zoom out a bit and look at it from a google-earth perspective. Got a problem with politics? Well get in line, it started about 10,000 years ago and they still can't get it right. C'mon, man.

Things don't matter. People matter. When Rob was sick and getting chemo treatment, his whole world moved into a 14' x 14' hospital room. The only thing that mattered to him at that time was who visited, who loved him and who he loved. If we took that approach and applied it to our materialistic, insane phone-worshipping lifestyles we might all be better people. If we take nothing with us when we go, why is what we drive and live in so important now? The fishing lures Rob left me the last time I saw him have no meaning outside of the man behind them. They are just plastic, wood and steel. They remind me of the laughter in the boat in 1996. Outside of this they are just items without meaning.

Worry about the future gains you nothing. To be completely honest, I can be a very anxious person. When I try and see what the future holds, my job, my marriage, my kids, my health, I can get real worked up in a hurry. What grounds me more often than not is the realization that life can change in a heartbeat. I hesitate to use the analogy of God puppets, but that's about how much control we have of our future. We can plan for it, save for it, and dream about it, but one drunk driver, skipped heartbeat, or natural disaster can change the whole course of it. So, you know what? Your time is better spent in the moment. You may call it shortsighted, I prefer to think of it as here-sighted.

Kiss, talk to, and engage your kids, relatives and pets. With one child as a senior in high school and one as a freshman, we are on the brink of an emptier and empty nest. If I could tell you where the last 18 years went, I would. I think  8 of them were lost to formula, diapers, and chicken nuggets (I'm so, so sorry about the chicken nugget thing, Sarah and Ben). Despite the fact that they are teenagers and it's brutally apparent that we are suddenly living in the city of Babel where no one understands anyone else, I am committed to talking to and listening to my kids. At this age, that's what they need the most. Someone to listen. Listen, approve, affirm, and correct as needed. But mostly listen.

If you don't have children, love your nieces and nephews, or even your pets. Everybody is just passing through here, so appreciate your time with all of them. Tell them you love them, even if you don't like them very much at the moment. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Live life to the fullest. This was a common phrase from Rob. He lived by it. The words resonate with me given the short life he was granted. It can be as simple as appreciating the nuances of a guitar solo, a magnificent sunset, admiring a beautiful garden, catching a big fish only to let it go and live another day, emailing a friend from high school you've lost touch with, dancing when no one is looking, laughing at yourself, appreciating good food, trying something outside your comfort zone, praying for a hurting friend, helping others, helping others, and helping others.

Everyone has a story. I used to think I was experiencing pain no one else had ever experienced. Then I met someone who had lost their whole family by the age of 50. Then I met someone who had lost their parents at a young age. Then someone who lost a child at twenty something. Then I served at a homeless shelter and heard a few stories of addiction, homelessness, and loneliness. All of these stories promptly put my grief in perspective. It made me realize that sorrow, sadness and loss are part of life, every one's life. The saying goes "If you ain't experienced the blues, just keep on livin' and you will." - Buddy Guy.

Family is more important than ever. I've grown closer to my mom and remaining siblings than I ever was. All of us have learned to blow away the chaff and get along better. We can overlook one anothers apparent shortcomings in the interest of loving them more completely. The thought of losing another one of my siblings is mortifying. In turn, I know I need to do my best to appreciate the time I have with them. Think they have issues? Look at yourself. Get past it and love them anyway. You've got your own warts and tics.  Remember that they'll be the ones visiting you in the hospital room someday, so be nice.

Faith matters. I often wonder what our reunion in heaven will be like. Will there be recognition of family and friends ( and pets?) at some level? Or simply the communion and coexistence of all of humanity in deference and worship of almighty God? I have to believe there will be a reunion of recognition. Maybe it will be a combination of the both of these scenarios. I do know it'll be amazing and good and our reunion with them will pale in comparison to coming face to face with God. Until that time, I need to make sure I'm doing what I was put on earth to do. To help, to love, to live, to worship, and to dream.

Blogging off..

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Cabin Postmortem

As I alluded to in my previous post, I spent the holiday weekend at the cabin in Mercer, WI. Most of my family from Minnesota arrived earlier in the week, but we've taken to just making it a long weekend.

The weekend was phenomenal in so many ways. It's impossible to cover them all in a single blog post, so I'll cover the "big story" and then some of the other highlights.

We arrived there on Thursday afternoon hoping to get an early morning fishing start on Friday. Early Friday morning, Steve and I went out to our favorite musky lake and started fishing. We tried all the usual spots and had no luck. Unlike our fall trips, we weren't trolling at all, just casting lures. I'll be frank in saying that I had my doubts about catching anything. Most of my muskies have been caught on suckers.

After about 3 hours of nothing we tried a quiet bay. Steve was intent on getting some bass fishing in and the area looked prime. Being calm, I switched to a surface lure that my brother Paul gave me for Christmas probably 10 years years ago. Again, I had my doubts. I have never caught much of anything on any surface lure, let alone a musky.

About four casts into it, I heard a huge splash and felt a vicious tug on my line. Instinct kicked in and I set the hook with authority. I started reeling it in frantically and shouted "get the net!" to Steve. The fish fought near the surface the whole time, creating quite a spectacle on the water. It's my fifth musky and while the fight wasn't the hardest I've had, it was the funnest. There's something about catching one of these beautiful fish on a lure as opposed to live bait. It was a wild ride!

Soon after I hooked him, Steve had him in the net. We measured it at 40", took a couple of pictures and released him back healthy.

Now I know I've written many of my fishing stories and tied a lot of them into my family, brothers, friends, etc. I don't mean to belabor the point, but there's more to this story.

For starters, I caught it on August 30th, which happens to be the date two years ago that my brother Rob passed away. Coincidence? Maybe, but it gets better. As I mentioned, I caught it on the lure that Paul gave me when he first got hooked on musky fishing. He gave the same lure in different colors to Tom, Rob and I. So it  happens to be the same style lure that Rob caught his musky on in 2005. The weird thing is, I must have tried 9 or 10 different lures that morning, and nothing bit until that one. Again, coincidence? Maybe...or maybe not.

Now I'm not superstitious and I don't mean to infer anything to far out, but I sure do think it's cool that all of these circumstances aligned this way. Maybe it's my way of working out how I miss him. Maybe it's God's way of playing with my mind. All I know is, whatever it is, it sure is fun.

Other cool stuff of the weekend:

  • My brother Paul also caught a musky, albeit a small one, the next day. Two muskies in any trip, of any size is a cool thing.
  • I watched my as my nieces and nephews surrounded their cousin who struggles with Asperger's and included her in everything she was willing to do. They are growing up, and they know the power of loving family.
  • I had the chance to talk with my sisters and Mom at great length on the first night we arrived. It's one of the beauties of the cabin, casual conversation for extended periods of time.
  • Good times with 4 friends who were first timer's to Pine Forest. We laughed our heads off about stupid stuff...for hours.
  • Got to have quality time in the boat with Sarah and Alison catching pan fish. These are two cool teenage girls who love to fish
  • Also had a chance to show Sarah and Ben the ropes on how to fish for musky. No fish, but some really good conversation, which is sometimes better than a good fish.
  • Saw the sparkle of love between my niece and her fiance' and it reminded me of those days long ago when I was engaged.
  • Watched the teens drive to town for ice cream. They went in my van, with Sarah at the wheel. Nerve wracking worrying about them, but realizing how much they need to do those kinds of things that we did as teenagers when we went on vacation with our parents.
  • Got a good look at and a running history of the lodge next door that Al Capone hung out at in his heyday. Fascinating stuff.
There were tons of other cool moments. I can only say that it's about 360 days until we leave for Pine Forest again. 

And I can't wait.

Blogging off...