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Showing posts from October, 2013

Ghosts of Halloween Past

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Tomorrow is Halloween Night. This is one of the few holidays we don't spend much time on every year. It used to be a much bigger deal when the kids were younger, but now that they don't trick or treat, we really don't do much at all. We were never into the decorating thing, other than a few pumpkins that we'd carve up. I think this year we may even turn out the lights and pretend we're not home. I'm much more okay with Halloween than Donna, who has never been a big fan. I had my bag stolen at the end of a long night of trick or treating when I was a middle schooler, so I can certainly see how it might not be someone's favorite night. I'm just vanilla about it, I guess. As I say, it was a little more fun when the kids were able to dress up.

There was a day when we used to dress up and go to Halloween parties, but that was way back when I had hair. We haven't dressed up or gone to a party for at least 18 years, I'm guessing. When we did, I went as…

The Working Mother

Throughout our parenting years, my wife has never really worked a 9-5 job. She tried it for a few months when Sarah was just a baby, but daycare was not only expensive, but just didn't feel right to her (or me.) As a result, over the last 17 years she has held a number of part time and self-employed jobs in order to contribute to the household bottom line and to keep the creditors at bay.

I'll be the first to admit that when she mentioned she wanted to quit her 9-5 job because she hated the daycare thing, I was terrified. Losing an income, or in this case, dramatically decreasing it -scared the heck out of me. When we did the math on what daycare was costing however, as well as the thought that making her available to the kids during those critical first years held value too, it was an easier decision than I thought.
And so over the years she has tried many things. The one steady job has been waitressing at a local Italian restaurant. It's not great money, but the work is…

Writing From My Life

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I've been actively writing since about the fourth grade. Of course, it has been an on again/off again affair over my lifetime, but if I had to pin down when I first realized my love for writing, it would have to be in fourth grade. It was then that I wrote some stories that were not even required for class. I did them just because I enjoyed creating them. Each of the stories were written on 1/2 sheets of paper which were then cut in 2 and put together like a short book. I still have the stories, Mom saved them over the years, and there are some common themes to them, namely disaster, some sort of resolution to the disaster and a moral to the story. I remember a nun teacher of mine asked if she could put one or more of the stories in a special box for the class and I really wasn't keen on the idea. (Author's rights at a young age, I guess.) She got the drift and backed off, but it was really kind of cool to be acknowledged for something I just thought was fun.

Through high …

A Lesson in Humility and Futility

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This past weekend was "Muskie Fest," one vacation weekend I really look forward to every year. It is a chance for me and a couple of friends to go fishing for two and a half days for muskie. These fish are hard to catch, but when you do, you know it's probably going to be a beauty. In the past four years we've always caught a fish and sometimes multiple fish on these trips, so I had high expectations going in.

We didn't catch a thing.

This year it was just Steve and I because our friend had prior commitments. On Thursday afternoon when we arrived, we tried our luck on a new lake we heard good things about. We had no luck, so I attributed it to being a new lake that we didn't know.

We fished our favorite lake in a chilly 41 degree steady light rain on Friday morning that was relentless. Whenever the rain stopped for a few minutes it seemed the wind would pick up. We fished all the areas that have always produced in the past. It was a sure thing in my mind. Whe…

Jack of All Trades - Master of None

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This past weekend was a bachelor's weekend for me. Well, sort of. It was more like a boys weekend, as Ben and I stayed home while Donna and Sarah went to Minnesota to tour Carleton College and attend a bridal party gathering for my niece. These weekends are a mixed blessing for me for a few reasons. While I like the peace and quiet of having less people around the house, by day 3 I am ready to have it back to normal. I don't ever get to the point of talking to myself, but I sure do talk to the dog and cats a lot more. This is not a healthy thing.

I also like the lack of a schedule structure. I can come and go as I please and do whatever is next on my agenda without redirection. The downside to this is I tend to want to "do it all" in a weekend. This weekend's projects included replacing our motion detector light overlooking the back yard and painting the front steps. I got through both of them and the 76 other things I needed to do as well, so in all it was a good…

In the Face of Fifty

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We celebrate another milestone tomorrow. My brother Rob would have been fifty. It is a sad occasion in that I wish he were here so I could have helped him celebrate it. At the same time, I'm choosing to turn it into a happy occasion. The reason being, it's what Rob would have wanted. He would want us to celebrate him, not cry into our beer. If he were around, I have no doubt that he would take all the age jokes and senior citizen cracks and ribbing in stride, and would probably throw some barbs back as well. He'd smile big for the camera - it was his style. You don't see any pictures of Rob with the straight-line, no teeth smile that I have in most pictures of me. He was truly a very happy person an he wanted others to be happy too.

In looking back over the past years, there was no birthday of his that really sticks out to me as being special. Because I am in Waukesha and have been for 27 years, I didn't get the chance to go to many of his birthdays. The one I do …

Timeless Homecomings

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Well, it's homecoming week for my kids' high school as well as for Carroll University, (the college right across the street from me.) What a great tradition! It's the celebration of people returning to their alma mater (High School or College) and is built around a dance and a football game. It's a great way to build school spirit while giving the kids a chance to be kids a bit.

At Waukesha South, every day this week is a different dress theme. Monday was "Seniors" day where kids dressed up like old folks. Tuesday was "Mismatch day" where you were to dress with plaid and stripes or things that clashed. Tuesday was also "Toga Day" where the seniors got to dress in Togas and were allowed to "storm the halls" in the afternoon. Stupid, crazy fun, but a good way for students to build great memories and have a good time in school. Wednesday was 50's day where you had to dress like it was the 50's. Thursday is "spirit day&…

The Power of Teen Spirit

Let me start by saying I have good kids. I would even go so far as to say great kids. Smart, polite, funny and talented.

At the same time, I also have two teenagers one nearly 18 and the other 15. These two teenagers bear no resemblance to my teenagers, though there does seem to be some sort of spiritual possession going on. That "teen spirit" that people talk about, and Nirvana once sang about? Yeah it's in my kids. I'm not sure how to get it out except to pray and wait.

The way the spirit-beast manifests itself varies from day to day, but it's always there for sure.  One of the most blatant signs of its presence are stacked dishes in the kids' bedrooms. Sometimes the beast is thoughtful enough to move the stack to the stairway newel post so as to make it obvious that it is satiated, but other times the chocolate milk glass and pizza roll plate are left on a dresser or desk in hopes that the holy dish exorciser will remove them. And Father Jim or Sister Donn…

Trail Gazing

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I am a bit of a biking nut. I usually put on between 1200-1500 miles in a typical season, running from late April to late October. I bike to work almost every day, even though it's less than a two mile trip one way. Then, most nights I bike another 8-10 miles on the Glacial Drumlin trail near our house. It has become my nightly ritual, a way to decompress and work through the events of my day.

Evidently I am not the only regular out on the trail from night to night. I often times see the same people walking, biking, roller blading, or land-skiing. It's funny what I think about when I'm riding and seeing these people from day to day. Some of them communicate or acknowledge, while others just whiz by, intent on finishing their workout. I love to people watch anywhere I go, so this presents its own form of that. It is an interesting cast of characters, including:


Carhartt T-Shirt Wearin' Guy. This guy walks with his iPod and while I don't see him every day, I see him …