Showing posts from December, 2013

Another Year In The Books

This time of year tends to be both reflective and telescopic for me. As I prepare for what the new year promises, I also take stock of what last year brought to my life. When I look at 2013 from a writing perspective, it was a really, really good year. I had eight pieces published over the year, three of them paying. This was my most successful year from a publication standpoint, but as all writers know, "success" is not all about the publishing. For instance, I feel successful when I get four pages written in a sitting. I feel successful when I do a reading and people come up to me afterward and say, "I really loved your story/poems." I feel successful when I take a piece I've written already and find a new twist to it or I enrich it by adding layers to it. My success is not always about what others see or say, but what my words do for me. Writing is baring one's soul, and when we do it well, it feels so much more satisfying than when we do it half-hea

The Voices of Christmas

Over the past few years leading up to Christmas I've done something on Facebook that I call the "Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts of Years Past." I post a picture of a gift I've received or gave when I was a kid back in the 70's, with a brief description of what it meant to me. Often times it sparks memories or responses from people who remember the item or associate it with a particular memory of theirs. Its fun for me to pore over the Christmas catalogs of the past and remember some of the crazy and eclectic gifts of the past. Of course, as much as the gifts change over the years, what really makes Christmas "Christmas" are the people around me. Over the years, the faces grow older, and the places change, but the undercurrent of love, laughter and support stands true. Everyone gathered around the dinner table every Christmas would go to war for one another and the gift exchanges are just an extension of this appreciation for each other. Some of th

Post Solstice Post

Well I just dug out of a beautiful 6-7" snowfall and then took my daughter to work. Soon enough I will be going to Milwaukee to pick up my father and mother in-law to bring them here for Christmas. Earlier this morning I was wrapping Christmas presents with my son Ben in his bedroom while listening to Pandora's Christmas Channel on his PC. Later today I will be hunkering down to watch the Packers try to continue to weasel their way into the playoffs by beating a Pittsburgh team that is laughably bad this year. Then I will gather with the whole family to eat a delicious meal prepared by my better half and then settle in for a movie or just some laughter and discussion. This is the lead-in to my 2013 Wisconsin Christmas, and I love it. May the spirit of the season be as good for you and your families this Christmas. Blogging off...

The Angel Of Christmas Past

Dec. 23rd, 1973 I lay in my bed anxiously awaiting the coming of Christmas Eve. Our family always celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve and the days leading up to it are always full of anticipation for me. I've just turned 12 years old and can't help thinking about the pile of presents sitting under the tree downstairs in the spacious living room of our house in St. Paul, Minnesota. My stomach is actually churning and shuddering likely in part from the twelve year-old Christmas diet of cookies, ribbon candy and egg nog. I get up and start downstairs in my fleece pajamas where my sister Pat is sitting alone. It is past ten o'clock and my other siblings were all in bed, as was my mother, exhausted from the preparations for tomorrows celebration and cheer. When I get downstairs, Pat says "What are you doing up?" "I can't sleep because I want tomorrow to be here. It's making my stomach hurt." I say. "Well, come here and help me strai

Eyes To See

My wife and I went to church this morning at Transformation City Church. As I mentioned we've been going there, checking it out and seeing if it's where we should be. It's a church in the heart of Milwaukee and their message and mission seem to mesh pretty well where we are as a family. I'll admit the first couple times I went, I was skeptical and somewhat resistant. It's a bit of a drive, and it's not really "my neighborhood" or "local" as they say. At the same time, their focus on the central city, the homeless, the poor and hurting is right where we're at. I approached today differently thinking let's just see where God can use me in this church and see what happens. The message this morning was convicting and real. It spoke about how as a culture we've built a "system" of education to job to wealth accumulation to retirement to passing on an inheritance for our kids to perpetuate this system. The point wasn't t

Egg Nog And Birthday Blog

Today was my birthday, or as a friend of mine calls it my "Begin Day". They seem to come and go so quickly lately. For me, my December birthday is always a nice momentary diversion from the rush, hustle, cold and snow of the holiday season. Because my wife's is on December 7th, we typically just go out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, La Merenda . We rarely exchange birthday gifts, as its such a taxing financial time of year anyway. We agreed that except on the major birthdays (the 10's) we'll just consider our night out as our gift to each other. It has become one of my favorite meals of the year. While all birthdays are good, when I think back to some of the more memorable ones there were some really good ones. 11th (Golden Birthday)  I got special treatment this day and got to go across the border to a tavern with my Mom and my Stepdad (to be) in Hudson, WI to watch the Viking-Packer game. Back then, home games that weren't sold out in advance we

Thursday Jump Starts

Most of my weekday mornings are pretty typical, full of routine and fairly predictable. The exception to this are my Thursdays. On Thursdays I meet at a local coffee shop for an hour with a few friends for a sort of theologic discussion/book study/random thought session. It has become my favorite day of the week. We always have a book we're working through, usually an edgy Christian book of one sort or another. We've studied a book by Newbigin that is out of print, then a book by Peter Rollins called Insurrection and are now working through Letters from a Skeptic by Gregory and Edward Boyd. We are taking on the "hard books" that challenge modern Christianity and challenge us to look at our faith and even our perceptions of what a Christian life is supposed to look like. This group is kind of the antithesis of a group I was part of about 7 or 8 years ago. That group began with good intentions, namely challenging us to be men of faith and conviction. After a few yea

Beneath The Surface

We returned from St. Paul on Sunday after spending another Thanksgiving holiday in Minnesota with my family. It was an extraordinarily good 4 days. The holidays are always a bit stressful going in, but I've found that once they're upon me, I have no problem putting all of my effort into enjoying the time I have with family and friends. This past weekend was a good chance for catching up and getting under the surface of how my family members are really doing. Because of the extended time we spent together, we have a chance to talk about more than the weather, the Vikings and the Packers - (and, this year, I really thank God for that.) We stayed with my sister in-law at her spacious new apartment in New Brighton. Our kids hung with her kids and her place was very conducive to relaxing and serious down time. I cherish time with her because of all of our shared past memories, but also out of love for her and her girls. She has the formidable task of raising two teenage girls an