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Showing posts from 2014

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2014

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Before I look ahead to 2015, I think it's always important to look back at last year and take stock on they year. In 2014, I posted a personal record of 125 times. What I'd like to do now is run down the top 10 posts from last year. These are based strictly on my own perception of them, so bear with me.

Here are the 2014 top ten posts with links to each.


Dancing Defined This post was spurred by my niece's wedding reception where I took to the dance floor like a maniac. Unfortunately, I probably looked like a maniac. But as I allude to in the post, dancing is all about letting it out and not worrying what others think. This is probably not a healthy outlook from a face-saving perspective, but I can't change who I am.A Story Written - A Life Rewritten A fellow eLectio Author spurred this post with his memoir on the struggles he had growing up in the housing projects in South Dakota. It resonated a bit with me because of our brief foray into the housing projects right befo…

The Timelessness of Christmas

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Christmas was always loud and brash and full of laughter and joy at the house on Portland. This year like so many before it, Mom picked out the long needled Norway Pine and decorated it with ornaments old, new, gaudy and beautiful. She was careful to put the breakable ones up high, away from our cat. Tonto occasionally took to his lumberjack skills and climbed the trunk and gave a good shake, or, worse, toppled it altogether. To be sure, we tied it up with fishing line to give it a fighting chance against the cat's deft tree killing skills.

The relatives start arriving about 5:00. Along with my brother Paul, I am a student at the University of Minnesota. My brother Rob is home from Rochester, New York where he is attending NTID. Tom, Pat and Jane are all moved out and raising families of their own. They arrive with kids and spouses in tow for the annual Christmas gathering at mom's. Everyone is in high spirits, exhausted from all the preparation, yet finally ready to let down …

Getting Chiseled in Granite

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I left off the last post with a promise to tell a bit more about the trip to Minnesota for the Granite City Book Club. As I have been alluding to all during this long, strange book tour/promotion, I still can't believe I am part of it all.

Now, before I get all puffy in the chest about my fan base, you have to understand that most of these venues are small affairs, with anywhere from 12-20 people. I'm not hiring security, there's no tour bus, groupies, and the only drugs involved are a couple of antacids on the bad days. I have no concealed carry for my own protection, and I never have a problem eating dinner out without getting interrupted for an autograph. It seems first-time small press, Midwestern authors are a few notches down from Clapton, Rush and Springsteen on the fame scale. In fact, they're off the scale altogether.

And I'm okay with that.

I am so happy to be doing what I'm doing, and hopefully it shows. The Granite City Book Club event was held at t…

Last Man Standing

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So, the Central Minnesota leg of the 2014 Dirty Shirt book tour has been a fun one. An absolute whirlwind of activity these past few days, but all of it good. I'll run down the highlights.
On Monday, a couple of days before I left to come here, I got an email from a woman at the Stearns History Museum asking if I'd do an interview for KVSC 88.1 FM, a local radio station. Of course I said I would and later that night gave about a 30 minute interview. It was a lot of fun and if you haven't heard it, you can hear it HERE
I have a new appreciation for the job and duties of a DJ/Radio personality now that I've done a couple of interviews. These folks have to take an ordinary conversation and make it listenable, In this case, Jeff Carmack did a great job and put together about a 25 minute interview.
On Wednesday I drove up to St. Cloud with my mom a few hours before the Granite City Book Club event so we could meet up with my Uncle Tom. He is my dad's fraternal twin an…

Intersecting Lives

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The trail of my book promotion has been long and winding these past 6 months. It has brought some long lost family back into my life, from second cousins I never knew I had to first cousins I haven't seen in years. But maybe even more interesting are the chance encounters I've had with a number of total strangers that have followed me or my book. Here's a few examples.

There is a guy who saw me at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books and sparked up a conversation. He had been to the BWCA as a teenager, but not since. He is also a Vietnam veteran and a writer who has his first book being looked at by a publisher in January. The book is titled The Last Man Out of Vietnam. It sounds like a great read and I can't wait to get a look at it. He said he read Dirty Shirt and really enjoyed it. He even came to my Pewaukee Library event to hear more of the back story and maybe to learn a little about book event promotion. I told him I'm no expert, but that it sure was a …

Unforgettable Birthdays

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Well, today is my birthday. Today marks the start of my fifty fourth lap around the sun. (That means I'm 53, BTW).

While birthdays aren't the big deal they once were, they're still a day when you expect just a little extra coddling or TLC. Give a person one day a year to feel a little special. Make them a cake or get them a card, or just wish them a great day.

In trying to think back to birthdays that were especially significant or memorable I can come up with a few.

Of course there were the childhood birthdays where the whole family gathered around and you were the man of the hour, for just about an hour. The Betty Crocker boxed cakes with boxed frosting were the best! Mom, or sometimes, my sisters, would make the double-decker cake with frosting between the layers. If she'd had a long day, we would have to settle for the lower maintenance 9 X 13" pan cake. And you know what? That was fine with us. It all tasted good and with 6 kids, it never lasted more than a d…

Current Events

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It has been a while so I thought I'd give a quick synopsis of all things writing related.


I will be presenting to the Friends of the Pewaukee Library on Thursday, December 11th (my birthday). I had such a good time at the New Berlin Library, that I am really looking forward to this. It will consist of some short readings, a slide show, followed by a book signing.On December 17th I will be travelling to St. Cloud Minnesota where I'll be leading a book discussion about Dirty Shirt at the Stearns County Museum. This group, the Granite City Book Club has taken the time to buy my books and read it, which is flattering. Also, this is my father's hometown, so this trip will be pretty meaningful all the way around. Dirty Shirt was featured in the University of Minnesota's Alumni "Bookmarks" section on their website. Check it out here.My book has been ordered by the Wisconsin Historical Society. This is pretty cool as it is already in the Minnesota Historical Society c…

Name Pending

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The Thursday morning coffee group I meet with every week continues to be one of the highlights of my week, even though it is over in an hour or so. I'm still looking for a good name for this group. I've called it Thursday Theologians before, but we're all far from theologians. Most of us have a good understanding of the Bible, but with maybe the exception of one guy, I don't know if I'd classify any of us a theologian. Theological hacks, maybe. Maybe a name like, "guys seeking spiritual enlightenment through the use of caffeine, secular books and private study."

Nah, too long.
I kind of like Theological Hacks. It has a nice ring to it. 

That name is descriptive, yet evoking humility. After all, none of us are experts, but we're all seeking the deeper meaning of the Bible and how it applies in our broken, crazy contemporary world. We're hacking our way through it and it's a great adventure.
Anyhow, as I was saying, in the words of one of them, t…

The Holiday Slowdown

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I have admitted several times that I'm not a big fan of winter. I do occasionally cross country ski and have ice fished a half-dozen times, but given my preference, I'll take any other of the seasons.

Having said that, I do have to admit that I kind of enjoy this stretch from Thanksgiving until New Years. My son said that its nice because you always seem to have something to celebrate coming up or a break to look forward to. The reasons I enjoy the breaks are many and I'm sure you share a few with me.


Extended time with close family. My daughter came home from college on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and left to go back today. I was saying to my wife how good it was to have Sarah around the house, even when she was only sleeping. I miss her so much. At one point her and my son were giggling and messing around to the point of distraction. I turned to my wife and said, "I miss that tittering between them." Fun with extended family. On Thanksgiving we hosted Donn…

Big and Little Things

This is the time of year it's good to take stock of what you are thankful for.


Things I'm Thankful for:

My wife of 24 1/2 years. She makes me laugh, keeps the household clicking on all cylinders and is an amazing cook and mother. Often times she does it seamlessly and without complaint. Blessed to have her in my life.My kids Sarah and Benjamin. Now as "little adults" it is fun to laugh with them around the dinner table. They are both great students and even more importantly, warm, compassionate, accepting people. I don't know what we did to deserve such low maintenance kids.My faith. It's simplistic and complex at the same time. This year has introduced some big changes in how I look at and live out my faith. Thankful that God has pushed me out of my comfort zone.Snyders Mustard/Garlic pretzel nibs and (one) Staghorn beer. My post work, wind-down indulgences of choice. My Minnesota and New York family. Support and love of the deepest kind.My dog Toby. Everyday …

The Real 70's Show

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Every once in a while as a blogger, when it comes time to post, you draw a complete blank. Most days I have no trouble coming up for ideas for my twice-weekly posts (Sunday and Thursday, for those who follow me). Well, this post is one of those spurred by a blank mind. So, I've decided to pull a picture from the set of old photos my mom sent on DVD's yesterday. Here is the snapshot I chose:

I chose this picture out of the 360 pictures she sent because it is priceless. This was taken from the living room of our house on Portland Avenue. I'm guessing the year was 1971 or so. The picture says so much about the time and situation we were in that it needed to be described.

We moved into this house in December of 1969, It was our first "real house" as mom put it. The place we were living in before this we were renting transitionally while mom saved and strategized to buy a "real house." The place before the rental unit was in the housing projects of Saint Pau…

Thoroughly Tested

My son Ben took his drivers test today. He's been "practice driving" all summer and fall in preparation for the test. We were finally able to get him scheduled for today. These past few weeks we've been letting him drive a lot more and with each turn he improved a little. Sure, there were some backwards steps every once in a while, where you wondered whether he'd ever driven a car before. But those were getting less and less as we drew nearer to the test date.

If you've had kids go through the whole experience of drivers training, you know it's not for the faint of heart. The time he blew a stop sign in a residential subdivision was probably the low point, though my voice was not low. It's those moments that you realize how alive you really are. Your heart reminds you quite nicely as it drums and flutters.

Anyways, he passed the test. Not with flying colors, but he passed. He was two points from failing, but he passed. He evidently has issues with &qu…

Gifts for Giving

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Over the past few years I've increasingly taken notice of the enormous talent of people around me. I don't mean to keep going back to it, but the sickness and passing of my brother seemed to open my eyes to something bigger than me. The God-given talent of artists and tradespeople and musicians and writers around me, is positively dizzying. I'm pretty sure it was there before, but maybe I wasn't as cognizant of it as I am now.

Sometimes death tilts a person's axis so they look at everything with a new orientation. For me it seems to have enabled me to better recognize the good in people, the talents that I don't have, talents that amaze me. I've mentioned things like the drumming of Neil Peart (from Rush) and the guitar work of Mark Knopfler (formerly of Dire Straits),  or the voice of Norah Jones. But those are all professionals. I'm talking about people around me, like me, that are working stiffs with day jobs, but have secondary passions and pursuits…

On the Admission of Winter by Means of Natural Coat Selection

...or the Preservation of Frigid Faces in the Struggle for Life.

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to deny the coming of winter. I am not a big fan, and this denial is a good example of that. To illustrate I have to detail my annual winter coat transition routine. It is an evolution of sorts, albeit an involuntary one.

When I bike to work in the summer, often times, I won't wear a coat at all. As fall approaches, I work my way up the coat chain. I start with my "blue coat" that is an unlined wind-breaking kind of coat that says "Yeah, there's moments of chilliness, but it'll pass. " It also rolls up small enough so it can be packed in my backpack in case the day warms up.

Near the middle of October, I usually upgrade to my "black coat", a slightly heavier coat that is an admission that August truly is over and September ain't coming back, either. Unlike the blue coat, this coat says "Yep, I guess fall is here and you'd b…

High Culture

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It was a weekend of high culture around here. It started on Friday night when we attended a Guest House volunteer recognition at the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. Donna was being recognized along with her friend Jill, and an attorney who has donated his services for the Guest House. For those who don't know, Donna and Jill are part of a large Facebook group that coordinate monthly meals for the guys at the shelter. They organize donations, cook the food and serve it every month. It is a lot of work and coordination and they are very good at it; good enough to be recognized for their efforts. I couldn't be prouder of both of them. Their hearts are huge and talents many.

If you've ever been to the Pfister you know its magnificence. It is a classic old Milwaukee hotel on the order of the Palmer house in Chicago. Crystal chandeliers, plush carpeting, ornate marble, beautiful artwork and details, details, details. If you don't feel rich when you're there, then yo…

Sub-Micro Fame in Spring City, Granite City and the Twin Cities

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Author update:

Well, it's been a while and a lot is happening right now and in the near future with regards to all things written, so I thought I'd take some time and update everyone on what's going on in the world of pseudo-fame, micro-fortune and the occasional royalty check. So, here goes.


In regards to royalty checks, it's not something I like to make real public, but thought I'd share this story of my first check. I got it the first week of October. My publisher sends them out quarterly. I opened it with great anticipation, trying to get a gauge on whether I could retire early or maybe pay off a month of Sarah's college tuition. To my surprise, it was ridiculously low, like just over $150. What the heck? I was shocked and dejected. Well, after looking closer at it, I realized that it was for the Quarter ending June 30th. The book was released June 17th. The check was for a two week period. Whew! I won't get my first full quarterly check until after 1/1/…

House Call

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I spent the weekend almost exclusively at home this weekend. It was an introvert's dream in that respect. No social commitments to speak of, just a lot of time and a list a half-mile long of things I wanted to get done, both personally and around the house.
As I worked through my project list for the house, I was reminded of how much work home ownership truly is. I think in my case, that work is compounded by the fact that our house is 92 years old. Old houses take work to keep things running, flushing, flowing, heating, cooling and live able. I'm not discounting new homes, ANY home requires maintenance, it's just that older ones seem to need an extra dose of TLC. 
There are many days lately that we've dreamed of moving on; finding that dream condo or small bungalow with newness to it and no need to upgrade anything (does such a place exist?). Unfortunately, we have this thing called college education for our kids that will insure that we don't do anything for ano…

My Other Big Sister

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I have a sister in my family that I never really knew. Her name is Linda and I wish I could say I have a few key memories of her, but she passed away at the age of five when I was just over four months old. (Birth-order wise, it goes Tom, Pat, Linda, Jane, Me, Rob, Paul.) I don't know much about the specifics of timing and such, but I do know she was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor which is a cancer of the kidneys (From what I've read it is a rare form of cancer that primarily affects children.) My older siblings have many more memories of her because of their close proximity in age, but I have nothing but pictures to go by.

Recently, my mom has been sending old photo album pictures off to get scanned in the hopes of preserving them. Looking through them has been a walk back in time for me, really fun. She made a point to try and get lots of pictures of each of her seven kids and then gave us the disk to share around. Because of this effort, I now have a decent collection of pict…

Summer Skin

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This past weekend was positively glorious. Temps in the high sixties and low seventies, low humidity and clear skies. I spend much of it in shorts and a t-shirt as I am painfully aware of what the coming weeks and months will bring. After tomorrow, I have a feeling that the shorts will get packed away for the fall and winter months. 
Knowing this is the end of warm weather - and I am well aware that we are lucky to have it this late in October - I had a chance to reflect on the summer we just finished. It was a great one, albeit too short. We traveled a million miles, but it all seems so long ago. Here are some of the highlights.
Sarah's Graduation
Family came from East and West to see Sarah graduate from high school. She made us all proud as she walked in the auditorium. We followed up with a fun party at a picnic shelter by the Fox River in Waukesha. Lots of food, friends and fun. 
Book Release and Signings
Can hardly summarize how fun these were. The opening at Purple Door was fan…