Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Other Big Sister

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.

Linda (Center)
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 pictures of Linda that I never had before.

And while the pictures don't tell me anything more about her, they have in a weird way helped me feel like I know her a little bit now. Of course it's nothing more than a 2D picture can tell you about a person, but when you have nothing else to go by, pictures are golden.

Linda (R)
More to the point, the pictures have me trying to guess what her personality would be like. Judging from what I've seen, she strikes me as the gregarious, outgoing type. My other two sisters, Pat and Jane are not as much that way, so I think odds would have it that she was. I do know she was a beautiful girl and would have grown up to be a beautiful woman, much like her sisters. But I question things like, would she have married? What kind of job would she have had? Would she still be as tight as the rest of us kids are even into our 50's? What would her struggles have been? Would she have moved away or stayed local? How many kids, if any would she have had? Would she be an outdoors lover or more domestic?

Linda (Far Left)
And if that isn't enough, I then extrapolate those thoughts out into my own life. How would my life be different if she was still alive? Would having a third sister involved in my life have changed my personality in any way? Would we be close, distant or ambivalent toward one another? Would I have been a godfather to one of her children? Would knowing her and having a 6th sibling in the state have kept me from moving to Wisconsin when I did? Would she have changed my perception of women in any way, positively or negatively? What would my funniest memory of her be at this point in my life?

Then I think about what my mom must have felt through Linda's sickness and treatment. I cannot fathom the thought of losing a child. People talk about how you grieve but eventually forge ahead and, while that might be admirable, I don't know how I could do it. There is a picture of her in this collection where she is holding a stuffed dog on a hospital table and while she is beautiful in the picture, it literally tears at my heart to look at it. The fact that mom had six other kids to care for must have been what got her out of bed every day, because I don't know if I could do it. Losing a brother was hard enough, I can't imagine losing a child, (or, two now-, in her case). It might be the end of me. I'd like to think I'd make it, but it is not something I would wish on anyone.

And so, much like my brother Rob, I trust we'll meet again one day, Linda and I. It'll be awkward at first, neither of us knowing what to say, but I suspect that'll change after we finish a two minute long hug and a have a good cry.

She is, after all, my big sister.

Blogging off..

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Summer Skin

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 fantastic, followed by an equally fantastic signing at Cafe De Arts. The Piragis signing in Ely was  a great road-trip that included a lot of side trips and one-on-one time with Ben, which I wouldn't trade for anything. In some ways that time was the best part of summer.

Trip to New York

This happened over the fourth of July and was a beautiful trip in its own right. Not only did we visit a couple of really cool gorges and waterfalls, but we managed to take in a minor league baseball game on "Dollar Night". It was a major league night on a minor league budget. I'd sooner go to 10 of these than one MLB game, and probably still come out ahead. Great to see in-laws and a picturesque part of New York State.

Sarah's Move into College

Old home week for me as we took my daughter up to the University of Minnesota where she started her college career. She loves it up there and the move went flawlessly. She has a roommate she likes and respects and all is well. It's still hard to believe she's gone.

The Cabin 

Nary three days after we moved Sarah into college, we turned north again and headed to Mercer for our annual summer-ending cabin trip. It was strange not having her and much of my family there this year. Times change and this seemed like a season of shift. We had a good time with friends nonetheless, but it was different. Still a good way to finish out the summer.

I hate to see summer end, and within a few weeks we'll be done with fall. It's my plan to embrace winter a little bit more this year. I'm starting by getting new XC Ski bindings and boots in an attempt to rediscover my love of that sport. 

I'll let you know how that goes.

I think the song Summer Skin by Death Cab for Cutie best sums up the coming and going of summer, so I'll leave you with those lyrics.

Summer Skin by Death Cab for Cutie

Squeaky swings and tall grass
The longest shadows ever cast
The waters warm and children swim
We frolicked about in our summer skin

I don't recall a single care
Just greenery and humid air
Then Labor Day came and went
And we shed what was left of our summer skin

On the night you left I came over
And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders
Our brand new coats so flushed and pink
And I knew your heart I couldn't win
Cause the seasons change was a conduit
And we'd left our love in our summer skin

Blogging off...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Peek In The Bucket

As I was fishing this weekend, it occurred to me that everything has a season. There will come a day when I won't be able to fish because I'll be old and feeble. Same goes for camping or biking. Because of this, I've made a list of ten things I do want to do before I die, or at least before I am physically unable to do them.

Bucket List:

1. Walk my daughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

A simple request, and certainly one of the easiest in this list. I think this one is a given, and I just hope I can keep it all together when it happens.

2. Sky dive 
This has always been an infatuation of mine. My friends did it in high school and I missed out. It seems like the riskiest thing in the world to do, but hey, it's livin'.

3. Climb a 10,000+ foot high mountain. 

This might be one of the harder things on the list. I've hiked a small mountain or two, but really want to push myself (with the right company of course) by taking on a bigger challenge. 

4. Raft down the Snake River

My brother Rob did this (I think) and it sounded like a complete rush. Again, a fairly risky behavior and, again I say, that's livin'.

5. Do the Hokey Pokey at my son's wedding.

My own wedding day was one of the funnest days of my life. Nothing like leaving it all on the dance floor. Someday I'll probably embarrass him by doing the sprinkler and the Hokey Pokey on his big day.

6. Hike at least a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Bill Bryson's book, A Walk in the Woods is inspiration for this. I just want to say I've done it.

7. Visit Stonehenge

The mystique of this place fascinates me. I want to go stand by big rocks, for reasons I can't explain. Gotta get there.

8. Go fishing for a week in Canada with my kids

Another highly achievable goal. I think they would get a kick out of catching more big fish than they know what to do with. Gotta start saving for this one.

9. Run with the bulls in Pamplona

Because who doesn't want to?

10. Bike across the State of Wisconsin 

I've always loved to bike, and I think this would be a great way to see the state. I would bike up through the center of the state, south to north.

11. (Runner up) Hike the entire Ice Age trail

Because a woman I heard speak on this made it sound intriguing. I'd better get walking.

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Deal With "Up North"

One of the annual trips I look forward to every year is for an event I call Muskiefest. The name comes from a much larger gathering of muskie fisherman in nothern Wisconsin years ago, before I was part of the tradition. The event kind of dwindled in size and eventually fizzled out. Now I go up there every year to fish with two or three other friends in sort of a Muskiefest "lite".

When I first started going to it six years ago, I was skeptical about the appeal of fishing in October. I'd seen pictures of guys in winter coats fishing and heard stories of years where people never caught one fish. Why would anyone in their right mind want to do that? When I go to fish, I want to catch fish. Well, after catching my first muskie ever in 2009, I was instantly hooked and have gone to the event every year since.

Last year was the first year I did not catch a fish. Neither did my buddy. The weather was tough and despite valiant attempts, we did not even see a muskie. It was humbling. I'd gotten used to catching them annually, so it was a bit of a letdown. Luckily, I caught one in August of last year, so had that success to fall back on.

This year was better. My friend caught a 39" fish within the first hour of the first day. Ten minutes before he caught his, I had one on my line but it shook the hook. I spent the remaining two days trying for redemption, and it never happened.

As my friend John says, "That's muskie fishing."

It doesn't help that earlier in the year, I lost a muskie when it broke my leader. So, it's going to be a long winter of dreaming about the ones that got away.

When you don't catch a fish, you have a lot of time to think. For me, I took stock of the reasons I love the northern Wisconsin area and the event itself. Here were some of them:

  • Fall colors: The drive up north was positively breathtaking. There were some groves of birch that looked like they were on fire. Brilliant yellow. We couldn't have timed it better.
  • Eagles: We saw more eagles flying, perched in trees, fishing on the lake, and even eating roadkill, than I've ever seen. It's clear the population is healthy up there and it was a real bonus.
  • Stories: Swapping stories with the guys I only see once a year is always a great part of this trip. Fishing stories are always there of course, but there are many more. Like John's story of the porcupine/fisher fight in his garage. (The fisher is the largest animal in the weasel family). These are the kinds of stories you can't make up. 
  • Serenity: Twice over the weekend we were the only boat on the lakes we were on. If it wasn't for the occasional highway noise, the silence would be painful. 
  • People:  The people up north are my tribe. Easy going, friendly and most would give you the shirt off their back if you asked. 
  • Weather: In four days we had, 1.) 60 degrees and sunny, 2.) 43 degrees windy and rainy, 3.) 34 degrees and snow flurries and 4.) 45 and cloudy. A little of everything. While this is sometimes tough to fish in, the fronts that come and go make the fish active. Three seasons in one weekend.
  • Goofing off: Laughing in the boat, laughing in the car, laughing at the weather or circumstances. It's therapeutic.
  • The "Up North" Feel: Can't explain it. It's just there. If you've been there, you know. 

So suffice it to say that fish are part of the trip's purpose, but there are many other reasons that this is one of my favorite trips of the year. I'm lucky to have good friends who value my friendship enough to invite me back year after year.

And with regards to the fish, there's always next year. 362 days and counting.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chuggin' On

It has been quite a week for me as a new author in the land of make-it-up-as-I-go-along. Good things just keep happening from week to week with my book and the path it's taking me on. I'll break down a few things that, like the book itself, just seem a little surreal to me. I keep forging ahead with promotion and every once in a while someone or something bites. Here's my week so far.

  • The gentleman I mentioned a few weeks back who contacted me by email again. He asked if I'd meet him and sign a book contacted me again asking to have me sign two more copies for him for Christmas gifts. It's always a great feeling when someone comes back for more. I don't mean from a profit standpoint, though that is nice, but the fact that people enjoyed the book enough to want to share it with friends. These were Christmas gifts for two of his buddies.

  • I've seen on Facebook where a couple of people have shared the book with multiple friends. Again, hearing this is more rewarding than the money.

  • The Southeastern Wisconsin Festival of Books organized a photo shoot with myself an five other first-time authors along with the Waukesha County Executive, Dan Vrakas yesterday. We formed up in the County Executive's conference room and a photographer took a number of shots. The advertisement featuring the picture should come out in a future edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel an the Wisconsin Business Journal. Some nice exposure thanks to my writing instructor, Kathie Giorgio.

  • The Rochester Minnesota Library now has the book, and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee library is considering it. A number of others have been contacted and/or are pending.

  • Tonight I spoke at the New Berlin Public Library's "Meet the local author" event. It was a lot of fun and turnout was as good as I could have expected, actually. I'm getting more and more comfortable in front of groups, so this went extremely well, I thought. People like to laugh, and my book has a lot of humor, so it always works out pretty well. Got some good questions at the end. People are so gracious. It is always incredibly humbling.
So that's the beginning of my week. All's good with Dirty Shirt. Now, I'm leaving for a few days on my quest to catch a very big fish. 

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Old Friends

This past weekend we went up to Minnesota. It was originally scheduled as a visit to see Sarah, do some shopping for her and catch up with family. As it turns out, in the middle of last week, one of my high school friends' mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. It turned out that her visitation and funeral were on Saturday morning, so I thought it would be a good chance to pay my respects to a friend I hadn't seen in 5 years. (He was a character in Dirty Shirt and one of my closest friends in high school). So, I hooked up with another friend from high school (also a character from Dirty Shirt), for coffee beforehand and we went to the visitation together.

Neither of us knew what to expect. We decided just to show up and be there for our mutual friend. We know his whole family, so we looked forward to seeing them all together again, but with many situations like these, you always go in with a bit of trepidation. It turns out these pre-reunion jitters were for naught. It was an amazing morning, actually, full of beauty, support, encouragement and love.

We talked to our friend and his siblings about their mom, her struggle with cancer, and shared memories of her. We also talked about the good times together in high school. It was almost as though we were all goofing around in their living room last week, even though it was over 35 years ago. We picked up right where we left off. We caught up on kids and careers and had some great chats. I'm convinced that funerals are as much about rejuvenating our hearts through the connection of those remaining, as they are in honoring those that have passed. It helps us carry on through the grief and make sense of the sadness. Death is a necessary part of life - and, yes, I realize the irony in that statement - but the support of friends can make it sting a little less. Sometimes, a lot less.

After we talked to them, we ran into three other women friends from our high school days. One lived across the street from me when I lived on Portland Avenue. The other two were part of our high school circle of friends and I remember some of the happiest times of my high school years with them. As I met each one, we talked about where we lived, our spouses and children, how our families were doing and how really, really good it was to see each other.

And in the process, I noticed that we were all a little older, grayer, and touched with laugh lines. After talking with each of them for twenty minutes or so, it was clear how blessed we all were. Pat put it best when he said that we all ran with a pretty good crowd back then and here, 35 years later, it was clear that was paying dividends. They've all raised children, had successful careers and managed to look great while doing it. We hugged each other, exchanged business cards and wished each other well. Hopefully we'll see each other again before another 35 years passes.

I've said it time and time again, that lately something has awakened in me that allows me to see the beauty in people, more than ever. My wife will attest that I've become a late blooming extrovert. I wouldn't go that far, but when I'm put in situations with people I care about, I get energized. I come away needing alone-time to process it, but when I do, it's like my life has another layer of love or richness, or texture added to it. I cannot explain it, but it happened again this weekend, and I'm a better person for it. I intend to keep my eyes open for more chances like this.

One never intends to leave a funeral uplifted, but when you run into old friends like I did this weekend, it does exactly that.

Blogging off...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Tour With Ten

A couple friends of Donna and I took their father to see Santana at the Riverside Theater last night as his birthday gift. They are not really Santana fans, but their father/father in-law is and they told him they'd take him. I told my wife to tell them I was jealous and if they needed a stand-in in his place, I would be glad to take it. They went and ended up having a pretty good time.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers - Orpheum, Mpls.
In one of my more recent posts, I mentioned that I went to see the Black Keys and Cage the Elephant with my son. When people mention on Facebook that they are going to see so-and-so, I am usually seething in jealousy. I love concerts and would go to many more if I had willing company. (Not everyone likes who I like.)

Having said that, here's a rundown of my top 10 concerts of all time. I'll try and rank them, with #1 being the best, but reserve the right to shuffle at the whim of any future conversation depending on my mood. Also bear in mind that my favorite bands are not always part of this list. Sometimes they just don't do good concerts (e.g. The Cars, who were always a favorite band, but were robotic and distant onstage.)

Top Ten Concerts (So Far)

  1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, circa 1980 (The River Tour). Two hour-plus show, amazing energy and the Boss and Clarence. 
  2. George Thorogood and the Destroyers at the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul, 1980. General admission seating, raucous crowd, small venue, sweaty confines and butt kicking rock. I remember being worried when I got to the front door that they were "carding" and I was a few days shy of my 19th birthday. Luckily I got a passover. Came out to find my friend's car battery was dead. We got a jump from a guy with a single cable. (It can be done if you touch each others bumpers.)
  3. Grateful Dead at Alpine Valley. Some things just go together. Will never forget the guy running around naked. Until the cops could catch him, of course.
  4. John Lee Hooker at the Cabooze in Minneapolis. It was epic! Came out in a three piece corduroy suit and hat and rocked the place. His supporting band, The Coast to Coast Blues band was smoking hot.
  5. Eric Clapton for his "August" tour in 1986. This album is still my favorite of all of his. The tour featured Phil Collins on drums which was an extra bonus. Clapton's searing, wandering guitar solos are straight from heaven. Don't forget the cigarette holder on his guitar.
  6. The Rolling Stones, 1981. Main floor with the Stray Cats opening. Oddly enough the Cats almost got booed off the stage. No one had heard of them and their Rockabilly was a tough sell to Stones fans. (Judging from the Cats' subsequent success, it shows you what the Stones fans knew). This wasn't the best concert ever, due in part to bad sound mixing, but still, to see Mick perform and Keith play guitar, well, it's right up there.
  7. Electric Light Orchestra at the St. Paul Civic Center. First concerts are always memorable. This was my first and it had a laser show. I absolutely loved this band and was disappointed there was no stage sized spaceship for this show, as I'd heard there was for others. Word was it was a labor intensive set to assemble. 
  8. The Ramones, at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Buzzsaw punk rock for an hour and a half. Every song sounded the same, and it was still a fantastic show.
  9. Pink Floyd at County Stadium in Milwaukee. Flying pigs, crashing WWII planes, a video show that was second to none. And I saw it all for $5.50. Ask me for details sometime. 
  10. Black Keys and Cage the Elephant. See prior post or Click Here.
Mick Jagger 1981 (Start me up!)
Runners up: Norah Jones, The Church (Madison), Robert Cray (Opening act for others) and PIL/New Order (Marcus Amphitheater).

Of course there's a host of groups and artists I'd wish I'd seen, but that will have to wait for another time.

Blogging off...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Natural Impact

My mother in-law bought me a subscription to The Sun magazine years ago ,and now renews it every year for my birthday. I think it is a magazine that most people would cringe at reading. It is all nonfiction and some poetry, but the stories are long and the print small. Most people like bite sized magazines with articles you can finish over a piece of pizza. Well, with this magazine I've grown to love reading it and usually do so from cover-to-cover. I've got my wife hooked on it now too, and we often ask each other "Do you have this month's Sun?"

Every month they interview a different expert or scientific celebrity and often times those are the best part of the magazine. This month they interviewed  Jack Turner, who has a fascinating resume including Mountain Guide, Author, and a degree Philosophy. His interview was so engaging I actually highlighted some of his quotes. His perspective on the outdoors mirrors my own so much that I wanted to share some of them.

As my wife will attest, I'm happiest when I'm outdoors, alone or with others. For me, being in a natural, preferably forested environment, re-centers me. I tried to capture this idea in Dirty Shirt a bit, but probably didn't do it justice enough. I think if everyone was forced to spend a day a month in seclusion with just shelter and their thoughts, the world might be a kinder place. Idealistic maybe, but it probably wouldn't hurt.

The first quote that caught my attention reads:

"If you've never had a genuine wilderness experience, even some small version of it, then why would you be drawn to it? That's why it's so important for those of us who love wild places and wile animals - and what happens to our minds when we're in their presence - to do our best to get people out there and help bring them into the experience. There are many paths." 

--Jack Turner in The Sun magazine Aug. 2014

This is why it is so fulfilling to take someone new fishing or hiking or canoeing for the first time. They begin to understand that there's a food chain, an ecosystem, a pecking order. They understand the importance of shelter, food, warmth and even love. You begin to recognize that you're a much smaller lord in the big wide universe than you were indoors in your urban environment.

The next quote read:

"I can't tell you how important family car-camping was for many of the people I know who are lovers of and advocates for the natural world. Those experiences mean a great deal to kids. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. All you need is a little intention. You can get kids out. You can get the elderly out. There are wheelchair-accessible fishing holes on the Yellowstone River."  

--Jack Turner in The Sun magazine Aug. 2014

My brother Tom, as Commissioner for the DNR uses a tag line that goes, "Take a kid fishing." This is kind of what the above quote alludes to. If we don't take our kids out into nature, how can we possibly expect them to want to be in it? Donna and I have always taken pride in exposing our kids to natural beauty and now they expect that vacations will always involve a hike, boat or swim somewhere along the way.

The last one read:

"Real wild places allow you to sit quietly with few distractions, away from advertising, entertainment and the rest of the modern mind-flood. I recommend going to a wild place for a week or two without bringing your music or your iPad or even a book or a journal. I call this 'radical hermitry'.

--Jack Turner in The Sun magazine Aug. 2014

I allude to this a bit in Dirty Shirt, as well. How in the deep quiet of the woods, without having any music players or electronics of any sort, your mind begins to slow down. Both adults and kids these days cannot seem to tear themselves free from the electronic glow for more than an hour. There is something freeing about being in a place totally cut off from all of it. These places are getting fewer and farther between, If you can't do it in nature, I would challenge you to try it at home. If you ask me, people need to experience the stillness given by a lack of information and electronic stimulation to better understand themselves and their place in the universe. I need to get better at this as well.

And maybe I'll start by...

Blogging off...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Follow Up

I haven't talked much about my work-in-progress toward publication, so I thought I'd catch everyone up on what that is. As much as I'd like to dive into the next book with abandon, I decided long ago that my second work would be a collection of my poetry. After all, it wasn't long after I enrolled in AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop that I began to "mess around" with poetry. Of course, at the time my main focus was on the Dirty Shirt material, but every four or five weeks I'd commit to writing and bringing in some poems. I literally had no idea what I was doing; driving blind, stabbing in the dark, dancing with no shoes on.

Something like that.

I started writing it because a couple of fellow writers inspired me with their work. Kathy Bram was one, Mario Medina was another and Alita Burmeister a third. There have been several since, but these three were the first, the inspirational ones, so to speak. They had a way of clunking and chunking words together to make a poem sound like a really, really short story. Their words were packed with stunning imagery and eloquence and more often than not hit you in the jaw at the end like a prizefighter. Some had a moral, some didn't. Some were hilarious, some sad enough to make you tear up. Some were short haikus, some were more prose like in paragraph form.

The genre was strangely appealing to this non-fiction guy. So I took it up for fun. It was trial and error at first, and my first few were pretty dreadful. I'd take them in to class and the folks there were always kind of surprised to see me writing poems. But then, they'd help me shape them up, take out the extraneous words, format things differently, add descriptors and, in general, de-crappify them. Of course, the clunkers remain clunkers even today. Some should never see the light of day again.

But others took flight and got noticed. My first published poem, Anyone Seen Sally?,  was only four short stanzas, but I credit those four stanzas and their publication in a local magazine with fueling my desire to be published. You never know where your writing will take you sometimes.

The fact of the matter is that writing poetry, in my opinion, makes me a better writer. If demands conciseness (is that a word?) and brevity. It forces you to visualize before you verbalize. But most of all I think it taps the creative side of the brain in different ways maybe than nonfiction. If anyone can speak to this phenomenon, I'm all ears. It's probably a little like an oil painter who also dabbles in sculpture or pencil drawing. Shaking it up keeps it fresh.

And along the way I've had some pretty decent success with it which sets the stage nicely for a collection of a number of them.

Anyhow, so yeah, that's what I'm working on now. I'm still writing new poems and seem to hit about one good for every three clunkers. (In fact I just had one accepted today by Torrid Literature Journal.) I guess 25% good is about the best one could hope for. At the same time, I'm busy cleaning up some of my completed works in the hopes of declunkifying them. That happens maybe 50% of the time. The ones that don't make that cut just languish in a folder somewhere. Every once in a while I'll open one up and go, "Oh my gosh, that's dreadful." I've come to the conclusion that some poems are just destined to clang like a Shaq free throw.

So the plan is to take the 100+ poems I have and work them down to the top 65 or so, more if the publisher wants more. I feel confident that I can assemble 65 pretty good poems. If all goes the way I hope, I plan to submit them this winter for publication in the spring. It is as much a dream of mine to do this as it was to get the book done.

All that's left now is doing it.

Blogging off...