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Showing posts from 2016

A New Hope

We are a couple of days away from 2016 being over and done with. And let me tell you, I'll be the first one in line toasting good riddance to it. It has been a tough, difficult year in our country and our world - one of the worst I can remember anyway. I try and be as positive a person as I can, but this year was a struggle to keep my chin up.
There were a multitude of racially charged cop/citizen shootings that created demonstrations and counter demonstrations. Throw on top of this the nearly weekly active shooter occurrences and it kind of makes one sick to their stomach. I don't know what the answer is anymore, but I'm guessing a good start would be less guns and more punitive measures on gun crimes. I'm no expert though, so this is just a thought. I just want it to stop. 
And of course we had a rash of high profile celebrity deaths this year too. For some reasons the ones that always hit me the hardest are the rock stars of my youth. This year saw names like Prince…

Santa's Gift

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We just returned from our Christmas celebration after a 5 hour drive through a relatively torrential December downpour. There were moments of white knuckles and at least two incidences of a second or two of uncontrolled hydroplaning - which was kinda fun - in a one-horse-open-sleigh kinda way.

As in years of recent past, we stayed at the Homewood Suites in New Brighton, Minnesota. It is a pretty nice hotel and their suites have a kitchenette and separate living areas that makes it quite comfortable.

On the evening we arrived, we spent some time with my sister in-law, Jane and her two girls. We always used to stay with them during holiday stays, so our kids grew up together. Part of our evening was spent going through Jane's scrapbooks of a few of our family vacation trips together. Two of the trips were spent with three of us siblings and our families. We saw Colorado, South Dakota and Pennsylvania. It was a blast going back through some of the things we had forgotten about on tho…

Keep It Down Over There

Well, I am the not-so-proud owner of a new pair of Phonak hearing aids. Yep, it's official, I'm old. I got them on Tuesday and went through all the fitting/training procedures at the audiologists office.

I was surprised by the small size of them and when they're in, they are very difficult to see. (Of course I realize that by posting this, I am tipping you all off, and now you'll be looking for them next time you see me. Don't be a judger.)  In fact, the day I got them I went to Ben's swim meet neither my friend nor Ben noticed them until I mentioned it to them. That was my big hangup for so many years was the vanity end of it. That and the fact that it skews me as "old," which I may be becoming. Not sure yet.

Anyways, when I first tried them on, I was shocked at how loud and echoey my voice was. The doctor adjusted it and said that over time my brain would get used to it and I wouldn't notice it anymore. The other thing that was shocking was, I c…

Happy

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December is a month full of significant birthdays for me. My brother Paul's is December 2nd, my wife's is December 7th, my own is December 11th and my stepfather, Jack's is today, December 18th. He would have been 87.

Jack dated my mom  for nearly 10 years before they married in 1979. They divorced in 1985 and we sometimes joke about how getting married was the biggest mistake they made. When they didn't get along during the dating years, they just stopped seeing each other for a couple of weeks. Then, they'd get back together and all would be good again until the next time.

While I can't paint Jack as a saint - he had drinking problems for most of his adult years, the cause of both his divorces and the source of much hurt to his families - I think it's only fair to point out the good on his birthday.

Jack had a wicked sense of humor. He loved to laugh and was great at getting others to laugh with him. That's why people liked him. I know there were seve…

Winter Camping Close To Home

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It has been an interesting few days around this 95 year old house.

If you recall, I've mentioned we've had furnace issues for a while now. We've been walking the tightrope for about a year now. Our furnace started making some noise a couple of years ago. We had it checked and the guy said it was the inducer, it costs around $600 and that it could probably go for a while but would eventually need replacing. We were contemplating replacing it at the time, but since the noise wasn't too bad, we figured we'd ride it out for a while.

Well we rode it through last winter and by the end of the season, she was howlin' pretty good. When it fired up this fall, it was no better. It's weird how those things don't fix themselves with a little time off.

Knowing that I would absolutely lose my mind if I had to listen to the roar of that thing for another season, we decided to have it "assessed." The assessment was that the patient was old, lived a good life b…

Trips Around The Sun

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As it turns out my blog post day (Sunday) falls on my birthday this year. I turned 55 today and while birthdays are always a little special, as we get older, they tend more and more to drift toward the "just another day" on the spectrum of life events. So today I will spend watching the Packers/Seattle game with a couple of close friends, eating ribs and birthday cookies and enjoying the downtime that snowy Decembers bring.

And it will be a really, really good day.

When pressed to think of memorable birthdays past, a few come to mind.


In 1972, we celebrated my golden birthday a day early on Sunday, December 10th. I remember the Vikings played the Packers and because the game was not a sellout, they blacked the game out in the Twin Cities. My mom and stepfather knew I was a big Viking fan and made it special by taking me across the border into Hudson, Wisconsin where the game was being shown. As I recall, even there the screen was fuzzy and snowy because, well, TV wasn't w…

Its Beginning To Look Like Not Quite Solstice

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Well, the BIG winter jacket came out this week.

The polar blast has swung into Wisconsin with a vengeance. Temps aren't even that bad, low to mid twenties. It's the wind that is killing us. We've had a steady 10-20 mph wind for the past three days. It makes a feel-like temperature in the low single digits. The other day I was walking home and faced a strong head wind for much of the walk. I began to wonder if I would make it home without sustaining a frostbitten nose. Thankfully I had a great jacket with a decent hood and made it home unscathed - albeit delirious and out of breath.

And so we've come upon that time of year. The jig is up, the furnace is howling - shaking the whole house - and there's no turning back. Time to gas up the snow blower, ready the shovel, bust out the wool socks and cotton long johns and brace yourselves.

I am determined to make the best of it this winter and try and not be a depressed whiner about it all. Every day is a blessing I'm …

Pushing For The Wall

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Friday night marked the start of my son's senior year of swim season. As you recall, he decided to join the team last year after not playing any sports in high school in the previous years. It was such a good experience for him that he decided to do it his senior year as well.

The meet was held at Waukesha North, a competing school in the city. It was a "compass meet" which I think means all the Waukesha teams South, North and West. There were a handful of other teams as well, including Mukwonago and Homestead.

Of course I went to the meet to cheer him on. I always forget how much I enjoy watching swimming events. The summer Olympics always find me glued to the swimming events watching Michael Phelps break records and take home medals. They help me appreciate what really goes into the training and competitiveness of the sport.

I am a fledgling swimmer - one who loves the water, but can't do much more than crawl/back float out to the island every year at the cabin. Th…

A Party On The Iceberg

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Well, I had my hearing test/evaluation today, and let's just say that if it was the ACT exam, I'd definitely want to retake it.

I pretty much failed with flying colors. 
Now, I;d had my ears tested about 8-9 years ago, I would guess. Back then they told me there was some loss and that I should probably consider a hearing aid somewhere down the road. Now, when you say this to a man, "down the road" means 8-9 years down the road. Not a big fan of doctors...
Anyways the whole experience was fairly stressful in a strange way. 
Once I filled out all the paperwork asking questions like what types of situations I would like to hear better in and things of that nature, I was taken back to the soundproof booth. There the Doctor and her intern asked the same questions. (Why?) Next she told me how the exam would be conducted. It was basically 3 parts.
A series of ascending sounds - Click the clicker when they start.A sentence - repeat the sentence back (or as much as you can rec…

Filled Up

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The long Thanksgiving weekend is coming to an end and my house is quiet and my heart is full. It was a weekend full of food, family, friends and fun. Each day brought a new set of friends and family into our lives interspersed with moments of just Donna, Ben, Sarah and myself, reunited.
Thanksgiving brought our friends of 25 years to our house as well as my brother in-law and his partner. It felt good to eat, laugh and watch football with them. They each brought something to the table, literally in this case. Our table was full of food to the point of needing to use the nearby buffet to hold the stuffing. 
Then, on Friday we celebrated Sarah's 21st birthday with a different set of friends of nearly 20 years. Like many friendships, ours has ebbed and flowed over the years but, most importantly, has sustained. Our kids grew up together and have stayed in touch and lately we have reconnected through our church, CollectiveMKE. 
We had dinner and, afterward the kids played board games w…

Qualified Thanks

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It is that time of year when people count their blessings and look back. I think they even call November "Gratitude Month." Of course I have much to be grateful for. At the same time, the reality of my reality is that not everything is always perfect. I'm pretty sure that's what's called life. We can put on airs or try and make it look like everything is "just right," but, is it ever, really? The best we can hope for is 90% I think.

But 90% in middle class America is still pretty dang good. We are a country blessed beyond belief, yet still we find things complain about. Well, I am always seeking to find the positive in life, so here's a few things that I am thankful for but that come with qualifiers.


I am thankful for the heat pumped out of my howling furnace. The unit we have is 21 years old and when it fires up, it shakes the whole house. (C'mon over sometime if you don't believe me.) It needs a new "inducer unit." We're sched…

Coffee And Connective Moments

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This past Wednesday evening, I was the featured poet at an Open Mic event at a coffee shop in downtown Wales, Wisconsin. The event was held at Mama D's Coffee, a quaint, atmospherically beautiful shop right downtown. (Wales is about 15 minutes west of Waukesha.)

Mama D's holds an open mic event once a month where a featured poet reads for the first half hour, then the mic is opened up and other poets and spoken word artists are invited to read. The way they happened upon me was through a writing colleague who had seen me read in Waukesha. She knew of the Wales location and thought I would be a good addition to the monthly featured poet series. It brings people into the shop and provides a venue for the writers, so is really a win-win. 
Anyway, the reading went pretty well. I covered about 18 poems in the half hour allotted. As I've mentioned before, I am getting increasingly comfortable in front of a group, so this was no different. I tried to break up each poem with a lit…

Coffee And Connective Moments

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This past Wednesday evening, I was the featured poet at an Open Mic event at a coffee shop in downtown Wales, Wisconsin. The event was held at Mama D's Coffee, a quaint, atmospherically beautiful shop right downtown. (Wales is about 15 minutes west of Waukesha.)

Mama D's holds an open mic event once a month where a featured poet reads for the first half hour, then the mic is opened up and other poets and spoken word artists are invited to read. The way they happened upon me was through a writing colleague who had seen me read in Waukesha. She knew of the Wales location and thought I would be a good addition to the monthly featured poet series. It brings people into the shop and provides a venue for the writers, so is really a win-win. 
Anyway, the reading went pretty well. I covered about 18 poems in the half hour allotted. As I've mentioned before, I am getting increasingly comfortable in front of a group, so this was no different. I tried to break up each poem with a lit…

Lessons From A Bad Lip Reader

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The time has finally come for me to take that leap into old age and get...wait for it...wait for it...a hearing aid! 
I've only been putting it off for about ten years now. In fact, I would argue that I don't really need one at all. 
My family would argue differently.
The other day, when I asked what we were having for dinner, what I heard was Fried web burgers. When I asked "What are Fried web burgers?" Donna and Ben just about busted a gut. She said, "I SAID, Prime rib burgers. 
Oh, that sounds better. Much better.
I actually had my ears tested about 10 years ago and they said I had some loss and that I would eventually need hearing aids. But telling that to a man is basically giving him license to ignore the problem for 10 years. So that's what I did. For me, it's as much a vanity thing as anything. Which is a stupid reason I know, especially given that my brother Rob wore one for most of his 47 years on earth. What's the big deal, anyway?
Well it…

Gratefully Apparent

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It seems that November is also Gratitude Month. I think they pretty much have a month for everything now. It seems that the NFL teams just finished wearing all the pink socks and towels for breast cancer awareness month (October), and now they're all wearing some sort of camouflage in support of our troops. These are all noble causes and I can't say that I disagree with recognizing any of them, it's just hard to keep tabs on what's what.

Anyway, as I mentioned, it's gratitude month. Each day of November we're supposed to find something that we are grateful for. I think this is some psychological trick to distract us all from the fact that winter is just around the corner, so we need to stockpile our good feelings, because darkness and cold is a comin'. Oh, yes it is.

The wellness center at my workplace even has a Facebook page that is dedicated to gratitude posts. It's been kind of fun, as each day they pick a subject with which to post a grateful pictu…

Restarting. Please wait...

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I am not sure how to process all of the hatred and vitriol I am seeing on both sides of the political system these past couple days. It is unlike I've ever seen in all my days. I certainly have feelings of my own that I will keep to myself, just like we used to do in the old days. I wish I could come up with an inspiring post, but instead I think I will let this post be what it is. Sunday is a new day.


Blogging off...

A Saturday Well Spent

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Yesterday I spent the day at the University of Waukesha for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. This is a two day event that celebrates local authors and their work using a series of panels, discussions and educational seminars. I've been going to the fest for years and this one was my second where I was featured on a couple of panels.

The first panel I sat on included Susan Martell Huebner who's written a soon-to-be-released memoir and Kathie Giorgio who has just released a short story collection called Oddities and Endings. The panel was titled Writers Branching Out and discussed crossing genres. I had such a blast on this panel answering the ad hoc questions of the moderator. This moderator was actually Kathie Giorgio's high school English teacher. He did a wonderful job of including the audience and the panel. A great interaction.

Sometimes people on panels like to know the questions in advance, but I feel there's something to be said for getting thrown surp…

A Saturday Well Spent

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Yesterday I spent the day at the University of Waukesha for the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. This is a two day event that celebrates local authors and their work using a series of panels, discussions and educational seminars. I've been going to the fest for years and this one was my second where I was featured on a couple of panels.

The first panel I sat on included Susan Martell Huebner who's written a soon-to-be-released memoir and Kathie Giorgio who has just released a short story collection called Oddities and Endings. The panel was titled Writers Branching Out and discussed crossing genres. I had such a blast on this panel answering the ad hoc questions of the moderator.

Sometimes people on panels like to know the questions in advance, but I feel there's something to be said for getting thrown surprise questions one after another. I think it makes for a more engaging discussion. At the end, the audience was invited to ask questions and they obliged nicely. I…

Overcoming

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It seems I slept through one of the best World Series games ever last night. I have a solid excuse. I'm not much of a baseball fan at all. I literally did not watch one pitch of the playoffs or series until last night. I follow the standings, and was well aware of what was at stake for the beloved Cubs going into the season. In fact, I told a die hard Cubbies fan friend of mine that if they didn't win it all this year, they deserve to be labelled the loveable losers that they were for 108 years.

Well, they didn't. And to that I say, congratulations Chicago!

I've actually been to Wrigley for games on two or three occasions. It is a fantastic stadium, truly like stepping back in time 50 years. I would go as far as to call it a cathedral or shrine. It is old school and given the ear-splitting sound systems at most parks these days, it is a pleasant alternative. I will even confess, and please forgive me Brewer fans, that when I was at those games, I was actually rooting f…

No Time Like The Present

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As winter approaches, there is always a bit of dread that comes along with it. In the autumn months, the days get shorter and cooler. I was lamenting this a bit on Facebook a while back and a friend of mine from my writing group smacked me out of it.

His reasoning was simple. Winter is going to happen and I can't control that, so why not enjoy fall for what it is - live in the joy of today a bit more, with less forward-looking dread. Then, he said, maybe make an effort to enjoy winter more via cross country skiing or other outside activities. He closed the argument with the fact that after December 21st, the days start getting longer again. Basically he said, you've got a good life, winter is part of it, deal with it.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. Good advice from a friend. (Paul) It snapped me out of my funk and caused me to look a little more at the present. This week provided me a chance to relish the present a bit more. Here are a few examples.


On Friday, my son got…

Fried Web Burgers

"I went to the doctor yesterday."

This is the line you never want to hear from anyone. It usually means one of two things. Either you're going to get a bucketful of bad news, or you're going to get a glimpse into Too Much Information.

So, I went to the doctor yesterday. When I'd gone for my physical a couple of weeks ago, the doctor gave me the green light of health except for my ears which were packed with wax. (See, I warned ya.)

Anyway, this is always bad news. I've had this recur about four times now in what appears to be a disturbing trend. I think it's part of some sort of old guy disease. This stuff never happened when I was 25, so what gives?

It gets better though.

The reason I needed to get my ears flushed is because I'm looking into getting hearing aids.

I know you're thinking: "Say what? He's so young!" You're thinking that, right? I knew it.

Yes, while I am pretty sure I don't need hearing aids, my family begs to …

Woods And Words

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I love many things about autumn.


The smell of burning leaves.The color-burst that is the cycle of death that needs to happen before winter.The sky has a different light about it. The clouds in that differently lit sky have their own beauty. I just wish we had about three more weeks of it than we do. (Accompanied by 3 less weeks of winter.)
Today was a perfect, Indian summer day. Temps near 68, clear skies and a light breeze. Leaves were falling and everyone was in good spirits. 
I took advantage of it and got two bike rides in. The first was an I-have-to-get-outside ride after church this morning. 
But it was the second ride with my son that was the capper on a great day. We took a ride through Minooka Park which has a system of mountain bike trails that is a blast. We'd been on them once earlier this summer, but I thought today was too good to pass up.
The ride up and down the trails was both exhilarating and technically challenging at times. Ben even had to bail a couple of times …

Out Of Dodge

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I am writing this from a conference on the edge of Nowhere Wisconsin and while that sounds like a complaint, I am happy to be here. I am normally just coming off a muskie fishing weekend this time of year, but this year it didn't happen. My fishing buddy Steve took it upon himself to go to Italy with his wife for their 25th wedding anniversary, and it ran dead into the muskie weekend. So it goes...

Anyway, my point is, I'm glad to be here because here is at least travelling and I am happiest when I have the road under my feet. As it turns out I'm just north of Spooner, Wisconsin at a remote lodge that involves at least 3 county roads and a stretch of deer-lined gravel roads. A fun ride at night with my mapping geek cohorts in a county van.

This comes while the rest of the world is overseas it seems. As I mentioned, Steve and Jill are touring Italy, end to end, and of that I am insanely jealous. They'll see Venice and Rome and a bunch of other great things

At the same t…

Election Rejection

As you have seen, I do not get political on this blog. I loathe politics and all that goes with it and feel it is increasingly dividing our country and bringing out the worst in people. 
Because of this, watching our Presidential election cycle play out like a car fire has been nothing short of painful. We've all seen mudslinging in the past, but never with two candidates that are almost equally disliked. A friend of mine said the only way he could ever imagine Hillary Clinton in office is if there was a Donald Trump as an opponent. And the only way he could ever imagine Donald Trump in office is if there was a Hillary Clinton as an opponent. 
Well said. 
And the wonders of social media have raised the rage level to new heights. As things get said and countered, it takes everything in me not to chime in. Like I said, I don't like being outwardly political, despite having definite opinions about who I think should be President. 
But I typically don't say anything. Because …