Sunday, July 31, 2016

Meaning In A Meaningless Game

I had the chance to attend my first Brewers game of the season a couple of nights ago. I won free tickets in a drawing at work for Bike to Work Week in May. The tickets were valued at more than $60 each, so this was clearly one of the better sets of seats I've ever had. I won four, but every person we asked to join us was busy it seemed, so it was just Ben and I. This was a good thing for many reasons,  the best one being that we just had some great laughs and together time, something we don't seem to get near enough of these days.

Now, neither of us are big baseball fans. I literally did not know more than 1/2 the guys on the field, and Ben knew even fewer. We both admitted that watching baseball on TV - with the exception of maybe postseason playoffs/World Series - is just something we've never enjoyed. At the same time we agreed that watching it live is much different, much more engaging. But, as many of you know, attending a game is not cheap. It is usually $150+ per game for a family of four after tickets , parking, snacks and a steeply overpriced beer or two. So, we typically don't get to a game unless we have discounted or free tickets. It takes the edge off a fairly expensive outing.

Anyways, we went and had a blast. Our seats were right along the third baseline 20 rows from the field. It was funny, but when I went to get my tickets from the Will Call window, Ben saw me at Window #6 which said VIP Seats and said "Dad, you're in the VIP line."

I said, "I know. I told you these were good seats. You don't expect us to sit with the rest of those Plebeians, do you?"

To top it off, it was T-Shirt night, so we both got Brewers T-shirts out of the deal.

July 29, 2016

Thankfully the Brewers were on their game and were playing the one team that they can consistently beat, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As the game went on, I explained some of the strategies, nuances and differences between National League and American League ball. We talked about batting averages and laughed about some of the crazily computed stats, like:


  • The Brewers are 4 - 2 versus opponents when they play on Tuesday afternoons when the roof is open, the temperature is above 74 degrees and both starting pitchers are left-handers from Japan.
Then we talked about all of the crazy acronyms in baseball. Things like OBP (On base percentage) HBP (Hit by Pitch) BB (Base on Balls) and the ever lovable OPS (On base Plus Slugging). I thought Geographic Information Systems (GIS) had a lot of acronyms.

Because he has a wicked wit, Ben can keep right up with me when we joke about sports like this. We love watching them together, especially the Packers and more recently, Admirals hockey, but when it comes down to it, these are men playing a boy's game and making millions in the process. So we look at it as our job to keep it real.

I can remember showing a baseball I'd caught at Brewer's game in the 80's and we got to talking about the sport. I said that the Brewers were kind of lousy at the time and certainly not going to the playoffs to which she said, "Yes, but it's all about the game you're at. You want them to win THAT game. It doesn't matter what place their in." 

That always kind of stuck with me, for some reason.

So the Brewers (and Twins, my other team) are going nowhere again this year, it appears. But we wanted them to win anyway. And as I said we were fortunate they played well. There was a two run homer in the first inning that gave us an early lead. Then, Junior Guerra, the Brewers pitcher pitched out of his head and ended up throwing one batter short of a complete game. Both of us were hoping they'd leave him in for the last batter, but he was starting to look shaky and giving up bases, so they pulled him.

Ben and I - Miller Park, 2004
The whole decision to keep him in or pull him though, gave an interesting storyline to an otherwise nothing game. When the reliever got the final out, the stadium erupted. It was a cool ending to a great night. 

It was a night I was so glad I got to experience with my son.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Work In Progress

I've never been one for enjoying yard work. It is a necessary evil to owning a house in both my and my wife's perspective. I know some people love it and they have beautiful yards to show for it.

God bless 'em.

But it isn't me. There was a day or two when I actually liked raising tomato plants. We bought our plants at the farmers market in Madison one year and had a great crop. We were successful urban farmers. So, the next year we bought a few more tomato plants and what happened? They contracted some sort of mold wilt disease.

So we stopped that nonsense.

I realize there's some people out there who would call us lazy, but I don't think that's fair. It's just that we loathe gardening and yard work. It doesn't trip our trigger. If I we had our way, we'd pave the entire back yard - maybe make it a skateboard park. Better check my insurance policy on that first. I'll get back to ya.


We've recently added some artwork to our garage in our attempts to make it more visually appealing. The dragonfly above was made by a friend and the two planters were creations my wife designed and I assembled. The next project is to build a patio out of what was once covered by a building attached to our garage. It has been 10 years in the "design formulation stage," but may not make it until 2017.

So, despite all appearances, we're trying. Baby steps, people.

Having said that, my latest thing is sitting in my back yard with my dog for an hour near dusk, writing, checking email and the like. It's been a good summer weather wise for this new habit. It's been too hot to stay inside and with daylight lingering as long as it does, it seems sad to waste it sitting inside.


I've also discovered that my back yard is a decent haven for me and a sort of animal refuge for lots of different critters. In a single evening I spotted cardinals, swallows, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and countless sparrows and finches. Of course I have to overlook the fact that the invasive creeping charlie has overtaken my grass, but I've gotten used to it and am okay with letting nature run it's course. I am one of those green freaks who cannot see using all kinds of poison and fertilizers that will end up in the bloodstream of the very critters just mentioned or the watershed of tomorrow's ice tea.

The other night I sat in my Adirondack chair with a pen and paper and wrote two pages for my book with my dog at my side. It was freeing to be away from my computer, phone, tablet and iPod. I know I wouldn't typically get two pages written if I was on my laptop. There is still something therapeutic about writing in longhand - a dying art, to be sure. As I sat there channeling my thoughts I watched my dog snap at bugs. When it approached dusk, I watched the fireflies rise out of the grass.

I know my time in the back yard is limited. Fall looms and the days are getting shorter, so my urgency is ramped up more these late days in July. Also, my dog has become used to the routine to the point of lingering at the back door after dinner in hopes that I might invite him out with me. If I don't he whines until I do. He's become a creature of our habit.

We're buds, hanging out in my beautiful, tragically neglected back yard together.

Blogging off...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fairly Full

I went to the Waukesha County Fair yesterday with my two kids, Sarah and Ben. I've written about the fair before and if you know me, you know I'm a big fan of fairs of all size. I love everything from the small Parish Festivals to County Fairs all the way up to the big boys - the State Fairs. I love the food, the noise, the smells and the cheesiness of it all. It brings out the strangest cross-section of humanity which makes people watching one of the better parts of the whole thing.

One of the reasons we went to yesterday's fair on short notice was to see the Demolition Derby. These events are twenty minutes of hillbilly crazy. There's something viscerally satisfying about watching cars smash into each other as they spin their wheels in the mud. It's probably some sort of redneck gene in me that attracts me to it, but I can't seem to look away. My daughter had never seen the spectacle and when she sent a video to a friend, he texted back and said "That's some hillbilly s#*% right there."



Pretty much.

After the derby was over, the skies turned dark so we moved toward the food stands to try and get our fill before the deluge. Before the skies opened up entirely, we were successful in getting:


  • Deep fried Oreos
  • A corn dog
  • Deep fried cheddar cheese
  • Mini Donuts
The mini donuts were a story unto themselves. All I wanted was a $5 bag of donuts to share with my kids. Well the guy "upsized" me to a $10 bucket of donuts for no extra charge. I let him be nice, but I also knew we would likely never eat 1/2 of them. And we didn't. The clerk also said if we brought the bucket back next year, we would get a refill for only $5.00. 

There's a $5.00 savings I don't want to have to remember a year from now. "Hey hon, where's the County Fair Mini Donut bucket from last year?" 

No.

Anyway the rain drove us into the animal barns, which is probably as interesting as carnies barking at you in the midway anyway. We saw some beautiful animals, including some insanely curious pigs that reminded me how far removed we city-folk are from farming and what we eat. Farm creatures bring out the kid in me. Those that grew up around them are pretty much, "Yep, that's a cow." 

The rain also drove us through the exhibit halls where we saw everything from the Ginzu Knife demonstration to Window Replacement firms. Heck, we could even sign up for the Army or dispute Darwinian Evolution if we wanted. 

Nope. Just killing time thank you.

Which is what the fair is all about really. It's an alternate universe for me. The freakshow is in the Midway, but when you look at it closely, the freakshow is everywhere. 

And it's wonderful.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Best Days Are Now

I dropped the car off for yet another expensive repair today (I don't want to talk about it.) and on the walk to work afterwards, I came to Frame Park in Waukesha. For some reason, I was stricken with a pang of nostalgia for my days as a young father.

My two kids and I spent A LOT of afternoons and early evenings at this park. Any of you who have slogged through the days of multiple small children know that going to the park is like a micro-atomic vacation from the rigors of parenting. For the most part we get to turn our kids loose and let them run feral around a dizzying array of dangerous, perilous playground equipment while we try to use at least part of that time gathering our wits and trying to remember what day of the week it is.

It's a little bit ironic that my 20 year old daughter is spending a few days a week this summer babysitting our friends' 3 kids, all under the age of 6. She loves it, and brings home the best stories of her day with them, but they have convinced her that she will be putting off motherhood as a goal for at least ten years. As a father who has both been there, and is looking to get her launched into life relatively debt free and well educated, I'm totally on board with no grandkids for the next 10 years. (Though, selfishly, I wouldn't mind having a little one or two around, I know that for me it is Rent-a-Kid, for the parent it is ALL IN.)

I used to play "Monster" with my kids at this park, where when they got bored with the other kids, they'd make me chase them around the park. Up the ladders (with my 6'5" frame) and down the slides, just slightly behind them to get them running and tired out. It was all fun, but it was also a parental sneaky-ploy to run the energy out of them so they'd be tired out and fall asleep easier at bedtime.

It never worked out that way.

But I miss their small bodies. I miss their screams of fear when I would start after them in a chase. I miss watching them interact with other kids on the playground. There were a fair amount of regulars at the playgrounds - other parents looking for a micro-atomic vacation from the confines of their own homes, just like me.

But as much as I long for those days, these days are pretty good too. I don't have the physical rigors of feeding, lifting, changing, buckling, bathing, pottying and dressing anymore.

I do get nights like two nights ago though.

I went to Loew's with Ben as my heavy lifting assistant, as we were there to pick up a new washing machine. We get there and were told that someone was looking for our washer in the warehouse. After twenty minutes Ben said,

"Evidently the washer is in the Raiders of the Lost Ark Warehouse."

I cracked up so bad.

How did I get to a point between big boy pants and the sarcastic wit of a 17 year old like this? This is the beauty of having kids who are turning into adults. I get someone who gets my sense of humor, can crack me up and doesn't mind a little heavy lifting.

Then, as we're bringing the old washer out of the house, we were yelling commands at each other as we struggled with this behemoth white box that no longer held water. It was like Laurel and Hardy as we wrestled the thing out of the house and down the new stairs onto the curb. (It was gone in less than 20 minutes - THANK YOU, Junk Man whoever you are.)

Then we repeated the same folly moving the new one in. Scraping knuckles, yelling help, correcting each other, trying not to wimp out as we struggled through narrow doorways with differing opinions on which side of the box was more narrow. (It was square, there was no narrower side.)

And I thought, how nice is it that I not only have free back saving help, but we can have fun doing a task that one doesn't usually associate with fun.

The same goes for Sarah when she brings her stories of babysitting home with her. She tells me how cute little Levi (age 3) is when he says, "I'm not really tired for a nap." Also, she is right there alongside us laughing and holding doors open when Laurel and I are wrassling the new washer into the house.

So, it's a trade-off, I guess. I don't get to dance and wrestle with the kids on the living room floor any more, but I get these times of "life," of living day-to-day average, ordinary life, with moments of great fun and unexpected laughter that make me realize it's all a great journey.

Chapters in a book.

Stages of life.

Moments of family love - albeit unintended.

And I will take every one of those that I can get these days.

Blogging off...


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Think Time

I've been thinking a lot about meditation lately. Not the transcendental type that came to popularity in the 70's, but rather experiences that are meditative for me. I rarely make time for just sitting and meditating, though I think that would be a highly beneficial activity. What I have discovered however is that I need a fair amount of meditative, introspective activity even if I don't think of it that way.

Take for example my biking. I bike to work every day in the 7 months of the year that we can in Wisconsin. Thing is, that is only about a 12 minute ride. What I do though is I bike for roughly 30-45 minutes every night after work during good weather. On top of my ride home, it is part of what I call my "wind down" time. The rhythm of pedalling and breathing gives me time to think - or not think - depending on how my day went.

Donna has become accustomed to my need for a ride. She knows I'm a better person when I've had one, than when I've not. She says I'm like a dog, I need a good run. But as much as that, it's a chance to clear my head of the day's events at work. It preps me for home life and not to mention, it is my primary workout practice most of the year. Great aerobic workout that keeps my weight in check.

Another meditative practice for me, strange as it sounds, is walking the dog. I put in my iPod and take Toby out for a 20 minute walk every day. On weekends it's twice a day. The music and the pace of the walk and the fact that I'm outdoors just makes me happy. It's a chore that's not really a chore. It's funny, but the music brings a new element to the mix, so I think about entirely different things than when I'm riding my bike (which I do iPod-less.)


Believe it or not, writing is meditative for me. Again, most often I do this with music on, and the process of putting my thoughts to words helps me work things out. It is a strange phenomena but one that is explained much more eloquently right here.

Of course fishing in my kayak is maybe the most meditative of all. There's something about being on the water with the quiet, and the waves and the breeze. I was out there yesterday and fished for four and a half hours. The only words I uttered in that time were "Good morning" to a fellow kayaker. As a self-proclaimed introvert, this is just a bit of heaven. Like the BWCA, I get a little offended when people encroach in my vicinity. If they do, I always hope that they'll just nod and keep moving on. Does that make me a bad person? Probably. Ha!

I can't help it. It's who I am.

So all of these activities are meditative and great sources of introspection for me. I am a firm believer that EVERYONE needs time alone to look inward. I know it's torture for some, heaven for others. But I also think if we don't take time out to work things out, be it in reading, meditating, doing art or anything solitary and meditative, it manifests itself in the form of added stress in people and takes a toll over time. But that's just me.

Some need it more than others. In writing this post, I realized all of these things are check-out activities that help me through the rest of the day and week. They change over time as we evolve our habits and hobbies. But the important thing is we keep looking inward and taking time to take stock of life and slow down.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Spinning Plates

I have to take a little time and devote it to all that has been happening in my writing world of late. It is fast and furious at the moment and all of it is good, but there are days where I feel like I'm spinning plates. Most of my issues are good problems to have, so please understand that I'm not complaining, just very busy. That said, here's what's going on at the moment:


  • The tragic LUV story about my cat Tonto, was finally published in an anthology devoted to pets and pet rescues. The anthology is from the "Memories from Maple Street, USA" series. I've had a couple of other memoir pieces published in, including, Leaving Childhood Behind and The Best Christmas Ever. This one is titled Pawprints on my Heart. If you love pets, especially dogs and cats, this would be a great little read. Lots of heartfelt memories about pets. All of the books in this "Memories from Maple Street, USA" series are compilations of short memoirs and are quite affordable. Check them out.
  • I've been invited to speak on a couple of panels at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books in November. The panels are on Writing about Family and Writing Across Genres. The theme this year is Roots and Branches. I can't wait!
  • I recently found out that I was one of the chosen for publication in the Wisconsin Writers Association's Literary Journal titled Creative Wisconsin. This will be a bound paperback journal and includes my childhood memoir about neighborhood hockey in Minnesota in the 1970's. This was a really fun piece to write.
  • I've been asked to be a "frequent contributor" to the Flash Fiction Sunday Edition at 101
    Words. (My reviews will be featured this Sunday July 17th) 101 Words is a flash fiction site that requires that user-submitted stories be exactly 101 words in length. They also have a Sunday Edition that consists of an author posting links to four different flash fiction stories that they thought were good, and then providing a two or three line review. I was flattered to be approached for this, but it is another spinning plate. Ha!
  • I am awaiting the publication of the David Bowie Anthology titled 47-16 Volume II  (the years of his lifespan) that has my poem, "Not So Major Tom" in it. Volume I is out already, but I was selected for Volume II. Coming soon...
  • I still continue to promote my most recent eBook of poetry, Reciting from Memory. This is a fun collection of "poems for the working class." Nothing too lofty, just fun and introspective poems.
  • Of course the elephant in the room is my ongoing book about the family/house/neighborhood that I grew up in. I've been giving it more attention lately, trying to get serious about getting it done (first draft). These other things are fun distractions, but distractions nonetheless. Not arguing, it's all good, but if I had about two more hours each day...
  • I am an occasional guest blogger at our church, Collective MKE. Not a huge commitment, but another plate.
  • I am looking down the road at what's next too. I am still intrigued by re-writing/co-authoring a book my deceased uncle has written. As you may recall, I read the book and thought it moved a little slow, so was thinking I'd re-write every other chapter and see if I couldn't help make his dream come true. The idea thrills me - the work involed might kill me. Ha!
So that is most (but not all) of it. Throw into this a busy summer schedule and some quality fishing time, and, well, more plates.

Thanks again to all of you who take time to read my work, my blogs and offer words of encouragement and support. You are the reason I do it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wrecked

It was a tough week for our nation, so as a result this will not my typical kind of post. I made the mistake of watching the Philando video on Friday and, essentially, watched a man die. Then, in some sort of dark moment, I searched for the Alton Sterling video and watched it. In essence, I watched another man die.

It wrecked me. It continues to wreck me.

I do not want to start a big debate about who was right or wrong. I realize both men had guns - one with a permit, one for personal protection. I am a person who feels putting a gun in any non-hunting situation usually brings about bad things, but if it is within the parameters of the law, well, who am I to say.

At the same time, both of these men were shot multiple times at point blank range - one with a child in the car. That one was for a broken taillight.

The day after the second shooting, an armed forces verteran sniper starts picking off cops. An unspeakable tragedy spurred by two other unspeakable tragedies.

Again, I don't want to get into who was right or who was wrong. I also don't want to get into a Black or Blue Lives Matter. They both matter.

Part of the reason it wrecked me so badly was that we are still fighting about skin color in 2016. Next year will mark 50 years since my father was killed by a gang of black thugs in a bar near the Selby Dale neighborhood of St. Paul. This bar was literally less than 5 miles from where Philando was shot and less than a mile from the school he taught at. Granted it was an extremely racially tense time in our country's history, but I'm seeing the same kinds of things transpiring again, and I hate it.

I don't say this to garner sympathy or pity, but rather to point out that after 50 years, it's clear we still have a long way to go.

The hard question is what do we do now? Frankly, I don't know. I do know I will continue to try and see our humanness before our color or sexual orientation. I will continue to pray that our country can use these events to pull together and not build walls because of them. And I will continue to treat everyone with the respect I expect from them, including police officers.

Because I don't like being wrecked by the things I saw.

Blogging off...

Wrecked

It was a tough week for our nation, so as a result this will not my typical kind of post. I made the mistake of watching the Philando video on Friday and, essentially, watched a man die. Then, in some sort of dark moment, I searched for the Alton Sterling video and watched it. In essence, I watched another man die.

It wrecked me. It continues to wreck me.

I do not want to start a big debate about who was right or wrong. I realize both men had guns - one with a permit, one for personal protection. I am a person who feels putting a gun in any non-hunting situation usually brings about bad things, but if it is within the parameters of the law, well, who am I to say.

At the same time, both of these men were shot multiple times at point blank range - one with a child in the car. That one was for a broken taillight.

The day after the second shooting, an armed forces verteran sniper starts picking off cops. An unspeakable tragedy spurred by two other unspeakable tragedies.

Again, I don't want to get into who was right or who was wrong. I also don't want to get into a Black or Blue Lives Matter. They both matter.

Part of the reason it wrecked me so badly was that we are still fighting about skin color in 2016. Next year will mark 50 years since my father was killed by a gang of black thugs in a bar near the Selby Dale neighborhood of St. Paul. This bar was literally less than 5 miles from where Philando was shot and less than a mile from the school he taught at. Granted it was an extremely racially tense time in our country's history, but I'm seeing the same kinds of things transpiring again, and I hate it.

I don't say this to garner sympathy or pity, but rather to point out that after 50 years, it's clear we still have a long way to go.

The hard question is what do we do now? Frankly, I don't know. I do know I will continue to try and see our humanness before our color or sexual orientation. I will continue to pray that our country can use these events to pull together and not build walls because of them. And I will continue to treat everyone with the respect I expect from them, including police officers.

Because I don't like being wrecked by the things I saw.

Blogging off...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Composite Zen

I have learned many things and re-learned a few during the construction of my front steps and walk over the past few weeks. Some are good life lessons, some are project specific and some just address insecurities I have in my own abilities - most of them unfounded. Here are a few of the more obvious ones that jumped out during those long hot hours behind a drill or on the handle of a chop-saw.


  • Measure twice cut once.  Better yet, measure twice, line up for the cut and then, measure a third time. Then cut. This goes for life too. Having a plan and checking it along the way helps make the experience go smoother. Not always, but mostly. 
  • Cut on the far edge of the pencil line. Along the lines of the previous suggestion, when you do cut your composite board, better to err on the side of too big. It's hard to add length to a cut board, easy to take away. Same goes for getting places on time. Better to be early and wait a few minutes than to show up late because you cut things too close.
  • Two make a better team than one. On more than one occasion, one of the two or three of us corrected another on a detail the person had gotten wrong - a wrong measurement, a detail missed, etc. No man does life well as an island. We need folks walking alongside us, giving advice, checking our errors and occasionally even correcting. These are what good friends are for.
  • Straight lines are good, crooked bad. If you are not using a T-Square and a level, that overlooked angle or off centered piece will compound the problem as you go. If you ignore that problem in your personal life or around your house, it tends to not go away, but heaps more trouble on top of the next pending issue. Deal with the problem when it happens - you'll thank yourself later.
  • When people are helping, respect their time. I am not good at asking for help. Every once in a while I have a big project like I did with the fence and the steps. Because I know people value their time, I made sure I had things ready, materials bought and lunch and beverages provided. The same holds true for parties, hosting, etc. If you invite people over, feed them, water them, listen to them, then let them go back to their lives. Respect their cues, tell them you appreciate them taking time out of their life to be with you. Thank them profusely.
  • Projects will almost always go over budget and take longer than expected. Everything looks easier on paper. Paper doesn't account for the things you run into along the way. You can plan your day/week/month out ahead of time, but you will inevitably be less productive than you expected because of the co-worker that blathers, the unexpected task, the forgotten appointment, or the hidden cost. Get used to it, it is called life.
  • When you're drilling or sawing, mind your fingers. It's easy to get lazy or comfortable when you've been at something all day. That's when bad things happen. Take frequent breaks to keep yourself sharp. If we remember that our words can be as sharp as a saw, we'd be better people if we watched how we used them. I need help in this daily. It is my biggest sin.
  • Problems that can be hidden are not problems. There are  a certain percentage of things in every woodworking project that only the carpenter know exist. They are shortcomings or imperfections that do not matter because they have no effect on the outward appearance of the finished product. Okay, so there is no real life situation where this is a good thing. You got me.

So that is my carpentry philosophy that came out of this project. I'm still learning things as I go. One thing that has become clear is that I'm not as big a hack as I beat myself up for. I like perfection but am not a perfectionist. I understand planning, yet fail at planning some things in life. Like this project, and like many people I know, I am a work in progress. I am working on squaring things up, keeping my life level, sanding down the rough edges and trying not to get drilled. 

It's simply complicated. It's called life.

Blogging off...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Securing The Fort

The Downside of Summer's Warmth

It appears that fifth season is upon us. No, not road construction, but rather Bee season. It visits my house every July and keeps me on my toes protecting this old castle of mine.

This years onslaught actually started last week while I was in San Diego. Evidently, Ben saw the wasps going into and out of a couple of small nests by our back door.

And we certainly cannot have that.

While I'm a big fan of honey bees, I have no time for hornets and wasps. I'm sure they serve a purpose, but frankly they scare the heck out of me, and I don't want them around. These past few years the long legged paper wasps have taken to various nooks and crannies of my house and garage. They typically start to establish a pretty good paper nest before I break out the killing techniques.

I typically have one two-step technique. Blast them with bee killer jet spray and run like hell.

Hey, it's effective.

So I hit the first three nests over my back door thinking I had them all. I later found another five bee "starter homes" hanging from the house and garage. All of them are overhead which means that I usually get dusted with bee killer spray fallout, which I'm pretty certain will manifest itself in the form of a tumor or pancreatic cancer in a few years. I consider it the price I pay for securing the perimeter.

From On High

One of the nests was developing on the second floor, which meant getting out the extension ladder. What could possibly go wrong with a can of poison in the hands of a man terrified of heights on a ladder 20 feet in the sky?

Nothing right?

Rock solid plan.

So up I went with a broom in one hand and bee killer in the pocket of my cargo shorts. The broom was to attempt to tuck in one of my siding shingles that was askew. Figured I'd just nudge it back into place. Up the ladder I went and about 3/4 of the way up I got the old heebies. Then the voices come to the surface.


Cripes sakes it's high up here. 

If I fall, I'm dead.

Is the top of this ladder sliding toward that window?

Good times.

Needless to say the shingle tuck did not go as well as I'd anticipated. The broom provided just enough reach to knock it into "better" position, but not "ideal" position. When you're at that height, it's amazing the compromises that can be made in my mind. I made one here, in a hurry.

Do It Yourself Extermination LLC.

Finished with the broom, I dropped it to the ground. I didn't need anything more to think about than my 10 fingers losing their color as I gripped the ladder and started working toward reaching the spray in my pocket.

Once I got it, I took aim and blasted away. Again I got rained down on by the spray's fallout.

My pancreas hates this time of year.

After that blast, I slowly inched my way down the ladder. There were a couple of anxious moments where I wasn't sure I could move. Gridlocked to my ladder.

The whole experience was a reminder that I will not be painting this house myself, when we decide to paint it again.

So I have the bees to thank for that.

Blogging off...

Friday, July 1, 2016

My Final Frontier

More blogging from the road, or maybe tarmac is a better term. This time I'm in the Denver airport, which is beautiful if you're into malls and busy places. I'm not, but hey, I have an electrical outlet to myself tucked away from most of the main traffic, so I am happy. There is a great peace to anonymity for this introvert.

So, when I set up tickets for this trip, the only airline I could get a decent rate for along with an early arrival time in San Diego, was Frontier. I'd traveled with Frontier before, and didn't remember anything overly awful or traumatic about the trips, so I figured what the heck, how bad could it be? All flying is awful, so this couldn't be any worse, right?

Um, yeah.

It started with the paying for your bag. It seems that if you don't pay for your bag online ahead of time, ($30) it goes up to $40. Luckily, I checked ahead of time, so didn't have to pay the additional $10.

My trip started out with a thud. I was supposed to leave Milwaukee at 6:30 AM on Sunday. Because the plane had technical issues in Las Vegas, it was almost 3 hours late getting out of Milwaukee. Fortunately I had a 3 hour cushion in Denver.

So, no worries...I thought.

Due to slow departure, we didn't leave until 9:15. It's a two hour flight, and my flight from Denver was scheduled to leave at 11:19.

Now, I'm no math whiz, but I saw the writing on the wall.

The pilot was kind enough to hit the gas and we got to Denver at 11: 05. When he taxied to the gate, he got on the microphone and informed us that there was a plane parked at our gate and it would be about 10 minutes until we could deplane.

When I got at 11:21, I asked the gate agent if my plane had left for San Diego. "Oh yeah, that plane is gone, go ask the customer service agent to reschedule a new flight."

I moved down the line and the customer service rep said "No, your flight is still there, waiting for you to board."

It was difficult to believe that these two people worked for the same airline.

So I took off sprinting and just made it under the wire. They held the plane for the alleged luggage transfer and so we were slated to get into San Diego 10 minutes late.

Whew, that was close! Disaster averted.

The real disaster came when I found out that my luggage didn't make the flight. The execution of it's recovery was where Frontier clearly fell off my radar for ever using them again.

I was directed to a counter with about eight other poor saps whose luggage had the same fate. We were given scraps of paper (literally scraps of paper) and told to write our names, addresses, hotels, and the color of our bags. The clerk then proceeded to re-ask us each of those questions as we stood there helpless.

When she asked the guy ahead of me for the hotel's address, I thought he was going to blow a gasket. He looked it up on his phone and then read it to her. Then she asked for it's Zip Code. I wondered if they were going to mail the luggage to us or what?

When it was my turn, I had all of that information handy and got the same questions, including Zip Code. I was told that my bag might be in on the 6:00 flight and they would bring it to the hotel, but if not, it would be on the 11:00 flight and they'd bring it the next day.

Evidently customer bags aren't as important as a good 8 hours of sleep for their van driver.

Later that day about 8 PM, I got a phone call saying my bag was at the airport. I asked if it would be at my hotel within an hour then. "No...3-4 hours," was their reply.

I assumed it was coming by camel, or perhaps one item at a time by a flock of carrier pigeons.

Then the agent asked me which hotel I was staying at. IT'S ON THE SCRAP OF PAPER, PEOPLE! I told him it was the Omni.

He asked which one.

Of course, I'm thinking, THERE IS ONLY ONE! It's the big tall one overlooking Petco Park. You know that right? It's where your baseball team plays. You can almost see both of them from the airport.

Instead I calmly told him the address again,

"Oh yes, sir, he said."

But wait, it gets better. Next he asked:

"And what's the Zip Code with that?"

Needless to say, I didn't get my luggage until 7:15 the following morning. But hey, it only cost me $30 to NOT get it on time.

So it goes...

Blogging off...