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Showing posts from 2017

Long Live Rock

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As part of our Christmas vacation trip back and forth to upstate New York, we built in a two and a half hour visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I've been wanting to get to this place for a number of years, so when my wife mentioned it as a possibility a few months back, I thought it was a great idea.

And, frankly, it was a side trip that almost didn't happen. After all the battles with snowy road conditions and the busy-ness of the holidays, we were all feeling the pull of home strongly by the time the end of our stay rolled around. At the last minute, we decided to stick with our original plan and go see the museum.

I am so glad we did.

For those of you considering it, I would say that you should allow at least 2.5 - 3 hours to see it all, more if possible. There is so much to see, especially if you are a rock aficionado.

We started at the top floor where there was an exhibit recognizing the 50 years of Rolling Stone magazine. While I realize that thi…

A Walton-esque Christmas - 1991

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It is December 23rd, 1991 and my bride and I screaming across the Ohio Turnpike in our '87 Honda Accord, a ride of relative luxury given our Escort/Chevette roots. We are headed to Gorham a tiny burg in Upstate New York. It is a town of the size one would see on Walton's Mountain, with a historic downtown including a diner, a gas station and Gorham Grocery, an essentials-only small grocer.

As the newest member of this family, I am unsure what to expect this Christmas. The family has a tradition of doing a "Round Robin Dinner" on Christmas Eve. It involves having cocktails and appetizers at an aunt's house, dinner and a few piano accompanied carols at my mother and father in-laws, and desert and a one-gift exchange at my wife's grandma's place.

Being a guy who was steeped in tradition who usually celebrated Christmas Eve at one location (mom's place) every year, this arrangement actually sounded intriguing.

Pennsylvania Welcomes You! the sign reads as t…

Christmas Randomized

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I'm sure you all have good and probably some bad memories from Christmas. It is really one of my favorite times of the year. Because we're approaching the big day, I've assembled a series of my own memories.
Completely Random Christmas Memories Going to pick out a Christmas tree with mom at the YMCA Y's Men (Get it?) lot on University Avenue a few years. Because we always had a sedan, it meant tying it on top of the ol' Chevy Impala or, worse, the Plymouth Volare'. Shopping for my siblings gifts at Kmart trying to get the biggest bang for my buck. Mostly what I got was cheap junk. But at least the good side of my heart was in it before I discovered it was junk. LOL. My sister Pat letting me come down and arrange the gifts under the tree because I couldn't sleep on December 23rd, the night before we typically opened gifts. (We were always a family that opened all our gifts on Christmas Eve. In fact, we still do, to some extent.)The first Christmas my brother R…

Dark Thirty

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We are four days from the winter solstice, a time where the days turn the corner from being the shortest back on their march toward June when they are their longest. It is a time of darkness and sleep and rest and recharging. I never really looked forward to the December 21st deadline until a few years ago. The date is insignificant - just another day in December - but as someone who isn't a huge fan of winter, December 21st has taken on a new meaning, given me a new hope.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I fall into depression in winter, but it is a more difficult time for me. Knowing that I have these feelings, I'm trying to be more cognizant of what is going on internally and make adjustments to try and stay ahead of the curve-of-whatever-it-is-I'm-feeling.

My goal is to try and appreciate the nuances of winter for what they are. If that means going to bed to read at 9:00 PM only to fall asleep by 9:45, well so be it. If it means keeping Christmas lights up well into …

Cover Me

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When you are writing a book, you have several landmark days.


There is the day you decide to write it. As authors we sometimes joke about how this day must have been one of a momentary lapse of reason. Anyone crazy enough to undertake the hours, days, weeks and years that it takes to write a book can't be quite right in the head.
There is the day you finish writing it. "Eureka! I wrote a fricken book!" Oh, wait, you mean I have to edit it like five times? (See previous bullet point)
There is the day you finish your first edit of it. "Eureka! My first edit is done. Maybe this is good enough" I got news for you. It's not.
There is the day you submit it to 1 (or 20) publishers. This is followed by months of waiting, soul searching, praying, mojo working, self loathing, inside crying, anxiety, sacrificing goats, checking to see if your email is still working and questioning bullet point #1.
There is the day you get your first rejection. This is followed by ten, eleve…

Sisters By Another Mother

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This past weekend we had the opportunity to host our Sister in-law Jill at our house for two nights. She travelled here from upstate New York to spend time with her sister and brother an to attend my wife's 50th birthday party. She has a busy schedule as a teacher and swim/dive coach for her local high school. 
What I came away with after spending two days with her in my house is how much I appreciate my sisters-in-law. I have four of them, Jill, Jane, Patty and Deb, and they are all unique in their own ways. We've had the privilege of staying for long weekends at a couple of their houses over holidays in Minnesota and at Jill and John's in New York. They treat us like royalty and, by staying in their homes all those years when the kids were young, our kids have grown up together and have come to love their cousins.
When we woke up yesterday morning, we had a casual breakfast and then the three of us, Jill, Donna and I, sat around and talked for nearly three and a half hou…

A Nifty Fifty

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Today my bride turns fifty. It is a milestone in everyone's life, one I will have passed exactly six years ago this coming Monday. Our six year age difference has never been an issue and in fact, she keeps me young. We have been together 27 and a half years, and have known each other for another three years on top of that. It has been quite a ride filled with lots of great memories. Here's just a few:


When we were still dating we took a road trip to Niagara Falls and from there onto Toronto. I was already smitten with her, but this trip with all its car time and adventure sealed the deal. We were in love and the fact that we lived 750 miles apart only made it clearer that we needed to be together for good.
Once we had a severe ice storm in Milwaukee. Donna tried to open the drivers side window and it shattered into a million pieces. She turned and looked at me with a look of panic. I'll never forget the look of shock on her face. It was our first disaster together. A real Ko…

Tree For Two

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Well, the Christmas crush has descended. It was not even a factor until December 1st hit. Then, the realization came that it is just a few short weeks away - not to mention a couple of birthdays thrown in for good measure. And so we kick it to red line and start marching to the drumbeat of the holiday of all holidays.

In our family, I have always been in charge of getting a Christmas tree. I'd like to say we have a longstanding family tradition of loading up the car with kids and going out to cut our own tree.

Well, it ain't so.

Before kids, Donna and I always went together and picked a tree. After kids came, she came along for a few years and then relegated me to taking one or both of the kids to pick one out. Well, even that tradition was short lived. Once the kids figured out there was nothing but cold and indecision involved with tree shopping, they stopped wanting to go. So, it became a solitary process with Donna giving me free reign to choose a tree using a jury of one.…

Dead Letter Office

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Dear Dad,

I was scrounging through some old papers and stuff the other day and came across this card I evidently gave to you when I was just barely 5 years old. It looks like a Father's Day card, but it may have been for your birthday or some other occasion. I'm not sure how it got saved. I got it from Mom a few years back and have kept it around, because it's the only trace of anything I might have given you. I guess it shows that it's possible to love someone who means a lot to you at such a young age. I seemed to have a thing for butterflies, but I hope you liked it at the time.

This summer marked 50 years since that fateful night you were killed. I suspect each of us kids remembered that fact at some point this year and it gave us pause to think what life would have been like if you had been around to be a part of it all. But, we all know you can't change fate nor live in the past, so we have all just kept plugging along, making our lives and missing you along …

Blathering All Gratefully

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It was a weekend of great dividends.

I know I beat the Thanksgiving drum on my last post and you are probably sick of hearing people's blathering words of gratitude, but based on the weekend I had, it is difficult to keep them to myself.

We went north to Minnesota to visit my family for the holiday and I came away filled with gratefulness for what we have built together. Much of this is the sap that I've become for connecting with people on a personal level lately. With all the crap going on in this country and the world lately, I find these moments with loved ones as little beacons of light in a sometimes dark world. They replenish me and, more importantly, restores my hope.

There were several connecting points with the family en-masse and in more intimate gatherings. The Thanksgiving feast is always good, a raucous affair with lots of food, laughter and memories. This one even featured a new baby - my niece's month-old son. But in some senses, the smaller gatherings was w…

A Moment Of Thanks

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Because it's that time of year that we celebrate all things we are thankful for, I would like to run down the list of a multitude of things large and small that I take pause at and consider myself lucky to have.

I am thankful for:


Not one but two good kids experiencing life in college - away from home. College years are some of the best memories of my life. I am living vicariously through them. Along those lines, I am also thankful for...
An empty nest. It was weird for the first few days, then we sort of adapted to the quiet, and now have come to embrace it.
CollectiveMKE - my church. We are a house-based church with a focus on acceptance and service. Cool people breaking the mold of conventional church.
New jeans. A simple pleasure, one we take for granted in this country.
My 95 year old house. It leaks a little and creaks a lot, but it is my haven. 
A decent job. Big changes ahead with my boss retiring in January, but still consider myself extremely fortunate to be where I am.
My fami…

Friendsgiving

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Today we will be celebrating a new tradition called Friendsgiving. Last year, because we did not travel, we celebrated it on the real Thanksgiving. But this year we will celebrate it on the Sunday before the actual holiday. It is a gathering of friends and family at our house that features all the usual Thanksgiving fare, turkey, potatoes, green beans, salad and desserts. Because it is on Sunday, we will have football on the TV and lots of great conversation. For all intents and purposes it is just taking time around our table to spend with friends and some family that we may not see at Thanksgiving.

I think the practice started because we are always travelling to either New York or Minnesota during the holidays. This year sees us travelling West for Thanksgiving and East for Christmas. As I see it, the holiday season is short, and the winter long, so we might as well take advantage of the festival spirit and gather when we can. This sort of kick starts all of it with a feast.

This ga…

A Dreamy State

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As I sat in a bookstore last night watching Michael Perry, who is arguably my favorite Wisconsin author, I thought to myself, he's where I want to be someday. It may never happen, but even if I continue with what I call my "Sub-Atomic Micro Fame" it is still more than I ever dreamed. I cannot say how excited I am about what the future holds in my writing circles. Much of it is unknown, but I am having a great time at the moment.
Having said that, a writing/book update is probably in order, so here goes.

The dates are set for both a Wisconsin launch and a Minnesota launch for The Portland House: A 70's Memoir. They are as follows:
Book Release!: January 23rd. The book will be available on Electio's website as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes. Note that if you purchase a paperback on the Electio website, you get the eBook version as well, FREE.
Wisconsin Launch: Saturday, February 17th 2018 from 2:30-4:30 at Cafe De Arts Roastery in Waukesha. 
Minnesota L…

A Band Aid Tourniquet

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Have I mentioned I hate old houses?

It's true.

When I don't love them, I hate them.

Unfortunately I represent 50% ownership in a 95 year old house. This is where the love/hate relationship comes from. I love the feel, comfort and solid construction of the house. But it is also the solid construction (accompanied by the age) that makes doing anything in the name of home improvement a challenge, shall we say.

Take our bathroom for example. (Take it please!) What it really needs is to be gutted and redone entirely. Plumbing, drywall, flooring, electrical, shower, tub. All of it. Since this is probably a $15,000-20,000 undertaking we continue to put Band Aids on the spurting artery.

Our latest attempt is to repaint, install a new light and reconfigure our medicine cabinet/mirror. It has been probably 18 years since I last undertook similar upgrades, so I know it wont be easy.

I took off the old light to remind myself what lay behind the scenes. As feared, it was non-code wires sti…

Inextricable Connection

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It has been an amazing weekend, to say the least.

Let me start by saying last night I finally finished Brene' Brown's Braving the Wilderness. In the book she talks about something called inextricable connection. It is this idea that as humans we all crave a connection to a higher purpose. I kept waiting for her to get to the solution, and by the end of the book she did. She said it is in our presence with others, both one on one, but more importantly as a collective in large events. Concerts, plays and even sporting events allows us all to experience joy and connection and as a result leave our lonely places and perhaps feel more alive.

I had it happen repeatedly this weekend.

It started with my presenting my experiences as a writer to the high school students at Waukesha South. The coolest part of the whole day was seeing the great diversity of South. There were African American, Asian, Hispanic and white kids everywhere I looked. It is the most racially diverse high school i…

The Greatest Generation

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As many of you know, I lost my dad early in life. He was killed when I was only 5, so I never really knew him, but as I said, most of you know that.

What many people don't know is that he was a twin. He and his brother Tom were fraternal twins. born in 1925. My uncle Tom was a little shorter and of slighter build, but they both shared the "Landwehr look," as I call it.


My dad and Tom were two of eight children born to Adolph and Magdalene Landwehr in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Their were 7 brothers and 1 sister, the eldest, Aunt Mariette. I remember many, many long car trips up to St. Cloud to visit family and in later years to attend funerals. A "long" car ride back then was a little over an hour. It seemed like seven. I can also remember getting car sick in the back seat and vomiting into a cereal box but, hey, sorry about bringing that up.

Well, uncle Tom passed away this week, the last of the 8 children. The end of a generation, so to speak.


Over the years my aun…

Manic Fall Cleanup Mode

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I want to know if anyone else is like this.

You let some things go in your house, usually clutter, or dirt, or a junk drawer or something, and you just let it go. You work around it, you deny it is there, you hate on it and you neglect it. And over time, it becomes one of those things that grates on you every time you encounter it.

Well, I can be really good at that. In fact, I'd even say ignoring unlikeable projects in hopes that they go away is my super power.

To a point.

This latest breaking point started with steam cleaning the carpets in a couple of bedrooms yesterday. Donna was out of town, so it was a good chance to get it done before the holidays. So off to Home Despot I went, rented a cleaner, and in a little over two hours my carpets were clean and I'd returned the cleaner.

The (good) problem this project created was jump starting me on ten other sub projects that carried into today.

So what originally was going to be storing some backyard items for winter became muc…

Alone In The Woods

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I continue to be amazed at how rich my life is because of the people around me. I understand the importance of being plugged into people who are seeking to become better human beings.

A couple of different groups I hang with are studying Brene' Brown's book, Braving The Wilderness. Brene is a research professor who specializes in studying the human condition in the form of empathy, shame and vulnerability.

The guys at my Thursday coffee group are discussing it, one chapter at a time. Another of the groups is called "Jesus and Wine" and it meets monthly to discuss books on faith, spirituality and the human condition. As is the case with this book, it doesn't have to be a Christian-centric book, but because often times faith in a higher power and the health of our culture/humanity are interconnected, these books fit inside a faith based study - in my opinion, anyways.

This Jesus and Wine group met this past Tuesday and the discussion was fantastic. I was convinced …

A Temporary Domicile

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"Life After Portland" post #2

In my last post, I wrote about the roommate that done me wrong by defaulting on our lease and forcing me to move and surrender my security deposit. He was headed to California and I was headed to the want ads.

Luckily, through a connection at work, a woman's husband set me up with a guy who had a small two bedroom house less than a mile from where I was living. "He's a little strange, quiet and super frugal, but he's a super nice guy." He sounded okay to me. In the dire straits I was in, I could handle quiet and frugal.

So I moved in. I can't remember the address of the place. It was on 54th or 53rd Avenue in Crystal. The house was cozy and Tony (alias) worked a lot of overtime, so wasn't around much. When he was around, he was so quiet that I felt like I had to fill both sides of a conversation in. If you know me, I'm not one much for small talk, so this was kind of exhausting.

During a conversation he'd no…

Life After Portland

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My book The Portland House: A 70's Memoir is just a tad more than three months from being released. While that house was instrumental in forming our family, I have lived in about eight other places since then and I thought it would be fun to recount some of these places -as they were as unique from each other and, collectively were as much a part of my life as Portland.

The first place was my first "real" apartment at 7610 Bass Lake Road in Crystal, Minnesota. After I got my first job out of college at a mapping firm in Crystal, a guy I worked with talked me into moving in with him in 1985. I forget what rent was, maybe $375/mo. for each of us. I didn't know Dan too well, but he seemed decent enough, so I took the plunge and moved out of Portland to be closer to work.

Well, the place interviewed much better than it performed. (Like a bad pet.) The worst part was during the winter months. We had one thermostat for the whole 2 BR place, so if I shut my bedroom door at …

A Word On Words

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I was hoping to post about the big musky I caught this weekend but unfortunately it actually never happened so, that's that I guess. Instead I'll give a quick update on all things writing related.


I've entered the "quiet period" that my publisher talked about between the initial acceptance and the galley review and final edits. The release date for The Portland House: A 70's Memoir is January 23rd, 2018 so I probably won't hear much for the next 6 or 8 weeks. I am okay with that as it gives me the chance to plan my promotion and marketing a bit. I did get a couple of nice reviews from the Review Corner blog. I heard about this reviewer on the Paperbacks Plus Facebook page. She confessed she doesn't really read memoir, but was willing to review my poetry. I'll let you read the two reviews Here and Here, but suffice it to say her reviews were encouraging to me as a poet/author. Anytime someone says something like "I don't really read poetry,…

Off the Grid - In Pursuit

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If you are reading this on Thursday, I am on my way off the grid. It is that time of year again. Muskiefest!

This is the one weekend a year completely dedicated to searching for Esox masquinongy - the largest of the pike species. I wouldn't say it's a weekend I can barely wait for every year, but it really is. If you know me, you know that this is my latest obsession.

This will be my eighth consecutive year going up to the Manitowish Waters area with a couple of buddies, one of whom owns a place up that way and graciously lets us crash for the weekend. I was fortunate enough to catch a muskie up there five consecutive years in a row. These past two years I've been skunked, so am super revved to get one this year. They are the fish of 10,000 casts, so they are hard to come by, but if you don't try, you'll never get one, right?

The occasion falls on the weekend of a couple of significant birthdays as well. My nephew and godson Nick's birthday is Friday the 13th. …

Back To School.

In a little less than a month one of my favorite festival comes back to Waukesha. The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books is a two day gathering of authors, speakers and readers that celebrates books and all they add to our lives. 
In years past I have been a participant on a couple of different author panels centered around a theme. I've really enjoyed these opportunities. Typically we're introduced and then given a series of questions by a moderator. After these panels, we're moved out to the signing area where people can purchase our books. They try and schedule authors who have been published during the year, so this year I did not really qualify. With the release of The Portland House in January of 2018, I hope to be back as a participant again next year.
This year, they are starting a new event where authors go into area schools and talk to students about the writing process, publication, inspirations we might have and answer questions. I will be going with another…

Words For A Change

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Last Saturday I had the chance to participate in an event titled 100 Thousand Poets for Change. It was held at Books and Company in Oconomowoc, a store that has among its offering my book, Dirty Shirt. I was asked to be part of it by a poet friend, Cristina Norcross, founding editor of the online poetry journal, Blue Heron Review. I have long been a fan of her work, and in the past year have seen her at a handful of events.

Anyway, the event was not just local. It was billed as an international event with locations in a bunch of different countries. Knowing that it was happening on the same day across the world was pretty cool. A local musician Jacqueline Nicholson warmed up the event and as a side benefit, donations were accepted and put toward money to buy children's books for the Oconomowoc Public Library. Because...kids and books! It was a win-win.

The theme for the event was poetry centered around world peace, social justice, environmentalism and healing. People were invited …