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Showing posts from 2019

An Even Dozen

As I close out 2019 with my final blog post, I looked to see how long I've been blogging. The history feature of Blogger tells me that I've been doing it since 2007. Twelve years! I started sporadically, but since 2010 I've been doing two posts a week.

I guess it doesn't seem that long, but lately time passes so quickly that nothing really surprises me anymore.

I started this blog by a different name, "MrMomForAWeek" in 2007 when my wife went on a mission trip to Guatemala for church. I wanted to track the events of the week as a single parent. I did it partly as a writing exercise, partly as a documentation of events and partly to entertain my friends and family.

And if I think about it, those three precepts still hold true today. I still use this space to keep my creative writing muscles limber and to hold me accountable to write at least twice a week. I haven't wavered too far from it, though have missed a post nearly a dozen times this year. For examp…

Keepin' It Real

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The Christmas tree I got this year looked bigger on the lot. It was a phenomenon similar to how fish look bigger in the water than when you get them in the boat. Or, it looked bigger in your imagination this year than it did in your boat six years ago when you caught it.

In any case we got a tree and after we decorated it and put the lights on, it looks fabulous. Sometimes smaller is a nice change. I know I'll thank myself when it is time to haul it out to the curb, so I have that going for me.

We have always had a real tree in this house, and even in the apartments we had before we became homeowners. We both grew up with real trees and never saw the reason to change. This year we gave a passing thought to an artificial tree, but passed on the idea. It has always been my job to pick out the tree and I don't really mind the task, so we can't use the excuse that it's too much work. The family used to come along with me to choose it, but that stopped about 6 years ago, so…

Panic Shopping In The '80s

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There was a time when my brothers and I were all single and in college and living with all the irresponsibilities that come with those parameters. Paul and I lived at home and commuted to college at the University of Minnesota, while Rob was in New York at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

And I'm not sure when it started, but there were times when two or three of us banded together on Christmas Eve to do our Christmas shopping. It sort of defies any rational thought, waiting until the 11th hour to embark on getting presents for everyone, but as I said, we were young and untethered to conventional rules.

Our trips to Daytons or Rosedale Mall were usually launched on the downside of a couple of beers to get us in the mood to brave the insanity. When we arrived, we were usually in the company of other wide-eyed men looking frantically for a good sale or a size for something that sold out two weeks prior. It was a fraternity of futility, but we always made it happen, one way or …

A Day Unlike Other Days

I celebrated my 58th birthday a few days ago. As one gets older, birthdays are more and more just another day at work, albeit with a little special edge to it. This one was no different. It was one of those days where work was one meeting after another with a holiday party thrown in at the noon hour to make it just a little more upside down. The nice thing about the busyness was it made the day go by quickly.

But as I said, there were some things that made it special, like:


Cupcakes from my wife for both the GIS staff and the County Christmas party. Everyone deserves cake (or pie) on their birthday. A text from my daughter wishing me a happy birthday.A call from Ben in Madison, wishing me the same.When I got home a gift from Sarah awaited; a much-needed pair of slippers!Over 100 Facebook birthday wishes. There is much to hate about social media and Facebook in particular, but it does serve this purpose very well. I very much appreciate my Facebook friends and love scrolling through the…

Radio Shift

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I took a county vehicle from work to a meeting downtown today. It was a Chrysler Pacifica. The vehicle has some interesting quirks for sure, some of which I found confounding and borderline ridiculous.

Now, I know it's highly un-American, but I've been a fan of foreign cars for years. To me they are better engineered, run longer and need less maintenance. The two American cars I've owned as an adult were fairly disappointing machines. The first, an 83 Escort that was ready for the junk heap at 90,000 miles (Head Gasket + a myriad of other less major issues.) The second a Plymouth Voyager, a slightly less disappointing machine that was ready for the junk heap at 112,000 mi. (Too many issues to list. Am happy they gave me anything for it.)

Because I've driven largely Japanese and Korean I've become accustomed to the layout and functions of the cars - not to mention they work well for a long time.

But I digress. I am talking about the Pacifica here and thought the lay…

Art and Appreciation

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Yesterday was my wife's birthday. It was also a really, really good day.

It started, as most every Saturday does, with our weekly coffee date at a local coffee shop. This time together is where we talk through what has transpired during the week, we look to the future, talk about our kids and our friends, and ruminate about politics, culture and our world. It has become sacred time to both of us. We both miss it on those weeks we have other commitments or are traveling. It grounds us and sets the stage for the coming week.

From there, we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum. We have a membership that we bought last May and haven't used, so we thought we'd squeak a visit in. The nice thing about a membership is you can see the special exhibits any time they come. We strolled through three of them, taking our time and admiring the art. Then we moved into the Portrait of Milwaukee portion and stepped back in time through the black and white photos of the city we both love and cal…

Eagles, Gophers and Badgers, Oh My

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We had a great Thanksgiving weekend in Minnesota, despite a snowfall that went on and on and on. It was never debilitating, but certainly could be categorized as annoying.

After a nice dinner on Thursday, we hung out at the hotel most of the day Friday. I took a brief walk at a local regional park and had the privilege of seeing four eagles roosting in the same tree. One had flown off only seconds before I got there otherwise there would have been 5 in a picture I took. It was as majestic as it sounds; an almost spiritual experience.

That night we had our traditional chocolate fondue with Christmas gift opening at our daughter's apartment. When we were younger, Donna's parents often came to town for "Thanksmas" where we celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday and Christmas on Friday. Now that we have kids in other states, we are doing the same thing, it seems. The important thing has always been that we are together, not so much the date, so this is a great compromise.

O…

Beyond Turkey and Pumpkin Pie

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Thanksgiving has always been a little bit of the prologue holiday for me. The warm-up act before the headliner Christmas. The holiday with a dash of a letdown. I remember as a kid, appreciating the fact that we were all together as a family, but when all was said and done, what was the point of a big, delicious meal, if there was no gift exchange afterward. Of course, my thinking was antithetical to what Thanksgiving was all about, namely being thankful for everything. Your family, your house, your school, your government and even the food before you.

As a kid, those holidays were always big affairs. Of course everything seems bigger when you're young. A couple of times we held it at my grandmother's community room at the Lexington Apartments on Jefferson Avenue. She had some of the affair catered and for some reason, my wife remembers the chef in charge of cutting the turkey had a missing finger, victim of his own knife skills perhaps.

My cousins from White Bear Lake came to t…

Having Fun With It

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Yesterday I launched my two new books into the world. In a sense, I had a twin birth. Though these twins are as different as my own two biological kids. One serious, self-motivated and introverted, the other creative, whimsical and a socialite.

I've been looking forward to debuting these two books since about June when I found out I would have two released at the same time. By the grace of God, I received my copies of Genetically Speaking on Wednesday of this week, just in time for the Saturday event. My publisher assured me they would be here probably by the 21st. I worried myself sick until they came on the 20th. God has a sense of humor sometimes.

There was a great crowd at Cafe de Arts, I'd estimate there were more than for The Portland House debut. I was pleasantly surprised by a few faces I had not expected to show up. These are the little joys one needs to focus on in our day to day life. People coming out to support you on a hugely busy Saturday before Thanksgiving.

One…

Performance Art

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Last night was the monthly Poetry Night at Mama D's in Wales. These affairs have grown in size over time, and depending on the featured poet, there can be a problem finding a place to sit.

Well, last night we had a poet, Colleen Nehmer, who has quite a following. She had a number of fellow supporting poets come from Milwaukee to hear her read as well as reading their own stuff. It was the most eclectic gathering of personalities we've had there since I've been coordinating it.

I was surprised to see Ken Woodall there. Ken is a Milwaukee poet who I saw at a GIS Day event a few years back. I had a great chat with him and found out about his own poetry night at a coffee shop in Riverwest.

Then, there was a 16 year-old who'd never read her stuff in front of a group before. She nailed it and did it with confidence and conviction. Very cool.

But the capper on the night for me was watching Tim Kloss, a well known Milwaukee poet, recite the first several paragraphs of Edgar Al…

Poetically Speaking

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As many of you are aware, I have two new poetry books that were recently released. The first, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, came out in late September. This is a collection of 50+ poems about all sorts of subjects. It is the culmination of about three years worth of work, and I love everything about it.

But it is accompanied by a more recent release, Genetically Speaking: Poems on Fatherhood. This is a much smaller collection of 30 poems, called a chapbook. It was the product of last April's NaPoWriMo, which stands for National Poetry Writing Month. NaPoWriMo is a challenge to write a poem a day for the entire month of April. I entered a challenge by Local Gems Press where, at the end of the month, we were to submit our manuscripts for consideration for publication. Well, mine was one of the ones selected and suddenly I had two books "in-process" at one time.

So the publication process began, and proceeded along at the pace these things usually proceed. Ever since I s…

GIS For Everyone

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Yesterday was GIS Day. For those who don't know, GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. And if you don't know what that is, you probably don't know what GIS Day is. Well, I'm here to tell you.

GIS Day is a day focused around getting the word out about GIS, what it is, what it can do and why we need it. The running joke is that it is an ESRI sanctioned holiday. ESRI is the company that makes the most-used GIS software in the world. They are based in Redlands California and I actually have a niece and nephew that work for ESRI out there. 
The owner of the company is Jack Dangermond, a  Forbes billionaire who is as down-to-earth as they come. I've had the opportunity to meet and talk to him on a few occasions. In the GIS circles, he has a cult-like following and he makes it a point to meet as many users as he can at their annual Users Conference in San Diego. He's a big deal - at least to us GIS folks.
Anyway, I decided we should do something in recognition…

Figuring It Out

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A few things have become apparent during these four days alone in my house. They are things that I might have already known in the back of my mind, but they became clearer as the weekend went along. Some are a-ha moments, others are just petty observations that bubbled up during my moments of painting or in the quiet where all I could hear was my tinnitus.

Some of the things that I've found.

1. Getting unlimited free time does not mean I'll finish my book, write 10,000 words or seven new poems. As much as I would like to devote eight hours of each of these days to writing, it just never seems to happen. My writing coach once said that life tends to get in the way with writing more often than not. In this instance, I had a painting project that beckoned me away after my morning write session. Sometimes I got back to writing, other times not.

2. Regarding that painting project, I realized that, like my mother, I get fairly obsessed with a project once its started. It is a bit of…

Paint and Pablum

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My wife went home to New York with her brother today. They are going to visit their mom who is suffering from dementia, as well as to see her dad, sister and brother in-law.

Meanwhile I have been tasked with painting the bedroom the two of us will be moving into this winter. When our daughter went to college, we decided we wanted the "big bedroom" she was in, because we thought it would be an upgrade. It's funny because over the past six or seven years we've been in it, we've never really taken to it. I guess we got used to the smaller bedroom and in a way it will always be our bedroom. So, we decided to go back to it.

Before we do, we are giving it a coat of fresh paint. I've lamented in the past how much I hate painting and it still stands. I might qualify it with not hating interior painting as much as exterior, but it's still not a favorite activity of mine. Some people say they love the fresh look, etc., that a coat of paint provides. Well, you know …

The Festival Of The Bookish

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Yesterday was day 2 of the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, arguably one of my favorite days of the year. This was the 10th year of the festival and it featured over seventy authors presenting about their work, the writing process and what's next.

This festival always starts on Friday by hosting a series called Authors in the Schools. It features sending over a dozen authors into area high schools to talk to students about writing.

I've been a part of this for about four years now and have come to really enjoy it, despite my loathing of the spotlight. It's become clear to me that if you do enough of this you can achieve a comfortable level of discomfort in front of a crowd.

Laughter from the crowd helps.

This year I spoke to 55+ students from an AP Composition class at New Berlin Eisenhower High School. The talk went very well. I spoke for 55 minutes and took questions for 5 minutes. Students were courteous and engaged and none fell asleep, a plus for sure. The coordi…

Fishing With Veterans

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This past weekend was spent fishing for muskie with my friends Steve and John, a tradition that is ten years running now, as I mentioned last post. I'll be honest, I had a bad feeling going in. I figured since I got one last year, it was back to the drought. 
It turns out I couldn't have been more wrong.
Within the first hour of the first day, we boated a 40" fish that my buddy hauled in. Then within an hour and a half of that one, I caught a 30" fish while casting. There is nothing quite like catching a muskie casting (as opposed to trolling), so I was elated to not be skunked. 
Then, while John was taking my fish off, the bobber started moving on one of the suckers in the water. It was what we call a "doubleheader" in the fishing world; two fish on at the same time. It's something that is almost unheard of in the muskie fishing world. 
Because my fish was much tinier than the 40" fish caught earlier, they decided to let me catch the one on the bo…

Ten Years Running - Off The Grid

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By the time this is visible, I will be on my way to my happy place in the great Northwoods of  Wisconsin. This will be my 10th year going up in October for what I term, Muskyfest.

My first trip in 2009 came with much trepidation. My friend Steve had asked a couple of times if I'd ever want to come up muskie fishing. I told him that I wasn't really into fishing for a single species with a high probability of not coming home with a picture of a fish. I'd seen a few of his pictures where he was dressed in a winter coat and hat holding a giant fish, and the appeal just seemed wane even more.


After a couple of rejections, I finally gave in to see what all the hype was about. We went up on a Thursday night in mid-October and gave it a go. On Friday, we had a gorgeous day, where we fished a favorite lake all day. It wasn't until about 4:00 when we'd just cracked a beer and were having a sandwich wrap when the "clicker" on the rod we were trolling with started cl…

A Visit From An Old Friend

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Last night we went and saw the movie Western Stars with a couple of good friends. These friends are music lovers just like us, so when we saw that it was coming out, we set the date. We're all big Springsteen fans, and they had never seen him in concert, so thought this would be the next best thing.

I've seen him in concert twice in the 80's when he was in his prime. The first time was for The River tour. I went with some friends and were treated to one of the best concerts I've ever been to, and I've seen a lot of them. The second time was for the Born in the USA tour and again he did not disappoint. Both concerts were pushing 3 hours in duration. It was amazing and set the bar for every other performer I've seen, a bar that few if any have hit.



I know not everyone is a Springsteen fan, and that's fine. But regardless of what you think of his music, you cannot deny his legacy of songwriting and performing. His songs tell stories and are in every sense of t…

Genetically Blogging

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It seems I have another book in the books, so to speak. I finally got my cover for my newest chapbook, Genetically Speaking: Poems on Fatherhood, from my publisher, Local Gems Press. After the last of my textual edits, they've sent it off to press and I should be receiving my copies in three weeks. Huzzah!

For those who don't know, my other collection, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV, came out a couple of weeks ago. (It's been a very good year). I was waiting for this one to come to completion so I could schedule a dual-book release in November. Watch for details on that, tentatively pending for Nov. 16th or 23rd.

The book came about through a NaPoWriMo contest by Local Gems Press back in April. Poets are encouraged/obligated to write a poem a day for the whole month. Then, at the end of the month, we were supposed to submit our manuscripts for consideration. I was a "honorable mention" that also got an offer of publication. Thus, Genetically Speaking was born.

T…

October's Fest

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Fall is always a melancholy time of year for me. I love the colors and the beauty of a nice fall day, yet it is a brutal reminder of what follows as well. I admit I am in full denial and was wearing short sleeves until yesterday, when the bottom dropped out of the weather and I was forced to go full sweatshirt.

At the same time, this time of October always holds great significance for me for a number of reasons. Today was my nephew (and godson) Nick's birthday. He and I were pretty close as he was young and have maintained a great bond ever since. He is currently serving our country in the Middle East, leaving his family back in Wisconsin while he finishes out his tour.

And of course I can't forget that tomorrow my brother Rob would have been 55. Not a day goes by where I don't think of him in one way or another. He always loved this time of year as well. He was a rabid Viking fan but also loved going to the apple orchard and picking pumpkins with his wife and daughters. …

Existentiality Is Not Just For Breakfast

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I got an email last night about one of my poems that sort of caught me off-guard. I am always grateful for feedback on my writing as, for one, it means people are reading my work, and secondly that it is having an impact. 
This one referenced a poem, Wednesday's Child. The poem came from my collection, Written Life, and addresses the night my father was killed at the hands of a gang of men. I titled it after the nursery rhyme "Monday's Child" about children according to the various days of the week. It reads:
Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for his living
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
I thought the Wednesday theme was fairly relevant given the tone of the poem. 
Anyways, the woman who emailed mentioned how the poem made her cry and even pray. She prayed against the …

Shirking My Routine

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I am as lame as they come when it comes to changing up my Saturday routine. I have come to love sameness and ritual on weekends, so when a curveball comes, I tend to grumble about it for a few weeks before it even happens.

Typically my Saturdays are completely predictable. Coffee with my wife, home to walk the dog, vacuum the whole house, go to library and write for a couple hours, do more house chores, have dinner or go out to eat, go to bed. Simple, boring and something I've come to love.
Last weekend it was all messed up by an all-day golf event. Yesterday all of that routine was blown out of the water by an all-day writing conference I attended in Middleton, just outside of Madison. I was invited to the conference because I served as a judge in one of its contests. Of course, I was flattered, and it was fairly close to where I live, so I agreed.
Very much like the golf tournament the week before and true to what almost always happens, my change in routine was stimulating, rejuv…

Me and Billy Preston

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As a memoirist, I tend to be a raving nostalgic as well. I am one of those who looks back and tends to only see good things. Maybe it is part of my outlook - I tend to favor positivity and optimism, so maybe it's just the good things I see while relegating the bad to the deep recesses of the forgotten.

My wife and I have discovered that we are opposites that way. She tends to be forward-looking and has little time for the past. It carries through especially with regards to material keepsakes and such. I will pull out a photo album or a card my kids wrote and spend time looking at it and reminiscing. She can appreciate it, but has very little time for it or attachment to it. 
I'm not sure what makes some people nostalgic and others not so much. One of my biggest triggers is music. If I hear a song from the '70s, I am instantly back to the place that it reminds me of - my front porch, a friend's car, high school, wherever. 
For instance, whenever I hear Billy Preston sin…

The Importance Of Friends

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It has been a week of reconnecting with friends. On Tuesday I got together with a group of friends I used to work alongside in a writing workshop. We keep in touch on Facebook, and it's been six months or so since we all got together that someone mentioned we should get together over a beer and see what each other is up to.

We gathered at a local microbrewery and talked and laughed about our writing projects, failures and successes and where we were at with our works in progress. The answers ranged from people who had not written since we'd been together last, to those with books coming out or in progress. We respected those who'd gone different directions and praised those who'd stuck with it. Writing is hard work and you can't force it. It comes and goes.

The reason I appreciate this group of friends and love getting together with them is because we can all talk like a bunch of writing geeks and none of us tires of hearing about the others' struggles. We also…