Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fathered By Inspiration

My Dad and Mom. 
I thought it might be relevant to post a poem for Father's Day. I'd recently taken part in a 30 day "Poem a Day Challenge" where I'd chosen the theme of Fatherhood. I figured I'd go back to that collection and pull one from it.

As I sifted through the 30 poems, the emotions were a little all over the place. The whole exercise at the time was fairly revealing about some deep seated perspectives of the various fathers in my life, as well as my own experience. Having been away from the collection for a couple of months, it was weird looking back through them.

Father in Law, Dick

They were about my three fathers, blood, step and in-law. Each hits their own nerve or dredges up feelings of joy and angst.

There is even reference to my mother-as-father as well as other "fill ins" like older siblings, uncles and the like. When you don't have a steady father, you tend to find other ways to fill that void. And finally there are a few that address others in my life who have lost a father.
My stepfather, Jack and Mom
And I am waiting to see if that collection wins/places/shows in the contest that comes after they were all written and submitted.

The thing is, if they don't I have a decent feeling that they will get published elsewhere. It is too relevant and universal of a topic to not have broad appeal. Not to mention I think some of these are really strong works. They certainly came from within and from the heart. I can't wait to find a home for them. I think they need to breathe.
My whole heart.

To be sure, some of them cut to the core. I don't mince words, when maybe I would have in the past. But I think that's what makes a good poem a better one. As I said, I was a little taken aback looking back through them. Some real hurt coupled with tons of joy and good moments.

So on this Father's day I'll be spending it with my wife and son serving ice cream at the Purple Door Flavor Contest in Milwaukee. And I will appreciate every moment with him - as I do these days - recognizing that neither of us is getting any younger. I can only say that being a dad is the biggest legacy I can claim to leave the world, namely two great kids. I am filled with pride every time I speak their names. I love you Sarah and Benjamin.

Here is one that speaks to that.

114 Reasons I Love Being A Dad               

I saved a school assignment of
my daughter’s that reads
114 Reasons My Dad is Super

It ranges from the obvious
He reads to me.
He nice.
He takes me to the park.

To the hearfelt
He dances with me
He’s a speisal dad
He takes care of me

To the admittedly hilarious
My dad sings in the sower
My dad fixed our toilit.
He reads adult books.

And even downright fabrications
He makes me cookies (Lie! Ask my wife)
He jogs with me (I did?)
Dad feet smell. (Hey!)

These 114 memories of hers are
now memories of mine and serve
as a reminder that the days are
long and the years short.

Never underestimate your
actions as a parent

they are watching.


Blogging off...

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Rebel Without A Bike

A buddy of mine recently joined a motorcycle gang. Well, it's not what you think. The gang is titled Rebels On A Mission (ROAM). The group is centered around advocating for kids that have been bullied. I didn't get to talk to him at great length about it, but it sounds like they seek out kids that have been bullied or physically abused in school or at home.  Then they will do things like escort them to school on their motorcycles or other protective things.

They recently had a call for a used (pedal) bike donation so they could give away bikes to inner city youth at an event later in June.

It is a great cause, but it got me thinking about a motorcycle again. My brother recently sold his Harley Davidson, and so the subject keeps coming up. I used to ride a lifetime ago, though my bikes were all small, Japanese things, Hondas and Yamahas.

Tall man on a little bike!
And while I haven't ridden in years, I won't go so far as to say I'll never ride again. I used to REALLY love the feeling of freedom I had on a bike, the wind in my hair, when I had it. Yes, I know they're dangerous. I still stand by the argument that anyone who says, they won't ride because it's dangerous has probably never experienced the exhilaration of riding one. Because there are some dangerous things in a lot of things we do, one just has to weigh the price.

A few of my old friends still ride. One who used to own a Japanese bike back in the day finally  bought a Harley that he'd always wanted about 10 years ago. I give him credit for following through. And while I don't necessarily have to have a Harley, I would consider a large imported bike or maybe an Indian or Victory motorcycle.

Of course any pursuit of that aging dream will probably have to wait until I retire. There's still too much on the line to risk it.

But there are days when it sure would feel good.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Slaying Dragons

I gave a presentation at Muskego High School last Tuesday. The daughter of my ex-boss is in charge of the Media Center and recommended my books to a teacher of Applied Composition an English elective for seniors. She gave the kids three options for memoirs to read, one was Lucky Bastard by Joe Buck, there was my book Dirty Shirt and there was a third one. Six of the students chose Dirty Shirt and so the teacher asked if I would be willing to come in and talk about the book.

Now, any time I have an audience where people took the time to buy, then read my book, I always jump at the chance. This is how you build an audience, but for me its as much about the personalization that comes with knowing an author. I know the readings I've gone to with some big authors have allowed me to put a face and a personality to the book. That takes the author/reader relationship to another level, in my opinion.

So I brushed off my PowerPoint presentation for the book, updated it and brought it into the classroom. There were probably 18-20 students whose attention I had for 50 minutes. I ran through the slides and inserted my jokes, stories and reading snippets throughout the presentation. I also showed the book trailer that we made for the book five years ago (Yikes!).

I can only say I was very, very impressed with the level of attention and engagement I had with the students. They were quiet, respectful and courteous. (And no one fell asleep, a bonus.)

But what occurred to me is how far I've come with regards to presenting in front of a group. What once struck the fear of God in me is now just another gig. As I've been forced to do it more and more with both of my books and my poetry, it has become much more natural and relaxed for me.

Sure there are anxious moments here and there, but overall, it is almost always a very positive experience for me. Part of it is being hyper-prepared. I always have a script or PowerPoint to go from and I work through the event in my head before taking the podium. Then, as with most of my public persona, I try and lighten things with a little humor. It warms up the audience and lets them know that this will be no TED talk, but it will be a lot of fun.

So while this may seem like a little thing to any of you who are energized or super proficient at public speaking, know that it is a huge thing for me. I still feel I am an introvert even though my wife claims I have moments of ambivert in me. For me it still takes everything in me to get up there and talk.

In the past, when the presentation was over, I was usually drained. That has changed a bit to where I am now almost a little energized. That is a huge shift for me.

At the same time, while I may seem totally comfortable talking to people, I am much more in my element alone on my laptop with my ear buds in writing the story I am telling you about. I fully realize though that the public speaking part of the craft is completely necessary and I'm committed to doing it the best I can.

It's a dragon I will slay, one talk at a time.

Blogging off...


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Driftlessly Appealing

It has been a whirlwind week of travelling for me. After a two day conference in Eau Claire, Donna and I took a vacation in the Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin. For those unfamiliar, this is a hilly region of the state that was "missed" by the last glacial period. It is one of those areas I've only really visited once or twice, and then it was just to go camping at Wildcat Mountain and Canoeing down the Kickapoo River.


In a nutshell, the place is absolutely stunning. Hills, coulees and valleys are dotted with idyllic agricultural vistas, horse and cattle in pastureland and lots and lots of streams. There is a fairly high Amish population in the region and it was so cool to see them farming using a team of horses and a sit-plow/tiller. The area was green, and lush, and fertile. Frankly the whole place gave me a sense of hope and made me ashamed of the whole concept of mega farm agribusiness. I know these places are not the norm, nor could they feed large populations, but it sure seems like they're doing everything right. The cows looked happy.

The proprietor of the cabin we stayed in said there are over 250 miles of Class A streams in the driftless region. Now, I'm not a trout fisherman, but with all of the Class A Trout streams in the area, I had to give it a try.

So, I took my non-trout fishing ultralight rod and spinning reel out yesterday with the goal of catching a fish. One fish would have been one more than I expected. Trout are hard to catch, and stream fishing is difficult and tricky.

Well, I successfully landed 5 fish and lost a couple more. A couple of the ones I managed to bag would have made a good meal, but alas, I am a catch and release guy. If I knew more about how to prepare them, I'd have given it a go, but I had no bag, nor a stringer. As I said, I'm not a trout fisherman.

But the whole experience was so much fun. I think of trout fishing as a "thinking man's fishing." It takes a special breed to strap on waders an whip a fly rod hundreds of times to catch the elusive trout. But that same challenge makes catching one even more special. I did all of my fishing from shore, but I think I still would like to learn how to fly fish and see what the secret is. I've done most every other kind of freshwater fishing, so maybe it's time.

I do know that I've fallen in love with a new part of the state. The resort we stayed at was the Kickapoo Valley Ranch near La Farge, Wisconsin. The host Cowboy Joe was gracious and helpful. His partner Cowboy David, is a baker and makes phenomenal cookies, among other bakery. I can't say enough good about the place.

To top off the trip, we had dinner at the Driftless Cafe in Viroqua. I have one word of advice. GO! I had the beef tenderloin with potatoes, gravy and kale and it was off-the-hook! Certainly one of the top five meals I've ever had dining out. I enjoyed it with a traditional Wisconsin Old Fashioned that was dang good too.

All in all, it was a really cool couple of days. It is hard to put into words what the experience meant to me. Some quality quiet time with my favorite travelling partner, Donna. It's trips like these that rejuvenate a marriage - a reminder of why we chose each other.

They are also a reminder that it's good to be alive.

Blogging off...