Showing posts from 2020

Firmly Grounded In Disappointment

I'm not supposed to be here, blogging as I am.No. Today Donna and I were slated to fly from Chicago to London where we would spend a few days, and then continue on to Scotland. Of course with 2020 being what it is, the trip didn't happen. We anguished over whether we should sit on the tickets in March when the COVID-19 bottom fell out, in hopes that things would get better. The option was to go for the refund voucher good for a year. We opted for the latter, thankfully, so are not out any money, just denied the guilty pleasure of a European vacation.I realize this is a first world problem. Few have the opportunity to travel abroad. People should have such problems, I guess. At the same time, I am grateful we got there in 2018 when we spent 10 days in London. The trip spoiled both of us by exposing us to how much is really out there to be discovered. So much beauty and history and culture to be seen, learned and experienced.It's also incredibly ironic that on the day we we…

Muting The Sun

These past six months have been like groundhog's day around here, and I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that. The work from home order has been lifted to an extent - I am working from home 3 days a week, and in the office 2 days. I am a person of numerous fixed habits and with the ability to go anywhere freely, the habits are all one has, really. So I am evidently stuck at perfecting them because, well, there's nothing else to do around here. Fortunately the pandemic came on the lead-end of summer when people could get outdoors and do socially distant outdoor activities. It has saved me. My bike, my walks and my kayak have kept me out of the mentally unstable ward at the local hospital. You throw a highly charged political race, unprecedented runaway wildfires, a hundred protests and riots and, well the outdoors is all a person has some days. The problem with all of it is...winter is coming. Sure you can go outside, but it's not the same. I'm going into it with …

The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged

In case you haven't noticed, this blog has been on a pandemic holiday. I quit posting for the past 6 months, partly out of blog-fatigue and partly to work on other things, primarily getting my latest manuscript in shape for submitting to publishers. I'd been blogging twice a week for the past 10 years and had reached a point where I just needed to step away. It has been refreshing and I am coming back with renewed energy and looking forward to starting "So it goes..." back up again. For those who follow it, I will be posting once a week on Wednesday evenings. My topics will follow the whim of my week, much like my last blog. Topics will vary and reflect the world as I see it. I hope you like where it goes and will let me know if you do.So, what has happened in the world since I last posted in March? Only kidding. I never signed up for a revolution/pandemic/apocalypse, but here we are. So much unrest. The last time I saw anything like this was the late 60's and ea…

Isolation Innovation

I've noticed a number of positive attempts at keeping people engaged or connected or just looking up during the Coronavirus isolation that we're all working through. Here's a rundown of 10 of them, some I've heard of, some I've participated in.

Visual and Word prompts for writing. A friend posts a picture and an inspirational message and people are encouraged to write a paragraph, story or poem about it. Great for writer types and writer wannabesArt: A friend posts a digital blank picture and friends are encouraged to color it using MS Paint, Photoshop or real art materials. Hatpy Hour where a bunch of friends all get a hat and a drink and hang out on Zoom.Virtual Church gatherings using Google Hangouts5:00 Happy Hour outdoors & "meet your neighbor". A friend parked his lawn chair on his lawn with a couple on either side 6' away or more, in hopes a neighbor would sit down and chat.Virtual writing critique groups using Zoom. Writers share work by em…

This Is Not A Drill

I can't seem to fathom what is ahead for all of us over the next several weeks. Working from home, everything under the sun is closed, no gathering, no social events, and on and on.

If I think about it too hard, I want to go fetal and rock in a corner. Of course, as an introvert, the ability to say no to everyone without guilt is sort of freeing, so that part is welcome. But beyond that, the seclusion, isolation and distancing are not even the hardest parts. It is the loss of routine and balance. It is the ripple effects of a stagnant economy. And, maybe most of all, it's the unknown - the not knowing what's coming next. No one seems to know, so here we sit. Alone.

On Tuesday, most of the Parks and Land Use employees who could work from home were told to do so. I quickly set up a home office and after changing out some old equipment, have made myself comfortable upstairs. And these first two days have been strangely productive. It's amazing what a person can get accomp…

The View From The Bunker

Typically today I would post a "Picture My Life" post on this blog. Those posts started as a creative exercise a few weeks back and I've had fun with them.
But I'll be honest, like many of you I've been sorta obsessed with the impending doom of the coronavirus pandemic we're all facing.
It has occupied my mind space worse than anything ever has, I think. I google about it. I check Twitter and Facebook for updates about it. And worst of all, I can't not think about it. It's right there - all the grim reports and updates - staring us down as a country and a world.
The closest thing I think I can compare it to was Operation Desert Storm, when I would come home from work and watch the war on Kuwait on the news. EVERY NIGHT. We had not had involvement in a war like that in a while, so I was fairly obsessed.
So it goes today, except with Coronavirus. 
I am of an obsessive enough nature that I know I am going to have to find something constructive to do with…

Picture My Life - 2004

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This shot comes from 2004. It was taken by a stranger because I wanted to capture the moment together with Ben at a Brewers game. We had a seat in left field - not sure how I got tickets, but it's not like me to go to a lot of games, so I probably got them free. 

I do remember that Ben Sheets pitched out of his mind and threw at least 11 strikeouts, if not more. 

The picture reminds me of my days in the Big Brothers program in the late 80s when I had a "little brother" that absolutely loved the Brewers, and the game of baseball. We went to a ton of games together because BB/BS always seemed to have free tickets. This kid, Michael, was a baseball nut. He quoted stats and knew the history of m…

International Women's Day

With today being International Women's Day I'd like to call out a few that have impacted my life in significant ways. There's really too many to count, including Elizabeth Warren who just dropped out of the Presidential race. She was my first pick in part because I think it's high time we give a woman a chance at running the country. Lord knows there's been enough middle of the road or downright inept men running it at times in our history. Well, evidently we're not ready for that yet, so maybe as a VP.

I'll start with the obvious, my mom. She'll be 87 in a few weeks and is still kicking. In fact when I typically call her on a Sunday evening, she's usually entertaining or on her way out the door to some social event. She almost single handedly raised 7 of us right and lived to tell about. A feat of human strength if you ask me.

Of course there's my wife. The past three years we've been adapting to an empty nest around here with both our kids…

Picture My Life - 2003

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

The picture for this post came from 2003. It was taken at my in-laws house at Christmas time. There is so much to like about it. So much joy. So much energy. So much happiness. So much anticipation.

Back when the kids were young, we used to drive out to New York every other year or so for Christmas. It was always a grueling 12 hour drive across 6 states, a feat of strength when you're toting 2 kids in a car or van. But when we arrived, it was all worth it. Just watching the cousins play together was payment enough. 

The photo shows my sister in-law, Jill flipping her daughter Halle over her head in what looks like a dangerous move, but is actually harmless. As a gym teacher by profession, she was alwa…

Picture My Life - 2000

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This photo comes from the year 2000. It was taken on a city bench outside a favorite restaurant of ours in Myrtle Beach, the Sea Captain's House. The kids on the ends are my own, Sarah left and Ben right. The two in the middle are my nieces by my sister and brother in-law. 
For a time when the kids were growing up, Myrtle Beach was an Easter weekend destination for us and our New York family. They drove down from Rochester and we drove 20 hours from Wisconsin. We rented a condominium across the road from the ocean beach. It was an escape from the long winter and cool spring for both families as well as my Mother and Father in-law. 
If you put me in front of a beach, I'll sit there all week, so Myr…

A Statewide Network: WLIA v.2020

I spent late last week in Middleton at the Wisconsin Land Information Association's Annual Conference. This is a statewide gathering of Geo/Map Geeks that features keynote speakers, GIS presentations, workshops and networking.

For a number of reasons, both organizational and personal, this year's conference was one of the best yet.

For starters, one of the Keynote speakers was Jack Dangermond, president of the Environmental Systems Research Institute, better known as ESRI. While this doesn't mean much to the average person, he is sort of a hero in GIS circles. He pioneered GIS back in the '80s and went on to startup the most successful GIS software company in the world.

Jack was gracious enough to attend and present a keynote address. I was fortunate to be granted a short conversation with him and a couple of my peers while he signed a few books. The four of us talked about the esri User Conference, esri products and a little about what we were working on at the statew…

Picture My Life - 1999

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive photo collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This picture was taken in Hackensack, Minnesota, which not only has a great placename but was also the source of my Minnesota family's cabin for a few years in the late '90s. My mother was always good about getting the whole family together at a cabin for a week every year. It started in
Forest Lake, then moved to Aitkin for many years, later to Hackensack, and finally up to Mercer, Wisconsin.

This week away was always highly anticipated by both adults and kids. It was a chance to fish, swim, read and relax for 7 straight days. The tradition continued until about 8 years ago when the kids were starting to get jobs and such that made justifying the trip a little harder. Now it's dwindled to si…

Picture my Life - 1989

As part of a creative exercise, I'm taking a picture from every year of my extensive collection and writing about it. I use the month and date to determine the folder # and picture #. This random but measured system will provide a glimpse into the people and places of my past.

This post's picture is of my wedding day, obviously. We were married in June of 1990, so I'm not sure why this picture was filed in the 1989 folder, but it happens.
The occasion was certainly one of the happiest days of my life, despite the 93 degree mid-June heat. After months of planning from 750 miles apart, we were finally in the midst of our day. 
My whole family made the trek out to Canandaigua for the wedding. Many of them continued on in a sort of east coast vacation afterward. I can't say enough about how much it meant that they all made it out. 
We were married in a beautiful, quaint Methodist Church in tiny little Gorham, New York. It was like Mayberry without Andy Griffith. The church …

Picture My Life - 1987

I'm taking a new approach on my blog posts for the next while. As a creative exercise, I've decided to write about a picture. I'm calling it the blog series, Picture My Life. I will try and write how this photo, this moment captured in some cases decades ago, has made me who I am, or changed how I look at life.

I keep all my pictures on my laptop ordered by year. And because I have a zillion photos on my laptop, I decided to walk my way through with a method to my madness for determining which one is chosen.

To choose it I will take the date of the post and use it as my criteria for which picture is chosen. For example, I'll use the month as what drives the subfolder I choose, so February would be the second folder. Then, I'll choose the picture from that folder as the day of the post, so the 9th would be the 9th photo in that folder.

So, starting with my first folder, the year is 1987, and the photo is me and my godson Nicolas, goofing around with a Jack in the Bo…

Attention Deficit

Some random thoughts, because I'm finding it difficult to stick to a single train of thought today.
It is a weird time of year for me. That first week after the Super Bowl is always a little disjointed. I don't watch like I once did, but I really don't watch any other sports, so it seems like something is missing. It's a first-world problem though, one that will pass soon enough.Speaking of Super Bowl, I thought it was a phenomenal one to watch. A back-and-forth affair for 3 1/2 quarters until it got out of hand. I was glad to see KC win.Like everyone else in the world, I have my opinion of the halftime show, but unlike many others, I don't feel the need to express that opinion. I was invited to take part in a Poet Laureate reading in Sheboygan at the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Conference in May. I consider it an honor just to be in the same room with some of the others that will be there. My 8 minutes of fame. I am halfway through season 2 of Outlander. What a gr…

Walking Toward It

It is a tough time for our country politically. An  impeachment hearing is probably as divisive an event as a country can go through. People get ugly about it. I know I am guilty of spending entirely too much time on Twitter lately which from a political standpoint is a toxic wasteland. All it does is enrage me. I need to stay off. I've always said I'm not a politically outspoken person, but in these times, it's hard not to speak up.

I'd be better served to notice the points of light and goodness around me than contributing to the cesspool of vitriol.

For example, on Friday morning of last week, as I was walking to work, the first two people I encountered said, "Good morning." It immediately changed my mood from nondescript to cheery in a matter of four words. The next person walked past looking down, but the next two I passed both said good morning as well. Altogether, 4 out of 5 gave some sort of greeting. Just a day prior it was only one of three.

Just to …

Stout Faith

My wife and I have a small group of friends that take part in a bi-weekly book study. This group is unique in a couple of ways. For starters we are focusing on books of a spiritual nature. The book we are currently working through is Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr. Father Rohr comes from the Franciscan tradition of Christianity whose focus is mysticism. His concepts make a lot of sense at this point in my faith life. He kind of blows up the simplicities within the, say-the-prayer-and-be-saved-and-that's-all mentality.

The other part that makes the book study unique is we meet in a bar or brewpub. We were meeting at Raised Grain, a local microbrewery, but have moved to a smaller, quieter venue. Raised Grain is cavernous and hosts a lot of corporate events that get a tad loud. The House of Guiness is a much tamer venue, lending better to conversation.

But anyway, the book study is always relaxed and fun. Rohr's concepts are thought-provoking and paradigm shaking enough to spu…

January From The Bright Side

Well, we are in the heart of the winter season and so far, so good. I always get a serious case of dread in October and November knowing what is in front of us, namely darkness, snow and cold.

So, this winter I was determined to make things better, determined not to hate every day of it. And maybe it's because it's been a fairly tame winter thus far, but I also think a lot of it can be credited to attitude and some other adjustments I've made.

Probably the biggest problem I had with it in the past was the early darkness. I'm an outdoors person so being cooped up indoors after work every night cramps my routine. What I've done to remedy some of this is come to the realization that there is a season for high activity and a season for rest. I've come to look at winter as my season to dial my outdoor sports back a bit.

The problem with this is it typically means I gain 8-9 pounds every winter which makes me feel like a fat boy. To remedy this, I try and walk to wor…

The Demise Of The Corner Grocery

Since today marks 2 years since the release of my book, The Portland House, I thought I'd take a walk back to the old neighborhood.
I saw a post recently on the Old Saint Paul Facebook site that triggered some great memories. It was on the subject of Corner Grocery stores. This post will likely date me because these places are a thing of the past. The Woodmans and Walmarts and Krogers of the world made sure of that. 
We had one near us when we lived on Portland Avenue in St. Paul. I'm not sure, but I think it was even called Corner Grocery. It was on the corner of Grand Avenue and Dunlap, about 3 blocks from our doorstep. 
As kids we spent many summer days walking to Corner Grocery with our allowances or other change we'd begged from Mom by leaving her a note to read before she left for work everyday. We bled her dry one quarter at a time in the summer - nickle and diming she used to call it - all in the name of a sugar fix. Sometimes it required a chore like weeding the …

The Battle Of The Bays

Between the two teams I cheer for, Minnesota and Green Bay, today will mark the 17th NFC Championship game that I've watched actually means something to me. The Packers will meet the Forty Niners to determine who goes to the Super Bowl as the NFC representative.

Seventeen. That's a lot of games.

Of those games though, I've only been on the winning side six times, three each for the Packers and Vikings. That means my disappointments outnumber my euphoric moments by a margin of almost 2:1.

There have been some heart breakers for sure, almost too many to list.

For the Vikings there were:

The Cowboys Hail Mary passThe Gary Anderson missed field goal in the Randall Cunningham yearsThe 41-0 stomping at the hands of the NY Giants during the Randy Moss yearsThe infamous Brett Favre interception versus New OrleansThe recent beating at the hands of the  Eagles And as a Packer fan, I've had my heartbreaks too:
The pounding by Emmit Smith and the CowboysThe infamous Brett Favre vers…

A Booking Of Revelation

I was the featured poet last night at Mama D's in Wales. I've been looking forward to this evening for a long time, as it was a chance to showcase my two latest poetry books to a new audience.

When I scheduled it, I took the month of January for myself because I figured that if turnout was low because of the weather, I'd be the one to take the hit. I'd rather the other poets I schedule get a decent crowd than myself.

Well, as expected, the event was lightly attended. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated very much those that did come out, but to be truthful, as I started, it stung a little to see so few people.

But by the time I left, I had a different take on the evening. Like so many of these events, the best part of the evening came in the connections I made. For example, a middle school teacher I'd worked with on a student writing camp last year. Her name is Nancy and she came because she'd seen my posts on Instagram and had always wanted to come to a readi…

Showing It, Not Acting It

Evidently, I'm not 23 anymore.

I sometimes forget that I am closer to sixty than to college. Sometimes this reminder comes on stronger than others. I'm not ready to admit my limitations yet, but the other night was a good example of the difference between my cerebral age and my actual physical abilities.

As part of our church's holiday party, we were allowed access to a gymnasium on the old Concordia College campus in Milwaukee. I'm told that the Milwaukee Bucks used to practice in this particular gym back in the early 70's when they won their championship. That statement piqued my interest knowing that I might be playing in the shadow of Kareem Abdul Jabbar - a long shadow indeed.

Anyway, I've determined that something in my brain snaps when I get in a gymnasium. I don't quite drool, but I feel an instant rush and a need to prove my basketball prowess. I was NEVER a good basketball player, but that didn't stop me from trying. People always assume with m…

Raising The Literary Art Bar

Last night I attended a book launch for a poet friend of mine. Kathrine Yets' chapbook is titled, So I Can Write, and it is her first published book of poetry.

The event was held at Art Bar in Riverwest. I'd never been there, but I love the whole Riverwest scene, so was glad to be able to attend. Having lived on the East Side of Milwaukee many years ago, I miss the nightlife and eclectic crowds that were part of living in that area. The suburbs are so blase' in comparison.

The Art Bar features a lot of art within it, obviously, and was hoppin' busy when I got there at 6:15 or so. It was a diverse, youngish crowd with a great vibe. I'd say these are my people, but I'm probably a bit too old and suburban to get away with it. It's fun trying though. Despite my age difference I felt comfortable enough - I think the Riverwest crowd is cool with you no matter what your makeup is, old, white, bald dudes included. It sure seemed that way to me.

Anyway, I wanted to …

Comings and Goings

I have some public appearances and readings lined up that I am pretty excited about. And frankly, 10 years ago, I never would have thought that would be something I would be saying. I once was a shy boy - still am actually - but duty calls and part of being an author/poet requires reading/signings, so I try and honor that. Every time I do it I get a little more comfortable, so it's not as terrifying as it once was.

The first will be on January 15th at Mama D's in Wales where I'll be the featured poet. As you may know, I organize that event every month and after a few years since I did it last, my turn has come up again. I scheduled it after the release of my two new poetry books, Thoughts from a Line at the DMV and Genetically Speaking: Poems on Fatherhood

Mama D's is a quaint setting and a cool coffee shop in Wales. Attendance has been really good at the past few readings, but this being January in Wisconsin, I'm not sure what to expect. The event features an op…

A Return To Routine

I returned to work today after a 9-day vacation for the holidays. I always look forward to those "break" weeks every year, but every year, by the end of them I'm pretty much ready to go back to work.

It's not that I don't like being home, nor is it that I wouldn't like retirement. It's more a matter of having a more complete plan for the break than "writing as much as I can". That goes great for the first seven days, but after that, I get sort of lost.

This past break I binge-watched the Netflix series The Crown. Well, when I say binge-watched I mean a couple of episodes a day for a few days. Watching TV is something I rarely do except when I have nothing else better to do. This week seemed to be a good chance to knock some of them out.  The thing is, I don't like myself when I do something this passive. It's not who I am. At the same time, I had to admit that it was a nice break from the things/goals I had set for writing and house proj…