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Showing posts from 2020

Pass The Pandemic

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On this Thanksgiving day, this may be the toughest year ever to ponder what to be thankful for. A year filled with wildfires, riots, protests, political upheaval and this horrible virus, to name a few make it seem like we should only be thankful that 2020 is nearly over. But still we push on. I know I am. In my own case, it is the good memories of past happiness that keep me forging ahead, wearing a mask, and trying to stay safe.  Of course Thanksgiving provides some of the best memories to draw from. The time of year when everyone is looking toward Christmas and taking a day off to enjoy a meal with those closest to them. Some of my vivid memories are: 1. The years at the Portland House  where our family split Thanksgiving and Christmas between my aunt Helen's house and ours. As my cousins started marrying and having kids of their own, things got too big and we split up. For the first few years we missed the big extended family, but as we grew in size and numbers, we replaced the

When They Grow Up

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So some days are better than others. Today was a day where I had a hard time keeping up with the Zoom meetings, emails and instant messages at work. Other days are blissfully quiet when the emails trickle in slow like, messenger is quiet and the phone doesn't ring. There's something appealing about each, but I prefer the latter, thank you. But amidst the busyness of the day, I got a Facebook friend request from a person I didn't recognize. The messenger note mentioned that this person was googling something about the Crystal River and "Boys Club" youth group from Elmbrook Church, where we both used to attend. Anyhow he said that an old blog post of mine came up where I talked about the Crystal River campout and the whole Boys Club organization. It seems like a lifetime ago that I was part of it all, but it was really only about 8 to 10 years ago.  But what caught me about his message was he said that in his experiencing his new fatherhood, (he has a two year-old

Spit Shines and Windsor Knots

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 I want to take a minute to thank all of those veterans out there on this Veteran's Day. I have a few Vietnam vets in my circle group, guys I have the utmost respect for, in part because of the lousy way they were treated after returning. It was the first war I remember and I have vivid recollections of watching some of the action on the news, guys in tall grass and jungles and bunkers. So thank you to ALL veterans here and gone. It's sometimes hard to recognize the America you fought for in these strangely turbulent, divisive times, but I am confident that America will prevail through all the political, social and public health struggles it is dealing with. We are a perseverant lot. I used to joke that I put in my 4 years of service as a student at Cretin High, a military academy in Saint Paul. I realize now that jokes like that are an insult to the men and women who have put their lives on the line in the name of my freedom.  This week, my book about Cretin High came out on A

Third Time's a Charm

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Yesterday I received my edit copy of my forthcoming book, Cretin Boy, from Burning Bulb Publishing . This is the copy that sets the formatting and allows me to check things out for any final edits. Like the first two memoirs, this is a little surreal, but something I am getting used to with each new book. I must add that the coolest part of all of it is seeing my name at the top of every other page.  I done wrote a book, Ma! There was a time not long ago (10 years or so) that the thought of publishing one book was not even in my sights. Now, three books in, I guess I can say I've arrived. I always refer to my "sub-atomic micro fame," which is all it is, but it is still extremely gratifying and I am just glad to be at this point on my writing journey. One subject that came up from my publisher was the idea of an audio book. The publisher gave me a contact to see if I could get a quote. I contacted the guy and he gave me a quote at around $1800. That amount is actually quit

The Why Of It

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 As I forge ahead with my next writing project, I often question why I do it. Why do I feel compelled to write out my stories and try and create something out of nothing? I am an ordinary lunchpail-to-work guy for what pays the bills and keeps the creditors at bay. What moves me to write? What motivates me and how did it ever start? Those are tough questions for any writer I suppose. I suspect a few do it out of a desire for some (seemingly unattainable) level of fame. Others may do it out of boredom or maybe even obligation. So where do I fall on that spectrum? All I can say is it is and always has been part of me. It is almost genetic that way. I've enjoyed it ever since I was a kid. Unfortunately there were a lot of lost years where the only way it manifested itself was in letters to my brother in New York, my friend Pat in Tulsa, and eventually to this girl, Donna, who I would eventually marry after a long courtship via letters back and fourth between WI and NY.  It's these

A Caramel Apple A Day

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 I paid a much needed visit to the dentist today. I was scheduled for an appointment in April before the bottom fell out because of COVID-19. It was a semi-normal experience excluding them meeting me at the door and walking me out of the place. I figure, next to a doctor's office, there's probably no safer place from a germ standpoint than a dentist's office right now, so what the heck.  I take meticulous care of my teeth, brush twice daily and floss faithfully, to a fault almost. I've developed good habits over the years because I had such a traumatic youth from a dental standpoint. I have a mouth full of metal, as the saying goes, and have for most of my life. My wife on the other hand, has 2 or 3 fillings TOTAL and literally didn't have one until she was in her 40's. Anyway, today I was blessed with the news that I had two problems. One "small" cavity and the need to replace another older one. (I'm at that age where they're redoing the old o

October's Best

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 This time of October is one of my favorite times of year. The fall colors are spectacular, the weather is still bearable and the holidays are in the forecast.  It is also a time of a couple of key birthdays. My brother Rob would have been 57 today, an unpleasant reminder that cancer is an unfair beast. I miss him every day. Yesterday was my nephew/godson Nick's birthday. He and I were always close when he was a little guy and he's grown into a good man/husband/father. Celebrating birthdays of loved ones lightens up the angst of COVID-19 and all the fun political crap that is going on.  One of the better memories I have of Rob was the "Landwehr Hunt" that takes place every year over this weekend. The one year I was able to attend was pretty cool because all 4 of us brothers were there for it. It was held in Fergus Falls every year and usually involved everything but hunting. Cards, smart talk and adult beverages were the substitute for any actual gunfire, though the y

Third Time's a Charm

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Over the weekend I got news that my manuscript, Cretin Boy, was accepted for publication by Burning Bulb Pulishing. If you're on Facebook, you already know this, but for those not, well, now you know. This will be my third published memoir since I began this whole writing thing 10 years ago. Getting a book published is an amazing feeling and it never grows old. I am so excited by the prospect of this book about my high school experience becoming real! Like my other books, it's been in the works for years, in this case, about 3 years. When you put that much work into something, there is nothing better than to see it validated by a willing publisher. And as weird as it may sound, I have always thought that until I have 3 full length books, I'm still not legit. I know that is warped, untrue and self-defeating, but it's a number I had in my mind. I also have 5 poetry books, but I always look at those as a bonus to my success as a nonfiction writer. It's these 220+ page

Ongoing Pursuit Of Happiness

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I've had a run of successes lately with my poetry and nonfiction publications. I take them for what they are - a writer mucking about trying to make his mark on the world - even if only at a micro scale. It is absolutely the best part of my creative life at the moment, as I suck at art and can't carry a tune or play an instrument. My writing is my favorite getaway after a day of dealing with technical issues at my day job. It is a perfect compliment actually. On top of the hardcopy and online publications, I have been doing some virtual Zoom readings here and there as well. Last week I read my second place winning poem, Wordnapped, from the Jade Ring Contest for the Wisconsin Writers Association. It was a nice recognition of the contest winners. This one provided a $100 award, so I always joke that sometimes poetry does pay. Ha! I've been noodling around with what I think is my next book. After kicking around some ideas, I realized that I have years of cabin stories to draw

Firmly Grounded In Disappointment

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 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

Muting The Sun

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 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

Isolation Innovation

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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 wannabes Art: A friend posts a digital blank picture and friends are encouraged to color it using MS Paint, Photoshop or real art materials. My digital art! Hatpy Hour where a bunch of friends all get a hat and a drink and hang out on Zoom. Virtual Church gatherings using Google Hangouts 5:00 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 usi

This Is Not A Drill

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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 acc

The View From The Bunker

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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 const

Picture My Life - 2004

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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 hi

International Women's Day

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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 k

Picture My Life - 2003

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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

Picture My Life - 2000

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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 a

A Statewide Network: WLIA v.2020

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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

Picture My Life - 1999

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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 dwindl

Picture my Life - 1989

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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 Griff

Picture My Life - 1987

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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 t

Attention Deficit

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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 o

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. Jus

Stout Faith

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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

January From The Bright Side

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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