Showing posts from April, 2017

Among The Fellowship

Yesterday I attended the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets  Spring Conference at the Park East Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. This is a statewide group of writers and poets who come together twice a year at various locations around the state. Because I've only been a member for a couple of years, and I'm busy with other writing pursuits, conferences and, well, to be honest, life, I haven't had the chance to attend a conference. But when I heard they were meeting in Milwaukee, I decided to make it a point to go. Featured Poet: Mark Doty I'm glad I did. There were about 110 people there, a turnout much higher than I expected, frankly. Their agenda featured everything from a business meeting, to "Roll Call" open mic poems by people in the audience to featured poet Mark Doty.  While the group was heavily tilted on the over 50, white female crowd, there was a decent cross section of age and race as well. I noted a lot of grey hair, to which my wife remin

Time Warp

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm having a hard time here. It's this whole kids growing up thing and the looming inevitability of an empty house in less than six months. I'm not a fan. I know this sounds crazy from someone who should look forward to those quiet nights without having to worry where he or she is, or waiting to hear the car come into the driveway. After all we work hard to raise good, responsible, equipped children, so when they start showing signs that they're ready to leave, we should rejoice and push them gently out of the nest. Well, I'm not ready, just yet. Last night was yet another reminder that our time together under one roof is short. We attended Ben's Scholar/Athlete Banquet at Waukesha South High School to see him accept his award along with 260 other students. This award is given to any student who participated in at least one sport and maintained at least a 3.5 GPA for their first semester. Now I'm the proudest father aroun

Boat Time

A few weeks back, I wrote about a friend of mine from back when I was in high school. His name is Pat and he and I have been friends ever since. My point was that there are certain friends in your life that impact the person you are, what you think and believe. Pat is one of those guys, especially in regards to helping me form my faith. So in keeping with the spirit of writing about close friends, I have to mention another of those guys, my friend, Steve. He and I met through our wives over 25 years ago. Our wives worked together at the Southeastern Wisconsin Center for Independent Living (SEWCIL). I still remember the first time we met, the four of us went out to a movie (in 1991 or so) and then went back to their apartment where we grilled out and talked. Over the years, our wives grew to be best friends. We attended Brewer games, bowled together, helped each other with house projects, attended the same church for a while and much, much more. While Steve and I were friends, we we

Using Caffeine to Find Heaven

I have mentioned in past posts that my Thursday mornings are spent drinking coffee with anywhere from one to four other friends at Café De Arts in Waukesha. We typically try and work our way through a book, often times by an edgy Christian author like Brian Zahnd, Peter Rollins or Rob Bell. While I don’t always align 100% with the teaching or proclamations of each of these books, I cannot deny that they all challenge me to think outside the box. They often show me that I am comfortable putting my faith or my God in my own little box. I won’t go into specifics of each, but I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am not questioning what I’ve always believed, then how will I ever grow in my faith. Anyways, a bit of a tangent there. Our discussion today turned toward heaven and hell, but mostly heaven. We started by postulating what heaven was like. It made for some interesting and, as often with this group, some far-out ideas. Those far-out ideas would take turns and devolv

An Alleyway Reality Check

I helped a friend with his patio yesterday. He is a longtime friend and over the years we've taken to helping each other out with home improvement projects. It is what good friends do for one another - like family without the blood relations. While the day was good, spent with a friend, followed by a drink on their deck afterward, it was not what stood out to me on the day. No, that was something much more sobering. As we were driving out to pick up the gas powered compactor, we came across his neighbor, Bob who was puttering in the alley. Bob was probably in his early sixties and was hobbling around like he was in pain. When Steve stopped and said hi, he asked Bob how he was doing. Bob told us he was in a lot of pain. He'd had a couple of cortisone shots in his back a couple of days prior, but it hadn't touched the pain he was having. He went on a bit about his options coming up and after a couple of minutes we told him to take it easy and went on our way. Then,

Climbing The Ladder

Today at work we were talking about our kids and how we want them to be successful in their careers and that as much as we would like to, we can't live that part of their life out for them. They will have to make the choices, one at a time, that take them through their working life. They will question their choices, weigh the benefits, and probably take a fall or two in the process. My son has already had a couple of jobs and is currently embarking on his third one at Panera Bread. Of the first two, one was a pretty positive experience (groundskeeper at a church) and the other was not so good (checker/cart boy/bagger at Woodmans). The not so good experience gave him a taste of how bad management and policies can make a job not-so-fun. He was finally let go when he was sick with pneumonia - including a doctors note - and was unable to cover his shifts. He bid good riddance and is a better person for it. I've heard from many people that Woodmans' management policies are pre

From The Podium

Ever since the release of Dirty Shirt , I have been forced to do a fair amount of public speaking and presentations. It is one thing to write in a bubble, as I am doing right now in my living room with headphones in, but quite another to take your work into the world. It is also absolutely essential for any author to get out there and push their book once it is published. In many cases this requires writers to go WAY outside their comfort zone and do fun things like readings, signings and schmoozing with the public. Now, I'll admit that the idea of this requirement was one of my biggest fears when I first heard that Dirty Shirt had been accepted. I don't much like the spotlight and other than a few work presentations, I really haven't done much public speaking since college. It's not my favorite thing to do. I'm a bundle of nerves and it typically shows. However, now that I have been at this for coming up on three years, I have become much more comfortable at

A Little Tree Hugging

I have written this post in advance because tomorrow (Wednesday) I am headed to northern Wisconsin for a retreat for a statewide board that I sit on. The event is in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin which is about twenty minutes from where I musky fish every fall and about forty minutes from the cabin we stay at every fall. I frequently refer to this area as "God's Country." It is the place of tall pines and birch trees and lots and lots of lakes. In Minnesota, anywhere north of Duluth is very much the same. These areas are soul restoring for me. To hear the wind in the trees and to see eagles soaring overhead lowers my blood pressure about ten points. Today on Facebook, I came across an article reporting that some thieves have been pillaging stands of birch trees in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. They are using the logs to sell to people for decorative fireplace pieces.  This was both sad and shocking to me. It seems like there is no decency in some people anymore

Eyes Wide Open

This was one of those weekends where every time I turned around I saw the triumph of the human spirit. I saw people living their lives to the fullest, pushing themselves and making the world a more beautiful, enjoyable place to live. And I'm not sure if it is my age or just an awakening of some sort, but when I see things like I witnessed I take hold of them and it restores my faith in the world and in humanity. With all the darkness and despair in the world today, when I see points of light from anywhere, or in the case of this weekend, everywhere, I regain hope for my kids and their kids. It started on Friday night when we went to see a couple of blues bands at Anodyne Coffee Roastery . The warm-up band was named Big Al Dorn and the Blues Howlers , and they blew the doors off the place. And I am a sap for live music anyways, but to see these talented young musicians playing their hearts out and playing the blues like they were meant to be played, just made my heart soar. The