Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"You better run faster than small town gossip"

There are few people who come into your life that truly leave an imprint that lasts beyond their time. Let me tell you about one of them for me.

Walt Fiegel was unparalleled. This man simply commanded your respect the minute you met him, but he reciprocated that respect with a respect for you. It didn't matter if you were his starting quarterback, his student manager, or someone he just passed in the hallways at my alma mater, Sioux City East High School.

Walt was one of a kind, and he taught me, and literally thousands of others, some very valuable lessons in life.

"Don't forget where you came from."
I did do this, for a long time, unfortunately, but in the end this life lesson came back to me. When I left my hometown of Sioux City, I had no intentions of ever looking back or reconnecting with people from there. I was George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life." I was going to leave that crummy town and do bigger things. But then I realized that so much of who I am as a person was shaped by that place. Those people. And now I won't cut that reconnected bond.

"Go home and tell your mother that you love her."
Every football practice in high school ended with this one. It was key to Walt, and it was a great lesson to learn. Our mothers, perhaps like nobody else, have a connection and bond to us that is unbeatable. That bond deserves our respect. It deserves our honest and truthful words. And it is a simple thing to do. Which is why it is so fitting that the annual fundraiser to remember Walt is always held on Mother's Day weekend.

"Tough times don't last, tough people do."
This one speaks to me more than anything else. I've had my hard times in life, as we all do, but over the last year, I've felt more negative scenarios than ever in life. And every time I'm about to give up and say "why me?" or "are you kidding me?" I can reflect back on the days of being at best a mediocre football player on Walt's team, and realize that this was what it was all about. He taught every one of us to go out into the world, and when adversity hits, to not give in. Don't give up. Keep fighting. Find a way to smile every day. Find a way to look at the positives. Don't succumb to the enemy. For this, I owe Walt more than any other of his lessons.

If you would like to honor this incredible man, it is quite easy. On Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, the Walt Fiegel Foundation will be holding an auction/dinner and a golf tournament. Pay your respects to this incredible man by either attending one or both of these events, or by sending a donation to the foundation, which is dedicated to providing scholarships to local athletes who embody what Walt stood for.

While I myself will likely not be able to make it to the events this year, I plan to send a donation so that his spirit can continue on and others in Sioux City will realize how blessed we were to have someone like Walt to touch our lives. Visit for more information.

And remember, if nothing else, that tough times don't last, to hug your mother, and don't you ever forget where you came from. Thanks Coach, and may you have a smile on your face as you watch all of your former players and students live out your life's lessons.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Considering a new hobby - Stand up comedy

So some of you may know that in my grad school days and thereafter, I started doing Improv comedy with a troupe in Iowa City. Some people hear that and say "oh, cool, tell me a joke." Improv is not the kind of comedy where someone is standing up on a stage telling jokes from a routine, for those who don't know. It's like what was done on Drew Carey's show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Well that was an awesome experience that I miss tremendously, but since moving to the Twin Cities, it is much harder to get into a troupe for Improv. They are either fully professional actors doing it all the time as a career, or a group that only does it for their own entertainment in some church basement.

But recently, after a conversation with a good friend in which I had him rolling on the ground in laughter roughly every 30 seconds, I learned about an open mic night at a local comedy club, and he has told me that he thinks I need to go and try it out.

SO, I'm in the process of coming up with a few different routine ideas, and may within the next month or so tackle one more thing on my bucket list, if you will.

For those who live in the Twin Cities, I'll let you know when I'm taking the stage, and will slip you a $20 bill if you laugh.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting back into shape...the beginning of the journey

When I was 17, it was a very good year...

Back then, I was a competitive swimmer, specializing in backstroke and individual medley, and had a washboard stomach and much more hair. I continued competing in swimming until my sophomore year of college, when burnout and a bum shoulder made me look for other options to occupy my time. But up until that time, every summer, I used to participate in a mini-triathalon to celebrate the University of Okoboji Homecoming festivities (and if you aren't an Iowan, you likely don't know that there is not really a University of Okoboji).

Since leaving the pool, somehow over the years, my six-pack abs turned into "buddhalicious."

I've decided recently, after hopping in the pool and doing some laps, that before I turn 40, a year from this August, I'd like to return to doing the Okoboji triathalon. This year seems highly unlikely, as it is only 3 months away, and I have a lot of work to do...but by this time next year I'm hoping I'll be on a workout regimen of swimming, biking, and running that will make it realistic for me to do the event.

Today was my first day on a bike that didn't involve pulling a Burley full of little ones in quite some time. I had planned to ride a 10 mile portion of a trail near my place, but instead ended up doing a 12-mile loop that included some roadways as a result of a close trail due to construction.

It felt really great. I even managed to go to a full sprint for the last mile, and the burn in my legs was something I hadn't felt in quite some time.

I'm sure by tomorrow at this time, my butt will be killing me and my muscles will be aching, but you have to start somewhere. Who knows...if I'm lucky, maybe I'll manage to get rid of some of this buddha belly in the process?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A funny story...The Hickey Girl date

I decided since my first blog post was covering a serious topic, I'd give you all something humorous to chew on this time. A year ago right around this time, I was going back into the dating world after ending a one-year-relationship the month before. This is a summary of one of my first dates after dipping my toe back in the dating pool (and after reading it you'll wonder how I possibly could have jumped back in the pool at all).

I had been interacting with J for a few weeks on a dating site through email and chat, and found out that she was a native Iowan like me. She also lived in Plymouth, not too far from me, which seemed like two points in her favor. Things so far were looking good.

The day of the date arrived. We had decided to meet at a bar/restaurant that was about halfway between our places...just 5 minutes drive for each of us.

She called me up about an hour before we were supposed to meet and asked to change our location to a bar in the north metro that she liked to go to. I told her that was fine, but since I didn't know where it was, maybe we should drive together. She said she'd drive if I just went to her apartment.

As I'm driving to her place for the date, she calls my cell phone. "Hey, there is something that I should tell you before you get here...I have a hickey." WHAT? A hickey? Seriously? I thought to myself, and the last time I remember hearing anyone discuss a hickey was probably in 9th grade of high school. I just responded with a soft "Um, ok," and she went on to explain that it happened Saturday night with some guy that was really into her, but she wasn't into him, she was just too drunk that night. Red flag #1...and it was GIANT!

So I get to her place and she meets me in the parking lot. I found myself averting my eyes from her neck and staring at the sky alot. We hopped in the car and off we went. We arrived in the parking lot of the bar about 20 minutes later, and as we are pulling in, the car behind us is weaving and honking non-stop. "Oh shit," J says. "What? Who is it?" I asked her. "My sister. She's probably drunk, too." GREAT! A family affair.

We proceed to the door of the bar, with her drunk sister in tow, and as we walk in the bartender looks at us and yells the announcement of our arrival. "HEY EVERYONE LOOK, HICKEY GIRL IS HERE!" I was ready for Dr. Kevorkian to interrupt this date at this point.

We sit down, and look at the menu, and her drunk sister joins us and asks if I'm buying her dinner too. Sure. Why not? I mean, we might be in-laws soon. NOT. Her sister proceeded to sing karaoke the rest of the night, usually on the stage every other song, even if she wasn't scheduled to be up there. She would glare at us after every song and tell us that we weren't cheering loud enough for her performances. I was looking around for an ejection button on my bar stool.

After about an hour, in walks J's other sister, who was supposed to be watching J's 7-year-old son. "I got bored so I dropped him off with his cousin." J's newly arrived sister was going through a divorce, but had a boyfriend. She liked to come to this bar to hit on a tattooed NASCAR fan who wore jorts (look it up) and a Megadeth t-shirt. Can never have enough guys like that in your life, right?

By this time, it was about 10:30, on a weeknight, and I had to get to work the next morning early. I told J that it was probably about time to head home. "Yeah, I suppose I should get my son and get him to bed since he has school tomorrow." Ya think? Really? I mean because maybe if you just keep him up all night the learning experience will be more surreal for him.

We go to pick up her son from the cousin's house. I make it a rule that my kids don't meet anyone I'm dating unless it is serious - they have only met two of the women I've dated in the last 3 was a year-long relationship, the other 6 months. But here I was with J's son in the backseat, trying to explain when he asked who I was.

This was also a perfect time for her son to decide that he must be getting sick. So every 5 minutes on the 20 minute drive back to her apartment, he made us pull over the car so I could join him on the shoulder of the road and listen to him make fake puking noises. The 20 minute drive took 45 minutes. As we were nearing her apartment and my salvation, she suddenly swerved quickly into the next lane, lamenting "Oh crap, I forgot to pick up my prescriptions. Can we go through the Walgreen's Drive Thru?" Sure, of course, I thought. See if they have any samples of Prozac I might be able to borrow.

Finally, we arrive at her place, and as I begin my semi-sprint to my car, she yells out "I'd invite you up for a nightcap, but I have my son." No shit? I didn't notice him.

Needless to say, that was the last I ever saw of Hickey Girl.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome to my crazy world...the rubber ball bouncing back

Remember those super balls that you had as a kid? Throw it against a wall and then get ready to duck because it would fly back and forth forever.

My life has essentially mirrored this over the last 8 weeks. I was whipped against the wall, bounced off another wall, and then yet another, and another. And like the super ball, instead of stopping, I'm no worse for the wear, and I'm still going...bouncing into better places for the first time in a long time.

Flash back to last Fall to begin this story. I had reconnected quite unexpectedly with a woman I knew since childhood, and there was spark that felt very natural and unforced.

While it was a long-distance relationship, we managed really well to make it work, spending time together in our hometown, Sioux City; or in Des Moines, the mid-point of our locations, or in Iowa City, watching both of our favorite football team, the Iowa Hawkeyes on multiple occasions. Then there were trips to her home in Kansas City, and vacations to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Tampa, Florida. Every minute we spent together was like something you'd read about in some cheesy romance novel that women love to read. In just six months time together, we created memories that would last a lifetime for most people.

Then, the super ball started the bouncing journey. Around the second week of February, out of nowhere, she began to grow more distant, and within a week, she ended the relationship. It caught me completely by surprise, and would have been enough to devastate alot of people. I tried to stay strong, but not having a full picture of what led to the break-up drove me crazy in my mind.

Then, just three days after getting my Dear John email, I was laid off from my awesome job. Again, this caught me completely by surprise, as I was one of the less expensive employees for my company -- my job had been shifted from 40 to 25 hours back in September, and my medical and dental benefits were lost.

Now these two things would have been enough to put alot of people I know in a straight jacket...and for a brief time, I was afraid that I would end up in one. But I persevered. Leaned on my friends and family to talk through things, and tried to remember that a positive attitude can go a long way.

Fast forward about 2 weeks later, and the super ball continued the journey. My townhouse went into foreclosure the previous September, and I had been trying to find out from my mortgage company the date I had to be out of there without a sheriff coming to my door and forcibly removing me. After leaving voicemail after voicemail for a 3-week period, with no callbacks, I finally got a live person on the phone at the attorney's office representing my mortgage company. This was on a Thursday. They confirmed for me that I had to be out of my townhouse by end of day the following Monday.

GREAT! Compounding the stress was the fact that I had agreed to take a short-term 3-day job with my friend that required a trip to Milwaukee, WI, and we had to leave on Sunday night. So I essentially had 72 hours to pack everything I owned up, and put it into a 10x20 storage unit I had rented. Could I do it? By myself?

Just 20 minutes after hanging up with the mortgage people, there was a knock at my door. The Repo Man cometh...and he taketh away my car. I had been waiting for a severance check to be deposited into my account to get the car payment current...and it had just been deposited that day. But it was too late. Repo Man had to take my car. So Thursday night I began the process of getting the car back (how do you move out of a townhouse without a car?).

After wiring the payment, and jumping through silly hoops for the car loan folks, I was finally given clearance to retrieve my car around noon on that Friday. The catch? I had to get to St. Cloud (an hour drive from my home) by 2:30 that afternoon. Luckily a good friend was able to drive me up there, I got the car, and was back home by 6 that evening. A day in which I needed to be packing was completely blown. 48 hours to pack everything I owned and moved into the storage unit.

I did get everything into the storage unit, thanks to some incredible friends...and made it for the job in Wisconsin. For the next week and a half after returning to the Twin Cities, I lived in the same cheap flea-bag motel I lived in for a time during my divorce 3 years ago. I finally secured an apartment that was close to my old townhouse, and would allow me to continue to have my sons the two school nights I have them without creating too long of a drive to school in the morning.

I also began to heal on the ended relationship, realizing that there was nothing I could do to have changed the outcome. It is still a mystery to me how and why it ended, but I guess even if I never know the full story, at least it ended before I got so far into it that it would have been even more hurtful.

Now, my sole focus is sending this super ball back into the job market, whether it is in my old field, or a new one. I am essentially living a clean slate and starting from scratch in all facets in my life, and it actually feels GOOD.

The super ball hit the ground, and is now soaring quickly back up into the air, and is not looking back.