Friday, December 30, 2011

Life Is Good: No Whining Allowed

It seems that this time of year, a lot of people suddenly start to get negative.

Blame it on Winter. Or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or Post-Holiday Blues.

My Facebook news feed is full of people who think their life is miserable.


Guess what? You're whining.

That is, unless you or a loved one is about to lose your home or job with no alternatives.

Or you or a loved one is about to be shipped off to Afghanistan.

Or you or a loved one been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or suffered the loss of a loved one.

It's easy to fall into the trap of wanting that "perfect life." The shows on TV and the movies in the theater make us think we deserve that.

But just remember Hollywood isn't grounded in reality.

Reality is this: Life does suck from time to time.

But if you are surrounded by loved ones, have a job, have food in your fridge, and a roof over your head, at the end of the day you really can't bitch.

Bills pile up. Relationships end. Friends are lost. People are pricks. But unless it means your life is truly worse than it was at the start of the day, is it worth getting negative over?

Because remember negativity breeds more negativity. And conversely, positivity breeds positivity.

I know it's not easy to wake up and put a fake smile on your face every day. But sometimes it doesn't hurt doing the ol' "fake it until you make it" routine.

And rather than playing your violin, or having cheese with your whine, how about putting on your big girl or big boy pants on and tackling the problems that are making your life more stressful?

Don't like your job? Find a new one.

Don't like your spouse/partner? See above.

Don't like your kids? Well, can't help you there...chances are you had something to do with who they are as a person.

Tired of drama? Eliminate the people causing it from your life.

Wishing things weren't so difficult? Well, again, can't help you there. Life is tough. But it doesn't mean you have to let Life win.

So if you're looking for a New Year's Resolution or two...see the list above and maybe there's a match for something you can do in 2012 to help make your life less sucky.

Or you can just keep whining.

Just don't expect me to stand around listening to it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

From The Prisoner

P.S. - This blog entry was written as a reminder to the author as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Professor Gets a D+

I really need to stop in and see my old buddy, Steve Bloom.

Bloom was one of three professors who served on my Master's Project Committee when I got my M.A. in Journalism at the University of Iowa in the early 90s.

My feelings toward Professor Bloom have never been positive.

He was very pompous, and loved to share copies of articles he'd done for the Sacramento Bee and other publications with his students. He tended to talk in first person more than any other prof I had while at Iowa.

And don't get me started on my defense of my M.A. project - starting an alternative weekly newspaper in Iowa City. Yeah, I basically co-founded a business that outlasted me by a good 5-7 years while in grad school. And he attacked me for it.

Why? Because my summary of how we went about starting the newspaper didn't divulge enough of the conflict I had with my co-founder. He wanted the juicy rumors and details. I wanted to say, "Hey buddy, the details are in the in-depth articles we're doing every week about local issues...not about the battle over whether or not we should be renting a copy machine for $120/month."

But I bit my tongue. Even when he told me "I don't think you have what it takes to be a journalist."

Fast forward a few months after my defense of my M.A. project, and I ran into Bloom in front of the J-School building one afternoon.

I didn't want to talk to him, but he saw me, and started up a conversation. "Hey, Steve, I saw that piece you did in The New York Times about the horrible kidnapping and murder in Southeast Iowa. Do you have contacts you can share from the Times?"

"I'll have to look and see," I replied. "But you know I'm not much of a journalist." And I walked away.

So I was not at all surprised when I learned the ol' Professor penned a piece for The Atlantic this week that has many Iowans ready to say "GOSH DARN IT!" Read his article here.

Now I'm not going to dissect the Professor's article item by item, other than to say after living my first 29 years in Iowa (other than a 6 month stint in London), I'd really like to know what he's smoking.

Also, I'm disappointed in his writing. Poor construction, and too wordy.

Read the article and draw your own conclusions on whether he accurately depicts Iowans.

But I'll give you this, Bloom, you got the controversy you seek in your journalism. Every native or current Iowan I know is up in arms about this article.

So I guess you're right after all. If controversy is what journalism is about, you've got what it takes, even if it is at the expense of the truth.

And I don't.

So I propose we trade. You come sell steaks in Minnesota, and I'll come teach journalism to the students at the U of I.

After all, you only told me I didn't have what it took to BE a journalist. You didn't mention anything about TEACHING it.

You get a D+, Bloom.

See me after class.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Youbetcha I Talk Funny!

"Miranda says you have a funny accent."

My friend since fifth grade, Trish, was relaying the message that was just whispered in her ear by her 12-year-old daughter.

"You do!" Miranda added. "You sound funny!"

Trish and Miranda were in Sioux City this past weekend for the NAIA Volleyball tournament, and since I hadn't seen Trish in over a year, we met for lunch.

While I made sure to point out to Miranda that she had herself a little Kansas/Missouri accent of her own, I had to admit that she was right.

My dad has been giving me crap about my Minn-uh-soooh-tuh accent for years. I don't notice it, and it pains me to think I sound like they do, but alas, I've lived her for 12 years now...sigh...I caught the funny accent.

At least a few times a year, I'll catch myself talking on the phone with my dad, and the accent sneaks out. I'll quickly finish my statement with a good "Yeah, and it's aboot time to go skay-tin' dare soon."

I'm sure if I lived in Texas, I'd start saying "y'all" and call every pop a "Coke."

But show me where a movie was made making fun of the Texas accent.

Nothing like what "Fargo" did for Minnesota. (If you ever want to piss off a native Minnesotan, tell them they sound like the characters in "Fargo"). "Oh, geez, Marge, we don't sound like that!"

But yes, I don't say "snow," I say "Snoowwwh."

I don't say "lake," I say "Layyyyke."

And don't get me started on the Tundra pronunciation of "bagel."

But my new accent comes in handy when my Hawkeyes play the Gophers. I'm able to appropriately mock the world's longest spelling bee cheer, which would be the end to the Minnesota Rouser.

But until I'm paroled from The Tundra (7 years, 7 months and 16 days, approximately, unless I'm released early for good behavior), I'll just keep speaking my Canada Lite accent!

In the meantime, let me know if you wanna play some duck, duck, gray duck, or if you need me to borrow you something! Yeah, sure, youbetcha! Uff da!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Silent Nights


It's a double-edged sword.

True there's no fighting or blaming or yelling.

But there's also no giggles, no jokes, no belly laughs.

Life as a single co-parent can be so bittersweet.

You have the time for yourself you never had before when married and in a family unit.

And you also have nights where you have no idea what your children are up to or where they are.

Tonight, what is supposed to be a night with kids, has turned kidless. The mini-me's are with their mom at a hip-hop dance show, or something like that.

My first thought was "what a perfect night to just have a quiet night watching some college football, sipping a beer, and enjoying a peaceful house."

But as the minutes tick by, the more lonely I feel.

No Gman asking me if he can use the computer yet. "The answer is still no!"

No Nile begging for a ride to the YMCA so he can play pickup basketball with his buddies. "Okay, Grady, you can use the computer while I'm driving your brother to play basketball."

Just me. And my stupid cat.

The silence is beautiful. And sad.

You find things to distract you from the sad silence. Read. Watch a movie. Nap. Write a blog.

Then you remember that you'll see them tomorrow. And you take a deep breath. It will be okay.

But one thing being a single half-time parent does makes you cherish the moments you have with those little poops before you blink and they're not-so-little poops.

Good silence. Bad silence. Peace with inner chaos.

Be safe, my sons. I will see you tomorrow!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful for the Little Things...

Every year I seem to write a Thanksgiving blog entry where I cover all the things I'm thankful for in my life.

Since I'm doing 30 Days of Thankfulness on Facebook this year, this seems to be overkill, so I thought this year instead, I'd find the little things I'm thankful for.

1. Dimples. Holy crap am I thankful for those.

2. Summit India Pale Ale. Nectar of the Gods, I say.

3. Country music (and for letting me pretend to be a redneck).

4. Mac and Cheese Lasagna (with bacon in it of course).

5. Ranch Dressing. I mean seriously, there's no better condiment on Earth.

6. My car (when it is working properly). Living without it is basically impossible.

7. My Grinnell College buddies (though they're not technically "little").

8. Cool people who like to laugh, as opposed to mean people who like to complain.

9. Reese's Peanut Butter cups. 'Nuf said.

10. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Just kidding...making sure you're actually reading this).

11. College football...not JUST my Hawkeyes.

12. Coffee (and make it simple, I like my coffee like I like my men - hot, black, rich and bitter - wait, what?)

13. Swimsuits manufactured by Speedo that go all the way down to the knee (allowing me to return to the pool for the first time in 20 some years).

14. Summertime. Give me 90s and humidity any day of the year!

15. Jerry's Pizza. Nothing better on this planet. Nothing!

16. La Juanita's Burritos. (See 15, the only thing better on this planet).

17. The Interwebz, for giving me something to do to waste time that doesn't require TV, so it makes it better, right? Right?

18. Cheeseburgers. The best complementary meal with an India Summit Pale Ale.

19. Grace Potter's legs.

20. Every single person who reads my blog on a regular basis.

Happy Turkey Day, everyone, to you and yours!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bah, Humbug!

I will not apologize for being a scrooge.

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas.

Love it!

I mean, "It's a Wonderful Life" is my favorite movie of all time.

But this year, I'm not feeling it.

Maybe because we aren't even to Thanksgiving yet? Call me crazy.

My store switched over to our Holiday theme on Nov. 1.

I may or may not have procrastinated a few days on that.

The mall put up the 30 foot Christmas tree last week, giving yet another target for drunk patrons of Toby Keith's to vomit.

Every light post in a four block radius is adorned with fake holly and red ribbons.

And of course, the PA system that usually plays generic "soft hip hop, jazz and soothing soul" now features "soft hip hop, jazz, and soothing soul renditions of the Christmas holiday standbys."

Maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old man in my 40's.

Just a few short years away from "GET OFF MY LAWN YOU PUNKS!"

But really?

The day after Halloween has suddenly become the new "Beginning of the Holiday Season," otherwise known as "Oh shit...the economy is hurting, we need to stretch out the retail season and see if people start spending more money again!"

And from both running a retail store and before that years of working in marketing, I understand the need to come up with new ways to get people into your store and buying.

But I don't think it has to come at the expense of stretching out what was already a "way too long" holiday season.

Let's finish cleaning up the dishes from the Thanksgiving meal and taking our long snoozes on couches and lazyboys before we deck the halls, huh?

And for the retailers who have decided to begin their "Black Friday" sales on Thursday evening, well, I seriously hope the execs who signed off on this idea are there in those stores on Thursday instead of home with their families.

I'll be unlocking the doors at my store at 8 a.m. on Black Friday. Which means I'll be leaving my family's Thanksgiving dinner in Sioux Falls and driving home that night. It's part of the job, I know.

Just don't make me have to deal with an extended holiday season on top of that.

But if the trend continues, don't be surprised if I don't start promoting a Valentine's Day Surf and Turf Combo at my store beginning Jan. 1.

And don't forget to stock up on your 4th of July picnic needs while you're here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Say it Ain't So JoePa!

This world needs more heroes.

More living legends.

People who do things the right way, and succeed.

Until this week, Penn State head football coach was one of them.

I've had a connection to JoePa since childhood, when my oldest brother went to a Penn State-Iowa game with my parents and middle brother, and started rooting for Penn State by halftime.

Despite the rivalry between PSU and my Hawkeyes once they joined the BigTen, I still always had nothing but respect for JoePa and the way that he did things. The right way. And he succeeded.

JoePa was always about making sure that his student-athletes were taken care of. He always wanted to make sure they were protected from the pressures and demands of the high dollar world of college football.

He oozed integrity both on and off the field.

So it is a very sad thing to watch the demise of this legend, in particular given the fact that it wouldn't have taken much for him to avoid this horrible mess.

Let's look at it this way.

Imagine one of my employees walks into my store and finds another one of my employees doing unthinkable acts with a 10-year-old boy.

Now let's say the employee who witnessed it then came to me to report what they saw.

I could report the event to my boss, and probably cover myself from the legal/liability standpoint.

And if my boss didn't do anything about it, and the employee remained at my store, I'd again be ok from the legal/liability standpoint.

But I could NOT, in my right mind, stand by and let something like this happened. I'd be reporting it to the police as quickly as possible, and I'd make sure that the employee was never allowed anywhere near my store.

It's not rocket science.

And the timing of the release of the grand jury investigation could not have been any more suspicious. Just one week after JoePa broke the record for most wins by an NCAA Division IA football coach with his 409th victory, the story breaks.

So JoePa needs to do the right thing. Step down with the dignity you have left. For your program. For the kids on your current team who had nothing to do with this atrocity. For the game of college football.

Because if he digs in his heels and fights this, he'll do nothing but destroy the last bit of respect he has for doing things the right way 99 percent of the time during his 46 year tenure as head coach.

You had a good run, Joe. Please don't make it worse. It's time to ride off into the sunset and enjoy your retirement.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Parking Lot Date

Disclaimer: This blog entry contains content which may be unsuitable for persons under the age of 18, my parents, or anyone with a stick up their butt.

o about three years ago, I had a date with a solid, upstanding, Christian woman.

"Karol" and I had met on a dating site. We seemed to hit it off via email and phone. So we had our first date. We met halfway between our homes, at a little dive bar, for burgers and beer.

As I said, she was a very strong Christian woman. All her kids (she had 5 of them) were named things like Isiah and Jedediah and such.

We had a great date. Laughing, talking, getting to know one another. I was definitely thinking that she was worthy of a second date, and got the feeling she felt the same way about me.

So at the end of the date, I walked her to her car, and gave her a kiss on her cheek, and a hug. After the hug, I made a remark about how nice it felt. Not thinking much about it, I headed to my car.

When I got home, I sent her a text saying I had a great time. She replied saying she did too.

Then I texted her "When can I see you again?" Complete silence.

Over the next few days, we texted less and less, and I realized she tended to go silent whenever I brought up the idea of a second date.

Eventually, we just quit texting each other. Life moved on, and I started dating a high school friend who lived in Kansas City.

It had been over a year at least, when I was in Tampa FL for New Year's Eve with the Kansas City woman, when suddenly this woman started texting me out of the blue.

KC woman was jealous at the time that another woman was texting me, so I pretty much ignored her.

Fast forward to my living hell, when in a four week span KC girl dumped me, I lost my job, lost my townhouse, and temporarily lost my car.

I'm living in a hotel, waiting to get approved for an apartment with my foreclosure on my record...when she starts texting me again. We talk very openly, and she continually discusses her faith and Christianity.

Then she starts asking me about my relationship with KC Girl, and if we were intimate with one another.

I told her yes, we were two grown single adults, and we decided to show our affections for one another by being physically intimate.

She responded by telling me she wouldn't have sex with me until at least six months into a relationship. She added that the reason she wouldn't go on a second date with me before was because she thought I was too physical with my hug, and in expressing that it felt nice.

Okay, I thought, we haven't even had a second date, so that's fair enough.

She was so damn persistent though. She continually texted me, and really wanted to get together. I reluctantly agreed, and figured if I got another date out of the way with her, we could both move onto a better match for each of us.

So I drove to her town, and picked her up for our lunch date.

We went to a little Italian place. It was mid-afternoon, so the place was virtually empty.

She reminded me yet again of her strong faith, and that we wouldn't have sex for six months if we started dating. Again, my mindset was, let's just get through this date, I'll drop you off, and we can both go on our merry way.

The waiter comes over to give us water and asks if we want anything else to drink. She orders a beer, which shocks me.

I decide to order a beer as well.

Before our meal arrives, she orders a second beer. I order a second beer as well.

During the meal, she orders a third beer. And let's just remember it's about 2:30 in the afternoon. I tell her to enjoy the beer, but that since I have to drive back home, I'm done for the day.

So she has her third beer, and being small in stature, it's impacting her, I can tell.

She talks about ordering a fourth beer when I remind her that her kids are going to be home from school soon, and she was adamant about making sure that she was home and they had no clue she had a lunch date with some man.

So we head to my car, leave the restaurant, and when I get ready to turn right toward her house, she belts out "NO GO LEFT! I WANT TO SHOW YOU MY TOWN!"

We're driving around for about 5 minutes, and I notice she keeps trying to get me to turn down desolate roads and into hidden parking lots.

Finally I ask her "Are you trying to get me to park?"

She shyly admits that she is, and that she wants to make out with me.

So eventually we end up in a parking lot that overlooks a corn field on the edge of town. It's on the edge of a small college campus.

It's broad daylight, but there we are, listening to cheesy country music and thinking about making out like two high school sweethearts.

The next 30 seconds are a blur. We go from making out at the 5 second mark, to her having her hand on my crotch by the 10 second mark, to her unzipping my fly and letting the animals out of the barn door at the 25 second mark.

The next thing I know, she's busy performing an act that rhymes with palatial on me, in a college commuter lot, while I watch the corn grow.

As I nervously scan the horizon for anyone who might be watching us, who might notice that her head is bobbing up and down on the driver seat side of my car...I notice a combine slowly moving in the rows of the cornfield closest to my car.

"There's a farmer in his combine driving by right now" I tell her. "Mmmmph hmmmph hhhmmmph mpppmhh." (Translation: I don't give a shit)

A few minutes later, after not worrying about the farmer in the dell myself, I realize that her work on me is about to reach fruition.

Being the gentleman that I am, I warn her accordingly.

Her reply: "Mmmmph hmmmph hhhmmmph mpppmhh." (Translation: I don't give a shit)

As the fruition occurs, I suddenly find myself thinking about Bill Clinton. A "man of faith" who didn't consider oral sex to be cheating, or sex.

Damn. I just had a date with the female version of Bill Clinton.

Suddenly, as if she was awakened from a drunken slumber, which in fact she may have very well been in, she blurts out "Oh my gosh. I have to get home!"

We hastily get ourselves back in zipping up my jeans, and her asking me for a piece of gum...and I begin the short drive back to her house.

As we get a block away, she asks me to drive around the block and drop her off where her kids won't see her.

I oblige, and as I pull up a half-block from her house she suddenly shrieks and ducks down.

"What's wrong?" I ask her. "Did one of your kids see us?"

"No, that's my pastor walking his dog right there."

As her pastor disappears around the corner with Fido, she slides out of the car quickly and disappears into her house.

I was in a state of bewilderment as I drove home. What the hell just happened? I didn't plan to ever talk to her again, because something completely freaked me out about the last few hours.

Halfway home, I got a text message from her. "When can I see you again?"

I didn't reply.

And I still haven't.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Second Hometown, My Mecca

Tomorrow I return to Iowa City, my second hometown.

I have written extensively about my actual hometown of Sioux City in this blog, but I haven't even mentioned my second love, Iowa City.

I began my love affair with Iowa City as a small child, when my entire family would pack up our station wagon and drive there to watch the Hawkeyes lose a football game (this was B.H. - Before Hayden, so it was a given the Hawks would lose).

It continued into high school, when my parents and I would drive down to visit my older brother and watch Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon WIN ball games.

Yes, it's true that my love affair with the town started because of football.

But it wasn't until 1992, when I moved to Iowa City to start graduate school in journalism, that I TRULY fell in love.

I lived there for seven years, and was very active in the community as a journalist, business owner, and member of service organizations. There's not a way for me to go to Iowa City now without running into at least one person I know.

Iowa City is amazing because it combines a small town feel with a big city vibrancy. It features Broadway shows, incredible art, excellent shopping, and some of the best restaurants in the world, but you can still leave your front door unlocked at night (or at least you could when I moved away from there 12 years ago).

And as a writer, Iowa City is heaven. If you're not aware of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, google it. Trust me, there is no shortage of motivation or inspiration in Iowa City for a writer.

People who have never been to Iowa City will never know it. Iowa City is the best kept secret in the midwest. But anyone who has lived there knows it. And they're sworn to secrecy so that people don't move from all over to change it's magical little status.

But much like Sioux City, it's not the "what" that makes Iowa City great. It's the "who."

The people of Iowa City are a wild mix. Liberal baby boomers, college students, young professionals, black, brown, yellow, white, purple, straight, gay, hipsters, nerds, and even the occasional douchebag.

They all blend together to form a pretty quirky and interesting little place.

Yes, it's true that most of the time these days, it's football that brings me back to Iowa City.
But it doesn't mean I don't get the goosebumps when I drive off of I-380 onto I-80 east, remembering that this place, nearly as much as Sioux City, is my home.

That's why you'll be able to find me at Joe's Place tomorrow night, sipping a pint and listening to the same songs on the jukebox that were playing 15 years ago.

And after that you might find me wandering the ped mall looking for a gyro, or at Panchero's ordering a burrito that resembles a catcher's mitt.

And if you miss me there, look for me tailgating at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, chanting out a few hundred times "Let's Go Hawks!"

Iowa City, I'll see you tomorrow. May I not be charged with public urintoxication.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thank You For My Kids, Michael Jackson!

I have Michael Jackson to thank for my wonderful boys.

Wait, what?

Yes, I understand that statement seems quite odd, and ironic.

But it's true!

How do I owe Michael Jackson for my two amazing sons?

Really, it's quite logical when you think about it.

Oh and don't make it simple just because it's logical.
If you're guessing right now that I met the boys' mother at a Michael Jackson concert, that's not it.

Here's the explanation:

1. Because of Michael Jackson's live performance of Billie Jean on the Motown 25 TV special, where he moonwalked across the stage for all of 10 feet, I became addicted to breakdancing. In fact during my freshman year in high school, my friends and I ended up making good money teaching lessons and doing performances around Sioux City. If you know my breakdancing name, then you know me well, fyi.

2. Because of my obsession with breakdancing and hip hop in general, I became hooked on a song called "Rock It" by Herbie Hancock. Hear the song
here. In fact, one day my mom came into my room and heard the song playing, and asked me what this noise was. I told her "Herbie Hancock." She dropped her jaw. "Herbie Hancock? I went to college with him." Ok, my mom suddenly seemed cool.

3. With new found information regarding my mom's coolness in knowing Herbie Hancock, I decided that I would indeed enjoy attending my mom's college reunion. I was totally going to get Herbie to autograph my extended play single LP of "Rock It." So off we went to some weird place called Cornell College or something. It was in the middle of nowhere I heard.

4. It was in fact Grinnell College. Herbie didn't show at the reunion. It didn't matter. I fell in love with the place the minute I saw it. Beautiful buildings sprawled across a small, but open campus. I toured the campus, and saw the swimming pool. I instantly knew I wanted to swim at this school, if I was lucky enough to ever get to attend it.

5. Fast forward 3 years and it was time for me to choose between a full scholarship to swim at Creighton University in Omaha, NE, or pay my own way to go to Grinnell College. I ended up choosing Grinnell because I just had a real pull to the place. And I'm so glad, because I spent four of the best years of my life there.

6. And in the spring of my freshman year at Grinnell, I met my now ex-wife, and the mother of my amazing children.
My relationship with her was never perfect, and I have no regrets whatsoever that it's over. Mostly because that relationship gave me the two most important things in my life.

So, Michael, I want to thank you for helping bring Gman and Nile the Crocodile into my life. Oh and also I really did love Off the Wall.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Don't Go Changin'

"Nothing endures but change."
- Heraclitus

hate change.

Absolutely and without question I hate it.

The best example of my fear of change happened in the Fall of 1990, when I studied for a semester in London.

Fresh off the plane, and looking for a place to stay for the night, my then girlfriend, now ex-wife, and I found ourselves lost on a street corner in the largest city I had ever set foot in.

I was losing my mind. "What am I doing? What was I thinking? This was a big mistake!"
As we tried to figure out where we were on a map that was literally a book, and we didn't even know what page we were on, I wasn't sure I was going to make it through this.

The fear of the unknown overcame me.
I became paralyzed by my fear of change. The girlfriend went off to find a cheap B&B in the neighborhood while I sat guarding our luggage on the street corner. I wanted to curl up in a ball and click my heels together and go back to the good old campus I knew at Grinnell College.

Just as I was about to find a way to get a taxi ride back to Heathrow Airport and fly home, the girlfriend arrived with keys in her hand to our home for the night...the seediest B&B I've ever spent the night in. But I was rescued.

Fast forward 15 years, and you'll be able to understand how I've become able to deal with major life changes now. In the last 6 years I've lost:

- My wife of 13 years, and my girlfriend for another 4
- Three additional relationships with women I cared deeply about

- Two jobs to bad economies

- A townhouse, and with it a large amount of equity

- My car (for a day anyway)

- At times, my dignity

In addition, I've had to learn how to be a single dad (there's no tag teaming when I have my sons), and how to do everything it takes to run a household, because I'm both the mom and the dad in my house the time I have those boys.

I also had to re-learn (or in reality, learn for the first time) how to date. And if you don't think dating is scary, then you obviously are reading my blog for the very first time.

But I still manage to get up every day, put a smile on my face (sometimes admittedly a fake one), and make a step toward embracing these changes as they hit me.

I learn from each loss - what can I do differently in the future to avoid this happening again? I dissect it with the passion of a high school biology teacher dissecting a frog.

I still hate change.
I don't like it when my world comes crashing down around me.

When it happens, I will still have my short bursts of panic/paralysis, maybe a bit of anger thrown in.

But now I know that just because you don't like change, doesn't mean you can stop it.

The only thing that is constant in this world is change.

Nope, you won't find me sitting on a stack of luggage on a scary street corner in London, waiting to be rescued, anymore.

I'll be off searching for that key, so I can find a place to call home for the night.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Letter To My Sons

Dear boys,

We're about to enter a new period in our relationship.

You're about to enter what the world calls the teenage years (Nile, you technically already have, and Grady, you've emotionally been a teenager since birth).

And I'm about to transform from the "Dad You Want To Talk To," to "'Oh No, Here He Comes' Dad."

I'm not sure I'm ready for it.

I already felt the tug at the heart last week when I dropped you off at school. You admitted you wanted me to drop you off on the street instead of the front entrance not because it saved me time, but because you didn't want to be seen with me.

I do understand. Believe me, with your Grandma, when I was your age, I have stories that would give you ginormous knots in your stomach.

But that will have to wait for another time, because I'm talking about the three of us.

Please know, that no matter how stupid and lame I become in the next few years, you are without a doubt the reason that I walk this Earth. We may not have the most traditional family, but that doesn't stop us from having our own kinds of traditions.

So I am going to make sure that I can come up with some non-lame ideas for things we can do together once in awhile, when you're not doing homework, hanging out with friends, attending football, basketball or baseball practice, or generally hiding in your room away from me.

Something that when you're my age, you'll be able to look back at and say "Those were great times."

Ok, now to the really important part of this letter . Girls.

No matter how many times I tell you that you can talk to me about "girls and stuff," I know that you won't. No kid wants to talk to their parents about that. I certainly didn't.

So I'm going to tell you some really important things now that I hope you'll remember.

Don't be someone that you're not for a girl. Be yourself. If they don't like you for who you are, they're not worth it.

Respect not just the girls you like, but even the ones you don't. Because every single one of them is somebody's daughter.

Don't date a girl to impress your friends. Date a girl who impresses you.

Girls will hurt you. It's a fact. But you will survive the hurt.

When they tell you they want to talk, don't roll your eyes.

Oh yeah, one more thing, you're not allowed to date anyone until you're 21.

Love you,


Monday, October 3, 2011

A Date With A Mumbler

My first date back in the single game was quite interesting.

Sure, it wasn't the Hickey Girl, or Tongue Ring Girl, but it was definitely not what I was hoping for.

Christy and I had been texting and emailing for about a week, and I decided I should probably talk to her on the phone before we meet.

When I called her, I could hardly understand anything she was saying.

I had been having trouble with my droid in the past few weeks, so I thought maybe it was just my stupid smartphone. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. WRONG!

On our date, as we sat down at the restaurant and started looking at the menu, I realized something.

First off, the picture she sent me recently saying it was two weeks old was more likely two years old. She looked nothing like her pic. (Ladies, seriously you do yourself no favor by using these tactics).

Secondly, my smartphone was just fine.
She was not.

"I mumble mumble mumble hockey mumble mumble mumble LOVE mumble mumble."

As she repeated her answer, she put her hand in front of her face. Because THAT always helps when you're articulating and enunciating!

"I mumble mumble mumble hockey mumble mumble mumble LOVE mumble mumble."

Ok, so she's loves hockey I think.

As our appetizer came, she dove into them like she hadn't had a meal in months. I was afraid to put my hand near the plate for fear that it might get bit.

"Mumble mumble LOVE mumble mumble these mumble."

Ok, I think she loves the appetizer.

After about 30 minutes, it got so bad I texted a close friend and requested an emergency call - say my son got hurt at football, my apartment is on fire, whatever it takes!

Luckily she ate so fast that we were done before the call could be made.

I quickly walked out to my car, and as I was saying goodbye, I finally understood something she said.
"I'd love to go out again sometime."

I just looked at her with a blank stare.

"Mumble mumble mumble bye!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love Stinks, Yeah Yeah. But Life Goes On, Brah.

So I suddenly find myself single again.

Lady Friend® decided it was time for her to try something different, and we parted ways on relatively good terms.

It was unquestionably gut wrenching, but so very much easier for me this time around than my previous relationships that fell by the wayside.

That's not a reflection of Lady Friend®.

And hopefully it doesn't mean that I'm just getting used to being dumped...but I guess that's possible, too.

All my family and friends, in hindsight, have plenty of thoughts and opinions on the matter.

But frankly, the only opinions that mattered regarding our relationship were mine and Lady Friend's®.

I know that for me, personally, I'd never had a relationship go so smoothly. We could talk about anything, made each other laugh and smile every single day, and very rarely fought.

It was far from perfect - what relationship is? But it was damn good.

But unlike previous break-ups when I sheltered myself away in a self imposed prison with thick walls, not allowing myself the pleasure of enjoying day-to-day life, this one is very different.

There is an empty space in my life where Lady Friend® had been for most of the last year, no doubt.
But I learned, through trial and error, that true happiness has to come from within. You can't derive your happiness from someone else. And this time I didn't.

Yes, my relationship with her increased my level of happiness, but my life was not built around the life of another person.

I guess that's the benefit of being an old fart. You learn from your past, and you avoid feeling the same pain by not allowing yourself to go down paths you already traveled.

I'm a better person for the time I spent with Lady Friend®, and I'm a better person for the lessons I learned as the relationship ended.

One key difference this time, compared to the last serious relationship I had, is that I made sure to have a proper goodbye. That never happened with the previous woman I dated, and to this day I remain dead in her eyes.

So this time around, I won't be sitting on the sidelines watching life go by for the next year and a half.

I'll be out there in the game of life, seeing what happens next.

Yes, love stinks.
But life does go on, brah.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Time I Pissed Myself

Just a little less than three years ago, there was an historic game played at the Metro- dome in the Twin Cities.

The University of Iowa Hawkeyes were playing against the University of Minnesota Gophers in what would be the final college game played by the Gophers in the dome.

The Hawkeyes put on an amazing display, walking away with a 55-0 victory.

And I missed it.

And I had a very good, but stupid reason.

You see I pissed myself.
How does a grown man piss himself you may ask? Well, I'm about to tell you.

Back up to the week before the game. I had some major stress points going on, namely proving to a social worker that I was a good dad, despite my ex wife's attempts to the convince them to the contrary.

I had a lot of work stress at the time as well.
And, I was getting ready to head to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with my then girlfriend the day after the game, so that added to my stress level that week.

But as soon as the social worker left my house, assuring me I was indeed a good dad, the party started. It was about 5 p.m. on Friday, just a mere 24 hours, give or take, before kickoff.

So the party continued as my out-of-town guests began arriving for the weekend, ready to cheer on our beloved Hawkeyes.

In what was a blur of party, I somehow managed to be asked to leave one bar (I mean, really, is it THAT bad to try and get other fans in the bar to start chanting "LET'S GO HAWKS!" at the top of their lungs?), and closed down another.

There was some ketchup drinking, and random dancing with strangers thrown in.

The next morning, I woke up around 8 a.m. or so, still quite intoxicated from the night before. Knowing that I wasn't driving at all that day, I did what any other Hawkeye party animal would do...I had a beer for breakfast. And nothing else.

We then ventured off to our planned tailgate - being held in a bar due to cold weather - which opened at 10 a.m. Yes, despite still being drunk from the night before, I started drinking in earnest again with over 7 hours to go before kickoff.

And the bar we picked had a special going all day for Hawkeye fans. For $30, you got a free t-shirt, and all the beer and brats you could drink and eat.

As the 20 or so people who were planning to meet up at this tailgate began to arrive more fashionably late, it became clear to me that this bar was going to be packed, and the line for the free beer was going to be long.

So I did what any red-blooded Hawkeye fan would do, I started pounding as many beers as I could, as fast as I could, in order to make sure "I got my 30 bucks worf."

And so, by noon, I was absolutely smashed. And for some reason, this was the time that my bff, Gina, decided she needed to check into her downtown hotel room, and convinced me to help her find it.

Now there's something you should know about me. Even though I've lived here for 12 years, I don't know my way around downtown Minneapolis. Sober.

So I sure as hell was no help to her as we left the bar for our "quick" trip to get her checked in and return to the bar.

The rest is a blur. I remember being in Gina's car. I remember calling my gf in Mexico, telling her all the lovey dovey crap that men do when they're stupid. I remember Gina taking my phone and talking to the gf. And then it went blank.

It seems I passed out in Gina's front seat, and there was nothing she could do to wake me up. Nothing. She slapped me. She tickled me. She screamed in my face. I was out to the world. Needed a little beer nap, so to speak.

Not knowing what to do, and still not finding her hotel, Gina drove back to the bar, and still unable to get me to awaken from my beer coma, she left me in her car and returned to the bar.

She or someone else in my group would come out and check on me every so often, to make sure I hadn't woken up and stumbled out into the cold streets of the "Mini Apple."

(SIDENOTE: Let it be known that there is an ordinance in the City of Minneapolis that forbids you from sleeping in your car. I know this firsthand.)

So after a few hours of pulling a Rip Van MGD, somehow miraculously I was finally woken up. And after hours of sleeping, and then hitting the cold air, well there was only one thing on my mind.

While arguing with my friend, Ryan, about whether or not I was sober enough to go to the football game in a few hours, it hit me. I had to piss. Really really bad. And I was on a street in downtown Minneapolis, and had no idea where any bathrooms were.

So mid-sentence as I'm telling Ryan, "I'mmm fiiiiiiiine. I am gogin to duh gaaaaame," the cold air hitting me was replaced with a warm, liquidy burst of spent beer.
"Ok ok....I am not gogin to duh gaaaaaame," I relented.

So my friends found a taxi driver, told him my address, and slipped him some extra money to put up with a urine smelling passenger for the next 30 some minutes.
I made it home safely, and watched the game from the friendly confines of my couch, realizing that had I gone to the game, there was an excellent chance I'd end up in jail, and miss my trip to Mexico the next morning.

A few lessons I took away from this event that I, nor my friends, will forget anytime soon:

1) If you're going to pass out, don't do it in a car in downtown Minneapolis.

2) Ketchup isn't that bad on it's own.

3) Even when a social worker tells you that you're a good parent, it doesn't mean you should get so drunk to celebrate that you piss yourself.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Halloween Only Happens Once a Year

I love Halloween.

There's no doubt that it's my favorite holiday, which maybe makes me some kind of devil worshiping freak in the minds of some.

But alas, I've always loved it.

There is something about dressing up and pretending to be something else - a football player, a movie star, a psycho with a chain saw, or the President of the United States.

When I was in grad school, my ex-wife and I used to always host costume karaoke parties every year.

I decided to try and string together political costumes for a few years.
One year I was JFK back from the dead (complete with entrance wounds in my neck). I couldn't convince my ex to be Marilyn Monroe back from the dead. She didn't share my level of classy awesomeness, I guess.

Another year I was Terry Braindead (a parody of then, and now AGAIN Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad).

Another year I was George Herbert Walker Bush, and made my ex wear a pearl necklace (wait, what?).

You can be anyone you want to be on Halloween. Your imagination is your only limitation.

But the older I've gotten, the clearer it's become that putting on a mask and costume doesn't mean you've become that make-believe person.

Yes, it's easy for one day a year to pretend you're someone else.

But the other 364 days you better not be pretending to be anyone but you.

As I passed my 40
th, and then 41st birthday, I've realized that I wouldn't want to be anyone else but me.

Yeah my hairline is higher than Willie Nelson on tour.

My belly is

I wish that I could grow a kick ass goatee overnight.

I procrastinate, and get distracted easily.

I forget stuff way too often.

And when I'm hungry, I mean really hungry, I get really crabby.

I have a tendency to take things personally, and I am not good at asking people for help when I need it.

My feet stink when I've been on them all day. And I suffer from chronic halitosis.

But that's me, damn it. And I love being this imperfect, old balls dude.

Yes, I want to do some things for my health requiring that I change some of that (goodbye
Hoppy beer, hello water), but I'm not trying to "fix" myself, or become someone other than me.

And you shouldn't either.

It's ok to be a porn star, Steve Bartman, or Hanz and Franz each October.

But the rest of the time, try being you.

And if people don't like it, you tell them Clemmy is hungry (really hungry!) and he told you to tell them to go eff themselves!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bring it on home...

One week from today, my parents will be going back home.

And it is an amazing feeling to know that our worst fears, or even our smallest fears, were never realized.

When we were at the end of two days of dizzying work evacuating them from the Dakota Dunes almost three months ago, we all were saying "Let's hope all this work is for nothing."

And it was.

Despite the record flooding, not a drop of water went into my parents' home, thank God.

Tragedy was averted. The sandbags AND prayers helped us escape the flood.

And while it might be easy to second-guess our efforts, I have to say I'm very happy it happened.
The entire situation made me realize even more than before why I love my hometown, and most importantly, the people there.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. If I ever have to face difficult times, or face a personal tragedy, God willing it would happen in Sioux City.

Because if it did, I know that I would not be left high and dry (pun intended).

But make no mistake, the flood did plenty of damage. The residents of Riv-R-Land Estates, just north of the Dunes, are wiped out, literally. And many residents of the Dunes also are facing either groundwater or floodwater in their homes.

We were lucky, not everyone was.

And for those impacted, I can only say that your neighbors are good people. Probably people you've gotten to know a little bit better through all this. So lean on them. And let them lean on you.

Next weekend, when I toast to my parents' return to their home, I'll also be toasting to my peeps.

Don't listen to the rest of the world, people rock!

Mazel tov!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Time the Auto Mechanic Wouldn't Take My Money

I detest taking my car into the mechanic.

Almost as much as I detest going to the doctor or dentist.

Ultimately, that fear usually bites me in the ass...delaying the visit makes things worse.

I've had my share of fun incidents with cars.

There was the time the engine on my Chevy Celebrity blew up on I-80, 60 miles from my home at the time in Iowa City.

My then wife was out of town, and I had no way to get home other than riding along with the tow truck. Yes, I used a 60 mile tow as my personal taxi.

Or the time my engine blew up on my Saturn. Or the other time my engine blew up on my Saturn.

So, this weekend, when my engine started to sputter, and surge up and down in RPMs, with a check engine light on, I was positive that the auto mechanic would be telling me my Saturn had cancer.

So much so that I was already shopping for used cars that fit my budget, planning to bring a new car home with me to the Tundra from my hometown of Sioux City.

Alas, I was wrong. As I approached the mechanic working on my car, I was prepared for the bad news.

"Well your engine is in incredible shape," he said.

Wait, what?

"Yeah, and I have it running pretty good at the moment. You could probably take it home with you to Minnesota and get it fixed up there, since that's your hometown."

I cringed.

"That's not my hometown. I just live there. This is my hometown," I told him.

I told him I was a little bit nervous, since he said that once my engine got cold, it would probably act up again.

"Well I can't get the part here for 4 days minimum. I bet they have it up in the Twin Cities. Plus then you'll be in your hometown where you know people."

I cringed again.

"That's NOT my hometown. I live there. I grew up here. THIS is my hometown," I reiterated.

I explained to him that this week at work was really crucial for me, and that I couldn't afford to have my car go out on me once I got up here.

"Well don't you have another car up there that you can use?" (THANK GOD he didn't end the question with "in your hometown.")

"No, no, I'm a single dad. No other car. That's all I've got," I told him.

"Well, Steve, if it was me, I'd drive it up to Minneapolis and get it fixed up there."

After a few dizzying moments of having my car doctor telling me to go home and find a different remedy, I put my foot down.

"No, go ahead and order the parts and I'll come back down to pick the car up when you're done."

He shrugged, and agreed...but only after I told him that I didn't want to risk having the car go out on my drive back to Minnesota with my boys in the car.

"Oh you have kids, well, yeah, I guess I wouldn't risk that either."

But he was okay with letting me get stranded in the middle of nowhere?

And so, in the end, we were in agreement. It was much better for me to get my car fixed in my hometown.


Monday, July 18, 2011

In the Blink of an Eye

It was 22 years ago tomorrow that my life changed forever.

A faulty metal fan disk on a DC-10 flying over fly-over country broke off and severed all the hydraulic lines, making the plane nearly impossible to fly.

That faulty metal fan disk, manufactured who knows where, would change my life, and lives of thousands of others, forever.

I was just an 18-year-old know-it-all lifeguard who was more concerned about my tan and where the beer party was at that night. Invincible.

But for the passengers on the plane, that faulty metal disc put them in a lottery for life, injury, or death.

These total strangers who fell from the sky probably had never thought of a faulty metal disc when they boarded the plane in Denver that morning.

I know I had never even really thought much at all about plane crashes in general before that day. It's what happened in the movies and on the TV news.

But for the passengers and crew, the emergency workers on the ground, the volunteers who helped out wherever they could, that faulty disk changed everything. In the blink of an eye.

I'm a better person today than I was before the crash, but that didn't happen overnight.

But the main point is this. You never know when that blink-of-an-eye moment will occur for you, and whether it will change you forever, or end you forever.

So take more risks. Don't be afraid of tomorrow, because it may not come! Live your life deliberately. Enjoy every moment.

Stop worrying.

Whatever it is you need to do, do it.

Because your blink of an eye can happen, well, in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hate to Date? You Will Now!

As I begin to venture back into the dating world, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the top dating stories I've written on my blog over the past few years.

So here we have a collection of funny stories brought to you by the world of dating as a single old dad!

First, we have my
top 5 online dating tips. This is a collection of what I felt, at least in 2009, were the top 5 things to know if you are deciding to venture into the world of online dating!

Second, a little tale about how I ended up at
Golden Corral for my first New Year's Eve date with my former Lady Friend®. Relax, it wasn't her fault - her step dad picked it out!

Next up, we have the bet I made with yet another former girlfriend, on whether we'd end up alone or not.
The winner, er, loser, gets steaks!

And we can't cover that former girlfriend without the story of how
I had to really go # 2 on my date #1 with her, and the situation that prevented me!

The final two blogs I'm sharing are my two personal favorites from my dating days. The stories, NOT the women I went on the date with.

The first of these,
The Tongue Ring Girl, wath jutht purely epic!

But if you want to read what is to this day probably my post popular blog entry, revisit the night I had with
The Hickey Girl.

Happy re-reading, or reading for the first time for my newer fans, and beware the world of dating!