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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

When I was a kid in the 70s, we played kick the can.

Almost every night during summer, when the sun went down, kids in the neighborhood gathered in a back yard with the Folgers or Maxwell House coffee can — or a Well’s Blue Bunny ice cream bucket (gallon-sized) — for an hour or two of hiding and kicking and getting grass stains on our knees. Lots of debate on who was or wasn’t adhering to the rules would ensue. And honestly, I can’t even remember the rules. It didn’t matter then or now.

My kids never experienced the thrill of rushing into a wide open space and sliding into or kicking a can so they wouldn’t have to be “it.” Technology usurped those summer evening back yard games.

I marvel in both admiration and horror as my son now sits and spends his evening with a head set and portable computer chatting in real-time with friends as he plays computer war games.

While the Folgers Coffee can has been replaced with other technology, I’m not so sure it’s ALL for the better.

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Grumpy Old Man

I’m grumpy.

Maybe it’s me, but lately I seem more irritable. This is not a good thing given we’re entering the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.

My mood exudes foulness for various reasons.

First, I’m getting old. At 45 I’m definitely in the middle-age-phase of life. Perhaps I’ve recognized my time is short on this earth. So little things like traffic jams and waiting in line at a retail store check out make my fuse burn faster. Plus, my body is breaking down in areas that mystify me. Twinges in my cervical vertebra; a plantar wart on my right foot thanks to the fitness center shower at work; a sty on my eyelid that refused to go away for months (sounds like I belong in a belltower, doesn’t it?). These medical issues never occurred to the old, young me and if they did, they didn’t last for weeks on end. Apparently reaching 45 also means maladies and conditions that, in many cases, should not be mentioned in writing. Thank God for WebMed.com so I can self-diagnose myself better than my Aunt Martha did back in the ’70s.

Secondly, my gorgeous wife and I are remodeling a bathroom in full DIY mode. We’re both competent, but we’re also learning that days quickly turn to weeks and suddenly the little master bedroom bath project is already a month old and we’re behind schedule. Add to it the war wounds of remodeling – cuts, bruises, sheetrock dust everywhere, and working in a small space with large power tools and only one tiny window for ventilation – and the thought of the project now makes me frown. Fortunately, my wife is my mood counter balancer. We’ve yet to have short words with each other over that little project. We just want to get ‘er done.

The other thing making me angry (at the present moment) is all the Christmas advertising that is invading my space. It’s not yet Thanksgiving, but every retailer in town began airing their TV spots in early November. As if I’m not aging fast enough, the Best Buys and Targets of the world want to rush past Thanksgiving and head long into the Christmas shopping season to make me older, faster. Ummm. No thanks. I’ll wait until after Thanskgiving before I start my Christmas shopping or break out the decorations. Why rush a good thing?

There. Now you know. I’m angry. Don’t cross me.

Or at the very least, don’t ride your brakes in traffic and make me curse you. After all, it’ll be Christmas…soon.

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Ode to The En Dash

Oh en dash! What would my writing life be without you?

Sprinkled in and throughout my paragraphs – separating key thoughts from inane flotsam and jetsam – the concept of not having you at the whim of my fingertips saddens me. Your absence in my day worse than lack of caffeine or the inability to enjoy a vigorous bike ride.

How I truly wish – on this day of National Punctuation – that you, en dash, receive the laudatory credit you deserve for making every professional writer’s life a more enjoyable life. Indeed, it is you, my friend, who I credit for giving my writing meaning. And texture. And purpose.

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A quick scroll of the page tells you the writing bug inside me went into hibernation as the cooler months began to envelop Minneapolis. What’s with the lack of posts, you ask?

Good question.

Without making excuses, I’ll just say the past few months have been good to me. My oldest made it through her freshman year of college with nearly a 4.0 gpa. My youngest, a freshman in high school, continues to mature and become an amazing young man (wondering where he gets it from ;)).  All this, plus I’m in a new home – living with an incredible woman who contributes to my life every day in ways I never even imagined. Throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years celebrations, learning to cross country ski, and planning a trip to Mexico, and there you have it.

So much fodder for writing. And yet, writing has been the last thing on my list. I’m not even resolving to try to write more in 2010. It’s. Just. Not. That. Important. Right. Now.  Like Lennon when he left the Beatles, I’ve left my writing and the myth that I am one of the great writers to gather dust while other things in my life get my attention.

When my muse returns, it will likely do so with a vengence. Til then, I’ll poke around, observe and devleop thoughts for reference at a later date.

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I’m intolerant today. So…

To the Red River, Fargo, Moorehead – and the two 100-year-floods which happened within six years of each other:

Folks, if you knowingly live in a flood plain, quit your whiney complaining. Your options, as you have known since the time you bought the property included flood insurance, sandbags and flood waters. If standing in your living room waist deep in Red River water is no longer fun for you, simply move.

And, City Fathers of both Fargo and Moore(dunder)head: Who are the Ph.Ds who voted to build a public school in a flood plain. Sheesh. I guess just a few hundred thousand people live in Nort’ Dakota for a reason.

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Unexplained Mysteries

Call it unexplained mysteries of the paranormal or segments from Ripley’s Believe It or Not featuring Jack Palance. Any way you slice it, I’ve been part of some unusual events in recent weeks that I can’t explain in full. Is it life playing out in its own tricky fashion or (zhooooo zhweeeee zhooooo [that’s my eerie sound effect]) is it a force from beyond? You decide.

1) Since Nov. 15, I’ve lost 10 pounds. I now weigh 186 and my favorite pants won’t stay around my waist but, sadly, slip down on my hips the moment I rise from my aileron desk chair. An unrefined look in the corporate environ, but c’mon…my favorite pants can’t hang isolated in the closet. So from where does this weight loss stem? I’ve not changed my eating or fitness habits and these 10 pounds were shed during the feeding frenzy of the Thanksgiving and Cristmas holiday season. A time in which I didn’t deprive myself of food. What gives?  (I’m not complaining. I most def needed to lost the 10 pounds.)

2) Bizarre things have been popping out of my mouth lately. Seems my brain waves send motor neuron messages to my vocal cords before fully thinking about the thought. Out pop the words only to land on the floor.  This happened a total of 27 times since Christmas (yes, I’ve counted). Most recently, at a work event celebrating my departmental VP’s 40th birthday I heard my voice sharing tips on how to make the most of her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. Unsolicited advice. That’s a career stopper isn’t it. Damn.

3) I liken myself to being an above average dad on the hipness scale. My 18-year-old daughter, however, disagrees. She continues to shy noisily away from my efforts to stay in touch with her world. And God forbid I show a modicum of care for her in a public place, like her Facebook page.  I don’t creep on her page, much, and I’ve learned never to tag her name to a photo I’ve posted on my page that includes her. When did it become acceptable to just chill with the ‘rentals back when I was a teen?

4) Morrie’s, my Mazda dealer here in the Twin Cities, worked on a squeaky wheel for me back in December. The fix lasted about three weeks. The squeak is back and it’s a complete and utter mystery. It’s a cold-weather-only kind of squeak, but annoying as hell. They replaced bushings and tweaked other parts of the front-end suspension initially. Now I think the only way to rid the car of the squeak is to get rid of the car.

I should stand and stretch after writing and editing this piece. But if I do, well, you know…pants.

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My career in medical device technology began a scant three years ago. But since Feb. 2006, I feel I’ve learned more than I did in my first 18 years in the workforce. And the kicker is I’m learning from some of the smartest people on the planet.

When I joined The Company, I often drove home after a day in the office wondering how I buffaloed the hiring committee into offering me the position. In those early days, clearly, I was a full hat-size smaller than even the most recent college grad who served as Project Specialist I. But I had the job and I wasn’t about to let go of a good thing.

Now, 35 months into The Company, I’ve hit a good stride. I know not only the medical acronyms, but also what they stand for – quite impressive. I know certain details about how heart devices function. I can explain why health care costs have soared in the U.S. in a way most any Joe Six Pack might understand. I comprehend the importance of clinical trials as well as the need to meet regulatory challenges that prove the efficacy of an implantable device designed to save lives.

My career requires me to be a mile wide and an inch deep on hundreds of topics, but because I sit down frequently with people like our chief medical and technology officer (a former cardiologist who left Harvard to join this company and impact the lives of millions of people each year, not just a handful), I’m also able to go deep on the topics that interest me most about health care and medicine. And because I get the honor now and then to hear The Company’s founder speak – (and he happens to wear four or five implants that he played a role in innovating during his time here) – I find it easy to embrace his original mission to help those who face chronic diseases live a full life.

A constant learner with an open mind, this very average Iowa boy who graduated in the middle of his class knows a good thing when he sees it. And baby, I’m surrounded by a very good thing.

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I’m Open

Open to learn. Open to love. Open to parent. Open to hope. Open to change. Open to passion. Open to care. Open to help.  Open to innovation. Open to failure. Open to success. Open to understand. Open to listen. Open to believe. Open to health. Open to teach. Open to laugh. Open to share. Open to be. Open to faith. Open to watch. Open to wait. Open to opinion. Open to freedom. Open to choice. Open to rights. Open to mistakes. Open to sarcasm. Open to improve. Open to acceptance. Open to kiss. Open to intimacy. Open to risk. Open to work. Open to play. Open to rest. Open to travel. Open to warmth. Open to give. Open to create. Open to act.

Open to live.

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It’s heeeeeeeeeere: 2009. Well almost here. It’ll be here when we’re all kissing our sweethearts on New Year’s Eve and falling into bed at 12:06 a.m.

I’m not a resolution guy.  Perhaps it’s because resolutions like, “I will exercise more,” only focus on the “do” in our lives and not on the “be.”  And the “do” we do is done for all the wrong reasons. We “do” something so we can “have” something so we can “be” something else. When we fail on the “do,” the wheels of the plan come off entirely.

So instead of resolving to do something, I’m focusing on being.  It starts with  finding the one area of life you want to positively change, then selecting a word to guide you through the year. Pick a word to remind you to live life on the “be” level.  Instead of “get fit” (do), perhaps you choose the word “health” and focus on making healthy choices the entire year.

My word? Bold.

Short back story: Through the past couple of decades, I got rutted in letting life happen to me. In that time many positive and wonderful things did happen. But I didn’t necessarily play a hand in carving the path with my own machete. No, the path was mostly pre-paved leading to a glass that was just three-quarters full when it should be brimming. My word “bold” will enable me to top off the glass each day – living life intentionally at work, in relationships, at home, in my desire to be fit and happy et al.  With this in the forefront, I’ll change behavior, live more purposefully and take myself out of life on the periphery.

I’ve already practiced using my word in recent weeks. It’s presented me with challenges and  anxious moments resulting in sleepless nights, like any shift in life presents. Being bold has risks, but it’s a step in a direction I must take. Plus, it’s exhilarating to hear my own voice when I say out loud the things that would have previously gone unsaid or take action on something I would have only thought (mightily) about.

I’ll kick bold into full throttle in January and post on my successes and failures during the year.

In the meantime, I’ve picked this John Mayer cover of “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix as my theme song. We all need anthems in life.

Happy New Year. Make it a bold one.

Lyrics

Anger he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armour
Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted
They quietly understand
The once happy turquoise armies lay opposite, ready
But wonder why the fight is on

But they’re all, they’re bold as love, yeah
They’re all, they’re bold as love, love, love
They’re all, they’re bold as love
Just ask the axis

My red is so confident, he flashes trophies of war
And ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring
But it, it’s very unsteady for the first go round

My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact I’m trying to say it’s frightened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from
Giving my life to a rainbow like you

But I’m, I’m bold, I’m bold as love, yeah
I’m bold, I’m bold as love, love, love
I’m bold, I’m bold as love
Just ask the axis

He knows, he knows, he knows
He knows everything

I’m, I’m bold, I’m bold as love, yeah
I’m bold, I’m bold as love, ohh
Been talkin’ to ya
I’m bold, I’m bold as love, yeah.

P.S.  Be sure to wait an extra second on New Year’s Eve before planting that first kiss. A leap second has been added to the clock by the U.S. Naval Observatory. This will be the 24th leap second added since 1972. Thanks U.S. Naval Observatory clock watchers.

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The Poem

I write. It’s a requisite in my career – but poetry writing, notsomuch.  I penned a Haiku back in 2005. That’s been the extent of my poetic efforts until recently. And the problem with suddenly sitting down and writing a poem – even a free-verse kinda poem – is that no matter how attentive you are to your writing, you have no idea if your resulting effort is garbage or glorious or somewhere in between.  What you do know, though, is that it’s yours and it very likely has meaning to one person on the planet. A for-one-person poem may be the most important kind of all. So, let’s hope I won’t wait another four years to wax poetic.

The Party

What’s the right recipe for a great holiday gathering? Friends (new and old) and food.  At least in the Midwest, food is the focal point of all memorable events – including Christmas holiday parties. While an abundance of people and free-flowing alcohol-based beverages can help a party along, we all need sustenance. Give me a shout out if I’m right, people. Chicken is cheap. Meatballs are perfect on the end of toothpicks. Even tofurkey kabobs can be festive and simple – and your guests will depart filled with more than just holiday spirit.

Paint

Tom at Hirshfield’s had all the right answers on Saturday. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite dial in the mix on the Carrington Beige color (the very one used at the infamous Fallon mansion) just right. A small gaffe. We recovered and the remainder of the weekend spent with spackle, brush and roller cruised along uneventfully (are we done yet?).  By the way, Hirshfield’s is a Minnesota-based company that still makes its paints locally.

Patience

I’ve written on patience previously on the blog. It’s a re-occuring thought, though, so here’s some added color on the subject.

As we age, adults tend to draw on more and more patience from within. It’s a maturity thing, I’m convinced. While the oldster driving 20 in a 35-mile-per-hour speed zone used to cause you to curse and lay on the horn, today it creates a slight smile for you know that one day you’ll be old and happy to drive s-l-0-w-l-y to get to the grocery store.  Everything is slower in old age as people operate in the mode of “the slower I go the further I prolong life and postpone death.”  Consider, especially during the last 10 days before Christmas, slowing down, drawing from all your patience and making someone else’s day matter more than your own.

Peace

There’s a phrase during Catholic mass churchgoers use to greet each other: Peace be with you. Maybe it’s used in other churches, too.  Since leaving the church three years ago, I’ve not spoken those words. And yet, suddenly, that very simple statement bounced into my head.  In all the flurry of news depicting muggings of innocent people who are going about their nomal lives, and shoes thrown at Presidents who visit foreign countries that U.S. troops are trying to liberate, and political scandals that inflict pain on an entire state, perhaps now more than ever it’s time to dust off the old “peace” phrase and say it with frequency. What harm could it do? Moreover, what good might it bring others if said at just the right moment – a moment when the mere concept of peace is the last thread of sanity left to hold on to in a world nearly void of any real meaning?

Peace be with you all.

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