An unlikely critic

The other day I was dropping my son off at preschool.  One of the other boys ran up to me and asked, “Why is your belly so big?” I tried to ignore him, but he kept bothering me as I tried to say goodbye to my son.  Finally I looked at him and said, “I don’t know,” not the truth, true enough, but I was hoping that this would make him go away.  No such luck.  He pointed his finger at me and said, “You eat too much!”

Normally I would just shrug off something like this, but it bothered me all day. The problem that I had (besides the fact that he was reminding me how out of shape I am) was his tone.  This little imp wasn’t doing the typical kid without a filter routine.  No, he was intentionally being mean. Now, from my little interaction, this made little difference, but I started to wonder a couple of things.  First, was this how he treated the other kids in class? Is he one of the kids that makes fun of my son for being short? (No kidding here. Preschoolers already being mean to each other.) The other thing that bothered me was that he was obviously mimicking things that he had heard from his parents.  The kid probably asked about me (or some other overweight person) and instead of having a discussion about the many factors that could make someone be overweight, or perhaps about not judging people by the way they look, he was likely just shooed away with “he/she eats to much.”

Anyway, it put me in a bad mood. I suppose in a backwards way it motivated me. In any case, I just want to say to parents: Teach your children well.


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Blog Reboot

It’s been over a year, and I have decided to pick up blogging once more. More than anything, this has to do with keeping myself accountable for my own well being.  I am still dealing with my depression, but I have decided that I need to work on physical fitness.  The other day I got on the scale and was horrified at what it was telling me: 309.  A mere three years ago, I was around 240.  That is insane folks.  There are reasons (excuses, really) for how this got out of control, but I can’t help but feel that it has a major bearing on my mood.

 So I am shifting gears as of today.  I’ll still mention mental health in passing, but this is all about losing weight, exercising more, eating better, and becoming healthier.  There is more to come, I promise.  Expect a visual makeover, for one.  

In the meantime, I will leave you with this.  Today is Wednesday, and I “started” on Sunday.  I have not killed myself exercising, nor starved myself.  Instead I am getting back into shape slowly, and eating sensibly (more on both later.) The result: according to my handy dandy app, I have lost 7.2 pounds so far.  Eat your hearts out, Biggest Losers.


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Goals for 2012


I shouldn’t say that everyone makes a New Year’s resolution.  In fact, I think that the majority of people that make resolutions either want to a) lose weight or b) stop smoking.  Well, as it is, I have already quit smoking several years ago, so I guess I fall into the former category.  But instead of making specific resolutions, I am going to make lifestyle changes with specific achievements that aren’t necessarily goals, but if I achieve them it will be a signpost, if you will, that I am achieving the things that I want to do.

1) Goal: Get back in shape.  Lose weight, trim down, lower blood pressure.  These are all reasons that I would like to get into shape.  The last couple of years I have had halfway legitimate excuses for not exercising (recovering from three separate surgeries, after all.)  I still should have eaten better than I did.  So eating less, less junk fast food, regular exercise will be on the list. 

Signpost: Ride in the BikeMS Pedal the Plains.  I was excited to participate last year, but back pain sidelined me from training, and back surgery ultimately kept me on the sidelines.  If I do finish, I am contemplating getting a zipper tattoo on my scar to remind me of both last years disappointment and this years achievement.

2) Goal: Be mentally healthier.  The day to day moments of the last couple of years have really kept me down, despite those momentous moments that would otherwise have put me in great spirits.  Lifestyle changes will help, along with staying up to date on my medications and exercise. 

Signpost: Getting a job that I really enjoy.  Going for more money might not even be particularly important at this point.  I need to do something that doesnt add exponentially to my stress.

3) Goal: Read.  As I have stated before, the last half of last year, I started reading again.  My goal for my 35th year was to read 50 books.  The count now stands at 23, with most of those being back loaded at the end of the year.  I amended that to say that I was going to read 10 classics.  I still may be able to hit both goals.

Signpost: War and Peace.  It is in hand, and it will be conquered.  I am looking forward to finishing but not for the satisfaction of finishing itself, but for the satisfaction of a well told, incredible story.

4) Goal: Write.  Reestablishing this blog has been a good step.  Writing is an outlet, no matter if it is the truth or fiction.

Remington Typewriter

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Signpost: Having a rough draft of a novel done.

Well, that’s it for me.  How about you?


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Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.


1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control


1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012




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Photo Favorites: South Dakota

Although I have lived in South Dakota nearly all my life, before this summer I had only been out west to see our most famous attraction, and at that time I was so little that I didn’t even remember the trip.  So when the family went to Rapid City to visit our niece for her birthday, I made sure that the Lovely Wife, Little Guy, Baby Girl and I went to see The Shrine of Democracy at Mount Rushmore.

I don’t pretend that my picture is any greater than others taken, but seeing it in person makes the photo special for me.  Make sure to click on the full size version, so you can see the fissures and lines in the granite.

A visit is highly recommended as no two dimensional photo can really do it justice.  There are two things about the carving that I especially like.  Washington’s visage, stoic but determined, seems to me to capture what he must have been like as a general and president.  The other thing is Jefferson’s positioning.  Originally the faces were all supposed to be side by side, but the rock didn’t cooperate, which is why you see the staggered placement.  I think it adds something to Jefferson, though–looking out over Washington’s shoulder, seeing the possibility and potential future of the United States.

Worth the trip is also the Black Hills themselves, known to the Lakota as Paha Sapa.  It is easy to see how this would be considered sacred ground.

And of course, although not finished, be sure to visit the monument in progress depicting Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (a better translation is His Horse is Spirited).  Crazy Horse Memorial is massive.  I am probably not the only one who wonders if it will ever be finished.

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Confessions of a Book Lover, Part 2

Cover of "Blockade Billy"

Cover of Blockade Billy

This year for my birthday, I received two books: Liberty by Garrison Keillor and Blockade Billy by Stephen King.  They were both enjoyable reads that I read that same weekend.  I decided that I would make a goal for my self.   I was going to read 100 books for my 35th year.  That lasted about 2 minutes when I realized that 2 books a week might be a little bit (OK, quite a bit) too much to handle.  I decided that I would revise that goal to 50.  At a month to go before the half way point, I am actually doing pretty well–the count stands at 19.

But as I was looking at the list, I decided that it was time to refocus and recalibrate.  I love reading, but the reason that I set a specific goal is that I aspire to be a writer.  Almost every writer who talks about the craft has at least one piece of advice if you want to be a writer yourself: read.  I realized that I was picking up something that I had around the house, or an interesting looking book at the dollar store, or some pretty short books.  Now, I can’t say any of the books that I have read so far have been bad.  Quite the contrary.  But quite a few have been easy, leisurely reads.  For example: Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.  Now, if you have read this book, you know that it is a heartfelt tribute to a beloved mentor.  It is full of wit and wisdom.  Truthfully a very good book.  But I finished it in one sitting.  While it had life lessons, it didn’t evoke feelings about myself, or make me question how I felt about certain things.

I decided that I was going to read 10 “classic” works.  Looking at my list, I had three that could easily fall into that category: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Seven more to go.  I could do this.

mark twain Category:Mark Twain images

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Over Christmas, good luck smiled upon me.  On Lovely Wife’s side of the family, the adults draw names for gifts.  From my brother-in-law, I received a $25 dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble.  What a perfect gift.  Yesterday I made my mini-pilgrimage and picked up four books.  One relatively short: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger;  Two “regular” sized: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; and one long one: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  So that makes seven.  Somewhere in the next seven months I also plan to read an epic novel.  Yup, that one.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  If that was accomplished, that would leave two more to go.  In case of a time crunch, I already have a plan: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  If I finish and have plenty of time to spare, I can revert back to my original goal.

Perhaps it is interesting to note that while you may not have been able to tell me who wrote Liberty or Blockade Billy, I’d be willing to wager that you didn’t need me to tell you who wrote most if not all of my classic selections.  Hmmm.

Anyway, wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted.

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The Heart Attack Cyclones

I grew up in a football household.  To be clear, however, it was never a Sunday ritual.  Real football in my family has always been watched on Saturday.  Cheerleaders, traditions, marching bands, mascots, student *snicker* athletes.  College football.

I was born and raised a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan.  For years dad and I would make the pilgrimage to Lincoln, finding some tickets and cheering on the team, two tiny specs in the Great Sea of Red.  I used to lament the fact that a lot of times they wouldn’t win the big one, or their bowl game.  Somehow I didn’t know how good I had it, cheering for a team that won 9 or 10 or 11 games every year.

Logo for the Iowa State Cyclones.

Image via Wikipedia

My team would eventually become something completely different.  Sometimes hapless.  Often mediocre.  Occasionally decent.  I had adopted the team of my alma mater, the Iowa State Cyclones.  Being a fan of the Cyclones in great.  Incredible tailgating.  A great student section.
Our beloved mascot, Cy.  A heated rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes that has picked up steam in recent years.  But then you have to watch the football games.

It hasn’t been easy over the years.  In the years that I attended the University, my team would compile a record of 10-34.  Eventually they would clean up their act a little and go to a couple of lower tier bowl games.  But watching games was like anticipating a heart attack.  Sometimes I kid my wife that she should get on the phone and dial 91 and wait.  Seemingly no lead is safe.  A heck of a team to pick for someone who suffers from depression, no?

But then three years ago, Paul Rhoads was hired as heard coach.  Now, there haven’t been any National Championships.  But the culture is changing.  The Cyclones beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln for the first time in over thirty years.  They beat the Texas Longhorns for the first time ever.  And who wouldn’t want to play for this guy:

I mean, seriously.  I am 35, out of shape, and not athletic to begin with, and I want to crash through a wall like the Kool-Aidguy.

Paul Rhoads

Image via Wikipedia


This year was sort of a break through.  Sure, their record currently stands at 6-6.  But there was a lot of fun in between.  There were come from behind wins, like the game against Iowa.  Beatdowns like the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  But to cap it off was the incredible, come from behind, best win in program history against the then number 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Cyclone fans are a little disappointed that OSU didn’t get a chance to play LSU for the National Championship.  If the outside chance that the Cowboys won, we could have said that our team beat the National Champions.  No matter.  This seems to be a team that is turning a corner.    Maybe I am, too.


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Christmas Traditions I Don’t Understand

Around this time of year, we start doing strange things that just don’t happen any other time of year.  Some of them are great.  Making lots of cookies.  Giving gifts to those we love.  But there are a few that have always had me a little perplexed.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe

When in the history of the world has this ever worked for anyone (besides movies of course)?  Think about it.  You are either creepily hanging out under the mistletoe, and people are noticing this and staying the heck away.  Or you have waited all night for that special person to walk by you.  When you see them approaching you stand up and rush over there, but mis-time yourself and run into your sister or your Uncle Ed.  Even now that I am married it doesn’t make sense.  I don’t need a reason (or a specific location) to kiss my wife.


Why do people keep up the charade of liking this disgusting stuff?  You are liars.  Liars!  Is it because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the people who are serving it?  Why don’t you sit down with them and have a little talk.  They probably hate it but continue to serve it because they think your feelings would be hurt if they didn’t.  From today on I am starting a new Christmas beverage tradition.  Merry Christmas!  Have a Scotch on the rocks.

Radio Stations that Switch Over to All Christmas, All the Time 

Really?  Yes, people do like Christmas music.  Apparently this year they also liked Rebecca Black.  Yet I don’t see any stations playing All Rebecca Black All the Time.  So do us a favor.  Continue to play Metallica, or Lady Antebellum, or The Beatles, or whatever is right for your format.  Have a designated Christmas time slot.  It will give us an idea of when we should schedule making our cookies.

Candy Canes

English: A Candy cane, against the background ...

Image via Wikipedia

A few problems here.  I don’t especially like peppermint.  They take forever to eat.  And as you are sucking on a candy cane, it turns into a sharpened stick of eye gouging, tongue piercing perfection.  All with a handy-dandy handle.  No, if you want to serve something minty, please have some Andes mints around instead.  My tongue thanks you.

The Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays Debate

Mr. Burns

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This one seems to only have picked up steam in the last decade or so, but it is annoying, isn’t it?  Do you really think people are sitting in their office, maliciously thinking of ways to undermine Christmas while they sneer and tent their fingers together à la Mr. Burns?  I have two hypotheses about how “Happy Holidays” came about.  1) It is a heck of a lot easier that saying “HaveaMerryChristmasandaHappyNewYear” *gasp for air*.  2) Happy Holidays covers both Christmas and Hanukkah, which (and I don’t know if people have noticed this) happen to fall around the same time every year.  I see you in the back raising your hand.  People are just saying “Happy Holidays” to advance their secular agenda?  Hogwash.  If this was their honest intention, wouldn’t they say “Happy Day Off of Work”?  Or at least say “Happy Holidays” with a sneer in their voice?  I haven’t experienced either.

So Merry Christmas,  Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays.

Really.  Have a great one.  But spare the eggnog.  I’ll have a scotch.

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The South Dakota Pronunciation Guide

So I noticed that recently I have been mentioning my great home state in a lot of my posts.  I decided that I should start occasionally posting about interesting things about the Rushmore State (interestingly enough, when I was a kid we went by the Sunshine State.   Who where they trying to kid?).

For the first post, I decided to included a handy-dandy, perhaps unintentionally humorous pronunciation guide.  In the great tradition of States on the upper great plains, we don’t pronounce things like they should be pronounced.  Nebraska has Beatrice (bee-AT-riss) and Norfolk (NOR-fork), while Iowa has Madrid (MAD-rid) and Nevada (nuh-VAY-duh).  It’s a strange phenomena, of which South Dakota is not immune.

The first is our state capitol, Pierre.  Raise your hand if you pronounce it (PEE-air).  You’re killing me, Smalls.  The correct pronunciation is (PEER).  Now go to your closest fourth grader and sheepishly admit that they were right.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Oh, and if you did have it right, feel free to smugly gloat.  You are probably from around here.

English: I took this photo on July 12, 1999 at...

Image via Wikipedia

Next is Belle Fourche.  This could go so many ways, couldn’t it?  But I bet that you weren’t expecting it to be (bell FOOSH).  Yeah, I don’t get it either.

How about Sinai?  In an odd manner of vowel juxtaposition, this is pronounced (SIGH-nee-eye).  It doesn’t have to make sense.  It’s South Dakota.

Lake Andes.  Sounds like a beautiful mountain vista in South America, no?  rearranging the syllabic emphasis, it is pronounced (lake an-DEES).  And it is located on the flat side of the state.

While we are on the subject of emphases, let’s talk about Aberdeen.  The truth is, a lot of South Dakotans get this one wrong.  A true Aberdonian would pronounce this (ABER-deen).

If you get thirsty, consider a trip to Beresford (BEERS-furd).

Hayti might make you stop to think that this is pronounced like the country, albeit with an alternate spelling.  Nope.  It’s (HAY-tie).

Last but not least is Jefferson.  It is in fact pronounced Jefferson.  But once upon a time it went by Adelescat.  You might find it interesting to know that it was named after a girls missing cat.  That’s right.  Adele’s cat.


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Faith and Prayer: Part 4

St. Joseph Cathedral, Sioux Falls
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After I had completely finished with school, I moved back to my hometown and got my career underway.  Soon afterward, I got a letter from my high school choir director, who was also the choir director at the local Cathedral.  The Bishop was commissioning a new all-male choir, and the members would be assembled by invitation.  I was proud that apparently my skills were enough to warrant my consideration.  unfortunately, I was working a God-awful 1pm to 10pm shift, and would never be able to make it to practice on time.  So the charter members of the Sioux Falls St. Joseph Cathedral Schola did not include me.

It was shortly after this time that I would meet the woman who would eventually become my Lovely Wife.  I guess we’ll call here Lovely Girlfriend for now.  Much to the consternation of my mother, Lovely Girlfriend was not Catholic, but rather Lutheran.  As we dated we both attended each other’s services at one time or another.  We dated for a while until she broke up with me.  I was a little confused, but I think it had a little to do with my living arrangements (yes, I had moved back in with my parents for awhile).  In the mean time, I met and began hanging out with another girl, who in our household is now sometimes facetiously referred to as She Who Shall Not Be Named (Lovely Wife doesn’t like to think about this time period).  SWSNBN was also very straight forward about her faith, which we openly discussed.  I also attended church services with her on occasion, at the Reformed Church of America in her home town.  One night, SWSNBN had agreed to meet with her ex for dinner one night.  Feeling that I didn’t really have a say in this (as we weren’t officially “dating”), I didn’t ask her not to go, but inside I was stressing out considerably.  So confused, that night I threw out the rote prayers of my Catholic background and pleaded with God to let me know what I was supposed to be doing here.  When Jesus met the blind man on the road to Emmaus, and asked “What do you want me to do?” the answer was “Lord, that I may have my sight.”  While he was looking for a return of his physical sight, I just wanted some insight on my future.  Did it involve Lovely Girlfriend?  SWSNBN?  Someone else?  I loved them both, but as it looked, to me it seemed that I would end up with neither.  Lord, that I may have my sight.

As it turns out, I did get back together with Lovely Girlfriend, who would become Lovely Fiance and eventually Lovely Wife.  I don’t forget the lesson that is often put “Let go and let God,” but there are still sometimes that I think over and over Lord, that I may have my sight.

Lovely Wife would go through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes to become Catholic, with me as her sponsor.  Although the question wasn’t completely settled, we thought it was best to at least start out on the same page.  In the meantime, I attended Bible studies with her, at first with a group from her Lutheran church, and later with a group from her best friend’s Methodist church.  I learned a great deal about my faith from attending these Bible studies and RCIA classes.

It was also around this time that I ran into my choir director, who assured me that “The invitation is still open,” for me to join the group.  Having a more amenable work schedule at this time, I excitedly accepted the invitation.  The music that we sang was incredible.  It was a mix of contemporary hymns, classical pieces (some of my favorites being 16th century polyphony) but perhaps most distinguishable, the Schola specialized in plainchant from the Pius X hymnal.  The music moved me, and gave me the feeling that I was ministering to others in my own way.

Coming in Part 5: Pain, questioning, and another reveal.


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