What day of the week is someday?

18 Sep

 

Hooray, my TEDx talk from earlier this year is now available online. In it I talk of love and loss while sharing a few stories and insights from the 40×40 year. Hope you enjoy and please share with others. Thanks!

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#39 Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s… 2012?

30 Aug

Around my 39th birthday last year I set out to do 40 things (OK, not just any “thing” – check out the list) by my next birthday.

Somehow, though, I got stuck on 39. But that’s kind of poetic, right? How many people over 40 want to be perpetually 39? (Or maybe it’s 29?)

So, with one to go – “Visit another continent” – I can still say that it was a pretty damn good year capped off by a heck of a 40th birthday party.

V and I invited friends and family from near and far, and guess what? Many of the “fars” showed up! People drove an hour, four hours, seven hours, twelve hours (!) to be at the party. All I can say is, “Wow, I’m truly fortunate to have some of the best friends in the world!”

The biggest surprise, though, happened a week before the party. We were at home having a little celebration on my actual birthday (black bean cake – mmm) when the doorbell rang. I went to the front room and… BAM! I stood there stunned for a moment before realizing what was going on. V’s mom had flown all the way over from Sweden for the celebration! What a fantastic surprise!!!

And the party?? Well, it was pretty much awesome! Celebrated with a bunch of family and friends. Played some live music with a close friend and old band mate. Showed a few slides and told some funny stories from the past year. And danced the night away to my favorite tunes.

I don’t know how I’ll top the year that was, but at least I have one more really cool thing left on the list to look forward to.

Here’s to living life and celebrating whenever we can!

Photo: A little pre-party celebration with my nephews.

Photo: Check. Check. One more run-through before everyone arrives.

Photo: The gang’s together again! With Jon, Matt and Brett.

Photo: Kristi and Tanya looking fabulous!

Photo: Speaking of looking fabulous!

Photo: My sister Beth (aka “The life of the party”) with Nadia and Samir.

Photo: A wonderful reunion! Tanya, Matt, Meghan and Mark.

Photo: Some of my oldest and dearest friends. With Nancy, Cris, Jon and Jody.

Photo: Wow, what a fun night!

#38 Maybe my 7-year old nephew was right?

1 Mar

Wow, I haven’t been that nervous in a long time!

Prior to last night’s comedy workshop and open mic night I felt like I was going to pass out, throw up or both! Instead of “Mystery Item” I should have called this one “Do something that scares the crap out of you and makes you break out in a cold sweat!”

A few weeks ago I told my 7-year old nephew that I was going to do an open mic comedy night.

He asked, “What’s that?”

I said, “It’s where you stand in front of crowd of people and try to be funny.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t do that.”

“Why not? Because of the audience.”

“No, because you’re not funny.” Ouch! Maybe he’s right, though?!?

Anyway, I powered through and did the comedy workshop. I received some positive feedback on the piece I did – great storytelling, strong structure, good use of personal anecdotes – plus some tips on things to improve (like I’m seriously going to quit my day job and do this for a living).

The best part – for me at least – was that the open mic line-up for the night was already full. Phew!!! I know, you might think it doesn’t count then, but there were 20 other comics in the room during the workshop and they’re some of the harshest critics around.

Overall I’m really happy with the experience. And I’ve got a whole bunch of material put together – fear of flying, the one drawer in the kitchen you never want to open, why film cameras are better than digital cameras, kids and “health food,” roller skating as a 10-year old, and more – in case I ever decide to do it again… hahahahaha, now that’s funny!

#37 Game. Set. Match.

29 Feb

Some things in life are hard to explain.

Like how or why did I get so into tennis? No one in my family ever played the game. Heck, I don’t think anyone in the small South Dakota town where I grew up did either.

Maybe it was Wimbledon? I can remember watching tennis on TV as a kid in the 80’s. Since the only courts I’d ever seen were made of concrete, the green grass mesmerized me. I was completely enthralled by the power and artistry of the game on the green lawns of ol’ England.

My first tennis hero in the 80’s and 90’s was Andre Agassi. I loved his crazy clothes and daring style, but most of all I was enthralled by the precision of his strokes. He was like a metronome back there on the baseline – pop-pop-pop. I’m convinced he would have won a bunch more Grand Slams if it weren’t for that dang Pete Sampras!

My all-time favorite, though, is Rafael Nadal. I love everything about his game – the power, the spins, the crazy angles and more. Most of all I love that he’s a fighter (albeit one of the nicest fighters the game has ever seen).

My own game? Well, it’s not nearly as polished of course. I depend on a healthy dose of defense and speed to win a lot of matches. Whatever the final score, though, I just love to play.

I love everything about the game – trying to hit the perfect shot, working on my serve, going for angles… everything!

I read somewhere that singles tennis is the perfect game for introverts and that’s so true! In what other sport are you out there for two or three hours at a time completely on your own? Although it drives me crazy some times, I love the solitude and mental battle that goes into each match.

OK, now on to this past year! And what a year it was!

My goal was to play 60 matches. Mission accomplished – I played 67. I also made several tournament semifinals, survived a number of bruising injuries and finished the year ranked number six in my level and region (USTA Northern 4.0). The highlight, though, was winning the fall Baseline league at the University of Minnesota! That was definitely one of the happiest days of the year for me!

Anyway, I’m a bit of a numbers nerd, so here are some of the stats I kept track of during the year:

Overall record: 42-24-1 (OK, I know there aren’t supposed to be ties in tennis, but you try playing in 100 degree weather with humidity levels pushing 80! Haha)

Total games won: 654
Total games lost: 515
Total games played: 1169

Total matches played: 67
Total time (hours): 134
Total time (days): 5.58

Total miles run: 103.6 🙂

Photo: Very happy after winning the fall league!

Photo: Top of the end-of-year rankings for USTA Northern.

#36 To tattoo or not to tattoo?

27 Feb

For the longest time there were two reasons I didn’t want to get a tattoo.

1) Everyone else was doing it.

When you spend your twenties playing in rock band, the best way to stand out from the crowd is to NOT get a tattoo (or do drugs, but that’s a post for another day).

2) Nothing in life is that permanent.

OK, maybe that’s another silly thought from my youth that just stuck. Of course, some things are permanent like family, love, best friends, etc.

So, when I put this list together nearly a year ago, I thought, “Maybe it’s time to get a tattoo.”

Since that time… well, I’ve had some second thoughts. So, I’ve decided to share my top five reasons for and against getting a tattoo and then let you try to figure out what I did. 🙂

Top five reasons FOR a tattoo:

1) I finally have an idea for a tattoo.

This is a big one because for the longest time I had no idea what the tattoo would be.

On the day that our dear Jasper passed away, we made a clay imprint of one of his paws. For those of you who don’t know the story, J was my best friend for nearly a decade. Together with V and Zooey, we went everywhere and did everything together. What better way to remember him than with a tattoo of his paw print.

2) It’s on the list.

OK, so this one’s not as persuasive as number one, but there’s something about putting it in writing that means it has to happen.

3) I’m older now.

Which means I’m no longer trying to be cool. Actually, I don’t think I was ever cool!

4) Larry Mullen Jr. has a tattoo.

Larry Mullen Jr. is a drummer. I’m a drummer. Enough said.

5) I know where I’d get a tattoo.

Sounds silly, but deciding where to get a tattoo is half the battle, right? That was an easy one for me – upper left arm. Yup, that’s it. Just feels right.

Top five reasons AGAINST a tattoo:

1) Ouch!

You know how it’s a really bad idea to go online when you’re not feeling well and read about all the mysterious ailments you might have? Yup, same thing when you’re thinking about getting a tattoo!

2) The “no return” policy.

It’s not like when you buy a pair of shoes and they don’t fit. Once you get a tattoo, you get a tattoo. Since I’m an indecisive, semi-perfectionist this isn’t very comforting.

3) I appreciate the honesty, but…

From an actual FAQ for a local tattoo shop: “This allows your skin to push out as much fluid and excess ink as it can while keeping it moist and protecting it from any potentially harmful substances.” Hmm, that doesn’t sound like fun.

4) Seems worse than a bad sunburn.

From the same FAQ: “During healing, your tattoo may flake, scab, or peel—this is totally normal.” Umm, last time I checked it isn’t “completely normal” for skin to just flake, scab or peel.

5) The needle.

Enough said. (Although in recent years I’ve learned to “accept” the random vaccination… kind of like I’ve learned to “accept” runny eggs and temperatures below zero.)

OK, remember those “choose your ending” books from your childhood? So, what do you think – did I get a tattoo after all or not???

#35 The writing’s on the web

22 Feb

So one of my goals this year was to was to “get published (print or online) in a national publication.” While that didn’t exactly happen, there were a few exciting developments on the writing front this past year.

The magazine that I co-founded – Momentum – had another great year! We published three more print versions along with a number of online-only stories that have been re-posted by the Utne Reader and others. Our magazine team also took home more than a dozen regional and national awards including the best overall in our division from the Minnesota Magazine and Publishing Association. And we successfully expanded the platform by launching the Momentum speaker series.

There were really three big highlights for me personally, though. The first was interviewing Nobel winner Wangari Maathai just months before she passed away. I still can’t believe a woman of her stature took the time to speak with our little magazine. The second was the Momentum event this past May with legendary ocean explorer Sylvia Earle (if you haven’t seen the video, check it out!). I can’t remember another talk that actually brought tears to my eyes. I can still hear her saying, “Once you know, there’s no excuse.” Finally, the third highlight is our most recent – and most ambitious – issue of the magazine yet. We asked over two dozen global environmental leaders variations of the question “What would it take to solve some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges?” I’m really proud of this issue and inspired by many of the interviews. Maybe there is hope yet!

On a more personal front, I’m pleased that I was able to keep this blog going all year! 🙂 Also, it was really cool to be “fresh pressed” by WordPress not once, but twice this past year! It’s super exciting seeing the blog stats and comments spike for a few days when that happens.

So, what’s next? Well, I’ve always been a bit of an “instinctual” writer, but there’s so much I still have to learn. I just borrowed a book from a colleague on “writing well.” Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a bunch of tips and get serious about that book (or was it books?) I always wanted to write!

(Oh, and I wouldn’t mind getting fresh pressed a couple more times. That’s fun!)

#34 Click! My 22 favorite photos from 2011

29 Jan

I’ve always loved taking photos, but ask me what makes a great picture and I’d probably say, “Luck.”

So, I decided to call up Sarah (of the award-winning Sarah Beth Photography) to see if I could learn a few tips from a professional photographer.

Over the course of an hour I learned all about framing, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lens length, file formats, editing (hooray for white balance) and way more! Wow, I have a totally new level of respect for professional photographers!

The most important lesson of all? Well, there were actually two of them.

First, I need to buy a DSLR and just start experimenting. I’ve always been a little overwhelmed by all the controls on DSLR’s, but with a few tips and words of encouragement from Sarah, I think I’m ready to take the plunge.

Second thing I learned? There is SO much I don’t know about photography and photo editing! But, that’s exciting, too, because it means there’s so much to learn.

Hope you like my favorite photos from 2011. And watch out because with all these new photography tips, 2012 is going to be amazing!

Click! Click! Click!

Photo: Sunrise over the Swiss Alps – my favorite photo of the year (Nendaz, Switzerland)

Photo: Disappearing down a back alley (Nice, France)

Photo: V on our tenth anniversary (Charmey, Switzerland)

Photo: U2 live – or is it? (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: Sunset over Lake Mendota (Madison, WI, USA)

Photo: Welcome to the hobbit trail (Montreux, Switzerland)

Photo: The Mill City district near the Stone Arch Bridge (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: Bachalpsee high above the Alps (Grindelwald, Switzerland)

Photo: The end of summer (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: Evening on the St. Croix River (Afton, MN, USA)

Photo: Hiking a slot canyon (New Mexico, USA)

Photo: IMD graduation party (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Photo: Joaquin rockin’ out in the basement (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: The toy doesn’t stand a chance (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: Dusk falls on the Mississippi River (Reno, MN, USA)

Photo: A burst of fall color in the city (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: Alone in the Alps (Grosse Scheidegg, Switzerland)

Photo: A perfect day on the St. Croix River (Afton, MN, USA)

Photo: Star Wars birthday cake (Minneapolis, USA)

Photo: Zooey goes for a swim (Afton, MN, USA)

Photo: Sun and “Terre Battue” (Monte Carlo, Monaco)

Photo: Window seat (Greenland)

#33 Caught between a meditation rock and a hard place

3 Jan

I’m the world’s worst meditator.

Seriously.

First off, sitting cross-legged on the floor gives me leg cramps. So, then I lie down or move to a comfy chair and guess what? Yup, half the time I fall asleep.

Then there’s what those in the know call “monkey mind.” You see, one of the goals of meditation is to clear your mind of thoughts. But for some people – like me – that’s nearly impossible. Our thoughts are like a bunch of monkeys jumping from branch to branch in our mind.

Damn, monkeys.

But I need it. Oh, how I need it, and that’s why I keep going.

You see, I’m what they call a “worrier” – oh no, not someone who worries a little now and then. I mean a hardcore, teeth-grinding, stomach-churning, illness-inducing kind of worrier.

And I know where it comes from, too – my mom. She was the exact same way. She’d worry about dinner. She’d worry about the snow. She’d worry about the lint in the dryer.

One day the worrying caught up with her, and tragically a blood vessel burst in her brain and I never saw her again. I don’t want to end up like that. So, I meditate. Or at least I try to meditate.

I’m supposed to do it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. I’m lucky to get to three. By that time I realize there’s something I need to add to my to-do list, I’ve had a flash of creative brilliance and reach for a pen and piece of paper, or I realize that I’m hungry/bored/or there’s that one Friends re-run on TV that I don’t want to miss.

But I keep trying. Hoping one day I’ll rise up like Batman and strike down that Joker-faced stress that keeps taunting me.

Trust me, I really do want to succeed at this.

You know how some people wish for a new car or a new job or a lot of money? Me? This will sound silly, but I just wish for happiness.

I wish for a day when those monkeys will stop jumping around in my head. And my stomach.

I wish for peace and calm in a land free of worry. Not this constant circuit board of sparking wires in my mind.

They say one of the best things you can do is relax… live in the moment. I hope I figure that one out, too, since my eyes are so tired from always looking to the future.

So I meditate, and maybe fall asleep, and then meditate some more. Hoping for the day when all my thoughts will take their seats like good little children and allow me to dial back the motor in my head a couple notches. At least for 15 minutes.

Photo: Calm on the outside. Stormy on the inside.

#32 Ready. Set. Hike!

27 Dec

I don’t think the Minnesota Vikings are going let me through the gate anymore. Why? Here are the scores of the three games I’ve been to:

New England Patriots 31, Minnesota Vikings 7 (10/30/06)

Chicago Bears 40, Minnesota Vikings 14 (12/20/10)

New Orleans Saints 42, Minnesota Vikings 20 (12/18/11)

And none of the games have really been that close. But my football story starts a long, long time ago…

One of the earliest photos I have is of a two-year old me holding a football that’s nearly as big as I am (photo below). It’s kind of funny, though, because I don’t recall my parents being all that into sports. Must have been the only prop the photographer had lying around.

The real football obsession started when we moved to Georgia. Throughout the south kids get into the game at a really early age. In first grade I was playing full-contact football in an organized league. We probably weren’t all that good, but I loved it!

Around this time I also became a life-long Steelers fan.

People often ask me, “Why are you a Steelers fan if you never lived in Pittsburgh?”

My response? “If not the Steelers, than I probably would have been a Rams fan.”

You see, the first game I remember was Super Bowl XIV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams after the ’79 season. The Steelers ended up winning the game, but if it had gone the other way, I’d probably be a suffering Rams fan to this day (Thank goodness that didn’t happen!).

We left Georgia for South Dakota in the spring of 1980, and right away I missed my neighborhood friends and our backyard football games. To pass the time on the ranch, day after day I kicked the ball in the air and then would run and catch it. Most days I was out there in the rain, sun or snow doing this until darkness fell.

My favorite times, though, were when my friends Matt or Jon would come over. I can remember playing football for hours and hours with final scores that were something like 335-333 or 280-270 (who knows how we kept track!).

During Junior High I moved from playground football back to organized football. I remember the coach wanted me to play linebacker, but I was never mean enough to be a good linebacker. Plus, I wanted to play the glamour position – wide receiver! Which made sense, too, since I was always one of the fastest guys on the team.

I only played during my freshman and senior years in high school, but that senior year was amazing! We started fast and were ranked number one in the state, until a heartbreaking late season loss to number two-ranked Lead knocked us into a funk that we never recovered from.

When I moved to the Twin Cities, I thought my playing days were over, but that’s when I met a bunch of guys and started playing in an indoor league at the Metrodome. We were never really that good, but it was always such a thrill to walk out onto the field of a real NFL team (even though the Metrodome field was like a quarter-inch of green felt on top of concrete).

On one occasion I recall catching a beautiful sliding touchdown pass. Only problem was that the defender was running full speed behind me and his knee landed squarely in the center of my back. I think it took me a couple months to fully recover. V liked to ask me, “Why do you enjoy doing something where you get hurt each week?” Hmm, isn’t that kind of the point of football?

Nowadays I’m lucky to get out and toss the ball around once or twice a year, if that! I’m still a huge Steelers fan, though, but I have a secret… I can’t watch them play! It makes me too nervous, so I usually record the games and then watch later if they win.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the photos. The last two are from the most recent Vikings game that I went to with friends Matt, John and one of John’s co-workers. Another Vikings blowout (of course), but we had fun! Next time I’ll have to make it to a Steelers game, though. If I can bear to keep my eyes open and watch that is. 🙂

Photo: My first football

Photo: The early days as a NY Jets fan

Photo: Playing for the Lithonia Bulldogs in 1st grade, 1978

Photo: My all-time favorite Christmas present. And guess what…

Photo: It still fits! (Well, sort of – haha)

Photo: Enjoying the snow… in my Steelers snow suit!

Photo: Playing soccer… in a Steelers jersey!

Photo: Going to a Denver Gold (USFL) game… in my Steelers coat!

Photo: Striking a pose on the ranch… in my Steelers vest!

Photo: Ahh, my favorite school photo (had to talk my mom into this outfit!)

Photo: Middle school football (with my sister to the right)

Photo: Yup, still have my high school jerseys

Photo: Outside for the Vikings in ’10 (Favre’s last game – maybe!)

Photo: Inside for the Vikings in ’11

#31 I think there’s a trail down there somewhere?

18 Dec

The first time I went skiing was with Eric W. back in high school. He taught me how to snow plow on the bunny hill at Deer Mountain. After a few runs he said, “OK, you’re ready, let’s go to the top of the mountain.” I was so naïve I thought I was ready, too.

Hold on… that wasn’t the first time I went skiing (my memory vault is creaking open)! The first time I went skiing was with my dad and sister at small hill near Devils Tower in Wyoming when I was a kid (there goes the memory again). Hmm… I do remember taking my skis off halfway down the first run and walking the rest of the way.

Either way, I love skiing now!

I love being outside high in the mountains. I love the feeling of being right at the edge of control and crash. I love the big open gliders coated with a couple inches of fresh powder. I love the solitude of a perfect run at the end of the day as the lifts are shutting down.

I was really fortunate to be able to going skiing twice this year in the Alps – once at Verbier and another time at Saas-Fee. (Truth be told, my favorite resort is still Big Sky in Montana, though!)

The most recent trip was to Saas-Fee with V and her brother Daniel.

The village of Saas-Fee is like something out of Swiss-German fairytale. No cars are allowed, so all you have are groups of people strolling down winding streets filled with hotels, restaurants and ski shops. The experience was made even better by the fact that due to a computer glitch we managed to snag a room right on the slopes for 90 Swiss Francs – a steal! 🙂

Since it was still early season, we had to travel halfway up the mountain to find the open runs. After a few practice runs, though, we decided to head all the way to the peak.

Traveling to the top of Saas-Fee requires a three-part journey – first a cable car, then a two hundred yard walk through a mountain cave and finally a tram that runs through the middle of the mountain to the summit.

On the day we visited, snow was lightly falling at the mid-mountain point, but at the peak – blizzard! We stepped out of the tram into near whiteout conditions.

I’d remembered the signs saying: You’re now skiing on a glacier, so stick to the marked trail to avoid crevasses. “Great! We can’t even see the trail!”

Eventually we got our bearings and found the trail… and a foot of powder!

All in all, it was another spectacular day skiing in the mountains.

Heck, just about any day in the mountains is a good day, though!

Photo: Sunrise over the Alps.

Photo: Skiing Verbier with Mont Blanc and the French Alps in the distance.

Photo: Kasper, Karen and V with the town of Verbier far below.

Photo: Taking a break after another great day of skiing.

Photo: V and Daniel high above Saas-Fee.

Photo: Looking for the trail in a blizzard.

Photo: Taking a break for lunch.

Photo: Daniel looking happy on the slopes.

Photo: V near the 11,482 foot peak.

Photo: The last ones down the mountain.