Dogs Rule

I just love dogs. I do. I have worked the algorithms to the point where I see more dog things than I do people things, and I am a happier social media person because of it. I follow several dog pages, and I want to meet every one of the dogs I see. They are just happy creatures, they like food at all times, and they just make things better.

Of course, my girl Zelda is my favorite, even when she makes me crazy. But when she is in the mood to snuggle, she is the best and I just love her. She is a very protective dog, and I have to keep an eye on her when we go on walks. She can be mean, but if she loves you, she will give you a butt wiggle and let you love her right back. I have said many times how she rescued me just as much as I did her, and we are a pair, that’s for sure.

My sister currently has 3 dogs. I was down to visit on Thanksgiving. She has Bo, Wally and Patti, and they are some interesting doggos too. Bo usually won’t give me the time of day. Wally was a hand-me-down dog, they took him in when a neighbor wasn’t able to keep him. He is a load, and he will bark his butt off at you, but his love can be bought with cheese. Patti is new to the gang, I haven’t quite figured her out yet, I will report back. I snuck Bo a few green beans and some turkey on Thursday, so now he has acknowledged my existence and we are BFFs. Until next time, likely, but that’s ok. As much as I love seeing my family, it’s the dogs that keep things moving, and I was delighted to have lots of dog love on Thanksgiving.

They have such personalities, and they are all very much alike and yet so different. Having a dog is fantastic, and a pain in the ass all at the same time. They absolutely depend on us, but I would be lost without my spaz. They are expensive to have around, but I would just waste that money on something stupid anyway, so I might as well spend it on Zelda. It’s a love that comes back to you immediately, and it’s just awesome. We only get them for a short time in life, but those years are worth it. For people that can’t commit to an animal in their lives, I understand. I went for years wanting a dog, but not having one because I knew how unfair my lifestyle was at the time for a pet. If you can’t give the time, it’s just better to not do it. But the day I decided I was ready was the best day because I met my Zelda.

If you love the doggos, and you are on the social media, a couple of good pages to follow are We Rate Dogs, I’ve Pet That Dog and Thoughts of Dog. Recently, We Rate Dogs has been using their popularity for good things, like helping out dogs that need medical things. They will share a dog’s Go Fund Me page, and people will donate and fund things in record time. They just started another page, 15 Out of 10 (Their highest rating for hero dogs) that will raise funds for dogs too. But following these pages has helped keep a lot of negative stuff out of my news feed, and I get to look at dogs all day long. Follow them if you love the doggies too.

I do understand that not everyone is a dog person, and that is ok. The cat people of the world must have pages and stuff too, I am just not well versed in what those are. Whatever your choice of pet might be, I know that the love is real, and that there is someone else that would love to hear about your turtle, fish or bird. There are many creatures on our little planet, we share space with them and we all balance things out for each other. Love those pets, and take good care of each other!

Completely On the Grid

Apparently, my internet was down at home. For like a month. I hadn’t really noticed, I have been fairly busy with the life recently. I hadn’t even opened my laptop for about a month because it’s getting older, slower and dumb. I am on a computer all day at work these days, so cruising the internet didn’t seem too appealing when I get home at night. Throw a few socially busy weekends in and I had no clue. I was looking at my phone the other night and noticed it wasn’t using the wi-fi so I actually looked at my router, which was blinking weird colors. Huh. I had been off the grid. Normally I advocate for that, but I do pay for the internet, so I should have it available.

All better today, the nice guy came over and replaced the original router I have had since I moved in all those years ago, and I am back on it. He didn’t use techie words I don’t understand, and he got me back online. All is well. But it’s funny I hadn’t noticed. He said he ran some diagnostic thing before he came, and he said it was down a month, easily. I felt really cool. But I don’t stream stuff, or play games online so I didn’t notice. Old lady. I just have to laugh.

But that is not the only way I am back on the grid. I am officially a property owning individual now. I bought my house, 2 weeks ago, and now I am firmly and permanently on the grid. I am going to start complaining about property taxes, assessments, easements, all of it. I will be going to my cousin Dan on how to correctly hassle and criticize local officials, and I will likely be on a neighborhood committee before long. I am legit. I am for real. I am in debt. It feels pretty good.

I never thought I would get here, truly. My credit and finances were a hot mess about 12 years ago. I spent everything I made, mostly foolishly. I didn’t have it together, even a little bit. When I moved into this house, which my cousin Jane generously offered to rent to me, I had to figure things out a little bit better. Budget a bit, and I slowly started the process of making my credit situation better. It is a slow, painstaking process. But I found a way, I got a Kohl’s card, and paid it off every time I used it. Built it slow and steady. Eventually things got better, and I had better cards, paid off old things that were hanging out there yet from my dumber years. I wasn’t drinking and partying away my paychecks anymore, and I knew where money came in and where it went.

When I bought my current car, the Rav4, I did it on a little bit of a whim. I had the Saturn for a long time, a tree had landed on it, but it was ok. I drove it a few months and drove by car lots longing for a car not abused by a large maple tree. One day I stopped, asked a few questions, drove a car or two, and let them run my credit. I qualified for the best rate they give you on a deal like that. I went to my credit union to see if I could swing it, they ran a few numbers and told me they could not beat that rate, that if I really wanted that car, I should go for it, and go with the financing they offered me. It felt good to get that offered to me, and to be told that a lot of people don’t qualify for the rate I got. I have had the Rav4 for 2+ years, and I love it, no regrets.

I walked around with Zelda the past couple of years, looking at houses and always had that thought in the back of my head that I could never buy a house. I couldn’t swing it, I was just sure of it. I was going to just rent, and that is cool. Then, in April, my cousin let me know she was ready to sell the house, and if I was interested she wouldn’t list it, we could just work it out between us, no realtors or stuff, save both of us a little money. I was nervous about it, but I gathered up the laundry list of stuff you need to get pre-approved, and wandered into my credit union, and got pre-approved! I felt amazed, and so very proud of myself. I had fought back, I had made it to a place where I am considered a good risk to the credit issuers of the world!!

It took us a few months, neither my cousin or I move at warp speed for things, but after some paperwork, lots of signatures, and scraping together the down payment stuff, on November 5th I walked into the Title Company, and bought my little house. It was a little anti-climatic because I have lived here for years, but I didn’t have to pack or unpack a damn thing! I am an independent woman, and I am now a homeowner!! Don’t get me wrong, that mortgage stuff is scary! But it happened, and I am sure I can make it all work, I got this far, and I can get farther. Just shy of my 52nd birthday, I feel like an actual adult.

When I called for service for the internet, they ask a bunch of questions about availability, and stuff like that. And they asked me if I rent the property or if I am the homeowner. For the first time ever, I answered Home Owner. If felt amazing. I am on the grid people, and I am super ok with it!!

Waiting On A Friend

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally get to see the Rolling Stones tomorrow night, with some of my siblings, in Minneapolis. The only thing that stinks about it is the venue. They are playing at the Vikings’ stadium, which is terrible acoustically and it is all draped in weirdo purple Vikings crap. At least we won’t have to waste any time trying to tour their trophy room.

By the time I noticed the Rolling Stones, they had been around for years. It was probably the album “Some Girls” in 1978 that I first really recall hearing some of their music, I was about 8. I had 3 older brothers listening to music, and I listened to the radio a lot with Mom, so I remember songs from that album. Then I recall liking songs from “Emotional Rescue” and “Tattoo You” as well. But by the early 80s I was really busy falling in love with Rick Springfield, and a few other bands with all the hotties in them, Duran Duran, etc.. I didn’t have time for wrinkly old Rolling Stones, but their music was always around somewhere, catching my ear.

My dad was no fan of popular music, he was rather stubborn about it and shook his head at stuff we listened to and would begrudge us a little radio time on car rides, but he listened to crap like talk radio or Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass on 8-tracks. He didn’t know. But he did say he liked the Rolling Stones. I was sure it was because they were all old guys like him. He was funny, but he didn’t really hate our music as much as he tried to make us believe, but he just had his particular things he preferred. But we could agree on the Stones, although he didn’t really like them enough to buy any of their music, that I am aware of.

I remember wanting to go see the Stones for their “Steel Wheels” tour, but none of my friends were interested, and I wasn’t pushing the issue much, I just thought it would be cool. So they came and went, I didn’t go, but they kept making their way around the world. Steel Wheels was in 1989, and I am sure people thought they would be hanging it up soon anyway, I mean Keith Richards could not possibly go on like he was. He had looked like he had died in 1985 and nobody had the heart to tell him. I just figured I had missed the chance, and I would catch them on the radio or something.

That was 32 years ago. I hate that kind of math. But, after many years, and a pandemic postponed tour, it’s finally my time. Charlie Watts didn’t make it to see me. That makes me a little sad, but it makes it all the more important to see them now. As it turns out, Keith didn’t die in the 80s, he kept rocking, and from some reports, he has nearly as much energy as Mick running around that stage. These guys have grandkids, great grandkids, and they are still rocking. They seem eternal. When you think that they have been together and touring longer than I have been alive, longer than any of my siblings have been around, since 1962 if Google is giving me correct information. That’s amazing. When you look at all of the bands that have come and gone in those nearly 60 years, how many artists flamed out early due to the heavy toll the rock and roll lifestyle takes on them, the Stones’ tenure is unbelievable.

It’s kind of the last check mark on my list of bands I wanted to catch before they retire or die. I can’t think of any others that really stand out to me. It kind of all became a little more important to me to catch them after Tom Petty left this earth. I had seen him several times, but not since the early 2000s. I had wanted to catch him one more time, but time ran out. So I kind of came up with a list of performers to see, it wasn’t super long, but the artists were aging, and I am too, unfortunately! It’s quite a thing, to hear the music you love, from your whole life, being performed by the people who wrote it and sang it. It’s a high that is just hard to explain, and I am looking forward to it. I just wish it wasn’t in that Purple Palace of Shame. But alas, they are still here to play, who am I to complain about where it is?

1000

I am known to exaggerate from time to time, when it benefits my cause. It’s fun and easy to do! Things like when you feel a little rough after a night out, you say “Well, I drank about a hundred beers last night” and people nod and say “Been there, done that!” When I worked in the restaurant we spoke in exaggerations all day every day. It helped get your message of how great or how awful people were out there for the world to know our struggles. So you get it, we all do it.

One of my greatest venues for exaggerating is the gym. I alluded to this is my Facebook post yesterday, which will all be revealed momentarily. We work out for a half hour. And in that 30 minutes we get a lot done. But we don’t likely do stuff a thousand times in that stretch. But I will tell you we do. Arm days? We must have done 1000 pushups. Leg day? Thousands of squats. You get the idea. My real favorite is getting after a coach for blowing their whistle about 1000 times during Fire Bombs, a torture exercise designed to turn us against the coaches, I believe. I might mention how they will likely have to visit a specialist to remove a whistle from a delicate area, always a crowd favorite.

But you know what I have done a thousand times, and I have proof? I have gone to FIRE Fitness and worked hard with those coaches and so many awesome people 1000 times. I got my 1000 Camp Plaque yesterday, and most excellent of all, my friend and co-worker, Coach Lynn presented it to me. I cried. I have said she is mean at camp about 500 times, and I likely will say it 500 more, to even things out. But in that moment, she was my cheerleader, hype man, and the best person I could have asked for to get that star to me. She has coached me, been at camps with me, we swear together, plot together and watch moon phases together. It was awesome.

Accomplishment. That’s a hell of an accomplishment. I have not done everything there that gets put in front of us, but I have tried. I didn’t quit. Can’t is a bad word there, and we sometimes get it in our heads, but those whistle blowing coaches drown us out when we start mumbling it. They get us through it. It’s how I got through 1000 mornings, because they told me I could. I did it. I will do more, but to pause a second to look at the road to 1000 is totally acceptable, because of how amazed I am that I stuck with it.

The people are the key. It’s the coaches, but even more the people going through it with you. I could name so many people that keep me coming through the doors. We do it all and we do it together. We laugh, cry, swear, sweat and struggle, but since we do it together, it’s all good. The friendships and triumphs go hand in hand. Last year when a job change made it necessary to get to camps earlier, 5:00am, I dove in the deep end of the workout crazy pool. But then I found out they weren’t as nuts as I thought, just driven to get it done. Or they could be crazy and I had just cracked too. Whatever. But my 5am camp buddies made that last approximately 300 camps doable, so a little extra shout out to them. Thank God you are all nuts too.

The super kind comments that came in on my Facebook post from yesterday, after I got the reward, really mean the world to me. This road has been well documented by FIRE and me. I check in almost every day with a post, and they post every time you hit a milestone. So my friends and family have truly watched it all the way through. 3 years, 9 months. That’s how long I have been at this, and how long you have all tolerated my morning, and occasional evening, posts from FIRE. People tell me I am amazing, an inspiration, and I am thankful for all of those wonderful words. I don’t always see it that way. Some days it is a super struggle to get there and do it. But knowing you all have cheered me on in different ways helps every single day. I don’t sweat “haters” or anyone that thinks something less of my efforts because they aren’t doing things for themselves. They are fighting their own battles, and it isn’t about me if they are annoyed by the posts or the efforts. I can only worry about me, and be thankful for the support from those giving it. I just hope they know that if they decide to do something great for them, I will cheer!

I have some work to do. I have gained some of that weight back, and I am struggling with getting it back off. My own bad eating habits are the bulk of the issue, and a job that doesn’t have me as active 8 hours a day. That’s ok. I am working on it, and figuring it out. But no matter what the scale says, I am still moving. I am starting on that next 1000 things, camps, walks with The Zelda, or any other 1000 things to improve me. I had spent what felt like 1000 years starting things and stopping them, not doing things for myself that were productive. I will keep working because I have every band, t-shirt, mug, trophy, duffel bag and 1000 camp plaque that I earned at FIRE to remind me that I can do things: things to be strong and confident. I would encourage anyone to try FIRE, or any activity that will make you feel 1000 isn’t such an exaggeration, after all.

Free Fallin’

I love me some Tom Petty, and that song is a classic. It’s also how things feel around here these days. Not just me, really, but a lot of people I know are going through some stuff. Break-ups, make ups, and all things in between. The universe is swirling something fierce right now. I have been in some deep thought about it all, and while not every bad thing is actually really bad, it starts as bad news. But the wind can change direction, and the bad things can turn themselves into something good.

Having a long term relationship, that is something I know so very little about, romantically speaking. But I have a lot of friends and family that do know, so I watch them for clues as to how that works. The thing is, it is a lot of work. Two people making a run at happiness takes both of them being invested. Lots of them start out that way, and somewhere along the way someone gets off course. So it can deteriorate. I have seen a lot of that lately, and I recently learned of quite a few marriages that ended or are ending. I don’t know a lot of details, and they aren’t my stories to tell, but if it came to that end, I know it didn’t come easy and it likely didn’t happen overnight. It’s one of those things that happen in life. I look at divorce very differently now than when I was a little younger. It is sad for the couple, of course, because nobody gets married with the ultimate goal of splitting up. But it does happen, and it isn’t my place to look at the couple and judge their breakup. I just hope they both get to a better place if together isn’t the place anymore.

I am so over reading stories about people fighting over masks. Over it. I have maintained all along that if a place wants me to wear one for the sake of others, I will do it and while I don’t love it, it is a small thing for a short time. It feels like the whole damn world has gone psycho over this. Nobody likes the masks, we get it. But, the second you berate anyone over it, in a store, restaurant, school board meeting, city council meeting or anywhere, you lose credibility as a human being. These people on flights? OMG. When you buy the ticket, it says you have to mask. You get to the airport, there are signs. You get on the plane, they mention it repeatedly. If you then take your mask down or off, and they let you know to put it back on, just do it. Don’t fight them. You will lose. You throw a fit? Now you and everyone else on that plane is going to be on the Tik Tok, YouTube, the news and everywhere else, and you are the douchebag who ruined the flight, vacation and everything else you paid for, because you are getting kicked off the plane, detained and probably are going to have to take a bus back to wherever you came from, and have to wear a mask on the bus. These people are just making all of this so much worse than it has to be. I won’t preach to you about getting vaccinated, but I will tell you that you are an a-hole if you mention to the 16 year old cashier that she doesn’t need that f-ing mask. Get over it.

I have been out to restaurants a few times recently, and they were short staffed. With my background of the restaurant industry, I can tell you assuredly that most places know how to run short staffed, because they have always run short. However, while running one or two short on a shift is doable, but when you are down more than that it sucks. It sucks so bad. It calls for a lot of teamwork, and a ton of patience on everyone’s part, including the guests. Food can only cook so fast, there is only so much space on a grill, and dirty dishes cannot wash themselves. People multitask, a server with 2 extra seconds will run a load of dishes through, and the hostess will bus 3 tables while she greets tables. People who stand and wait, shifting and sighing as loud as possible are not helping. They know you have been waiting, and they don’t want that anymore than you do. If you cannot be patient when you go out, please stay home. I can’t stress that enough. Everyone goes on and on about staffing shortages. We all know it’s a thing right now. Plan on it taking longer than normal to go out. Smile, say things like “take your time” and “I understand the wait.” Have a better attitude, and that will pass along to the server, the bartender, the busser, dishwasher and cooks. The service industry is is a free fall right now, and they are hanging on by a very thin thread. Don’t be the reason someone snaps and walks out on a shift. I will always stand on the side of the hospitality industry, and anyone that complains about it to me will have it fall on deaf ears.

I hope you are doing ok. I hope the anxiety of everything is not rising too fast. I have a few friends that are feeling it right now. I want to hug all of you and say things will be alright. I believe it most days, but I do feel it too at times. I have tried hard recently to only worry about what is right in front of me, not things that may happen tomorrow, next week or next year, but that is tough. I have been meditating more in the past year, and for me it helps a lot. Taking a few minutes each day to breathe through it all, slow down a little even if it is only a short time. It isn’t for everyone, but I found it and it makes me deal with my stresses a little better. Find your thing, something that calms you. For some people prayer is the thing, for others just turning off the noise works. Listening to music, writing things down in a journal, or walking the dog. Whatever it takes for you to focus on yourself versus all the things that shift your attention away from you. Back to my old friend Tom Petty, who sang “Most of the things I worry about never happen anyway.” And it’s true. Bad things can happen, but most of what your mind tortures you with will never come to pass. Take care of yourself, and please know this storm won’t last forever. We will find out feet were on the ground the whole time.

9-11-2021

Some days I write these things more for myself than anyone else, and today might be one of those days.

Twenty years ago, I had moved in to my brother Pat’s house. I had been living alone, and he had a roommate that moved out, and he thought me moving in would be good, as he had the room, and so I did that. I was still living more of a party lifestyle, work at the restaurant all day, party at night, sleep in and repeat. Our paths didn’t seem to cross a lot, it was a decent arrangement.

That morning of September 11th, he woke me up early. I was like Oh Hell No, if he thinks he is going to be waking my ass up at 7am on a regular basis…. wait, what was that Pat? He said something was going on in New York, I had better get up and watch what was going on with him. The tone of his voice, really hit me. I got up and we stared at the live feed out of New York. Then we heard about the Pentagon. He had to leave for work, but I had a few hours until I had to go. I kept watching, stopped briefly to shower and get ready. I felt guilty taking the time, and the time to drive 10 minutes to work. We all did, as it turned out that day staring at the TV and waiting was all we could do that day. We went through the rest of the day in a fog. The rest of that week. The next who knows how many days were spent in disbelief and grief.

Twenty years gone by. It has gone fast, I was 31 then, I am 51 now. I watched a lot of stuff this week on 9/11. The documentary that Spike Lee did, about the 2 brothers, French guys, who were doing a documentary at one of the Fire Stations in New York, they were following a rookie fireman on his 90 day probation with the department. So they were very much in it that day, as they went out on a gas leak call that morning with the chief and some of the guys. The one brother was with them, the other was somewhere else, but the one with the Chief caught video of the first plane. That took my breath away. As I watched other shows this week, his footage was used in almost every single one. He was in the North Tower with the firemen. He caught things and it was amazing. It is like you are with them as you watch it. Unreal.

I watched interviews with survivors. There was one with that lady that was the last person found alive in the rubble. Again, just amazing listening to her story. I am in awe that people survived that. They talked in one show about the boat evacuations from Manhattan. That thousands and thousands of people hopped on ferries, fireboats, and even larger boats that just happened to be in the harbor that morning helped get people off the island. They interviewed people that were helping out, and they said an image that stuck with them were all the shoes that were left on shore, on the docks and all over. Women’s shoes, mostly as they couldn’t run or jump to the boats wearing them. I never knew those stories.

See, there is a lot we didn’t see and don’t know. I believe for years there will be more and more stories. We will hear stories of bravery, and surviving that will be told. I think how do you recover from seeing people jump 100+ stories to their deaths so they didn’t burn up in that building? How do you return to the Pentagon to work? How do you get on a plane as an employee of an airline, and feel like you can do your job?

I don’t know. I still feel apprehensive when I see a plane that flies sort of low or in a place it doesn’t seem like it should be. Any of us that can remember probably have little things that catch our attention. I never complain about TSA lines. How could I when they are just trying to assure one of those terrorists don’t get on a plane with me? The wait and the perceived inconvenience are worth it to me.

I had an emotional week watching it. My brain feels tired this week. Work was hectic and crazy, that added to it. Maybe I watched too many of these shows, but I don’t know if that is possible, considering I have lived 20 more years than anyone who died that day. I was not in the wrong place on that day. I witnessed it all from the safety of my home and place of work that day. We were all nervous and anxious, with that “what will happen next?” worry. But we ended up ok that day, shaken, but not broken.

They didn’t take as much from us that day as they had hoped. But they took plenty. Our collective confidence was certainly shook, and in some ways we still live with that. Lots of people are marking the day at ceremonies, or climbing stairs at Lambeau, or praying, reflecting or whatever feels right for them. I support that. For me, watching the shows, and reflecting on the day are my thing. It was a bright sunny day, so is today where I am. I honor that day, and all of those people who died in planes, buildings, rural fields, on the streets and anywhere else that saw that ugly display that day. I honor those that survived, but developed serious health and mental health issues. The babies that had to grow up without a parent because they had to go to work on a Tuesday morning. The ones that were born in the days and months after that day who never knew their dad. My 20 years have not been perfect, but I got to have them, so many people did not.

Be kind today, be patient today. Live your day in the best way you can. If you are able to pause and take a moment, do it. Be thoughtful and purposeful. 20 years is a long time to miss someone. 20 years is a long time to live having seen what we saw and felt. 20 years.

Bromance

We move through life and hopefully make friends along the way. When you are a kiddo, a lot of those friends are the same gender as you, and it takes a long time but eventually your friend groups start to take on a male-female mix. That’s often where things get interesting, or awkward, depending on attractions and the urge to couple up. It’s all normal, it’s going to test the terms and strength of the relationships, but if you really are good friends, you can make it through. Forge ahead, get a great friend for life.

I was watching “The History of the Sitcom” for a little while last night on CNN before I went to bed. One episode was about the friend type of sitcoms, and how that group dynamic really is a strong part of the evolution of the sitcom. It covered shows like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Cheers, Living Single, Friends, and that type of show. How your friends become your family, and maybe the family you didn’t really know you needed or how it even happened except for you all were in the same place at the same time. I enjoyed that, because that really is how it happens in life, your circumstances bring you in contact with strangers who become friends. It is usually mixed genders, and different backgrounds and somehow you end up needing each other.

In most of these shows, there is usually one or two central relationships that really bring out the love between the characters. Specifically, the Bromances. Lenny and Squiggy, Cliff and Norm, Jerry and George, Chandler and Joey, Howard and Raj. There are a ton of them. They are not always the main characters, but the show wouldn’t be worth watching without them. They end up in ridiculous situations, they bail each other out of jams at work, in relationships, with the other friends, and they just love each other without ever saying the words, because Bros just know. Man Love, in it’s most simple and pure form. It’s a celebration of friendships, but amped up to hilarious levels for the ratings.

We all know guys with massive man-love for their best friend. I know a ton of them. They usually will verbally abuse each other, question each other’s sexuality, belittle each other, but the second someone else jumps in, they will defend each other to the end! The relationship between the guys is almost always better than their relationships with their girlfriends or wives. (Women have friends like this too, but it’s just a little different for the guys.) Men just have a different approach to the best friend relationship, and it’s difficult to explain, but beautiful to see.

One of the saddest things is when the Bro-love ends. Not because of a fight or something, but because of death. Not to turn too morbid, but I have seen my share of guys who lost their best friend, and they are just lost. It happened when my dad died, his best friend Ben mourned as hard as we did, they knew each other their whole life. When my friend Marco died, his best friend was off the deep end for months. They grew up together, he had moved here because of Papi. He was lost, and I sometimes think he still is when I see him. It breaks my heart to see it when it happens, because that isn’t a relationship that is easily replaced. Men always seem to be able to makes friends with just about anyone, but to find your Bromance Brother is special, and not someone that can lift out and be filled in with just any old guy. You can date someone and break up, be with a new girl the next week, but you can not replace a Brother From Another Mother with just anyone.

Special friendships. They are awesome because unlike family, you have a little more say in who you let in. You can be super close with your family, but that best friend, you can’t beat it. So that is why I wanted to celebrate the Bromances today, because they are something special. I have my best girlfriend, I love her like a sister, and we have been friends for many years. But the love between male friends, real man love in the Bro-est of forms, is something to really behold. I think of the light in Papi’s eyes when he used to talk about his best friend, and it was love, pure love. My dad used to get such a twinkle in his eye talking about his friend Ben, no woman could ever hold that place in his heart. It’s that love that made Joey and Chandler the best relationship on Friends. Bro Love. Forever.

Tributes

In the past few years I was able to cross some bands/performers off my list of bands I wanted to see before they aged out, quit, broke up, the things bands do. I got to see Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, U2, Huey Lewis and the News, Three Dog Night. All were great shows, and I am happy I had the opportunity to see them, and see them with fun people. One big one on my list is The Rolling Stones. Covid pooped on the party last year, I was going to see them with my brother and sister in Minneapolis. It was postponed, but not cancelled. It has been rescheduled, but the band took a huge hit this week.

Charlie Watts died this week. The drummer for the Stones, been with them since 1963, before I was born. I took it so much harder than I thought I would, honestly. Just like that, the dynamic of that band is forever changed. Time finally caught up with them, after 57 years. They haven’t cancelled anything, and I think Delta Variant willing, the show will go on as scheduled, just minus Charlie. He had stepped away for health reasons, with the intention to return. So they had a substitute that he asked to replace him for the tour for now. But it just makes me sad for them, and for the fans. I am a fan, I have loved them for years. Hell, even my dad liked the Stones back in the day, because they had that blues thing about them. Even though I am sure it will be a great show, it’s going to be missing that one important guy. Rest well, Charlie, you certainly earned it.

Then, as I read tributes to Mr. Watts, some articles popped up commemorating the 31st anniversary of the passing of Stevie Ray Vaughn. He died in a helicopter crash leaving Alpine Valley here in Wisconsin 31 years ago, this week. I was at that show. He was amazing. My friend Lance and I were geeking out the whole way home about him, not knowing that we made it out in the fog, but he did not. We waved at every limo saying “Hi Stevie!” and in general were super nerds. We were 20 years old, and what I didn’t know that night was the last fun I was going to have for a long while. Hearing the news of SRV’s helicopter going down really hit me the next day, hard. But what was also happening was that my dad, in the hospital recovering from heart surgery, wasn’t really recovering at all. He died on August 30th. Late at night, like Stevie Ray did, and without the people he really loved around him.

Those two events are tied together for me forever. And now, the passing of Charlie Watts, and Don Everly, in the same week, 31 years later, made those memories hurt a little more than they have in years. It’s a stretch, sure, but this is my least favorite week, of my least favorite month, and I am allowed to be a wreck if I choose to be. Reading those articles about SRV were just a huge trigger for me. People talked about that show, the one I almost didn’t attend, and talked about how great he was that night. I almost didn’t go because of Ed being in the hospital. He told me to go, have fun, and not worry about him. So for that night, I had a great night, with one of my favorite people in the world, and it was undoubtedly the best concert I ever saw live, given all the legends I got to see, and Stevie Ray was amazing. Three days later, it all crashed down. My first huge loss in life.

Maybe August just wants the best for itself, and that is why it takes the best people from us. I don’t know, but as the end of the month is getting close, I am once again happy to see it go. I shouldn’t get too cocky about it, but other than the famous people, it hasn’t taken from me this year the way it often has in past years. All things considered I have had a very good and fun month. 31 years of hating a month is a long time. I didn’t hate it as much the full 31 years, it took its sweet time making me hate it more and more over the years. I count anything good that happens in August as a huge bonus and blessing. So in a jacked up way, this is my tribute to August, and maybe in a way, trying to take a little power it has had over me back, and saying to it, I do respect you, but I also know you. Stop it, and let’s go forward into September, and not have any more episodes for a while.

21 Cheeseburgers

I can’t say exactly when I decided that having a dedication meal for my parents on milestone days was a thing. I think it was sometime around 10-12 years ago. I have written about this a few times I think, but as yesterday was the 21st anniversary of my mom’s passing, I just might write about it again. I mean, Mary Jane provided endless entertainment value while she was here, she should as well from the great beyond.

I do miss her, a lot. It comes and goes, like waves. Grief is just what it is, and I don’t really get very sad any more, just miss her and the idea of what she is missing by not being here. Mom’s death brought a peace to her situation. Her mental illness struggles in life led to physical health issues, and her body just wore out on her. It over simplifies it to say it that way, but after all she had been through, she had to be tired. She was a religious person, so God saw she was tired, and called her. I have always hated that she had to die alone in the middle of the night in a hospital, but I can’t change that outcome. She knew we loved her, so she went in peace, that is what is most important in my mind.

Just a Cheeseburger evolved over time. Because of Mom’s various living circumstances over the years, we weren’t much on home cooking. She just didn’t cook when we were young, and as we got older, we took her out to eat when we spent time with her. She liked going to restaurants, she had her favorites but would eat just about anything. But keeping it simple was a thing, and at the end of the day, she liked cheeseburgers, patty melts, and stuff like that. I guess I would say she liked diner food, if that helps explain. Family restaurants or diners were right up her alley, comfort food for everyone!

Every place you go you can get a cheeseburger, just about. These days, places have gone all out coming out with some pretty fantastic variations of the burger. Weird and wonderful concoctions that can hit every palate just right. I wonder how Mom would navigate this wonderful evolution of the burger. She liked condiments, but she wasn’t trying real hard to bust out of that cheeseburger mold too much . She would switch things up with the occasional patty melt, but a regular cheeseburger got the job done, as long as we left the wicked lettuce off.

My burger choice yesterday was a Crab Goon burger from the Home Burger Bar in downtown Appleton. It’s just what it claims to be, a bar that serves burgers, and they have a good selection and some fun choices. I thought about going with the basic cheeseburger, but people rave about the Crab Goon one, and my server said to try it if I was deciding between the two. I do think Mary Jane would have liked it, she liked cream cheese, and the topping was like a crab rangoon filling, so I didn’t feel like I went off course from her too much. I asked my server if it came with lettuce, and she said it did not, and I said something like “That’s good, I just can’t have the lettuce.” Of course she has no idea why that’s a thing, and I would have explained it, but I kind of got a little choked up as I said it. Those emotions, they hit you when they want, not when it’s convenient. Normally I giggle when I tell them why we just will not tolerate the lettuce. When I paid my bill, I wrote a little note with her tip, briefly explaining my tradition and why the lettuce is not a thing.

So that was the 21 year mark. I know most of my other siblings always participate in the Just a Cheeseburger tradition. I like that. It started out small, just me wanting to honor Mom in a way she would appreciate, and it’s become a thing. May 31st and August 14th the Facebook gets pictures of various cheeseburgers, zero lettuce, fries and Coke, because that’s Mary Jane’s jam. Finishing things up with a little ice cream or a treat is a thing too, but those don’t always make the social media splash. What I truly love, is that some of my friends who have lost loved ones have started doing some similar traditions, because it’s an easy way to honor someone. Eat some food they loved, and talk about the memories. We all love someone, we all love to eat. What could be better?

August has not been my favorite month for many years, as it has always found a way to take something or someone away, for the past 30+ years of my life. If I can do any small thing to make it better, I find it, and eating a cheeseburger for Mary Jane helps, so much more than I ever thought it might. I have one more rough anniversary at the end of the month, then I may be able to get back on a slightly healthier eating track for a while. I miss you, Mom. Every day, truly. But things are good, and I know you are watching, making sure we are ok, and that no foul lettuce finds its way onto a cheeseburger. Lots of love straight up to heaven, thanks for all the love you gave me, and thanks for not being a health food nut.

Go Sports!!

I am a sports fan, absolutely! Mostly I follow the baseball and football, but I like watching other sports too. The Olympics are going on now, and I like watching some of that too. I watched the men’s synchronized platform diving a few days ago which is so cool. I am not so much about the basketball, but even I got swept up in it a little when the Bucks won the championship last week. My brothers, sister and a few of my really good friends are big fans, have been through many of the awful 50 years since their last championship, and I was so happy for them. That was exciting stuff.

I am not going to jump on the Simone Biles things too much, but the thing I admire about her is that even on the world’s biggest stage, she was wise enough to recognize that something wasn’t right with her, and she stepped back. Our society stupidly tells people to push through pain and mental anguish to “just do it.” That mentality sometimes causes more harm than good. She chose to step away, to not risk an injury, and take care of the mental aspect of being in competition, something most of us know nothing about. For that, she is a hero, and that is my take on it, time to move on.

Back to my sports, and teams I do love. I start now with the Brewers. Today, July 31st, they are first in their division, their pitching staff is looking pretty great, and in recent games the bats have been active. If they win one more game, they hit the magic number that means even if they tank the rest of the season, they cannot lose 100 games. Long time Brewers fans know that has happened, so it is a happy day when they have 63 wins, mathematically making 100 losses impossible for a season. We are a little more than halfway through the season, and they have made some moves that indicate they are ready for a pennant race. Please make that true, baseball gods. I am so ready for a fun month of October. If you could also make something cause the Dodgers to tank a little, or a lot, I wouldn’t be too mad. Thanks for that. Stay tuned for more Brewers notes and craziness, should this all continue.

Packers. Yep, my guys. So this has been an interesting week. The whole Rodgers thing is at least temporarily resolved. This is a lesson in living for the moment, because he ain’t saying much about anything beyond this season. I can deal with that for now. He is here. He is in the building at 1265, and he got Randall Cobb back in the house too. I find that completely intriguing. We are stacked for receivers now. We weren’t in a bad spot there anyway. Things get interesting with #18 back, because even if he has lost a step, other defenses have to account for him. His chemistry with Rodgers cannot be overlooked. This has some crazy fun potential for those of us in Packerland. Some of the more delusional Bears fans I know were like giddy little school girls last week when it looked like Rodgers might check out. Then he showed up with Randall Cobb in tow, and now their tears taste delicious. Not today, Satan, not today.

The most relieved guy in Green Bay, Matt LeFleur looks like a kid who got everything on his Christmas list. David Bakhtiari is hopping around Lambeau field handing out golden shoes and pimped out golf carts like the Ambassador of Packers Football. The interviews, videos and pictures have a feel of joy, of a team that is happy to be back together and know something special is going on. I hope they are right. Randall Cobb spoke to what a special place this is, how he had tears when he learned he was coming home, and as happy as he was, his wife was even more excited. That says a lot. He had to live in Texas for a stretch. They generally have better weather than we do, but you also have to live in Texas. Things are just different there. To my fellow Packers fans, let’s just really try hard to enjoy this season. Nothing is promised now, but even less is promised after it ends, so let’s live in the moment, and give out a lot of “Go Pack Go!” cheers.

Sports in general is a distraction, an escape from our daily existence. Most of us don’t have a lot of athletic ability, or at least not enough that anyone would pay us to play any given sport. Watching a team play and investing in the outcome, well, that’s a great way to feel a part of something. Some get a little carried away, and take the losses harder than they should, and that is unfortunate. But the shared feeling those thousands of Bucks fans felt out in the Deer District had to be amazing to be a part of. Or the feeling when I was sitting in a bar in New Orleans full of Packers fans on January 26, 1997 and as a group knew we were winning our first Super Bowl in 30 years, I had never felt such a feeling of belonging to something in my life! It didn’t truly change my life, but I am here talking about it 24 years later remembering how much happiness we felt! So the sports are a great thing to bond over, winning or losing, it gives us a little something to make a connection with other humans. I get that not everyone loves sports, and watching a game or match is the last thing on their list. They hopefully find their joy and connections with other people in a way that gets them as excited as I feel when my teams win.

For now, for me, let me just say Go Brew Crew!! And of course, Go Pack Go!!!