Personal Diatribes

Welcome to my family (and other stories)

Black Flies in the UP (a.k.a. My 15 minutes of living Hell)

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on July 6, 2010

As many of you know, we own a camper and it is parked on a permanent site in Northern Wisconsin. In fact, it is right on the Wisconsin/Michigan border, in Presque Isle, Wisconsin. It has been a source of joy, entertainment, and relaxation for the entire family.

We’ve been parked up there for a while now – I think this is our 5th year. Since we’ve been up there, we’ve always intended to find a day to go up to the Porcupine Mountains in the northern UP (That’s “Upper Peninsula” of Michigan for those of you geographically challenged). Well, last Friday, July 2 was a beautiful day. It was the perfect day for an adventuresome trek to Lake Superior and the Porcupine Mountains.

My wife and I announced our plans to the family, and those plans were immediately met with lamentations of various sorts from our beloved, and yet seemingly boring, children. “I want to swim!” “I want to go fishing!” “I want to go shopping in Boulder Junction!” (Disturbingly, this last cry was not echoed simply by the female apportionment of the family, but a couple of the boys as well.)

As the wiser and elder parental members of the family unit, Wendy and I explained how great this would be. They were guaranteed to enjoy themselves and appreciate nature and God’s wonderful creation, while basking in the sun of a beautiful day on the golden sands of the lakeshore. My marketing for the UP finally worked, and I at least convinced them to have a good attitude about our little trip.

The ride up to Lake Superior went more swiftly than even expected, as we arrived to the shore after a mere 1 hour. As soon as all the kids saw the beautiful expanse of blue, their faces lit up! Immediately, they wanted to get down to the lake! Dad and Mom were heroes! Yay us.

Before heading to the Lake, we went to the visitor center to get a map of all the cool places we could check out in the area. The Center itself was small, but a neat little place with different taxidermied animals and some interesting facts about them. The kids enjoyed the short museumesque tour and a browse of the gift shop.

But it was already past 1:00 in the afternoon and we had not eaten lunch. So the fun was about to begin: we’d locate a small little area with a grill and a picnic table. A couple of these were designated on the map, and we had our choice of three different sites. All overlooked the shore and were picturesque dreamscapes.

And then we opened the van doors.

Immediately, as if locusts blackening the Sun in the days of Pharoah, black flies pounced on us unlike any pouncing of any insect I have ever witnessed or experienced. It is no exaggeration to say that 30-50% of our bodies were covered in black. Screams emanated from multiple mouths – adult and child alike. The screams were short-lived, for fear that flies would engage the facial cavity.

We were bewildered and confused until logic prevailed: It has to be better down by the water.

And so, all of us went to the water. There was momentary excitement due to water and waves. Myriad stones that had been eroded over years down to marvelously flat platforms for painting beckoned. Flies were forgotten for two or three minutes.

But, like bloodhounds after a rabbit, they found us. In droves. They attacked mercilessly. Each swat that prematurely ended the life of one seemed, like Hydra, to rear the ugly head of three or four more. Soon, as a family we were swatting and yelling and running. Within 15 minutes of our arrival, it was decided by all that we could take no more.

Perhaps it was our imagination, but the prospect of our sudden departure seemed to infuriate the flies. For, as soon as it was decided to collect shoes and grab the cooler, and traverse the treacherous 45-degree angled hillside to approach our van, the fervor with which they attacked was perceived by all of us to increase fourfold.

My second eldest son proved his genius by reaching the van, opening the door, and then turning around and swatting flies while leaving the door open. My oldest son proved his maturity by melting down into a 2-year-old’s frame of mind by standing there crying about the flies, while doing absolutely nothing. Chaos ensued. I, the parent, whose idea this all was, became relegated to the – in retrospect, unfortunate and embarrassing – role of screaming and angry parent. “Close that door! What are you doing! You… stop crying. They’re driving us all crazy, so deal with it! Hurry up! Where are your shoes???!!!! You left them down there? #@%^$^&! Now I have to go get them! Thanks a lot for being responsible!!!”

To think, an hour and a half before I was saying: Now, have a good attitude. You’ll really enjoy this!

Before the kids were even buckled in, we were moving. We quickly loaded the cooler back in. It was like the army trying to get out of Hanoi.

We rolled the windows down to try and encourage the 35,000 flies now in our van to leave. But all this did was send them to the back window. So, we stopped in the middle of the road, ran back, and opened the doors (after clearing away the flies clinging to the back of the van). This got rid of about 20,000 of them. The rest we just swatted and pushed out the windows the rest of the ride home.

So, this is almost the end of our harrowing little tale. But we gave the benefit of the doubt that the rest of the area wasn’t like this. So, we stopped and talked to the woman who would otherwise be collecting our money for a day pass into the park area and asked if the flies were this bad everywhere. She, quite nonchalantly, replied “Oh, yeah.” We further questioned if this was unusual, or it was just a peak time for the flies. “Oh, no. It’s pretty much like this all summer long. That’s just the way it is up here.”

Our response: “We’ll pass on the day pass.”

So, we turned around, still not having eaten lunch, and headed back home. We did stop at a park inland next to Lake Gogebic and grilled our hot dogs and steaks. There were no flies because the winds were 40 MPH the entire time.

One of those days.

Posted in Anecdotes, Camping, Family, Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Observations While Traveling

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on April 12, 2010

Like many people, I need to travel on business occasionally. I try to avoid it, to be honest, because while it used to be cool to go to new places and see some new things, I quickly realized that business travel usually allows me to see the following sights: (1) the inside of an airport, (2) the inside of a plane, (3) the inside of another airport, (4) the inside of another plane, (5) the inside of a cab – at least they have windows, (6) the inside of a hotel room, (7) the inside of an office building, and now reverse everything until I arrive home…

OK, so occasionally I am introduced to a nice restaurant, or we go out at night to check out some local sights (usually when I’m drained enough that I’d actually rather go to the hotel and kick back – but there’s something insude that feels guilty if you don’t do at least something.)

Anyway, I am traveling right now on a short stint to NY City. My headquarters are here and I presented to a few of my peers from around the globe. Professionally, it was a fine experience, finally putting a face to the names. But, like most other such trips, it’s draining and I guess my energies just aren’t in the business travel arena.

That all said, there are many ways one can pass the time. One thing I like to do is just watch the people around me. I did some of that this time around, and I have come to the following conclusions/insights:

1 – A lot of people don’t look happy. Especially those guys who insist on getting to the front of the boarding line a half hour before boarding. Invariably, they are all in first class anyway, so I’ve never really understood the phenomenon. The first two guys just looked unhappy. The third guy had an almost-angry look on his face, like my 7 year old (As of today… Happy Birthday kiddo! Sorry I’m not home for it!) gets when he’s mad abouot something. I’m serious, the lower lip was out and the sides of his mouth in sort of a frown. And, I mean, his face stayed that way the entire time. I don’t think he was actually mad, I just think that was his habitual travel look. I tried to do it for a bit, and my cheeks started to hurt. So I didn’t do it any more.

2 – People who are traveling with other people seem to have a better time. I saw many more smiles from those people. Makes sense, I guess.

3 – People are addicted to their blackberries and phones. That’s not a surprise to anyone, but it’s almost comical. At one point in the local airport, I think there was a moment when everyone was either checking a blackberry or on a cell phone (except me, who was purposely resisting the urge.) I decided to watch a couple people who I noticed kept taking their balckberries in and out of their pockets. It struck me as just something to do, and they even knew they didn’t ahve a new message to check. One guy would take it out, look at it, put it back in his pocket, sit there, and repeat. I timed it once, he did it 3 times in 4 minutes.

4 – I admittedly eavesdropped on some cell phone conversations. While I am sure some were necessary, here’s an overview of how almost all of them went: “Hey, how you doing? Yeah, I’m on the plane. Nope, we’re just waiting to take off. It was OK. Oh, probably about 3 hours. Yeah. OK, well I’ll talk to you later.” Hey, I’m guilty too. It’s boring traveling alone, music and books aside.

5 – East Coast Chicken Fried Rice has cabbage in it. Either that, or the place played a cruel joke on me because they could tell I was from out of town.

Anyway, not trying to make fun, and not making judgments. Just observations.

The main reason I’m no fan of traveling ahs nothing to do with fear of flying. That’s about the only part of it I really don’t mind. Busy airports, waiting, crammed airplanes, luggage. It just all sucks. This time around I went down to cramming everything I need into a backpack. That’s better, and it’s still a pain. People who do this for a living are simply insane, in my humble opinion.

Shout out to the wife and kids. Love you guys. The presentation went well. But, you’ll know that soon, because I’m about to call you on my cell…

Posted in Life, Travel, Work | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Unlucky People or Earthquake Causing Supr Powers?

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on March 6, 2010

SAN BERNARDO, Chile – The Desarmes family left their native Haiti two weeks after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, joining the eldest son in Chile for what seemed a refuge from the fear and chaos of Port-au-Prince.

Their sense of security lasted barely a month. It was shattered at 3:43 a.m. Saturday when one of the most powerful quakes on record shook a swath of Chile.

All the Desarmes’ immediate family survived both quakes. But twice cursed, the family now sleeps in the garden of a home that the eldest son, Pierre Desarmes, found for them just south of the Chilean capital of Santiago. They fear yet another temblor will strike.

“I left my country and came here because of an earthquake,” Seraphin Philomene, a 21-year-old student and cousin of Desarmes, said Wednesday. “And here, the same thing!”

“My God, I left my country and I didn’t die, but I’m going to die here!”

My vote is that they need to join the X-Men.

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My Philosopher Guru is Zeno of Citium

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on March 5, 2010

And yours?

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Cars We’ve Owned

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on March 5, 2010

Random post stolen from a bulletin board thread. Just a simple listing of the different cars I’ve owned. I include my wife’s cars since we’ve been married.

In order:
1979 For LTD – banana yellow
1985 Buick Century – Brown
1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass – Green
1989 Pontiac Firebird – Red
1992 Pontiac Transport – Green
1993 Ford Taurus – dark blue
1995 Dodge Intrepid – Blue
1996 Ford F150 – Dark Green (still own this one)
1999 Pontiac Montana – Red (still own this one)
2003 Chevrolet Venture – Silver (still own this one)
2006 Ford E350 Cargo Van – White (still own this one)

As an aside, I’m not a car guy, I hate buying cars, and I consider them an evil necessity. I’ve never bought new, and I buy for need.

Feel free to add your own list.

Posted in Cars | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Welcoming our Eighth Bundle of Joy

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on March 3, 2010

I am happy to announce the new little diatriber’s arrival into the world, as of 9:45 PM March 1, 2010!

He is a healthy little boy (if 9 lbs, 7 oz and 21.5 inches is considered little) and we feel blessed and thankful.

Here’s the run-down for those who want details:

This little guy has been a whirler. A couple weeks ago he was in a transverse position, which means he was laying sideways. That’s a nice position for us when we’re in bed, but it’s not preferable for a kid in the womb. Nature isn’t kind to those women who try to expel a kid rib-first…

Well, Wendy got a “version” done (not sure that’s the spelling, and I don’t feel particularly inclined to look it up at the moment). This means someone spins the kid until he’s head-down, which is where we want him to be.

Add to this little episode the fact that over the last couple appointments Wendy’s blood pressure was elevated, and we were getting a nervous doctor. Well, Wendy’s pretty much a “let nature take it’s course” practitioner, and she isn’t afraid to tell the doc where she stands, so she was having none of this inducing or C-section talk.

Well, the due date was February 24. She never goes early, so no big surprise. But the baby was not dropping down, and just didn’t to be in any kind of a real hurry to come out. And then he flipped again. Ugh.

Wendy went back to the trusted midwife on Monday the 1st, and she got him head-down again. She’s a “let nature take its course” woman, as well, but she did say that thhere was some cause for concern given that he went back to the transverse position again. Plus, he was fairly high and there was a lot of fluid for him to float around in, so she couldn’t guarantee he’d stay there.

So, she suggested that Wendy throw out to the doc a dose of Cytotec. Unlike the evil pitosin(sp?) that causes unnatural cramps/contractions, which Wendy has sworn off forever during labor, Cytotec is more of a kickstarter of natural processes.

Soooooo…. On Monday, we went to the scheduled appointment, and Wendy’s blood pressure was still high. Wendy had been having some very mild, and irregular contractions that amounted to nothing. When Wendy said she’d be willing to try the Cytotec, you could almost hear his brain scream “Alleluia” (which is not allowed during Lent, but I suppose he may not know that), and he couldn’t send us to the maternity ward fast enough.

After some initial stress-test, and juice-drinking to get the baby active, the dose was given. In my actuarial geekdom, I announced that I thought the baby would be born at 9:45 PM. This was at about 3 PM.

Well, the next 3-4 hours proved to be much ado about nothing. There were the start of some consistent, but very light contractions that Wendy didn’t even take seriously. At 5:30 I went to get a bite to eat and shopped for some cards and dice and other things to keep us occupied. I returned at 6:30 and nothing was really going on.

Things stayed this way pretty much until her second dose at a little after 7:00. Around 7:30 she started getting consistent, harder contractions – though still very tolerable. At maybe 8:30 some stuff that I won’t describe happened that made us think things were moving along, but the nurse checked and declared a mere 3 cms. For those of you new to all this, you’re looking for 10 cm.

So, really, not a big deal until abotu 9:20. Suddenly, Boom! Water breaks! Our history says “things will now move fast.” I let the nurse know that and she checked Wendy: 5 cm. She called the doctor, though, trusting what I said about things moving fast. He arrived at about 9:40, just as Wendy said she needed to push. He checked her quick, gave the go-ahead, and whoomp there it was – a new baby at 9:45! Yes, I seriously nailed the time. No joke.

The entire family went up today to welcome the newbie. Many head pats were partaken in by the boys who now think they have a new pet. But it’s all good, and everyone comes home tomorrow.

Thanks to all well-wishers.

Pictures to come later.

Posted in Birth, Kids, Life, Parenting | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

A Tradition – Our 2009 Christmas Letter (A little late)

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 22, 2010

Merry Christmas! Pretend, if you would, that my hand is extended to shake yours in a gesture of greeting and
merriment. Do not fear, I have smothered it with 60% alcohol sanitary gel. In fact, due to fears of swine flu, a.k.a. H1N1, a.k.a. the end of the world as we know it, or whatever else people are wigged out about these days, this letter has been fumigated and passed through an ultraviolet filter prior to placement in this special anti-bacterial envelope. This process was lengthy and costly, which explains its late arrival.

It is our custom here to recount the year in a way that makes all of you feel good about yourselves. Strangely, we’ve had no major injuries, nor have we set anyone on fire this year, so I apologize in advance for sharing the story of our relatively normal and boring lives.

We have continued to bask in the glow of the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us. We are humbly thankful for what we have in a time when we know many are struggling. We truly hope and pray that the new year finds much success to all of you in all ways, especially in the areas of your greatest needs.
As many of you are aware, we are once again expecting a new addition to our family in 2010. So far, Wendy and baby are doing wonderfully and all is going according to plan. Which means that we’ll probably be shopping for a crib or something in the Waupaca K-mart while slipping and sliding on tiles awash with amniotic fluid at the end of February.

Well, last April we embarked on one of those family vacations. We all piled into the big, honkin’ white cargo van and headed to everyone’s favorite vacation destination: Delaware. Our goal was to see if there actually is a reason that exists to even visit Delaware. OK, actually, this destination is a result of our quirky way of choosing where to visit: randomly drawing the name of a state out of a bag. We had a very nice week out there, actually, and were able to visit some dear friends of ours (I have to call them that because they get a copy of this letter), the McKenna family, who moved to Virginia a while back. We were also able to stop by my sister & bro-in-law’s home in Indiana for the first time, and for a few days had very warm weather to enjoy, which felt great after a very cold Wisconsin winter and spring. We were able to take in some historical sites, and all in all it was a great family time. But enough of all the good stuff. You want to know what went wrong, don’t you?

Well, overall it was fairly incident-free, but there was “that moment” we’ll remember. It was our last day in
Delaware, and we were cleaning up the condo and loading up the van. I emptied out the garbage and threw it in the dumpster. After a couple trips of loading our luggage, Wendy had placed yet another bag of garbage out and I mumbled something about how much garbage we had. This somewhat confused Wendy, but I mumble about a lot of things that confuse her, so this was nothing new. Finally, after triple checking everything in the condo, we loaded up the last of our stuff and the kids – we counted just to make sure – and it was time to say goodbye to Delaware. We were almost out of the state, when for no particular reason I asked something about whether we packed an open box of cereal. (Hey, you never know what’s going to pop into your head as you’re cruising down the open road in our Vice President’s home state. He has a waste station named after him, by the way.) Wendy said that it was in “that one garbage bag that I set out for you to load into the van.” Well, that “one garbage bag” was sitting back in the dumpster back at the condo because I thought it was a bag of garbage. It also included the new game we’d bought out there and was jam-packed with the kids’ play clothes.


Well, we made it home safely, so all’s well that ends well. Jacob was responsible for drawing the next state:
Maryland! Apparently, someone up there wants us to get really familiar with the East coast. The next big project was a near-complete re-do of the inside of our home. Let me explain how this happened. It started with the death of a dishwasher. And, as we all know, if you replace one appliance, then the other appliances won’t match. And so, before it was said and done, we had a new refrigerator.

Well, at this point I felt generous. The year before we had redone our cabinets and put in a new kitchen floor, so I uttered the following words: “Wendy, why don’t we finish off the kitchen. You can go ahead and pick out new counters.” What I didn’t realize is that when a man says something like this, what it really means is “Wendy, I propose that we make our lives a living hell for the next two months and replace ALL the flooring in our entire house, while also ripping down all the wallpaper, painting everything and getting a bunch of new furniture, and – oh by the way – we may as well do the kitchen counters.” She referred to a legal technicality about some previous conversation that we apparently had that led to this translation of my words..

In the end, I got my revenge with the TV and surround sound. We all have to make our sacrifices. A big shout out goes to Wendy’s Mom & Dad, who helped a ton along the way.

The final step in our renovation was a wood stove that was installed in our all-season porch in early December. We’ve quickly grown to love this, and I am now officially in the “Chain-saw wielding, wood-splitting, maniac” club.

Once again, we had a big garden, and thank my Dad for his willingness to oversee it and pick potato bugs, among other things. It wasn’t the greatest growing year here, and it was real hit and miss on many things. Nonetheless, we still did manage to harvest a lot of the potatoes, and did pretty well on tomatoes, pumpkin, and squash. Some other things did OK, and some things were a complete loss, but we’re still thankful for what we did get.

Well, I suppose it’s getting to that time where I’m forced to speak of the family. We’ll go oldest to youngest,
because as I like to tell the kids, the oldest are more important.

Joe: I’m old enough now that I can’t remember how old I am, and have decided that it’s easier to do the math whenever asked instead of remembering.

Wendy is a beautiful person, the love of my life, and I cannot imagine life without her. (She’ll be reading this letter, too) She is the rock of our homeschooling efforts. It’s not as if I don’t do anything at all, mind you. The kids know to root for the Packers and Badgers, and that kickoff is normally at noon on Sundays. It’s a big responsibility, guiding good decisions in life, but I’m up for the challenge.

EE (13) is continuing to excel in piano and violin, and it’s a bit disconcerting to see her playing music that I can’t play. I’m supposed to be pleased with this development, I realize, but the next thing you know she’s going to actually think her opinion matters. And then the whole universe just goes awry, and things implode, and everything’s opposite of the way it should be. Next thing you know, Brett Favre is playing for the Vikings or something. Anyway, EE is involved this year in Orchestra through the local middle school, and also taking some other outside courses independently offered to the homeschooling group, so she’s been busy. The orchestra thing now forces us to be like all the other parents, who go to the school concert, sit there with a smile on our face while pretending everything sounds perfect, even though what is running through my mind the whole time is “Egad.”

AN’s (11) goal in life is becoming clear to me. Study only as hard as necessary to get by, get married to
someone who will support her, and be a mom. Not that this is all bad, mind you. But I’d like to see her have some kind of fallback plan as the years move along. In the meantime, she really does enjoy the artistic side of things: drawing, singing, music, etc. She is progressing well in her flute playing, and I don’t say that lightly. Seriously, after about 5 months we were still listening to her breathe after every measure, and cringing at her lessons, wondering how she could not be any better, seemingly, than she was after her first week. Then, suddenly it all clicked and now there is hope for a life without cringing.

AJ (8) has become the master builder. We’ve always seen a curiosity with him on how things work and move,
and he loves Legos and blocks and really anything where he can design and build. I almost hate to say it for fear that it sounds like bragging, but he’s really good at it and I feel like I’m seeing a budding engineer at work. Having said that, the expenditure of his efforts tend to end there. There is probably nobody better at getting every single piece out of a box, and probably nobody worse at getting a single piece back into the box.

JB (6) has really taken to the rougher/sports stuff, carrying a football around all the time, tossing it into the air, stuff like that. He played tee-ball last year and loved it. He also participated in the YMCA basketball lessons for beginners. He’s also very acute in his sense of fairness, particularly if there is anything perceived as unfair to him. We do not need a scale balance for ice-cream portions, for example. We have JB. By mere observation, he can find something equally unjust about each and every scoop.

JM (5) had an emergency-room free 2009. The kid’s an interesting dichotomy of reckless abandon and
wimpiness. He’s the kid who will back up 15 feet and smash into you like a linebacker on steroids, and at the same time if someone bumps his finger you’d swear he just had his leg impaled by a spear (or something like that). What’s tough is that, due to his lack of care in his actions, sometimes he is really hurt and sometimes he’s overreacting. We have yet to perfect the “JM injury severity test.” He also participated in beginner basketball. That was interesting. “There’s JM, diving on the floor after his ball again…”

TM (3) is three. Thankfully, his speech issues – while not perfect – are much better this year. He has been in a program to help him along with that, and it seems to have made a big difference. So, we are no longer concerned that he is stupid – at least not for that reason… We have yet to see what his full interests are, but we do know that he has the skill of stubborness. So if there is something out there where stubborn behavior is highly rewarded, it could be up his alley.

The girls have dubbed CJ (1) as the cutest kid ever. This tells us a couple things: (1) they don’t know
many little kids, and (2) maybe he is kind of cute. The best I have on CJ is that he has a unique way of
sucking his thumb. As one thumb goes into the mouth, the other hand grabs his belly-button and holds onto it for as long as the other thumb remains in the mouth. If he’s wearing a onesie and can’t access the belly-button, then he grabs the skin of his neck. This is my son. I am so proud.

Tillie is older than CJ, but even I can’t in good conscience rank a dog in importance ahead of one of my
kids. Though, that can always change, I suppose. Right now, this stupid dog is chomping on a fake duck. The three descriptor words for this black lab remain: big, dumb, and happy. Fits right in.

And with that, we once again wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here’s to a blessings-filled 2010. (Which brings up the question… do you say “twenty-ten,” or do you say “oh-ten” or do you go all the way with “two thousand-ten?” I’m a “twenty-ten” guy, myself. Not that any of this is really important, I suppose.)

Love, us.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Letter, Family | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Awning

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on October 16, 2009

And so it came to pass that the tenth month of the 2009th year was upon us. And with that, the peoples of the land known as Wisconsin began their preparations for the frigid months looming on the horizon of time that years of experience told them awaited. It was a bittersweet period for the Northwoods, as the land was often described. The waning light of morning and evening was unwelcome to many, though a few appreciated the increased darkness. More than that, however, the enjoyers of warm weather were once again facing the dreaded period of cold that was to come.

However, even with the many that would prefer summer warmth, one had to acknowledge to beauty of the current landscape. Early October was the peak time of color on the landscape. a mosaic of yellow, orange, red, and green – of varying brightness and hue, often within the same tree – decorated the view of the attentive observer. One could not help but see the symbolism of one’s own life in the very transition of these different seasons. But, just as the stark reality of death was not looked forward to by most, neither would a cold and harsh winter. And as beautiful and lovely as the early years of retirement may be for an aging man, everyone knew what was to come in future years.

Except for the skiiers and snowshoers. They were just goofy.

With the move from summer to fall came preparation. Many would be canning food from the harvest of their gardens. Others would roll out what the natives referred to as “plastic” to cover the windows on their homes. Others were once again getting accustomed to submitting weekly Fantasy Football lineups. The work never stopped.

One such man had an additional responsibility. His was the labor of driving up to the northern extremities of this strange land – a “state” in the country’s vernacular – in order to engage in a ritual of sorts. This strange ritual was called “closing down the camper” for the season.

This faraway place had been a refuge to which he and his family could go to escape the din of work and life. It had served its purpose, but now the cold was coming. A camper would be no place of refuge during the winter months, after all. It was not built for that sort of thing. No, pink fluid would now fill the pipes to ensure proper storage, the electrical lines and water hoses disconnected, all the extra accessories put safely away, and the awning rolled up.

And so he traveled. It was a difficult journey, through the Land of Road Construction, and a little-known oasis that needed to be used for personal purposes and the acquisition of a Salted Nut Roll and Water. But despite the hardship and obstacles, there would be no failure. No denying him of his responsibility. And so he persevered, and after nearly 3 long hours, he arrived at his ultimate destination, where…

“That can’t be good,” he lamented, as he secured the parking brake on the small slope in front of the camper.

Where there was once an awning was.. nothing? No, not nothing. Just not a secured awning.

It was readily apparent that a strong storm or wind had demonstrated its dominance over the metal arms and canvass structure of what used to be an awning. Twisted and broken metal lay in the wake of the remains, while the awning itself had been blow to the roof of the structure.

Anyway, that’s my long-winded way of saying “My freakin’ awning was torn apart on my camper.” It sucks. The metal arm smashed in the plastic vent-cover on the top, so I spent the next hour driving back in and getting the materials I needed to cover that up.

Thankfully, we had insurance, and it looks like it will get settled, but it’s really a pain to have to deal with.

A lesson to you campers – putting your awning all the way down, but not rolling it up may be fine and dandy 95% of the time, but I’m here as a witness to tell you that it ain’t foolproof. The right wind at the right speed from the right sirection will still take that thing and toss it over like it’s a kite.

Just one camper’s experience. Roll up your awning.

Posted in Camping, Fall, Wisconsin | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Muskie Fishing in October

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on October 14, 2009

I took a couple days off work last week. Task #1 was to fish all day in 45 degree weather, trying to land a Muskie. This isn’t what I was going to write about, but this just tells you how much I plan ahead when I decide to ramble on with this personal stuff.

So, a friend of mine whom we’ll call Jeff had called me up twice within the last week talking about the 28-inch Walleye and the 30-inch Walleye he’d hauled out of the river. (He ate them. No Mercury poisoning there…)

His stories were good. You know, the kind that makes one start thinking “Hey, I wanna go catch me one of them there Walleyes too!” And then my boss had gone out on the river last Tuesday and he and the guy he went out on the boat with caught 2 Muskies, and had 6 other trailers (ones that follow but don’t take the bait – but they usually come up to the boat and check it out before darting off, so it’s still cool). So, I ask my boss where they landed them, and in what water depth. The answer was that they found them near dams or rocks, or other places where water came to a semi-stop and was shallower (5 feet and below).

So I passed this information on to my friend, who promptly decided to troll all day right down the middle of the river in 15-feet of water. Hey, it was his boat and his equipment (mine was up north). As one might predict, when one guy is landing a certain kind of fish in a certain kind of area, and then you decide to fish in areas with none of those characteristics, you’re not exactly increasing your odds.

I thought I’d present a picture of all the huge fish we caught. Here it is:

In case you’re wondering if I forgot to upload the picture, fear not. There is no picture to upload.

Oh well. It was still better than work.

I did catch a 12-inch crappie. We finally got so desparate to catch something that we stuck some worms on a jig until one of us actually caught something. Then we went back to trolling for nothing.

That’s probably it for me until spring. I don’t do the ice-fishing thing. Give me a warm couch and a football game.

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Our Installment of Home Alone (but only for a couple minutes…)

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 20, 2009

Before I share the anecdote at hand, I found out today that if I cared about my personal stories getting out to people I know that I should be a bit more careful in the information I provide.  I received an e-mail this morning from Carol, one of our marketing gurus, letting me know that Google Blog Alerts had my posts all over her computer screen.  Not really knowing anything about this whole blog alert thing, I e-mailed back that I didn’t know what she was talking about.  As it turns out, if I mention the company’s name that I work for, then it pops up on her computer, since she tracks any discussion going on about us in the blogosphere.  Lord only knows where else in the company it popped up, so for all I know the story about me wearing my wife’s pants (accidentally!) could be working its way up the ranks this very moment.

Fortunately for you, and for me I think, I lack pride.  I like myself, and me being an idiot every now and then adds to my appeal, I believe.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, I think your life is not as good as it otherwise could be.  So, Carol at TRAVEL GUARD, enjoy the next anecdote!

Wendy has actually covered this briefly on a few days ago.  But it’s a fun story, so I’ll share my version of it here.  

Before I start, though, I want to assure everyone that not much time elapsed.  Unfortunately, people today are so freaking paranoid and ready to pounce on every little innocent mistake parents make (especially parents of larger families) that I almost hesitate to share this story.  People have lost their sense of humor and have elevated expectations of parents to the point of ridiculousness.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

Anyway, last Sunday the family was getting ready for Sunday Mass, when something unusual happened…  we lost track of time and needed to scramble in order to get going in time.  (You may have caught the sarcasm in that whole “something unusual” remark…)  It seems like, no matter how much time we actually have, we manage to not have enough.   I don’t know how that happens.

Well, a few things were in confluence on this day that made us scramble.  I had to get Tillie (our dog) into the kennel, and then realized at the last minute that our car seats and booster seats and all that stuff needed to be transferred to the big, honkin’, white cargo van.

Just as I left the house to take care of that, I heard Wendy tell the boys to get their coats and shoes and such on and get out into the van. So, I was frantically moving seats, the kids were frantically scurrying out the door and getting into the van, and finally Wendy came out and got into the van, while I looked at the clock and lamented that we may not make it in time for the start of Mass.

After taking a deep breath or two and relaxing, as Wendy continued tradition by putting her make-up on in the van as we were driving, we were finally in control. Just as I was trying to figure out how much of Mass we would miss if our Priest started Mass 2 minutes early like he always does, the 7-year-old (AJ) turned to speak with the 2-year-old (TM) who sits right next to him. “Hey , look at… Hey! Where’s T.M.?”

Collectively, everyone in the van said, “What?!”

Wendy turned around. No TM.

Fortunately, it had only been a couple minutes. Our road is about a mile and a half to the first turn, and we were maybe halfway down the road. And, of course, I turned around immediately. Visions of screaming TM, psychologically crushed that we left him behind, danced through our heads. We pulled back into our driveway, Wendy hustled inside, and the rest of us waited. We waited a little longer. Finally, after waiting some more, mother and son were reunited with the rest of the family.

As it turns out, TM was up in a far corner of the house taking care of a little business of his own. Wendy had to take care of that odorous business before coming back outside. He never even knew we were gone (thankfully).

It would have made a better story had we not figured it out until we reached the Church, but it’s a good thing for all involved that didn’t happen. Plus, I probably wouldn’t share the story if that had happened. And no, we didn’t miss Mass, though we had to go to a different church.

From now on, though, maybe we need a pull-tab system or something to let us know that everyone has left the building.

Posted in Anecdotes, Family, Kids, Life, Parenting | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »