Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Finished

Although these daily blogging challenges are exciting and creative and rewarding, they're also exactly what they say they are: challenging.

This blog post fulfills my requirement as a November 2010 NaBloPoMo winner. I've had fun, but I'm glad it's over. For now. But as the quote below says...this one may be finished, but who knows what I'm going to start next? [answer: nobody knows. not even me.]

I'm thankful for...the finish line.

"Every new beginning comes from
some other beginning's end."
—Semisonic, "Closing Time"

— • — • —

In a bit of a departure from my regular format, I'll add something down here below the quote. My nephew, Daniel, took this photo of me during our Thanksgiving feast, to commemorate the passing of the cranberries from counter to table. So I thought I'd share the two photos, 30 years apart. [Note: I didn't spill them this time. I'm older, and more careful. And there's carpeting there now.]

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Web

I'd be excluding a relevant part of my life if I didn't mention during these thirty days the glorious invention that's delivering these words to your eyes.

No, not bifocals.
The Internet!
Web 2.0, to be more specific.
(or whatever version we've upgraded to by now...Web, perhaps.)

I like being a part of Web 2.0...a contributor, a content creator. This blog gives me a space to be poetic or rambly or whiny or (occasionally) funny, it gives me an audience, and other blogs give me access to unbelievably talented writers who may otherwise be custodians or biologists or part-time holiday retail salespeople.

Facebook and Twitter keep me connected to my friends, and allow me to complain about another Lions' loss, or share a photo of a seven-pound squash.

Foursquare and ning and LinkedIn and blippr and YouTube and Plurk and...
...man, the Internet is big.

I'm thankful for being connected.

"Information on the Internet is subject
to the same rules and regulations
as conversation at a bar."
—George Lundberg

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Insulation

After one last relatively mild weekend day, the hatches have been sufficiently battened for the winter looming ahead.

The windows are most likely closed until spring, and the planters and flower pots and deck chairs have been stowed to avoid being buried by the impending snow drifts.

Although we may complain about the cold over the next few months, and don an occasional extra top layer or thicker pair of socks, we can listen to the wind whipping outside and know we have a safe, warm, dry home in which to escape the elements.

— • — • —

My favorite holiday has come and gone, and I've sufficiently and deliciously stuffed myself not once, but three times over this long weekend. In the past year, I've shed quite a few pounds, but during these last few weeks, my progress has taken a recognizably backwards path.

The passing of Thanksgiving is my cue to return to a regular exercise regimen and less gluttonous diet, in preparation for a new year, and a possible Polar Plunge to kick off said year.

— • — • —

I'm thankful for insulation...in the walls around me, which means I have a place to live, and in my currently expanding stomach, which means that I have food to eat.

"Certainly my life will not ever be as private and discreet,
and perhaps I should even use the word insulated,
as it was before."
—Anita Hill

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Right

I created this blog in August 2006, and for the past four and a half years, have alternately paid great attention or no attention to it.

I've written a biweekly or weekly column in a smalltown newspaper for more than eight years...my next one will be my 400th. I'm also in my sixth season of writing a rather cheesy NFL prediction column, mostly for laughs, and began co-writing a monthly food column in September 2009.

I've attended several writing workshops, and dashed to author events to hear them talk about their process of creating a novel or collection of poems.

I've dabbled in a few lines of poetry myself, and made a half-hearted attempt at completing a novel in a month for the NaNoWriMo challenge (one day I'll finish one). I also occasionally participate in a co-journaling exercise with my favorite writer.

Cap off that list with bookshelves filled with dozens of manuals on the writing craft, and creativity, and grammar and the English language, and writing exercises...and it's easy enough to call myself a writer.

I haven't yet made a living as a full-time writer, and may never be so lucky. But I realized years ago that it's the path for me, whether it earns me five dollars or five hundred thousand dollars.

In Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write," she gives us all permission to be writers, no matter our level of talent. She tells us why we can write, and why we should write.

I am thankful for so many of the rights I am afforded...
...especially, the write one.

"The career of a writer is comparable to that
of a woman of easy virtue. You write first
for pleasure, later for the pleasure of others,
and finally for money."
—Marcel Achard

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Br(e)ak(e)s

Who doesn't love a four-day weekend? (you contrarians out there, put your hands down. you know you do, too.)

I spent much of today thinking it was Saturday. I even caught myself questioning who was hosting Saturday Night Live tonight, when it isn't quite Saturday. While the extended break is always welcomed, it'll be Sunday evening before we blink, so this feeling of three consecutive Saturdays is one worth savoring a couple of times a year.

Not that it was a particularly eventful Sa...I mean...Friday. I didn't join the sleep-deprived masses in the pre-dawn hours, busting down the doors for can't-miss doorbusters. I lazed in bed, I crossed off a few chores on the to-do list, I went to a bar to watch Auburn beat Alabama and show Jessica a bit about the fine art of dart shooting, I'm blogging, and I plan to get lost in a funny movie shortly.

Took my car in to get my brakes fixed, because I found when the pads are completely shot, the metal-on-metal grinding can be tolerated for approximately...one day, before repairs must be scheduled.

Accomplishy. Sort of.
Lazy. A bit.
Swell. Yep.

I'm thankful for good breaks.
And good brakes.

"People who make no mistakes lack boldness
and the spirit of adventure. They are the brakes
on the wheels of progress."
—Dale Turner

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Left

I love leftovers.
And there is no better day for leftovers than Thanksgiving, and the day after.

My favorite sandwich of the year is a tiny turkey sandwich on a separated twin roll, when The Feast: Part II, occurs on Thanksgiving evening. As we haul out all of the dishes and salads and relishes and sides from The Main Event that occurred several hours earlier, I eagerly anticipate this simple, unassuming sandwich.

One half of a fresh twin roll, extra heavy on the Miracle Whip, a few pieces of juicy white meat, extra heavy on the salt.

Two, maybe three, bites.
Repeated four, maybe five, times.

Use the bread as necessary to mop up the oil & vinegar dressing that escapes from the bean salad across the plate.

A slightly soggier version of heaven.

I'm thankful for an abundance of food and friends and family members, that all may be enjoyed, not only on this, the greatest day of the year, but tomorrow and the next day, and all year round.

So thankful.

"If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got,
he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get."
—Frank A. Clark

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Slidey

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you not have to eat your cranberries off of the floor.

Tonight, and many nights, I am thankful for lasting holiday memories.

(click here for the story behind this photo.)

"To give thanks in solitude is enough.
Thanksgiving has wings and goes
where it must go. Your prayer knows
much more about it than you do."
—Victor Hugo

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Moonglow

Tonight, as I drove home from work, the moon was hanging very low in the sky, looking ginormous, glowing with a pale golden hue. It looked close enough that if I took the right route and drove just a few more miles, I'd reach the surface...certainly before I ran out of the quarter tank of gas I had left in my car. It was nothing short of...magical.

You probably think I'm being overly dramatical, but...that's what the moon does to me. I don't stare at it only when it's huge or new or full. I stare at it all the time. The moon and Orion, when it's his season to travel our night sky, are my two constants. I may even...um...talk to them.

[I asked Orion if he got any deer this season, and he said he's still chasing them.]

A few years ago, when the moon was bright and high in the sky, I drove a mile out of the town I lived in, and experimented with my new camera until my fingers were frozen, and managed this shot.

I haven't had the same luck in other attempts at capturing the moon, and didn't have time tonight, unfortunately, to run around and find a spot to set up camera and lens and tripod. But I hope to capture an image some night when I see it again as brilliant as it was tonight.

I'm thankful for the moon and the stars, the possibilities of other worlds, and the dream of one day owning lakefront property on the Sea of Tranquility.

"Yeah, we all shine on,
like the moon,
and the stars,
and the sun."
—John Lennon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Quotable

I'm not the most quotable person you'll meet, but I'm eternally grateful for the millions of people who are.

I love quotes.

I collect them, and copy them, and stick them to my walls or bulletin boards. I include one at the end of almost every blog post I write, and every column, too. Often, a single keyword is the only thing that connects the quote to the column.

Quotes are smart, and funny, and profound, and thoughtful. They can be sarcastic or sincere or sad. Sometimes they're life lessons in thirty words or fewer.

A phrase I use, perhaps too often, when I'm unsure of myself, is, "...don't quote me on this, but..."

But the truth is, I really do want to be quoted, and someday find myself listed among a searchable database of a million quotations.

I'm thankful for so many smart people who say so many smart things.
And some of the dumb ones, too.

"A witty saying proves nothing."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Sleep


(sure, it's cheating. but who isn't thankful for as much sleep as they can get?)

"O sleep, O gentle sleep, nature's soft nurse,
how have I frightened thee, that thou no more
wilt weigh my eye-lids down and
steep my senses in forgetfulness?"
—William Shakespeare

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Luck (Part II)

"Is it fate or random chance, how can I decide?
Are we victims of circumstance when destinies collide?"

I open tonight's discussion (and...I'd love for this to turn into a discussion, because I'm curious to hear how some of you would classify this) with a quote from "Somebody's Out There," by Triumph.

A buddy sent me an e-mail yesterday, calling me out on my recent blog post about luck, arguing that I'd wrongly classified my situation. Here (with his permission) is what he wrote:
"And I have an issue with your blog post from this morning/last night. Luck had nothing to do with you two getting together. That makes it seem like it was completely out of your control. Luck had nothing to do with you infrequently updating your blog. Luck had nothing to do with you and your dorky outings to poetry readings. Luck had nothing to do with you following up on a possibility... luck had nothing to do with anything."
He raises a good point. I ended that blog post by calling myself "one lucky fool," which refers more to whom I was so fortunate to find because of my trip to a poetry reading and my ownership of this blog. [note to all my poet friends who read this blog: the "dorky" term in his comment was aimed directly at me and me alone. I'm sure he thinks other poet/writer types are cool. except me. I'm used to it.]

But what would you call the rather odd series of events that led me to my relationship? Fate? Destiny? Luck? Or simply random day-to-day activities?

I've been called a lucky person in other areas of my life. I play the occasional hand of poker, and have been known to draw the right card at the right time. That's not necessarily luck, because the order of the cards was already pre-determined after the shuffle. But some people are seen as luckier than others. One professional poker player, John Juanda, has the official nickname (and Twitter account) of LuckBoxJuanda. Does that mean that he doesn't also have the skill to play the game? Um, no.

When I'm standing at the dart line and I let go of a dart, I may think that it's doomed from the moment it leaves my fingers, because the shot doesn't feel right. And yet...it drops into the triple or the bullseye. Is that luck? I don't know.

I used to play more basketball than I do now, and sometimes I'd throw up a shot that had no chance. And...swish! (or perhaps a bank. oops.)

If I was really lucky, I would have won the lottery by now, right? Because it takes so much luck to hit every number, and cash in those millions. Or...does it?

It's a valid question. I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to have found the incredible person I get to spend my life with, but was the process of finding her lucky? Probably not. It was just...me. Doing what I do. Going to a free local poetry reading. Writing a blog entry. And (I love his last line) following up on a possibility. Because it felt right.

Tongue in cheek, he adds an exclamation point to his e-mail by closing with:
"Now as for why I don't have anybody writing blog posts like that for me? I'm just unlucky."
I'm thankful for any luck and fate and destiny and random positivity in my life, whether created by me or thrust upon me.

"I find that the harder I work,
the more luck I seem to have."
—Thomas Jefferson

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Drugs

Nooo...not those kinds of drugs.

Think Sudafed. Think Advil. Think...children's orange-flavored chewable aspirin.

I'm headed in the direction of a cold, I fear. My first one since last November, so I shouldn't complain so much that another one may or may not be coming.

I don't take a lot of cold medications or ibuprofen, but I know they help. Or at least...sometimes they make me believe they're helping. Which can be better than nothing. Last night I went to the store and came home with orange juice (not a drug, just a half gallon carton of deliciousness!), Comtrex (they were out of Sudafed) and lemon-lime Airborne (they were out of orange). If all of these things combined keep my cold at bay until after (did you hear that, illness gods?!?) Thanksgiving next week, then it can run me over like a bulldozer for a week, and I won't complain. Much.

I'm thankful for the sneezes and coughs and aches and fevers and chills that will kindly wait until my favorite day of the year has passed before they latch onto me and make me miserable. And I'm thankful for the drugs (except for the children's aspirin, which I haven't taken in decades) that are going to put up the good fight against these evil demons.

"Drugs are a bet
with your mind."
—Jim Morrison

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Luck

Some might call tonight's post cheating.
I can live with that.
(although this one definitely has more substance than a week ago when I opened my blog, shouted out the word, "haircuts!" and closed it back up.)

Some might call this post schmoopy.
Don't care much about that, either.

In a month of finding things to be thankful for, this topic was bound to come up. And it might be addressed once again before November's end, should I choose to visit it from a slightly different point of view.

But here's a story...
No. Here's...my story.
In someone else's words.

Tonight, and every night for the past year and a half,
I'm so thankful for being one...lucky...fool.

"People often remark that I'm pretty lucky.
Luck is only important in so far as
getting the chance to sell yourself at the
right moment. After that you've got to
have talent and know how to use it."
—Frank Sinatra

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Clack

Am I the only one who's more than slightly obsessed with the frenetic clackety-clack of keyboard keys? It rates very high on my list of favorite sounds.

Not a brief cluster of a couple dozen clacks, interrupted by a mouse click or two. That sounds more like a Facebook update, or a tweet.

But a continuous run of hundreds of clicks and clacks all mashed together in a row. The heavier, clunky clacks of an older keyboard, or the light, fragile clicks of a new clipboard-thin Mac keyboard, or the softened plastic clacks of a laptop keyboard. I love them all. Music to my ears.

I'm thankful for the melodious soundtrack of fingers dancing across a keyboard, evidence that something is being created. A Stephen King horror story, a Grisham thriller, a Jennifer Crusie romance, a Bryson laugh.

A column.
Or a short blog post.


"We've heard that a million monkeys at a keyboard
could produce the complete works of Shakespeare;
now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."
—Robert Wilensky

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Juked

Tonight I'm thankful for Internet jukeboxes at bars, because they put like a bazillion songs right at your fingertips. You can find anything on those contraptions!

Except...well, except when you try to type in David & David, but can't find the ampersand key, so instead you opt to type in, "Welcome to the Boomtown," but it doesn't even recognize it as a song!

So you move in a different direction, and play a song by The Call that you haven't heard in years.

I'm thankful for access to so much music, in so many formats.
And I'm thankful for ampersands.

"Here's to the wisdom
from the mouths of babes."
"Let The Day Begin," The Call

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Books

I received a brochure from the Quality Paperback Book Club a couple of weeks ago, after they'd been absent from my mailbox for the last few years.

I've been a member many times...joining, fulfilling my obligation, and then canceling until they'd send me a note, begging me to rejoin. Lather, rinse, repeat with the Book-of-the-Month Club, as well. I can't resist books for a buck. Or a quarter.

Looking around at our overflowing library of books, I chuckle when I catch myself spending too much time paging through the current selections in the QPB brochure, or browsing online for even more titles. We do not...need...more books.

But that won't stop me from joining for yet another time, because if I can get the 2011 Writer's Market for one thin dollar...then everything else in our order will be gravy.

We have books in every room of our house, piled on shelves, stacked on our nightstands. And yes, we have books in the bathroom. (If you don't, you're missing out on some quality reading time!)

I would be most grateful for an extra day in each week to spend more time reading these books...but finding great bargains and obscure titles and interesting topics, is almost as much fun. Almost.

I'm thankful for books. So...many...books.

"The advice of the elders to young men
is very apt to be as unreal as a list of
the hundred best books."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Employed

While it's easy to be thankful for weekends when you're in the middle of one, or impatiently waiting for one to arrive, it wouldn't be so simple if there were no real distinction between weekdays and the weekend.

Sunday nights, and the impending Monday mornings, rate highly on my list of things I'd rather do away with. (along with all of the vampire hype.)

But dreading Monday mornings means I have a job. And although it's one that I may grumble about from time to time, it's also one in which I'm safe from being down-sized, and one in which I know in my own mind that I'm a valuable, productive member of a team.

I'm thankful to be employed through so much economic uncertainty.

"They are not only idle who do nothing,
but they are idle also who might 
be better employed."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Weekends

This probably goes without saying (kind of like the day I was thankful for cheese, because...seriously...who's not thankful for cheese?!?), but I love weekends.

Whether you love your job or hate your job or are indifferent toward your job, a break from your job is rarely a bad thing. Forty-eight hours to concentrate on something else. Or...nothing else.

Those who don't have a traditional Saturday/Sunday weekend get their break on Tuesday/Wednesday, or Wednesday/Thursday. But it's the same break. Others...freelancers, for instance...may not have a weekend that's as well-defined as some, but they're still able to carve out hours in their week unrelated to the work they're doing.

Several times throughout the year, by choice or by holiday, we get a three-day weekend, and wonder why a presidential candidate hasn't included that in his or her campaign platform: three day weekends every week!

They'd get my vote.

I'm thankful for weekends.

"If all the cars in the United States
were placed end to end,
it would probably be Labor Day weekend."
—Doug Larson

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Sip

Earlier today I took an informal poll asking whether people prefer coffee or tea.

While I've learned to drink coffee in the past few years, I can't, and don't think I ever will, call myself a coffee drinker.

But I love tea. Iced tea, hot tea...many teas. In recent months I've discovered the deliciousness of loose leaf tea, and stores like Fava Tea Company that provide endless varieties to choose from.

Other beverages on my favorites list include too much Diet Pepsi, wines, juices, Gatorades, VitaminWaters, milks of the chocolate variety......get the idea? I'm slightly obsessed with liquids.

Topping that list, though, has to be water. The human body is already made up of so much of it, and I just keep pouring more in. Eight glasses of water a day? Please...how about more like eightteen? (perhaps.) Water is the perfect drink.

I'm thankful for having dozens (hundreds?) of beverage choices.

And being from Wisconsin, I bet you can guess which one I'm second-most thankful for! (of course I didn't leave it out of this post until now by accident.)

"I come from a family where
gravy is considered a beverage."
—Erma Bombeck

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Crowds

I spend a lot of time in crowds.

Not like shopping mall crowds. No thank you.

But concert crowds. Author event crowds. The occasional sporting event crowd.

I'm more than willing to travel, sometimes long distances at very odd hours of the day and night, for the chance to see a favorite music group or writer or speaker or celebrity.

Last night we drove down to UW-Milwaukee to hear Michael Pollan talk about food. He is, without a doubt, more of a foodie than I ever plan to be, but he was smart, engaging, funny, entertaining...and I learned something. I also had a blast people watching and seeing others' reactions, and enjoyed hearing what they asked him in the Q&A session at the end.

I've attended quite a few concerts. Not as many as my buddy, Scott, who claims to have a shoe box filled with hundreds of ticket stubs from over the years. (not that I'm jealous. ok, I am.)

Twice I've had the good fortune to see the best golfers in the world play in one of the sport's four majors. It's kind of a rush to see Tiger and Phil and Ernie and so many others stroll past a few feet away from you.

And I've driven down to Chicago...and back...on a Monday night...to spend an hour with writing guru Natalie Golberg.

So tonight I'm thankful, not for the crowds themselves, but for the vibe I get being among 40,000 close friends at Alpine Valley, or even 300 at the Majestic in Madison, who are all singing or jamming or getting drunk to the same great live tunes I am. And for the awe I feel sitting 20 feet from Dave Barry, listening to him talk as funny as he writes.

And I'm thankful for the adrenaline rush that carries me home...and stays with me, sometimes for weeks.

"It's just trying every day to do the best you can
and to enjoy what you have with the mixture
of the venue and the sound and the crowd."
—Keren Ann

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Aim

Tonight I have a little bit of time between getting home from work and going out to shoot darts.

I'm in a dart league.

I've been in one, on the same team, for about 16 or 17 years. And for the majority of those years, I've been a good shooter...better than many. It probably took me the first couple of years to find my groove and learn the mental part of the game, and my skills have declined in the past three or four years.

But for much of the time in the middle, I had a shooter's touch. We used to shoot in more leagues than we do now, and travel to tournaments on weekends. Darts was a big enough part of my life that it was the inspiration for the title of this blog.

I don't take it as seriously anymore, but I'm still pretty sharp. I even had a shot a couple of weeks ago at that elusive Ton-Fifty-ONE to complete a perfect game. I nailed my first five bullseyes, but sent my sixth dart a few holes wide of the triple-17, failing to shoot a perfect game. (maybe I'll get one tonight!)

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, a game of darts isn't much. But it feels good to be really good at something. If I were as good of a writer as I am a dart shooter, I'd be published by now. Well...technically, I am published. But I mean really really published. (should I add one more really for effect?)

Tonight, I'm thankful for the hand-eye coordination and the luck/skill I've built over the years at this game, even a stupid, meaningless bar game. It's given me a great group of friends to hang with, it's given me a diversion to break up the grind of the work week, it's given me at least one thing at which I am, or have been, rather close to exceptional. And it's given me a blog title!

I'll be even more thankful if I shoot well tonight, and live up to the title of my blog.

"This discourse, and the present frame of my mind,
lead me rather to speak to those, who by feeling
Satan's fiery darts, know assuredly that there is a devil."
—George Whitefield

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Fooood!

I'm surprised that it took me eight days to be thankful for food. I could very easily use it as an every-other-day blog topic, and write for months!

I love food.

I used to love fast food. But after too many trips through too many drive-thrus, I slowly realized I had to find other foods to love.

Over the past couple of years, I've been introduced to the foodie lifestyle, and while I doubt I'll switch completely from Big Macs to bulgur wheat, I've learned that there's very little I don't like. I have as much fun exploring the menu at a corner greasy spoon as I do at the best Italian or Asian restaurants.

From farmers' market vegetables to beef sticks to sushi to burgers to pastas, I'm thankful for so many delicious food options to choose from, and an adventurous appetite to sample menu items I can't even pronounce.

"I just love Chinese food.
My favourite dish is number 27."
—Clement Atlee

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Haiku

Poetical Thanks

an image, painted
in seventeen syllables
tiny life snapshot

"Every week it's another opportunity to really make that work
and figure out how to make it work better. And I love that it's
like theater, too, and the audience, and it's so short.
It's only 20 minutes. It's like a haiku or something."
—Joan Cusack

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Time

Tonight we set our clocks back and gain an hour.

People talk about the time change, and remind others to set their clocks, and discuss how they plan to use the extra hour. It becomes a hot topic, one that I may turn into a column next week. It's even trending on Twitter as I write this.

In the spring, it's the same process, but the conversation is different: complaints about how losing the hour screwed up everyone's system, and how they don't adjust back to normal for like, I dunno, eight months, or something. (I never understood how losing one...simple...hour could put a person's world on tilt for three or four days.)

As we enter into holiday season, our time becomes more overloaded with things to do, and we may lose sight of what the holidays really mean to us.

Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey or the cranberries or the peas & carrots or the dressing. (OK, maybe it's a little bit about the dressing. And a little bit about the Lions game on TV.) And Christmas isn't about elbowing your way through crowded shopping malls or stringing more lights on your house than the neighbor has, or wrapping each gift using only three pieces of tape.

All of the holidays over the next couple of months...whichever ones you may celebrate...are more about the time you spend with those who are most important to you, making memories, laughing, throwing dinner rolls (and the occasional deviled egg) from one end of the table to the other, or trying to determine just how many different disgusting spices can be added to a malt beverage called, "Christmas Brew."

Tonight I am thankful for the extra hour I get to spend diving into Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol," and the time I will spend during this holiday stretch (that, quite frankly, makes me rather anti-festive before it's all over) with the people I love.

"Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now.
The place to be happy is here.
The way to be happy is to make others so."
—Robert Green Ingersoll

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Ha!

Steve Martin was on David Letterman tonight.

I know this not because I regularly check Dave's guest list, but because Steve Martin has a Twitter account.

When I first stumbled upon Steve's Twitter, I kinda dorked out, because...well, because Steve's hilarious. And I enjoy having as many hilarious people around me as will fit, in person or via any number of various media.

After following Steve's tweets for several days, I half-jokingly tweeted that all I wanted for Christmas, my birthday and all holidays in between was to have Steve Martin reply to one of my tweets.

And then...within a couple of hours of that tweet, I received a direct message. From Steve Martin. It said, "Can't. Too busy."

Simple. Brilliant. Perfect.

He's had a permanent seat on my top tier of favorites for years, along with Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Ellen DeGeneres, Al Franken, Tina Fey, Mitch Hedberg, Garrison Keillor...and others I'm sure I'm omitting. Michael Perry is a newcomer to this ever-changing list.

I also have the good fortune to hang around with some ridiculously funny people...new friends, old friends, and those who are soon-to-be-new friends.

I am thankful for the funny.

"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."
—Steve Martin

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Word(s)

I love words.

For as long as I can remember...I've loved words. If the story is accurate, I've been reading since I was 4 years old. (I don't remember much from that long ago, so you'll have to ask those who were in charge back then, because I was just, you know...4.)

After high school, I started on the path toward being an accountant (following in someone else's footsteps), but soon realized that wasn't for me. So I set out on a different path, in the direction of journalism. Along the way, I encountered immovable boulders, downed tree limbs, and a mountain lion. It was not an easy path, for a number of reasons.

But even with those obstacles, I knew that eventually my path would contain words instead of numbers, cells or binary code.

Not that wordsmiths are better than accountants or biologists or computer geeks. In fact, I know people in all of these fields who are also better with words than 85 percent of the population, including me. And these people suck.

I kid the multi-talented.

I can't imagine a life without books to read, or notebooks to fill with thoughts, or a column to write, or a blog to ignore.

I'm thankful for my love of words.

"Actually, if a writer needs a dictionary, he should not write.
He should have read the dictionary at least three times from
beginning to end and then loaned it to someone who needs it. There are
only certain words which are valid and similes (bring me my dictionary)
are like defective ammunition (the lowest thing I can think of at this time).
—Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Moo

Tonight, I'm thankful for cheese.

Bigger picture, I'm thankful for cheese every day. Because in Wisconsin, we make cheese really gouda.
(if you didn't see that coming, then you don't know me very well. or cheese.)

I'm also thankful for blog posts that don't always have to be seven or eight or fourteen paragraphs long.

About 20 minutes away from where I live is a small, unassuming cheese shop out in the middle of nowhere called Pine River Dairy that makes some of the best...cheese...anywhere. And has a selection of more than 250 varieties.

Thanks for keeping me stocked with samples.

"My whole family is lactose intolerant and when
we take pictures we can't say cheese."
—Jay London 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Voice

It seems fitting that on Election Day, I should write something about politics.

But this is supposed to be a post about being thankful, and I haven't seen much in the last few hours to be thankful for.


Perhaps I can tackle it this way:

I spend quality time with people who are very important in my life, who generally see things the way I see them. Political, social, fiscal, recreational, spiritual...and many other -als that you can think of. We're more or less on the same page.

I also spend much quality time with people who are very important in my life, who couldn't have more opposing viewpoints to mine if you lined them up on a protractor and measured out exactly one hundred and eighty degrees. Not only are we not on the same page, but if one of us is in a Tolstoy novel, the other is in a Rachael Ray cookbook. [Note: I will not use this space to determine which is whom or whom is which. Or...whatever.]

I'm thankful that, in both instances above, we can have open, honest discussions about a wide range of topics in a variety of settings...around a campfire or kitchen table or on a bar stool...and after a sometimes heated debate, agree to disagree and still have a beer together, or play bocce ball. (Or, ideally...have a beer while playing bocce ball!)

My favorite Dr. Seuss quote applies here: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

Those who matter accept you, warts and all. And they can entertain your ideas without necessarily agreeing with them, or even vehemently opposing them. And they'll still matter.

I'm thankful for those who matter, and allow me to say what I feel.

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask,
'Where have I gone wrong?' Then a voice says to me,
'This is going to take more than one night.'"
—Charlie Brown

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Audience

The first year I participated in NaBloPoMo—2007—several bloggers used their daily posts to list one thing they were thankful for. When the blogging challenge began, it ran concurrently with the novel-writing challenge NaNoWriMo, in November, so it was a fitting theme.

Since then, NaBloPoMo has expanded to every month of the year, but November still feels like home. After a successful month of daily blogging in September, I've basically ignored this space during October, so I thought another month of the dailies would give me a kick in the pants...again.

In November, complete with my favorite holiday only a few weeks away, I'll choose 30 things for which I'm thankful. Shouldn't be difficult, because there are probably about thirty thousand around me that I can give thanks for. And I'm not talking only about my CD collection.

A logical place to begin is with you, my readers.

I'm not much of a stats watcher, but I receive weekly e-mail updates on blog traffic, and it's evident that when I pay attention to my blog, you pay attention to my blog. (I'm stating the obvious, aren't I?)

I know I have a handful of regular readers—most of whom are directly related to me—but there must also be some of you out there who may have accidentally stumbled onto this page, and next time stumbled on purpose.

It still kind of blows me away that, whether from this blog or the weekly newspaper column I write, I actually have...readers! An audience. People who take the time out of their day to read some words I may have clumsily strung together.

And for that, I'm grateful, and thankful.
And a little confused.

"The writer does the most good who gives his reader
the most knowledge and takes from him the least time."
—Sydney Smith