4.22.2018

Commercial break: Mine

Following up on my post last weekend, I caught another commercial that had me smiling tonight. And this one also involves a car.

Enjoy.

4.15.2018

Commercial breaks: Living to the Full

It's baseball season, and I'm loving my MLB.TV subscription and the ability to stream any game I want. Watching them on my projection screen every night in my den is pure heaven. ... and it's especially important these days, considering Mother Nature thinks it needs to be like January outside.



The commercials between innings on MLB.TV, however, are limited, which means I tend to see the same ones all the time. They go in cycles as the seasons change and advertisers swap out various products. Some are really good, and some are really bad - and get terribly annoying.

Right now, I gotta say, there's some I really enjoy ... including a sweet series of Phillips 66 commercials depicting a day in the life of a stay-at-home mom, a father and daughter during the course of a basketball season, and a car pool driver.

Watch the commercials below. ... Today, I noticed that, in each commercial, all three drivers are featured pumping gas at once at a Phillips 66 gas station. Look for them between the 10 and 15-secod marks in each 30-second spot. So cool!





2.22.2018

Goal’d!

Finally. Last night I got the kind of golden moment I had been waiting for during these Olympic games.

The U.S. women’s hockey team knocked off Canada and its 24-game-Olympic-win-and-four-consecutive-gold-medal streak. In dramatic fashion. At 2 a.m.

From the Associated Press
Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory. 
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to start the Americans piling over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice. 
Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation . Hilary Knight also had a goal.
Maddie Rooney made 29 saves for the win against their archrival. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.
I mean, we really enjoyed watching the Shib-Sibs earlier this week. But their bronze medal performance was nothing compared to last night. ... I do love me some hockey, especially when the stakes are high. Heck, I'm willing to call it the most exciting sport on the planet.

With Kates and the girls in bed by 9 last night, I went to watch the game in my basement den and would have it no other way. Lying on my couch, I was jerking and shouting and punching air with every shot on goal, every cleared puck, every body contact. And when the U.S. scored I clapped so hard my hand hurt.

The U.S. was relentless in their attack – especially in overtime – that I kept feeling as though they were destined to win that game. The opposite outcome would have been utterly heartbreaking. Yet when Maddie Rooney blocked that final shot in the shootout, I almost didn’t know how to react. All I did was sit and smile.

With icy weather snarling our region this week, the public schools canceled today for the second time this week and Kates and the girls are sleeping in this morning. Kates returned to teaching for the first time yesterday after her two-week bout with her flu. But after having Presidents Day off on Monday and then no school Tuesday and today because of the weather, she’s getting some bonus time to recover.

Meanwhile, I’m reporting to work, wide-eyed and ready to go after just found hours of sleep and no days off this week.

I'm thinking I have a date with the girls this evening to watch NBC's replay of the hockey game.

Good read



2.18.2018

Clear and calm

After all of the craziness of the last couple months, it’s been a strangely quiet, stress-free and productive weekend. We’ve watched the Olympics. We’ve enjoyed the outdoors. Participated in a math contest. Cheered on our home team. The girls have been in super-pretend and play mode and getting along swimmingly. And I’ve caught up on a ton of work.

Maybe putting so much on hold the last couple weeks as Kates battled the flu actually helped distract me to a point that cleared my mind enough to fuel this burst of energy and inspiration. I also might be channeling my mother, who – besides being a source of inspiration for my writing since I was 8 years old – seems to have experienced her own burst of energy lately and, despite the limits of her MS and recent foot surgery, has shared more stories and dispatched more emails to my brother and I in the last two months than she did in the last two years.

It also doesn't hurt that we're having spring-like weather this weekend. The snow is gone – for now –and the temperatures are in the 50s, allowing Kates and Faye to play in the backyard yesterday. Phoebe and I took a bike ride this afternoon.

* * *

We’re at the midway point of the Olympics, and the boredom is setting in. Maybe it’s the fact that the U.S. athletes have been seemingly overrated and underwhelming this year.

Which is largely NBC’s doing, leaving us at the mercy to watch the athletes and events they deem important during primetime. I’ve seen enough of the incredibly hyped Nathan Chen and slalom during the last week to last me the next four years, thank you very much.

I, too, fell for NBC’s dirty depiction on Friday night of Austria's Anna Veith winning the women's super-G – only to read the news Saturday morning that Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic won the event and think, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not the way I saw it last night.’ It seems like that’s happened more times during this Olympics than I can remember it happening any other time.

This from the Associated Press …
Instead of laughing off or owning up to making a wrong call the night before in the women's super-G, NBC's ski announcers seemed intent on justifying themselves Saturday night. In that Alpine race, little-known Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic stunned everyone by edging Austria's Anna Veith for the gold medal. Ledecka, ranked No. 43 in the world, was considered to have so little chance that NBC's Dan Hicks declared Veith the winner and NBC switched away as if the race was over. But it wasn't. Returning to the subject a night later, Bode Miller declared that "in everyone's opinion, the race was over. It was one of the most incredible upsets I've seen in any sport." Hicks noted that even Ledecka couldn't believe she had won. "Neither could we," he said. Under the circumstances, producers had made a reasonable call to move on to a compelling figure-skating competition. But it was still wrong for Hicks to have expressed certainty that the race was over, and the way he and Miller revisited it Saturday only served to annoy viewers who had missed the miracle on snow.
So last night, Kates and I tuned out and watched “Temple Grandin” so she could see the story that I've been raving about for herself.

* * *

Yesterday was the regional math contest, and Phoebe was one of the five kids in her grade who were selected to compete and represent her school. Kates and I couldn’t have been prouder of her when she came home with the letter notifying us of her selection a few weeks ago.

Although, Kates – who happens to be Phoebe’s math teacher this year – knew Phoebe had been selected. In fact, Kates annually coaches the team, so it was shaping up to be a special time for them to share that experience together.

Then, Kates got sick. Another teacher took over the practice sessions with the students in her absence. And a few days ago, realizing she wasn’t going to be well enough to accompany the kids to the contest, she asked the other teacher to take her place at the contest. Kates was crushed.

So, instead, I woke up early with Phoebe yesterday morning and drove her the 15 minutes down the road to the high school in the northeast corner of the county for the contest. Phoebe was nervous, and I was anxious for her. My heart sunk as we parked the car and Kates texted me to inform me that Phoebe had forgotten her calculator and No. 2 pencils on the kitchen table. A moment later, we met the fill-in coach in the parking lot. Without prompting, he told Phoebe he had extra calculators and pencils if she needed them. Phew.

Inside, I helped Phoebe check in and she went on her way with the rest of her team while I joined other parents to wait out the morning in the school gym. … I saw her again a couple hours later when they got a break and we went to the concession stand for a snack. Then, she found me around noon once the contest had finished. Some volunteers were serving up pizza and hot dogs in the lunchroom, so Phoebe and I took advantage of that.

Then we waited in the school gym for the judges to announce the scores. And we waited. And waited and waited. The schedule indicated the award winners would be announced between 1 and 1:30 p.m. By 2, there had been no indication an announcement was close nor any reason given for the delay, and the kids – and adults – were getting restless. Finally, a few minutes after 2, the contest coordinator appeared and announced that the judges were having trouble uploading the scores to their computer system. They didn’t know when the issue would be fixed, so the best course was to dismiss everyone and send the awards to the individual schools and students.

With little time to spare, Phoebe and I drove back to The ‘Ville and headed straight for the basketball arena to take in the ‘Cats final regular season home game. They were playing the Lions – the only team to beat them during last year’s championship run and the team that handed them their first of just two losses this season. Needless to say, going back to the days when I was a student on the campus, they’ve always been a team that’s given us trouble, and they’re a big rival on the basketball court.

We had a 49-game home win streak and a win yesterday would have guaranteed our fifth straight conference championship.

The game lived up to the hype, and it was a war. Our team got off to a good start and grabbed an early lead by several points, but the Lions clawed back. We found ourselves down by about 10 at halftime and got back into the game in the second half. Our star point guard, who’s been slowed by a foot injury this year, showed some glimmers of the national player of the year he was last year late the game – and even nailed a long three-pointer with a couple seconds left to get the ‘Cats within a point of the lead. But an errant in-bound pass on their ensuing offensive possession sealed it for the opponent and we lost a heartbreaker, 73-70.

2.15.2018

Reince Priebus on Trump White House: 'Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50.'

I've been waiting to read anything from my old buddy Reince about his time in the White House, and today it appeared.
Former White House Chief of Staff and Kenosha native Reince Priebus provides some behind-the-scenes insights about his short but tumultuous time working for President Donald Trump in a new interview. 
“Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Priebus tells author Chris Whipple.

Here's another account from The New York Times. I can hardly wait to read more. 

A day with Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin visited our campus today.

I don't need to write much here. You can read all about her and watch videos about her with the magic of Google.

Truth be told, I hadn’t heard of her until our lecture coordinator informed me last spring that the university had booked her for our lecture series. He tried to communicate to me then that it was a big deal, but I had no idea. … I started getting an idea in November when we announced the lecture to the public. We were flooded with ticket requests and I spent parts of my Thanksgiving break answering those requests. When tickets went on sale in early January, they sold out quickly. Nearly every day since, I’ve received a call or email from a community member desperate for a ticket and had the duty of informing them that no tickets were available.

Last night, in my cramming for her visit today, I began to fully realize what all the fuss was about as I stayed up into the early morning hours, watching “Temple Grandin,” an HBO biopic starring Claire Danes as Grandin. The story is extraordinary, and spending most of today with Dr. Grandin and observing her made Danes’ portrayal more remarkable.

I had the privilege of accompanying her on a tour of our university farm with agriculture students, having lunch with her and a small group of faculty and joining her on a tour of our campus elementary school, in between discussions with ag students and local educators. … During the tour of our elementary school, we passed through the library and a student worked at the front desk. When she looked up and spotted Temple, her jaw dropped and she mouthed to me and the lecture coordinator, “Big fan.” We waved her to join us and captured a photo of her standing with Temple.

Tonight she engrossed the sold-out audience at our performing arts center, sharing her story and insights about living with autism.

What a day.




2.14.2018

Happy Valentine's Day.

Forget everything I wrote Sunday about Kates recovering from her bout with the flu.

She thought she was good to go Sunday night and returned to teaching on Monday. She even completed a full day. … But when she visited the doctor’s office after school on Monday afternoon, the doc said she wasn’t out of the woods yet and needed at least three more days of rest.

So I sprang back into overdrive Monday night, picking up the girls from school, getting them fed and taking them to their gymnastics classes.

Yesterday, Kates stayed home from school as the doctor ordered. I went to work – where four members of my 10-person staff were already sick at home, and a fifth went home by lunch time. “Dang, we’re going to have to fumigate the office,” one my colleagues said when I informed him of the fifth one to go on the disabled list.

By the time I arrived home with the girls – and Sonic, because Daddy doesn’t cook – Kates was feeling worse. She laid on the couch with us in the living room while we watched the Olympics – the pairs skating and Shaun White killing it on the snowboard. … But later, as she was heading to our bedroom to go to sleep, she was so light-headed and weak, she nearly fainted in the hallway. It was cause for concern for sure, and tears were shed because we're now on day nine of this. I immediately concluded I needed to stay home with her today, to make sure she was ok and got back to the doctor if she needed.

So today – Valentine’s Day – we woke. I got the girls to school and returned home for the day to nurse Kates. She regained some of her energy. And as far as returning to the doctor, she called in to the office and the nurse said she just needs to let the virus run its course. Great. … She stayed in bed all day while I worked from our kitchen table and refilled her water cup whenever she texted me with a request to do so.

During the noon hour, I headed out to run some errands. In all of the chaos around our house, Kates hadn’t done anything for the girls for Valentine’s Day. So I headed to Walmart to find a pair of cards for them and – per our Valentine’s Day tradition – a Bearcat shirt for each of them that pronounces their love for the team in a literal form. I succeeded, finding a shirt for Faye that has a green heart with the word Bearcats emblazoned inside the heart and a shirt for Phoebe that reads “Everyone loves a Northwest girl.”

Without Kates knowing, I also ordered a heart-shaped pizza from Pizza Hut and scheduled it for pickup around 5 when I would be picking up the girls from school.

Back home this afternoon, I continued working … and then news broke of another school shooting. This time in Florida. 17 dead. I was glued to the NBC coverage as the news unfolded from about 2:30 until I had to leave to get the girls. And The Onion is again running its now-infamous headline.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

2.11.2018

Sick of winter

Well, it’s been a week.

Kates had a professional development day Monday, so the girls didn’t have school and I stayed home with them. But she came home early that afternoon because she wasn’t feeling well. She promptly crawled into bed and wasn’t the same the rest of the week.

Without an official diagnosis, the only reasonable conclusion is she caught the flu. Besides feeling achy and lacking any energy whatsoever, she had a terrible cough and her nose was running off her face.

After missing school Tuesday and Wednesday, she tried to return to school on Thursday for a half day but regretted that and took another full day on Friday. Today, we chose to sleep in and skip church, and it’s only this morning that she’s showing signs of getting back to normal.

Fortunately, the rest of us have been spared. All of us got our flu shots last fall, but Kates still caught it. It’s been a scary flu season with dozens of children dying, and I’m grateful it wasn’t worse for us.

But it sure felt like I was running our house as a single parent this past week. I took the girls to school every morning except for Thursday, and I picked them up from school every night – enjoying their babbling and elementary school gossip from the backseat throughout the ride. I took them to Subway for lunch on Monday, to Sonic for supper on Tuesday and to Kentucky Fried Chicken for supper on Thursday – because Daddy doesn’t cook.

Our church hosts a community dinner on Wednesday nights before their youth activities – to which Kates usually takes the girls while I stay in my office and work, but I took them this week. The night’s meal was chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables, and it was delicious.

I also took both girls to their gymnastic classes on Monday night and Phoebe to her guitar lesson on Thursday. And in between I was trying to navigate my work week, doing whatever cleaning needed to be done around the house, making sure the girls were bathed and in bed at a decent time. And sleeping on the couch to avoid inheriting the bug from Kates.

It doesn't help, either, that the weather is frigid. Yesterday, the high temperature topped out around 10 degrees and we got another couple inches of snow.

Is it spring yet?

2.10.2018

Let the games begin!

The Winter Olympics have arrived and I’m living it up this weekend in my sports den.

We ordered Chinese food for supper Friday and snuggled on the couch for the opening ceremonies, which were dazzling as usual. The chills started with the opening film, narrated by Sterling K. Brown.

And after everything in between, I teared up watching Yuna Kim skate so gracefully before accepting the torch from Chung Su-hyon of North Korea and Park Jong-ah of South Korea, who carried the torch up a mountainous staircase

And then there was all the politics that went with the opening ceremonies.
In an extraordinary show of unexpected unity, North and South Korea sat side by side Friday night under exploding fireworks that represented peace, not destruction, as the 2018 Winter Olympics opened on a Korean Peninsula riven by generations of anger, suspicion and bloodshed. 
The sister of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in — and appeared genuinely pleased — while they watched an elaborate show of light, sound and human performance. Minutes later came a moment stunning in its optics and its implications: the United States, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, sitting a row ahead of Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, and the North's nominal head of state, all watching the games begin — officials from two nations that many worry have been on the brink of nuclear conflict.

Today, it was Olympics, all day, from the time we got out of bed, until way past the girls’ usual bed time.

Two days ago, I hadn’t heard of them and I’m already rooting hard for husband-wife ice skaters Chris Alexa Knierim. And brother-sister ice skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani. And the McFarland, Wisconsin, curling team of Becca and Matt Hamilton. Thanks to NBC and their fine storytelling.

But the highlight of the night for me was watching Red Gerard’s gold medal run in men's slopestyle snowboarding and the drama of waiting to see whether his score would hold up.

1.07.2018

Lost time

I got another reminder this weekend that life is a precious thing, never to be taken for granted.

It had been a nice weekend. After arriving home Friday from school and work, we ate supper, and the girls wanted to continue our “Cosby Show” marathon. We finally made it to the show’s eighth and final season. And we let the girls stay up later than normal, watching at least a half-dozen episodes past 10 o’clock – though Kates and I found ourselves dozing on our couches for most of them. … 

Then, after getting the girls to bed – and with some light-energy, thanks to our light napping – Kates and I retreated to the den to continue our “Outlander” marathon, which lasted until about 2 a.m. ... I have a love-hate relationship with the show because it's extremely gory and graphic – which is not at all my kind of entertainment – and I just want Claire to get off the island already. But the story-telling is compelling enough that it holds my interest, and it's something to do with Kates, who loves the novels.

Saturday morning, the girls had us up around 9. Eventually, I retreated to the den to work on projects and watch the Chiefs-Titans playoff game
The Chiefs are known for rolling through the regular season only to fail spectacularly in the playoffs. That didn’t change Saturday when Kansas City dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker to the Titans. 
The Chiefs have won just one playoff game since the 1994 season, and they haven’t won a single playoff game at home in that span. Saturday was the team’s fifth home playoff loss in a row, dropping the Chiefs’ postseason record to 2-6 all-time in Arrowhead Stadium.
That was something. The Chiefs looked so efficient and unstoppable during the first half, taking a 21-3 lead, that the analysts were talking Super Bowl – and I believed them. But there was another part of me that knew the Chiefs’ playoff history all too well and thought, They’re totally going to blow this lead. … Sure enough, they did.

Kates and I watched more “Outlander” Saturday night and headed to bed shortly after midnight. Little did I know, I’d be awake again within a couple hours …

*     *     *

A little after 2 a.m., I awoke thinking I’d just heard my phone ding with a text message. It took me a few moments to compose myself in my stupor and I turned over my phone look at the screen. A student had been reported dead. Assuming no foul play or natural causes, I sighed and tried to get a little more sleep, figuring our team would gather for a briefing when daylight broke.

Several minutes later, my phone rang and I knew then that it was going to be more serious. But I never could have expected the news I got when I answered the call. A car had crashed into one of the downtown bars. A student who was inside the bar was killed by the impact.

Our emergency team gathered at at 4 a.m. to begin sorting out the facts and crafting the communication to our campus. It’s never easy when a student dies, but this case was out of the ordinary. The worst case we’ve had to deal with in a few years.

The more we learned about the girl, the harder it was to swallow. She was 19 and one of our education majors. She was active in her sorority. She was well-liked by her classmates, instructors and supervisors. By all accounts, she was a driven, confident person with a beautiful soul. She was going to be successful teacher and impact a lot of lives along the way.

The young man who was behind the wheel of the vehicle that crashed into the bar and killed her was driving drunk. His blood alcohol level was far over the legal limit.

Once our tasks were complete for the time-being, I drove home, trying to comprehend the last few hours. Now I was awake and wouldn’t be returning to bed – at least for a while. So I pulled into the garage and slipped down to my den to work until the rest of the house awoke.

I lasted for about an hour and a half before I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open. When I stepped into our bedroom, I spotted Faye snuggled next to Kates, and Kates had her armed wrapped around Faye. They looked so content and peaceful. And innocent. My heart melted and I slipped into bed with them, grateful. And praying that Kates and I may never experience the horror of losing either of our girls too early.

1.03.2018

A description of me

I took one of those personality quizzes on Facebook tonight, and this may be one of the most accurate descriptions yet of my life and my whirlwind of emotions these days ...
If anyone could make broken look beautiful, it is him. His strength is what keeps him going. He has a hurricane of chaos around him, but he is so damn passionate that he handles it. He loves life with all his heart and it loves him right back.