Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kentucky Bluegrass Smoothie

Here's the recipe...

Wait two to four days past prime time for the first lawn-mowing of the spring.
Mow over the mounds of grass that didn't get mulched by your mulching mower.

And then you, too, can have a Kentucky Bluegrass Smoothie!

My lawn is always a little lumpy because of the uneven ground, but it's extra lumpy tonight because of my newly created recipe. The neighbors were out with their riding mower while I was out making beverages for my yard. His riding mower mulches much better than mine and so he took it upon himself to mow over some of the mounds on one side and the back of my yard. In appreciation for the neighborliness, I've got a "Thank you very mulch" card ready to deliver first thing tomorrow.

Sure the homemade card is a little cheesy, but from my extensive experience in the greeting card business (which pretty much consists of mind-numbing browsing sessions at the nearest Hallmark Gold Crown Store) I'm certain that you can get away with a good serving of cheese when it comes to Thank You cards.

Now I feel like I should apologize for the pointlessness of this post!
Nope... I'm over it. Enjoy!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Top 10 Cancer fighting actions

Well, I admit, I've been up on a soapbox lately. It's easy to justify though. For one, this is a blog, not a forum with rules about proselytizing.

And another thing...Cancer affects everyone.

It enters the bodies and lives of people we love, people we work with, play with and pray with, and sometimes it is you.

No matter who it is in your life who has been affected by cancer, you likely have felt the desire to do more. If you're at a loss for what to do or say, please keep reading. You'll find all kinds of ways to do more. Pick a couple!

I'm doing a few things myself -- one of which is riding RAGBRAI this summer as a member of Team LIVESTRONG. This will be my second year on that team and I could not have stumbled upon a greater combination of passions... biking, contributing to society and having fun while doing it!

  1. Donate. This is the easiest one!
  2. Donate online. Maybe this is the easiest one!! Not only that, it saves the environment -- no paper, no fossil-fuel-powered vehicles to deliver the dough... (check out the link at the bottom of this message.)
  3. Refer a cancer survivor* to the LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare program. Call 866.467.7205 or go online to get one-on-one support for any cancer-related question. Counseling, financial or insurance questions, finding a clinical trial, etc.*(as defined by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a person becomes a cancer survivor from the moment they are diagnosed. LAF also includes the loved ones in that definition.)
  4. Order a LIVESTRONG Survivor notebook. Either give me a shout or go online. The notebooks are free. If you order online, you will have to pay shipping and handling. If you live in Eastern Iowa, then contact me and it's totally free.
  5. Ride RAGBRAI as part of Team LIVESTRONG. Registration is closed this year, but keep it in mind for 2009!
  6. Volunteer. LIVESTRONG Army leaders all over are looking for volunteers. So are other organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Gilda's Clubs, etc. Do what you're good at!
  7. Celebrate LIVESTRONG day! Bare minimum: Wear Yellow on May 13th, LIVESTRONG Day. See me if you need a wristband! Do a little more: find an event near you... click on the "Events search" link.
  8. LIVESTRONG Summit -- apply for the summit. The only requirement is that you have a desire to do something about cancer, whether advocacy or support.
  9. Go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation website and see for yourself all the programs and services offered by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The "State Profiles" page hosts a directory of documents for each state showing what LAF has done where we all live.
  10. Find a cancer organization that is meaningful to you and offer what you have... donations, time, etc. and give. I hope you will choose LAF but want you to give where it means the most to you.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Enlisting -- blog lists

Stumble Upon... The website... have you heard of it?

It can be quite fun if you're looking for a little diversion. While (thankfully!) it hasn't proven endlessly fascinating, it does turn up some useful information.

For Stumble of the day I pick "The Million Blog List" an experiment to see how long it takes to get one million blogs added to the list. It just started early this month (April) and it already has over 1100 listed. It's a wiki, so you can add your own blog just by signing up (or not, but then your IP address is listed as the editing party).

That led me to another site, the "Wiki Blog Directory" a convenient self-explanatory title. Here you can list your blog for free under as many categories as apply. Of course keep in mind that since it is a wiki, if you list your blog under a subject that doesn't fit, it will probably be edited out, so be judicious in your selections!

Cheers and happy listing!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

De-clutter your calendar!

In the long list of days celebrating awareness of things like our love for grandparents, what milk will do for a body, and whatever vegetable has gone too long under-appreciated, some special days get lost in the clutter. If you're feeling the need for a Spring Cleaning and want to de-clutter your calendar, let me give you some help.
  1. Your calendar has enough to do. Get rid of all the days celebrating the various foods. You've got cupboards, a refrigerator.... If you've forgotten to celebrate something like milk and Pepsi or peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, just open a door in the kitchen.
  2. Keep Earth Day on the calendar (by the way, that was TODAY!). Anyway, it seems like a keeper in our recent greening of things.
  3. Keep Mother's Day. Who could live with the guilt if we didn't?
  4. Grandparent's day... Well, that's up to you. If you send greetings on Mother's Day and Father's Day, then really, what's the big whoop if you delete this one? I've heard of a greeting card mafia, but don't really think this will put me on their list.
  5. ADD LIVESTRONG Day. This newest celebration day carries more meaning than some of the ones you just deleted from your calendar (if you're following my recommendations). LIVESTRONG Day is about celebrating cancer survivorship -- which means supporting 10+ million Americans who are "living with, through and beyond cancer" along millions of others around the world.
You might be thinking, "what can I do?" I don't have time... well, there are many choices with time commitments ranging from none to four hours whichever is your preference.
  • In the category of NO EXTRA TIME WHATSOEVER:
    • Wear Yellow on May 13, 2008.
    • Wear a LIVESTRONG Wristband (Get in touch with me and I will get you one, or go to the LIVESTRONG Store and order some if you'd like a bunch.)
  • In the category of JUST A MINUTE OR TWO:
  • In the category of I WANT TO DO MORE!
    • For everyone in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area, come to Dick's Sporting Goods store on Tuesday, May 13, 2008 and meet some members of the 2008 RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG as we ride our bikes (on trainers) in front of the store, advocating for cancer issues and raising funds to benefit LIVESTRONG. There will be door prizes, including a $25 Dick's Sporting Goods gift certificate.
    • Check out the ways that the Lance Armstrong Foundation has made an impact in your state.
    • Also for those nearby, if you want to volunteer, let me know in advance and I'll sign you up for a volunteer slot riding or manning the information table (or both!)
    • Look for a LIVESTRONG Day event in your area!
    • Better yet, donate to LIVESTRONG!
See you around! LIVESTRONG!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Harvesting my old journals for nuggets of my youthful wisdom (is that an oxymoron?) I stumbled upon something that I have trouble believing came from my own pen. But it did. It's my handwriting, my experience, my appreciation. But so far removed from it I feel like sharing it the way a parent shares a child's watercolor painting, posting it on the refrigerator until it is no longer recognizable. I figured I'd find bits and pieces that I'd have to flesh out into something good... but this piece seems like something to share in it's entirety.

So this blog post serves as my refrigerator for my former youthful self.

More context...

Sixteen years ago Florida briefly served as home for me as I led Elderhostlers on canoe trips on the Wekiwa River and Rock Springs Run. One of the weeks when we weren't conducting Elderhostel courses, a group of fraternity boys from South Carolina visited as part of a project called P.U.S.H. I don't recall the words that go along with the acronym, but the point was to spend spring break in Florida doing service projects rather than partying and puking off balconies. This group of young men chose Camp Thunderbird which in the winter hosted the Elderhostel program. But in "real life" it is a camp for physically and mentally disabled people. So their projects were to improve some different areas of the camp, installing fixtures, building things, etc. In the meantime, they also had the opportunity to meet some of the clients who would benefit from their efforts. Alvin, a young man with Downs Syndrome was a frequent visitor at Camp Thunderbird who became quite attached to the frat boys.

Anyway, what follows is my thank you letter to the group in care of their leader.
March 8, 1992

Dear Mike R. (P.U.S.H. coordinator),

Today I was down at the observation deck (thank you all for that)... and I observed quite a few new things. There was a tiny translucent green spider spreading a web across one of the railings directly in front of me. If I looked carefully enough I could see a little black eye moving around looking (apparently) at me. Then out on the lake an alligator swam past. Meanwhile the frogs grew silent. When the gator passed they slowly resumed. The ripples quieted and the surface of the lake slowly returned to the intense blue reflection of the sky. And I saw, or rather observed something I hadn't noticed before... I could love the beauty of this place.

Now what difference does this make to you? Well, without your group I wouldn't have seen this. And how can I claim that the natural wonder in Florida wouldn't have become apparent without P.U.S.H.? That's why I'm writing. I think you should know what good you do beyond the physical building you do.

I'm sure you remember Alvin. Well, he's been looking for "the guys" since you left. He pops in in different places hoping to see you and says, "Oh, just you," when he discovers it's only George, Roger, Eric or me. For all the hoping and emptiness, he loves you all and he'll remember you until the day he dies.

I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well. What I want you to know is that (at the risk of sounding romantic) you built more than just an observation deck, benches and a linen closet. You did more than just paint some buildings and everything else. You also built a grand memory for those clients fortunate enough to meet and make friends with you.

As far as personal appreciation, it too your enthusiasm and energy to open my eyes to the true beauty of this little place in central Florida. I understood what is attractive here: the water, the lilies, the palmetto, the raccoons, limpkins, alligators, herons, orange trees, etc. And I learned as much as I could about the flora and fauna of the area, but the attention you paid to everyone and the interest you all had in the disabled stirred some familiar feelings in me. The reasons to love a place aren't solely in the geography or even in the people. It's largely in the things that happen while you're there. Your being here was the extraordinary experience that will always keep a soft spot in my heart for central Florida -- more specifically Camp Thunderbird.

Meeting other people who enjoy and respect disabled people is continually the joy that makes my life real. It's a gift I believe we all have, we just have to be willing to be in touch with that ability.

Anyway Mike, I would appreciate your letting everyone know just how much I appreciated their being here. Our paths may never cross again, but I will always remember having met you.



P.U.S.H. "guys" pictured below. Photo on the right is their leader, Mike.
(By the way, I just noticed this, but doesn't the guy in the foreground of the group shot look like Matt Damon... just a little?)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Maggie The Pie-Dog -- how many second chances?

I'm a big fan of second chances. I came by some of the best things due to second chances... some of my best friends, my passion for biking, heck, my whole life is based on one giant second chance, but that's another story -- this story is about the second chance that was my Maggie-pie.

Maggie, my late golden retriever mix, a.k.a. "The Sweetest Dog in the Land" maintained a good reputation as mischief-maker during her 12 years with me, not to mention her first year of life before our paths crossed.

The family who had placed the ad in the paper looking for a new home for Maggie had struggled with their decision. Happy-go-lucky, typically golden, Maggie had a hard time spending her days in the tiny bathroom of their rented duplex where they moved from a farm following the parents' divorce. Unfortunately, when mom, the kids and Maggie moved to the duplex, Maggie could not be trusted home alone. I don't blame her... she was only a year old and had lots of energy and joy to share and she was having to spend a lot of it indoors in the only room in the house she couldn't destroy. Her first family asked for a better life for her and I had promised to give Maggie a second life with me at camp, where she could spend her energy outdoors running around with me. Responding to the classified ad one rainy summer night I went to meet Maggie. She greeted me as if we were already best friends. I wasn't sure I wanted a dog of my own until that moment. Her welcoming greeting sealed the deal. I became her second chance.

Her first five minutes in my house, a basement apartment at Camp Courageous during my tenure as Respite Care and Volunteer Coordinator, involved her hurriedly inspecting the entire place. A venture taking all of 10 seconds as the place consisted of four rooms including the bathroom. Following her inspection of the place, she picked up the bowl of water I had filled for her and she flung it across the room, bathing most of two rooms with the contents. She followed that up by running down the hall and taking a gigantic dump.

Every day for the first week she would manage to run away from me, chew some furniture or books or shoes. Basically frustrating me to the edge of my breaking point. During so many years at Camp Courageous (a year round camp for physically and mentally disabled children and adults) as Counselor, Activity Specialist and then Respite Care and Volunteer Coordinator I learned many behavior management techniques, which have more to do with your own patience, creativity and ability to dig deeper into both wells as they get tested to breaking points sometimes on a weekly basis, sometimes hourly and even other times on a minute-to-minute basis. Now, I'm not saying this to compare campers to dogs. No way. It's just to say that my frustration threshold is (or maybe "was") pretty high due to the regular pushing of limits by circumstances, behaviors and regular lack of sleep. So, the idea of a good natured happy dog like Maggie pushing me to the edges of it, now seems amusing.

At the time though, surrounded by chewed furniture, books, shoes, and Pepsi bottles, with a sore throat from yelling for Maggie each time she ran off I neared tears from my internal struggle between desire to be a responsible adult and desire for a peaceful home life with whole furniture and shoes. But I couldn't go back on my promise. Besides, what kind of lessons do you learn from having hole-less shoes, books free of bite marks? The struggles enrich life, right? So, I figured what the heck -- I can definitely become a slightly better person at the very least. And then what about that initial greeting... how could I forget that in my decision-making? I went with the responsible adult choice and kept my promise to the Magpie's first family.

A week or so after deciding to give it another go, Maggie and I had started to understand each other better. Don't get me wrong, she still frustrated the hell out of me for a while and never really lost that naughty streak -- as many upcoming stories will reveal. We found things that were OK for her to chew on. I found things at the pet store, the usuals, you know, bones, rawhide chews, cow hooves, etc; she found them in the woods. Are there "usuals" in this category? Maggie's self-selected chew toys included some wild pumpkins she found growing in the woods, sticks, logs... yes, firewood sized hunks of wood. For a long time she had a flat football that she took with her wherever we went. Something like Linus and his blanket. The "running off" issue took a little more training on both our parts but eventually Maggie and I could go places together without a leash.

For some reason, Maggie christened every house that she and I moved into in the same manner of that first dump in the hallway. I never figured that one out. She always seemed embarrassed afterward. Maybe she couldn't contain her nervous excitement. I don't know. It's easy to remember the incidents, accidents and misdeeds with specific stories and details. But the conglomerated memories of the daily unadulterated delight upon my return home, and the rituals of feeding, play and grooming, and just the un-conflicted companionship balance the rest and turn them into funny stories.

Either way, Maggie reinforced one of my favorite life lessons. Now and forever -- big fan of second chances.


Jack is the son of my friends and teammates Jen and Marty Hoeger.
He has a compelling message.