On The Road

A few days ago, I drove up to Minneapolis for a work project, up and back in a day with an overnight stay.

As I advanced northwest through the green hills on I-94, I had almost five hours to think too much. (For my California friends, we say I-for Interstate-followed by the number of the highway, hence, I-94. As opposed to you left coasters, who would call it, “THE 94.”  Yeah, that’s true my Wisconsin friends. Don’t ask. Just accept and move on.)

The last time I’d made this very same I-94 trek was nearly eight years ago in mid-November. Then, all the green hills were covered in white, with leaf-less trees and nubs of corn stalks barely peeking above the snow.

I was heading to a book signing at a Badgers’ bar-Rosen’s-near the Metrodome stadium where the Badgers would play the Gophers the next evening. Wisconsin won. Sorry Minnesota friends, facts is facts…though you probably assumed it anyway 😉

As I drove now, I recalled the unsettling place I was at in my life when I’d taken this same route from Madison through Tomah, Eau Claire, and Hudson to the Twin Cities years ago.

The initial excitement of my book publishing had waned and slid into a stressful venture to get books sold and get paid. The harsh realization I wouldn’t receive any book monies until the following June-per industry standard.

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My book advance-less than $1000-covered rent for one month so my book tour travels were paid for on my credit cards. Such is the standard way of life for a non-famous author.

I was never under the delusion I would get life-changing money but it was more distressing because I’d taken a hiatus from teaching work in Los Angeles to make space for this adventure of a fall book tour. No regrets but no money either.

Once this signing was over, I’d return to LA and attempting to get my life back on track. The thin of ice of my relationship had broken and sunk. Feeling soaked, I had an ominous sense of too much freedom.

Nobody was waiting for me at my one bedroom apartment in California…wondering where I was, when I’d arrive, how the trip went, how many books I’d sold or interesting people I’d met or lessons I’d learned. Lots of question marks at the end of my thoughts and plans.

I was stayed with friends and family and friends of family at these signing stops in different cities to preserve my cash reserves.

In the backseat was a box holding 50 copies of my book, I was really hoping that box would be broken down and thrown out in some dumpster in the back alley of the bar. I returned with it intact, holding a dozen or so unsold, unsigned tomes.

For you Midwesterners out there, you know mid-November is the heart of hunting season. A good number of cars had dead deer strapped on them.  One particular cadaver tied to the back of a wagon stared right at me.  Even with the slight bounce of this head, his quizzical expression locked in on me…looking for answers I didn’t have. (Deep, eh?)

The white Wisconsin landscape spontaneously sent snow swirls along the sides of the Interstate. My thoughts bounced like the tumbleweed flurries and dissipated into the ghostly gray sky.

(Really deep, eh? Kerouac, eat your heart out.)


Speaking of-Jack Kerouac and I are both former college football players, travel writers and authors. He went on to become a cultural icon…and…I con spell “cultural.”

Nonetheless, his books On The Road and Lonesome Traveler appropriately apply–I was a lonesome traveler on the road.

Not this time.  Now, I have a wife who sent me off with well wishes and kisses, a smiley son whose sweet smelling head I could kiss before I backed my car out of the garage of my nice, comfortable home.

A wife who told me to get a steak and a beer and relax once I’d arrived at my destination. While I loved her thought and sentiment, I opted for the convenience of a sandwich and water from a Panera near the hotel before I crawled into bed and flipped through channels on the mounted, swiveled TV.

Boring but content, I’ve become.

The next morning, I woke up, ate breakfast, did my work and drove the reverse route home.

Thankful, that now, when I looked in the rearview mirror, the only thing lonesome was the road behind me.


“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”— Jack Kerouac

Baby Foodie

We have been feeding Cash solid foods since he was four months old. And when I say “we” realize that means Meghan. And when I say “solid” realize that means mushy glops of blended solid foods. And when I say four months old, I mean, the exact day he turned four months old-the earliest recommended age to do so.

As you can see from the pic, he also got a food facial included.


Meghan was chomping at the bit, so to speak, for Cash to start eating solids. One of the best aspects of motherhood to her is feeding Cash, from her breast and from her kitchen.

While pregnant, she spoke with great anticipation of making his food. It would not be uncommon to see her focused on her computer screen researching baby blenders, baby bullets, juicers and mixers.

It’s fair to say Meghan is obsessed with food, healthy food. Natural. Organic. Free Range, Wild, Bulk-Bought food. (Note the words “Fast” and “Artificial” are not on that list.)

If Cash ever tastes a McDonald’s hamburger, it’s been outside her vigilance perhaps by a relative or future classmate…both of whom better hope she doesn’t find out. Hell hath no fury like a healthy-eating woman scorned.  Many people fear clowns but in this case, Ronald McDonald should fear Meghan.

Meghan loves to eat vegetables, seeds, leafy, grainy, green food items, most of which I’d only heard about before I met her. I claim she doesn’t have tastebuds or that her tastebuds are so sensitive that she actually thinks cucumbers, cauliflower and lettuce taste good.

In contrast, my bachelor life cuisine could be summed up in three words. Meat. Cereal. Pasta. And maybe a fourth…chocolate chip cookies.

I had treated most vegetables like parsley…a quaint, decorative garnish on my plate, quickly dismissed so I could get to the “meat” of the meal. Meghan has changed that for me and one of the biggest life upgrades since being married, is the quality of food I now eat.

Technically, my wife is a pescetarian-not a religion-just someone who eats fish but religiously doesn’t eat animals.  For the record, she is okay with me eating them and cooks meat for me almost every evening. In fact, I knew she loved me the moment I saw her pulling at raw meat chunks to be cooked and added to my pasta.

We are copacetic to each other’s different eating habits and backgrounds. You say potato…I say, I’ll eat it…just split it open and drop some cheese, butter and bacon bits in it!  She just wants me to have a salad first…and skip dessert a few times a week.

The only potential point of tension is when we discuss Cash’s diet. We debate about when Cash will start eating meat. Cash is a good, willing eater. As mentioned, Meghan happily makes her own baby food in the baby bullet and blends things like quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, and oatmeal infused with apple and prune juices.  She says Cash loves all the above. Which is great. I also bet if you threw a bite of a good cheeseburger in there, he’d love that too. (She does not want to take me up on that bet.)


While Cash’s meals taste surprisingly good-she proudly foists samples at me upon entering the kitchen-it looks surprisingly bad…as if Yoda from Star Wars threw up into a bowl.


I’m all for my boy being a healthy eater and am mostly behind Meghan’s leadership on his diet. I just want to bring some reasonable allowances for the world he will live in.  Bratwurst at tailgate parties, trips to get ice cream and birthday pizza parties. (I will be happy to step in and teach him how to eat all of the above. After all, I’ve practiced for many years.)

His eating habits fall into that fine line in parenting, showing him good examples of how and what to eat versus being so restrictive that the child rebels. We don’t want Cash to end up throwing it all out the window and living off a steady diet of Skittles, cake, and Monster energy drinks.

She wants to wait a few years before he eats meat and I’m okay with that as long as when we hit our first Badgers football game or Brewers tailgate party, my son and I can enjoy meat off the grill in a bun and a cookie or slice of pie. Indulgences in food every so often is a nice way to live and I want him to know and experience that.  A pic from last year’s birthday meal…Meghan sat patiently across from me as I scarfed down a full rack rib meal from Fat Jacks!


Ribs, steak fries, beer and apple pie are awesome…just not every day. Awesome for taste not for the waist.

Eating well will help his mental, physical and emotional health. We both want the best for Cash in all aspects of his life. At this early point in his life, we can spoon feed him all we want to. How well we did in teaching him will be seen in the years to come when he is able to make his own choices. We’ll have to trust we did all we could to educate him and nurture good eating habits.

As for diet, like in most everything in life, you get out what you put in.

If you don’t believe me, you’re welcome to change Cash’s next diaper.


A Wise Guy

I have a habit of downplaying things.

Upon eating a delicious food object, it’s highly unlikely I’ll say something like “Oh my God, that’s amazing! This is the best!” but rather, “Mmm. That’s good.”


Perhaps it’s due to my Midwestern, even-keeled, pragmatic roots, observed my California-born and bred wife, that I tend to temper my reactions.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings or passions or enjoy food any less, it’s just that I often reserve large demonstrations advertising them.

She will sometimes become perplexed at my, and many fellow Wisconsinites, subdued reactions; misunderstanding our less than enthusiastic responses as disinterest. Not the case.

This would explain my (under)reaction to when Meghan first told me we were pregnant.  As she came hopping down the sidewalk with a huge grin and bounced into my surprised arms and shrieked, “We’re pregnant” and I replied, “Unh, Unh.”

Not exactly a big Youtube shareable, 1 million hits video reaction. Make no mistake, I was hoping for this good news, of course, from the moment I thought of proposing marriage or even years before this moment, to be a dad. Couldn’t wait. Got good training as an uncle and youth sports coach and teacher.


To be fair, we got pregnant on our honeymoon, so it felt a bit abrupt, that’s all. My “unh, unh” was not believing how lucky we are.

“We’ll see” has been my steady mantra. Trying my best without requiring success as the outcome to define worthiness of any particular venture.

When the publishing of my book was in the editing and verification phase, others would be very excited for me.  They would observe my stoic nodding and say “Come on, you are going to be a published author! Aren’t you excited?!” Sure but to focus on the excitement was to potentially lose focus on more important things like being responsive to the publisher requests and lining up fall book tour dates and interviews and travel plans.
Those who were worried I wasn’t enjoying the bucket list dream experience of publishing my “Great American Novel,” and surmised I’d really “feel it” when I finally held that printed book in my hands for the first time. Then I’d be hit with a wave of ecstasy and accomplishment, jump in the air and triumphantly ‘spike’ the book like I was in an end zone celebration.
When that moment did come, in the offices of my publisher, after I’d been handed a box cutter to ceremoniously cut open the dense, brown cardboard box that contained some first-print fifty copies of the book I’d spent a year and a half writing and another six months to get published, I reached down and grabbed it, smelled it, held it up, looked back down at the opened box containing a lot unsold books…I thought about all the other boxes of books at the warehouse, “Wow, there are a lot of copies that have to be sold now…I better line up more interviews and book signings…”
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I never got that “Oh, what a feeling, Toyota” jump in the air feeling. But, that’s ok. I feel a steady, baseline, sense of accomplishment virtually every day since. I’ve gotten some financial and all of my emotional monies worth, so don’t cry for me…you know I won’t cry for myself.
So, as it goes with my drastically discovered daddyhood, meanings tend to seep in more than drown me in the moment. When life floats moments at me, I tread to get my bearings and take in everything.
I like to think my poise is mistaken for fear or trepidation.   I feel I’m good under pressure because of my even-keeled attitude.
With the pregnancy, I didn’t want to envision that healthy baby boy with a pleasant, fun-loving demeanor, sharp wit and athletic build for fear if there were any complications, I’d be setting myself up for unnecessary disappointment.
The deal is, our baby boy, Cash, was going to be what he was going to be and the least amount of pre-conceived notions I put on him, the better off he’ll be and the more open-minded parent, I’ll be.  And while I enjoy and appreciate and thank God for him, I also need to raise him, change his diaper, teach him right from wrong and how to throw and catch a ball, study for his tests, and put money away for his education.
What is exciting is I have a more amazing kid than I ever could have imagined in my limited brain.  I couldn’t have foreseen the feeling I’d have when his eyes find me in the room and upon recognizing me, breaks into a grin that takes up his whole face.  No “pre-kid” projections could possibly understand that feeling.
Ultimately, what I downplay is my expectations, not my excitement.
David Mamet, one of my favorite writers wrote, “Wisdom lies in wishing for things to happen as they do.”
Whether I demonstrate or downplay it, I’m living the life I wished for.

Sleep like a baby?

Like all parents with infants, sleep is a major issue. Ours and our baby’s–when, where and how often.

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With all that in mind, Meghan and I have been sleep training our son, Cash.

Sleep training? Sounds like the kind of training we’d all love to sign up for!  Certainly seems to require less effort than basic training and cross training.

The concept of sleep training seemed silly to me. What training is necessary to sleep?  If you are tired, you sleep. If you are not tired, you don’t sleep.

Simple, right? Not exactly.

There are a handful of standard sleep training methods for infants, with off-shoots and modifications on each one. Here are some methods: Ferber, Gradual Parent Removal, Scheduled Awakenings, Tear-free and “Cry it Out.” The last one is the precursor to the “walk it off” mentality when the kid falls and cries.

We opted for Ferberizing. This method directs you to put your baby to bed while he is still awake but tired and ready to sleep. Then you leave the room. We did and yes, Cash cried and yes, I had to hold Meghan back from turning around and picking him up–she asked me to in case you think I’m unnecessarily strong-arming my wife.  I had to do this for only five minutes, then she was allowed to go in and sooth him but not pick him up or cuddle, just a one minute check-in so that he was assured we were still in the house and didn’t run off to some tropical isle without him.

This photo might help you understand how hard it is for Meghan to see her son seeking her comfort and how much harder it was for me to let her, let him cry.


(Warning: Do not try this in your crib…the manual says the crib will hold only “up to fifty pounds”…so this was the one and only time Meghan did this. FYI-It is still intact. If I had gotten in like this…Cash and I would played our first game of “Pick-up Sticks!”)


We left the room and again, he cried but this time we waited ten minutes and then soothed and left and waited 15 minutes and repeated.

After a little over an hour, and a little over a glass of wine for Momma, Cash crashed out. He woke up a few times that night, we took turns soothing and then morning hit and he was happy and normal as usual. No signs of trauma from the jingle jangle of the night.

On the second night, he was crashed within 45 minutes and the third night by 3o minutes. He woke up one time, fussed for a couple minutes and went back to sleep.

Our lives felt changed. Meghan slept a chunk of six uninterrupted hours for the first time since mid-pregnancy and Cash was as happy as ever.


A little over a month of this and we can say it really worked. Sure, there are more restless nights than others but Cash likes his crib and will even lay in there wide awake without fussing. And he naps quite regularly during the day as well…with a little help from his feline pillow.


I share this sleep story only to inform that the Ferber method worked for us. A quick side note when my wife mentioned this method my mind went to the iconic Gerber baby foods and made me wonder if we’d be feeding Cash fruit sauces out of little glass jars while he lay in his crib but apparently there is no relation to Gerber baby foods. Good thing…that could have gotten messy.

Each household, child and Momma cry threshold is different so this Ferber method may not be for everyone. As the saying goes, “Whatever gets you through the night.”

You can go blind reading all the theories for and against by mommy bloggers, pediatricians and family members who share all sorts of their theories, all genuine and valid but even more so shows how you are the only one who can decide what is best.

Made me appreciate how fascinating and ubiquitous sleep is in our lives. It applies to every. human. being. everyone regardless of race, age, nationality, orientation, gender identities.

In my own sleep journey-and by ‘journey’ I mean metaphorically not actual journeying as in sleep walking-which is a whole separate, fascinating/dangerous aspect of sleep.

I discovered about 10 or so years ago that I needed about 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night to feel fine and functional. The last few years I’ve dropped a half hour and reduced it to six hours needed/wanted.

I’m comforted by this sleep infographic courtesy of BigBrandBeds.com. Turns out, my six hour sleep pattern puts me in the company of Benjamin Franklin, Sigmund Freud, Richard Branson, and the President of the United States.


It is purported that Leonardo Da Vinci slept six hours a day also…just not a in a row.  Instead, he took 2o minute naps every four hours, a practice known as the Uberman polyphasic sleep cycle. Not sure if he has anything to do with the Uber car but I would not like my driver nodding off so often!


Speaking of not nodding off often, Thomas Edison averaged three hours of a sleep a night, regarding sleep as “a waste of time.”

No surprise then, that Edison invented light.

On the other side of the bed, Albert Einstein reportedly required ten hours of sleep per day. But I don’t buy it. Does this look like someone who gets a lot of sleep?


If most historical inventors, leaders of country and business alike, sleep less, why is the common advocation to get eight hours of sleep for adults? Is “The Man” trying to keep us down…on our down mattresses?

They say in sleep is when his brain grows but also in sleep (at rest) is when your muscles grow. Sleep is, indeed, a powerful, impactful, time-consuming growth opportunity in all of our lives.

Like all concerned parents, we want to pass along the gift of good sleep habits to Cash. Maybe what he learns from this sleep process will lead him to be rich and famous like those individuals mentioned above? Maybe he’ll invent a new sleep method when he gets older and discover the ideal sleep patterns for all of humanity!


Hey, a guy can dream! But, he has to sleep first.

How did we get here?

One year ago this week, we made our pilgrimage Midwestward from California.

The reverse journey of the Joads.

The movie

Technically, the Joads traveled from Oklahoma to California by way of a converted Ford Hudson during Dust Bowl-drought conditions with poor, rundown passengers, so there are those who would argue they had a tougher journey.   But, those same folks haven’t tried to go through United’s Los Angeles pet cargo terminal with two maine coon cats named Emmitt and Peaches with a distressed, pregnant wife clutching a carry-on containing a third, smaller insane cat, Sophie.  The veterinarian who we paid to do a house visit to get the cats papers in order to travel, tried to clip Sophie’s nails and after Sophie made a noise that sounded like Hell in a blender, the vet put his hands up and said, “She’s dangerous.”

If you are counting at home, yes, I married into three cats. Let’s not speak of it again.


Anyway, on the drive to LAX, Emmitt crapped in his crate, which lent the atmosphere a nice aromatherapy as we maneuvered LA traffic.

It really would have helped if everyONE could have been sedated but airline regulations do not permit animals to be under any influence in the pet cargo area for the flight for liability reasons.

The Pet Cargo terminal is about a half mile from the regular terminal. A jumbo building I’d driven by probably a hundred times in 17 years going to or picking up a friend from the airport and never noticed.

Inside, two frazzled workers clicked away at their computers at the counter while a man, who had a pit bull in a crate a human could travel in, was on the phone, trying to get someone to bring him enough money to pay for his pet to transport. Pet cargo tickets cost $259/each, about the same as our HUMAN tickets on the redeye flight.

The sweeter of the two counter agents mentioned we had to have a water tray and food in the kennel before the cats could be let on the plane.  We had water but figured the food would just make them poop and then have to sit in it for five hours. Plus, these cats are both well-fed, at over 22 pounds each, had enough in their system to keep them healthy for a winter hibernation.

The agent also mucked up our plan further adding that we couldn’t keep the blanket Meghan had strategically placed over the cage so the cats couldn’t see what was going on because all the foreign stimulus would freak them out too much.  These are cats that would meow and pace around frantically if there was a major change in the apartment, like a sock being left on the floor.

Meghan started to lose it as the stricter agent chimed in about us having to put a bowl in the cage.  At one point during the discussion Meghan blurted, “Are you liable if my cat runs out on Century boulevard and gets killed?!” He said, “The doors are all closed where is she going to run?” Meg said, “You don’t know!”

A supervisor popped over and intervened. He offered to let Meghan put the water crate in in his small office so the cat couldn’t escape onto Century boulevard and his sure death. In case, you are not getting the chaos of the scene, please also note that Emmitt was meowing loudly the entire time.

The crates got labeled, the cats were put in queue to be loaded, and we got ourselves and our carry-ons to the gate two hours early.  Quick note: The sweeter agent double-cheked with us the spelling of Emmitt.  As if we would have been confused if she had replaced the i with an e. “Well, he looks like our Emmitt in our crate but…our Emmitt does spell it differently. Sorry, must be someone else’s cat.”  This gave me a fun chuckle as we headed to the terminal.

As for our belongings, we had taken care of them the day prior, they were shoved, stacked and contorted in the back of a freight trailer. The transport company, U-Pack, says it all in their name. No frills, no promises outside of leaving the back of one of their transport trailers open.  Once you’ve loaded it and locked it, they drive it from their terminal in an industrial park southeast of LA  to their terminal in an industrial park southeast of Madison.

U-Pack charges by the foot so I took advantage of all possible angles because if you don’t U-Pay more!

A shot from just about halfway into the load.


As for getting our furniture and such out of our apartment to the terminal, we had to rent a U-haul. Lots of U-companies involved in the move as U can see.

My wife was 13 weeks pregnant and couldn’t do much heavy lifting. So I called in the services of my friend, Todd Beeson-shout out, for one of the U-Haul truck loads and a friend of a friend who helped load up the other load from our second floor apartment.

The shipment of our belongings arrived mostly unscathed-the only casualties were a lamp, a big chunk taken out of an end table and my credit card balance.

I rented another U-haul to transfer our stuff onto from the U-Pack trailer with the help of my friend, Trent Schwenn-shout out!

I coordinated these transport and arrivals with the refinishing of our home’s wood floors so that we could move them right in from the trailer without being charged “storage” fees.

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Got more help from my family to unload the U-Haul and disperse into our house.

Lastly, our two cars were arranged with a car transport company called, Get it Done, my motto for this whole move. It was disconcerting as I’d never done this before and the concept of handing the keys to our cars over to a guy with a Eastern European accent driving a 10 car hauler rig, was tough to come to peace about. “Please show up with our cars in five to seven days in Madison?!”  True I’d only put down a $380 deposit and the remaining $1600 would be paid upon delivery, but if he just up and sold the cars, he’d have gotten at least $30,000 on the black market. But, there are leaps of faith that must be made with so many variables involved in a move.

And, six days later, the driver told me he was two hours away. When he arrived, he parked on the main street leading to our house because he coudn’t park his big rig on a side street. He backed the cars down the metal ramp, hand me the keys as I handed him a check, and just like that, our cars were back in our possession.

As I pulled up to our new home, with all our belongings, cars and critters, and my pregnant wife inside scatterd but safe and sound, with the big uncertain move over, I let out a big sigh of relief and satisfaction.


The big leap of faith landed us right where we wanted to be. Taking a moment to soak it all in…I felt moved.