Archive for July, 2013

  • Chapter Twenty One- Theron Humphrey Book Signing at Boswell Books

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    Last week Tuesday, my husband walked in the door after getting home from work and I dropped the dishes I was washing, said something like “I’m out of here” and headed for the door.  The kids had been testing my newly discovered zen-like patience, so when I got relieved, I put on my favorite handmade earrings and drove to Boswell Books.  Earlier in the week I’d discovered Theron Humphrey on Instagram (@thiswildidea), and when he posted that he was doing a book signing in Milwaukee, I cashed in some alone time.

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    I arrived late (what?!  me??) but found a nice metal chair to sit on, while I sipped my fancy blended coffee drink.  Theron had just gotten to the podium to tell about his (amazing) journey as a photographer and story teller.  I won’t relay his entire story because I’d get some stuff wrong, omit parts, and just not do it justice, but I will say that he got a wake up call and inspiration for changing his career after photographing his grandmother and grandfather.  Theron left his commercial job and set out on a journey to hit all 50 states in one year, and interview one person a day.  The part I find especially fascinating is that he would go up to a random person, shake their hand, and start talking.  If they agreed, he’d do an audio interview and take a series of photos with them.  You can see the product of this project here.  But what a challenge to just meet people and get uncomfortable with strangers!  Actually, if you buy the book, it explains Theron’s journey much better than I just did.

    So back to the book tour.  While Theron was traveling across the states meeting people, he realized that his dog, Maddie, has some incredible balance.  He started asking her to hang out in precarious poses, to which she happily obliged.  You may have seen some of the photos of Maddie in a guitar case, on a horse, on a stop sign, or at a diner yawning as her coffee is poured.  Theron has some great and terrible things to say about sharing your work on the internet, and what struck me the most was the idea that if you share something, you’d better be prepared to let go of it.  He’s had many examples of people and companies stealing his work, which is not too uncommon.  Ahh, the double edged sword that is the internet.  An amazing way to share ideas and connect with people, but also an opportunity for creeps to take credit for work that’s not their own.  Theron’s other main point was this: you’d better be doing something you love.  We have one life, and if we can find what gives meaning to our lives and is challenging, that’s sort of the ultimate prize.  I like the sound of that!

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    Maddie is a great dog.  You’ll notice that I have no photos of her hanging out during the talk, because she was very busy checking out every nook and cranny of the store, and generally being a lookout.  By the time Theron signed my book, she was super tired from being a watch dog, and camped herself on the couch.  Speaking of when Theron signed my book…I didn’t get in line fast enough and spent close to an hour waiting to say hi.  You wouldn’t have guessed it from his enthusiasm, though (see first photo above).  He was really personable and I think that meeting people from all over the country has given him a sense of ease with strangers.

    While I waited in line, I kept repeating “don’t talk about your kids or being pregnant, don’t talk about your kids or being pregnant” in my mind.  And here’s the reason…while my kids kick ass and I love my job of raising them, that does not define me.

    But when we shook hands, he asked what I’m doing in life, and something sarcastic like “MAKIN’ BABIES!” came out of my mouth as I pointed to my large belly.  Ugh.  I’m the queen of awkward if you didn’t already know.

    Anyway, I tried to steer the conversation away from being a mom.  We talked briefly about my blog and how the book signing was going to be my adventure for the week.  But as it often does, we ended up back on kids.  He wanted to sign the book for my unborn daughter, so I told him that I call her hummingbird (a theme that is ever present in my life currently) so BAM….

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    It was a great first book signing for me.  Special thanks to my kids for being a pain in the butt and encouraging me to have some alone time.  Please check out the other projects here and here and here that Theron has done and others and he and his friends are working on.  And if he’s coming to a city near you, I recommend trying to see him and his pound puppy Maddie.

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    And animals are the best.  I was reminded of that.  I immediately went home and spent some time with this old man telling him how much I love him.

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    This post is for you, Bagheera!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter Twenty- Les Paul Experience

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    I’d heard about the Les Paul Experience on Radio Milwaukee (my favorite local radio station).  I learned that the Waukesha County Museum housed a new exhibit in honor of the late great guitar innovator, Les Paul, as he’s from Waukesha.  Since my dad, Frank, is the kind of guy who plays and builds guitars, I thought it might be a fun reason for him to come visit.

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    After finding free street parking on one of those 100 degree weather days, , we headed in to the museum and bought tickets.

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    We headed upstairs to see the exhibit and were greeted by a very friendly-looking Les Paul cardboard cut out and great photo op.

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    Here are my notes and impressions from the exhibit.  There’s no photography inside so this’ll have to do.  Les Paul was a modest, funny, charming and super-talented inventor.  I always thought he was just a guitarist, but oh man was I wrong.  He invented techniques for amplifying sound, gadgets and tools for playing, and was revolutionary in experimenting with multiple-track recording.  His song “Lover (When You’re Near Me)” in 1948 had eight overlapped guitar parts.  He also created voice layovers with his partner Mary Ford, which created an entirely different feel and sound to music.  This development was dubbed “The New Sound”.

    To back up and give you an idea of what Les Paul was like creatively, at age 10 he biked down to a radio tower and had a technician teach him the secrets of radio waves.  He then went home and built his own Crystal Radio.  He played with the wooden panels in his home to study how sound changes depending on length of the wood.  At age 13, he was playing in a band at a BBQ stand, and after the show, and audience member passed him a note saying his guitar couldn’t be heard.  Thus was born the challenge to amplify sound.

    Les Paul gave his mother credit for allowing him the freedom and encouragement to explore life.  Remind of of this when my kids are older and adventurous.  My favorite photo in the exhibit is from the early 1960s, Les is playing banjo at a dinner table with his mother.  He’s in a rocking chair, and a microphone is on a pillow surrounded by a few cans of Blatz beer.

    In 1948, Les and Mary Ford (who married in ’49) were in a really bad car accident.  The story is told by some really neat comic book-looking artwork, and tells how Les was hurt very badly.  His right arm was basically shattered, so he built a guitar stand to accommodate his cast, allowing him to continue playing.  Now that’s determination!

    The exhibit houses guitars, amplifiers, recording gear, a reel-to-reel tape machine from Bing Crosby (which he altered to create the ability to do multi-track recording), and some really cool acoustic wall panels.  Les hand-cut, stained, laquered and mounted the panels, which covered his studio walls, himself.  He said “If it didn’t exist, I had to invent it” about many things.

    Speaking of quotes, my favorite of Les Paul’s are: “I don’t want to ever believe there’s anything radically different between me and the next guy”, and “It’s not finding perfection that I want.  It’s the chance to keep looking for it.”  The first I think describes how humble and determined Les was.  It really gave me a sense of the kind of person he was.  The second is a hopeful and progressive thought that I’d like to remember.

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    Next we headed down to the second floor to test out the hands-on Les Paul Experience (totally geared towards kids).  Frank and I tested out and played with all of the tools for making sound.  It was a nice way to end our visit.

    But wait!  It didn’t end there!  We very quickly breezed through parts of the museum, relating to Waukesha’s past.

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    And not to overshadow Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha, but there were a few other inventions mentioned.  The automatic hat-tipper and chewing gum head fan were a few that stood out.

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    Since the Waukesha Public Library is about two blocks away, my dad and I headed over there to see the Les Paul Performance Center.  It’s an outdoor stage with permanent seating and I’m sure it gets used for things other than father-daughter photos.

    Anyway, check out the museum.  It’s worth the short drive to Waukesha.

    See you next week!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter Nineteen- Travel Edition again: Bay Beach (Green Bay, WI)

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    What do you do when your AC breaks and it’s 90 degrees in your house and you’re pregnant and miserable?  Head North!  And while you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s, where do you go for a day trip?  Bay Beach!

    I need to tell you about Wisconsin’s Disneyland, as my nephew believes it is.  This place is a gem and it’s totally doable as a day trip even from Milwaukee.  Why, you ask?  Because things are super cheap, accessible, fun and worth it.

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    First, park in a free parking lot and walk a maximum of 200 yards to the ticket booth.  If you arrive at 10am like we did, you’ll have to walk a whopping 25 feet.  Once at the ticket booth, scrape out some change from your bag and buy a million tickets for practically nothing.  See the giant wad of tickets in Little T’s hand above?  That cost me $10 and I had about half left over when we departed.  If it’s just you and one child, I’d start with $5 worth of tickets.  Rides are 1-2 tickets per, and tickets are $.25 each.  If you have leftovers, save them for another awesome trip, or find a family and make their day by giving them away.

    There is a wildlife sanctuary at Bay Beach, but I have to admit that I’ve never been.  We always have so much fun at the amusement park that we never have time for anything else.

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    Then if you have an adventurous 3 year old, head straight for the Ferris Wheel.  I’d actually recommend doing this first cause it takes a long time to get all the bucket seats filled, so the entire ride ends up taking like 15-20 minutes.  Check out this video:

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    The view from the top of the Ferris Wheel is pretty great, too!  You can see the Bay and feel the breeze.  And hear kids screaming in joy.  What’s not to love?

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    Then your 3 year old and her 5 and 2 year old cousins will convince you that The Scrambler is a good idea.  Luckily I’m pregnant and didn’t have to ride it.  My cousin Mieke was brave enough (and small enough to squeeze into the seat with three kids) and took all the kids.  I should say here that the familial terms I’m using here are a little generous.  I always called Mieke my “god-cousin” growing up because her parents are my god parents and I’ve always referred to them as my aunt and uncle.  But technically, everyone is some sort of cousin.  I get confused because my parents have over 120 FIRST COUSINS combined.

    Now that we’ve got that straightened out…..

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    The Scrambler was a success, and next Little T and her cousins chose the helicopters.

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    Then the bugs….

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    Then the boats…

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    And then the little swings.  Honestly I think all the kids were a little disappointed with this one.  We had three thrill-seekers on our hands and this ride didn’t satisfy.

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    But guess what’s just as awesome as it was in 1986?!?!  The Big Slide!  Walk up the steep stairs, get yourself on a burlap sack, and race down.  I did it once with Little T, but the process of a pregnant lady in a skirt sitting down onto a burlap sack and trying to wedge a kid in her lap is not to graceful or fun.  So I stayed at the bottom and took pictures as the crew went down a solid 4 or 5 times.

    I’d like to point out that this park has remained virtually the same since I was a little kid.  And kids also can’t help but call it “Baby Beach” like I did as a child.

    Next we headed to the train before the line got long (the park gets a little busier in the afternoon).

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    Make sure you read the rules before boarding!

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    The view from the train is great!  Wave to the seagulls, look at the water, hear the train horn, and say hi to families at the playground.

    When you need a break, you can head into the pavillion (pictured above) for some pizza type food.  I’d suggest just packing a lunch, though, and heading out to the lawn and eating at a picnic table near one of the playgrounds.  If you have it in you, head back out to more rides after lunch.  If not, promise your kid a treat of ice cream or cotton candy and head home.  The entire trip should really just cost you gas money to get there and back, $5-10 in tickets, and maybe and extra $3 for a treat.

    I already can’t wait to head back!!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter Eighteen- Travel Edition: Door County

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    So I’m straying from the norm here…going to talk about something other than Milwaukee.  I’m also going to talk about friends.  Because on this week’s adventure, I got to enjoy both.

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    After college, my two friends Brie and Erin and I decided it was time to enjoy a spring break trip.  We were 22 and booked flights to Key West and had amazing time and that’s all I’ll tell you.

    We decided to continue the tradition and headed to Las Vegas the next year, San Fransisco the following, then Austin, Mexico, then Puerto Rico, then Nashville, then Phoenix, then Milwaukee and this year we celebrated our tenth year in Door County.  Our trips have been dubbed “Trifecta” and have ranged in theme from straight-up partying to adventure racing to helping a new mother of twins survive to relaxing.  This year we went to Fish Creek in Door County and spent most of the three days talking on the balcony of our hotel room.

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    Check out the super grainy picture of me, Erin (in pink) and Brie (in red)!

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    Peninsula State Park is a beautiful spot where you can swim (if you like cold water), relax, play beach games, and enjoy nature.  Above is Erin about to test out the waters.

    Last summer, my husband and I made reservations for tent camping at the park for later this summer.  Now that I’m hugely pregnant, I’m considering options other than sleeping on the ground and chasing after three small kids.  More to come on that as we approach the date.

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    I got my fix of yummy Asian food at Mr. Helsinki’s restaurant on the main drag of Fish Creek.  Here’s an awful picture of me (but the only documentation of the night) right after Brie told the funniest story EVER.  As evidenced by my lack of breathing (red face), it was quite memorable.  Someday I’ll share it with you over a glass of wine.

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    We drove to Ephraim (a very short drive) to meet a high school friend, Chai, and her beautiful family.  The Chef’s Hat had a really great selection of sandwiches, soups and salads.  Oh, and PIE.  Lots of delicious pie!  We got to hang out for a bit and fill each other in on our lives, and had a mini high school reunion.  I should mention that it’s customary for someone from high school to sort of randomly join in on Trifecta, so we’re really happy that Chai could meet up with us! By the way, Chai is an artist and does some amazing things.

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    Honestly I can’t tell you that much about Fish Creek.  We went to one store to shop for a necklace for Erin, ate at one restaurant, and stayed at one hotel.  What I can tell you is that I’m the luckiest woman alive to have so many good friends like Brie and Erin in my life.  These women are two of the most caring, hard-working, and steadfast friends I can think of.  Thanks for making a decade of Trifecta!

    This is a shout out to all the friends who have stayed with me since I was born (that means you Nancy), who I’ve met in school, and met in recent years.  Though my life has gotten exponentially crazier in recent years due to an increased family size, I have friends that I can call sisters.  You’ve been there for me and have made some unforgettable experiences.  Even though our friendships have gone through ups and downs, you’re still there for me.  And I you.

    If you’re wondering if I’m talking about you, I am.

    Thanks to all the friends in my life who I love.

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    Trifecta 2013

     

    Peace!

    A. Storm