Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

“The War of Art” for-two-bucks sale is here!

I warned you last week and now it’s time. Get your credit card ready to pay a measly little $1.99 to get your electronic copy of Steven Pressfield’s phenominal book, The War of Art. It’s on sale today and tomorrow with a price spike after that so get in while the sale is good.

FastPencil offers the book in both .epub and .pdf formats. I’m still new to electronic books (I still don’t have a Kindle, though my relatively-new Droid X displays Kindle books, no sweat) and thought I may have more use for a .pdf file. At least, I know what I can do or not do with it and so that’s the route I went. If anyone wants to tell me why .epub is the better route to go, I’m all ears and willing to shell out another $1.99 for one of the most inspirational books about changing my life I’ve ever read.

Does that last sentence sell you, dear reader?



The Iowa Mission Trip blog has moved.

I’d planned to blog about Excelsior United Methodist Church’s mission trip to Iowa here like I did last year, but instead I’ve been given the go-ahead to create a brand-new blog for the church: Faith Journey Life Journey. Read all about our 2010 Iowa mission trip there.

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The LYFE Camp blog has moved.

Those who read my blog about LYFE Camp here last year should check out our new blog at


Categories: inspiration

My wife's roller derby name is "famous."

A Minnesotan named Tim has a clever viral marketing website called Who Ya Wearing Today? in which companies and organizations send him a few bucks and a t-shirt to wear during his videos. A day costs $10 in January, $20 in February, and so on. He mentions them during the video which also features a bit of original comedy and the proceeds are all going to a charity at the end of the year. This week, Tim wore a shirt for the North Star Roller Girls and noted his top ten favorite names on their roster, including my wife, “Maggie McFacestomp,” at #6. Here’s the video:

As mentioned in the video, their next bout is this Saturday at 7:30pm and you can come say ‘hi’ to me there. I accept hand shakes, fist bumps, and high fives. As for Maggie McFacestomp, guess who came up with that one…

Who Ya Wearing Today? is a cool idea and I hope it goes somewhere for both Tim and who he video blogs about. There are some kinks to work out. The video shooting (time to invest in a tripod), editing (graphics need to be cleaned up) and sound leave something to be desired in terms of execution (a “beat sheet” to follow would make sure what needs to be covered is covered and that it isn’t entirely scripted but cuts down on improv-turned-rambling). but I think that will improve with practice. Also, if I were him I’d pull back the graduated pricing model. This feels like an opportunity for grassroots organizations and small businesses and individual entrepreneurs and while this is a fun way to get a message out there, money’s tight. For example, I’d enjoy buying a day for Scrawlers but not at over $20 so if I don’t get a t-shirt printed up before the end of the month I’ll have hit my price ceiling. Of course, if this blows up quickly, there won’t be any problem finding people to plunk down $100 come October.

This is all an unasked-for review of sorts, too, but I think there’s a lot we can learn from Tim’s entrepreneurship experiment in social media. Kudos to Tim for trying something fun and for a great cause. I hope it works out and I can’t really argue with anyone who finds Maggie McFacestomp to be a wonderful roller derby name.


Categories: inspiration

Conan and Leno and Ethics, Oh My!

For those reading my blog on Facebook, I’d appreciate your leaving comments on my blog instead of Facebook, thanks. 🙂

I enjoy Conan O’Brien more than Jay Leno and that clearly influences how I feel about this whole late-night debacle. He’s who I watched when I stayed up late in high school to do homework and he’s who I watched in college when the night was just beginning and he has been who I watched in my young adulthood. When he took over The Tonight Show, I was thrilled, and when his first musical guest was Pearl Jam – my favorite musicians of all time – I knew he understood his demographic exactly.

Or, more accurately, me.

When Conan started making high schoolers and college students laugh in 1993, Pearl Jam was the biggest band in the universe. Now here they were, in 2009, kicking off a new Tonight Show. And that’s not the only musician I can link Conan to, either. Check out this list of the guests and musical guests from his days on Late Night. For me, I take note of some of my favorites, all appearing in just the first two seasons of the show: Radiohead, Blur, Reverend Horton Heat, Weezer, Jars of Clay, They Might Be Giants, Meat Puppets, Better Than Ezra, The Goo Goo Dolls, Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories, and don’t forget Ben Folds Five made its national television debut on Late Night. ((According to the link, this was on December 26, 1995. I wonder if they sang “Brick” with it’s line “Six a.m. Day after Christmas…”)) As for Pearl Jam, blogger Chris Hanaka recalls that they only appeared on Letterman (SNL aside) until they were the premiere musical guests for The Tonight Show in 2009, and I’d argue appearing on Letterman, Conan’s Late Night predecessor, is miles closer to Conan than Leno.

And what of The Tonight Show’s musical guests from that era who I enjoy and are still kickin’ it old school? Pearl Jam, Green Day, Alice In Chains, Incubus, Wilco, Chris Cornell, The Flaming Lips, Weezer, The Brian Setzer Orchestra. And that’s in the show’s first seven months. Check out the whole list here. ((If you ask me, the only real misstep was Creed, but I suppose that’s pretty subjective.)) These bands scream me. I cannot recall musical artists who appeared on Leno because I either tuned out before they came on or I didn’t hear of anyone who really compelled me to watch (or it’s possible I was just unaware or am missing artists in my mind). This roster and the previous Late Night roster help me know Conan is shooting for my demographic and that’s okay with me.

Read more…

My Ten Biggest Missed Blog Opportunities of 2009

I have a little saying around my desk that goes, “Thinking about writing isn’t writing. Writing is writing. So write.” I didn’t take my advice very well this year and ended up thinking about writing a lot more than actually doing it. Here are ten examples of how I could have written more here. These are missed opportunities, folks, learn from my mistakes.

10. I didn’t finish blogging about the Chicago Improv Festival.

I had grand intentions of reviewing the shows I saw (most were great), reminiscing about the fun times I had with friends (there were plenty), and doing a little self-critique of my own show (it went pretty well, if I do say so myself). If you think that’s bad, I didn’t touch upon my headlining at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival one bit. That was one of the best shows of my life.

9. I didn’t follow up on my reading list for the summer.

Mostly because I only read about half of what I intended to read. I can’t say I’m surprised.

8. I didn’t follow up on my summer writing plan.

See above.

7. I didn’t tell you what I thought of Road Dogs.

This book is great and deserves a review. I want to make that happen.

6. I didn’t finish blogging about LYFE Camp.

This one’s a real bummer because I receive more comments from readers on these blogs than anything else I write. On those days when I feel like I’m writing in a vacuum I could do worse than to remember that when I actually know I have readers I’d best give them something to read.

5. I didn’t post the “retro posts” I said I would put up.

Like numbers eight and nine, I can’t say I’m surprised. They’re still on my dashboard, half-written and waiting for my return.

4. I apparently choose to quit blogging the day I turned thirty.

Here’s where the truth comes out – I’ve had a tremendous year of stress. I’ve often used writing to get me through stress. Instead, I turned my back on it and the result is a near five-month stretch of radio silence.

3. I didn’t write about teaching.

This one was a difficult decision but I made it on purpose. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to write about my classroom experiences while teaching though now that I think of it, I certainly could have written about which texts I was using and other technical issues. Perhaps my reflections on teaching will crop up in the future here.

2. I didn’t write about getting laid off.

I taught for one full academic year outside of my MFA as a temporary part-time instructor and got an email that I wouldn’t have any classes to teach in the fall five days after my wife was in a serious car accident. I really didn’t tell anybody about this and for the last nine months or so I’ve seen surprised face after surprised face as I casually mentioned that I wasn’t teaching anymore. Can I just say that no matter how noble it is to support one’s partner and let the support others give them be at the forefront of how you handle their bad luck, it’s completely okay to acknowledge your own simultaneous bad luck. Kelly would be the first to agree with me, and it’s a lesson learned.

1. I didn’t write about enrolling in seminary.

I’m a first-year Master of Divinity student at United Theological Seminary and a candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church. Those who read this blog with regularity in 2009 – not that there was a lot of regular blog posts in 2009, but whatever – probably put two and two together with mission trip stories, LYFE Camp tales, and church men’s book club selections that this was on the horizon. I’ll give this one more attention in 2010.

I’m not down on myself for any of this and don’t think this post a pity party. Rather, this is me acknowledging how I could have come up with some great writing and I just didn’t do it. I was stressed, I was busy, I was overwhelmed. Was writing there for me? Certainly. But for some reason I resigned myself to letting go of it for a while. I hope you don’t do what I did. If you have, write to me and let me know about it. And if you haven’t, kudos to you, dear reader.

If anything, it’s made me hungry to stop thinking about writing and to just plain write.

I hope to see you in 2010.


A storyteller passes away.

12.02.2009 1 comment

A great man named Merlin Dewing passed away this morning at the age of seventy-four. I was shocked and stunned, as Merlin was as young as they get, full of life and an interest in bettering the lives of others. There is a mix of grief and gratitude in me this week. Grief for his death and gratitude for a chance to get to know him in this last year of his life.

I met Merlin at Excelsior United Methodist Church where I’ve worked the past five years. My being assigned to youth and young adults, our paths didn’t cross all that much and so I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know Merlin until I started the church’s Men’s Book Club in February, 2009. When I started the group, I didn’t know who would show up or who would show up consistently or who would enjoy it. It was my first program aimed exclusively at adult men and I was nervous at whether or not it would succeed. Since its inception in February, attendance has been low, not everyone who comes one month continues to the next month, and there’s still a struggle to discover what’s needed to make this club grow.

Merlin was the only man who showed up from day one and who had never missed a meeting. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

When he showed up the first night, I honestly had to play the, “I Know Your Name, I’m Just Not Going to Say It” Game. It’s the game I sometimes play with adults who I recognize at church but don’t know very well. My constituency, the youth group, is downstairs while the adults are upstairs and to make connections outside of youth and their parents, I have to make a concerted effort. So here came a man who I recognized by face but not name and as our first book discussion unfolded I not only learned his name but it soon became clear I’d been depriving myself of an excellent connection for years.

Merlin contributed so much to the Men’s Book Club. In order to be a close reader, I’m (unfortunately) a slow reader and I admired Merlin’s ability to read so quickly and yet simultaneously savor the story. At our meetings, he always had something of substance to say about the books we read. He recognized writers’ stylistic choices, how stories connected to other pieces of literature, and embraced new stories without hesitation (I’ll never forget how excited he was to finally read his first Stephen King novel, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and the way he was impressed by King’s writing and how it went against every stereotype he’d heard of the man’s macabre storytelling). Most importantly, Merlin knew how to connect the story on the written page to the stories of our lives.

While our reason to gather was to talk about books, I must admit a major contributor to my personal enjoyment of attempting to pull a handful of men together every third Tuesday of the month was my getting to hear a slew of fascinating personal stories from Merlin. The man had a million of them, never a dull one and always pertinent to the discussion at-hand. There were stories about business and tales of the military, stories of overcoming hardship and lore of local history, great jokes with great timing and touching love stories. When I was told Merlin passed away, I was upset with myself in the same way as was I was told my Grandma Phyllis died (the day before our first Men’s Book Club meeting back in February, to tie things together a little more tightly).

For years I’d meant to get Grandma’s stories down on paper or tape and barely scratched the surface on this goal. It was a missed opportunity I’ll never get back and not having her stories and the story of her life recorded as completely as possible – straight from her lips – is the pain I try to avoid most when I think of her these days. This feeling rose in me as I learned of Merlin’s passing because I remember clearly, every month, sitting there with a kid’s grin on my face as Merlin recounted story after story and thinking to myself, “I have to get with this man and write everything he says down.”  I didn’t do that and it’s a regret I’ll carry with me.

Merlin chose last month’s book club selection, The Sweet Season: A Sportswriter Rediscovers Football, Family, and a Bit of Faith at Minnesota’s St. John’s University by Austin Murphy. He’ read it before and had high hopes this locally-focused pigskin tale smackdab in the middle of the football season would bring in more members and though we didn’t have a large group show up, Merlin lead the discussion with ease and enthusiasm. He chose Murphy’s book because he admired Gagliarti’s leadership style and we had a long talk about what it means to stand out from the crowd as a leader. Through an online search to read his obituary, I came across a business website Merlin was involved in and saw this quote from him splashed across the top of the page:

“Leaders should be measured not by how much they lead, but by how little they have to lead. Their success comes from knowing how to select and develop gifted people.”
~ Merlin Dewing

This attitude was reflected in how Merlin saw Gagliarti as coach in the book and in how Merlin contributed not only to what I personally witnessed in Men’s Book Club but also in what I saw in how he interacted with his church family, entreprenuership opportunities, and his marriage. Reading his obituary it was clear he was well-loved and well-respected with many accomplishments under his belt that I never heard about. Maybe that’s because I was downstairs with the youth group. But more likely, it’s because Merlin was humble and sought to build up others before he built up himself. I anticipate learning even more about him at his funeral this Saturday and while I’m grieving, this impending time of celebrating Merlin’s life leaves me with gratitude to have known him at all.

(Postscript – At Merlin’s funeral, there were indeed tales of his being humble and for as many wonderful stories as he told me about other people in his life, it was an absolute joy to hear so many wonderful stories about him. The man has done so much, including playing an integral part in keeping the Twins in Minnesota in the early 1980s, not that one would have heard about it from him.)

On December 15 the Men’s Book Club discusses The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Knowing how quickly Merlin could get through a book, our group will be left wondering if he finished, what he thought of Sebold’s style, and especially how he viewed the portrayal of the afterlife. I would have loved to hear what new stories he’d be able to relate to the novel, and I wonder if I would have finally made time to work with him on writing them all down.

Merlin Dewing was a man of character and he enriched the story of my life.