April 28, 2014

Live and Love

Stressors overwhelm us at times. Were often tied up in the daily responsibilities and rituals of our lives. We often lose sight of the present because we are worried about the future or frustrated with the past.  Sadly, tragedy is often the kickstarter to a new way of looking at how we live.  Is focusing on the past and future truly living anyway?  Preparing for the future is responsible and prudent.  Fixating on it is seemingly worthless.  We can't control it, so why pretend that we can. Obsessing over the past is one of our favorite activities.  Learning from the mistakes of our experiences is not a terrible option, but I think making new experiences (and potentially new mistakes) is just as important.  Knowing a close friend experience tragedy in their lives is heartbreaking, but knowing their strength and witnessing their positivity is truly inspiring. Also, seeing the outpouring of love and support is absolutely amazing.

I 've seen my fair share of sadness and pain in my life and I am working on moving past it and starting fresh. I want to.  I need to. I urge all of us to use the past to guide our present to better our future.

Above all, love!  Love each other. Respect each other. As I tell my kindergarteners, "you don't have to be friends to be friendly" and "Kind words lead to kind results." Ignore negativity, overcome bigotry and hatred, and promote kindness and acceptance, but most of all. . .

Live a life of love.

DD #36 - Train Chasing

Living a block away from a creek had its advantages.  I remember garbage races, searching for graffiti, attempting to catch frogs, and wasting days away. However, one memory that sticks with me is connected to the train tracks that ran alongside the creek. My father is a train enthusiast and otherwise quirky man who loved memorizing when the trains would come, predicting how many cars the trains had, and literally sprinting down to the creek to count the cars on the train as it flew by. I recall wiffle ball matches and yard work  being interrupted by the distant roar of an oncoming train, an immediate sprint down to the creek, and the inevitable counting of the cars. This habit continued in my grade school years,  Being at a school whose playground faced that same creek, I spent recess time counting the cars of trains I happened to see, reporting them to my dad, and having tell me what train company it was, where it was coming from, and where it was going.  While I can't guarantee this specific tradition will happen with my child, I can only hope to create memories my child can look back just as fondly.

DD #35 - The Lonely Red Seat

June 18th, 1991. I spent the evening at County Stadium.  The Brewers faced the California Angels on a desolate night, at least attendance-wise.  I was in my usual Pepsi Fan Club green outfield seats down the left field line with my pop and sister. I had my glove and was ready to go.  I even managed to sit in the red seats just a few rows down, which were a price range above my seats.  But with no one, and I mean no one, in that section, the usher must've felt especially generous. However, mid-game, I felt the urge to do what I did every game I attended as a kid, the speed pitch. I don't remember how well I threw that night, but I do remember the disappointment I had for the timing of my dismissal beneath the grandstands. While I was gone, Angel slugger Dave Winfield lashed a round-tripper down the left field line and into the section I had all to myself.  Plus, to rub salt in the wound, the ball landed directly in front of the only seat pushed down that night, my seat.  I never did get a home run ball that summer. . .or ever.

April 16, 2014

DD #34 - Musical Moron

In my middle school years, music was just beginning to be an influential aspect of my social development.  A hot techno/pop band during that time was the British group, Ace of Base. Just recently, I had purchased my first CD player and bought my first three CD's. . .a Simpsons sing along, The Lion Sleeps Tonight the single, and the best of The Village People.  Yes, I was a cool kid. I was excited when I would pick up every new Ace of Base song.  From All That She Wants to The Sign, every time I went Best Buy or Target, I took the time to look for a new song and was pretty excited when I found one. Of course, none of this excitement compared to the feeling I got when I found a collection that all of these songs on one CD. You see, my naive prepubescent self was unaware of the difference between singles and albums and it took my sister to explain to me that musicians offered all  songs on an album. Luckily, I learned this lesson from my sister instead of a peer.  This most certainly saved me a great deal of grief and ridicule.

DD #33 - Brothers, the worst bar in the world

Regularly in college, I could be found at a drinking establishment known as Brothers with two friendly and attractive ladies.  While this may seem very exciting, I assure you my role was anything but. Brothers was known for expensive drinks, LOUD music, and guys. . .lots of them. Two close friends loved going to this place for all the attention they would get from the males who frequented there. However, while they were  social and didn't mind striking up conversation, they needed an out in case the conversations went dry.  I was that out.  I was able to spent many a night at Brothers to be the pseudo boyfriend in case one of my friends felt a gentleman caller was a bit too touchy-feely or aggressive. I was quick to take over that boyfriend role in spirit without any of the actual boyfriend benefits. In no way was I the bodyguard, as I am not a fighter or physically intimidating, but I was there to be the buffer and was called into buffer duty regularly. Every walk home, the girls would complain about the way the guys treated them and every following weekend, we'd all find ourselves back in the same situation.

April 14, 2014

DD #32 - Come Get Lei'd at the Desk

Working through college was more than an option, it was a necessity.  I was able to work for University Housing. After one year in the food service realm at Pop's Club, I was fortunate to get hired at Tripp Desk, the residence desk for TAS (Tripp, Adams, Slichter).  Being an Adams resident, this was convenient and much more appealing than stocking the shelves or scraping the plates at the dorm cafeteria. My desk was also a fully-functioning post office so I quickly became familiar with money orders, delivery confirmation, and all sorts of stamps. My sophomore year, I enjoyed coming to the desk, interacting with my cohorts, and doing the tasks of selling postage, stuffing mailboxes, handing out replacement keys, and putting money on food accounts. My final two years, I became the Desk Supervisor and had many adventures while in charge.  This was the beginning of the nickname Donkey, the duct tape chair fiasco, the "Come Get Lei'd at the Desk" mistake, and the famous Rollin' dance.  I worked with some amazing people who always made me laugh, saw some interesting residents with unique issues, and gained experience making decisions and handling scenarios that proved vital for the future.

DD #31 -My Introduction to the World of Racing Sausages

When I first was hired by the Brew Crew, I was aware that being a famous racing sausage was one of the jobs I could potentially be scheduled for when I walked into Miller Park, I was a bit surprised to find my name on the rundown sheet next to "Sausage Race - Middle of 6th" on only my second game ever. The excitement I felt when I realized that was overwhelming and the first thing I was moved to do was text my wife, who in turn took a half day to come to the park and cheer me on. I literally cannot even recall what my other jobs were before that fateful race. I do remember stretching, trying on the sausage for the first time, realizing I was lucky enough to get stuck with the sausage that had a broken strap, and completely freaking out about what i was about to do. Being the Polish Sausage, I finished 4th. I do claim ignorance on that lackluster finish. I found out after the race that waving to fans and attempting to high five players as I made the curve was frowned down on and the "race" was a legitimate race.

April 10, 2014

Dadventures #2 - The Reveal

It seems like every time someone has good news to share, they must come up with a new and creative way of sharing that news. In a social media driven world, the creative opportunities are endless. This makes it easy and hard at the same time. I dealt with this dilemma when I was to reveal the news of my impending fatherhood with my school family. My school family considers me energetic and the "good kind of crazy", so something plain and ordinary wouldn't work, for them or for myself. I knew they would be ecstatic and overjoyed for my family. They knew I couldn't wait to be a father. I am used to being "outnumbered" as a male in an elementary school. It seemed like my school was, let's just say, "fertile." We were all used to hearing good news announcements from female staff members. However, I wanted my announcement to represent my male counterparts well and leave a lasting memory in the minds of my fellow staff members.  I wanted to spread my joy in a way that my school family would be happy for me, yet still represent my quite quirky and easygoing personality. I hope it worked.

DD #30 - Wanna Trade?

Sundays after church, my cousins and I would connect and talk about our plans for the day.  Seemingly every week, this included meeting and doing our usual activities.  Playing video games. . .walking to the creek. . . going to Mayfair. . . .playing basketball or handball . . . hanging out. An important staple of our times together was trading baseball cards.  We would constantly look through each other's collections and make trade after trade, with just as many trade proposals denied as accepted. Trading usually was not a once-a-get together activity.  We usually took breaks with some other of our regular activities before resuming the trading. The excitement and allure of trading was very adrenaline-inducing and always led to a good amount of debate and banter between the participants. We each brought our own collection binders, jam-packed with sleeves of our favorite players and unique cards. Of course, these days included a trip to one of our two local card shops, Capital Collectibles and Sportsworld. We would each bring a few bucks to buy that one special card or a few packs. Either way, whatever was purchased was used as bait for that ever-important next round of trading.

April 7, 2014

Hiking Journal # 2- Lapham Peak & Hartland

Another weekend gone, but the spring weather made it a fantastic one. Though spring cleaning is a necessity, my family couldn't let all of the sunshine go to waste.

I was able to go on a guided hike with a much more experienced Ice Age Trail hiker on Saturday, exploring a five mile stretch that began at the tower at Lapham Peak state park and wound up at the UW-Waukesha field station.  Besides enjoying the stroll, I was able to get free history lessons on Native American marker trees, a local and abandoned boys detention school, volcanic bedrock, illegal lumber collection, and prairie restoration.  Though I was a bit disheartened to hear this section had been vandalized with stolen benches and graffiti expressing someone's distaste for our current government structure, the beautiful kettle-fed stream and a jaunt along where the Ice Age Trail and Glacial Drumlin state trail come together made it a very worthwhile hike.

Sunday was a family hike day.  I was excited to share a portion of the Hartland segment which I had just discovered the week before. After driving to a wayside connected to the Hartland Ice Age Marsh, the ladies and I took a short but exciting two-mile trek through a marshy section of the trail.  In this section, a scenic overlook named after Wisconsin naturalist Aldo Leopold was highlighted in the Ice Age trail information I use to help me on my hikes.  However, I had a purpose of finishing up a longer stretch on my first trip through this segment, so I avoided really digging into this seemingly standard overlook that was just off the Ice Age trails. Path.  Boy, did I miss out!  My wife and I decided to take a separate path and explore the overlook.  When we did, we noticed that it included several trails within it. Spring had certainly began the awakening process for the native plants and animals that inhabited this marshy conservancy area. We noticed many waterfowl, especially geese, mallards and a pair of sandhill cranes.  We saw the usual mammals and saw some woodpeckers and juncos as well. We were able to cross a bridge over a very peaceful stream and climb to different heights to get various looks at the area from a different perspective.  I am sure we will visit this area again once we get deeper into the season.

In the next week, I'll be looking into how I can help for National Trails Day on June 7th and learn more about the Saunters program, a child-based outdoor education program focusing on nature and the Ice Age Trail.

DD #29 - Like a Good Neighbor. . .

Growing up, my neighbors were an elderly couple who attended my church. As I got a bit older, I found out one snowy night that my services were volunteered by my father to help them with certain tasks.  I was being  babysat by my Uncle Johnny one winter Monday night.  I was enjoying a Monday Night Football game in my warm, cozy house while the snow piled up outside. A call was made and after talking to my neighbor, complaining to my uncle, and figuring out how to confront my dad, I reluctantly went out to shovel and got the ball rolling for what would be over a decade's worth of odd jobs completed for my appreciative neighbors.  Shoveling in winter was expected.  Trimming and mowing in summer a normal task.  Even raking leaves and clearing gutters was manageable. But some of the other chores were a bit unexpected. Reading Readers Digests from cover to cover.  Turning music pages while my neighbor played his piano. Retrieving and sorting the mail. I was never sure what I was going to do when the phone call came, but I was happy to get paid and happy to help out  a neighbor and friend.

April 3, 2014

DD #28 - Mini Golf

Many evenings during my high school years were spent at various mini golf courses in the area.  Whether it was a stop during a cruise down Highway 100 or a break from a Best Buy/Funcoland shopping excursion, mini golf was a regular event for my crew.  Maybe the allure was the smacktalk that inevitably occurred. Maybe this was our chance to showcase the athletic prowess we all thought we had. Maybe it was a chance to meet girls. Not sure our real motivation, but many dollars and hours were spent visiting different putt putts throughout the Milwaukee area. For all that practice, you'd think we might actually be good at it, but that never really came to be. This didn't stop our competitive juices from flowing. Eventually, four of us took a weekend trip to the Dells where nearly 200 holes of mini golf were endured with scores being kept and monies being exchanged. This epic culmination was the first and last of its kind and was our own rite of passage into post-mini golf adulthood. Though mini golf rounds are now few and far between, I can't help but remember these excursions every time I take to the course.

April 2, 2014

Classroom Z00 # 12 - New Years Resolutions???

Whether in  fourth grade or in my new digs at kindergarten, a rite of passage every January is the obligatory New Year's Resolutions. Each year, I help my students set goals. We focus on three types of resolutions: an academic one, a social one, and a "fun" one. Fourth grade responses were standard. Many students focused on getting "A's," making more friends, and improving and/or excelling in an extra-curricular activity, such as little league, gymnastics, or music. Though kindergarteners needed a little more assistance and we spent more time brainstorming, most responses had similar tones. Kindergarteners were less motivated by grades, but wanted to be "better at addition" or "write more". They wanted more friends, but focused on activities with friends like going to a waterpark or convincing their parents to allow a sleepover. One major difference was seen in the fun category. What kindergarteners lack in tact they make up for with their honesty and sometimes unique perspectives. Case in point, my kindergarten friends have made interesting resolutions. Many involved less reading and more video games. Some involved tying their shoes without any help. One involved eating more bread. Who knew kindergarteners were so aware of their carbohydrate intake?

April 1, 2014

Picture Book preview - The Memory Collector

Based on your votes, here is a draft of an idea I am trying to turn into a picture book.  Your feedback and comments are appreciated.


By Peter Dargatz

 “There he is again,” Michael said to his sister on their walk home from the library. “I swear I just saw him by the grocery store yesterday and at my baseball game last night. He’s everywhere.”
“Who are you talking about?” asked his little sister Aly.

"The can man,” Michael told his little sister. “He walks around town with a big bag and a cart collecting cans. I think he might be really lonely. . . .or maybe just strange.”

“Why do you say that?” Aly asked.

“Anyone who has nothing better to do than walk around all by himself with a bunch of cans must be lonely. I mean, what a waste of time.”

Aly looked puzzled.  “Have you ever talked to him?”
“Talk to him! Not a chance. I avoid him. You should too.”
But it was too late. Aly had already grabbed a can from the ground nearby and was walking over to the can man.

“Hello sir,” she said timidly. “Here is a can for you.”
The can man lit up with a mile-wide smile.  “Why thank you little lady! How are you this beautiful afternoon?”

“I’m fine. Just walking back from the library with my brother, Michael.”
Just as Aly mentioned this, Michael came up to them both. “Aly, we should really be getting home for lunch.”

“Ahh, Michael.  Your lovely little sister was just mentioning you,” said the can man.
“I bet,” replied Michael. “Sorry for bothering you.”

“No bother at all. Just enjoying stroll on this beautiful day.”

 “Is that what you are doing?  Going for a stroll?” asked Aly.
“Yes ma’am. Cleaning up the neighborhood as I go.”

Aly saw his bag of cans. Remembering her brother’s words, she couldn’t hold back from blurting out. “Don’t you get lonely?”
“Lonely? Not at all. I’ve got my collection,” can man replied.

“But they’re just cans,” Aly responded.
Michael nodded in agreement.

Can Man laughed.  “Oh these? Yes, you are right kids. They are just cans.”
“Then how are they a collection?” Michael asked.

“The cans aren’t my collection. You see, I love walking around the town. While I walk, I figure I might as well collect cans. It cleans up the neighborhood.  The neighborhood I love so much.”
Aly still looked confused.  “So. . . .you’re not lonely?”

“Never. I have this.”  He pulled a small red notebook out of his pocket. “This was a gift from one of my students.”
“Students!  Like in school?”  Aly asked. She looked to Michael.

“You’re a teacher?” Michael asked.
“Used to be. I taught elementary school for nearly thirty years. About seven years ago, I retired and have lived in this town ever since.”

“So what’s in your book?” Aly asked .

“My real collection, my memory collection. The time I saw a young man and woman became engaged right near the river.  The crash and boom of the car accident I saw right across the way. The baby bunnies I saw scamper out from under the bush. The tornado sirens I heard blaring one balmy August evening. The cheers and laughter I heard from the holiday parade.
“I get it,” Aly boasted.  You’re not the can man. You’re the memory collector.” Michael and Aly smiled.

“I like that!”  The man grinned. “But I do more than collect memories. I record them in my book.  And today, I can record the meeting of a lovely and inquisitive young lady and her big brother.”
Michael beamed with the kind words of the can man. A look of excitement burst came over Aly’s face. “Wow! I wonder if I could start my own memory collection.”

The memory collector ripped out a fresh page from his red notebook and handed it to Aly. “There’s no better time than now.”
(final page of book would be a page for reader to start their own memory collection)