December 30, 2014

It's Been a Good Year.

Words won't do this year justice. Well maybe just a few. . .
















December 23, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #115 - Not Your Typical Love Story

The story of meeting the love of my life is anything but traditional. It all started with a random instant message. A few online chats later led to meeting up for a Brewers game over summer. Though nerves engulfed me, I was lucky enough to get a second chance with a double concert weekend. After disappointing her with literally no knowledge of any Journey songs and a stale personality, it was years later before I discovered she needed the encouragement (and convincing) of a co-worker to even show up for the second half of our concert weekend. After dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and a Clapton concert, it was evident things weren't clicking. Though future conversations were few and far between, they still continued. A few meet-ups over the years, including a wild house party and a trip to the movies, eventually led to a rekindling. The timing was right. Recently removed from our own relationships, I had broken out of my shell and was much more similar to the person I was today. Hours and hours of instant messenger chats led to us getting together, reconnecting, and realizing that we were meant for each other, awkward history and all.

December 22, 2014

DD #114 - 104th & Bluemound

Living across the street from work with some good friends was one of the best times of my life. The memories go on and on. Swedish Fish fights. Our Greek landlords and their epic parties. Movie tournaments. Car and sledding accidents. Walks to Milio's and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. Fish tank adventures. Drives to Fudd's or B-Dubs. Video game battles that occasionally involved VHS tosses and torn t-shirts. Zoo parties. Adopting and saving Ozzie. Wrestling pay per views. The green chair. Figuring out a chore schedule and witnessing each roommate's own interpretation of said schedule. The computer room. Police showdowns next door. The Zoo flag. Regardless of the memory, what is most lasting is the bond I shared with two of my best friends. Through trials and tribulations, like girl issues, zoo drama, washing machine fiascos, and the general complaints that come with living in close proximity to others, we worked it all out and each enjoyed our time together. Though our time had come for each of us to go our separate ways, those years together really helped strengthen our friendships together and gave us memories that will last a lifetime. I will always love 104th and Bluemound.

December 21, 2014

Picture Book Preview

Here's a little story inspired by one of my students. A very early draft, so please let me know what you think.  Thanks for reading!


Jacob was glued to the window. Even after his teacher called him over, he was a tree rooted in the ground, mesmerized by the falling flakes of snow.
His teacher approached him and noticed a single tear rolling down his cheek.
“Jacob, what’s wrong?” Mr. Adams asked.
Jacob sighed. “This weekend is my last weekend here and my dad said it doesn’t snow at my new house,” he said.
“It’s OK buddy,” Mr. Adams said, “Think of all the new things you’ll be able to enjoy. Remember, you’re moving right near the ocean.”
“I’d rather think of all the things I could do here,” Jacob said as he walked away.
Like the falling morning snow, an idea fell into the head of Mr. Adams.
As the class was at lunch, Mr. Adams was busy at work.
As soon as lunch was over, the children headed to the recess doors, where they were met with a huge sign.
Outside, Mr. Adams was waiting with sleds, snowballs, and a smile.
Besides a few breaks for snacks and drinks, the class spent that snowy afternoon sledding up and down the hills, making forts and tunnels, and creating snow students.
As the afternoon came to an end and the time to came to pack up and head home, Jacob came over to Mr. Adams.
“Thanks Mr. Adams!” Jacob said. “I’m going to miss the snow and all of my friends. And I am going to miss you too!”
“Not as much as we are going to miss you!” Mr. Adams said.
After school that day, while Mr. Adams was reminiscing about the day, he had a new idea. He contacted Jacob’s new school.
Jacob spent his weekend heading to his warmer and unfamiliar home. Driving in the car hour after hour was exhausting. As day turned into night, he dozed off dreaming of the winter fun he had with his friends.
When he awoke, he noticed some significant changes. The snow was gone. He could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays seeping in through the car windows. He saw people in attire he only wore in summer. As his family headed to their new home, he smelled the fresh, crisp air and could taste the warm, salty water. He knew it was only a matter of time before he felt the gritty sand.
On Monday morning, Jacob woke up for his first day at his new school. When he arrived, the nerves had built up and he was worried that he would not like his new school and his new class. Those feelings melted away when he entered his new room to find pictures of his old classmates in their winter gear waiting for him at his desk.
“How do you get these?” he asked his new teacher, Ms. Brooke.
She replied, “Mr. Adams e-mailed them so you would always be able to have winter fun with your friends. He also had an idea he thought you’d enjoy.”
“What is it? “ Jacob asked.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” Ms. Brooke said.
The day progressed and Jacob became familiar with his new school. Parts of him still wished he could be back in the snow with his other class.
His wish came true.
Ms. Brooke handed out a book of letters and pictures that his former classmates created for him as a going-away gift. But before she gave the book to Jacob, she instructed all the kids to get a piece of paper and crumble it up into pieces. She looked at Jacob and said, “This is from Mr. Adams.”
“WELCOME TO WINTERPALOOZA!” she yelled, as she led the class in throwing the pieces up in the air and creating a virtual snowstorm.

The whole class was excited to have their first snowfall. Especially Jacob. 

December 18, 2014

DD #113 - A Day to Forget

I was elated! I had a successful interview and the job was mine if I wanted it. All I had to do was job shadow an employee. It was sports marketing.  The chance to work with professional sports organizations was at my fingertips. I walked in confidently. I walked out wounded. I was blindsided that my chance to work with sports teams was really a door-to-door sales job pitching coupon books with some proceeds supporting a wheelchair basketball team. I made it through half a day walking through suburban neighborhoods enduring rejection after rejection before giving up and going home. Sadly, I had already made plans to "celebrate" my new career opportunity with some friends and drinks that chilly October evening. Though I was in no mood to celebrate, I knew a night out was what I needed.  Sadly, the jerk who busted out my windows needed practically everything out of my car besides the steering column. Without the ability to turn on the heat and with frigid air chilling our bones until we got home, I knew baseball watching could cheer me up. That is, until Aaron Boone hit a walkoff homerun for the hated Yankees. This was definitely a day to forget.

December 9, 2014

DD #112 -Three Pound Burrito

I should have known something was up when the waiter gave me an interesting look. Honestly I thought the dish's name was simply a way of describing it as large. When I read "three pound burrito," I wasn't expecting an enormous plate with nearly fifty ounces of meat, cheese, and vegetables to be brought to me.  After realizing the error of my ordering skills, I figured I would eat about half and save some for a future meal.  However, two-thirds of the way through and being thoroughly satisfied, I knew this opportunity might never come again. So, with encouragement from my better half and no real sense of shame, I went for it. Bite after pain-staking bite, I completed the mission. I was a bit worried about what might come of this feat of eating strength. I'm not sure what was more impressive: finishing up a gigantic burrito or literally feeling no ill effects afterwards. My stomach's resistance to destruction led my wife to think I might have a profitable future in competitive eating. While that is quite compelling, I think I will stick to normal eating routines, though my definition of normal might be a bit different than the norm.

December 8, 2014

DD #111 - After School

Once I realized teaching was what I was meant to do, I knew I could benefit from experience in the school setting. Not willing to give up my zoo job, I successfully obtained a job with the Wisconsin Youth Company working at After School, a daycare setting in schools throughout Waukesha County. During college, I volunteered at the Madison affiliate if this company as part of a class requirement. My After School career began at Poplar Creek Elementary where I switched off with the younger kids and older ones. As I was expected to plan and implement activities, I got the taste of lesson planning. I loved my time at Poplar Creek, but was excited for my new position in the second half of the year. My boss asked me to be the lead floater, meaning I would be a substitute at any of the schools. I remember waking up pre-5AM to open up Cushing Elementary. I miss the circular-shaped Glen Park. I recollect the mirror images of the elementary schools in Wales and Dousman.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students and staff at After School and am grateful for the experience that helped me on the road to teaching.

December 4, 2014

Dadventures #5 - Go Time

When we found out our due date was the last day of spring break, we were hoping the baby would come early. It would have been nice to be able to enjoy that first week at home as a family without using up personal days from work. However, the schedule of an incoming baby doesn't always jive with the wishes of the parents Spring break came and went without any signs of a baby. Since the due date had technically passed, I returned to the classroom and my wife checked in with her doctor. By lunchtime on my first day back, I got the call that we would be heading to the hospital that afternoon for induction. My first day back was really like a half-day, but for me and my emotional roller coaster, it felt like a half-minute. Anxiety. Excitement. Patience. Queasiness. I felt it all as I headed home ignoring posted speed limits. Once home, my wife and I gathered supplies and headed to my home away from home for the next few days. It didn't take long. Within hours after induction, my wife and I were parents to a beautiful girl. It was well worth the wait.

December 3, 2014

Discovering Dargatz#110 - Another Day, Another @$$h&!e

There was uncertainty when my father was in the hospital. With my sister having developmental disabilities, my family stepped up to support her. Though she's independent in her daily life activities, she needs support and supervision to be successful. Unfortunately, routine and habits are at the core of her behaviors, and any disruptions to her expectations can cause behavioral eruptions that include tantrums, threats, and every curse word in the book. When it was decided that my dad would stay with me to recover after leaving the hospital, our hand was forced and we needed to  make decisions about Kery's immediate and distant future. We worked out a coverage schedule that included different family members coming and staying with her.  Whether it was my older sister, my uncle, my wife, or myself, each and every day when Kery would come home from work, someone was there. Most of the time, we cleaned, watched TV, and hung out as Kery did her daily rituals as if no one was even there. One night, she opened the door, looked at me and muttered, "Another day, another @$$h&!e."  I didn't take it personally. It was Kery's special little way of showing her appreciation.

December 2, 2014

DD #109 - Sledding Fun???

I remember specifically telling my buddies it was a stupid idea.  I'm surprised I  remembered anything at all. In our early twenties, some friends and I wanted to re-live our childhood one snowy evening and headed to Curry Park for some  sledding. We had to stop and buy some sleds. Because of our frugal nature, we purchased cheap plastic ones. Of course, after arriving at our downhill destination and seeing how we got what we paid for, we wanted to up the ante. We noticed a family that had an inflatable tube they weren't using, so we borrowed it.  The fun ended almost as quickly as it began. I successfully went over a man-made ramp, but wanted more.  With encouragement of my friends and the propensity to cave into peer pressure, I went for it a second time.  This time, I sprinted towards the ramp, flopping down on the tube mere feet from the ramp. My friends still are amazed at the supposed heights I reached. Unfortunately, my landing isn't as strong as my flying and I landed face first, knocking myself out, pushing back a tooth, and breaking my collarbone. Bloodied and confused, they took me to the hospital. 

December 1, 2014

Discovering Dargatz #108 - Every Penny Counts

"It all adds up" was the usual response I received from my dad when we were out and about collecting cans. My family wasn't in it for the environment. We did it to turn in for money. but the can collecting history of my family does commonly enter conversations I have had. While being pushed in a stroller, I assisted in can collecting at the 1982 World Series, which my beloved Brewers lost to the Cardinals in seven games. After camping out and spectating the Great Circus Parade in downtown Milwaukee, I scoured the streets, trash bag in hand, to find that precious aluminum. Heck, seeing a can while roaming the streets of Wauwatosa on our regular walks, my father and I would be guilty of picking up otherwise considered aluminum roadkill. We also had an unlimited supply of cans right in our basement. In a somewhat humorous and at times embarrassing end-of-the world soda stockpile, I drank can after can in my childhood (and notched cavity after cavity), just to collect it, turn it in for cash, and most likely, purchase more sugar water. Can collecting continues into my adulthood, though I restrict it to the cans I have purchased.