Shut up, maples (or I’ll give you something to scream about)


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Damn, I wish I liked fall. I really do. So much so, in fact, that sometimes I'll even convince myself that I do like it. But I'm a compulsive liar (just ask my ex-wife or my hair colorist), especially when it comes to seasonal affiliations.

Truth be told, I don't really like any season except summer. Spring's too wet and muddy. (I'm only into mud when it's intentional.) And winter? Don't get me started. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities in a Minnesota winter.

Fall, though… So many people get all puppy-dog-eyed when they start talking about it. And I'm a sensitive man of the new millennium. I want to get all puppy-dog-eyed about something other than puppy dogs.

So what's a guy to do? I try to listen and pay attention when people start getting excited about fall so I can hear what they're so excited about. But it's all a load of crap.

What's so great about fall?

Comfortable temperatures
This is crap. I get totally sick of idiots babbling about a "crisp" fall morning. Call it what it is. It's cold. (The fact that the oncoming winter temperatures here are totally f'ing ridiculous should not diminish the fact that crisp = cold.) Even an absolutely ideal fall afternoon is 70 degrees. That's room temperature. If I want room temperature I'll stay inside. Still, I think I could tolerate this misrepresentation of "comfortable" better if I didn't live here in the home of these godawful winters. I just can't carpe the diem without looking at what's coming in a mere matter of days. Brrr.

Sweatshirt weather
This is crap. I just don't get the people who look forward to tugging on a thick, baggy sweatshirt. Honestly, how do you get sick of shorts and sandals?

Colorful leaves
This is plausible…but ultimately crap. Yes, I agree that the fantastic oranges and yellows of the maples and the brilliant reds of the sumac are beautiful. But after their week or two of showing off, you know what's coming. They're all falling down. On my lawn. And I've got to mow them and rake them and bag them and haul them and dump them. And, if that's the tradeoff, I guess I'd just as soon they stay green and stay on the trees. I like green just as much as I like orange or yellow or red. (Now if they ever come up with blue leaves, I think maybe I'd take that tradeoff. I'd rake blue leaves.)

Hunting
I don't hunt. Looks bulky, cold and bloody. I'll pass.

Football
This is a pretty compelling one. Fridays have been good so far this year for both the Sartell Sabres and the Rosemount Irish. And most falls I can count on some good football from St. John's. (Okay, I'll make an exception for Johnnie football. A warm, colorful fall afternoon spent watching St. John's kick ass in that spectacular football stadium – especially if you've managed to get in a little tailgating; perhaps with the Stiftungsfest crew – that's undeniably fantastic. No two ways about it.) But years of experience have taught me a few things, and here are two of them: 1. Football's arrival means baseball's departure. 2. Any wonderful fall football coming on Sundays in Minnesota is part of an elaborately constructed and infinitely cruel hoax. Enjoy it now. You'll pay for it with your heart when winter comes.

So, as much as I'd like to be, I'm just not totally on board as a fall fan. And I'll be watching with envy over the next few weeks as many of God's smarter creatures get their grand migrations into full swing. Open your window right now and listen. You can hear the honking already… (That Caddie has a distinct horn.) And if you listen even closer, you can hear the plaintive cries of the snowbird, desperately longing to get underway: "Damn it, Janet! Get in the godamn car!"

Lucky bastards.




“Pace yourself!”






Holy crap, it's a stroke of brilliance. It's a mantra. It's a zen credo. It's a delightfully witty bumper sticker (when paired with an adorable photo of some crusty old tortoise). It's a lifetime of hard-fought wisdom, compressed into two power-packed words.


"Pace yourself"? Bam!


And Molly picked it up in her very first swim meet. At least that's the way she summed it up on the drive home.


Me: "So Molly, what'd you learn from your first meet? Give me something insightful – I've gotta write a blog post."


Molly: "Um…Pace yourself?"


Damn straight, girl. You speak the wisdom of the ages.


I mean, think about it. I don't know about you, but I look back with shame and regret at all the pain I could have avoided and all the triumph I could have achieved had I only learned this lesson earlier.


[commence flashback sequence]

Guy at 7-Eleven counter: "Here's your Slurpee, son. Remember to pace yourself…pace yourselfpace yourselfpace yourself…"


[flashback sequence again]

Waitress of undetermined Asian heritage: "You have the buffet? Okay! Whenever you're ready. Remember pace yourself…pace yourselfpace yourselfpace yourself…"


[flashback sequence again]

Race director: "Welcome to the 2006 Buffalo Triathlon! Olympic course, wave 3, 30 seconds till start. Remember to pace yourself…pace yourselfpace yourselfpace yourself…!"


[snap back to reality]

You rock, Molly. And you're wise beyond your years. Keep training and conditioning. Live by your own sage advice and pace yourself. But, if I could offer you some advice of my own, remember this as well: Have fun!








Addendum #1: The video shown here is NOT from Molly's first meet. I taped her first meet on my Blackberry…and spent the next week trying to figure out how the hell to get that video OFF my Blackberry. No luck. So this video is actually from her second meet (a big invitational at Alexandria). Corinne shot this on her iPhone. (Please don't comment on it and get her started talking about that phone again.) That's Molly in lane one swimming the anchor leg of the 4×200 medley relay. And yes, she's swimming most of it alone because this particular relay team was so far behind. They lost this particular race pretty badly. But don't worry, it gets better. See below.




Addendum #2: Here's a link to a couple more Molly swim videos.




Addendum #3: The fact that I spent the last week trying to get video off of my Blackberry means that this post is nowhere near timely. (The meet was last Thursday.) Sorry about that!




Addendum #4: The upside of that delay is that it allows me to report on results from Molly's THIRD meet, last night – where she took FIRST in her 100m backstroke heat! First of many, I hope. (But even if it's the one and only, I'm still FANTASTICALLY proud!)




Addendum #5: On a completely unrelated but similarly proud note, Claudia promoted and got her red belt tonight at karate! It's going to look awfully good on her at Diamond Nationals next month!




Dream on


It's going to be a long 8 weeks at church. Pastor Doug just launched a whole sermon series on dreams. And, while I'm sure it's going to be fascinating and spiritually valuable, it's going to be a pain in my ass.


See, I'm married to a dreamer. A visionary. A big-picture thinker who has the fantastic ability to see possibilities and potential.


Pick one

It's a gift I truly don't have. I really don't. I'm just not a dreamer – either literally or figuratively.


So I'll very rarely remember what I dream about at night. I know I dream. I just can't remember them – even right after I wake up. It's all gone.


But, beyond that, I'm just not that guy who latches onto a goal or an aspiration. I'm more the guy who can't get out of his own way long enough to see the possibilities.


I spend all my time dwelling on why that idea won't work. I spend way too much energy worrying about the things I don't know or the skills I don't have, rather than looking for ways to apply the assets that I do have.


I spent 10 years as an Army logistician. And even I can see the irony in the fact that, rather than being empowered by that experience, I'm more likely to be dragged down by it. "Oh, there's no way we could put together something like that. Do you have any idea all the details involved?…"


What I really should be doing is shutting my negative mouth and just doing what I do well…and let the possibilities open up from there. Just do one thing – my thing – and let that be the beginning. Don't worry about where it's going to take us. (Hell, Corinne'll figure that part out!) Just realize that nothing's going to happen till I start the ball rolling.


Wake up and start dreaming, Greg.




Any preferences?


[WARNING: Sports post ahead. If you don't care about baseball, skip this one (and go screw yourself).]


Damn, for years I hated this stupid The Natural thing before every pitch. Strange. For some reason I love it now.

I know the Twins haven’t clinched their division yet, but – with an 11-game lead and 12 games to play – I don’t think even the baseball gods would begrudge us a quick look forward.

So the question to Twins fans becomes: Who do you want first? Rays or Skankees?

In order to win it all, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to face them both.*

So whom would you prefer to face first?

We’ll have one series with home field advantage (against the wild card winner) and then one series without it (against the AL East winner).

 

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Which way do you want it?

I hesitate to even say it, but I think I want the Skankees first.

In the Ron Gardenhire era, the American League team from New York has pretty much done to the Twins what those two hillbillies did to Ned Beatty. And (pardon my mixing of animal metaphors), as much as that monkey still scares me, I want it off my back. So let’s get it on. Bring it in here and let’s do this.

Plus, in that first series, we only have to win three big games from the Skankees. In the second, we'd have to figure out a way to win four big games. And besides, if we’re only going to have home field advantage in one of these series, Yankee Stadium scares me lots more than that juice box in Tampa.

Your thoughts? Anyone?




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*This question presupposes a few things:

1. I’m of the opinion that the Twins won’t do what it takes to get best record and home field throughout. (And I don’t think they should jump through hoops to get that.) That status is going to land with the winner of the AL East.

2. I think the Texas Rangers have a very good team and I wish them well. But I don't think they're going to beat the winner of the AL East. So I've pretty much factored them out of this discussion. (Sorry about that. I really am. My Google Analytics [which is easily among the top 5 most fun-to-say phrases in the English language] tell me that I have at least 2 readers in Texas. And I hope I haven't alienated either of you. I just don't think your team's gonna get it done this year.)




I like it dirty


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Multiple sclerosis is a terrible disease. I hate the fact that it cut my father’s career so short. I hate the fact that, every day, it causes my dad pain and suffering. And, selfishly, I hate the way that it robbed me of so many footraces and wrestling matches with my dad as a kid.


So that’s one reason why today’s 10K Mud Run benefit for the MS Society was so cool. In his pre-race briefing, the race director made kind of an interesting analogy. He said that, today, we were going to walk a mile (or 6.2) in their shoes. What he meant was that MS sufferers never know what’s around the next corner and we were going to face a lot of surprises. What I inferred was that we were going to get to spend a couple of hours stumbling around and falling flat on our faces. Gotta tell ya – it made me feel very close to my dad.


Okay, enough MS BS. Let’s talk about getting muddy. This event kicked ass. Seriously. It totally lived up to its billing. This was not some little candyass trailwalk with a couple of mudpuddles thrown in. This was a full-on, bog sloggin’ mudfest. There were 79 obstacles in those 6.2 miles.


Corinne and I didn’t rush through it at all. In fact, we pretty much walked the whole thing. But we did it all (including jumping over the flaming trench of fire). Well, Corinne opted out of two obstacles. But those were both tall, climby things and her knee’s been goofed up for the last couple of weeks. So she absolutely gets a pass on those.


We didn’t bring a camera to the race site because…well, because we were going to be getting wet and muddy. So we took some before pictures and some after pictures.


My favorite after picture? The pile of muddy clothes in the parking lot. (Yep, it’s all there. For awhile there, that was one interesting parking lot.)




UPDATE: Here’s some unedited video from the Mud Run (it’s long, you might want to skip some of the first parts and get to the muddy stuff). When he gets the edited version up, I’ll replace. It’s a bit long, but you can get a great feel for Mud Run.






2010 Twin Cities Mud Run from Michael Kraabel on Vimeo.




Happy anniversary!


So three years ago today, on a beautiful Saturday in Alexandria, Corinne and I let all six kids (and an assortment of cousins) run rampant throughout the waterpark to celebrate the onset of our wedded bliss.

Today we allotted ourselves $8 each to symbolically recognize the occasion.

Corinne scored big with a little side stop she made at Trader Joe's on Saturday (on our way back from the Renaissance Festival). Two varieties of hot sauce and two varieties of roasted peppers? Yeah, she knows me so well. Love it! Looking forward to trying them all.


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What's that? What did I spend my $8 on? Well, lemmetellya.

I had the idea. And it was a great idea. It was totally thoughtful and attentive. I mean, it was so thoughtful and attentive it'd make you crap.

Corinne's favorite guilty pleasure right now is any variety of curry from Asian House. And I thought, "Hey, what if I could talk the folks at Asian House into selling me the recipe for one of their curries…for $8? Then I could spring that on Corinne and she'll be all excited and grateful. Maybe I'll even follow the recipe and make a batch to give to her on our anniversary? How friggin' romantic would that be?

Last night Molly and I went about putting the plan into action. And my head about exploded when I talked to the woman at Asian House and she agreed to give me their green curry recipe – FREE. (Oh man, it just keeps getting better and better!)

Fantastic. Only look what constitutes "the recipe."

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Now, I definitely don't want to appear ungrateful. But, honestly, look at this recipe. This is the culinary equivalent of tracking down Howard Johnson, talking him into sharing his macaroni & cheese recipe, and being handed a post-it note reading:
    "• macaroni
    • cheese"

It's so vaguely vague, it's comical. But it's so comical I kind of liked it. So I mounted my "recipe" on some quality Creative Memories paper, picked up $8 worth of flowers, and wished her a happy anniversary.

I still think I did pretty well. Because, as they always say, it's the thought that counts. Right?


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Hello. My name is Quinn Skoog. You are my father. Prepare to die.


Sure, I spent 10 years in the Army. But I was an officer. And a Quartermaster officer at that.

Our oldest boy, on the other hand, is a master in the development and use of all kinds of crazy weapons. And he's a blossoming martial arts expert to boot. (Though I will point out, just to keep his head from swelling, that I am just as scared of Claudia on this count.)

So I don't know why anyone would be surprised when I announce that I was bested by my son this weekend.

Now don't get me wrong – I'm a man. If I'm going to square off against the boy, I like my chances if we're …



  • On bikes, in a pool or lacing up running shoes.

  • Playing soccer or tennis.

  • Bouncing quarters. (I'd better dominate him for a good, solid 7 years in this one or he and I are going to be having a completely different talk…)

  • Filling out crossword puzzles.


But fencing?


Advantage, Quinn.






I was employing Venetti's defense, based on the rough terrain. Quinn, however, was just plain comin' out strong and working to resolve some unsettled parental issues. (That first break you see in the duel? That's the guy telling Quinn, "Dude, lighten up. They're balloons. If you hit them, they'll break. You're not trying to take his head off…. Are you?")

I waited patiently for my chance and struck first to take one of Quinn's balloons. Then, when we went back at it, I saw my chance and was sure I had his second balloon. Evidently though, the guy was wrong and they DON'T necessarily break if you hit them. And half a second later, my son came slashing brutally across the crown of my skull to take out both of my balloons with one, mighty stroke.

If you watch at the end, you can see me hang my head in shame as I'm berated mercilessly for being a disgrace to southpaws everywhere by squandering my lefty advantage and losing to a mere right-hander. Also, please note Quinn's PG-13 rated victory cry of "Suck it" at the end.

(sigh)

All part of a great day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Love that place!




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