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Welcome to "National Lampoon's Iowa Vacation"

Craps, Gambling, M/$, My-Sugar-Na, Restaurants, Vacation

This one didn't star the Griswold family, instead we follow the exploits of me and my step-family for the past weekend.  (Side note, this may only be interesting to me and My-Sugar-Na, but if you read this far, my blog hit-o-meter has already registered your visit, and I thank you.)  The actual points I want to make are in bold, the rest is just filler... er, I mean backstory so you understand the context of my comment.

Both My-Sugar-Na and I turned 40 in March.  However, instead of buying gifts for each other, we wanted to do something different.  We had talked about a trip to Las Vegas or Reno, but between the short time frame after thinking of the idea and the concerns about child care for (Sponsor's Name Here)'s Official Stepchildren, Grizzly and Sloppy, we weren't able to pull it off.  That's when My-Sugar-Na had a brilliant idea... drive to central-Iowa (home of her ex-husband), and have him babysit his own kids while we blow the April mortgage at the two casinos in the area.  (Side note, that's exactly what happened, too.  Both My-Sugar-Na and I made four trips into a casino, and not once did either of us walk out and say "Well, at least I won something".  That is the last I plan on speaking of gambling losses, however, I've also only typed two paragraphs so far.)

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Repair or Replace?

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, I know, but I’ve been having some computer issues.  My computer has never been quite right.  A friend of my husband’s rebuilt it for me and it didn’t boot up properly from day one.  Well, now we are well into day 1,000 or so, and the machine was so sickly that it would often times take five or six tries to boot up.  Once up, the system was so unstable, I would be kicked off roadrunner, programs would freeze at will, and towards the end, the machine would just reboot itself at random.  I lost a couple of good blogs because the darn thing would reboot and erase everything.  You know…because I didn’t think to save it, even though the computer was obviously on its death bed.

My first thought on Saturday was to have the machine fixed.  I went to the Geek Squad’s website and discovered that it would likely cost as much to have them check and fix the machine as it would cost me to replace it with a brand new, low cost model.  I thought briefly about having computer friends fix it, but since this was a problem I had from the beginning (that my husband’s friend wasn’t able to correct at the time) why would I expect someone to be able to fix it now?

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Once in a while, usually when it is very quiet, I have a profound thought.  Sometimes, I choose to write the thought down.  At other times, I am simply interrupted and it becomes a fleeting idea, which is discovered at another time.

How many times during the day do you come across the following situations: a driver which is currently experiencing road rage.  Customers feeling wronged behind the check out line.  Parents losing their tempers with their children.  I would guess more often than not.  Everyone seems to have less patience now a days.  Everyone seems to be in a hurry.  What is it
that we are missing in our harried lifestyles?

I have to be honest, I have a couple of pet peeves. Now, these may seem minor, but they still get my goat, so to speak.   I believe in helping others.  Not so much so to put myself last, but in general, I try to incorporate “small acts of kindness” into my every day life.  It makes me feel better to help others.  I think this comes from my Grandmother, who is one of the most wonderful people I know.  Yet, lately, a couple of things have begun to crawl under my skin. When I am walking down an isle and someone is in my way, I kindly say excuse me, and they usually smile and allow me to pass by.  For some odd reason I have not experienced the same gesture in return.  One example is when I was recently at the grocery store.  I was looking for some shredded cheese.  A woman who wished to pass basically stopped her cart and stared.  Without saying a word, she continued to inch closer and closer without excusing herself.  I did not understand the logic behind her thinking.  Why could she just not excuse herself?  I can honestly say I did not move because I was not done with my browsing.  I guess you can say I was annoyed and did finally move my cart to the side more for my convenience than hers.   Another item on my list of pet peeves is when I walk into any establishment.  I always look behind me to see if anyone is coming.  Even if they are 10 feet or more behind me, I always hold the door until they are able to reach it.  So many people lately I guess feel entitled to such a gesture and almost expect someone to wait until they arrive at the door.  I can honestly say that 9 out of 10 people never even say “thanks” when it comes to this simple act of kindness. 

Although the two above examples may seem minor compared to other infractions, they have gotten to the point of being a distraction in my life.  I wonder where basic human kindness and gratefulness has gone.  It appears to me that more and more people have seemed to forget the words “thank you”.  How often do we smile and say hi to strangers when we are walking through a crowded mall?  Ever stop to assist a young mother who may be struggling with her stroller?  How about helping someone else's Grandmother by holding the door for her?  Even though we are so busy with our own lives, we seem to have lost focus of the hundreds of others we pass every day. 

The initial thought mentioned at the beginning of my blog appeared recently in my mind.  The words “Rewind, be kind”  floated within my mind and I knew I had to write it down.   Do you remember not too long ago when your family would rent VCR tapes at your local library or video store?  On the front of the cassette, on a silver stamp, you would find the words “Be kind, rewind”.  Many times, if you failed to rewind the tape upon return, you would be charged $1.00.   This may not seem like a steep price considering late fees today, but it assured some would heed the warning. Remember how long it would take to rewind a tape if you were in a hurry?  Maybe 3-5 minutes?  I admit many times I rushed out of the house only to be guilty along with the others who did not rewind.  I paid the price.  And, I did not enjoy it.  Did I continue my injustice, of course, but I am sure the video store was able to purchase new videos with my fees as well.

Rewind, be kind, is a different type of application. It is the type of saying which is so hard to forget. I realized lately that if I "rewind", think through the situation, the end result may "be kind".  Have you recently been annoyed at another person?  Did you take the time  to rewind, go back about one minute and ponder?  Do not react, whether positively or negatively, simply
stop and think.   Rewind, take a deep breath and “be kind”.  How about the guy or girl who cut you off on the way to work.  You are already stressed out, have been driving through a snow storm and are an hour late.  Stop.  Don't react.  Wait one minute.  Take a deep breath.  Then, try to be kind.  Put yourself in their shoes.   How about the clerk behind the counter.
The less than perfect service you may have received?  Stop and rewind.   Speak slowly and state your case.  Do not allow yourself to get angry.  Even if this is a natural reaction for you, take a different path.  I was recently at a restaurant.  Everyone had been served except for myself.  The waitress went to get my food and came back quickly.  She handed me the plate
and stated “be careful, it's hot”.  When she placed the platter in my hand, I felt an instant burn.  The plate had been placed under a warmer and was about 120 degrees.  I immediately felt tears come to my eyes and was shocked.  I place the dish on the table and stated that my hands were burned and wondered why she had handed me such a hot plate.  She looked worried and explained what had happened.  She was so concerned about her service to me that she grabbed the plate
without thinking and realized half way to the table that the plate was too hot.  At this point I could have “gone off”, screamed and yelled, etc, but I stopped.  I actually thought more about her hands than my own.  I asked for a manager and explained that what had happened was not necessary and I was hoping any future incidences would be avoided.  They took my
information and promised to reimburse me in some form or another and I left for my next destination. 

Therefore, REWIND, BE KIND, and begin to have a better life.  Let's take time to think about the next time we feel we are “wronged”.  How about we realize that the one who committed the act is only passing through.  They will probably not be a permanent part of your life.  You may never see that person again.  Why allow a complete stranger to affect your life towards the negative?  Let something so minor stay as such.  Think about how you may contribute to your own health and well being.  Focus on your children, who may not be home much longer.  Take time for yourself, your spouse, family or friends.  Do not allow one more minute to pass you by.  Refocus and begin to see yourself in a brand new light. 


Spring Cabaret


I recently attended the Spring Cabaret held at Latte Café. I had heard that Latte Café holds different Cabarets through out the year but had not had an opportunity to attend one until their Spring Cabaret that was held on March 26th.


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Volunteer to Assist in Removing Invasive Weeds from Our Parks


“Citizen Stewardship of Our Milwaukee County Parks”.  That’s our mission statement; a nice concise phrase packing a lot of meaning in a few words. Stewardship means different things to different people, but one meaning is maintaining the health of our neighborhood parks - something that can not be accomplished by our dedicated park workers alone. That’s where you come in!

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HUMAN TOUCH.... men and women part 2

Does anyone remember the song "Human Touch" by Rick Springfield?  Part of the song states, "we all need, the human touch, we all need it and I need it too".  

 I have been thinking lately about relationships and the necessity of human touch. Studies show that children who live in orphanages usually lack the physical nurturing needed for healthy growth.  I have friends who have adopted children from third world countries.  Some of these children received the touch stimuli from birth on, and have adjusted well to the American culture.  Yet, other stories bear a far different resemblance.  I had a co-worker who years ago adopted twin 5 year old girls from outside the United States.  The girls had not experienced the same bonding as other children.  They had been left in their cribs for hours on end and were given the bare necessities.  They were fed, changed, but lacked the interaction which so all children require to connect with others.  Unfortunately, even years later, these twin girls were not able to have a loving, trusting relationship with my friend.  She felt like a surrogate, waiting for the birth mother to arrive to come in and begin the parenting process.

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Rainy, Gloomy Afternoons

April rains, calendulas, dandelions, Farmers' Market, gardening, herbs, nastursiums, preserving chives, rakes, spring cleaning

On this very grey, gloomy and rainy day my thoughts turn to cleansing. It always happens in early spring that we get at least two or three days of heavy cold rain. I bet if we checked the weather records my theory would prove true. My theory being that the earth needs this cleansing of winter. Yes, winter and all the salt and leftover debris that winter always leaves behind and covers up with the snows. Just remember how your yard looked when the snow finally melted a couple of weeks ago. Lots of winter gunk all over. Now that we've had some rain, its disappearing. So, these rains give everything a good cleansing. Maybe that's part of the concept of spring cleaning.

Now that the cleansing is happening, we can plan our gardens, yards and flower beds. Bring out those seed catalogs and start dreaming. Soon the Farmers' Market will be open and plants, eggs and the early spring vegetables will be available again. Even now that its still cold outside, I can see the grass greening up, my lilac bush is just beginning to bud out and the tulips and daffodils are well up out of the ground. For most of us homeowners when young mens thoughts turn to love ours turn to getting the yard raked and to cleaning out the flower beds that we somehow never got to last fall.

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Didja ever get the feeling that things weren't meant to be?

HBO, Television, Vacation

Last July, I ordered each of you to watch the show "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO.  Well, somebody must have watched it with me, as it was renewed for a second season, albeit to start in 2009.

In the interim, the Conchords are touring the USA.

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This past weekend's KIDSfest at State Fair Expo Center

James family, My-Sugar-Na, Vacation, West Allis

Metroparent Magazine is close to being onto something with KIDSfest, but unless something bold is done before next year, this may turn into an idea whose time has come and gone.  The event planners, who probably think that having something for everyone is a great idea, instead turned it into a mish-mosh of stuff.  I feel they would have been better served by picking a focus and developing it.

KIDSfest was set-up like a business convention... vendor booths lined the aisles, with freebies, brochures and prize drawings to entice people to their booth.  Vendors included just about every tourist trap in the Wisconsin Dells, the Milwaukee Wave and Admirals, various schools and camps as well as a few booths that made me wonder why they were there (Tastefully SimplePyramax Bank?  What do they have to do with kids?)

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Sponsorships getting out of control?

Fantasy Football, Free market, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, Nostalga, Television, US Cellular Arena

I joined my first Fantasy Football League in 1993 (while I was working at the now-evil USBC, then called the American Bowling Congress).  One guy in the league had a wife who owned a business, and his team was named for his wife's business.  Seeing that, when asked what name I wanted, I said that I didn't have a corporate sponsor, yet, so I would take (Sponsor's Name Here).  Nobody much got it then.

Fast forward 15 years, and for a few days last winter, as a gag, I had asked the editor of the MyCommunityNOWs to change my blog name to Tomassino Italia' Presents Michael James' Blog.  It was cute and got a few comments for me, but I don't know if my blog reaches enough people for the full message to sink in.  Now, nobody notices it.

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I'm a John Paul Dellacamera fan. Are you?

MISL, MLS, Nostalga, Television, YouTube

John Paul Dellacamera is a soccer announcer.  Maybe it falls into the category of "You never forget your first", but he is the easy choice as my favorite soccer announcer.

I first came across him in the mid 1980s, when I would watch the original Major Indoor Soccer League games on ESPNDellacamera was usually working the games with Seamus Malin, and their chemistry was top notch.

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Raise my taxes to cover your mistake?

Did you see the article on the front page of the Journal Sentinel a couple weeks ago titled, “Schools in Risky Business?”  In it, they claimed that 5 area school districts made “an investment gamble that could force taxpayers to finance multimillion-dollar bailouts.”

Excuse me?  YOU made a risky investment and WE have to pay for it?  That sounds like the biggest bunch of garbage I’ve heard in a long time.  That’s like me saying my IRA isn’t performing up to snuff and I expect my neighbors to reimburse me for my loss. 

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Energy Assistance

Usually I write about relationships, life, etc, but I thought it was time to step outside my box and write about something new.  It may not be new to everyone, but I thought it would be helpful for this time of year. 

 At 1304 S 70th St you will find Maximus.  I am sure many of us have driven down 70th past Greenfield Avenue.  Alot of us are used to the structures and really do not pay attention to some of the businesses in the area.  Maximus is a place where persons who live in the surrounding areas can go for assistance.  

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La RaZa!

Milwaukee Wave, MISL, Restaurants, YouTube

OK.  The Milwaukee Wave lost their MISL Semifinal playoff series to the Baltimore Blast.  Enough talk of that.

The MISL Finals will be played in Milwaukee next Saturday, and yippie-skippy, the Blast will be one of the two teams.

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Lightning round

Bowling, Free market, James family, Milwaukee Brewers, My-Sugar-Na, Nostalga, Other blogs, Restaurants, Riviera Lanes, Vacation, YouTube

Belated Happy birthday Sis, two years younger than me, but somehow she is quite old, while I am quite distinguished... Can someone explain that with the prices of corn and wheat, fuel, steel and copper - as well as a down housing market and scads of homeowners nearing foreclosure - how we aren't headed for a massive recession?... The Michael Buble concert on Tuesday night was way cool... My-Sugar-Na really liked Buble's opening act, Naturally 7, an a capella soul group... Since my January surgery I have been cold a lot... My elbow isn't at 100%, yet (gettin' a little worried), and thanks for asking... Derrick saved the day Wednesday... All four of my kids are well past middle age if they don't get their schtick together... My home computer won't let me blog.  Mark?... Speaking of New York City, I am flying into LaGuardia and staying in Central Islip on Long Island and just learned that Long Island may as well be on a different planet than Manhattan... No, My-Sugar-Na won't let me eat my way through New York; "The Port Authority Bus Terminal is just ONE of the sights I came to see"... I am more excited at going to Albuquerque in July... XM Radio doesn't play enough Metallica, but they are too giddy about U2 and Lenny Kravitz... If NASCAR didn't have sponsorships, left turns or sheep, it would be a park and ride... This is underrated... So is this... Guess what, Time Warner's new Navigator software stinks... Eight more months until Christmas...  The office biddies are fretting about the IBM Selectric that isn't working right, apparently it is 1978 in that end of the office...  In February, I had a trivia question and nobody even hazarded tried to guess the answer of Henry Aaron and Warren Spahn... I couldn't have said it better myself... I broke the driver's seat in my car, I now have a rocking chair... Check the playlist, then get yourself Paul Anka's "Rock Swings" CD... I'd like our dogs better if they didn't bark... The last night of bowling league was last night, I haven't bowled competitively since November and I finally get paid.... Ciao.

Milwaukee Job Center Southwest

Hi Everyone...

 thought I would lighten the mood this time.  Hope this brings about peace, love and happiness... :) 

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Help for High Price of Groceries

community-based distribution system, grocery prices, non-profit food buying club, SHARE, volunteer-run

Each time I go grocery shopping I'm so glad that my four kids are all grown and on their own. My three boys were all chow hounds and my daughter wasn't much better. If I had to feed all of them now with grocery prices skyrocketing I truly don't think that I'd have been able to keep them fed. I see smaller quantities for the same prices, staples like eggs and bread get more expensive and dairy products aren't getting any cheaper either.

Help is on the way or Superman to the rescue. Its in a program called SHARE. There are no inome requirements so folks that are better off financially are welcome too. The only requirement is that you help at your SHARE site or do at least an hour of community work a week. There are no membership dues or any other eligibility requirements. Everyone is welcome.

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Changing Face

After 44 years, the face of the West Allis Charities, Inc. is changing. New Website...New Logo...New Beginnings!

Our commitment is stronger than ever to maintain our longevity as a support resource for the West Allis community. We want everyone to understand who we are and the positive impact we have on the lives of others. We are a 501(c)3, non-profit organization comprised of a 100% volunteer membership. Your contibutions do not pay salaries. They go toward the needs of the West Allis community.

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Driving under the influence

In reviewing recent events, it saddens me every time I hear a new story about a drunken driving accident. The most current comes regarding the loss of a pregnant woman and her 10 year old daughter. The man behind the wheel of the vehicle which struck and killed these three innocent victims had been charged at least twice prior. One cannot state the nature of what happened previously, but it brings to question the mindset of the one who causes the fatalities. Many times after such an occurrence, many people will discuss who, what where, when, why and how. We ask how in the world such a disaster can continue to occur when there are so many laws in place. Usually I am a fairly private person when it comes to my personal life. Yet, at this time, I feel the need at this time to allow others into a part of my life which is rarely spoken of. It is a known fact and has been dealt with for many years. I am a child of an alcoholic. After years of Al-Anon and recovery I can honestly say that I have come to a place of forgiveness and healing as well. The alcoholic in my life not only drank on a daily basis but drove as well while under the influence. During the latter years, the addiction took hold and my parent was actually pulled over by the police at least 3 times. The initial two times this person received a slap on the wrist and the third time served about a week in prison. This particular sentence was served about 16 years ago. Since that time, the laws have become more stringent and seem to be more effective. We ask why people continue to drink and drive. We worry about our own children obtaining their drivers license. At one time or another many of us can admit we may have had a bit too much to drink before we get behind the wheel. Maybe we are close to home, not willing to take a cab, or less inebriated than our friends. We take that chance. Why do we do this? The fact of the matter is that we know the truth behind drinking and driving. It kills people, destroys families and ruins everyone’s life. Millions of people go out on a regular basis. There is such a pressure to drink. I know when I go out for a night on the town, when I am driving, I make a different choice. I may have one drink, but afterwards, I have either water or soda. Not too complicated. Yet, if someone offers to buy me a beverage, and I say I just want a soda, the common response is, “That’s it? What are you drinking?” Better yet, the 2nd most common response is, “It’s early, you’ll be fine, have another.” Because I can stand my ground and I am sober, I am able to fight off those who are trying to push the issue. Yet, many folks are in denial and they will have another, and another and another. As the night goes on your common sense gets thrown out the window and you make the unconscious decision to drink and drive. There is so much pressure that many people would rather drink than look “weak” in front of their friends. We ask how we can prevent such tragedy. What is the next step in the process? How about we start with ourselves. Instead of looking in the newspaper, awaiting the next “funeral”, ensure that you will never be the man or woman behind the wheel of the guilty vehicle. If you feel that going out will be the beginning of a night of drinking, take a cab. If you have enough to drink, ensure you take enough for a cab ride home. Take a look at your group of friends. Is there not one person in your group who may agree to be the designated driver? If you feel that by going out you may experience pressure to drink, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your current group of associates. I am fortunate enough to say that I am surrounded by people who respect my decision to abstain from drinking. They understand a soda means a soda, and they encourage me to stay on the straight and narrow. Let’s do something, anything, to save lives. If saying no means you saved a pregnant mother and her daughter, then please say no. Making the decision to say no will ensure you and everyone you love one more day. If you are past the point of “no”, and know you are in need of assistance to break free from the need to consume alcohol, please obtain help and start sooner than later. Just like smoking, the sooner you quit the better. You will not only live a healthier and happier life, but will not live with the regret of lost lives and your life behind bars. Life can be lived to the fullest when sober. Do not look back on your life in your later years wishing you “could have”, because YOU CAN!!!! UNTIL NEXT TIME AMERICA!

So this is what it's like

Milwaukee Brewers, MLB

Including Wednesday night's debacle, I went to five Brewers games in April, and they were 1-4 in those five games (including the only two games that the Brewers lost at Wrigley this season).

Therefore, I pledge this to my eleven readers...

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