David Howell is an author and teacher living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He works at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in the General Studies Department and teaches courses in creative thinking, ethics, composition, technical writing, leadership, public speaking, and so on. He has a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and an Individual Interdisciplinary Ph.D. from Washington State University.
I’ve decided to stop blogging for a while. It’s been engaging, especially this last June when Kait and I had our big bike ride, and the blog served as a vehicle for letting you all know what we were up to.
Why end the blog? Two reasons:
I’m writing two books, and it’s difficult to blog when writing manuscripts (not enough hours in a day, not enough writing energy to sustain it all)
I’m participating in a social media launch on September 1st for Epiphany Consulting, and I’ve committed to that endeavor
Thanks for following the blog. It’s not really going away; it’s just taking on new shapes.
I’m not a big fan of over-stimulation. I like managing thought process, and its difficult to do that when you’re over-stimulated. When the environment presents so much data that it’s difficult to know what you’re thinking about. When your thought process simply reacts to the overwhelming amount of stimulation that’s coming at it.
I thought about this yesterday when I let my dog Rush out in the back yard. Our neighbors have a couple of dogs–Stan and Charlie–and Rush loves to bark at them. And Charlie likes to yap back. It’s as if Rush has no choice, as if he’s biologically driven to bark at Charlie. It’s deafening, when the two of them get into it. Our only solution is to tie Rush to the deck when Charlie is in his yard, preventing Rush from running up to the fence that separates the two of them. Roping him to the deck creates enough separation that Rush isn’t compelled to incessantly bark at Charlie.
Sometimes, I feel as if my environment is like Rush’s experience in the back yard. I simply respond to the stimuli and seemingly have no control over my response. Of course, I can control my response, just as I can control my thought process that dictates the response. It just takes a great deal of mental discipline. And, it helps to adjust the environment, to minimize the stimulation, the amount of data coming my way. I can turn off the music in the car, put my smart phone to sleep, turn down meeting requests–I can make my lifestyle quieter. And as a result, I can create more opportunity for serenity.
The back yard is quite a tranquil space when Rush and Charlie aren’t going at it. Maybe we’ll build a better fence to prevent the two of them from barking non-stop, just so we can all experience a bit more tranquility.
It may be an historical exaggeration, but Einstein owned a number of suits, and they were all the same. Because they were all the same, he didn’t have to think about what he was going to wear that day, since he always wore the same thing.
I’ve often given this thought–what it is I want to think about and not think about, since we are each comprised of our memories, thoughts. I don’t like thinking about what to wear every day, so I tend to purchase durable clothes and wear them in the same rotation.
This is well illustrated with my shoes. Because I always bicycle, I always wear bicycle shoes. The last pair I wore were made by Shimano, size 48. They wore out, so this morning I purchased a new pair of shoes–made my Shimano, size 48. Yes, I did look at other brands and models of shoes, but at the end of the shopping experience, it was a bit of a no-brainer: stick with what works. And, don’t give it much thought, so you can think about other stuff.
When I was on this summer’s bike tour through Oregon, I ran into Robert, a Scotsman who was cycling from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. We ended up biking together for over a week through Oregon, Idaho and Montana, before we went our separate ways in Missoula. I took the train back to Milwaukee, and Robert continued to bike across Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and recently, Wisconsin.
He’s now staying at my house in Milwaukee as he continues on his cycling journey east. Yesterday he took a day off from cycling, so we went sailing on Lake Michigan with my friend Matt. We had a great time, talking mostly about politics, culture, and sailing.
I had a great adventure cycling this summer, benefiting from the generosity of those who hosted me. It was good to host Robert, to introduce him to my Milwaukee home. Good to give back a bit to balance out all the goodness people afforded me on this summer’s travels.
A year ago, I wrote the first draft of a book that’s about adult friendship. I did this because I don’t have many friends, and I figured that writing a book about friendship may help me understand why. The project is coming along; some answers are slowly presenting themselves as to why I only really know a half-dozen people on this planet. But it’s taking time. I had to put the manuscript down for a while to let some of the ideas germinate. I opened the document today and started to work on it again.
When I was in grad school, getting a fine arts degree in writing, I learned that the space you write in is critical to the writing process. I’ve been scouting out a suitable place to finish this writing project, and I think I found one: the back corner at the Stone Creek Coffee on Silver Spring. The baristas are nice, the coffee is good, the music is contemporary but not too contemporary, and it’s not too busy after nine in the morning. Hopefully, I’ll be spending a ton of time here for the next 6 months.
There’s too many beer gardens in Milwaukee. I know this, because yesterday I was biking home and decided to stop off at the Hubbard Park Beer Garden–which is not to be confused with the Beer Garden at South Shore Terrace, the Estabrook Park Beer Garden, the Landing at Hoyt Park, or the Traveling Beer Garden (which locates itself at Greenfield Park in West Allis, Grant Park in South Milwaukee, Scout Lake Park in Greendale, and Doctors Park in Fox Point). The beer garden was nearly empty, and that’s somewhat sad, because it’s a great place to be.
Sad, yes, but personally wonderful given that I’m an introverted outdoor beer drinker. A half liter of Sheepshead Stout, a half hour in the shade of oak trees, and nothing but gratitude that I live in Milwaukee. If this beer garden were in Seattle, where I used to live, it would be jammed non-stop.
I don’t necessarily enjoy cycling with other people. Introversion is my thing–being alone, the “company of one.” I do enjoy cycling with Sue, my wife, because we know each other so well that it’s like biking by myself.
But every year, we ride in the Scenic Shore 150, A 2-day bike ride that starts in Milwaukee and ends 150 miles or so north in Door County. The route follows Lake Michigan, which is both scenic and less humid. More importantly, the event is a fundraiser for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; this year, everyone raised a total of $1,343,659 for blood-cancer research. Sue’s Mom, Gayle, died several years ago from complications associated with leukemia, so we always ride in her honor.
That’s what makes it such an interesting social event. We ride in honor of Gayle, one person who was impacted by cancer. But everyone is pretty much riding for that one person in their life who was, or is, affected by cancer. We rode with cancer survivors, with people who know friends and family who are fighting cancer, and people like us who ride in memory of those who have passed. It’s an odd blend of emotions, to enjoy cycling, the good food, the beer, the scenery–and the company of those who have also experienced devastating loss.
There’s also a good number of folks who do this ride that are not regular cyclists. You can tell they’re physically hurting by the end of the second day. But all that pain quickly dissipates when they cross the finish line, get their finisher’s medal, eat some food, drink some beer, and continue to engage with the other cyclists who rode for this common cause.
I find cycling to be one of the most meaningful activities I engage in. Raising money for blood-cancer research just makes it all the more meaningful.
Today is my 53rd birthday. It may be an odd thing to do on your birthday, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to make a legal will. I have a living will, but that document focuses more on “end of life” issues–not issues of my “estate.”
The most important part of the will is who gets what. Sue, my beautiful wife, pretty much gets it all, with 3 notable exceptions:
My books—specifically the poetry—shall be distributed to Robin Lewis. If this beneficiary does not survive me, this bequest shall be distributed to Kait and Evan Howell. If this beneficiary does not survive me, this bequest shall be distributed with my residuary estate.
My bikes shall be distributed to Denny Keough. If this beneficiary does not survive me, this bequest shall be distributed to Kait and Evan Howell. If this beneficiary does not survive me, this bequest shall be distributed with my residuary estate.
My beer making equipment shall be distributed to Evan Howell. If this beneficiary does not survive me, this bequest shall be distributed to Suzanne Schlicke. If this beneficiary does not survive me, this bequest shall be distributed with my residuary estate.
So, if you’re Robin, Denny, or Evan, be prepared to score some good stuff in the case of my final demise.
I took a week off from the blog to recuperate from the 6 week bike ride Kait and I did. But as they say, there’s no rest for the wicked–or for the cyclist. So part of my week off involved preparing for, and helping execute, the 2nd Annual Matt Stachelski Memorial Bike ride.
We started the Matt Stachelski Memorial Bike Ride last year, as a way of honoring the memory of Matt Stachelski–a great guy and the best student I’ve ever taught. He died in a house fire a couple of years ago; in lieu of the tragedy of his death, his family and friends decided to coordinate a bike ride, an opportunity to share in one of Matt’s greatest passions–cycling. This was the second iteration of the event, an opportunity to get together, ride bikes, and talk about what a great guy Matt was.
It was also a fundraiser for a scholarship that was established in Matt’s name. If you weren’t able to participate in the bike ride, you can still donate to the scholarship by clicking here.
It was good to spend some time with those who knew Matt, as well as with those who didn’t know him but may now have an appreciation for the person he was: genuine, intense, inspired.