not too far from the tree

todays guest post comes from tim

june 6 is the day i became a dad.

1987 a little guy popped into the world and forever changed my life. his routine became my routine, his reactions to stuff i did positive and negative became the criteria i used for going forward on this planet. he wanted to do it his way. we did it his way. he wanted a vote. we gave him a vote. he reacted to the song on the radio or my guitar or in the car we filed it away for future reference. he was full of weird stuff , phobias and needy stuff little kids bring along and I didn’t know how to recognize or deal with it very well. his mom had it timed so she could have the kid, take a 6 week summer break and then head back to life as a school counselor . i inherited the details. morning bath time with little potato, dancing with bears and other memorable morning tunes affected his life to the point that when he went to the daycare he would choose the raffi or peter paul and mommy music selection to guide the group. we went out to visit my sister in california when he was 2 and i remember him being in love with the joni mitchell blue album and the rolling stones with ruby tuesday on it.

i can still hear his: good bye ruby tuesday, who could hang a name on you , when you change with every new day still im going to miss you…. in the most perfect 2 year old presentation ever witnessed.

well tara came along about that time, mom had broken her leg month 8 of the pregnancy and the planned march birth that would give her the 6 weeks, stick your head back in to school and then take the summer off plan was a challenge with a needy one and a couple of kids too.i officed out of my house and the daily stuff was a challenge.

wife one had my job description altered and i was out the door. half time with the kids everything was fine til i got involved in another relationship. the x didn’t like my taking my affections elsewhere after dumping me. the new babe and I had an interesting first 2 ½ kids and ten years later we were married.

first kid with her is my son spencer is now 19 at st thomas and nice young man, olivia is 13 going into 8th grade, emma is 11 and going into 6th grade and i am all done having children with this wife. we checked into adopting haitian orphans a while back and were told we are too old. they may be right. the old bones are cricking and cracking these days and the stair steps are like an obstacle course some days.

devin is heading off to california later this month to follow his dream. he has a room with a buddy in the a capella biz and will take a run at rock star ism. wish him luck, he could do it. here is a clip of his college stuff.

i get miffed that there are no traces of the other things he has done and i can blame myself for not being as camera ready as i should have could have been . i have a great memory and at times I think it is even a more convenient method of getting it to come out right than having to rely on accurate portrayals.

one more with his a capella gang:

daughter is off to the wedding planner to finish up the wedding in july august to the foreigner from kosovo. moving into her first suburban apartment with the hubby to be. she is a multi tasking maniac who has a huge heart and a nice perspective on the world. she did a good job of picking out the good and learning from the other how to put your life priorities in a row.

middle kid, first in second marriage, actually first 10 years before second marriage is enjoying summer with his buddies home from school. washing windows and with a house to party on the weekends at down in the college area of st paul he is enjoying the first bennies of adulthood. wish him luck

the 8th grader is writer, actor, neat kid who sings piano and oboes her way along and is as nice a person as is possible in a volatile house like she comes from. she will find a way to make it work i am confident.

6 grader is a pistol. keeps me hopping and the idea that in another 5 or 6 years i will be sending her out the door is enough to make me realize the circle of life is a reality. my dad always said i hope you get one like you just to pay you back. oh he laughed and said you have a whole house of little yous, I didn’t know that was possible.

my kids all understand and partially inherit through osmosis my love of art and music and plants and cooking, chatting with strangers in the checkout line and on elevators, screwing around in general and a love of drink and cigars, a well spun phrase and a good hat, cards with friends and an opinion on the topic at hand.

life can be simple. put it all in perspective and realize its not a test run this is the real deal and kids are like pancakes. the first two are just for practice.

whats your favorite life lesson?

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99 thoughts on “not too far from the tree”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Wow, tim. Devin is very good. Hope he makes it. Love the matching scruffy look and t-shirts of the a capella group–so very his generation.

    I will check in later re: favorite memory–I have to be out the door early today. Given my advanced age my opportunity formany great memories won’t fit into my short time available to post. I’ll try later today or tonight.

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    1. I have a couple of minutes before my group stars and I have had time to search through memories and mistakes which lead to lessons:

      TRUTH or truth is usually found in the middle of two extremes

      As soon as you solve one problem that solution gives rise to new problems. (we solved hunger inthe USA and now we have obesity)

      Therefore, you must learn how to solve problems and accept change to survive.

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  2. I have two that were passed on as sort of toss-off comments – from my grandmother: never turn down a free lunch (say thank you and appreciate it – this applies to more than just lunch) and from my father: you don’t really have to grow up, you just have to pay the mortgage on time. From my daughter I am currently being taught that acorns do not fall far from oaks and that sometimes the best thing to do is just listen.

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  3. Tim, I liked your post and it sounds like, all things considered, your kids have all got their own things going really well. And Devin’s very good, so thanks for posting those clips of his music!

    Speaking of music – to answer your question about my greatest life lesson, I’ll share some more music. I think this says it all and despite having had many words of wisdom passed down to me over the years, this remains the best life lesson I’ve ever received. :)

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    1. Ah, memories … this was one of the first songs I requested when Dale started Radio Heartland but of course he couldn’t play it because of the sh word. Instead he played Keep on the Sunny Side. Not sure if it was The Carter Family or The Whites, but this one by J and J is also nice.

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        1. It’s set by humans who think their entrance to Heaven relies on test scores and who believe scores are higher if the tests are taken before winter break, which requires starting in mid August and getting out mid May. But I’m not complaining … another learned life lesson – nobody likes a whiner.

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  4. Good morning. Wow!, tim. That is a lot of parenting and I am sure a lot of lessons were learned. Actually one of my biggest life lessons also comes from parenting.

    I learned that there are times when it is good to back off from trying to make a person do something they don’t want to do. Kids will teach you this lesson. You have to give them guidance and there are things that you have to require them to do for their own safety. However, if they refuse to do some thing that is not essential it might be best to let them off the hook. In other words, when you are facing a kid that is refusing to do something you want them to do, some times it is best to back off.

    This was a hard lesson for me to learn. It is an important lesson because by forcing kids to do things when you really should back off they become very resistant to doing anything that you ask them to do. When I was a kid I usually did everything my parents expected. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I think it is a good thing to respect the rights of kids to refuse to do some things.

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    1. I hear you on this one, Jim.

      I was blessed with a strong-willed child who I do not think I could ever “force” to do anything. Thankfully, I have been able to steer him to mostly make good choices. It has been nice to realize I can trust him to be a decent kid, even if we don’t always agree on the details.

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      1. MID, I think you and I have had a very similar experience with regard to child rearing.

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        1. I was (am) also a strong-willed child, so I’m thinking that made me a little more empathetic to the s&h. I was a “good” child who generally did what she was “supposed to”, until I would snap. I don’t recommend that.

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  5. Nice post, tim; I get how important your kids are to you. I’m sure you’ve never been a conventional father, but it sounds like your brood has emerged relatively unscathed. I wish Devon lots of luck as he pursues his dream of rock stardom. May he steer clear of the major pitfalls of life in the fast lane.

    Considering how often I’ve been gobsmacked by the life lessons I’ve had to learn, you’d think that I might remember one or two of them, wouldn’t ya? I’ve reached the conclusion that I don’t have a favorite one, or if Ido, I’m not able to wrap it up in a neatly worded paragraph. Perhaps my favorite life lesson is the one I have yet to learn! At this stage of my life, I’d appreciate it if the lessons are just a tad less painful than many of the earlier ones.

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  6. Devin has a lovely singing voice, tim. You must be very proud of him.

    The house directly across the street from my home was owned by a gay couple, Rob and Mike. One evening Mike sat in our living room rocking chair for two hours while he trashed his former partner. Rob had broken up with him, so now Mike was telling us every ugly thing he could think of about Rob. It was apparent that he was still in love, but rejection had turned his love into something ugly.

    I was shocked. Mike was talking about the guy he loved, and yet he was saying all these nasty things. He was, in my eyes, profaning his love. At first I was baffled, but then I understood that humans cannot stand pain. Many of us, when we are hurt badly, need to turn pain into something we can live with, and that is often anger.

    Now when I see a person in pain I just wait to see which way that person will convert the pain into anger. And I have had many occasions to observe how anger makes us stupid. This makes me tolerant of people who thrash about in anger when they have suffered a great loss. It also helps me keep in balance when I suffer a loss.

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  7. I only had two kids, guess the pancake lesson was never learned by me. But I can echo that having kids puts your own selfishness on the shelf for a good 20-30 years and makes your think everytime you use a swear word…Reformed? Yes I am!

    I don’t think you know how much kids push you into a better self. My team at Target where I worked for 30 years referred to working for me as BK (before kids) and AK(after) and they all much preferred the Sue AK version. More tolerant, better listener, more empathetic…I think your kids help you realize you can’t control everything.

    I now listen to working women (I’m sorry but that working in the home thing just doesn’t compare; guess I am not all that empathetic…) and their struggles with kids, career, husband-father-partner and I wish I could help them gain perspective, but this lesson is one that you just have to experience, a Keirkegaard thing.

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  8. I’ve probably posted about this before, but “No way out but through” is a mantra that’s gotten me past a few rough spots in my life. I don’t think I found the phrase anywhere specific, but the concept I probably absorbed from reading a ton of quest/bildungsroman fantasies like “Lord of the Rings” and “Wizard of Earthsea.” I was able to sneak the phrase into one of my longer poems, which pleases me even if no one else seems to have noticed it.

    A lot of attention is paid in our culture to challenging the status quo and overcoming obstacles, but there are plenty of things that can’t be actively changed, only endured, such as the death of a loved one or chronic illness/disability. Likewise, many of the things that can technically be changed won’t be without a long period of preparation or waiting for opportunity to arise, as in training for a career or changing jobs in a crap economy like we have now. In some cases you adapt in place–you move through grief, or you learn how to cope with physical limitations. In other cases the results you want seem so distant as to be semimythical. However, as the Buddha reminded us, change is constant, so my little mantra reminds me to hold on hard until the wheel starts turning once again.

    You can probably tell by this I’m not a huge fan of positive thinking or The Secret ™–positive thinking has its place, but its powers have been wildly exaggerated by a culture that’s terrified of failure, sickness and death. You might also guess I’m a huge fan of Bill Holm’s essay “The Music of Failure”, and you’d be right, I think it’s one of the best things that’s ever been written in English. Ever.

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    1. Good one, Crow Girl. Your lesson learned is one that has crept up on me with age. I can’t say that I remember a time when I finally learned that lesson and I’m not sure that it is one that guides me as much as it should at this point in my life. However, I agree with you. Positive thinking is over rated and just “hanging in there” and persevering is often the best approach or, as you say, “there is no way out but through”.

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    2. I used to work with a wonderful assistant principal, meaning the guy who worked with the problem kids. He was empathetic and tough and inventive and dedicated with these kids, and in the end had very little impact on any of them he said. He had a sign over his door that said “Life isn’t fair. Neither you nor I can make it fair.” He and I were both lay preachers. Together we did a read through of the Bible to see if it says life is fair. It doesn’t. Clearly, loudly, in those exact words, almost, several times. The Gospel, meaning the story of Jesus, specifically is about how life is unfair but that is not the point. I heard a brilliant Rabbi once say that an essential element of Jewish belief, often unspoken as such, is a recognition and acceptance of luck, but that is not the point. In Harry Potter, Professor McGonagall or however you spell it, once awards Ron and Harry 50 points each for “sheer dumb luck.”
      A second lesson of teaching and schools, which I think applies to people in general: 5%
      of the population will require 50% of the effort to small effect. That’s just how it is. You can’t change it. Just keep investing that 50%.
      A third lesson of schools and teaching which I know applies to life in general: people show a remarkable willingness to be led around or intimidated by immoral people.
      A fourth such lesson: if you work with people, you do not often see a causal link between what you do and their learning, behavior, success/failure, etc. But you just keep doing the best you can.

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    3. Thank you, CG. You’ve written as someone who has been there, with honestly, humility and grace. Very wise.

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    4. Very nicely put, CG and Clyde. I may be simplifying a bit here, but boiled down, what’s coming through to me sounds like “It is what it is”. And that little sentence has been something that I focus on and gain clarity from during many difficult times. You can’t take life too personally sometimes, or else you’ll just open the door to a victim’s mentality. I know several people whose favorite line is, “Why does everything always happen to me?” Well, for the same reason everything happens to me, or to anyone else – sometimes there are circumstances that we can’t control, and those can be both good and bad. It is what it is, so roll with it and use whatever means you do have control of to create the best possible situation for yourself out of whatever you have been handed. Not that you need to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Sometimes it feels a lot better to throw the lemons at random people. :) But whatever you do just make it work for you the best you can until the tides change again.

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    5. love bill holms. i will check this one out. got to see him his last time and the talk of the stacks. a great soul there.

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  9. I’d have to say the musical cue that is perhaps the life lesson I have most come to embrace is from the Stones (surprised?).

    “You can’t always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes well you might find
    You get what you need”

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    1. Bingo. And from John L.
      “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

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  10. I grew up believing that there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. I’ve come to appreciate that there are many ways, and one way isn’t right for everyone.

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    1. PJ Me too! I was taught that there was one right way. I stepped out into the big world and quickly learned it wasn’t so and that I had to find my own “right” way. Well, maybe not so quickly but there was no going back.

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  11. I would also add another lesson: there are basic tools you should have for most anything. For your house, you should have a good, 16 oz hammer, an adjustable wrench, a needle-nosed pliers, WD-40, and a solid cordless drill with some oomph to it and an assortment of screws, nails, twine and other things for holding stuff together. Anything after that can be purchased on an as-needed basis, but most basic home repairs can be completed with these tools. If it needs more than these, your next best tool is the telephone to call a professional. Oh, and spend the bucks on a good plunger.

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    1. Couldn’t find a good video link to Ann Reed’s, “Power Tools Are a Girl’s Best Friend”…but hum along if you know it…(and thanks, tim, for the links to Devin’s singing – lovely voice that lad has).

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        1. But for people like me (helpless), duct tape is a lifesaver. I never use it on ducts (whatever the hell those are). I like the fluorescent colors they’ve come out with. How many fluorescent power tools are on the market??

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  12. Thanks for putting together, in one place, the pieces of your fambly for us, tim. Devin’s really got something going there. Does he write the songs, too?

    I’ve been giving this some thought while doing morning stuff.
    – you don’t have to take personally what you’re handed – the hard stuff isn’t “repayment”, and the good stuff isn’t necessarily because you “deserve” it.
    – you’re not responsible for everything, but you should take responsibility for what is yours.
    – it’s a really good idea to listenbefore you talk.
    I’m sure more will come throughout the day.

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  13. You have a great family, tim, and it’s obvious you are a loving and conscientious parent. Devin has a distinctive sound (not unlike his daddy) and I’ll be rooting for him. If CA doesn’t pan out, would he consider New York? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127093542 The violinist who played at my son’s wedding is a subway performer. He was fantastic.

    RE favorite life lessons – my daughters helping me overcome homophobia and my son helping me appreciate illegal drugs.

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  14. tim, I enjoyed Devon’s great voice, love that he is off in pursuit…Sounds as if your household is fertile ground for great kids.

    One piece of advice I use with young people who are having trouble focusing:
    “If you want to go to California, don’t start walking toward New York.”
    Using pencil and paper this gives a clear visual; if California is college and New York is selling drugs, which way are you headed? This gives us a shortcut to communication when 6 months later they call and say, I’m ready to go to California now. Of course, it is more complicated than that, just an example.

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      1. Yeah, we talk about detours, how they are sometimes necessary and can enrich a life or throw a person off track

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      1. haha, yes, a lesson there too. Many choosing the easy route for the flash and cash. Sometimes I use Canada and Mexico. Whoa, Canada is way closer than Mexico

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  15. A couple of “lessons” come to mind: 1) there are no problems, only challenges (thank you, Mom); 2) the older you get, the more you can get away with (thank you, Maude). I first saw “Harold and Maude” in my early 30s and immediately recognized the character Ruth Gordon played as the very essence of my spirit. This old woman was so curious, spontaneous, full of mischief, and fully present. Life for Maude was a never-ending series of little adventures in which she whole-heartedly and fully engaged as she taught the 19-year old depressive, Harold, the joy of living. Maude had long since discarded the cloak of conventional behavior and proceeded from one moment to the next in her own unique way. She defined the terms “ageless” and “living in the present” for me, although it would take another three decades of life lessons to perfect (almost). She was also able to feel intensely. I recall one scene in which Harold had asked about the numbers burned into her wrist. In a flash, Maude’s eyes misted up and you could see her instantly travel back in time to the concentration camp horror. After a few seconds of revisiting this painful part of her past, she suddenly grins, saying, “Harold, let’s dance now!!”

    In a way, I’ve spent my life (career-wise) being Maude to countless Harolds. In my personal life, I’ve been maddeningly irrepressible. In fact, I’ve discovered that the older I get, the more forgiving the world is. My uninhibited free style dancing at 68 would likely be roundly criticized if done by a 40-year old. It seems that people cherish having models of sheer aliveness in older folks as it gives them hope that growing older can be a hoot. If I could have a dollar for every time younger people approach me saying, “I want to be just like you when I’m your age!!!”, I’d be a very rich woman. As it is, the richness of my inner life is extraordinary. Every lunch with a friend or trip to the local grocery store is an adventure. Every new client is like a novel no one’s read yet, and I get to be the first reader! Every sunrise and sunset is miraculous proof that the Universe is holding me. If I died tomorrow, I’d be very much at peace because I’ve achieved fully living in the present. I’d like to lay claim to having come to such a place due to my near-death cancer ordeal two years ago, but the truth is that I’d pretty much gotten “here” a couple of years prior to that adventure. Many people who know my story tell me how difficult they’d find it to live with the knowledge that they had only a 50% chance of being alive in three years. I guess that they just don’t understand that living fully in the moment frees me from thoughts or anxiety about the future.

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    1. Way to be CB!
      Vaguely related, from ‘Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium':

      Mr. Edward Magorium: 37 seconds.
      Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.
      Mr. Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.


      (Bad clip but it’s all I could find of this scene)

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    2. loved harold and maude. saw it 4 or 5 times at the old theater in edina where it held the record for the longest running continuosu showing of a movie . something like 5 years. the theater went out of business after that. no one thought of them for anything but harold and maude. i think of that great movie every time i drive by.

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  16. OT, but I’ve just been informed that Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91. I was a big fan of his in middle school–before I discovered that there were women SF/F writers, a fact that changed my life profoundly–but never got out to any of the West Coast cons to see him (he didn’t travel much). “The Martian Chronicles” was his most important science fiction book and “Fahrenheit 451″ his most important book (period), but I always had an affection for “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Thank you for all those beautifully-turned phrases and haunting images, Mr. Bradbury.

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    1. ray bradbury was the replacement author when kurt vonnegut called in sick to pen pals . he was fantastic. mpr recorded it. i would love to have a copy of that. great stories about his journey and a nice nice man.

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  17. I agree with much of the wisdom that has already been expressed today, but recent experiences have taught me something similar to CG’s “no way out but through”. Life will have changed when you emerge on the other side of whatever it is that you are going through. Just like it is now, it will be both good and bad, but it will have changed. I also like, “The only constant is change.” That’s a mantra I’ve used a work. I had it on my desk for awhile. It made my conservative coworkers furious, but I think they found that it is true. I’ve been working lately on one of my biggest character defects – blurting things out when I should be listening. Every day I remind myself not to miss an opportunity to keep my mouth shut. I think it’s starting to help.

    tim, Devin has a wonderful voice. He seems to be learning how to channel his talents. We make room for such artists at Rock Bend. Trampled by Turtles were almost completely unknown several years ago when we had them at Rock Bend, as were Pert Near Sandstone, who will be joining us for the second time this year. Chad Eliot blew me away when he played for the Bothy Folk Club open mike on my own North Grove stage of few years ago, then we had him back for his own set last year. He’s getting airtime on RH now, as well as other places. We like to think of our festival as sort of an incubus for new talent. People don’t necessarily recognize an artist’s name when they see the line-up for Rock Bend but they come because the music is always great. Soon they start hearing that artist’s name more often. Will Devin be in Minnesota in early September? Our next meeting is June 11. We’re doing some of the last rounds of voting and we should have music confirmed in July. If you say so, I’ll include Devin’s name on the list. If he wants to, he can send any other YouTube or video links to me at willi6931@hotmail.com and I’ll share it with the committee. There is always next year too. Rock Bend is not going away.

    Please note: Holly’s band, String Fever, is still in the running for this year.

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  18. I think I have mentioned before my mother’s advice to never marry a doctor, and my dad’s admonition to never marry an oboe player. My dad is a good repair man who always treats the things he works on carefully and with respect. “That’s a delicate piece of equipment-be careful with it ” is his mantra, and I think you could apply it to working with machines and people.

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    1. Reminds me of my brother’s admonition to never by an Audi (given to me after he had spent the afternoon making what should have been a simple repair on a friend’s Audi).

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  19. Wow, lots of good reading here today, and the music!

    Another one that comes to mind, that’s been mentioned here before I believe:
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

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  20. tim-othi: finally, after a fun trip to get my wife out by driving to Owatonna and sitting in the square, got to read all the way through it and not just scan it. Nice tale, as everyone says, and as near as this dead ear knows, he has talent. I have about four ex-students who have made a niche in entertainment industries of CA. None in music. But it can be done.

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    1. a collectors jersey
      heard about an early bob dylan poster today where they misspelled his name. big collectors item
      my blog postings? not so much

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  21. thanks for the fun bedtime reading. i had a day booked solid today but was looking forward to checking back in. see you all in a couple hours again

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