Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back In The Gym

As noted weeks ago, I have put my arborist business on hold for three months while I accepted a long-term teaching job in Verona. The first thing I tell people is that the kids make me laugh. Remember that show with Bill Cosby, Kids Say the Darndest Things? I feel like I’m on the show when I’m playing with these kids in the gym. It fascinates me as they are learning about games and activities in the gym. I am lucky enough to have a front row seat as they grow and develop their skills and accomplish things for the first time. Jumping rope is new to a kindergartener. Then they learn to jump backwards. But when I challenge them to do “criss-cross,” they quickly make it known that they can’t do that, yet.

The question I get the most is, “Will this turn into a full time thing?” Unfortunately the answer is no. I’m filling in for a teacher who’s taking three months of paternity leave. He’ll be back January 22. And I’ve been asking all around about other jobs in the district. Bad news for gym teachers. They cut one at the high school, and they reduced one from 100% at a school to 50/50 between two schools because enrolment dropped 50 kids at one of the schools.

Note to reader: I am so frustrated at the lack of funding in the public schools. Even before I became a teacher, I felt it doesn’t make sense that the people teaching our kids, the future of our country and world – it doesn’t make sense that they make such little money and there’s not enough for additional teachers. Another blog for another day.

So I’ve been trying to pray about my situation. God certainly has refreshed my desire to teach, but the question of “where” is still unanswered. I’m thinking about the traditional idea of a gym teacher, but I’m also thinking about how else to “market” myself as a self-employed teacher. Sorry if this is boring you or you’re confused. But basically I’m trying to be more effective and more independent than the public school teacher. It’s just hard for me to ignore experiences I’ve had with business and thoughts and dreams I’ve had concerning my career. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 25, 2006

What else? Merry Christmas!!

As I sit with my wife's family, it's a gathering like so many others. We're all on our laptops, iPods, cameras, and updating Facebook.

We've watched Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Christmas Story. Now we're starting National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. You need to go watch that right now.
"Going for a new, landspeed record..." Griswald is the last real family man.

You're probably reading this after Christmas, so all the rentals are back at the video store. Go rent it now and write me a comment.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Insight into Leadership

I have been doing leadership with the college ministry at Blackhawk for over five years now. As my experiences grow, I am learning so much about what it takes to influence college students, and particularly college leaders. I love to read books and go to conferences on leadership development, but so often we learn best by the experiences we have with those we're leading.

This semester, as I was writing out my thank you cards to those on my leadership team, I was able to reflect on what these students have done in the last 16 weeks (or so) for the ministry. This wouldn't have happened if the card read as follows:

Dear Leader - thanks for your help and service this semester. Looking forward to next semester. Here's $10 to use at Starbucks.

I don't mean to slam you if that's the extent of your thank you card, but I guess I kind of am... If you are serious about leadership, you're serious about making an impact. There is no impact in that thank you.

So I made sure to write a few sentences of specifically what I was thankful for in their service, what I saw in their efforts with the ministry, and (specifically) what I was looking forward to as we prepare for the second semester. This was such a great reflection for me - it's really going to be a springboard as we begin thinking about the spring semester.

Are you a leader? Do you want to influence others? Imagine the impact you can have when you get specific with your thank you cards and pour out praises for team members... Celebrating victories and encouraging spirits go a long way in the heart of the leader.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hanging It Up

For the last 3+ years, I've been building up a small tree care business and enjoying life as an entrapaneur. A few weeks ago I got a call from a P.E. teacher who I did my student teaching with. He's going on 3 months paternaty leave, and wanted me to fill in for him. It was a quick decision, but I had to jump at it. So I'm hanging up the work clothes.

I've been at the job for 2 weeks now. It's been a really crazy switch - from tree work in Carharts and workboots to teaching elementary kids in shorts and gym shoes.

It took a couple days to get back into the teacher mentality, but I really miss it and it came back to me very quickly. I miss so much of the interaction with the kids and the teachers.

So this has spurred me on to prayer concerning life's direction. I'm not quitting the tree business. In fact, I just did a job yesterday. But God has provided another opportunity for me and I'm continuing to challenge the status quo as I pursue this career.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anatomy of an Elm Removal

I’ve never blogged about my job as an arborist. I’m sure you know I’m in the tree care industry and own a (very) small business, Sycamore Tree Care. My idea for the name comes from the Bible. Zachius wanted to see Jesus as he was coming through town, so he climbed a sycamore tree. I figured any tree that someone climbs to see Jesus is a good tree for me. And as you’ll see, I’ve climbed some big trees.

So this is an elm tree on the east side of Madison (Academy Drive for those of you keeping score at home). On Wednesday this week I spent 5+ hours in this tree and we got probably 2/3 of it done. The pictures start with the second day.

So here’s the base and top of the tree – 24ft. ladder. It’s hard to get an idea how big it is until you see me in it. The line I’m attached to is my climb line. The red line is what I’m climbing on and the blue line is our lowering line. The winch system from the first picture helps us to lift limbs that are over the power lines.

When I got into position the second day, I looked to the west and found the Capital building between two oak trees. People, this is a view no one sees except climbing arborists, and trust me – the pictures don’t do it justice. Click on these and blow them up - the second one has an arrow of the building)

So I spent another five hours in the tree and finally, I’m done with all the branches. Just wood to deal with now.


I’d love to show you the 31 pictures I took of Mike making the notch and bringing this 66 year old elm to the ground, but I’ll spare you the details and give you the highlights.

The notch is cut.

The rope actually helps us pull that big thing over (est. at over 10,000 pounds).

(click on this picture to see the rope)

Eric tells Mike how much further to go on his back-cut. If the saw gets meets (and violates) the notch, the tree could go backwards (not good).

Perfect notch, perfect cut, good pull - the anatomy of an elm removal.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Well, it’s officially been three weeks since I’ve blogged. My bad. I can’t really put a finger on what’s been keeping me away. You know the deal – life gets busy. So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll give a quick recap of Oct. 1-23:Friday Oct. 6 – went to Verona’s Homecoming game as they beat McFarland. I can’t even begin to describe how much I miss high school football.

Saturday Oct. 7 – took Katie to New Glarus for Octoberfest. Small-town festival, great beer, and a butcher that sold us pineapple brats. And then we found an antique shop (think Door County – Archives June 4, for those of you keeping score at home). We bought some beer mugs and old Life magazines from the ‘70s.

Monday (Oct. 9) we got very sad news that my grandpa died in the hospital (mom’s dad). This was unexpected so it really took the family by surprise. I had a surreal feeling that afternoon when Katie picked me up. In the stress of my life, I got in the car on the way to see the family and for a few hours, nothing mattered except family and memories of my grandpa. Sad, but thought provoking at the same time.

Tuesday Oct. 10Brett turned 37.

Friday Oct. 13 – we had one of Katie’s co-workers and her boyfriend over. Angela and Billy are really cool people who we hope to get to know better.

Saturday Oct. 14 – I went with Joel Dreier and Matt Ehn to Willy Porter. Joel and I have been to a few of these shows, but unfortunately the best guitar player we’ve ever experienced seems to be catering to an older crowd. Nice music, but not the same as it used to be.

Tuesday Oct. 17 – dad turned 53, so we celebrated at Tony Roma’s (get the honey-glazed ribs).

Saturday Oct. 21 – we had an Impact Day with our Life Group. We raked leaves and helped Kirk and Steph get their house ready for their baby. Then we went with a few friends to the Madison Food and Wine show. Free tickets, great time.

Well, that’s all folks. I really hope to get back on schedule soon here. As always, here's a picture to make this blog entry special.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sue's Birthday - Devil's Lake

Madison has been my home for 10 years now. I jump at every opportunity to host friends and family here. So when my mother-in-law called and said she wanted to come to Madison, hike Devil’s Lake, and stay the weekend with us, I was shuffling through ideas for entertainment. Here’s what we came up with.

The team for the weekend was three couples: the hosts, the honoree (Sue and Steve), and her brother and his wife (Steve and Dawn). They arrived Saturday at 11:00. Katie cooked up some chili, I made a few sandwiches, and we had lunch. We jumped in the car with yours truly behind the wheel. We decided to fit all six into the 5-passenger vehicle. I took the picture (l. to r.) Steve, Katie, Sue, Steve’s hand, Dawn.

The drive was beautiful, as highway 12 had trees turning a few shades of orange, yellow and a couple reds. What excited me about this trip was that Katie and I were the only ones how had been to Devil’s Lake before – Steve and Sue, Steve and Dawn were Newbies! As Ski Hi Road winds around to the south shore, the drive through the woods was building anticipation. Finally we could see water, and around the next bend was the Lake. I can’t take any credit for its beauty, but as the tour guide I was sure proud of this park.

I put on my pack – what would a hike/climb be without my pack?!? Fully stocked with water, protein bars, and maps, I lead us to the trailhead. I have to admit, there was concern (from my wife) as to the rigorous nature of what this team was about to attempt. Although nervous about the process, I knew the final destination would be achieved and appreciated by all involved.

How can I describe the climb? It was a little tough because the majority of our group didn’t know what to expect. The nice thing about this climb is that it gets better and better as you get higher and higher. Soon you clear the tree line. Now you can get a decent look at the lake. Then the trail has more switchbacks and random trees that add a hiking element to the climb. At this point there’s more plateaus where we stopped and noticed our elevation and scenic vantage points as the lake got bigger and bigger. Here’s some pictures of the climb.

We made our way down the back side of the bluff, which is more gradual and scenic. To our delight, we came upon multiple groups of rock climbers. Coming from the top, we saw all their climbs set-up – straps, carabiners, and cams. We hiked around and saw them climbing from their base camp. There must have been 80 climbers there.

When we made it to the bottom, I was happy to see that there was a sense of accomplishment in the group. No one was hurt, no one was too tired, but all of us felt victory on this beautiful last day of September.

Back at the house, we were joined by Matt and Amanda for dinner. The special meal for the night was cooked by Sue’s brother, who enjoys gourmet cooking as a hobby. We had beef rib stew with Caesar salad with homemade dressing that was like no other. Dinner was followed up with a hysterical game of Mad Gab. In the morning we went to Blackhawk, again a Newbie experience for both visiting couples. And we ended Sue’s birthday weekend with brunch at the Great Dane. I could write so much more about this meal but it’s still sitting heavy in my gut so I’ll save the details.

It was a wonderful weekend to celebrate mom’s birthday. Devil’s Lake is more beautiful now that any other time of year. So if you’ve been to this blog before, you’re hearing this again – get to Devil’s Lake and see God’s beautiful creation.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cold Day - Hot Meal

I told Katie that this is the time of year when I feel like I’m coming alive. Spring is supposed to be the time of new life, but the fall is when I get excited about being outdoors. Today at work was the first cool day of the season – 54 degrees. Of course when you’re in the tree care business, it doesn’t take much to get warmed up and find yourself peeling layers and still sweating. Nonetheless, it was one of those days when you just want a hot cup of coffee for a little warm-up. No such luck.

When I got off work, I realized Katie was already off to class. On the phone, she said she made dinner and it was ready at the house. Here's what I saw when I got home.

The note says that dinner is in the oven (a casserole). The instructions were to turn the oven from "warm" to "350" and set the timer for 20 minutes. That way, when I got out of the shower, dinner would be hot and ready!! Am I describing this scene accurately for you?!? You know those cold days when a hot meal is the best thing you could imagine? This was one of those days!! And I had it thanks to my wife.

Was it ever delicious (her mom's recipe - thanks mom)! But there was way too much to eat, even for a hungry man like myself. So what's a bachelor-for-the-night like me to do? Just read Katie's next note:

It says to put the leftovers in these containers for later. All I can say is that Katie takes such good care of me. Men - I'm learning how much I have to be thankful for in my wife. I really appreciate her efforts and her thoughts. If you're as lucky as I am, you're just that -- lucky.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Time in the Wilderness

Isn't it amazing what happens when you spend time in God's Great Outdoors? I was up in Rhinelander for Fort Wilderness' 50th Anniversary.
Fort Wilderness is a Christian camp started in 1956 by Truman Robertson, Katie's grandfather. I've always enjoyed camping but haven't done much in the last few years. My last trip opened my eyes to the beauty of Christian camping. The staff put together a scavenger hunt that I was a little skeptical of at first, but we all really got into it. Before we knew it, we were traversing from one end of camp to the other. Here we look for a match under the microscope in the Nature Center. Then we put the pieces of the map and clue together to find the hidden treasure.

We enjoyed great meals (Wranglers' Breakfast is unbeatable) and I really appreciated packing my Mountainsmith pack for the day - complete with hat, shades, camera, coffee mug, Nalgene, and some reading material - before walking down from the Eagle's Roost (Truman's old house) to camp for whatever adventures came our way.

(Wranglers' Breakfast)

I'm not suggesting that I'm moving to Camp, although the thought has crossed my mind. What I'm saying is that God will use His creation (as we escape to it) to speak to us. During my time at Fort, God encouraged me that my passion for Christian work, my passion for the outdoors, my passion for physical/outdoor education are all wired in me for a reason.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tying Loose Ends Together

I doubt anyone has really missed me during my 2 week hiatus, but I really have been itching to post to the Game Plan. I haven’t posted because I’ve been so busy, but it’s been a good couple weeks. I was in Delafield for two days working for Woodhaven Homes which turned out really well. The moment that was done, Katie and I were off to Rhinelander for Fort Wilderness’ 50th Anniversary. That was such a wonderful weekend, and it will be the topic of my next post (so come back!).

I’m kicking myself because I don’t have any pictures. And my Game Plan is just not complete without pictures, so I’m going to the internet to grab something right now. No, I think I’ll look in my collection and pull something up…

Here’s one of my favorites. This is Katie and I last year at the Robertson family reunion. We went to Stockade 80 – Fort’s Riffle Range. Katie completely surprised me and jumped into a pit next to me and started shooting – she was really good. We had a blast and so we had to take this “Bonnie and Clyde” picture.

Here’s another one from last year – we got tickets from her work for a Badger Game. Of course the football season is upon us, and we’re going to the home opener Friday with Matt and Amanda.

Lastly, here’s one from this summer. Katie and I went to a Mallard’s game for Brady’s birthday. I love my Brewers hat, but Katie has a good point – it just doesn’t fit right. So here’s a series of pictures of me kissing the hat goodbye.

Sorry if this entry didn’t have much value. I really came to the blog unprepared, and I apologize. But you need to come back and here’s why: It’s the end of summer, the end of a crazy schedule. Katie is enrolled at MATC and so she’s going to have homework, which means we’ll be working together at Bariques (our coffee shop and internet access). It’s the start of the ministry season for us at the Link. I love the fall - It’s football season!! See you soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Softball 2006

For the last two summers, I've enjoyed my Monday nights with our softball team made up of guys from Blackhawk. If there's anything that screams summer for a 20-something former high school athlete, it's summer softball (especially when you're sponsored by the Great Dane). This year we were asked to play in the top division, and we gave it our all, but struggled against some of the better teams. We did have a stretch during the season where we were hitting and fielding the ball really well and a good time was had by all. In only our second year together, we're improving and I fully expect things to continue to get better.

There's two reasons I love summer softball:

1. I love playing sports and so that's great for my soul.
2. I really value time with the guys and look forward to seeing them in that context.

One of our players, outfielder Andy Dalton makes the 10th inning at the Dane something to look forward to by presenting weekly awards for great and not-so-great plays from the game. Well he took his awards to the next level by awarding season-long accomplishments. Here's what he came up with:

  1. The official Foul Ball Policeman Award – Tim Schiefelbein (don’t even get close to a foul ball on the 2nd strike if you know what is good for you)

  2. The Most Improved Player Award – Matt Cranney (he now knows which way to run on the bases)
  3. The Best Homer Umpire Call of the year Award – Garrick (Joel Dreier’s foot did come off first base!)

  4. The Most Sustained Injury Award – Jeff Miles (we all knew it the moment we saw it happen, that ankle didn’t even have a chance)

  5. The Best Slide of the Year Award – Joel Hassenzahl (or should I say Pete Rose)

  6. The Funniest Base Run of the Year Award – Matt McCallum (I would have given him a 10 if he would have kept his toes pointed on the summersault into home plate)

  7. The Best Batting Average of the year Award – Kevin Weidkamp (Total guess on my part, but on our team it always helps to miss a few games to help out your average)

  8. Most Likely to Fight His Own Teammate Award – Stan Petrie (When Cranney took him out running back to 1st base after already being forced at 2nd; actually in Stan’s defense he never got mad at all)

  9. Most Likely to never hit the ball to the Left Fielder – Rob Farrand (Until last night that is)

  10. Best Base Sliding Rash/Burn/Cut of the year Award – Greg Fisher (I think more of his leg was red the next day than not)

  11. Ugliest Catch of the year Award – Andy Dalton (Underhanded granny catch running in from Left Center; but I got it)

  12. 10th Inning attendace Award – Hans Schiefelbein (Most coveted award of the year; for his efforts Hans received 2 club level tickets to the game of his choice for the remainder of the Brewer’s season this year) Let that be a lesson to all of you for next year!!!!
Officer Stan (obviously off-duty)

The Awards and Toast Specialist, Andy Dalton

"The Gambler" Kevin picks Stan's credit card out of the hat during the Card Game. He smiles in disgust b/c his card was the only one left, so he paid our last bill at the Great Dane.

Team Photo - Summer 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lonely Sunrise

This morning I know one thing. I am not complete without my wife. (Still sounds weird: my wife.)

I guess I’m in one of the best situations if she’s going to be gone – I’m at a leadership conference with my colleagues in the college ministry along with other Blackhawk leaders. So I feel good, busy, challenged, and ambitious. But I’ve never had a night like last night when I come home to an empty house. I miss talking to her about my day, hearing about hers, and doing the daily things like dinner together. It was lonely to wake this morning in an empty bed. I have things in perspective, and I know more experienced couples might chuckle at my first night without the wife. But this blog wouldn’t be complete without this entry because she’s that important to me. Can I be thankful for being apart for these two days? Yes I can, because I need to be reminded of what I have to appreciate her when she’s gone. So Katie – I miss you. I miss your eyes and I miss your soul. Although I wish you were in my arms, it’s amazing to close my eyes and feel your presence in my life and our connection of heart and mind.

It feels like India all over again - I have to write you on this computer to talk to you. Actually, I forgot my cell at home, so I'm really hoping you're checking this like I said. Tell your dad Bono hit the ball out of the park. Tell your mom I'm looking forward to our next leadership discussion. I'll talk to you later today, but not before I go get my phone.

I love you and carry you with me always.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

iPods and Podcasts

The iPod is an icon of our generation. It's a must-have tool of entertainment. Every contest offers a free iPod, demonstrating the iPod's dominance and demand in pop culture. And I'm getting mine in 3 days.
(go ahead, click on it...)
Yes, I know other mp3 players are cheaper, hold more songs, and may even be higher quality that Apple's iPod, but I just can't pass this one up. I was set to get my iPod and then something happened - I got married. Oh stop... I'm not dissing my marriage. I just had to change my Game Plan in regards to the iPod b/c this husband and wife are all about the budget. My impulsive consumer ways have been tamed (sometimes violently) with Katie's wise handling of our finances, and I will someday thank her for her discipline. Until then, I just apologize to her for my years of bad habits.

Back to the iPod. So we're going to Chicago - we actually get to go to the Apple store on Michigan Avenue. That's sure to be a blast. And when I walk out of that store, I'm making a b-line for Borders. Sitting with an iced vanilla latte, I'm going to plug in my iPod and hook it up to iTunes. If I need to describe iTunes, you need to get out more.

The thing with my iPod is that I'm going to finally have a place to store all my podcasts. I subscribe to 14 of them. Podcasts are audio or video files that are uploaded to iTunes. For example, our church (Blackhawk) uploads their video sermons each week. Then people like me can go to iTunes and subscribe to the podcast. Then whenever I open iTunes, one click on the update button keeps all my podcasts current. It's a wonderful thing for people like me who are always mobile and don't know when we'll have time to listen to a podcast.

(Podcast icon)

So what podcast to I subscribe to? There are a few pastors around the country that have some great things to say about the Church and how to be relevant in today's world.

Erwin McManus - Mosaic
Rob Bell - Mars Hill Church
And of course Chris Dolson and Company - Blackhawk Church

Then there's the leadership. Ahh, the leadership. I haven't touched on this a lot, but over the last 4-5 years, the study of leadership has probably become an addiction (don't even get Katie started...). Here's a couple I like:

Leadership Podcast (simple, but good)
Defining Moments - anything with Bill Hybels is A+
Practically Speaking - anything with Andy Stanley is A++, more exciting

Lastly, there's the culture. In this area, I have 2 that are absolutely wonderful.

One Campaign - Bono's deal fighting AIDS and global poverty
Relevant - the magazine's podcast with great interviews and highlights from pop culture

So there you have it - Hans' Podcast Subscriptions. I'm always looking for more, so if you find one (other than Ask a Ninja), write me a comment.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Athletes Get Injured

Sunday was very hot. Not an ideal day to run 12 miles, but that's what where Katie's at in our training for our Milwaukee Marathon (I'm a little behind, but will be back on pace next weekend). After running through the Abroretum and Vilas Park, we were coming down Monroe Street when I hit a crack in the sidewalk and went down. Fortunately, I was able to roll out of it and escape injury free. As we continued, Katie was amazed that I hadn't hurt myself. But as we were talking about it, Katie's foot hit an edge on the concrete - and down she went. I could tell she was more angry than hurt (which is a good thing). But the run was over. I ran back to the car and picked her up. After ice and elevation all afternoon, we talked to Joel Dreier - our friend who's an athletic trainer. He said she could run as long as it doesn't hurt and that she wouldn't make it any worse as long as she didn't roll it again. Well now the ankle's swelling is back along with some black and blue coloration.

Athletes get injured. It's bound to happen. We're glad it wasn't more serious. She'll be on the bike this week and we'll hope to get out running soon. We're also glad the marathon is still 2+ months away.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Devi's Lake

One of Wisconsin's greatest summer destinations is Devil's Lake State Park. With Katie's planning, the two of us and four of our cousins made the trip on Independence Day 2006.

Katie had our spot set up by 9am.

Grant, Tori, Brad, and Kelly came a little after noon, and we fired up the grill.

After burgers and brats, we played a game of Boche (complete with huge doses of ADD).

Ususally the players don't balance their balls on their shoulders, but these aren't usual players.

We decided to hike the famous bluffs from our spot on the south shore. If you've never been here, the pictures probably won't do it justice. It's an easy climb and the views are beautiful. Grant was struggling b/c he was in flip-flops.

Our dilema was finding Balanced Rock. Here's the sign pointing 2 different ways to it. The thing is, Balanced Rock is actually behind the sign - you can see it in the background (click on the left picture and you can see it in the background above and to the left of the sign). Brad and I pose when we actually found the thing.

As I said, the views look good here but are better in person.

So visit beautiful Devil's Lake. You won't be disappointed.