missives from mid-america

DSL Speeds

For posterity, here’s the speed test I ran on our 24MB down/1MB up DSL service from Frontier. Test was done minutes ago, before 8 AM on a Saturday morning (not peak traffic time).

Trouble is, I’m paying less, but I’m getting even less than I’m paying for in this case. And even though Frontier has outstanding customer service, I might have to break away and see what Comcast can offer to win my business.


I was a pretty lucky kid.

Clyde Val and kids Fourth Generation

First Day

We made our big move this year to be closer to friends, to be in a more accessible town, but mostly to get Eli started in a new school in a place we knew he’d thrive. Sycamore school district has a pretty good reputation, and we were pretty lucky to find a house just down the street from a well-regarded grade school there.

This morning was his first official start of a full day in Kindergarten. He was frenetic, a combination of nerves and excitement, and stalled a bit on his way there. Once inside, though, he quieted down and started taking in what was happening. It reminded me of the first time we rode the train at Blackberry Farm. I thought he was terrified, but in reality, he was just absorbing the experience. And he was hooked. We rode that train hundreds of times after that, and I’m sure school will be as exciting as the YMCA camp, or Goddard School before it.

Like me, he craves new information and experiences, even if they’re sometimes daunting. I hope he comes to understand this part of his personality and tries lots of things. I have learned that sometimes it’s not even the experience itself that’s the most fulfilling part, but rather the challenge of getting past the nerves, learning the parameters, and operating in a whole new environment.

His Kindergarten teacher seems fantastic. There are only 20 kids in his class, which seems perfect. His friend from our neighborhood is in the class next door, so they’ll see each other at recess, probably, and they can compare notes.

I think the first experience with dropping him off a few years ago at Goddard School got us prepared for today. I was trying to act as I would have any other day and not coddle him (give credence to the nerves) but I was feeling it.

He should be finishing up lunch right now. I can’t wait to get home and find out how it went.

Enough Is Too Much

It’s not that I can’t multitask – I can. If it gets too hairy, I actually write down all of the elements currently brewing so that nothing slips through the cracks. But this week is getting away from me. And the exclamation point is the fact that both Eli’s birthday and his last weekend before entering the public school system officially are upon us.

Balance is the key to most things. One way to balance is to split into so many slices that it’s nearly impossible for any one to have a greater weight. That method is untenable for extended time. Certainly not more than a week, and that’s what’s happening currently.

As ever, this too shall pass, but I don’t want to let important things slip – like Eli’s concerns about a new school. I want him to go in with confidence and excitement, but he definitely plays off of our emotions. So, the best thing for everyone is for me to get a grip and be the rock. Get ahead of the work that needs to be done. Add some levity. No big deal…

NOT for Fools

It’s hard to believe football season is nigh upon us. I’ve already seen estimates of a 3-13 season from the Bears, so my hopes are pretty low. Perhaps they’ll tank and move up in the draft and find the successor they’ve needed for a while.

Even harder to believe is that Eli will be going into kindergarten in a few weeks. He’ll turn five at just the same time, and while we’ve been told by almost everyone that it’s probably better to hold off on sending him, we think he’s ready. He’s a head taller than some kids his age, his communication skills rival some adults I know (he’s really only hampered by a lack of worldly experience – dude can talk his way out of anything), but his emotional stability is lagging a little. I think it’s easy to see why.

Both his mother and I are worriers. He likely has the genes to foster worrying, but then there’s us bolstering it. Other kids seem to be able to face adversity and be upset, but then move on, but Eli has a pretty sharp focus that will not relent. On the other hand, we’ve heard from other parents that this is not atypical for the age, but I worry that maybe they’re exaggerating to make me feel better.

See? The kid is working out of a deficit.

Overall, he’s a very adaptable kid. So, if the rest of his class is tying their shoes or counting to 100, it won’t be long before he can also do that. I get the impression that the obstinate child we encounter doesn’t make an appearance in school, or places where we aren’t. I hope that’s the case. Typically, he’s excited about these new experiences.

He’s already said that he plans to meet lots of new friends at his new school, and I’m glad that’s his focus. When we registered him for school, the stated goal of his new class was “to make new friends” which sounds like kismet.

We’re worried, but excited to have landed in the house and the town we did. Lots of friends, lots of support, and plenty to do any given day make it a joy. The school and new principal seem perfect for us, and I have high hopes that Eli will start his ascent through his education on a strong note.

Thank goodness, really, because a 3-13 season is going to require some distraction.

The Petards – Too Many Heavens

I don’t know, I think this one is all I need. Watching a band called The Petards on a work computer (at lunch, of course) with good headphones and THAT DRUMMER.

I think I’ve approached the instrument all wrong.

Yep. All wrong.

The Hics – All We’ll Know

Sometimes, just listening to the right music at the right time is all I need to feel good. It doesn’t seem to matter when I listen to the Hics, though. I’m not sure if it’s the male and female voices intertwined or the reserved, yet silky-smooth tracks beneath them, but this scratches an itch I’ve had since the 70s. There seems to be far too little output by the duo – all I can find is a beautiful EP and this song. I’m hoping that’s just because they’re working on licensing in the U.S. or recording a full-length album. Sure hope this song title isn’t a sign.

Back on Track (mostly)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, lots has changed. For example, we moved towns. The new place is actually back to where we started as a couple. It’s changed a lot, but maybe not as much as I would have expected given the financial turmoil and recovery of the years since we’ve been gone. Independent of the economy, this area resists change, which is good or bad, depending on the mood any given day.

I enjoyed being next to a very large city. We were far enough to avoid the crime but near enough to enjoy the grand-scale park district, forest preserves, shopping, and the like. The penalty was not being close enough to our oldest friends and not being able to walk anywhere but the bank and post office. Don’t get me wrong, they were a great bank and post office, but they closed pretty early each day.

Our new town puts us walking distance from a genuine downtown, lots of restaurants, Farm & Fleet (yee haw!), and the school where Eli will go to kindergarten this Fall. We know business owners, teachers, neighbors, bankers, carpenters, and lots of other folks in the town where we live now. We already feel some civic pride, and we’ve already ruined a library book by accident.

Better yet, we’ve felt welcomed. It seems like we’ve been frantically trying to get our acts together since we moved. One room is still full of old carpet and half-opened boxes. At a point, we’ll have to bow to attrition and just dump what’s left in there. We have tons to finish (window dressings, roof, landscaping, a complete bathroom overhaul) and life has a way of keeping things interesting, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we feel at home. In 10 years, I’m not sure I ever really felt that way in Sugar Grove.

That’s no slight on Sugar Grove – it’s highly underrated. I feel about it like I felt about my Saturn Vue. Probably the best car for the situation at the time and I’ll look back on it fondly, but not my favorite.

Hopefully, now that our location has settled a bit, I can get back to playing music and writing blog posts that nobody reads. I’ve missed it all.

Feeling the Love

Without getting too melodramatic, the past few weeks (hell, since Christmas) have been weird and difficult. Slicing through all the bullshit, however, is my lovely wife. With a good night’s sleep, she says the stuff that makes me want to move a mountain (which is good, because that’s essentially how much crap we have).

Also weighing in on the attempt to wring some positive from all the challenges are friends and family. Band mates with no actual band for a while lending a hand and in-laws saving the day. There was the painter who finished under budget and days earlier than anyone expected and the roofer who offered practical advice and did some difficult work for a song. These things have taken me from being overwhelmed to thinking I have it under control, which is significant.

(written on May 14th, 2015 at 10:50 AM)

Pulling Up Tent Stakes


This time last year, we were facing the end of an era with our beloved pup. One of the common refrains was “we have to get out of Sugar Grove”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Sugar Grove, or our house, but Nina’s demise was a pretty clear demarcation point for us.

The next part of our life should happen somewhere else. We had gotten ten good years out of the area and the house, and it’s time to move on. Some things we wanted to consider were proximity to life-long friends, schools for Eli, and a place that didn’t require a car ride to everything. We want to be a walking or biking family.

Fast-forward to this past weekend – we put an offer on a house that fits most of our needs, but also happens to be less than a block from one of Jennie’s best friends. We’re very excited about moving in, and while I was a little concerned about how Eli would handle it, he seems more eager than anyone.

Mostly, he’s excited about a rock climbing wall that’s extended above the staircase with a belay rope anchored to the ceiling. He referred to it as “the house with the rock climbing wall” and probably expects it to stay. If it does stay, we’ll probably take it down and install it in his room.

The enormity of the fact that we won’t live by the Jewel or the library where he became aware of libraries might take a while to settle in, but we’ll be a similar distance from the Sycamore library in our new house, so maybe there will be enough stuff to replace what we had in Sugar Grove that he won’t miss it.

We made a similar move when I was around his age, and I really didn’t miss the old house. My bigger hope is that there are more kids in our new neighborhood who Eli can bond with and maybe even go to school with in the Fall. Probably the main point of this move is to get him set up for kindergarten and his ongoing schooling.


Needless to say, much has changed since this was written. The rock climbing wall was removed with the kind help of Mark and Emilio. After trying three or four different painters, we finally settled with a guy recommended by my old boss from 20 years ago. This guy came in and knocked it out of the park.

After discussing it with a few people, I decided to take on the mold issue in our new Sycamore attic by myself. It looks to be mostly inert – just discolored over the years. We got a quote of $1800 to do the same. That seems excessive compared to the risk (almost none) and work (very little) involved.

Then, we got the inspection report back from the buyers of our current house. This is when the wonderful deal we thought we were giving started to unravel. They want new windows, a home warranty, and a few things that we can’t really argue with. The windows seems excessive, but the other stuff would need to get done whether they were buying or someone else was.

So, now we’re under the gun to get our stuff moved, get the basement and attic air cleared of mold spores (there’s really only one spot in the attic that has visible mold, and it’s small), fix some broken shingles, and hopefully we’re done. I cannot wait for the 22nd. I mean, there’s a ton to do before then, but after that, we’re free and clear and we’ll know where we stand.

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