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Off to the park

We’ve recently moved across town and happen to live closer to nieces and nephews. You know what that means. We’ve been added to the speed-dial sitter list.

Last weekend was our maiden voyage.  A full day with the 3-year old twins. As you might imagine, we had no trouble sleeping that night. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the girls, but they certainly kept us going all day.  To any of you who have children or nieces/nephews, this will come as no surprise, but we came away from the day having been reminded of some important things. These are lessons I gained from a day with three-year olds:

1: SLOW DOWN. Normally, it takes Brent and I about four minutes to get to the park on our bikes. Not so with three-year-olds. No, it was a 45-minute walk each way. The trip to the park wasn’t my brightest idea on a 95-degree day. But they were troopers and never complained. Yet it was a slow, deliberate pace the entire way. There was no rush, no sense of needing to get to our destination quickly. No wonder it’s only adults who deal with things like high blood pressure. We’d all do well to slow down our pace a notch or two!

Stop & Smell the Flowers

2: STOP & SMELL THE FLOWERS: One of the highlights on the trail was to stop and smell the flowers. If we’d been in a hurry, the beauty of the landscape and wildflowers would have been missed. It was sweet to see one sister want to share her flower experience with the other. What a great lesson. Stop, take a look around. Be present in the moment, enjoy what God puts in your path and share it with those around you.

Quack Quack!

3. INJECT FUN INTO ORDINARY THINGS. The girls knew we’d be having a cold treat when we got home, but we kept the fact that it was smoothies a surprise. Unwilling to allow an unnamed treat, the twins decided to refer to the surprise as “Quack Quack.” Silly as it was, it brought us all lots of laughter for the rest of the night.

4: KINDLE THE JOY OF READING (no pun intended!). I’ve always loved books. Most of my life I’ve been a voracious reader. But, for some reason, recent years have drew my attention elsewhere. Watching the girls bring me book after book after book to read was contagious. I think we put away about 20 books before the night was over.

5. REMEMBER THE SNEETCHES. One of the many stories we read was Dr. Seuss’ “Sneetches.” It’s a book I’ve had since I was a child and it shows by its well-worn corners. It made an impact on me as a child and I often recall its lessons even as an adult. The basic message is not to get caught up in the latest trends or judge others just because they’re not caught up in them. I think about how our society is so influenced by the latest

Sneetches

hot gadget, fashion or topic. Too often we’re judged by what toys we have or what we wear or how informed we are about the current trending Twitter feed. Yet, being on top of those things has nothing to do with strong character, kindness and living a godly life.

Isn’t it amazing what God shows us through children? What lessons have you learned lately?

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Well, we’ve been in the new house for 3 months and we’ve successfully sold the old one. Most of the new home furnishings are in place and we feel like we’ve completed a big chapter. We’ve purposefully refrained from blogging about the experience. There was sort of a feeling throughout the process that we were fighting an uphill battle to make this transition.

That feeling caused us to think twice about blogging how we were feeling and thinking about the events that occurred along the way. We really prayed a lot about finding the right buyer for the other house and we were grateful that one came along within 10 days of the house going on the market. We’ve gone through this process 3 times in the first 3 years of our marriage. First selling Lisa’s townhouse after we got married. Then buying our new house and finally selling the house we lived in after getting married.

As I reflect on the latest house adventure, there are a couple of things that stand out that might be useful to you if you’re planning to sell. The first thing

We were psyched and ready to celebrate with our broker at closing!

is staging the home you’re planning to sell. We rolled the dice and bought our new house before selling the old one, so we weren’t living in the house but we were carrying two mortgages for awhile. We planned for that, but it does hold some risk if you can’t sell quickly. However, since we weren’t living there, it made it easier to stage the home. You really need to de-clutter and get rid of personal items. Then consider some inexpensive tasks like adding some fresh paint, fixing squeaky doors, changing the furnace filter, cleaning the carpets, making feature cards to hang up in the house and hiring a professional photographer are prime examples of simple things that you can easily do. Let’s face it, when you’re selling you’re facing a war with two fronts – a pricing war and a beauty contest. You want to stay competitive on the price and win the beauty contest. All these things that I listed are examples that address the beauty contest. Take time to schedule walk through’s of your competition with your broker. This is called scouting your competition.

You’ll be surprised at how your competition looks really good on-line, but when you visit their place you’ll find out the imperfections that your neighbors are strategically hiding. Use that information and make sure that if you have a closet door that needs a new handle because it looks worn out just like your neighbor’s does, then it’s worth a few bucks to replace it with a new one. The people walking through your place will notice it.

In this market, your neighbors will affect your price. Bank-owned properties drive prices down – they’re not supposed to be used as comp’s for an appraisal, but home prices are not immune to their existence. And your competition affects your price too. If your neighbors haven’t taken good care of their property then it could negatively affect your price. Your property may look stellar, but if the other comparable properties for sale by an owner are dumpy, then that will drive your price down. In this market don’t expect that just because you took great care of your house you can sell it for a lot more than your neighbors who haven’t done the same. It simply doesn’t work out that way, unfortunately. Be real with your price, don’t start out high and think you’ll bargain down. Buyers don’t want to bargain down from a high price, even if your house looks better. People will save the money, avoid talking to you and buy the cheaper house and use the savings for improvements on the other houses for sale. We think this is especially true in Minnesota. “Minnesota nice” will prevail and people will simply ignore you and your high price. You might get traffic, but you won’t get an offer.

Plan ahead and save a bunch of money, more than you think. It’s going to cost you to sell your house in this market. Plan for the offer scenario where you”ll likely need to cover closing costs, broker’s fees, title fees, taxes and a host of other things. Buyers have the advantage to ask you to cover a lot of costs in this market because many people are desperate to sell. The market will vary, but even when the amount of available homes for sale is down, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher price for the seller. The law of supply and demand are affected by many other variables that prevent a low supply of homes to equate to higher prices.

Work with your broker ahead of time and discuss the types of costs you’d be willing to take on. This will help you to not feel so bad when the costs are estimated. Save now and plan for this. Then if it happens, you won’t feel so shocked about writing that check or taking home less than you thought if you don’t have a mortgage to pay off or you didn’t have a lot left to pay off. Assume the worst case scenario, then if you get something better than that, you’ll feel better when that offer comes in.

Finally, your closing experience as a seller will be affected by how good your buyer’s mortgage lender and title company are. This is often out of your control, however if your broker tells you that the offer is coming from a legitimate buyer but that the buyer’s mortgage company has a bad reputation, then you can try to suggest the buyer work with someone else. Once the buyer is pre-approved and has paid for an appraisal, it’s tough for them to walk away from that lender.

Let’s face it, this market is tough no matter what you do. If you have other ideas that helped sell your home, then please share in the comments as we’d love to hear what you have to say!

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We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: Lisa and I are moving. We’ve been on a whirlwind adventure since our last post in mid January. Several

We signed a purchase agreement on our anniversary!

times I’ve wanted to sit down and just jot a few lines here. I find it difficult to throw a few lines together and post them because I feel like the post should be more than just an online diary. In other words, I like to try to bring you my thoughts after I’ve had a chance to think about it and offer you, dear reader, something more valuable than “what’s happening now.” In the comments let me know if you disagree. Especially valued are the thoughts from fellow bloggers who have thought about this before. I’d love to know how you keep fresh, relevant and new insights going in the midst of limited time to really think about it. If I get enough responses I can try and post shorter, more frequent updates about what’s going on.

Lisa and I have been preparing for a move for over a year. We’ve been praying and waiting on the Lord to let us know where that should be. Recently my employer announced they would be moving a huge number of workers to a second headquarters location that is not in downtown Minneapolis. I am included in that move. The good news is that they are letting us know about this move 2 years in advance. That’s pretty fair in today’s world. Why does it matter?

It matters because it helped us narrow down where within the Twin Cities we wanted to focus on for a move. We were open to moving to either side of the river (which is another topic for a future post.) With the announcement it helped us focus on the north and western suburbs of Minneapolis. We spent a couple

Bike paths with key locations important to us marked in orange

weeks with a map of bike paths in Minneapolis and all associated suburbs. We marked the items we thought were important to us for shopping: SuperTarget, WholeFoods, a Co-op and Costco. We wanted to find a place that supported our enjoyment of cooking (hence all the supermarkets) with easy access to the fabulous system of bike paths. Our current location is great for both. And we felt the new location needed to continue to serve those those requirements.

The bottom line is we had only looked at 2 or 3 locations when we found a spot last Sunday that really spoke to us. Some might say it was an accident, but we think it was divinely directed (more on that story next time.) We were offered incentives to close before the end of February. We went home to think about it and on Tuesday we went back with our realtor to look at it again. That’s when God made it clear we were in the right place at the right time. I’ll leave that as a teaser for the next post. Suffice it to say we found ourselves signing a purchase agreement on Tuesday night – which just happened to be our anniversary. So it made for an exciting evening.

More to come….

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In this post, I’d like to speak to the roots of this blog. A special feature of this experiment is that Blada is a dual blog. We wanted to share a creative outlet as a means to demonstrate that we’re on the same path, ruled by a single Master. We got married late in life, at a time when most of our contemporaries are seeing their kids graduate and go to college. Unlike most of our contemporaries, we didn’t date for years or have a long engagement. Because we waited longer than most, we both knew what we were looking for and when we found it, we dove in.

Our Wedding at Jax Cafe in NE Mpls

Our wedding theme, “One”, is from Ephesians 4:6 from The Message Bible, “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”

It is this love note from God that has enabled us to clear early hurdles in our first few years of marriage. This morning another familiar verse from Ephesians stood out to us as we drove to the orthopedic treatment center to check on Lisa’s foot. We heard it on the radio, from the New American Standard Bible, Ephesians 5:28-30, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.”

What stood out was that first sentence about husbands loving their own wives as their own bodies. I’ve always thought that the writer of Ephesians (Paul) wrote a strange sentence. What did that mean, love my wife as I love my own body? The help for understanding is found in the verse from our wedding about “oneness”.

The verse isn’t saying we men ought to love our wives “like” we love our own body, but rather we should love our wives in the same way we love ourselves because our flesh is made AS one in the person of Christ. This verse has presented itself as vital to the foundation of our marriage over the last 2 1/2 years. Most recently in the adventure of Lisa’s broken foot. It has been important for me to put aside things that I wanted to do and/or think about in order to be present for Lisa, provide her support and encouragement and demonstrate love.

This is what we’re all called to do when we accept Yeshua as Lord. We put to death those things we once considered as important and look to elevate Yeshua in all things, this is especially true in our marriage.

Lisa’s broken foot is temporary. It will eventually heal and we’ll be back to our old routines. But I want to publicly thank God for allowing this broken foot to come along and remind us of what’s really important. He is perfecting in me the verse we held up as we made wedding vows to each other, and I’m glad he’s provided me with someone forgiving and patient with me as I learn to love the way He loves.

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Brent & Lisa arrive at the feet of "The Claw"

This was one of our busiest weekends of the year. Our typical agenda was interrupted to dedicate the entire Saturday afternoon and evening to the U2 360º Tour. This came on the heels of my 30th high school reunion on Friday night. I will circle back and blog about that later this week. Two nights in a row where I didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. It’s tough to recover from one late night let alone two in a row as I push closer to the mid century mark.

For those of you who went to the concert this weekend or a previous one on their current tour, or you’re a fan in general please feel free to chime in with your impressions.

This concert has been well covered in the media, much of it delayed by a year as Bono underwent back surgery and recovery. By now you’ve read the facts of the expenses and receipts to generate one of the most intimate major rock experiences in history. With their giant “Claw” or “Spaceship” circular stage, U2 transforms mega outdoor stadiums into a living room experience. It’s very hard to describe in a few words. The band lands themselves exposed on all sides of their circular thrust like stage which is engineered by Belgian company Stageco. The band has purchased carbon offsets in consideration to the environmental impact to transport 3 identical 360° Tour stage sets around the world.

You feel like you can reach out and touch a portion of the setting and the artists themselves. For those who waited in line for general admission floor access, they got intimate enough to have Bono and the band drip sweat on them as they criss-crossed the concentric circles via moving brushed steel bridges that spun around the circumference of the central stage. Fortunately, the rain that eventually drenched the venue halfway through the show washed the masses clean. The rain did not diminish the performance in my estimation. In fact the incredible electronic central video graphics performed well despite the weather. Resembling a large circular scoreboard at a hockey arena, the video screen is made up of over a million parts and descends down toward the center of the stage and over the band for fantastic visual effects. The elongated hexagonal video panels are all connected together and machined to create a truly unique experience.

So you can have all this really expensive machinery, stagecraft and logistics to manage it, but it takes a really outstanding group of performers to

Ready for the Crush!

pull off the complete package. U2 satisfied on all counts, even in a torrential downpour of rain. My reasons for saying this?

  1. The band genuinely enjoys performing together. They smiled at each other, played to each others’ strengths, and had fun with one another during the performance. In the final set, Bono came swinging across the stage on a circular red illuminated microphone hanging from a cable wearing a black leather suit decorated with red lasers. Wild!
  2. The band desired intimacy with their audience. They know where they are. They weren’t confused about which city they were in and they understood unique aspects of the Twin Cities. Hours before the concert in Minneapolis, Bono was meeting with local Somali leadership regarding the famine conditions that desperately need world attention at a time when world governments in the West are more consumed with their own insolvency and budget issues. For those readers who don’t know, the Twin Cities has the largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia in the world.
  3. U2 writes and sings smart, intelligent lyrics with deep meaning and philosophy behind it. And you can understand every line even when Bono’s falsetto cracks a bit.
  4. The band didn’t create this performance around a new CD. They understood that their fans wanted to hear their favorite tunes that spanned the decades from the earliest days like I Will Follow on Boy to Rejoice on the October release to Get on Your Boots from No Line On the Horizon.
  5. The crowd was engaged from start to finish. Concert goers spontaneously sang back at the band without being prompted, singing and tracking through every moment. The band actually stopped playing and listened to the audience sing to them a couple of times. For “With or Without You” the crowd simply hushed and listened.
  6. The band knows who they are and their talent is bigger because they’re comfortable with themselves. The audience understands this. What results is parents bringing their entire family to the concert. A band that speaks to generations of fans that are younger than 10 to well over 60. A friend’s daughter, about 6 or 7, when asked, “What’s your favorite song?” didn’t hesitate and said confidently “El-e-va-tion!”

My favorite song? Until the End of The World.

That song makes me thankful that even though I’m as guilty as Judas, He chose me to His inheritance before the beginning of the world. I don’t know why He did that. The only thing I can do is live up to His choice and be who He made me to be until the end of the world.

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Looking for a roughly 20-mile bike ride with plenty to see and eat? We spent this 4th of July enjoying the gorgeous day and getting some exercise as we looped the Minneapolis lakes area. We took well-marked, nicely paved trails with very few steep hills as we made our way along Minnehaha Parkway from Lake Nokomis heading toward Lake Harriet, onto Lake Calhoun and then circled Lake of the Isles before cutting across the city on the Midtown Greenway to the West Mississippi River Parkway. We “put in” on the north side of lake Nokomis and circled clockwise, west on the parkway.

Punch Pizza (near Lake Calhoun) made a fabulous half-way point to stop for lunch. That worked for me since it’s one of my favorite summer spots to grab a bite to eat. It was fun to see the city from a new perspective with great people watching opportunities. The lakes were buzzing with activity and Minnehaha Falls was roaring.

We came home in time to put a couple steaks on the grill to accompany some sauteed brocollini, a caprese salad and iced tea. It was an excellent, low-key way to spend Independence Day! We hope you found a fun way to celebrate as well. Happy 4th and thanks to all who serve our country. We appreciate you!

Minnehaha Falls

Bike Trails
Midtown Greenway
Minneapolis Trails

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The weekend before last, there were four of us middle-aged white faces that set out in two canoes on a 2 day overnight camping trip in northern Minnesota. We had 3 rivers to choose from depending on water flow. We ended up putting into the Whiteface River at County Road 52 about a mile west of the town of Cotton. The river originates in the Whiteface Reservoir and flows southwest finally feeding the St. Louis River. We did not put in

Breakfast

These guys know how to make breakfast in the woods!

at the reservoir, although the fastest water runs between there and County Road 52. The main thing is that we were 4 middle-aged guys who packed to travel in comfort. We had 2 aluminum canoes, 2 large tents, 2 large coolers, 4 captains chairs and 4 backpacks. We just wanted to paddle, camp, eat, mix Jeremiah Weed lemonades and enjoy the outdoors for 36 hours. And believe me, we ate like kings!

Our drop in site on the Whiteface River near Cotton, MN

The real adventure began when we started about an hour late putting into the river. As it turned out the only other people we would see for the next 36 hours happened to come floating by as we arranged the boats under the county bridge. They were 3 guys, 2 in a canoe and 1 in a kayak…and they were traveling LIGHT. They had the real-deal equipment: light weight canoe, small packs and a water proof pack for food and tent.

They smiled, waved and gave us words of encouragement as the 4 of us loaded our gear like we were at a private campground and not sparing the luxuries.

Off we went, and I must say that once you’re on the river, it’s quiet, full of wildlife and peaceful. There were several class 1 rapids to navigate and we did pretty good. Although the flow coming out of the reservoir was reported less than optimal. So in several places we had to get out and push the canoe through rocky, shallow spots. There are very few county road crossings along the way. Much of the stretch has long expanses of state-owned land with no access, so there’s literally nobody around. There are spots with private land, a few houses with barking dogs and many hunting shacks buried in the woods. We saw mostly deer, geese, wood ducks, mergansers, beavers, song birds, and otter and raccoon tracks. This river is just one of 32 waterways totaling 4,400 miles designated by the Minnesota DNR as “water trails”. If you scout the DNR website, you’ll get references to books and online materials that provide phone numbers for water flow rates from dams and reservoirs that would affect your experience. If you go to the Whiteface, you can dial for discharge readings: 218-720-2777. A discharge of 150 cfs is enough to get by with a bit of scraping on the bottom of your canoe.

Most of the trees are maple, cedar, conifers, aspen, birch and pine. Most of the pine is gone. It was logged long ago, but you’ll spot the occasional red or white one standing tall amongst the rest. The forest is mostly made of large ferns that look like something from the forests of

Mark stuck

Mark learns that the shore isn't as solid as it appears!

Avatar. There aren’t any official campsites along the way. So part of the adventure is making your own. However that can be a bit tricky because you must respect the private property and then you must find someplace where you can access the river bank easily. And that is where the challenge is. Other than the rocky class 1 rapids, the rest of the river is mostly a weird mixture of charcoal colored sand and clay. This stuff sticks to you like putty and if you’re not careful will suck you in down to your knees. This leaves you wondering how you’ll extract yourself without loosing your shoes and not falling completely into the river.

Oh, if you go, beware, there are mosquitos. They fly faster than you can paddle. However, I was prepared. I had doused my clothing in permethrin before the trip and we all sprayed clouds of deet on ourselves. Amazingly, I didn’t have a single insect bite. They buzzed me incessantly, but I never itched from a bite.  And once the campfire was going, the bugs simply stayed away. I only had one tick find the palm of my hand as I was out gathering firewood, and he ended up in the fire.

Earlier I told you that you might see beavers on your trip. If you don’t see any, you’ll certainly run into their handiwork. Mother Nature does her best to add to the fallen trees through wind and erosion. There is a stated log jam about 3 quarters of the way toward where County Road 133 crosses over the river. This is a HUGE log jam. The maps list the portage around the log jam as 50 rods, but it is MUCH

Portaging the canoe over logjam #1

bigger than that. At a minimum, I’d estimate it to be 200+. The kicker is that you think it is the only one on the trip. Not so. We ran into 3 log jams. And the only way around most of it is by portaging through ferns and stinging nettles. The copper colored waters of the river feel really good after burning your legs on the nettles! Originally we intended to exit another 7 or 8 miles south of County Rd 133, but the log jams slowed our progress and we were thinking one of us would have to hitchhike a ride from someone to our van. But as luck would have it, the 3 guys that had passed us the day before

A collection of 2 groups gives each other a hand!

ended up behind us on the following day. We had set our earlier and they eventually caught up to us at the 3rd log jam. They rescued us as they had a ride waiting for them at County Road 133. In exchange we shared our 2 coolers full of food and we all exchanged stories of our trip and spent a few minutes enjoying God’s provision for us all.

Brent and Mark

Brent and Mark

Getting ready for supper!

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