December 8, 2019

Christmas By The Lake 2019 in Clear Lake, Iowa

Christmas By The Lake 2019 in Clear Lake, Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 8, 2019

We had our Prior Lake Empty Nester Club get together on Thursday night at the Meadows and had a good turn-out of fun people.  I always like hanging out with fun people.

On Saturday, Miss Sheri, and I drove down to Clear Lake, Iowa for the Christmas by the Lake Festival.  We connected with our old buddies, Krazy Kory, Ron "Sugarman" Myers, and Joel Anderson along with their families.  A good time was inevitable.

Kory's dad Gene was one of the original creators of the Christmas by the Lake festival and is currently the Chairman of the event.  It's nice knowing people with connections.

I had never eaten real chestnuts roasting on an open fire before but must admit they were pretty tasty.

There were plenty of horse-drawn carriages we could ride.  Ron's kids even earned a few bucks by walking around town behind the horses to pick up their Christmas gifts to the community.

We bumped into a lot of old friends including the Clear Lake Mirror Reporter's photographer extraordinaire, Chris Barragy.  I always enjoy seeing his photos of various North Iowa events so asked him if I could take a photo with him to return the favor.

Soon enough, we were treated to a beautiful sunset and then we knew the real party was about to begin.

The parade was pretty incredible with all sorts of festive floats rolling around in front of us.

We were all pretty much worked into a frenzy by the time it was over.

There were some fears that the fireworks would be cancelled due to high winds, but we were lucky enough for the show to go on and were treated to an awesome show.  There were a couple of big explosions that blew us all away.

After the show, we stopped by our good buddy Jason Bradshaw's birthday party which was being held at Rookie's.  It was a great chance to connect with a bunch of good friends.

There was a lot of milk and cookies to be enjoyed by all.

We didn't make it too late of an evening since we were driving back to Minnesota, but the time we did spend there was quite exciting.  

We had to get back to town so we could take Grandma Linda out for her birthday breakfast on Sunday.  This wonderful lady is celebrating turning 77 years old this week.  I told her I swear she doesn't look a day older than 76 which I think she really appreciated.  Happy Birthday, Mom!

December 1, 2019

A Family Vacation in Dallas 2019

A Family Vacation in Dallas 2019
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 1, 2019

My sisters Tammy & Tracy both moved to Texas many years ago, but we are still lucky enough to get to see each other on a semi-regular basis.  Mostly we go see them rather than they come see us, but who's counting?

I grew up in a household with these three ladies.  They shaped me into the weirdo I am today.

My boys and their cousins love spending time together.  Grandma Linda likes seeing her grand-kids and great grand-kids just as much.

We get to see my sister, Tammy, and her fun family.

Tracy and the Mohars were kind enough to host us for the 4 nights we were in town.

Mallory's entire family wasn't able to join us until the next day, but it's always so cool seeing all of them.  The dang kids just keep growing so fast that it's starting to make me feel a little old myself.

Bailey and her husband just bought a new house and we were able to see it the day after they moved in.   It was great to see them doing so well!

We're getting to be a pretty big crew so getting everyone together for each activity can be tough, but we love to try.

When we flew out of Minneapolis, we were literally minutes away from a major blizzard which dropped about a foot of snow on our house over the next few days.  I must admit, it's pretty nice walking outside in November and only have to wear a sweatshirt.

Especially when getting the opportunity to go out and interact with Happy Christmas trees like we did in downtown grapevine.

On the first morning I was there, I was still trying to close a couple of deals at work.  I had to stay close to my phone and computer.  I was really bummed when I didn't get to join my family for their Camp Gladiator workout.   Really bummed.

I was happy to join in the hot tub with them afterwards, though.  That's much more my speed.

We spend a fair amount of time just standing around taking pictures of each other.  It's fun to see what we look like in different poses.

We tried to sprinkle in some fun activities like Karaoke.  That didn't work out so well, though.  Unfortunately, we are all just so shy when we have microphones in our hands.

Grandma Linda loves to go bowling even at 77 years old.  I forgot what an Ace of the Alley she really is.  She was dropping bombs and knocking down strikes left & right.  The PBA sure missed out with this one.  

Thanksgiving came and we regaled ourselves with stories, laughter, and tales from our mutual histories.  We were literally in tears as we went around the room and everyone told each other what they were thankful for in life.  We're not the most functional family all the time, but generally we self correct and support each other through life's tangles.  Generally.

We love to play games and seek out adventures with one another.  Giving advice and making each other laugh is usually included in there somewhere as well.  And every now and then just a wee bit of drama sneaks in there.

We're all very blessed to have one another in our lives, though.  I can't wait until I can see all my family together again soon!

November 24, 2019

Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche

Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 24, 2019

On Thursday night, we headed to the Xcel Energy Center to watch the home town Minnesota Wild take on the Colorado Avalanche.  We aren't huge hockey fans, but do like to take in a game from time to time.

The Wild haven't had a great start to the season.  Their record was 8-10-3 when we came into the game, but we had a good feeling that tonight would be a win.  

The best part of the game was getting to see our old buddies, the Quinlans and the Cuddihys.  They're season ticket holders so we stalked them down right after we arrived.  I don't get to see these people nearly enough since I left Nor-Tech, but always enjoy our time together when we can re-connect.  

I can't tell you how excited I get about a $6 t-shirt when somebody is offering to shoot one at me out of a big plastic tube.  Sadly, he shot it at somebody else this time.

I was oddly impressed with the people clearing off the ice during one of the breaks.  They were so in sync with one another that it just gave me a little thrill to watch them.

The Wild scored the first 2 goals of the game and then Colorado responded with 2 of their own so we had an exciting tie score for much of the game.  Eventually Jason Zucker shot in the game winner and the Wild proved victorious which led to a fun time had by all.  Especially us.

On Saturday night, we drove down to Boone, Iowa for the wedding reception of Miss Sheri's cousin, Scott Broesder, and his beautiful new wife, Krista.  It was a really fun reception and the newlyweds make a very lovely couple.

We always enjoy getting together with Miss Sheri's family.  They're all good people.

Congratulations, Scott & Krista.  We wish you many years of happiness!!

November 17, 2019

Minnesota Vikings vs Denver Broncos

Minnesota Vikings vs Denver Broncos
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 17, 2019

I bumped into my old buddies, Heather & Alyssa Hornbuckle, the other day and enjoyed our brief conversation.  I don't get to see these ladies nearly enough so it was nice to have a few minutes to catch-up.

I was working at my desk the other day when I looked out my window and was surprised to see two different albino squirrels eating at out feeder.  This is the first time in months I've seen more than one of these at the same time.  I recently had a friend in Minnesota tell me they've never seen an albino squirrel in their entire lives and we've been having them come in our backyard every summer for 20 years...across two different houses!  We consider them to be our guardian angels so we are always excited when they come around.  I was curious how rare they are and did a Google search and found this site.  You know these are albinos because they have the pink eyes and this site says that albinism occurs in mammal births only 1 in 100,000 times.  Yet I have been documenting photos of them on my site for at least 15 years and remember seeing them for several years before we ever captured a photo of one of them.  Weird.

Keep reaching for what you want!!

We took off a month from the Empty Nester Club, but thought we'd fire it up again this week and had a good turn-out of friends. We had another couple arrive and finally had to forget about trying to squeeze more people in the booth.  Some of us were at risk of having our ribs broken.

Luke is my fantasy football buddy so we stay in touch on almost a daily basis strategizing about different line-ups.  So when he told me he would love to go to a Vikings game this year, I thought I should make that happen.  And what a game we chose to attend!!

Our friends, The Browns and The Zitzewitzes, were at the same game, but on the exact opposite side of the stadium.  Lucky my camera has a pretty good zoom so I was able to track them down and then sent them a text to smile for the camera!

Pretty soon the game was ready to begin and the players were all fired up.  Stefon Diggs had an amazing game with 121 receiving yards and a touchdown.  It was probably because of the way he pumped up himself and his teammates during the opening ceremonies.  

The game included a celebration of the military and had a half time show featuring a bunch of WWII veterans.  A couple years back the NFL was having a lot of controversy around the American flag, so I thought it was a pretty classy move when Eric Kendricks came running on the field while waving it proudly.  Good stuff.

The Denver Broncos were our opponents today and I was thinking before the game that the Vikings would be a lock for the victory.  Their record for the season before the game was 3-6 while the Vikings were 7-3 so naturally it would be an easy win for the home team.  Wouldn't it?

Apparently the Broncos didn't subscribe to my logic because they absolutely crushed the Vikings in the first half and we went into halftime facing a deficit of 20-0.  Unbelievable.  I didn't think the Vikings had a chance to win after that shellacking.

But lo and behold, our men in purple pulled off the biggest comeback I think I've ever personally witnessed and ended up coming back to steal the victory by a score of 27-23.  Dalvin Cook, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith JR, and Stefon Diggs all scored touchdowns for us and Kirk Cousins threw three of those to make most people in the stadium quite ecstatic.  They go into the bye week with a pretty decent margin of victory to make the playoffs.  You gotta love those Vikings!!