December 26, 2021

2021 Swank Family Christmas Letter

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

At the rate we’re going, we’ll be lucky to get out this Christmas letter by February 2nd.  

Just covering our bases.

The good news is the Swank Family survived another year! 

Well, good news for some of you anyways.

Our biggest news of 2021 was the fact that Luke and Avery both graduated from college.

Our empty nest became full of crazy birds again.   

And their poop is much bigger than it used to be.

Luke earned his degree in finance from Minnesota State Mankato and is gaining relevant experience as a bank teller at Wells Fargo.  Every day he gets to leave the house, wear a mask, and experience the joys of explaining bank policies to the general public.  Lucky for us, we get new Luke stand-up routines each night describing his daily encounters.  His Elderly Karen impression is getting quite good.  He’s gaining great experience and we look forward to seeing what new opportunities he will pursue in 2022. 

Avery graduated with a degree in Computer Science and is working remotely as a software engineer for Rocket Mortgage.  To all of our good friends who’ll soon see better interest rates on your mortgages, You’re Welcome!  Avery currently has an office in the basement.  We haven’t seen him come out of there for at least a few weeks, but we’re pretty sure he’s all right.

Todd is working from home selling Data Management Solutions for Stibo Systems.  He had the most successful year in his career in 2021 and hardly ever wore pants while doing it.  Although things have been going well, he is getting lonely while working from home.  Todd thrives off being with people and Microsoft Teams isn’t cutting it.  He’s started spending disturbing amounts of time with the dog.  Sheri didn’t think it was a big deal when he started regularly talking to Blue, but then when he started using another voice and added the responses, she became concerned.

Otherwise Sheri spends her days insisting we need to invest in Clorox & hand sanitizer companies.  Our entire basement is now filled with toilet paper & bottled water.  Needless to say, she looks forward to the day when our pandemic becomes an endemic. 

Our goal for 2022 is to build a space in the Metaverse where people will give us millions of dollars’ worth of Cryptocurrency in exchange for some really cool NFT’s we’ve created.  If any of you are interested in buying an NFT from us, please mail us a check for one million dollars.  Then we’ll figure out how to do all the rest of that stuff.

God Bless Us, Everyone!

The Swank Family

December 19, 2021

A Night with Lebron James


A Night with Lebron James
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 19, 2021

Mother Nature punched us in the nose last weekend and dumped more than a foot of snow on our neighborhood.  The temperatures have also dropped below 20 degrees for most of the week.  Needless to say our daily walks have been a bit challenging.  It's hard to motivate ourselves to go outside when it's this chilly despite Blue's best attempts at making us feel guilty about it.

It was Grandma Linda's birthday so we took her out to Pau Hana in Savage to celebrate.  She was excited for some coconut shrimp and we were excited to be with her for an evening of fun!

My buddy Orlando came over on Saturday morning for another one of our adventures.  We always have such a good time together.

On Friday night, we headed to downtown Minneapolis to visit the Target Center and watch our Minnesota Timberwolves take on the Los Angeles Lakers.  

Miss Sheri and I were excited to have a romantic date night along with about 15,000 other friends.

One of the friends we were most excited to see was none other than Lebron James who brought his 16-13 Lakers to play against the 13-15 Timberwolves.  We were hopeful for a good game.

We were also looking forward to watching Anthony Davis.  Unfortunately he was hurt during the game not once but twice and ended up missing a good part of it.  He sprained his MCL and will be out of action for at least the next 4 weeks which sucks for him and the Lakers.

Russell Westbrook also joined the Lakers this year because all the best players think they need to be on the same teams together.   That kind of takes the fun out of winning I would think.

The game was delayed to 9pm since ESPN decided to broadcast it so we knew it was going to be a late night.  The game started off a bit sluggish because I'm sure many of the players felt a little sleepy.

Our young superstar, Anthony Edwards, unfortunately had to miss the game because he came down with Covid-19, but Karl-Anthony Towns stepped up and scored 23 points in the first half.  He was pretty dominant all night.

We've sat through a lot of losses over the years with the Timberwolves but this new team feels different.  They led almost the entire game and ended up with a comfortable win of 110-92 over Los Angeles.  I'm sure it didn't help that Anthony Davis went down, but with the depth of talent they have I'm sure they would have beat previous Minnesota teams.  Not this time.

I've seen Lebron play in previous years and have to say he didn't seem quite as powerful as before.  I don't know if he saves himself more for the playoffs as I've heard people say or if it's because he's older or if he just had an off night.  In any case, I like our team and it was fun to see them win against one of the "Super Teams" for a change.

At half time they had a ceremony to honor Tom Hanneman who died a year ago.  He was a longtime announcer of Wolves games and is said to have been a great dude.  It was a nice memorial for him.

This guy tried to photo bomb my picture so I told him he was welcome to join me.  He was happy to oblige.  There may have been a little bit of alcohol involved in his decision, but I couldn't prove it.

On Saturday night we went to Brewster's in Veseli, Minnesota to visit some friends for some pre-holiday cheer.

Even Santa Claus showed up for awhile.  We had fun when we saw him and shouted to those nearby, "I know him!  I know him!"

December 12, 2021

The Wilderness Resort at Wisconsin Dells


The Wilderness Resort at Wisconsin Dells
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 12, 2021

We had tickets to Thursday Night Football and were excited to see our Minnesota Vikings take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Vikings had lost to the winless Detroit Lions a few days earlier so we were still reeling a bit from that disappointment.  We were hopeful they'd come out fired up for a victory, but really had no idea of what to expect.

It was Avery's turn to join me for a game.  Technically, he traded his tickets with Miss Sheri.  He was supposed to go to see the Dallas Cowboys on Halloween night which ended up being a disaster when the Vikings were beat by their backup quarterback, Cooper Rush.  All the Vikings needed to do was get a win and he would end up with the better part of the bargain.

The team was wearing my favorite uniforms with the purple jerseys and gold letters so I figured that had to be a sign for something good.  But I've been tricked by those pretty colors before, so I was still bracing myself for anything.

We had some good news before the game started when we heard that Dalvin Cook was going to return from injury and play in the game.  He tore his labrum only 11 days before and was expected to miss several weeks so this was good news indeed.

Minnesota came out like gangbusters.  Dalvin Cook was on fire and looked like he was never injured as he racked up 205 yards rushing in the game with a couple of touchdowns.  

Adam Thielen was out with an injury, but KJ Osborn filled in admirably in his absence.  He had 3 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Justin Jefferson caught another 7 balls for 79 yards and a touchdown.  The score was 29-0 in the third quarter and Avery and I wondered if we might have a safe lead for a change.

Then again, we realized this is the Vikings where no lead is too big to be safe.  Big Ben Roethlisberger finally woke up and led his team to score 4 touchdowns and bring them back into the game.  The NFL record for a comeback was 28 points and these guys were on the brink of making history!

Lucky for us, the Vikings held on for a change and won the game by a score of 36 to 28.  Of course, it came down to the very last play again when the Steelers were able to get the ball all the way to the 12 yard line to potentially hit a game-tying touchdown.  Lucky for us, the Vikings defense held firm and we had our 6th victory of the season.  It would have been such a bummer if they'd have lost that one.

 We had a special treat at halftime when Flo Rida came out to perform a few of his hits.  I like Flo Rida!

On Friday, we drove to Wisconsin Dells and the Wilderness Resort for a couple nights of frolicking at the water parks.

Our good friends, Karl & Tina Zitzewitz, joined us for the trip along with their daughter, Ana, and one of her friends, Alexa.  When I heard that was her name, of course I had to ask her questions throughout the weekend.  Alexa, what is the weather like outside?  Alexa, what song is this playing?  I'm sure she found it hilarious and has never heard any of those kinds of jokes before.  

You can't really tell from this photo, but we were sitting in the outside hot tub while it snowed and sleeted on our heads.  We actually were avoiding a pretty major blizzard back home which dropped about a foot of snow on our house.   I think we made the right choice to be here rather than at home getting buried in snow.

The Wilderness Resort has 3 large indoor water parks with a wide range of attractions including a large wave pool, a Hurricane slide, a toilet bowl slide, a lazy river, and a bunch of other stuff.  We did pretty much all of them and had quite a bit of fun while doing it.

We ate at some nice restaurants including HuHot Mongolian Grill and Sarento's which was a great Italian place.  We even talked and had fun with each other while we ate which was another plus.

On our last night there, we participated in a new attraction they have called the "Take Flight Theater".  It's basically a big bowl shaped theater and they dangle us over the edge so it looks like we were flying over the movie they were showing.  In this case, it was the Polar Express.  I was a bit nervous that my strap wasn't going to be strong enough as I leaned forward pretending I was a bird flying over Tom Hanks' crazy train, but lucky for me it held.

December 5, 2021

Christmas by the Lake 2021 in Clear Lake, Iowa


Christmas by the Lake 2021 in Clear Lake, Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for December 5, 2021

I had the good fortune of seeing a bunch of old buddies this week starting with a group of my ex co-workers from Oracle.  We do a monthly lunch to catch up with one another and our numbers are starting to grow a bit.  I used to love hanging out with these guys when we still all went into the office together, now we all just need to put in a bit more effort to make it work.

On Friday night, I had the chance to hangout with another ex Oracle colleague, Orlando Mazzolini, and his lovely wife, Nancy.  I joined them to go watch Chelsea Handler do comedy at Mystic Lake Casino.

We had great seats for the show.  I can't say I'm a huge Chelsea Handler fan, but I did enjoy it.  She's obviously a talented comedian and shared a bunch of funny stories with us.  She has some major issues with Straight White Males which happens to be a demographic I belong to.  A few times I felt the need to defend our honor but held my tongue.  I'm sure she would have torn me apart if I said anything.

On Saturday, Miss Sheri and I drove down to Clear lake, Iowa for their annual Christmas by the Lake festival.  We were geared up for a good time.

I met up with my buddies, "Krazy" Kory and Ron "Sugarman" Myers.  Ron brought along his extended family and we ready to go down and do some early celebrating of Christmas.  First, though, Ron performed a little musical number he worked on for us to commemorate the event.  It was a pleasant way to start off the day.

We parked near downtown and walked to the celebration.  The kids wanted to stop by the ice cream store to get a snack and we were happy to join them.  I like ice cream!

We figured we must be getting close to the festival when we saw a horse-drawn carriage cross the street in front of us.  Either that or it was a really strange coincidence.  

Our first stop was to visit Kory's dad, Geno.  He does a lot in the community of Clear Lake and has helped organize the celebration.  We like to hang out with him as it gives us a little street cred.

The local church had a ton of activities going on including a campfire to make Smore's for the children.  I asked Miss Sheri if I could have one and she was happy to oblige me with a warm, gooey marshmallow to melt with my chocolate and graham crackers.

One of my favorite things about Clear Lake is seeing old friends.  Chris Barragy is a photographer for the local newspaper and I always enjoy seeing his photos in social media.  He's also a member of the Barragy Clan who were some of my first friends when I first moved to Clear Lake back in 1985.  Dang that's a long time ago.

I saw my college roommate, John Finstad, at the VFW and we spent a few minutes reminiscing about the good ole days at the University of Northern Iowa.  

Brad Crosser and I went to high school together and I haven't seen him in years.  We bumped into each other in the bathroom which made for a bit of an odd reunion, but we made the best of it.

I saw these cool cats out in the street before the parade started.  We promised each other we'd try to connect after the fireworks, but never made it happen.  Maybe next year.

Pretty soon the parade started and we clapped with glee as Christmas themed floats rolled around in front of us.  I think the kids enjoyed it also.

The festival ended with an amazing display of fireworks.  It made me proud to be an American.  It also could have been caused because we ended up standing behind the flag which was illuminated by the rockets red glare all through the event.