Last post I wrote about a local amazing store called oniomania that I had recently visited. While writing about that specific store and all the wonderful gifts they have, I got a great idea. One of the best gifts you can give is the gift of experience!
How do you give the gift of experience? Think of places you have just fallen in love with. In our city of West Allis, there are many local businesses that fit that description. With all of the hard times businesses are facing, why not give the gift of an experience at a local business?
There are so many ways to celebrate with friends while supporting local businesses. Margie and I love stopping at Westallion, the local brewery, to enjoy some very festive and unique brews. We often visit there with friends and family. West Allis Cheese and Sausage is a great place to not only take friends for breakfast or lunch, but has a great little store filled with delicious gifts to feed the stomach and the soul. For our more active friends we have Transaction Skate Shop, filled with everything you could need for skating.
If you can’t support a local business in person during the busy holiday season, why not purchase gift cards to give to others? You will be both giving the gift of a great experience to someone you care about, but giving the gift of a great holiday to local business owners and your neighbors they employ. The possibilities are endless! We have great places to eat such as Urban Joe Cafe and Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli, plus places to work it off like Peak Physique. Giving the gift of a great meal or cup of coffee? How about the gift of health and fitness? All well helping the business owners, their employees and all of their families enjoy the holidays more? It is a win for everyone!
My second day with the CORONAVIRUS seemed filled with phone calls. I spoke with the West Allis health department. They sent me a quarantine contract. Basically, saying that I agree to stay home until I feel better. The local CBS affiliate interviewed me and allowed me to share my story.
In regards to symptoms, they seem to get better and then get worse. My shortness of breath seems to stay strong. My headaches are less frequent and less severe.
In terms of medical advice, everyone seems ignorant as to what the next step is. The more questions I ask, the more I hear “I don’t know. ” which is to be expected. One strange plus is when watching the news I feel almost distant. All the conversation on the news is avoiding getting the virus. Once you have it… that really doesn’t apply.
Breathing through a mask is rather challenging. The fever aspect is also coming and going. I have been taking some vitamin C, garlic and elderberry. Drinking hot tea and coffee as they recommend. It doesn’t seem to make too much of a difference either way.
Looking toward the future, I’m dreading going back to work where I’m sure my boss will continue to blame me for “all the trouble I’ve caused” That is a worry for another day however. Right not my focus is finding new ways for my beautiful love and I to entertain ourselves without being too close.
The above picture is from the intersection of 60th and Burnham in the city of West Allis Wisconsin, where this writer happens to live. Although this picture was from a few years ago the scene looked much the same this past weekend. In Wisconsin we are prone to freezing temperatures and large amounts of snowfall. This Friday/Saturday we received what I am guessing was around 8 inches of snow.
As you can imagine by looking at the picture above, this makes travel difficult. A simple trip to the grocery store that would normally take ten minutes can take at least twice that. It also adds an element of danger as roads become slippery and vision becomes reduced. On top of all of this is the inconvenience of having to clear snow, put down salt and other steps to make your path safe and easy to travel.
On a personal level, I could do without all of this. I am not a fan of winter and would prefer to live somewhere much warmer. Until that happens, I am left to face these conditions with the best outlook I can muster. On Friday I worked a 16 hour day between two jobs. On the way to job number two, DJing at a local establishment named Limanski’s, Margie and I had to drive through the main portion of the snow storm. The roads were slippery and several drivers were using questionable judgement. On the way home at roughly 2 a.m. the roads had only gotten worse and there was a batch of freezing rain to make the drive a little more exciting.
The following morning we needed to attend the funeral of a very dear friend’s mother. That meant having to clear out our driveway and a path to the car prior to departure and allowing extra time to get there. From the moment I stepped out of the house, the day began to shift. The weather was fairly warm (around 34 degrees) There was the hum of snowblowers and the scrape of shovels working to clear the results of the night before. I grabbed my shovel to join masses in our labor. The snow was heavy and one had to be careful not to lift with your back. After clearing a path to the car and the snow the plows had left in front of our driveway we were ready to go.
I was concerned as to what the conditions of the roads would be. The concern was unfounded. Roads that only hours before had seemed unpassable now were completely free of snow. We witnessed several trucks working to plow and salt the streets on our way to the funeral.
After the funeral, Margie needed to complete one of her amazing cakes for a customer. I knew she had not had any breakfast and volunteered to grab her a nice breakfast sandwich. After dropping her off to work, I began to drive to get a breakfast sandwich from Kwick Trip. It is a gas station with a rather expansive convenience store inside, featuring breakfast sandwiches amoung other things. On my drive there I witnessed countless people shoveling, using their snow blowers and just doing their best to navigate the streets and sidewalks.
Normally, this would be a rather depressing sight to someone who loves and wishes he lived in the tropics, but not today. Each person I saw seemed to be wearing a smile. I saw neighbors helping each other. I saw a family building a snow man and children playing with sleds. It would seem everyone today was making the best of the situation and not letting it dampen their spirits.
When I arrived at Kwik Trip, I realized the price of gasoline was quite reasonable and decided to top off my tank. When I went inside to pick out some food for Margie and I as well as pay for my gasoline, I was greeted with the most pleasurable service. I was asked if I needed help finding or picking out anything. When I arrived at the counter I was not only reminded to enter my rewards card number, but asked if I needed any beverages to accompany my food purchases. The whole time I was greeted with a smile.
On a day when most people had an excuse to be irritable, it was great to see most everyone in my community doing their best to keep a smile on their face and share it with others. Just a good reminder that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. I would love to hear any positive winter stories you have to share.
As I so often do here on this blog, I am going to share a compelling and inspiring conversation I had tonight with you. A few posts ago, I detailed how you can change the world by being nice to one person at a time.A gentleman who reads my blog on occasion gave a great example of how this works. I think once you read it you will be able to see not only how easy this is to do, but what a great impact it can have. I hope you will also be inspired to follow in his footsteps.
While writing this evening, I ran into my friend Scott. He and I share some of the same destinations for inspiriation. One of which is the public library here in the great city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. Before I get to our conversation, I want to say that the library in this city is really one to be proud of. I am constantly informing people not only of the great selection of materials and media they offer, but access to the internet, private work spaces and amazing events. The library is a place I feel not enough of the community makes full use of.
As Scott told me his story, he made me aware of another great aspect of our library. Scott informed me he crossed paths with the janitor of the library. He told him, “I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job at keeping the library so clean.” This was a point I had not thought of. He was correct. The West Allis Public Library is one of the cleanest and best organized libraries I have ever been in. The chairs are always tucked in, the tables are always clean and everything seems to be as it should. This is something that can easily be taken for granted and I guess that is exactly what I had done.
The more he spoke, the more I thought about how different of a place it would be had this man not done his job so well. (Yes, the picture above is of Rihanna playing the role of a janitor, not the actual janitor) Being in a place that is dirty and unkept would not only be unpleasant, it would also drive people away from using the services. This man’s job may have gone unappreciated, but it was vital to the working of the institution.
There is a second part to Scott’s story. That is the reaction of the gentleman he complimented. I guess the employee in question had grown used to having his work go unacknowledged. Scott informed me he was almost shocked that someone had stopped to not only notice, but voice their appreciation for the great job he did. After finishing the business he came to do and a quick visit to the gents, Scott crossed paths with this man again. Scott informed me he was greeted with a “Have a great day sir!” from the man he complimented. It would appear the good feelings continued to flow in this man long after the compliment was payed. In addition, it had given him a spring in his step and the desire to return the compliment.
I got quite a bit out of this great story that this reader had shared with me. First, was an appreciation for how clean the library in West Allis is. Every time that I go there from now on I will be sure to stop and notice. Second was the importance of complimenting people for the great job that they do. Especially ones that may often go unnoticed or unappreciated. The effect it had on this gentleman was significant. Next, how doing good always comes back to you. Having this man return the compliment and seeing how much it brightened his day only made Scott’s day better. As a side note, I knew Scott’s father before I met Scott. He also was a great man with a kind heart. Proof some of the greatest things we leave our children are not material.
Lastly, I am very grateful for my readers sharing inspirational stories. Not only am I able to pass them along to all of you, but it gives a certain validity to the points we share and learn here. I always invite each and every one of you who read this blog to share any thoughts or stories with me at any time. That is the purpose of this community – to encourage and inspire each other. I hope this story has inspired you to think of those you can compliment on job well done.
This past Saturday in West Allis, Wisconsin where I live there were two great events I was fortunate enough to be a part of. One was a public event held at a local brewery, and the other was a private event. Both Highlighted some amazing aspects of our city.
The evening began with a celebration of the 244th year of the Marines at Westallion Brewing Company, a local brewery right here in West Allis. Call it a birthday bash for the Marines. This included live music, a special beer release with a local Marine sniper named John Matter, a color guard, and a ceremonial cake cutting (Margie worked very hard to create a cake to honor this occasion) and so many more great events. It was great to see so many veterans gather and be able to exchange stories. In times like these, it is great to see a business take time to create an event to honor those who have done so much to serve this country. Westallion Brewing Company does a lot for the local community and to foster the spirit of community.
That brings us to the second event. For the last four years our good friend Carolyn has hosted a Friendsgiving. The event is just what the name suggests, a gathering of friends who are grateful to have each other in their lives. Everyone gathers together and brings a dish to share with the others. There was laughter and a celebration of friendships new and old. The food was all delicious and the memories were even better. Whether they had family to celebrate with or not, this event had everyone feeling grateful to be at such a gathering.
This city is grateful to have amazing people like Kimberly and Erik, the owners of Westallion Brewing Company, who do so much for this great city. We are lucky to have people like Carolyn who value and want to celebrate their friendships. I feel lucky to have my Margie, who worked so hard to get that cake done on what was a crazy busy weekend for her.
This city, and every city, including yours, has many great people. These people do much to make the city more than just a place to work and live. I would love to hear about who you think makes your city great and why.
Above is a picture of the local diner named Michaels Family Restaurant. Nestled in the fabulous community of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This is not so much a food review as it is a value review. Michaels is, as the name suggests, a warm and friendly family restaurant. As my lovely Margie enjoyed a well-deserved weekend away with her daughter, I took my mom out to breakfast here. Although our hostess was a tad sunshine challenged, our waitress, Julie, could not have been more friendly and helpful. What makes this place a destination I feel compelled to write about is the local aspect at work. In an age where Wendy’s has recently joined McDonald’s and Taco Bell to start serving breakfast, it is far too easy to make our morning meal an after thought of something we do along the way. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. As I write this I just enjoyed a ham and swiss sandwich at Starbucks. This might be good for being both efficient and productive, but does not give us an amazing life. Yes, being efficient and productive can be part of an amazing life but at the sacrifice of being present, it can leave us wondering what happened to the morning. In this post I am going to advocate taking at least a few morning to sit down and enjoy a breakfast without being rushed. Why do it at a place like Michael’s? I will give you a few good reasons. First, this place is a great value. Virtually the same price you would pay for some reheated breakfast sandwich at a chain or fast food place, you can get a warm, home-cooked meal served to you by one of your smiling neighbors. That leads us to the second reason to visit Michael’s Family Restaurant in the morning, it is supporting a local business. There are plenty of opportunities for you to save a few cents here and there by giving business to the chain establishments. That is ok too as they employ a lot of our friends and family. That being said, there is something special about a locally-owned family restaurant that has been there for over 30 years. Some of my first memories include going there with my grandfather when I was young. He understood the importance of supporting a local business and seems to still be teaching me long after his passing. I have enjoyed several mornings catching up over breakfast with Margie, the love of my life, as well. All the way up to yesterday when my mother and I shared a nice meal to start the day.
You can make memories in a chain restaurant or even running around trying to accomplish everything on your to do list but you deserve to give yourself a few minutes at a local establishment supporting your neighbors while enjoying their company. If you are in West Allis Wisconsin, I recommend stopping by Michael’s Family Restaurant. If breakfast isn’t really your thing, that’s ok. They also serve lunch and dinner with the same warm community spirit. Unable to make to the fine city that I live in? That’s ok too. Find a local restaurant in your neighborhood and enjoy some time with those you love.
Most of you know how much I enjoy my city of West Allis Wisconsin. Yesterday was an exceptional day even by those standards. It began when a poem I had written was to be stamped in the sidewalk outside of liberty heights park. As Margie and I arrived, we were joined shortly by our friend Terri, which was a pleasant surprise. As we waited for the city crew to arrive with the concrete we were also joined by our friend Carol. Soon the city crews arrived as did my mother. As Margie filmed, the city crew began their amazing work preparing and pouring the concrete. In what seemed like a matter of seconds the concrete was both poured and smoothed. Barricades were set up and our crew as well as the city crew gathered around the barricades to wait for the concrete to dry. Innocently walking down the street looking at her phone was one of our neighbors. As she walked around our group, then the city workers and finally the barricades only to plunge her foot into the newly poured concrete garnering shocked expressions from all in attendance. As the city crews came to repair the damage and the concrete continued to settle, we decided to pay a visit to the Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli. There we were greeted by my long-time friend Jodi. We got freshly brewed, wonderful hot coffee. We shared some conversation that included the hilarious events that had just occurred. Before we knew it, the time had arrived to return for the actual stamping.
After a brief interview and some remarks of congratulation, Margie, my mother and I began to head to lunch. On the way there, Margie, as she can sometimes do, mentioned to a neighbor that my poem had just been stamped in the sidewalk. This gentleman, who introduced himself as Israel, was pleasant and engaging. After informing him we almost decided to put the hammock on his porch to use, the conversation turned to the changes in the neighborhood and how it can be improved.
We left with well-wishes all around and headed to one of our favorite spots, Urban Joe’s Café. There we were greeted by another amazing neighbor, Curtis. In addition to being a great neighbor he is also the face of and great customer service provider for this establishment. We regaled him,as well as our server Carol, with all of the afternoon’s adventures. We enjoyed a wonderful selection of more coffee (a poet/authors source of inspiration) as well as a delicious breakfast sandwich and salad.
My evening was finished off with a workout at the local Xperience gym and a pizza from the West Allis location of Marco’s Pizza. (Please pause to appreciate the irony of the last two events happening back to back) It is very few cities that can foster appreciation for art by placing poetry throughout the city, have amazing city workers who cannot only create this, but repair the actions of inattentive pedestrians. The city is also home to a deli that features the art of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a café that features great food and coffee, both locations also have great customer service. Top that off with a state-of-the-art gym and tasty pizza place and you can see why I am so happy with the city I live in.
In closing I want to express a large amount of gratitude. First for my friends Terri and Carol who took time out of their busy day to share this event with me. Next to the great city workers for all of their hard work and understanding. I also want to thank the neighbor who stepped in the concrete. Without her we would have had a lot less laughs and memories. Thanks to Jodi, Curtis and Carol for providing friendly and caring service to highlight an already amazing day. Thank you to our neighbor and new friend Israel for his great conversation and excitement over my poem. I am grateful for my mother for not only showing up in support, but paying for lunch to help celebrate. Finally, a great deal of thanks for my lovely Margie whose excitement rivaled that of my own. Her support makes everything I go through worth it. I hope wherever you are reading this, your city has amazing people like this.
I have always been a big fan of Mr. Rogers as most of you know. I find his teachings of personal and relational fundamentals good for both children and adults. Another thing I enjoyed about that television show was the neighborhood. Not only did most of the people make an effort to get to know each other, but they seemed to work even harder at treating each other with kindness, dignity and respect. One couldn’t help to walk away from an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood without thinking how great it would be to live in a neighborhood like that. Whether you were watching that show, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet or countless others where they left their doors unlocked and people regularly greeted each other in passing on the street or in the grocery store, you couldn’t help but feel a little sense of envy. I am sure we all wished we lived in communities like this. The problem is short of moving every couple of years to stay ahead of the spread of crime and anonymity would be difficult to do from a financial standpoint. What other solutions are there? I always strongly advocate doing our best personally to make our neighborhoods better. That means working to get to know your neighbors. Be helpful and friendly when the opportunities present themselves. Be a part of the solution instead of the problem. Still, individual efforts can only take us so far. Wouldn’t it be great if these individuals had a place to gather and work together to transform their neighborhoods into something better? I am here to tell you there is and they are called – Neighborhood Associations. In West Allis Wisconsin where I live we have a few of them. I proudly belong to one called the East Allis Neighborhood Association. There will be more information on how to join this fabulous group in a moment. First let me tell a little bit more about Neighborhood Associations. A Neighborhood Association is a group of neighbors who get together to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings and work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live and work. In the specific example of the East Allis Neighborhood Association, they recently transformed a plot of land into a butterfly garden. This not only improved aesthetics of the neighborhood, but give a home to all-important pollinators. This spring they worked with another group to hold an Easter egg hunt at a local park. It gave the children a safe and enjoyable outing and allowed the parents to meet and develop a sense of community. This Neighborhood Association is a not-for-profit organization run by residents and business volunteers only. The dues and donations help fund events and projects, like the ones mentioned above and so many more, to better the neighborhood and community. How much are the dues to be a part of this great solution to help make our neighborhoods a better place for all of us? They are a mere $10 for residents and $20 for businesses a year! What a better way to show both your neighbors and your customers that you care for the community you are in and want to work to make it even better? If you want more information on joining this fabulous group feel free to email them at EANAWestAllis@gmail.com or call Robin at (414) 617-8357 or Jon at (414) 430-0282. If your neighborhood does not have an Association, perhaps talking to neighbors and setting one up could help improve your community. Personally, I am both happy and proud to belong to an organization the provides so many ways to volunteer and improve your community.
I am always on the lookout for ways to promote the great city I live in. Most of us can be unaware of many of the great things the cities we live in offer. The news and social media may highlight areas that need improving, but if you dig just a little bit deeper you will find a host of reasons to love your city. I am going to show you how to capture these as well as how to use them to create fun and exciting moments with your family. Further more we are going to look at how doing this can transform other areas of your life as well.
The above picture was taken at an event called Beecher Street Bash. The event is held in my hometown of West Allis Wisconsin. The event was created by a gentleman named Mark Lutz. Mark owns a business called West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe. For those of you who read my food reviews on Chow Down in Milwaukee you already know what a wonderful place this is. For those of you who might have missed it, let me assure you if you are looking for a great place for brunch or to pick up some locally produced gifts for others or yourself you would be hard-pressed to find a better location.
Once a year Mark, along with the other business owners, close down the street in front of their businesses and throw what amounts to one amazing customer appreciation block party. There are offerings to be had for a mere $2! This year included delicious food such as brats, meatballs, spicy watermelon and chicken wings. There was also a band named AcousticClowns entertaining the crowd. Despite my unique fear of clowns, the music was quite fabulous. Neighbors mingled about including the mayor, members of the common council and other business owners. It was a great chance to enjoy some great weather, food and company.
This is just one of many great events that the city offers. I am going to share with you something my beautiful lady Margie and I do that helps us make the most of the few months of good weather as well as our busy schedule. Once a month we sit down and look at all of the events happening around the city. We learn about them through the city newsletter, recreation department catalog as well as social media outlets such as the group West Allis News, Events & Stuff. We compile a list of places we would like to go and things we would like to try. We have a great new brewery in town called Westallion Brewing Company that offers tours on Saturdays and puppy playdates on Sundays. It seems every month there are new places opening to eat. There are live concerts in the park and classes on everything from Yoga to making things out of clay.
In your city there are probably similar events as well. With a little digging such as subscribing to news letters, looking on social media and checking your local library you too can compose a list of amazing things about your city. After a few months of doing this you will not only get to know many new places and faces, but start to really develop a love for the city you live in. Margie and I are already looking forward to trying the new beer gardens as well as the new old-fashioned butcher shop as soon as that is open.
Here is a little secret for you to use. As well as this works for falling in love with your city, it will work for any other area of your life. Looking to increase the love between you and your spouse? Once a month create a list of things you are grateful for them and things you are looking forward to, or would like to try with them. Want to dread your job less? Once a month compose a list of things you are grateful for at your job, or good things that happened there, even just a kind word from a coworker. You would be surprised at how taking a few minutes once a month can help you discover all the wonderful things in your city and in every other area of your life.