The Force Awakens…This Old Website

Written by Justin posted on Dec 23, 2015 in Family, Opinion, Rant

The day after seeing The Force Awakens, a co-worker asked me to rate it on a scale of 1-10. An impossible task I told him. How do you quantify restoring credibility in the greatest movie franchise of all time! Like so many, I grew up on steady diet of Star Wars. It defined my childhood long into my teenage years and beyond. It’s something I hold very near and dear to my heart. After the great prequel letdown, my guard was up.

Episode VII was incredible. It managed to expand on a universe built up over 30+ years and at the same time opened up many new roads for exploration. Much like A New Hope once did for one generation, The Force Awakens accomplishes for another. The truth is, I could go on gushing and breaking down this movie for days. I honestly could.

I will keep it to one point. Something that hit me even harder the second time through. The chosen heroes are not your standard fair. The heroine is just that. A strong, young, smart, self-reliant, female. Her companion a hero who exemplifies courage, bravery, wit, and will. This is the biggest movie franchise of all time. They did not need to put a young girl and a minority in the driver seat to take this franchise to the next generation. They would have sold the tickets regardless, but they took a chance. Flipped the script and NAILED IT. From where I sit, this is a bold and beautiful accomplishment. My world is still muddied with hatred and discrimination in nearly every corner. But for my children, the young impressionable minds. Growing up and worshipping heroes like this, maybe, just maybe we can start to flip the script on humanity.

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How Life Can Turn

Written by Justin posted on Sep 21, 2015 in Family, Photos

Wrigley V. Grimm

2/16/2002 – 9/20/2015

When Wrigley first came into my life, and I hers, there was no statement of vows. No, 9 months of prep and planning. It was her and I. Forever connected from that day forward. I was ready for being responsible for another living soul. I wanted it.

She was skittish at first. Prior, she had only known farm life. Concrete was not her thing. Nor were stairs. So I carried her everywhere. I did not realize what was happening then. A bond was already beginning to be stitched. One that over time got pulled taut with trust and togetherness. I had never felt anything like it before with anyone.

Relationships. Living spaces. Jobs. People. Emotions. Marriage. Kids. Death. She was there. With me. She always will be. A bond and impression with this foundation does not go away in death.

I came into this all thinking I would be raising her. Caring for her. Not realizing what she was doing for me. Giving me a form of love, affection, and unconditional loyalty, I had no idea existed. Words can’t define what she meant to me and my family. I take great pride in knowing her spirit and everything she taught me will live on.

I can’t wait until our next game of fetch, Wrigs. I love you with all my being. xo

The morning. For the last 13 years, her and I have gotten up together. I let her out. Feed her. Then fix myself something to eat. It was our routine. Every day. ALWAYS an eager eater, she had an internal clock like that never skipped a beat. I could not break the routine by going to the bathroom in the morning and then back to bed. Nope. That was not part of the deal. I’m going to miss the hell out of this.

Mundane yard work. If you knew Wrigley, you know love is not a strong enough word to describe her affinity for playing fetch. In the yard. In Lake Michigan. On a concrete playground. If there was a ball, she was going to bring it to you. Drop it at your feet. Then sprint off at a twitch of your arm. And repeat. I would push the mower around the yard for hours and she would follow me the whole way dropping the ball for just one throw. Or coming out to shovel snow in the dead of winter. Wherever it was, she was there at my side.

Her teeth. Every vet visit the vet would comment on how clean her teeth were. Which I lied about brushing with great frequency to keep them clean. I stopped brushing her teeth after 12 weeks. It was all her.


The head tilt. She had this way of tilting her head slightly to a side when you asked her if she wanted to go on a walk. Usually a dogs ears perk up when they hear something that sounds familiar. She had the most adorable tilt to go with it.

Nicknames. AKA: Wrigs, Wriggies, Wrigs Pup, Wrigs Wags.

This is the last photo of Wrigley.

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South Dakota Trip Diary – Day 6

Written by Justin posted on Aug 12, 2015 in Family, Photos, Summer, Vacation

For all intents and purposes, this was the last day of our trip. I’m not going to count the drive from Omaha to home as anything close to a vacation day.

Departing day is always a sad one when it comes to vacations. This one had that feel, but we tried to perk it up by scheduling a stop at Bad Lands National Park and taking a different route home. We got the cabin in as good a shape as we could and hit the road.

We knew we wanted to hit the Badlands on the way back after skipping it on the way in.


I did not quite know what to expect from the Badlands. After all, they were given this name by the Lakota Indians with reason. The terrain is rugged and the temperatures can be extreme. The views though, immaculate. I want to label this the Grand Canyon of the North. Only it’s not really a canyon, and I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon to judge. Only regrets are not getting to spend enough time exploring here. I’d love to do some camping here in the future.


We spent a couple hours taking in the Bad Lands and then hit the road for Omaha. We wanted to take in some different states for the ride home.


We strolled into Omaha right around dusk after a long day on the road. We found refuge at a hotel right near downtown. Our last local restaurant stop of the tour ended up being Zio’s Pizzeria. You didn’t think we could make it a whole trip without eating pizza did you? Nah. This place was another big hit. NY Style pies that did not disappoint. Kids and adults approved.

What else can I say? The trip was a total success. We all had an absolute blast. The car rides were tackled with ease and for the most part enjoyment and wonder. I’m quite thankful to have the friends and family to be able to make these memories. As well, the the ability to take trips like this. I don’t take it for granted and plan on doing it until I no longer can.


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South Dakota Trip Diary – Day 5

Written by Justin posted on Aug 7, 2015 in Family, Photos, Summer, Vacation

IMG_4831Day 5 we find ourselves back in the car. Today’s ride will take us southeast to Rapid City, SD.

First destination for the day was Bear Country U.S.A. We had heard good things from locals and a transported friend recommendation. I have mixed feelings about this place. On one hand, it featured many animals I’d never thought I’d see up close and personal (or live to tell about it). Black bears, brown bears, grizzly bears, reindeer, mountain lions, bear cubs, foxes and a handful of others. I couldn’t help but feel like many of the animal habitats were small on size and overcrowded. I am not complaining, these animal have more roaming in their natural habit than a zoo. But it’s still not the same as living their lives outside of containment.

Most of the bears were snoozing like this guy. It didn’t stop me from getting yelled at from the spotters tower to close my window.

My favorite souvenir pick of the bunch.

After our visit to Bear Country we high-tailed it over to Downtown Rapid City. Landing for lunch at what would become my favorite restaurant of the trip, Firehouse Brewing Co. You would not know it by the name, but they had some ridiculously excellent barbecue. And oh guys, they have this large entertainment room which doubles as an eatery. HUGE extra long tables. Big enough to accommodate our gargantuan collection of kids and adults. It’s funny the things you start to notice as you age.

After lunch we released the Mom’s to wander the stores and the dads took the kids to an urban playground. Splash pad, turf to run, band shell, and local artists were setup around the perimeter. We had a blast just kicking back and relaxing here as the kids were being kids.


Rapid City turned into another one of those, “didn’t plan on it, but turned out to be awesome” stops along the way. Really pleased we got to spend some time here.

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South Dakota Trip Diary – Day 4

Written by Justin posted on Aug 5, 2015 in Family, Photos, Summer, Vacation

Today we wanted to head off the beaten path. Checkout a little bit more of what the Black Hills had to offer in the way of hiking paths. Gid zeroed in on the Devil’s Bathtub. A hiking trail with the payoff the end being a water fall and pool. This was not the kind of location we could rely on Google Maps to lead us to. We plotted the way and were off shortly after breakfast.

Through many a tight curve and towns I’m not even you sure you could call towns, we reached Spearfish. Not long after we found the trail entrance. This is a bit of a hidden gem as there are no road signs or pull-offs leading up to the trail.

The trail was classified as “moderate”. In retrospect, maybe we should not have attempted without better gear and the littlest ones. The walking path was little more than a faint path in thick brush. At many points, the path forward became blocked and hikers are forced to cross a shallow (albeit very fast moving and slippery) creek bed. At other points along the way we tackled: scaling small rock structures, makeshift rock bridges, leaping down onto landings 5ft below.

There came a point where the Haynes family decided it best to turn back. The trail was hard enough, but carrying around a 2 year old on it made it nearly impossible. Or at the very least, highly unsafe for parent or child.

As they turned back, we pushed on. Determined to see what the Devil’s Bathtub had to offer. Sadly, we too did not complete the hike. Again, safety became a pretty big concern. If the youngest two had been a little older and sure of foot, I think we would have pushed on. I estimate we made it about 1/4-1/2 a mile. The whole thing being about 1.25 miles round trip. Until we meet again, Devil’s Bathtub….

The rest of the day was spent playing baseball, cooking out, drinking spirits, playing Trivial Pursuit, and enjoying the company together at the cabin.


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