A Blend of Life, Family, Awareness & Tales

Posts tagged ‘wisconsin’

Writer’s Police Academy

When I used to think of Police Officers, honestly, I usually thought one of two things:

  • “Oh shit, am I driving too fast?”
  • “This is a great character in this (book, movie, etc.)”


That’s it. Kind of sad, right?

Very few things in my life have actually felt life-changing. (I’m not talking about meeting and marrying my husband, or the birth of my children, those are a given.) But honestly, the Writer’s Police Academy is one of them.

Sunday I returned home from my 2nd Writer’s Police Academy (WPA). For those of you who don’t know, or may have forgotten, my dream is to get published some day.

The WPA is a writing conference for writers who want to make their books more believable, readable, and realistic in regard to anything regarding law enforcement or other first responders.


When I attended for the first time last year, the respect I felt for law enforcement changed from that of a ‘normal’ law abiding citizen to one of great respect, and a kinship to the men and women who wear a badge.

We learned how to load and handle a gun, how to look at a real crime scene, undercover work, arson, SWAT, blood spatter, pursuit immobilization techniques (in a real car!), etc. That was all really cool.

However there were things that I didn’t expect to learn:

  • For example, how my heart would pound so fast that I felt sick when faced with a ‘shoot, don’t shoot’ scenario. We had to decide, for example as a suspect’s hand came up, was he holding a cell phone or a gun?
  • Or how my back ached, and I got caught in doorways when I volunteered to wear the duty belt for a day, and it wasn’t even as heavy as a real one.  (And how the hell are you actually supposed to go to the bathroom with that thing on?)
duty belt

Photo credit: Mike Riegel

  • How someone reacts when a suspect ran at us armed with a knife from 20 feet away. Know how long that takes for the bad guy to reach you? About two seconds. Know how long it takes a WPA attendee to release their gun from their holster? About five seconds.

There has been a lot of bad press about the police, and I do not want to debate that here, I just want to give you my impressions. Every shift, the officers are out there, protecting us, not knowing what the day might bring. The majority of the officers are folks who really care for the people they protect, and believe me, they do not want to harm someone.

The biggest thing we attendees probably brought home with us is this: Just like you and me, a Police Officer simply wants to go home at night.

So what happened at the WPA this year?

Thursday afternoon, I attended the Kooky Cop Carnival. The conference hadn’t officially started, but we were provided with some entertainment. We had a chance to try on different equipment, pull a dummy to safety, even take fun mug shots:


The real deal started Thursday evening with opening ceremonies. Our hosts, the Oneida Nation opened the conference with a blessing and entertainment by tribal dancers.

image 4

Then over the next days, until Sunday at noon we participated in such cool classes. There were some that were held for everyone at once:

  • Drones
  • Writing for Television
  • Interview and Interrogation
  • Officer Down!

And there were break out classes for small groups. This year, I attended:

  • Blood Spatter (not splatter!)
  • Death Scene Investigation
  • Defense and Arrest Tactics
  • Fake vs Genuine Suicide Notes
  • Talking to Serial Killers
  • CSI: From First Responder to Evidence Collection
  • SWAT Explosive Entry
  • Long Gun: Live Fire with an AR-15

It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to those classes, there were about 40 to choose from. Time is limited though, and I wanted to take the ones that were most helpful to my current work in progress.

Finally, an unexpected bonus of the WPA for shy, introverted me was all the great people I met. The writing community is really generous and open, and it was great to feel a part of that. Whether published or not, everyone was there to learn, and we were all equals.

As Saturday night rolled around, we had a banquet, silent and live Auctions, raffle items, and a fantastic Guest Speaker, Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire book series on which the TV show is based. He was funny, warm, and inspiring to all of us there that night. If you haven’t read his books, you should!

As I sat at my table, trying to soak in every last morsel of the conference, I felt melancholy, mostly because I had made the decision that I should take a year off from WPA. As I am not yet published, attending can get expensive when you add up everything involved. Fortunately, the WPA fairy was watching over me that night, and I learned that I won the free tuition package to next year’s conference in the raffle. Phew!

Thank you to Lee Lofland (founder of WPA), and all the law enforcement, NWTC Faculty, speakers, volunteers, K-9s, police horses, and anyone else I missed.

WPA 2018, I can’t wait to return!







Spring. (And a Seedling Update)

So… A couple of months ago I planted my daylily seeds. At the time only a couple of the seeds had germinated. It was cold out and there seemed to be no hope for Spring. At the time we didn’t know our Winter was just about over.

Spring sprung very early this year! The last weekend of February my husband and kids went ice fishing. Two weeks later the temperatures were in the 80s! For nearly a month we had mid-summer type temperatures. My daylily and annual seedlings moved outside and stayed there for weeks. The temps are more seasonal now, but yet I hear the lawnmowers outside. Though I moved the annual seedlings back in a week ago, the daylily seedlings are still outside. I plan to plant them Tuesday, the earliest I ever have.

The daylily seedlings look a little sad, but I can tell you they are tough. They have been through wind and rain and temps into the 30s. When I plant them in the garden, the leaves they currently have will more than likely shrivel and brown. In their place however will grow bigger, greener, stronger leaves. Hopefully in the summer of 2013 the first blooms from these plants will appear.

This early Spring allowed me to prune every shrub and clean up the garden all by March 15. We have been spoiled with a super short winter this year. If Mother Nature ever wants to treat us to this again, she has my vote!

Wine Making 101

Deep down I am a strawberry margarita kind of girl. Well actually Diet Coke is my beverage of choice, but I am talking grown-up drinks right now. There are times in life when a glass of wine works out better however, like when I am trying to look like an adult. My appreciation for wine has grown through the years, but my knowledge is basic at best. All I know about wine was pretty much learned from these sources:

  • A wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery where my memory is a bit foggy. Apparently it is a good idea to spit out the wine rather than drink all of it, but that seemed like such a waste.
  • The movie Sideways.
  • The I Love Lucy Grape Stomping episode.

You can imagine my thrill therefore, when I got the chance to help with grape crushing yesterday at the new urban winery in town. Now I try to be a little bit vague on personal details in this blog, so I will not state the name of the winery. If you know me though, you know the only winery in our town. I have to add that the wine is quite good, and if you haven’t been, you should go give it a try!

So I showed up to help with crushing which was very interesting. We waited for the delivery of each growers grapes, then unloaded and weighed each load.

Totally wanted to show up dressed like this!

I got to keep my shoes on as we loaded the grapes into the crusher that separated out the stems from the grape juice and skins. The crushed grapes were then pumped up into a large tank where the juice will begin to ferment. The particular wine that was being made yesterday did not require the additional step of pressing, which I understand makes the process a bit more time consuming.

Wine before its time.

We repeated this process several times during the day, and while I barely scratched the surface of wine making knowledge, I really increased my appreciation of the craft.

It was a fun couple of hours and I look forward to helping again soon! Thanks to our Winemaker for the opportunity. Cheers!

The House on the Rock

Last week my husband’s brother, wife and daughter visited from North Carolina. We live in Wisconsin, and my husband and his brothers grew up in a small town in beautiful Southwest Wisconsin. His brother’s wife is from North Carolina, and when she visits she is often only exposed to that corner of the state.

Now if you have never been to Wisconsin (or even if you have!), you might be inclined to think that we have nothing but cows, cheese and beer. I have a feeling my brother-in-law’s family feels the same way. But we have more, and we shared it with them last week – we have the House on the Rock.

When I was a kid, I remember my grandparents (dad’s parents) talking about the trip they were taking to the House on the Rock. I remember not understanding what they were talking about, not being able to picture what it was exactly they were going to see. Well, after three trips there as an adult, I am still not sure what it is I have seen.

How I felt much of my time in the House on the Rock.

The House on the Rock is a fascinating destination that is well worth the visit. In fact, it is reported a half a million people visit this attraction every year.

I don’t know how to describe the House on the Rock. It started as a weekend home built by a gentleman named Alex Jordan. He built the original house on a rock column that is approximately 60 feet tall in the hills of Spring Green, Wisconsin. According to the House on the Rock history, he never intended the home to become a tourist attraction, but so many people came to see the “architectural wonder” that he began to charge 50 cents a visitor.

Alex collected stuff, massive amounts of stuff, and in my opinion some weird stuff. Now the House on the Rock is an attraction that contains 16 buildings (yes buildings) to display all of it.

A couple of the hundreds (thousands?) of dolls in the collection.

I am not sure how to sum up the house in a literal sense. It is like nothing you could imagine, no matter how much I try to describe it to you. It is much like the first time you see the Grand Canyon. Sure you heard it was big, but no one is able to explain the majesty of that canyon. The House on the Rock is much the same way, except instead of the majesty of the canyon, it is awe and bewilderment wrapped up in an eerie sandwich. Our kids loved it, the adults loved it, but none of us could really explain why.

Did our North Carolina guests like the house? Absolutely! Would I recommend you visit to the House on the Rock? Definitely, it is one of those things you should put on your list of “must sees.” Would I spend the night alone in there? Not a chance.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The next time you get to Southern Wisconsin, take a day to check out the House on the Rock. It’s a visit you will never forget.

A chandelier in the organ room.`

A carving made out of ivory.

The World's largest carousel.

%d bloggers like this: