sometimes Mikki writes it down

The Great Action of Milwaukee Mike

The last night that I spent with my dad, it was just him and I telling stories as we sat on bar stools at his favorite spot, the bar shaped as a piano at The Orleans in Las Vegas. I couldn’t ask for more of a perfect last night, doing what we did best.

That night, he told me about a dream he just had. I was a little girl and he and I were playing down by the swing set under the large willow tree at our old home in Brookfield. My mom called for us and as we ran up the hill to the house, he fell behind as I ran off ahead.

Not sure quite why at the time, I jotted this dream down. Something about it struck me as poetic, as if maybe it had a meaning I might not have yet known. Finding it today, it’s seems as if I was being told then what was to come: that it was time for me to run on ahead without my dad,  only I wasn’t ready to know that yet.

●  ●  ●

My dad was a gambler by nature. And with gambling, you never quite know what you are going to get. You are going to get your wildly good times and your all-time lows. 

He made mistakes. Sometimes the same mistakes again and again. And those who loved him had been let down by him at times. He was carefree, yet could seem careless as things that were out of sight were often out of mind. But he was really good at the good times.  All the good you felt when you were with him often drew people back in.  Some of us were lucky enough to let go of the conflict, accept him for who he was (and who he wasn’t), and love him for it. And we were all lucky to know him in the unique way each one of us did.

When you were right there next to him, he made you feel special and he would “Thank you for being you.” He had a free spirit that we all envied. He had the most uncanny ability to be carefree and enjoy life, and I think it  pulled us all in like gravity to him. Weighed down by our daily stresses, we all craved that carefree essence that seemed so elusive to us and so natural for him.  Even when his world seemed to be crumbling around him and most of us would be crushed by the stress, his energy still managed to be light.  He seemed to let things roll off of him and roll onto the next good time. His happy-go-lucky charm was contagious. We all caved and said yes to “just one more drink” on that bar stool next to him  in hopes of drinking in just a little more of that carefree element before we went back to our reality. Yet to him, this was the reality. That bar stool was his reality. Yelling “Crown me up” to the bartender and downing a Crown Royal & water as he cheered on the Packers was his reality. Connecting with friends and making them feel more alive was his reality. Days and nights full of Great Action (GA!) was his reality. Vegas was his reality. And we all wanted a piece of that to take with us.

In Vegas, there is a saying “This is my Friday.” It’s a 24 hour town and people work all kinds of schedules. For my dad, he loved joking that every day was his Friday. And he truly lived up to it. He lived every day of his life as if it were right on the edge of a good time.

He was forever acting like an 18-year-old. Forever a gambler. Forever running on luck.

He was lucky even when he wasn’t.  I can’t count the times friends and family ended a story with “That would only happen to Dad” or “Only Milwaukee Mike.” He was a character larger than life, complete with his own catchphrases “GA!” and “Crown me up!”

I had a trip planned to Vegas where the mission was to talk about all of the stories that made up his life so that I could write them down. Alas, we did not get the chance.

Maybe some of those stories were meant to die with him. Maybe they were stories that were just meant to be over Miller Lite’s and “Crown Me Ups” and laughs at the bar. Maybe each of us has our list of crazy stories with him that we get to take with us. Maybe he gets to live on in so many different stories in so many different hearts that it seems impossible to reconcile them into the story of one human life. Maybe the story of Milwaukee Mike gets to remain the stuff of legends.  

●  ●  ●

They say luck will always run out. But I don’t think his did. I think he got to live the life he designed, mostly the way he liked it, until he died.

But now, just as in the dream he told me about that last night as we had cocktails at the piano bar,  I guess it is time to take with me the love and memories from my dad and run on ahead.

●  ●  ●

in loving memory of Michael Paul McCarville

(February 12, 1938 to August 5, 2015)

A Poem In Loving Memory of My Dad


I’ve left you with stories, wild and true

I’ve left you with memories, more than a few


I’ve lived my life just as I liked it to be

Carefree and in good company


There were cocktails and dreams,

Hearts bursting at seams

Times of laughing so loud,

And lighting up the crowd


You’ve made my life as full as can be

I thank you for the camaraderie


Take with you the stories, wild and true

Take with you the memories, all that you knew


Remember me and smile, you needn’t dismay,

Raise your glass in cheers to Great Action, G.A.!


A Fairy Godmother, a Pause Button, and the Beach

I’ve been waiting for my fairy godmother to show up and grant my wish. I don’t know how many times in the past couple of years I lay down in my bed and said, “I just need the world to stop… Just for a little while so that I can breathe, get some energy and try to catch up.” My wish was often whispered out of exhaustion from a battle to get healthy despite an overwhelming maze of health issues that made intense fatigue a constant. But I am willing to wager that everyone utters this sentiment from time to time. Everyone feels they could use a little more energy, a little less on their to-do list.

Well, this is it. I have worked so very hard in the past year to get to a place that resembles happy and healthy, and in every moment I am so grateful that I am feeling well enough to take on this grand adventure. I’ve still got some more health puzzles to solve, but my grueling work thus far must have gotten the attention of my fairy godmother. With the twist of her wand, a husband who has been granted the opportunity to work remotely, some money set aside in savings, my own business that I can take a semester off from and of course, a little pixie dust – my wish has been granted: 6 months of putting my world on pause. A chance to step out of the daily hustle and bustle, and step into some peace.

And here I am. On a 6 month traveling adventure. Sitting on a beach. Listening to the waves. Toes in the sand. Taking that time to breathe. Thinking about how I can get the most out of this little bit of magic that has come my way. Thinking about what should be on the next page of this fairytale.

Finding Love on Friday the 13th

6 years ago today was the last time a Friday the 13th fell in January. 6 years ago today, I had no idea that that day would be anything out of the ordinary. 6 years ago today, I met my husband.

On our walk along the beach in Tybee Island, Georgia today, Eric told me he had been thinking a lot about all of the little ordinary moments in life that set off a chain reaction to bigger events that change you forever. It’s the butterfly effect, or the premise that makes the Back to the Future storyline such a complex web. One small, seemingly insignificant event like stopping to pick a penny off the street or an alarm not going off can change the course of your day, and as a result- your life. We talked about some of those little moments we can recognize in retrospect that brought us here. With each other. To this beach and to this great adventure.

One of those moments for me happened 6 years ago today. Always fond of an excuse to curl up on my couch and watch scary movies, Friday the 13th sounded like a great excuse to do so. I was all ready for a night in, when I thought to myself “My life isn’t going to change if I sit on my couch.” Wanting something more than the ordinary my life had begun to feel at the time, I called a couple friends and met them out for the birthday celebration of an acquaintance. There, at the Nitty Gritty birthday bar, I met Eric. We shook hands and said hello, but thought nothing of it and returned to talking with our respected friends. There was one more “choose-your-own-adventure” twist to this night that had to happen just right to take me to where I am today. When the stumbling birthday girl led a trail of her friends out the door toward a dance club and my friends were settling into a booth to eat a meal and head home, I once again thought of the comfort of my couch that I had sacrificed in order to take a chance on this night. So, take a chance I would. I chose to grab my coat and follow a trail of people I didn’t know and one intoxicated birthday girl to the dance club. I told myself I would order one Captain and Coke, and if I didn’t find fun with her friends, I would head home.

Lucky for me, I found Eric. We talked. We laughed. He took my hand and led me to the dance floor. It was the beginning of something that would turn into something amazing.

So, getting off my couch and taking a chance led me to meet an incredible person that I am so excited to spend my life with. It led me to this beach, this conversation, holding this hand, on this adventure. It led me to this person that I would go on any adventure with.

And I am so happy it did.

We Will Be Changed

The day has arrived.

January 5, 2012.

Eric & I are heading out from Madison, Wisconsin for 6 months of traveling across the U.S. We are excited to see new places, have new experiences and shake things up in our day-to-day lives. One of the most exciting parts of this adventure is that no matter what happens on this trip – We will be changed. These experiences, both the amazing and the challenging – will change us.

The feeling of anticipation is reminiscent of being that giddy child on Christmas morning running down the stairs to see a pile of gifts, but having no clue what is inside them. You  have no idea what surprises you will be playing with all day, what gifts might bring a few headaches with the assembly or what special present might be the one you keep close in your heart forever.

It is that time for us. Time to start running down the stairs (and running around the U.S.) to see what surprises are in store for us.

New Beginnings

A long, long time ago…. On a midsummer night when my life was about to crossover from high school to college, a boy ran all the way to my house in a flood to give me a present. It had been raining for days and many roads were closed so he couldn’t drive, but he said that the stars were finally out and it was the perfect night to give me my birthday gifts.

I think I was a little too young and too scared of boys to fully appreciate the romance behind that gesture at the time. I remember the awkward anxiety and the tacky gifts he pulled out of his backpack. What I couldn’t have know then is that one of these cheesy tokens would continue to pop up in my life every now and then, and would mean different things to me over the years. It was a 5×7, framed motivational mini-poster of a waterfall and the saying “New Beginnings;” the kind of poster from the clichéd Successories stores that littered the mall in the 1990’s.

At the time, this gift was a symbol of a new relationship. It was also a symbol of that magical summer when time was suspended between life as we knew it and the exciting unknown of moving away to college. We all knew that our lives were about to change in big ways, but we had no idea what it would be like. I took my “New Beginnings” print with me to college, and placed it on the desk in my dorm room.

Years passed, the boy was no longer in my life and sometimes the “New Beginnings” print would remain tucked away in a box, a drawer or a storage unit. I would come upon it at times of transition while going through boxes, and I would take it out again when the message seemed to mean something new to me.

After college, a co-worker and I channeled our practice of working with kids with autism into developing a reading program that taught kids with a wide variety of needs how to read. We poured our hearts into it. When we were done paying our dues by lugging all of our supplies to and from an unused church basement each day and finally got our own office space– I put the “New Beginnings” sign on the shelf.

More years passed. Things changed, as they often do – and I wound up starting my own business. I felt the obstacles building up as the free desk I acquired tipped off the back of our pick-up truck and spread across 3 lanes of traffic. After dodging cars and picking up the pieces that had been run over, I watched the man who would later become my husband resurrect the desk, armed with a multitude of nails and the desire to make things right for me. I placed the “New Beginnings” print on the desk and started a new chapter of my life.

The next time I remember that print catching my eye was while I was sitting in my office, staring in awe and excitement at the ruby engagement ring that was placed on my finger the night before. This was my happiest new beginning yet.

And this brings me to today. As I stumbled into my office from lack of sleep and an attempt to carry too many travel books, I knocked over the “New Beginnings” print. And just like that – just as it always seems to do – it jumped out of my everyday periphery and into focus just as big changes are afoot in my life. One month from today, my husband and I leave for a 6 month U.S. travel excursion. We will get a little escape from our day-to-day lives, and dive into new places, new people and new experiences. I placed the print back on the desk and I got a glimmer of that same feeling of awe and anticipation I had that summer before leaving for college: knowing that this adventure is going to be big, but having no idea what it will be like, and how it will change us.

It’s funny how a cheesy little motivational poster from a teenage summer night has turned out to be an anchor that reminds me to stop, look around and reflect on all the new beginnings in my life.

A Portrait of My Mother (2004)


One Last Glance – A Tribute To My Dog, Tara

A tribute to my dog, Tara, that I wrote at age 13 and it was published in the Milwaukee Journal in 1993.

img001   img002


Create a free website or blog at | The Baskerville Theme.

Up ↑


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers

%d bloggers like this: