This weekend will be forever known as one of huge highs and unbelievable lows.

* * * 

With the school year ended and some sense of being settled into the new house, we’re finally feeling like was can kick back a little bit and enjoy it with others.

So Friday night we had our friends, the Sweeneys, over to our place. Kates teaches with them, and Phoebe adores playing with their three kids. … Besides playing a key role in helping us settle into The ‘Ville this last year, we have a unique connection that dates back at least a decade: Their brother-in-law was my college roommate and remains one of my best buds.

We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Afterward, we ventured outside and began pulling out the yard toys … I ended up giving a tutorial on Ladder Ball, which led to fun, competitive game among us guys.

The kids played in the sandbox, and tossed balls of all sizes. They ran and ran in the yard until it was nearly dark. We had music going on the deck, and relished the company.

It was a sweet start to the weekend

* * *

Yesterday morning I was up earlier than usual because a nearby town was having a hazardous waste collection and I was eager to get rid of a lot of the chemicals and paints previous home owners left behind.

Shortly after 9, I was hitting the county’s narrow rural roads. Hills and curves all the way as I passed through a handful of the rundown ghost towns I always hear mentioned around The ‘Ville. I imagined how their downtowns once might have thrived.

But the trip took me double the time thanks to a closed bridge more than halfway into my route. Aggravated, I took out a map to figure out the next best route to the collection site. Eventually, I decided I had no choice but to retrace my initial route and take an entirely different, and longer, way. I dumped the chemicals, turned around and returned home a little after 11 a.m.

* * *

Next up, we headed to the Stokers's house to help them celebrate their son’s first birthday. The Sweeneys were there, too. And after eating another batch of hamburgers and hot dogs from a grill, the kids -- six of them, in this case, four girls and two boys, ages 1 through 12 -- once again ran wild in the yard. They ran through the sprinkler, batted balloons, tossed a football and climbed on a swingset.

A short spring storm passed over us, and the sun shined bright the rest of the afternoon. The adults chatted and relaxed in lawn chairs, while the kids laughed and played around us. There wasn't a better way to spend the afternoon.

* * *

Last night, Kates and I scheduled a date night. We took Phoebe to our friend Gina’s house for the night, loaded with Disney movies and snacks, and then headed out on the town.

As we drove down Main Street, The Ville's small town essence all around us, Kates mused, "I still can't believe we live here. It blows my mind."

"I know. I was just thinking the same thing today," I said, thinking about my connections with the people and the places of The 'Ville, dating back 10 years. "That our daughter is running around in the Stokers's back yard and playing with the Sweeneys' kids. Blows my mind."

For dinner, we headed to Maid-Rite, a new ‘50s-themed diner that has the town buzzing. Kates and I ordered burgers, which are non-traditional in the way they’re served. Rather than a patty, the meat is ground -- so the burger appears more like a sloppy joe. The food was good, but I wouldn’t say the thought of going back makes our mouths water.

And then (cue festive music), we went to the movie theater to see the summer movie everyone's talking about. “Bridesmaids.”

For the record, Kates wanted to see “Something Borrowed” because she read the book a couple years ago and loved it. I gladly would have gone to see it with her, but its time at our local theater ran out before we could go. “Bridesmaids,” though I was interested in seeing it a lot more than Kates, was the next best option.

We also went in with some trepidation, thanks to some less than stellar reviews from friends who warned us the film is a raunch-fest. Given our takes on “The Hangover” and other films like it, the outlook wasn’t good.

In the end, none of those pre-show thoughts mattered. We enjoyed “Bridesmaids,” and it gave us some redemption that we’re not some old fogies who scoff at the colorful humor, or don’t get it at all. Yet.

Sure, there were jokes that fell flat. But there also were three or four scenes that had me laughing until my side hurt -- particularly the unfortunate barf fest while the bridesmaids were being fit for their dresses and the stunt driving of Kristen Wiig’s Annie as she tried to get the attention of her state trooper love interest Nathan. They were scenes that had me giggling every time I thought of them for hours afterward.

And the cameo by Wilson Phillips singing “Hold On” was pretty awesome, too.

The fact that the film was set in our old stomping grounds along the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor was a bonus -- even if the portrayal of Nathan the state trooper was mostly unrealistic.

Updated: Here's a good review I stumbled on at Paste.

* * *

Today began like most other Sundays.

This morning we hustled to get ready for church, where Kates and I were leading a children’s Sunday School class. We led the kids through a drama activity to teach them about Moses. And it was good.

This afternoon I was supposed to help with a charity event at the university, and then I had planned to mow and work in our yard this afternoon. As we returned home from church around 11, I was lamenting the outdoor work. I was more interested in spending time with Kates and Pheebs indoors than outside in the heat.

At around noon, just as I was preparing to head to the event on campus, my phone rang. There had been an emergency and I needed to come to the president’s house as soon as I could.

I arrived as the athletics director was walking up the driveway. The president and my partner on our communications team was standing on the patio with cell phones in hand. The looks on their faces gave me a sense this wasn’t an emergency we were used to dealing with. … The president and athletics director needed to go -- where, I didn’t know at the time -- and my partner took me inside to share the terrible news. Our football coach suffered a heart attack this morning. And he didn’t make it, she told me.

“Oh my god! I just saw him mowing his lawn!” I shouted and sank to my knees.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I had seen him as we started driving to church this morning. Across the street, pushing his lawn mower, just as I’d seen him every weekend since we bought our house and became neighbors. When we came home from church, the ambulance had been there and gone, and everything was quiet. There was no sign anything had happened. Now he was gone?

As the university’s communications arm, we had to gather ourselves and figure out the next steps. The news was traveling around the city like wildfire. … I headed home to grab my things, and I could barely hold it together as I traveled down our street, looked at his house and began to think about his family. … Kates greeted me at the door and asked what was happening. I shared the news with her and she pulled me in for a hug. Then I retrieved my work bag and headed to the office.

The rest of the day was surreal. Writing statements to send to our campus community and news releases to send to media. At 2, we met with the coaching staff, who had just come from the hospital and were barely coming to grips with the loss. Sitting among all of the coaches, it was surreal not to have his big personality present at the table with us.

A few hours later we were meeting with media for a news conference. Coach had been with our football program for two decades as an assistant and was promoted to head coach during the offseason. Now he was gone.

When I arrived home tonight, I found Kates in the kitchen, talking with her parents on Skype. I called mine once I was settled.

Phoebe was sitting in the living room, watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, seemingly without a clue of what had happened. As I scooted in and sat close to her, the first words she spoke to me were, “Daddy, you didn’t give me a hug and kiss when you left today.”

Her small statement spoke volumes. Life is something never to be taken for granted. Live well and love with all your heart.

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