circus, entertainment, parenting, Uncategorized

Circus Tiger Mauls Clowns!


10:05:34–gate is closed in right of photo

Call it the headline that almost was.  My oldest son, a second grader at a small Wisconsin school got to visit the Zor Shrine Circus at the Coliseum. Due to limited space on the bus that was going, his 4k brother, who had earned a ticket through exemplary behavior in his class, could also go but could not ride on the bus.  I had asked my uncle Sam if he wanted to go along, and before I knew it the endeavor turned into something even bigger.


10:07:34–notice the door is ajar on the right…

I had childhood memories of going to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Omaha, NE.  I was small, maybe 5 or 6 years old. It was by far the neatest thing that ever happened to me as a child. I wanted to share a similar experience with my boys, so I made a point of going along.  Little did I know, I would be selected from an audience of thousands and brought to the main ring to act out two skits with this clown:


Reddy the Clown engaged the audience with a whistle; up close, I heard a thick accent

Reddy grew exasperated when the woman he also chose from the crowd wasn’t acting out the skit to his liking and made a big production of putting me in her place.


My boys all ready think I am a Rock Star–this made them certain of it!

He wanted her to play slow-motion tennis with big sound effects.

I was amazed to see photos of this as I handed the camera to my 7 year-old son and he just kept shooting.  The circus assistants wore all black so they tended to disappear into the dark auditorium while the act was brightly illuminated with spotlights. I noticed the door was ajar with 3 Bengal tigers and 2 Siberian tigers when one of the assistants raced over to secure it.  Funny thing, ignorance: on the one hand we had an arena full of happy, happy, fun, fun, smile, smile, laugh; on the other hand, we had an unsecured gate with 5 tigers mere feet away from being loose among the crowd! Being an ER nurse, it is my job to notice things.  I noticed the inconsistencies when people lie to me every single day. I am used to this; so used to this I just brush it off as part of the human condition. An unlocked gate on the tiger arena is a whoop–a HUGE whoop! Snapping photos like paparazzi, the time stamps would reveal the gate closed at 10:05:34 and ajar by 10:07:34–which means it merely came open on its own and was never secure in the first place!


10:09:21–gate still ajar in right of photo, moments later this was secured by staff. Never mind the 5 tigers mere feet away!

I am not sure how many of the thousands at the circus noticed this teensy-weensy gaffe in security.  Good thing all five tigers considered the ringmaster with the long whip the alpha male in the group.  You can see in the photo above how well-fed the tigers appear to be; the Siberian on the end is too fat to be sassy. The time stamps on my photos reveal a 4 minute span during which that gate is ajar before staff noticed the mistake and ran over to secure it–4 minutes that could have made headlines if the tigers were more alert, less well fed, or less obedient.

Was a good time had by all?  You bet!

Would I go again?  Sure.  But I will have my eye on that tiger cage from the start!


How does the ringmaster NOT look like dinner?

Birthday, parenting, relationships, Uncategorized

A Birthday Tribute to My Bride

Sara in Snowville NH

My favorite picture of Sara, B & B in Snowville N.H. 2008

It is Sara’s birthday today, my beloved wife.  Before I ever laid eyes on Sara, we had talked on the phone about 4 times.  She was in Moline, IL and I was spending a long weekend in Des Moines, where I worked in the intensive care unit at Mercy Capitol Hospital–the former osteopathic hospital and red-headed stepchild of Mercy Main.  Sara and I had been set up by her sister, Amy, who was pinch-hitting for her big sister in the game of life.  After a mere 40 minutes of talking with me outside of the State Farm office in Maquoketa, IA, Amy was certain I was the life-mate for her sis–“I just met the father of your children.  Don’t eff this up!” came the edict.

DSM half marathon

Budding romance at 1 month, DSM marathon 2004

Before either of us knew it, Sara had quit a hateful job working for Cruella DeVille at a poisonous hospital in the Quad Cities and had become my personal groupie.  This was no easy task and has just grown more complex, more difficult, and more physically taxing since those early days.  I met Sara at the Border’s bookstore in Davenport on Tuesday, September 21st at 5:30 pm.  I was engrossed in the first pages of Ann Coulter’s Treason when a soft voice said “Erik?” A tall drink of water with brown hair and soulful brown eyes looked down at me as I sat there.  I had not imagined or dreamed about what Sara would look like–I was, however, in the mood for someone to be kind to me.  If she couldn’t muster that, our time together would be brief.


Newton IA with Baby Noah 2006

I was still reeling from the break up of my marriage to a woman who appeared to think of marriage like a complicated date–an exit strategy always in hand the moment things got hard.  Perhaps I even told Sara that I just wanted someone to be kind to me, and I wanted that more than anything else another human being could offer me. I had very fresh scars from my marriage, ones that if Sara was to win me over she would unfortunately have to tend…and nurture.  She got this.


Sara’s labor, our blessings

I remember our first argument.  I was perturbed with her and probably wanted my way.  I don’t even remember what the argument was over–I just remember the punch line.  I said “I sure hope you ski!”  As if this activity could save us, I might be willing to tolerate not getting my way if Sara could ski and would ski with me wherever I wished to go.  At that time, I had a matronly friend at the hospital who urged me to go on a vacation “just for yourself.”  I looked into skiing in South America, but the reviews on were horrible and echoed that the conditions were au natural and the accommodations poorly developed.  I had just recently met Sara and wasn’t crazy about going by myself.  Tuesday nights lessons at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, IL for six weeks with her future husband as instructor gave Sara the skills she needed to ski in Spain and Andorra.  KLM lost our luggage flying into Toulouse, France so we had to come up with a plan B that now excluded skiing in France.  We rented a BMW 525 xi and were left to tour the foothills of the Pyrenees for the day until our luggage caught up with us.  Poor us.  A couple of days later, a blizzard blew into the Pyrenees after the lifts had delivered us to Beret, Spain. Suddenly they closed the lifts for safety and we had no choice but to ski the 7 kilometers back to our resort in Baquiera. That evening we asked Spanish Sally, our hostess at the hotel, where there was a nice restaurant in the area.  She seemed to understand and replied “Ohh…romantica?!”

Sara and Erik skiing MT

My Snow Bunny!

Sara and I married about nine months after meeting, in July 2005.  Each of us was old hat at the marriage thing, and knew what we wanted and had to have.  Our wedding was held on my brother’s farm, in a barn built in 1902 by my great great grandfather Andrew.  The temperature that day was about 78 F with a gentle breeze blowing, the sun filtering through the slats in the barn walls, and some of our city friends asking if we had piped in the sound of birds chirping outside during the ceremony.  We had a patriotic theme wedding, Famous Dave’s catered in (a huge hit with our guests), and we honeymooned in Cozumel a short time later.

our wedding invite

Our Wedding Invitation

Sara is once (Noah), twice (Jonah), and three times (Eli) a lady to me, giving me 3 strapping sons who will one day dwarf their “regular” dad. There is not a cooler woman on the planet to me.  I can be an ogre, a real grizzly bear to live with…yet Sara endures.  Sara looks on with disdain while our boys look at me like I am a rock star and often regard her as chopped liver, unaware or unconvinced of just how the magic really happens in the Hanson household. Yet Sara endures…being well, Sara.

Our reality

Halloween 2013–how it really is!

divorce, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Grandpa? Nope, Late Fatherhood


Handsome baby Noah

I became a father when I was 39.  That’s old.  Simple math shows that I will be 57 when my oldest son graduates high school.  “Hey, grandpa–so nice you could be here to watch your grandson on his graduation day!”  Why so old, you ask?  I took a six-year detour with The Practice Wife–thankful that no children resulted from that union.  I remember being 12 and thinking that there was no way I would be ready to be a daddy at 25 and that I had better wait.  At that age, I was not entirely sure of the mechanism used to accomplish fatherhood anyhow; but I gave myself plenty of time to figure it out.  I thought I was wiser at 25 than I had ever been, but I still had some wisdom to acquire and maturity to grow.  Yep, 30 would be a better age to create mini-Eriks.  Shortly after that mark I met the first Mrs. Hanson.

ski lodge

I might have guessed how that would turn out when she stood giggling at our altar in a Ski Lodge in Frisco, CO–giggling because the fireplace was making popping sounds that sounded like someone breaking wind.  The emotional maturity of a first grader.  I would think most women would gush over a two-week honeymoon skiing in Europe, traveling by Eurail to six different countries, skiing over the mountain from Switzerland into Italy under the shadow of the Matterhorn. Or the standing-room-only Christmas Eve service in Zermatt, spoken in a German dialect with locals dressed to the nines and big snowflakes falling. Or ringing in the new year in Salzburg, Austria–birthplace of Mozart–at the Festung while serial cannon fire echoed across the nation from one Austrian border to the next.


But no!  She grew tired of me and I grew tired of her by the end of that two weeks.  I couldn’t wait to be home to have some alone time.  Surprise, surprise when this marriage didn’t work out.  It didn’t help that we decided to try med school living in different cities 2 1/2 hours apart.  I lost my ‘coolness’ factor when I got the boot from med school–suddenly the first Mrs. Hanson was not going to be married to a doctor after all.  She would have to change that. To make matters worse, we opted to gut an entire house and live in it during the repair.  This is also a great way to stress a marriage.

gutted home

home under renovation

When I met Sara, we talked about our future with little ones running about, refrigerator magnets in place, how we would (as older parents) likely spoil them rotten.  I am glad we made some time to travel, see France, Andorra, Spain, visit Cozumel twice, and make a run of the B & Bs in New England.  Having children in school dramatically slows a parent’s pace to travel and see new places. These days we get to Washington Island in Door Co., WI each summer and to visit family in Iowa.  My wife’s family visits on holidays and mine never visits, except Uncle Sam.


Uncle Sam (suspenders)

Our oldest son Noah is smart, handsome, and likeable.  He seems to make friends easily and always puts his best foot forward…when he is not at home.  When he is at home he lets his hair down and picks fights with his next younger brother, mixes like oil and water with his mama, and seldom misses a chance to show how lazy he can be–God’s challenge to me as a father. When his teachers have commented on how helpful and polite he is at school, we stop to verify that they are talking about our son.  A friend of ours pointed out that it is good that Noah can “let his hair down at home–and be who he really is.”  My fear is that he will require more of our help once he is of age than I can provide, due to my advancing years.


Jr. GQ, Noah

Our second oldest son Jonah was speaking in complete sentences when he was 18 months old.  In the words of Shrek “you have the right to remain silent; what you lack is the ability.”  He talks with the sweetest lisp and I know one day that will just be done talking that way.  He has deep chocolatey brown eyes like his mama and is a very sweet and thoughtful boy.  He also knows exactly how to best antagonize his older brother Noah.


Berry Pickin’ Jojo

Our youngest son, Eli, a.k.a. “Monster Baby” was originally nicknamed this because of his off-the-chart growth.



Not that any of the boys is a shrinking violet–all have been off the chart.  Eli is not yet two years old and is 52 pounds.  His size makes him a monster.  Lately, however…his behavior does too!  He is pure imp these days, having found his terrible two’s early.  He is a game player and one of my favorite pictures of him is when he was helping me put away clean clothes and he put my boxer briefs on his head with his face sticking out one of the leg holes.


Monster Baby, playing with my boxers on his head!

Trust me, there are times when Sara and I look at each other and second guess our choice to be parents.  We could have had another home in the south of France, but no…we chose parenthood instead!


I wouldn’t have it any other way!