Feb 10, 2018


In the last issue, I mentioned that Jeannie and I were in the process of moving to Washington. We have finally completed this move, and it capped an amazing 12-month run in the Blando household. We didn't do a Christmas letter this year, but if we had, we might have mentioned:  

November: My boss, a senator, is re-elected after a grueling campaign. 

December: Our daughter Ali graduated from UW-Madison.  Huge party weekend. 

February: Our daughter Kate married Army Lt. Joe Lemens.  Huge wedding. 

March: We put our house on the market. Showed 25 times before the offer came. 

May: Our daughter Mary graduated from St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School. 

June: We throw large graduation party for Mary. 

July: We sell our house and move into a temporary apartment in Oshkosh. 

August: We move Mary to UW-Madison to start college. 

September: We lease apartment in D.C.  

October: We drive to Washington and complete our first move as "empty nesters."  

All of these are good, except maybe for the 25 house showings.  Still, many people close to us asked,  "How did you handle all these stressful events that close together without losing your minds?"  I'd be lying if I said that things were always hunky dory — there were certainly some stressful and anxious moments.  We did have a couple of things going for us, though.  The first was faith in the wise words of Saint Paul who, in his letter to the Philippians, wrote:   

"Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  

I carry a laminated card with this verse in my wallet and I read it every day.  I can't tell you how helpful it has been to reduce anxiety about anything and everything in my life.    

Second, we were truly blessed to have a very supportive cast of family and friends who helped make this past year one of the most memorable in our 29 years of marriage. 

My last column was a bowhunting story, "The Brotherhood."  In it, I briefly mentioned our move to D.C., and I had hoped readers would skim over it. I thought I got away with it until my buddy Art, the owner and head cheese at Badger Sportsman, actually read the column in detail.  He called and said, "I love the column but I don't like the idea of you moving to D.C.  What's this all about? I'm not liking the sound of this." Although we are great friends, I think he was worried about being down a writer.    

I said, "Don't worry Art, I'm coming back.  Just like I did the last time I left.  I'm also happy to continue writing for Badger Sportsman as long as you think I have something worthwhile to say." 

I admit that when I left Wisconsin in the fall of 1984 to join the Army, I thought I'd never come back.  I was 21 years old and, like others my age, thought I knew everything there was to know about everything. One thing I thought I knew for sure was that there were greener pastures and bigger and better things elsewhere.   

My first stop was Georgia, and although the largemouth bass and gators are bigger than we have in Wisconsin, the deer are much smaller.  As for the people, they aren't nearly as nice as Wisconsin folks, and they don't even know what a walleye is, for cripes’ sake. But I did find one thing better — my wife Jeannie, and for the past 29 years we have experienced many "bigger and better things" as we lived in and visited many greener pastures throughout the world.  

But as I got older and our family grew, I began to yearn for Wisconsin and all it has to offer. I often wondered what it would be like to raise our girls there. 

Then, in 2001, while stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, I received orders to serve as the professor of military science for the Fox Valley Army ROTC battalion that is headquartered in Oshkosh.  This was a three-year tour that would be followed by orders for another tour overseas or in another state.   

But something happened to us those first couple of years in Wisconsin.  We fell in love with Oshkosh.  I re-fell in love with the entire state, and Jeannie fell in love with it for the first time. We fell in love with our daughter's schools, our church, our neighbors, and the neighborhood.  We fell in love with the four seasons and the beautiful woods, fields, lakes and streams. We fell in love with the year-round abundance of activities and mostly, we fell in love with the people.   

I attended a strategic planning session in Oshkosh in 2002, and I remember reading some literature that said something like, "Oshkosh's greatest resource is the abundant water" — a clear reference to the Winnebago chain of lakes and the Fox River.  I remember thinking, after living in Oshkosh for less than a year, that the greatest resource was definitely not the water.  The greatest resource was the friendly, kind, compassionate people we encountered at every turn. It was those people who helped us through this past year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and every year we lived in Wisconsin.  

And because of those wonderful family and friends, we came to the realization that Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was the best place to raise our children. So we retired from the Army in 2005 and raised our three daughters there.    

So, yes, we have moved to Washington, D.C.  But this move is far different than the one in 1984 when I left to join the Army.  Back then I didn't plan to return.  Today, there is no doubt in my mind that we will once again be Wisconsin residents when this U.S. Senate gig is up.    

I don't know for sure how long we will be gone, but I do know we will be spending plenty of time in the state over the next few years.  We will return regularly to see family and friends and also will periodically work at one of my boss’ three offices in the state.  I still plan to hunt and fish as much as I can, and I will most definitely return for Battle on Bago, turkey hunting, walleye fishing and the whitetail bow season, just to name a few.     

I believe Badger Sportsman is the oldest outdoor magazine in Wisconsin.  I know we aren't the most read magazine in Wisconsin — yet — but I am almost certain that Badger Sportsman is now the ONLY Wisconsin outdoor magazine with a Washington, D.C., correspondent.   

At least until Jeannie and I move back to the state we love most with the nicest people on the planet.