A Decade of 10Q: 2010 – 2019

A Decade of 10Q

Now that we’re in a new decade, it’s time to look back. Thankfully, I’ve got the personal archives of 10Q to help discover what was happening in my life a decade ago. 

If you’re not familiar with 10Q, it’s a website/movement/practice where every day, for 10 days, you’re emailed a question. Ten days, ten different questions. The answers are then sent to a secure online vault. One year later, your answers are unlocked and returned and the process begins anew. 10Q is a project of Reboot, an arts and culture non-profit that reimagines and reinforces Jewish thought and traditions.

If you haven’t participated, you should. It’s free and provides a lot in terms of capturing a slice of your life in time. 

Rather than share all 10 years worth of answers — it’s 96 pages of printed text — I’m sharing answers and years chronologically. There are 10 answers for 10 questions spread across 10 years. Got it? Good. Let’s go!

2010 – Day 1: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

The past year has been marked with subtle realizations regarding the world and myself.

Turning 25. My 25th birthday was less a celebration and more a moment of reflection with family. Thinking about the 24 years I’ve lived, what I’ve done, and where I want to go caused me more concern than celebration. Part of me finally realized that I’m not getting any younger. Another part realized that I am the only person that can cause my dreams to become a reality.

The relationship I was in ended in June after I realized we were each wasting the others time. She doesn’t want children, I do. If after a year’s time we can’t see eye-to-eye on such a crucial issue, why are we together?

In November I was given the opportunity to co-teach a film acting class. While I had considered teaching children in the past it wasn’t until I was placed in front of my students that I realized how much passion I have for sharing information that’s become second nature. I love teaching and look for more opportunities to share my passions with others.

2011 – Day 2: Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you’re especially proud of from this past year?

If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t have moved out of the condo.

In late 2010 I was terrified and ashamed about the impending “foreclosure.” I reasoned that if I could be approved for a loan modification through President Obama’s Home Loan Modification Act I would have a reduced mortgage payment. With a reduced mortgage payment I would be able to rent out the condo and set the rental rate high enough to cover the mortgage and the home owner’s association fee. I began the underwriting process in November 2010. It wasn’t until June 2011 when the Wells Fargo underwriters finally reached a decision on the file.

When I initially began the underwriting process I was behind on my mortgage by a month and a half and owed the home owner’s association nearly two-thousand dollars. I turned to my parents for help. After a lengthly discussion with both Mom and Dad, they agreed to loan me $6,000 to cover my expenses. I was 25 years old.

I’m 26 now and have finally begun to repay the loan incrementally. It will likely take nine years until they’re paid back. I don’t want to ever borrow money from them again. I appreciate knowing that I can come to them with my problems, but I’m an adult now. These problems are mine.

I wish I hadn’t borrowed that money from my parents to “save” the condo that now, a year later, is now up for bid at a Sheriff’s sale.

I’m proud that I auditioned at the Twin Cities Unified Theatre Audition. For years I had put so much stress and pressure into those auditions that I just didn’t audition. Fear froze me and I refused to audition with a piece I hadn’t workshopped or felt 100% comfortable in.

Even all these months later, when I go back and think about my monologue – it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing. Next year I’d like to audition again. Perhaps do two monologues, maybe a song. Or not, I don’t know. My career depends on auditioning, so I’m gonna keep doing it…

I’m also proud that I’ve begun repaying my parents. It’s a long road ahead, but every epic journey just begins with a simple step.

2012 – Day 3: Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

In mid-July shortly before 2AM I was at a bar drinking with Ryan. We were at Muddy Waters on the patio. It was a relaxed moment. My phone rang. It was my brother, Daniel. Knowing my brother there were only two reasons for his call: 1) he was driving his big-rig and needed company to stay awake, or 2) something terrible happened.

When I answered the phone call first thing I heard was my brother crying, “Mike, I need you! If I’ve ever needed you before in my life I need you now!” Something terrible happened.

At first I thought my brother had been in a car accident. He was so upset I couldn’t tell at first what the problem was.

The short story is that my brother needed his spare keys.

The long story is that my brother and his friends were camping in Wisconsin along the Apple River and after a long day of drinking frustrations escalated shortly after 11PM and he needed an exit strategy. Apparently my brother attempted to leave the campground, however, a woman climbed into the cab of his pick-up and he pushed her out.

A young man saw my brother push the woman out of the pick-up and angrily approached my brother. Then the young man’s friends gathered around my brother and my brother was feeling cornered.

Just then, the wife of the couple my brother was rooming with, told everyone to leave Daniel alone, but her husband saw his wife in the middle of all those guys and assumed my brother was getting his wife involved in a fight. So the husband started fighting with my brother.

The police were called.

The police broke up the fight and told my brother to “sleep it off” in the cab of his truck. However, they also confiscated his keys. My brother wasn’t allowed to access the cabin he paid for and wasn’t allowed to leave the campground on his own.

So he called me.

Ryan and I cabbed home from the bar. I borrowed Ryan’s car and drove to my brother’s house 40 miles west of Minneapolis, retrieved his spare set of truck keys and drove back to the Twin Cities and onward to Sommerset, Wisconsin. For more than an hour I spoke to my brother on the phone calming him down and listening to him as he vented.

It scared me to hear my brother so upset. Not just angry, but deeply saddened — like he didn’t have a friend in the whole world. Like I told him on the phone and like I know in my heart — my brother was my first friend and he will always be my best friend. We may not always get along or agree with one another, but we love each other and there isn’t much we wouldn’t do for each other.

I arrived in Wisconsin shortly after 4:30AM. We talked and he asked if I’d go get his stuff from the cabin. So I drove down to the cabin, snuck in and retrieved his most precious belongings: a cooler full of beer.

Afterward we went to a deserted Perkins. Then Daniel farted in the booth and it smelled like he shit his pants. We laughed for a long time in that empty dining room.

I love that guy.

2013 – Day 4: Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

(10Q for 2013 was not completed due to a crisis happening with a loved one in Zibo, Shandong, China.)

2014 – Day 5: Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

I am so thankful for the spiritual connection K and I share.

When we were separated during the 2013 winter/spring/summer for five months we emailed everyday, multiple times a day. We chatted on Skype for hours each day. We were separate, but together — or working on growing together. During that time we often talked about astral projecting ourselves across the world to snuggle in bed.

From September 17 – October 2 we were a part. I was in America. She was in China. And it was difficult. But there were so many moments where I felt her spirit with me. I felt her presence.

At Courtney and MJ’s wedding — a bit after midnight, long after most wedding guests called it a night — I was standing looking up at the thousands of twinkling stars in the night sky. I felt K’s love. I felt her presence.

And I thanked God, the Holy Wow. Thank you for You. Thank you for K. Thank you for allowing our souls to have found each other. Thank you for all the heavens above. Thank you for allowing me to look up and see her. Thank you for helping us not feel so alone. Thank you for helping us and working on us and being with us through all we’ve struggled with. Thank you for being ever present.

If I hadn’t gone to China, I wouldn’t have noticed all the natural beauty of where I grew up. Realizing this was its own nugget of gold. Things seemed to click a bit more. The “why” about why I needed China made sense. I needed China to find K. I needed China to appreciate home. These were moments that rocked me, slapped me on the ass, and helped me.

Performing Courtney and MJ’s wedding ceremony was another moment of grace. Another spiritual experience shared intimately on a hill on a beautiful day overlooking Mud Lake.

Courtney and MJ didn’t want a religious ceremony, but when you look at the text of the service and the setting, it was probably more religious than some church weddings. It was a beautiful day and the ceremony really came together and seemed to fit the surrounding and couple. I am honored to have been asked — despite the distance traveled to be at the wedding and being away from my wife — and look forward to helping other couples begin their own spiritual journey in marriage.

2015 – Day 6: Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

Booking of the China Show on a college campus.

If I can get one, I can get two.

If I can do 12 a month, I could do 120 a year. That would make me a full-time artist and enable me to provide for K and start a family.

2016 – Day 7: How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?

Be a warrior for love. -A

Tackle the motherfuckingshit out of your life. -A

Quitting smoking. Riding the bike again. Writing. Creating. Painting. Picture taking. Hanging prints.

Make Cool Shit.

2017 – Day 8: Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in the coming year?

Owning a dog.


2018 – Day 9: What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

Being alone. Not capable of holding down a relationship with someone who is kind to me. Not progressing the relationship, not getting married, not starting a family.

These things limit me by placing the focus outward rather than inward. I should be looking inside myself first and finding and learning and knowing that I am enough. For myself. For others. Start with what I have — me — and be happy and confident with it. I am amazing. Yes, a work in progress, but I deserve a relationship that brings both of us joy — and not constant pain — and ultimately, a child or children.

The only way I can let go of this fear is to be alone. I am alone right now. I am not going to relationship-hop. Date, maybe, sure. But not from one to the next. Sammi and Dan both told me I need to be alone for 3 months. Focus on me and my inner world/life. Get comfortable with myself.

And when it’s the right time, someone special will find me and I’ll be ready.

2019 – Day 10: When September 2020 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

I hope I feel somewhat accomplished. I’m tired now. It’s 11PM on October 13th. Hopefully next year I’ll be like, “Holy wow, there’s been a lot of growth since then. I’m proud of you, me.”

I hope my house is more put together. The trim is up and the walls are painted and the kitchens been updated and the basement sealed and there’s money in the bank and the backyard is gorgeous and —

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I hope I’m doing something I love which helps make the world better and brings joy to other people.

Open Letter to 2019

2019 written in sand

Dear 2019 —

A whole year elapsed without so much as a peep from me. Truth be told, I’ve spent a large percent of the 2019 licking wounds. The carnage of 2018 left me oscillating between feeling destroyed and destroying myself.  At the beginning my head was in the sand and I wanted nothing more than to disappear, hurt and broken. But by the end 2019, the flashes of hope, joy, and love interspersed among the grief grew.

The surprise for me, 2019, was the kind of despair and mourning that followed me.

The first part of the year was living in the aftermath of an unhealthy relationship, a misinformed scorched-earth campaign on the content of my character, and the continual fear of reprisal. Aside from last year’s Open Letter to 2018, this is the only thing I said publicly.

Then as we reached the mid-way mark, 2019, Grandma Venske was issued a palliative care plan which quickly spiraled to hospice and finally eternal rest. The 9 days Grandma and I shared together before she died were important. Not only to love and hold and be with her as her story winded down, but to witness how to gracefully close out one’s chapter with faith and strength, sing-songing the whole time through.

I remember the moment when I realized Grandma wouldn’t be getting better.

Up to that moment I had hope she would continue to fight and be. Because that’s all I knew. Grandma (and Grandpa) were always there. We lived right next to each other in Watertown. From infancy I grew knowing they were watching over and taking care of my brother, Daniel, and me in the little rambler on Angel Avenue they’d shared for 60 years…

And then on one not so special day, while working remotely from her apartment squeezed among the 88 years of memories and mementos, my brother appeared. It was especially surprising to see him because mister-working-all-the-time doesn’t take time off. But there he was in the middle of the day — on a Thursday — in his work uniform: steel toe boots, dirty jeans, and a reflective vest. It’d be an understatement to say he stood out.

Twenty-four years ago, as part of the chapel choir at the church Grandma and Grandpa made their spiritual home, Daniel stood in front of the congregation and fainted. That is to say: my brother doesn’t sing.

But back in Grandma’s room, we, her boys — grandsons / neighbors / snow shovelers / lawn mowers / joke tellers / Sunday school protégés — sang. Not any songs though, hymns — songs as much a part of Grandma’s soul as Grandma is part of ours. And to the merriment of Marion May, my rough and tough little brother, chirped away.

And that’s when I knew: there is no coming back. Daniel is singing and Grandma is dying and this is the end. There is nothing to be hopeful for anymore. There is no hope.

I thought, originally, that because I was present for the dying process and the load out and the funeral planning and actively involved with the service both eulogizing and carrying Grandma to her final resting place that in the immediate aftermath every feeling would naturally wrap itself into a sad small souvenir where it would sit in my heart never to stir again. But months later, I am gripped by the constant ache of missing Grandma. There are not tears enough for this heartbreak.

So. 2019 was tough.

Yes, there were mistakes made, and I know I didn’t do my best by calling it in. There are things I regret; poor choices, and bold moves alike. Laughter continued to fight for a seat at the table, but not all fights have winners this year.

In spite of it all, there grew greater devotion and appreciation for family, friends, and health. There were new adventures and many simple pleasures; sighting Scott Seekins, trying at trivia, and Mangione’s magic music.

Friends and family shared precious love and time. These moments are carved in and out of all the pain, sadness, and grief I lugged around. They pushed, carried, and lifted. The load became lighter and I felt brighter.

So to you, dear friends who are family and family who are friends, thank you. For checking and seeing and being with me. For reminding me you’re there and here and at times, everywhere. Holy wow thanks for the help.

Rainer Maria Rilke left stains on my heart in 2018 and dragged me though 2019 with this:

Let everything happen to you:
Beauty and terror.
Just keep going.
No feeling is final.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Everything happened: all that beauty and terror of simply existing? Check!

The only cure in an uncertain world is to distract oneself with some sort of momentum. Keep going until you can’t. I saw that this year and I know what it looks like.

I can still keep going. That’s what I did. And for doing that I am proud of what I worked through and overcame. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Now here we are in a whole new year (and decade).

As Chuck would say, it feels so good.

So, with gratitude, go I.

Let’s do this 2020!

1se Video Diary

If you don’t have 10 minutes to watch all of 2019’s 1 Second Everyday video diary, here’s the synopsis:

Revelry. Trivia. Trains. Firetrucks. Bell ringing. Bubble baths. Soul searching.

Enjoy this snapshot of 2019 one second at a time.

Noted Happenings & Intentions Met in 2019

  • Traveled to Chicago on a whim to see Max & Rebecca
  • Went on a blind date and was reminded that I’m worthy of something magical
  • Enjoyed a family dinner with old friends the Moshe’s
  • Saw The Lemon Twigs in the most dramatic show at First Ave with my BFF
  • Checked out the Luminary Loppet with neighbors
  • Attended a Super Bowl Party for yearly sports quota
  • Started regularly playing trivia with friends
  • Volunteered for Ziggy’s Art Bus
  • Saw Elton John in concert 
  • Went ice skating
  • Sported a mustache for January
  • Consulted for a high school drumline team
  • Attended Mr. Murtha’s Theatrical Debut in Little Mermaid
  • Enjoyed company and conversation at 98LB Buffet w/ Lora
  • Met and officiated the weddings for two amazing couples: Shannon & Tyler / Steph & Bryan 
  • Finally attended the Community Fish Fry at St. Albert’s with my BFF (& her folks)
  • Saw Fred Armisen & Mary Lynn Rajskub @ First Avenue with BFFs
  • Volunteered with the Morels & Memories Mushroom Hunt Alzheimer’s Fundraiser
  • Spent Memorial Day w/ Murthas
  • Finally experienced the joy of receiving a pedicure after a long winter at the urging of BFF
  • Saw Vampire Weekend with BFF at the urging of my grandmother
  • Shared Grandma Venske’s final 10 days
  • Found solace in Jeremy Messersmith’s “11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele” which Grandma and I listened to together
  • Delivered Grandma Venske’s eulogy
  • Bought a house
  • Volunteered for Kevin Allison’s Risk Podcast
  • Went camping with BFFs at Pattison State Park
  • Shot a commercial, some training videos for Target and a handful of voiceovers for YourLifeIowa.org
  • Bathed in a waterfall
  • Caught dinner with Mrs. Murtha
  • Dated women who took me on adventures great and small
  • Traveled north to Duluth and spent quality time with Number Two, Number Two’s Hubby, & Chani
  • Finally saw The Trash Cats in concert
  • BFF took me to see the Violent Femmes & Ben Folds in concert
  • Said goodbye to my work-wife as she started the next chapter
  • Camping trip in southern Minnesota allowed me to sleep in a hammock under the stars in the rain, sleep in a lawn chair in a stream, and do all of it with BFFs (& family)
  • Toured The Remember Project through Wisconsin
  • Participated in No Shave November and raised $190 toward the fight against cancer
  • Traveled for work: Phoenix, Nashville, Denver, Orlando
  • Rang in my 3-year work anniversary at a suite in the swanky Ritz-Carlton in Denver
  • Hiked the Royal Arch Trail outside Boulder
  • Took in the Burnsville Fire Muster Parade & Flugtag on the same exciting day
  • Successfully completed “Sober October,” and then threw it all up (and away) on November 1
  • Visited the dentist and doctor like a real adult
  • Experienced the wonder of Wise Fool Theater’s “Hamlet” in Duluth
  • Reconnected with neighbors at the annual Chili Cookoff on Humboldt Avenue
  • Volunteered at the Twin Cities Marathon
  • Saw my (little super tall) cousin, Johanna, get married to a dude who makes her super happy
  • Saw Mike Birbiglia’s The New One
  • Encouraged my inner-child to come out pumpkin carving
  • Pitched show to APM/MPR & started a podcast…kinda
  • Started a new side-gig as an on-air guest at a home shopping network
  • Reconnected on better terms with A
  • Dinner with Shamus‘ parents, Anne & Lowell, followed by the annual memorial service at Saint Joan of Arc
  • Voted for the first time in my new district of St. Paul
  • Cooked for and attended multiple Friendsgiving events
  • Celebrated Thanksgiving date-night at the best Chinese restaurant in the Twin Cities, Tea House
  • Made new friends at Yarusso’s dinner table on rib night with the Murtha’s
  • Checked out a craft fair to see Mrs. Murtha’s artistic endeavors up close
  • Drinks out with previous work-wife, JC
  • Saw Scott Seekins in the wild, his natural habitat
  • Remained a non-smoker for all of 2019’s days
  • Learned how to make: kettle corn, candied: bacon, walnuts, pecans
  • Traveled upstate New York and visited the Angry Orchard distillery
  • Reflected on all that was during the darkest day of the year at First Universalist
  • Honored the annual tradition of raising a glass to Grandpa Zimbrick at his bar, CC Tap, on his death day/Chuck Mangione’s birthday and Christmas eve
  • Listened to 53,243 minutes of music on Spotify
  • Got a roof rake so Grandpa Venske and Zimbrick would be proud
  • Enjoyed the last breakfast of the decade with Lauren and her daughter
  • Rang in the new year with neighbors and BFFs
  • Spent more time on self-care than ever before and feel better for it

What were your intentions in 2019? How’d you do? What about the DECADE? What happened?

And what are you most looking forward to accomplishing in 2020?