Wisconsin Ain’t No Flyover State

“Wisconsin. That’s in Michigan, right?”

Once, on my family’s annual family vacation to New Hampshire, a kid asked me where I was from. I of course responded with, Wisconsin. Without skipping a beat, he responded, that’s in Michigan, right? I never forgot the disgust I felt that someone my age (11) had no idea where Wisconsin was located. Didn’t they have social studies classes in New England? Aren’t you required to locate all the fifty states on a map at least once in your childhood? Have you not watched a single episode of Schoolhouse Rock?

They don't even serve this where you're from.

Fast forward 17 years and I’m sure that boy now has a clear idea of where Wisconsin is located. I doubt he’s ever visited, because after all, what coastie would be caught dead hanging out in a flyover state?

Consider this article, “Just Tossing Around the Old Bag of Corn” that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article goes into detail about how New Yorkers are really getting into a game that we’ve been playing around these parts for decades. It’s how I imagine Columbus’s reports of the New World would have sounded to the people that he “discovered.” Dude, we’ve been saying the same thing for centuries. You didn’t discover cornhole, we did.

This is still "the beach."

My favorite is a recent post written by Wisconsin to New York transplant Megan L. Wood in The Awl called, “It’s Cute That New York is Catching Up to Wisconsin.” It expresses similar thoughts on how people in New York are now just discovering “new trends” that Wisconsinites have been setting for years.

It’s time to set the record straight. Wisconsin ain’t no flyover state, it is the real deal. You know you love us and secretly wish that you could be more like us. It’s time to put an end to that ridiculous nickname and realize that things that happen in Wisconsin are as relevant as things that happen on the coasts. Sometimes, even more so.

Since 1844!

If you still need convincing that Wisconsin ain’t all that, then I’d like to ask you a few questions. First of all, has your state been brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon since before it was an official state? Did Laura Ingalls Wilder grow up in a log cabin deep in the woods of your state which served as the inspiration for her Little House on the Prairie series which later became a hit television series starring Michael Landon? Were duck boat tours started in your state? Is America’s Largest Water Park in your neck of the woods? How many publicly owned sports teams does your state have? Can you buy alcohol on Sundays? Was America’s first kindergarten in your home state? Does your state deep fry everything and then serve it with a side of cheese? Can you host a tailgate party at all of your local sports venues? Does your state have this many breweries? When President Obama wishes us all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays this year from the White House, will he do so against the backdrop of the White House Christmas tree, cut from the forests of your state?

Oh and did your state do this?

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Twitter for Beginners: How to Join and Use Twitter

Most of my close friends do not use Twitter. I guess that’s not too surprising given the average Twitter user is 39 years-old and as a twenty-something, the average age of my close friends is considerably lower than 39 years old. Since Twitter is such a part of my daily routine, I find it difficult to relate my Twitter experiences to my non-Twitter user friends. They know my enthusiasm for the site, but they know little else. Many have asked me to teach them how to use Twitter. I encourage every non-user to join, so in honor of my non-Twitter friends and readers and anyone looking to plunge into the Twitterverse, I offer you my “Twitter for Beginners” crash course.

Twitter for Beginners: How to Join and Use Twitter

Step 1: Setting up your account.

  1. Pick your angle. Before you even sign up for an account, think about what you’d like to tweet about. Maybe you want to become a food blogger so you’re going to tweet about your latest food adventures. Maybe you’re new to a city and you want to meet more locals. Perhaps you’d like to tweet a little bit of everything. Maybe you’re looking to break into a new industry. Think about how you want people to know and recognize you because that will help you set up your account.
  2. Pick a Twitter Handle. Your  handle shows up as @_____. How do you want to be identified online? Your handle is your personal brand. You can be as anonymous or as real as you want. I started out with an alias, but I am @sjwhipp because I want my name to be recognized. Whatever you decide, it’s also good to know that you can change your handle at any time without losing your page or information.
  3. Define yourself in 140 characters. Create your bio in 140 characters or less. When fellow tweeps  stumble upon your  page, they will look at your bio, see if you are interesting, and either follow you or not. Some things you might want to include in your bio:  your interests, a personality trait or two, work information, especially if you are looking to build professional contacts.
  4. Pick your avatar. That’s your profile picture. Again, you want something that will represent you to the extent that you want to be recognized. If you’re going to be using several different social media sites to promote whatever it is that you’re promoting, it’s good to have the same avatar for all of those sites.
  5. Make your tweets public or private. If you make your tweets public, they will show up in Google searches and will be annexed in the Library of Congress. Keeping your tweets public makes it easier to connect with all kinds of people on Twitter. If you choose to make your tweets private, no one can read them unless you pre-approve their follow request.

Step 2: Follow and Be Followed

  1. Start following other users. On Twitter, you follow people. That is similar to the like function on Facebook. It’s much easier on Twitter to follow people, organizations, businesses, bands, etc., because all you have to do is click follow and you’ll automatically get their tweets in your live feed. No waiting for requests to be accepted.
  2. Follow your interests. Think about the kinds of things you like to do or have always wanted to try and then search for those people who share your interests. When I first joined, I searched for published authors because I wanted to learn more about how to become a published author. I follow the Green Bay Packers because I’m a huge Packers fan and I want to know their latest updates.
  3. Follow local businesses that you support or would like to give feedback. I love following as many Milwaukee restaurants as possible because I frequent them and they provide information on specials and deals on Twitter. I once was ordering lunch from Molly Cool’s in downtown Milwaukee and I couldn’t decide what to order. I sent them a tweet and they helped me pick my lunch right on Twitter.
  4. Gaining followers takes time. There is no secret formula for gaining followers on Twitter. It takes time, but remember quality is more important than quantity. It took Charlie Sheen one day to get a million followers, it took me about a year to gain around one thousand followers. You don’t necessarily have to follow every single person that starts following you, but if you find their bios interesting, definitely follow them back.

Step 3: The Basics of Tweeting

  1. Treat Twitter like a cocktail party. If you entered a cocktail party and didn’t know a single person in the room, how would you strike up a conversation? The same goes for Twitter. You want to engage people with the same politeness that you would a stranger at a cocktail party.
  2. Join the conversation. Find out what people are talking about and jump right in to the discussion. The search bar is  a helpful way to see what people are saying about your topics of interest. The trending topics show you what’s the most talked about item at any given moment.
  3. What you should tweet. What you tweet is really up to you. It’s all about how you want to come across. I’d say as long as you avoid extreme profanity and are polite to others, you’ll be fine.
  4. How to have a conversation. When you want to talk to someone on Twitter, all you have to do is start your tweet with their handle. For example: @sjwhipp It was great to finally meet you. To see what @sjwhipp says back to you, click on your at-replies or mentions. These conversations show up in the live feed. If you want to say something privately, send a direct message.
  5. Retweet. When someone tweets something that catches your eye, you should retweet it to your followers. That’s a polite way to show you are interested in what your followers have to say. You can retweet by hitting the retweet button or by cutting and pasting their tweet and putting “RT” in front of the tweet before you tweet it to your followers. I like retweeting the old -fashioned way.
  6. Use hashtags. Even if you’ve never been on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen hashtags. They’re those words or phrases that look like this: #_____. Hashtags are a way to tag tweets. If I’m talking about my plans for Halloween, I might use the #Halloween hashtag. If you click on a hashtag, you can easily find all tweets on that topic. I think of hashtags as ways to file tweets in the same way you put files in a filing cabinet. Make up your own. The more clever, the better. #Justsayin
Step 4: Twitter Extras
  1. Use different Twitter applications. Once you get the hang of tweeting, you can use other Twitter applications to tweet. The most popular ones are Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. They make it easier to organize your feeds and your tweets.
  2. Partake in Twitter traditions. On Fridays, you’ll probably see a lot of tweets with the #FF hashtag. #FF stands for Follow Friday and this is a way of giving shout outs to your favorite followers and fellow tweeters. List a group of followers that you think everyone should follow, say why,  slap on a #FF and tweet away.

Once you get the hang of Twitter, you’ll find that it is an invaluable tool that will provide you with more information than you could ever imagine, breaking news updates, business connections, new friends, insights into every topic imaginable, new experiences, and if you’re lucky–free stuff.

How Do I Love Thee, Green Bay Packers? Let Me Count the Ways.

As a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers, I was obviously ecstatic about the outcome of Super Bowl 45 this past Sunday. The last time the Packers made it to the Super Bowl, I was 13 years-old and when the Packers won their last Super Bowl title, I was 12 years-old. That was such a long time ago that I actually still played with Barbies. In fact, I think I played Barbies instead of watching the half-time show. (We can keep that fact between us. I wouldn’t want my middle school friends to find out about that I played Barbies up until the 8th grade. They won’t think I’m cool anymore.)

Anyways, it’s easy to say you love your favorite team when they win a world championship, but I’d like to say that I would still love the Green Bay Packers if they went 0-16 this season. Obviously, it would be more painful, but I am not a fair-weathered fan by any means. There have been some painful seasons to watch in the last 6 years,  including the 2005 season when they went 4-12 and in 2008 when they went 6-10. I don’t remember them doing so poorly that season, in fact, it wasn’t until Aaron Rodgers mentioned that fact on Letterman the other evening that I remembered they had a losing record in his first season as starting quarterback. Ah well, I guess you really can’t win ‘em all.

I don’t just love the Packers for their athleticism and winning records (and good looks), but I like what they represent. To me, they represent something more than just football. Here’s what I mean:

1) The Packers are the only non-profit team in the NFL and they can still win championships. Imagine that! A team in the National Football League that is not for profit. The Green Bay Packers are the only team that is publicly owned and they are also the smallest franchise in the league. They have stayed true to their roots and they can still win the Super Bowl. 

2) The Green Bay Packers are all about teamwork. With 15 starters on the Injured Reserve, they had to be! This season was all about stepping up to the challenge and filling in the shoes of key players. Even during the Super Bowl, the Packers lost Donald Driver and Charles Woodson to injuries. These guys were instrumental both on the field and in the locker room. During all the post-Super Bowl hoopla, every player that was interviewed gave credit to their fellow teammates for their hard work and skill. No one took personal credit for the Super Bowl win and they easily could have (*cough* Aaron Rodgers).

3) The Green Bay Packers are dedicated. With so many injuries each week, the Packers could have easily thrown in the towel and no one would have blamed them. However, each week rookies, undrafted players, and back-ups stepped up their game, allowing the Packers to pull off wins in unexpected places. My favorite story is the story of undrafted rookie Frank Zombo. During the preseason, he was given the chance to play due to other player’s injuries. However, after he sprained his ankle, he had to miss practice. He realized that his chances of playing were already slim, so he simply taped up his ankle as tight as possible, went out there and proved himself. Zombo earned himself a spot on the squad and played all season long. Now he has a Super Bowl ring. That is the kind of attitude I admire.

4) The Green Bay Packers have the best fan base in the league. If you’ve ever been to a game, you will see what I mean. Green Bay Packers fans love their team more than any team in the league and the feelings are mutual.  It takes a special kind of person to sit through countless games in sub-zero weather with cheese on their head. In addition, did you know that all of the people who work the concession stands at Lambeau Field during games are volunteers? Talk about devotion. Packers players always reference the excellent fan base and even crotchety old Brett Favre will attest to the fact that his Green Bay fans were unlike any fans in the league. 

5) The Green Bay Packers have a dreamy starting quarterback. Have you ever seen Aaron Rodgers? Very kind on the eyes. Not to mention an outstanding athlete, a stellar team leader, and a charitable guy off the field. A real class-act.

What makes the Packers so loveable is that they embody qualities that are successful both on and off the playing field.  Being a Green Bay Packers fan is a true delight.  I don’t see how anyone could not love a publicly owned, professional football team from Small Town, USA, whose fan base adores them and will wait in long lines to help shovel out the home field on snowy days before games. I understand that people have their allegiances to their hometown teams, but when it comes to the Green Bay Packers other teams pale in comparison.

Everybody loves the Green Bay Packers.

Brett Favre Teaches Us to Quit While We’re Still Ahead

Me, in happier Brett Favre times.

As a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan, I was in love Brett Favre for a very, very long time.  When I moved to Boston in the winter of 2007, I brought my love for Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers along with me.  I made sure that everyone I met knew of my deep passion for all things Favre and Packers.  My roommate and I even threw a birthday party for Brett at our apartment on Comm. Ave. on October 10th (his actual birthday).  We decorated our apartment with

A poster from our Favre birthday party.

newspaper collages and Favre facts.  All of our friends wore green and gold, despite the fact that most of them were New England Patriots fans.  At other parties when the topic turned to football, I would spew out facts about Brett Favre followed by, “I bet your quarterback never did that!

My passion for Favre became so well-known among my circle of Bostonian friends, that when the Packers suffered a devastating loss during the NFC Championship game, I received sympathy texts and voicemail as if I had lost a relative or something.

The Brett Favre award I received.

Even my middle school students knew of my love for Favre.  When my students were upset over an assignment I had given them they would mutter under their breath, “Brett Favre sucks” as if that was the all-time worst insult they could imagine.  When I competed in The Ultimate Grind, a grueling physical competition devised by my athletic trainer friends and carried out in a foot of snow, I was given “The Brett Favre Award” for my passion for competition.  In fact, my name pretty much became synonymous with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Needless to say, I was a freaking Brett Favre fan if there ever was one. So it might come as a shock that, today, I am still hoarse from booing Brett Favre at Lambeau Field during Sunday night’s Packers/Vikings game.  I booed for Brett Favre during his every play of the game, screamed for joy at his interceptions and even flashed a few thumbs down signs in his direction (Since I was sitting near children, I refrained from giving the finger.)

Amidst my public displays of Favre-hate, something dawned on me.  How could it be that the 71,000 other fans and I were shouting at the top of our longs for the demise of someone who we had drooled over only two short years ago?  How had it come to this? Favre played a terrible game while receiving boos for his every move.  On top of that, he is injury-laden, the punchline of dick jokes,  and his own wife didn’t even bother to attend Sunday’s game.  Brett Favre had taken his legend and dragged it through the mud.  It became crystal clear to me: Brett Favre should have quit when he was still ahead.

If he had quit after 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre would’ve been remembered for his dedication, passion, and talent instead of as a spiteful, selfish prima donna with a sexting problem.  His jersey probably would have been retired by now and he could be spending his days filming Wranglers commercials in peace.  Let Brett Favre’s shenanigans be a lesson to all of us: quit while you’re still ahead.

I still have a framed poster of Favre in my bedroom from the Monday Night game he played after his father died unexpectedly. The poster now serves as a visual reminder to me to quit while I’m still ahead.  I’m not involved in anything that I want to quit, but when the moment arrives, I will be sure to make a timely exit.

Don’t Let the Weather Rain on Your Parade

Living in a cold, Midwestern climate and having lived in other cold climates, I find myself wondering why I haven’t moved to Florida or California already.  During the heart of winter, when thirty degrees feels warm and sunny days are a pleasant surprise, I like to lament about the things I could be doing it weren’t so unearthly cold outside: dining al fresco on the front porch, meeting for margaritas and chips n’ salsa on the patio of the local Mexican joint, relaxing on the beach with a good book to name a few.  I then feel envious of the people living in Southern California who probably have never owned a coat.

However, lately the weather has been miserable everywhere.  This winter it has already snowed in Florida and Texas, DC has had not one, but TWO Snowpocalypses, New England has been pounded with snow.  There really is no such place with perfect weather.  That being said, there is no point in wishing away all of these less than ideal conditions.

Moral of the story? Don’t wait let the weather rain on your parade! You don’t need to wait for the “perfect” conditions in order to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities! Simply bundle up!

Here are some events you can still enjoy in the Great (Cold) Outdoors:

The Winter Olympics. The rest of the world doesn’t seem to mind standing outside on Cypress Mountain under the cold, dim moon to catch a glimpse of downhill moguls or cross-country skiing. Anything to witness Olympic Glory.

Mardi Gras and Other Winter Parades. After attending St. Louis’s Mardi Gras parade and celebration this past weekend, it dawned on me that I don’t need to wait until June to enjoy the delights of a street festival.  Just add a pair of leggings under your outfit, a couple extra shirts, gloves, scarf, and a hat and you can still catch beads from a parade for hours while clutching a 32 oz. Hurricane.  Added bonus if you can wear winter gear in Mardi Gras colors.

Outdoor Sporting Events. It seems to be a trend that hockey teams are ditching their indoor arenas to play games at local baseball parks or football stadiums.  The Boston Bruins played in the Winter NHL Classic at Fenway Park this past New Year’s Day.  Last year, Wrigley Field hosted the tournament.  I attended a Packers game in early December in Green Bay where the temperature was 20 degrees. I felt under dressed as I had left my snowpants/hunting gear at home.  Of course, despite the cold, Packer fans were  tailgating before and after the game. 

Grill out.   If you’re feeling daring, you can even eat outside on a picnic bench with a couple of beers and enjoy the wonders of your backyard.  However, most people would want to eat their food indoors.  I would argue that a cheeseburger made on the grill tastes better in December than in the heart of summer because it’s such a rare beauty.

However you decide to spend the rest of your winter, remember that inclement weather does not have to ruin your fun!