Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013!!!

It would not be a proper New Year's Eve without paying tribute to Dick Clark. (At least not on this blog!) But on New Year's Eve, Dick Clark never really dies does he? He lives on as a fixture in my memory as part of the celebration.

Dick Clark and New Year's Eve are synonymous. Even major health issues did not keep Dick Clark out of Times Square. He suffered a stroke in 2004, but that did not stop him from participating in the New Year's Eve festivities that bear his name. He struggled in his speech, and although his enthusiasm remained, I found him difficult to watch in the later years. In April 2012 Dick Clark died and some of the sparkle of New Year's Eve died along with him.

Leave it to ABC to keep Dick Clark around for yet another New Year's Eve although post mortem. Tonight ABC will broadcast Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve Celebrates Dick Clark. This two-hour special that will go down the "Dick Clark memory lane" of hosting New Year's Eve live from New York City's Times Square since the 1970s. That's about as long as I can remember. Proving Dick Clark does live on, ABC continues the tradition with Dick Clark's Primetime New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest. (That's a mouthful.)

So set your DVRs if you need your fix of Dick Clark to make your New Year's Eve celebration complete. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The High Line Solitude in NYC

The High Line NYC
The next time you're out and about in New York City and need a break from the crowds, try the High Line. It's actually the most interesting urban park I've experienced in years. New York City's newest green space offers a sort of escape from the maddening crowds of Manhattan. At least that was my experience on a cold December morning when I was happy to leave the mass of humanity far behind me along 6th Avenue at Macys. My fellow travel companions also found the High Line a welcome change.

The High Line is actually an elevated railway that was built in the 1930s for freight trains. However when the trains stopped running in 1980, the line fell into a state of disrepair. After sitting vacant for years, it was set for demolition. Enter Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization, who worked with the City of New York, transforming a dilapidated railroad into an elevated public park. Construction began in 2006 and the first section, running from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened in June 2009. The second section that opened in June 2011 runs from West 20th to West 30th Street.

The blogger enjoying
the High Line
Despite my winter visit, I could tell that this park is impeccably maintained with natural gardens that actually incorporate the old rail tracks into the landscape. The walkway runs about a mile from where we got on at West 30th Street through the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen. There are views of the Empire State Building, the Hudson River, and numerous art galleries and studios. The High Line Art Commission also includes art scattered along the walk. While strolling along, we noticed small figures that were part of the current Lilliput exhibit. This exhibit runs through April 2013 and features minuscule sculptures of actual urban-dwellers developed by six artists from around the world.

The High Line view on a December day
The High Line does have genuine "green space" (i.e., a lawn) at the 23rd Street entrance as well as a small amphitheater and built-in wooden deck chairs for capturing the sun. We encountered very few strollers, but then it was quite cold. I did notice that it was heavily traveled by small, roaming packs of European tourists who were curiously not smoking. I figured that out later—no smoking, dogs, or skateboards allowed on the High Line.

More High Line art
We found the High Line an excellent diversion and well worth the time to seek out. I hope to visit again sometime in the summer to experience the gardens in their full glory.
For more information check out the attached link.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve day has just dawned. All is still and quiet and bitterly cold outside. For the moment all is calm. Most of the presents are wrapped, the cookies are baked, the fridge is completely packed, and the house is ready for the relatives who will be celebrating Christmas with us. Only one child is up and wandering around the house. I have so much to be thankful for this season.

I wish I could personally wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas but since that is impossible my virtual Christmas greeting will have to suffice. My wish for you is a blessed and happy Christmas surrounded by your family and friends. Cherish this Christmas. I wish you peace, love, and plenty of laughter.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Similar Obsession?

As a child I remember visiting my grandparent's house where the main level of the house had a dining room containing numerous china cabinets full of dishes. So many cabinets and dishes that the back end of the house was eventually jacked up and reinforced to support the weight. Downstairs in the basement were glass cases filled with rows of meticulously arranged rifles and guns. Both of my grandparents had hobbies. Perhaps obsessions with dishes and guns.

Nearly a week after the horrible beyond belief scenario of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut gun control debates are heating up. Certain types of guns are flying off the shelves in anticipation of a major crackdown on gun sales in the US. Did you know that over 3 million Americans own an AR-15? This was the gun used against children in that horrific massacre last Friday morning. This gun is heavily marketed toward men and promoted on cable TV shows and in video games. Probably the same video games my boys play on the Xbox.

CBS News had an interesting breakdown of why people own a AR-15.
  • 49% target shooting
  • 22% hunting
  • 28% protection

It's sad to think that we live in a country where people truly believe they need a gun of this calibre for protection.

A dozen Sid Dickens tiles hang on my foyer wall. That's about the extent of any organized collection I own with the exception of the collections of dishes I've inherited from my grandmother's overflowing dining room. My husband has countless golf clubs in the basement. Our tiny obsessions perhaps, but it would be difficult to kill a bunch of innocent children in a few minutes with a Sid Dickens tile or a Wedgwood dinner plate.

I realize the right to bear guns is in the US Constitution, but that was written nearly 300 years ago in a completely different time. I'm not against people owning guns for hunting or even self defense, but do you really need a semi-automatic weapon with clips of bullets? Even scarier if you have more than one of these types of guns around the house.

I know that guns don't kill people; people kill people. People carting semi-automatic rifles end up killing people. Maybe it is time to rethink gun control laws in the US. Perhaps it is time to truly debate why civilians need these types of combat weapons given that these weapons are clearly falling into the wrong hands and killing innocent children.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The TSA and the Chic Mom with the Long Name

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and I don't get on all too well. Every time I travel something pops up. My recent hold up in the security line at New York City's La Guardia airport on Sunday afternoon was a new one even on me.

My first name "Christianna" has 11 letters. Standard boarding passes issued by Delta hold space for only first names with 9 characters. My name is always shortened to "Christian." My name differed from that on my Minnesota drivers license. This was never a problem in all my years of flying until I encountered a TSA agent who was new and not letting anything slip. Christian Shortridge set off all the alarms and the TSA sprang into action.

Now I've had so many different variations of my first name over the years as letters are dropped for whatever reason: Chris, Christi, Christian. My favorite was receiving mail for Christian Book (a misspelling of my maiden name of Boock).

Christian Shortridge and her annoyed teenage daughter were now holding up the security line. The agent would not accept anything else with my full name on it so we had to wait for a supervisor to review my case. The people behind me in line were uneasy and restless because of the hold up. 15 minutes later and 3 separate calls to contact a TSA supervisor finally resulted in a short TSA supervisor waddling over to the podium.

She seriously scrutinized my boarding pass, my government-issued driver's license, and my daughter before finally initialing and handing back our boarding passes. We were free to move on. Before we left, I had to ask her how I could avoid this mess in the future like shorten my name on the ticket so it would fit? Nope couldn't do that—your name is just too long. Sorry!

I'm hoping this was just a TSA fluke and Sunday was Catch Innocent Passengers with Long First Names and Delay Them Day. Watch out if your first name exceeds the allotted 9 characters. It's not your fault, but you may well be delayed anyway.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

One Chic Mom Returns to Work

After two years of searching for a job, this chic mom has upended her own self-proclaimed "Mommy Penalty" and is finally venturing out of the house and happily returning to the office. This is all a very "good thing" as my new employer had the foresight to see past what other employers could not envision: an entrepreneur with talent and drive despite being at home with her kids. If only other employers out there could have that vision and trust to tap into other Moms who have chosen to take time off and are now searching for employment.

So now a shift from shuttling kids around to commuting. The laundry and dirty dishes will remain. The long wanders around Target, the mid-day workouts at the gym, and hours spent volunteering time at the local elementary school are over. It's time to empower my own children to take care of themselves and not rely so much on me. My family can find their way along that winding road without me in the middle guiding them along. The baby days are past, and I'm embracing the next chapter of my life.

That chapter starts on Monday morning. The question on my mind is: How will I ever get myself and three kids (and their lunches, homework, and instruments) out of the door by 8 am? As if that isn't enough of a challenge, Mother Nature must throw in a twist. The first major winter storm of the season is expected to dump up to 8 inches of snow on top of the Twin Cities just in time for the Monday morning commute.

Bring it on! I can handle a few inches of snow after 15 years of caring for three kids. The snow will just make my first day on the job all the more memorable!

In case you are interested, I'll be the new Communications Coordinator for a small Twin Cities non-profit organization that focuses on the humanities. But don't worry, this blog will live on, and I'll continue to post about the adventures of being one chic working Mom in suburbia.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Royal Speculation: Baby Watch

I've often thought being a "royal" would sort of stink solely because of the paparazzi attempting to glimpse into your life and follow your every royal move. Now it seems that Kate and Wills (The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) are pregnant. Rather Kate is pregnant. Will is purely along for the ride.

Remember back in 1982 when Princess Diana was pregnant with William and the press never left the poor woman alone. They hounded her to her early death as we all know. Seems that history is repeating itself with Kate in Diana's role—that of carrying the heir to the British throne. If you haven't heard, Buckingham Palace confirmed today that Kate is pregnant. This announcement was probably a bit premature but necessary given that Kate is now hospitalized with horrible morning sickness and dehydration.

I guess in the press corp this must mean: "Let the speculation begin!" All major networks are carrying the news about Kate's pregnancy and hospitalization continuously. Although FOX News took it to the extreme by inviting a prominent doctor to wonder on national live television that perhaps the Princess could be pregnant with twins or triplets given her extreme morning sickness. That's quite the theory coming from a female doctor!

Perhaps the press should pause for a moment and think rationally. The Duchess of Cambridge is incredibly thin and maybe even more susceptible to morning sickness than other women. From my own experience, the first trimester of pregnancy (and even well into the second) means nothing but horrible morning sickness that lingers all day and into the evening. Just because she's hospitalized with extreme morning sickness doesn't mean she's carrying three royal babies.

Yes it's awesome that the royal couple is pregnant, but give Princess Kate a break. Leave her alone in her morning sickness misery and ease up on the "Kate and royal baby" watch! I must admit it is kind of hard to watch the wonder over an early royal pregnancy while on an alternate channel a story plays about children being killed in Syria's civil war and parents in anguish. It's all about perspective isn't it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

POWER Ball: Investment or Burning Cash

My local gas station changed hands over the summer and became a CENEX. The new chain slowly added some changes like different options for getting your receipt and a video monitor that showed the weather and news headlines. A few weeks ago the video monitor opened and closed with ads for POWER Ball and the Minnesota Lottery with the news sandwiched in between. A new category was added to the "PAY" options buttons—Buy Lottery Ticket. Odd, I thought.

Last Sunday morning it all clicked. While filling up, a young man in his early 20s sauntered out of the convenience store part of the gas station. He was wearing a brand new Minnesota Lottery jacket complete with loons embroidered on the back panels. Guess what he was trying to sell me? A lottery ticket of course! CENEX must have a contract with Minnesota Lottery. He was putting on the hard sell. Now he was young so I was nice. I explained to him that I've never once in my life bought a lottery ticket, and I had no intention of starting now. Goodbye!

A lot of people must LOVE the lottery and the POWER Ball. They really get caught up in the fantasy of winning all of that money because "someone has to win so why not me!" That's great for them. I see buying lottery and POWER Ball tickets as throwing money down the toilet and flushing away. POWER Ball tickets are $2 each, and the pot is now up to $500 million.

Yes someone does have to win, but I won't win. I've only won two prizes in my life: a Civil War print that hangs nowhere in my house and a deck of cards for having the worst BINGO card on a 4-hour cruise across Lake Michigan aboard the USS Badger. Not a great track record.

If you love POWER Ball, get on out there and buy your tickets as the drawing is tonight. As for the local CENEX station and the Minnesota Lottery pushers, do you really have to do that? Maybe I need a bumper sticker that reads: "No Solicitors" so I can pump my gas in peace!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The X-Box Is Evil

The X-Box that resides in the basement is evil. This piece of hardware creates a noticeable rift and increases brotherly violence, name-calling, and general horrendous behavior exhibited on the part of my boys. I often wonder what life would be like if we did not have an X-Box.

Some may argue that the games played on the X-Box are evil. I would agree with that, but aggressive tendencies erupt even while playing the sport X-Box games. I resort to confiscating the controllers, but sometimes even that is not enough. The controllers hiding spots are uncovered so I have to take extreme measures. I've sent the X-Box to the airport for two weeks, hidden away in the trunk of our car. I've packed it up and physically taken the X-Box and controllers over to a neighbor's house for safe keeping. Friends have told me they've driven around all day with X-Box controllers tucked away in the car. Now I've had to resort to the utmost tactic—Welcome to 1974.

There was no X-Box in 1974. No cable or satellite TV. No DVRs. No laptops or home computers of any kind. No I-Pods or cell phones. In 1974 we made our own fun, read books, played outside, and hung out with our siblings. 

We're on day two of Welcome to 1974. The X-Box is out in full view along with the controllers. Most other post-1974 electronic devices have been confiscated or are off limits. This game is not very popular and I'm sure the boys will be desperate for the return of the evil X-Box and all of the devices. 

Did you know this came out in 1974?
A day of living in 1974 has resulted in getting the basement cleaned out; old appliances and junk hauled out of the garage and disposed of; closets cleaned out; the old globe pulled out; basketball being played on the driveway; and books taken off of the shelves. I'm not sure if the era of 1974 will even last until Monday but at the very least it gives the boys a taste of what life was like not too many decades ago. We get to spend some quality time together without X-Box induced fights and family yelling sessions. Welcome to 1974 has brought a few days of peace. I somehow survived 1974 and so will my boys.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bond. James Bond

50 years of James Bond films climaxed over the weekend with the release of the latest (and possibly greatest) James Bond flick, Skyfall. If you haven't yet seen Skyfall, what are you waiting for?

50 years of Bond, but only six actors grace this exclusive James Bond club. And I'm talking about "official, authentic" Bond films, no spoofs or TV shows. If you're a Bond addict like me and have seen all of the Bond films far too many times over the years (or even if you're only the occasional junkie), you must have a favorite James. Here's the list in case you've forgotten.
  • Sean Connery: The original Bond starring in seven 007 movies. Connery was the only returning Bond who came back to star in Never Say Never Again at age 53.
  • George Lazenby: A one-hit wonder with Her Majesties Secret Service.
  • Roger Moore: The overtly smooth 70s James who starred in seven Bond films including A View to a Kill with Grace Slick. 
  • Timothy Dalton: The late 80s star featured in only two   Bond films.
  • Pierce Brosnan: The late 1990s Bond who starred in four 007 flicks.
  • Daniel Craig: The current, unflappable Bond who plays James in his third box-office smash, Skyfall.

I'm partial to Sean Connery, but only because I've actually met him in a very American Bond-girl manner. A 20-something blond, the Bahamas, bathing suit, beach . . . a scene right out of a 007 movie except I wasn't a spy. Who is your favorite James?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I'm not posting about the energetic Paul Ryan pep rally I attended Sunday in a hanger at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. I'm not posting about all of the latest poll numbers that seemingly gravitate toward one party or the other by the hour. I'm not speculating on who will win the White House, if the Dems will retain control of the Senate, and if Republicans can hold the House.

I'm not taking a side on the gay marriage amendment or even the outcome of local school board races. I'll watch the election returns tonight with excitement and hope that the Presidential race will be determined by the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

I'm not turning the volume on the television this morning while I make lunches for the kids. I'm not listening to any more political ads. I'm not undecided on any candidate or ballot issue this election. I'm a decided voter and what I am doing is voting today—Election Day.

Get out and vote. Your vote does make a difference, and turnout is critical in this election. Your future does depend on it. Be thankful that you do have the right to vote for change or maintain the status quo if you desire. Just get to your polling place and VOTE!

To find your polling place:

Friday, November 2, 2012

NYC Marathon Still On

The man-made disaster of the 9-11 terrorists attacks did not stop the running of the 2001 New York City Marathon. Neither will the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy stand in the way of the 2012 NYC Marathon.

As the five boroughs of New York City, New Jersey, and other Mid-Atlantic states recover from the worst hurricane to hit in years, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated on Wednesday that the NYC Marathon will still be run on Sunday, November 4th. This decision was immediately labeled as inappropriate given the wreckage, loss of life, lack of electricity, and scaled-back public transportation left in Sandy's wake.

The marathon is set to start on hard-hit Staten Island where recovery efforts are still underway to locate missing loved ones. The Staten Island Borough President Jim Molinaro urged Bloomberg to cancel the race and not shift supplies or manpower from Staten Island over to the NYC Marathon. Molinaro said that having the race in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is "crazy, asinine." If you look at the images coming out of Staten Island, Molinaro has a point. Plus there's the problem of transporting thousands of runners to the Staten Island start. The Staten Island Ferry is closed and the NYC subway system isn't fully up and running. Guess that leaves buses to transport the runners. Lots of buses.

I'm a runner, not a marathon runner. But I don't know if I'd feel right running in a race in the middle of a natural disaster. I've also lived through a few of Mother Nature's storms on the East Coast and know how difficult it can be to get a city up and running after a natural disaster. Nor'easters and blizzards are in a completely different category than the likes of Hurricane Sandy. It would be unfortunate if resources, volunteers, police, and power generators were taken away from recovery and clean-up efforts solely for the NYC Marathon.

The NYC marathon has been run every year since 1970 so race cancellation would historically loom large on Bloomberg. The main race sponsor ING is raising millions in disaster relief and is dedicated to helping communities hit by Hurricane Sandy. That's great and all, but is it really enough if you've lost your home, haven't had heat for a week, and your dog has gone missing in the aftermath of the storm? Is the running of the NYC Marathon really inappropriate given the destruction in and around NYC? Personally don't think I would run it and would instead spend the time volunteering to help in clean up efforts.

But New Yorkers are traditionally a resilient bunch who will overcome any disaster thrown at them. Some New Yorkers embrace the running of the NYC Marathon as something positive in the midst of disaster. Regardless the race goes on and so will the controversy surrounding it.

NYC Marathon cancelled by Bloomberg on Nov. 2.  A logical move given the circumstances. The marathon has not yet been rescheduled.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Our very popular vomiting pumpkin
Where are all of my trick or treaters tonight? It's a bit slow for a Halloween eve. So slow that I'm blogging. That's a first for my cul de sac. Usually we are completely overrun by kids and all of the candy is long gone. Not this Halloween. That just means more Snicker bars for me!

The homeless hobo
Our house is down to only one trick or treater bringing home a haul of candy tonight. Jack wanted to dress up as Mitt Romney for Halloween this year. Actually more like a walking promotion for Mit Romney. His plan was to wear yard signs and Romney buttons. Sort of nixed that idea.

Halloween angel
Instead Jack has chosen a much more politically incorrect costume. A hobo. We had to change Jack's costume "label" from homeless person to hobo. Although he didn't know a thing about hobos, so this required a lesson. After learning all about hobos, Jack replied that hobos sounded just like homeless people. (Sigh and throwing up my hands.) So Jack went as a politically incorrect homeless hobo.

Trademark infringement
Hope you are all having a Happy Halloween! I'm back to eating out of the candy bowl . . .

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh Baby! What a Name!

I'm not one to follow Hollywood celebrity—DC celebrity perhaps, but usually not California. Do you remember hearing that 42-year old Uma Thurman and her beau Arpad Busson had a baby girl back in July? I always marvel that women over age 40 have enough energy for a new baby, but that's not what struck me about Uma's baby daughter. It's her name. Ready for this? Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson. According to People Magazine, Uma and Arki are calling her Luna and each of her names hold special meaning for her parents.

Luna has quite a name to fill. Not only seven names but also a hyphen thrown in there. It makes sense that it took Uma over three months to officially name her child. Uma and her boyfriend must have been thinking up those names ever since Luna's first sonogram.

I'm the bearer of a long and somewhat unpronouncable name (but nowhere near baby Luna's).  Last year I tried to actually use my real name of Christianna instead of the nickname Christi. This experiment didn't go over so well. I never knew there were so many ways to pronounce Christianna. Then my mother actually informed me that I was pronouncing my name incorrectly. That's really bad! It's actually the "Dutch" pronunciation of Christianna. Although I love my given name, no one except my mother and my friend Drew can correctly pronounce my name. I gave up and went back to Christi.

As for baby Luna Thurman-Busson . . . seriously, why does someone do that to a child? I thought that the drawn-out, flowing aristocratic sounding names were reserved solely for royalty. All of the lengthy formal names that must pay tribute to long dead, royal relations. Some say that Hollywood is America's royalty, but must self-proclaimed Hollywood royals really follow suit with the endless names? A bit pretentious perhaps.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lunch With the Speaker

Are you noticing a trend here? Politics and meals. They seem to go hand-in-hand, but I'm intentionally avoiding the price tag involved with these political meals. More fine dining politico fodder for you. It's the political season so I'm just riding with it for the next 14 days until November 6th when it will all be hopefully settled. Yes I say hopefully as I don't believe anyone wants a repeat of Bush vs. Gore in 2000.

Anyway onto the lunch with the Speaker . . . this one was a last minute invite, but I was game. As the wife of a man heavily involved in politics I get invited along to plenty of events. I'm not exactly the arm candy or trophy-wife sort although you do see your share of those women at political events. I tend to tag along for interesting speakers or people I know. John Boehner—the Speaker of the House—fell into both categories.

Mr. Boehner is currently Speaker of the House and has served 11 terms in Congress; he is second in line for the Presidency, following the Vice President. (I had forgotten about the whole Presidential succession thing and didn't realize the Speaker ranked so high up there.) The perpetually tanned Speaker Boehner is know for his dry and pointed sense of humor, his compassion that leads him to break down into tears on the House floor or while giving an interview on 60 Minutes, and the lively and entertaining parties he throws at the Republican National Convention (RNC) every four years. I had last seen the Speaker at a boisterous RNC party in Minneapolis a few years back.

Saturday's luncheon wasn't quite as energetic as the RNC party scene. Although John Boehner is the Speaker of the House, I still think of him as the Conference Chair when I worked in the US House. Therefore, I wasn't the least flustered when Speaker Boehner sat down next to me for the lunch and started chatting about his next stop in Bismark, ND. We had a chance to talk about the Freshman class of 1994 that ushered in a wave of change led by Boehner, Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, and Newt Gingrich. Interestingly Boehner is the only one left serving in Congress.

He is currently on a coast-to-coast campaign tour, talking mostly about US House races and how he hopes the voters will return him back to his Speaker's chair. Most importantly his speech hit on the economy. The economy is the problem and needs fixing. Not a quick fix, but a real solution. He gets it. Hopefully the President and Mitt Romney will also get that the economy is the top issue. And not just for white men over age 40. It's the top issue for everyone . . . women of all ages included! The Speaker did not run away from this issue and devoted a good chunk of his speech to the economy.

I realize that people like John Boehner choose public service, but I cannot help but feel a bit sorry for him as he waved goodbye to the crowd. He only drank half a Diet Coke and ate half of his lunch, leaving his Creme Brulee untouched on the table. Bound for Bismark. I can't help but wonder if he'd rather be out on the golf course.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dinner With the Candidate

What do you do when an old friend becomes the Vice President candidate? Simple. You show up at his Minneapolis fundraiser and surprise him in the photo line with a familiar face from the past. Him being Paul Ryan who currently shares the top billing of the Republican ticket with Mitt Romney.

But first you and your husband have to show up early enough at the event to avoid any pesky protesters who may be blocking the door, including people making a statement by dressing up in Big Bird costumes. If you were the VP candidate would your campaign positions really be swayed by a couple of people in Big Bird costumes? Worth rewriting your budget plan over an angry Big Bird?

One you get past the protesters and make your way down a dingy, dimly lit corridor realization hits. This event is being held in a night club! The second floor gathering room with a distinctly industrial look is really a dance floor with a bar on one end and the photo station sectioned off with velvet curtains. But it works!

You get something to drink and survey the room. An hour slips by as the room fills up with Ryan fans in all degrees of attire ranging from tuxes and ballgowns to casual business attire. It remains foggy and drizzly outside, delaying the candidate's flight. That doesn't stop the crowd from queuing up in the photo line. Not just anybody can get into this line much less even into the building or this room. Minimum levels of support are a requirement for entry.

Flashbulbs start popping and the crowd gets a bit excited. Paul Ryan is has entered the room and is now behind the velvet curtain.

After attending many political photo op events over the years, the VIP traditional pose (wide-eyed and toothy smiles) seems a bit boring. I'm scheming. I propose doing something completely different. Unconventional even. How about bunny ears, flashing the peace sign, or jumping gleefully into the air? Something fun and memorable. My husband quickly dismisses my ideas as a great way to end up injured or arrested. He wisely points out that Paul Ryan is surrounded by Secret Service agents. "They won't react well to your scheme," he warns.

Point taken. There are a whole lot of Secret Service agents visible in the room and who knows how many are undercover or hidden with their distinctive wires tucked into their ears. I don't feel like getting hauled away for questioning or causing a scene.

We're next in line. I've given up on my photo op plan until the candidate—Paul Ryan himself—decides to throw the Secret Service agents a curve ball. He spots me and my husband, bursts into a genuine smile, and wraps me into a huge friendly hug! The Secret Service agents look astonished and quickly glance around at each other. In a split second they realize, wait Paul Ryan initiated it. The blond woman in the brown dress and suede Missoni heels isn't a threat. She's friendly. He's safe.

By now Paul Ryan is pumping my husband's hand and sharing a story about how he knew him back when he had hair on his now balding head. The Secret Service deems my husband "safe" as well.

We quickly snap the "official" picture, say our goodbyes, and promise to catch up soon. Given the frantic pace of the campaign trail and his entourage of agents, catching up may be difficult for awhile. I think that the Secret Service agents are happy for us to exit the room and move on to the next part of the event. The evening did actually conclude with a dinner with Paul Ryan.

Another day in the life a suburban Mom who sometimes gets the opportunity to escape her chic reality.

In case you're interested, I've listed the links to my other posts about Paul Ryan.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What To Do With the Doggie Doo?

A special trash can with a fresh supply of plastic doggie doo baggies has popped up at the entrance to the bike path in my neighborhood. I'm a bit confused that the city decided to spend money on this cleaning up "pet waste" project. Forgive me if I'm being short-sighted, but doesn't that just defeat the whole purpose of walking your dog outside?

The trail where this new receptacle is located leads into a wooded area along a pond that opens up to a grassy field, wetlands, the nearby lake, and a forest. If you have a dog and walk your dog along this trail, you're probably out walking and not thinking of picking up the dog poo when he goes in the weeds or the field. At least I'm not. I walk my dog every day not only to exercise him but also so that I don't have to pick up dog crap from my yard.

Yes I am one of "those" people who lets her dog do his business out in the wild when we are walking on the trails surrounding my neighborhood. If I walk the dog in the neighborhood and he decides to leave a pile of waste on someone's yard, I will clean it up with a plastic bag. That's the neighborly thing to do, right?

It seems rather silly to pick up after the dog when he poops in the weeds at the base of a pine tree 5 feet off of the trail. I'm not alone on this one. There is plenty of crap alongside the trail. Note, I said alongside. Dog owners are very careful to keep the pet waste well to the side of the trail. The problem lies with those other animals that roam around unleashed on the trails. That's what you have to watch out for—all of the wild animal scat and goose poop on the trails. If only the critters would be aware of where exactly they leave their mess. (Please realize I'm only kidding on this!)

Perhaps I'm clueless or just falling back on my central Wisconsin upbringing, but if the dog poops in the woods you don't have to locate it, pick it up, and carry it back home with you to toss out. Doesn't it all count as natural fertilizer? Maybe the city could spend the money on something other than doggie doo bags and trash cans in the woods.

Monday, October 8, 2012

29 Days and Counting

In case you haven't noticed, we're less than a month away from the elections. But how could you possibly not notice? The politicians are bombarding us, but some days I wonder if they actually understand what the voters are looking for.

I believe that I lie in the category that most candidates are targeting. I live in a wild card state as you never know what Minnesota voters will do next. I'm a middle-class woman, specifically a Mom with kids. I fit the demographic.

Maybe I'm mistaken in this analysis as it seems that neither party is really targeting me this election cycle. Mitt Romney is spending a small fortune targeting my husband, and it's no secret that Romney already has his vote. I've not seen any mail personally addressed to Christianna from Mitt or Barack.

Then there are all of the political ads that have gone completely negative really early on. Some candidates completely skipping over any niceties and going right for the jugular. Both sides are doing a fine job of pointing out their opposition's faults and flaws.

I don't really care much about all of that. Most voters are probably already tired of the constant, repetitive, mean-spirited ads. At least if they have to be negative be clever about it. I'm not seeing any wit or any of the issues that we suburban, Midwestern and chic Moms care about.

I care about the economy. I want to know why the price of a gallon of gas rose from $3.61 to $3.89 in the space of an hour when I was at the gym today. I want to know why my kids have to eat poor quality school lunches and pay more for the privilege. I want to know why other Mom's like me cannot find a job even though we have tons of experiences and talent. I want to know why my grocery bills are sky high!

To borrow a line from Bill Clinton and James Carville—"It's the economy stupid!" Twenty years later, we are back to the economy and wishing that the candidates would actually address the most important issues in this election. Even if that means ending PBS subsidies. At least Saturday Night Live and Big Bird were able to inject some humor into the Presidential race.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

School Lunch Meddling—Why Washington Just Doesn't Get It

Anybody out there still hearing complaints about the changes to the National School Lunch program at your school? Now that we're into our second month of packing daily lunches, realization sets in. This is the new norm. In addition to getting the kids out of bed, fed, dressed, homework finished up, out the door, and onto the bus we must now pack up a healthy lunch for each kid.

This is fine because it actually puts the parents back in control of what their kids eat for lunch. Here is where the problem lies and what Washington just doesn't understand. Childhood obesity is not related to the school lunchroom. The calories and portions included in the school lunch program are not the problem. The problem lies with the parents or whoever is caring for the kids at home. Yes the eating behaviors and choices we make are modeled by our children.

We've all seen it. Chubby kids waddling out of the convenience store loaded up with chips, a king-sized Kit Kat bar, and a super-sized Coke. They see nothing wrong with eating all of this junk all of the time because their parents are walking out in front of them with a box of donuts, a 20-ounce Diet Coke, and a large bag of M&Ms. Classic. Another example is fast food at McDonalds with their Super Sized fries and sodas for a paltry price. Need I say more. It's cheap, it tastes good, and it packs on the pounds.

One of my favorite Midwestern restaurant examples is The Red Robin. No portions are small at this establishment. Everything is huge and it's unimaginable how people can consume an entire meal at The Red Robin and walk out without going into cardiac arrest.

My point is our kids follow our example. If we consistently make healthy choices at home, our kids will most likely follow suit. If a family eats out or consumes too much fast food each week, it shows. I realize that people are busy. We all don't have the luxury of cooking each meal from scratch, but it really doesn't take much effort to throw a healthy dinner together or to cut back on the trips to the Dairy Queen.

But Washington will go on regulating the calories and portions of our kid's school lunches. Some cities will ban Super Size drinks and fast food restaurants. Bans and regulations really don't address the obesity problem facing America. It's time to sign the kids up for soccer. Turn off the TV and go outside for a bike ride. Take the dog for a walk. Join a health club and actually work out at the health club. Don't just brag about joining. Until parents start making healthy choices at home, the childhood obesity problem will remain.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Go Bo! A Fighter Until the End

The world lost an amazing kid in the early morning hours on September 28, 2012. Bo Johnson faced cancer full on, but eventually lost his battle against Extramedullary Acute Myeloid Leukemia (EM ALM) at 3:30 am on Thursday. He was only 13.

It's difficult to remain upbeat and positive at a time like this. My son asked me the unanswerable question, "Mom why do great kids like Bo have to die and all of these bad people continue to live?" I don't know. I just don't know. I cannot even offer an answer. Only that this courageous boy who fought so very hard is now finally at peace and not in pain. He made an impact in the short time he was here.

Bo's message of helping others, YOLO, and Pay It Forward will live on through The Go Bo! Foundation. Bo requested that the funds go toward finding a cure for childhood cancers and helping others. Hope is still alive through Bo's foundation that a cure will be found for EM ALM leukemia and no one will have to suffer like Bo. Go Bo!

To donate to the Go Bo! Foundation:

The Pay Forward Forever Wish
Associated Bank of Sister Bay, WI
PO Box 507
Sister Bay, WI  54234

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Go Bo! The Final Fight

Bo's story continues . . . I left off with Bo deciding to go through with the Total Body Irradiation (TBI) which game him his last shot at life. However Bo's Extramedullary Acute Myeloid Leukemia (EM ALM) leukemia has no medical research or clinical trials to rely on for information. Nothing to back up if this will work or not. The TBI was a shot in the dark. Bo went ahead with the TBI in late June and into July. Despite allergic reaction, fevers, suffering a Grand Maul seizure, and taking so many different kinds of meds, Bo new cells from his cord blood transplant started to grow at a rapid rate. Even exceeding all expectations, giving Bo and Annika a shimmer of hope.

By early August Bo was regaining his strength, eating everything he could, exercising, and on the right road to recovery. He was able to move out of the hospital and into the nearby Ronald McDonald house. His blood work and tests were all good until on August 11 he spiked a fever and ended up back in the HOT until of the Children's Hospital with sepsis (an infection of the blood).

Unfortunately things got progressively worse for Bo even though his tests were showing no signs of EM leukemia. On August 15—day 44 of his cell transplant—his doctors found a mass on his CT scan that looked like an infected tooth. It wasn't a bad tooth. The EM ALT was confirmed in his right jaw on August 26. Overnight Bo had too many painful EM spots popping up all over his body that he could not fight it off any longer, eventually becoming impossible to eliminate the aggressive EM ALM. The EM ALT had taken over and there was nothing more that could be medically done to help Bo.

As a mother, I cannot even imagine how Annika felt hearing there was no more hope for Bo. Somehow through all of this Bo remained strong and came to terms with his destiny. He told his mother when he was completing one of his final rounds of radiation the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow came on the radio. It's one of his Papa's (Bo's grandfather the late Al Johnson) favorite songs. As Annika shared on Bo's CaringBridge site, "it puts him at peace. He now knows where he is going and that he is going to be okay."

In early September Bo came back home for the last time, setting up his hospital bed in the living room of his grandmother's house that overlooks the sparkling waters of Green Bay. Visitor hours were set and Bo was flooded with friends and family. Through the Make a Wish Foundation, Bo was able to spend two days at Lambeau Field with his favorite team—the Green Bay Packers—living out the dream of meeting the players, visiting a practice session, and watching the home opener from a sky box.

When he was feeling up to it, Bo in his wheelchair went to the high school football game, out onto the dock to watch his friends jump into the bay, and over to the performing arts center to give an inspirational speech to his friends and the community.

In his last days Bo wants to teach us not about death, but about life. He wants to Pay It Forward and help others. In Bo's words:

Love each other. Help each other, have your neighbor's back, have your friend's back. If you see someone who needs help, even if they are a stranger, Help. This world can be a better place if we care, love, and help each other. I know that we cannot fix the entire world, but if we can start right here in our school, and in our own community, it would mean so much.

Bo has established the Go Bo! Foundation to help others in need and to help find a cure for cancer. If you are touched by Bo's story, his inner strength, and desire for a better world, visit the Go Bo! Foundation link on Facebook.

As I write this post tonight, I am sad to learn that Bo Johnson has just been moved into hospice at the local hospital. He does not have much time left in this world. If you believe in prayer, please pray for Bo and his family tonight. If you believe in positive energy, please send Bo and Annika an abundance of positivity. Go Bo!

September 28, 2012 (10 am): The Go Bo! Foundation posted on Facebook that Bo's pain ended when he passed away early this morning. Annika's pain continues though without Bo. In honor of Bo, do something kind today. Buy a coffee for a stranger, help someone in need. Pay it Forward.

To donate to the Go Bo! Foundation:

The Pay Forward Forever Wish
Associated Bank of Sister Bay, WI
PO Box 507
Sister Bay, WI 54234

Here are additional links to Bo's story:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Go Bo! The Bravest Boy I Know

The boy with the addictive grin in the photo is Bo who is the son of my friend Annika. Together they have spent the last year battling a very rare and extremely aggressive form of Extramedullary Acute Myeloid Leukemia (EM ALM). This is just a fraction of his inspirational story. It's not an easy story to write or an easy story for you to read, but I must share Bo's story.

My kids and I first met Bo five summers ago at one of his favorite haunts in Door County, Wisconsin. On a hot and sunny summer day on the shores of Green Bay at the Ephraim beach, hanging out with friends and his Mom, Annika. Bo was just like any other 8-year old boy, enjoying a July day at the beach. So much has changed for Bo and Annika since that sunny day. Now at the young age of 13, Bo has spent months in the hospital and fought unimaginably hard against a rare and incurable form of cancer. Bo has recently returned home to Door County to live out the final days of his life.

I'm not going to recite the extreme pain and agony Bo endured throughout his medical treatments. I'll not share the unfathomable emotional roller-coaster ride of going in and out of remission or divulge the detailed account of his months in the hospital. Annika has lived all of that and shared it diligently with everyone on Bo's CaringBridge site as well as on Facebook and now through the new Go Bo! Foundation.

It all started on Labor Day weekend 2011 with a jet skiing accident when Bo broke his pelvis, and he wouldn't heal properly. Early in October 2011, rounds of tests finally revealed that Bo had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (ALM). This triggered the first of numerous rounds of chemotherapy, too much time spent at the Milwaukee Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and the inevitable side effects of the rounds of chemo.

But Bo is strong. His fight is strong and his spirit remains positive. In February 2012, Bo's tests came back clean. No cancer was found in Bo's bone marrow. He went home to Sister Bay, Wisconsin and into the loving and supportive community that had painted Door County orange and plastered the county in orange ribbons. (Orange ribbons are the symbol for supporting the fight against leukemia.)

In April, Bo and Annika took a much needed vacation to Florida where they visited Disney World, went fishing, relaxed as much as they could, and lived in remission. Bo was then able to take a 4-day trip to Washington, DC with other 7th and 8th graders. He was fine until on the third day of the trip, Bo discovered a lump on his elbow. Annika's stomach dropped when she heard. On May 6, 2012 Annika updated Bo's CaringBridge site from the "HOT unit chair that I thought I was never going to use again." Bo's ALM returned on his 13th birthday.

After more chemo and setbacks, on June 21 Annika found no comfort in the words uttered by Bo's doctor: "We have never seen this before." It was her worst nightmare confirmed. Bo's leukemia was not in the bone marrow but growing on the actual bone itself. The diagnosis was Extramedullary Acute Myeloid Leukemia (EM ALM)—a cancer that will not respond to chemo.

Survival chances from this extremely rare and aggressive cancer are slim. Even surviving the treatments is difficult. Bo was given three choices and one evening to talk this over with Annika and make a decision.
  1. Palietive Care. Go home and let the leukemia run its course while making him as comfortable as possible.
  2. Do a double cord blood transplant and hope the ALM doesn't return.
  3. Total Body Radiation (TBI) with Chemo. Hope TBI attacks and kills the bone leukemia that the chemo doesn't kill.
This unbelievably calm and brave boy, who should be choosing which friends to hang out with or which bat to use at his baseball game, had to make a life choice. Bo knew the odds were not in his favor, and he knew the TBI would be very painful. But Bo is a fighter. He doesn't give up easily, even to cancer. Most importantly Bo loves his mother, his family, and his friends. He loves life so very much that in the end he chose the small and extremely painful shot at life. One last brave try, and Bo chose life.

Bo's story continues in my upcoming post. Watch for it in a few days. Until then Go Bo! To learn more about Bo, Annika and the Go Bo! Foundation please visit:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

'Tis Not Quite the Season

While hunting down a grill cover to replace my current ratty cover, what to my wondering eyes did appear at Target this afternoon? Yes, a miniature sleigh with eight tiny and garishly illuminated  reindeer! Squashed alongside all of the Halloween costumes and decorations, the Christmas lights are up and ready for the holiday shoppers. It's official; the Christmas season has begun.
Get your credit cards ready!

I think that the stores push the Christmas season on us a little bit earlier every year. From what I can tell, Target gets the award for the earliest Christmas marketing. I wish they would at least let us get to the end of September or even a bit closer to Halloween. I just got the kids somewhat settled into their school routine. Halloween is looming, and I cannot even fathom Christmas.

Isn't it only September 20th after all? Does Target think people really want to think about buying Christmas lights even before the leaves have changed color? I guess they think shoppers cannot wait for the start of the holidays and must start shopping for those tacky Christmas lights while it's still summer. A pink flamingo wearing a Santa hat all lit up counts as tacky in my book. But Target probably has plenty of those tacky Christmas flamingos if you cannot live without it adorning your front yard this season. No need to rush though I'm sure they still have a few left on the shelves.

I love Christmas as much as the next chic Mom out there but this is WAY too early for promoting all of the Christmas decorations. Wouldn't it be nice if Target and other retailers would show a little restraint and hold off on the Christmas stuff until after Halloween like the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Going Organic in the Produce Aisle?

Lowest in pesticides:  Onions
To eat organic or not to eat organic? That is the question on the mind of anyone who shops the markets for fresh produce. For years now I've been going back and forth with the whole "organic" movement. Pesticide-free produce probably is a good choice, but this stuff is expensive! Organic produce is usually in short supply with very limited choices, a higher price tag, and small quantities that tend to sell out quickly. Organic must be catching on because someone is buying it all up.

Apples top the list in
highest levels of pesticides
Now that I'm packing lunches for my kids every day, I would like them to eat apples that aren't teeming with pesticides. When I learned that 98% of conventional (not organic) apples had detectable levels of pesticides, I decided to purchase organic apples if I had the choice.

I will pay more at the grocery store to purchase foods not laced with toxins. I'm a far cry from a raving environmentalist, but the word TOXIN sounds like death! Obviously I do want to limit toxins in the food my family consumes, but how do I know what produce is worth paying extra for the Organic label?

Enter The Environmental Working Group. The EWG seems to be "the source" for determining which foods you should buy organic and what fruits and veggies are safe in their conventional form. The EWG's 2012 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce lists its Dirty Dozen Plus (fruits and veggies you should buy organic because they have the highest levels of pesticides) and The Clean 15 (produce lowest in pesticides). The EWG website even offers a handy reminder of these foods that you can print off and take along to the grocery store. For complete details visit the website.

Dirty Dozen Plus (highest in pesticides)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Blueberries (domestic)
  12. Potatoes
Plus:  Green beans and Kale

Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)
  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Sweet potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms

I don't know how much kale or imported nectarines your family consumes, but the EWG does lay it out for you. This is all compiled from annual EPA measurements of pesticides on produce. The jury is still out on exactly how high these pesticide levels must be to pose a risk to human health.

But fruits and vegetables only scratch the surface of organic products. There are organic yard pesticides, water bottles, beef, household cleaners, and even mattresses. An organic mattress might be worth exploring! The choice is yours.