Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, which is celebrated in Great Britain and in some countries colonized by the English. This day historically reaches back to the Middle Ages when servants and serfs who had to work on Christmas Day were given the day off and presented with a box of gifts or food. To those of you who actually celebrate Boxing Day as a holiday, feel free to chime in on what Boxing Day means in your country.

My American Boxing Day involves boxes, gifts, and food as well. What does look Boxing Day look like in my house this December 26 as the clock approaches noon? Popovers fresh from the oven on the kitchen counter. Three inches of fresh snow that covers up the brown grass and mud, making it look like the day after Christmas. One lazy dog perched on top of the couch looking at the snowy backyard. One child still asleep, one curled up on the couch happily reading about Zelda Fitzgerald, and the third out spending his Christmas loot. Pine needles that have dropped from the Christmas tree are scattered on the floor. The refrigerator is full of excess leftovers and pie. Piles of boxes have grown and are taking over the living room.

Although Boxing Day isn't celebrated here in the U.S. I feel like Boxing Day is a day of clean up, packing away cookies in tins, and breaking down those gift boxes from the Christmas Eve celebration. Driveways are lined with overflowing trash bins and boxes awaiting recycling; those trash collectors have their work waiting for them today.

This domestic goddess has her work strewn about the house ready for clean up and packing away in boxes. Whether you are shoveling out, waiting in a return line at Target, or collapsing boxes, I wish you a happy and productive Boxing Day!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ballet Moms Unite Around the Nutcracker

All of you Ballet Moms out there know what season it is...Nutcracker season! Whether your son or daughter still dances or if they have gone into retirement and graciously hung up their pointe shoes, you are still a Ballet Mom. 

You hear the Overture to the Nutcracker Suite, the Russian Dance, or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and you are immediately drawn into the Nutcracker. You cannot help it. You are a seasoned Ballet Mom who has lived through a Nutcracker or five.

I lived and breathed the Nutcracker for seven years while my daughter Anna was dancing with a ballet company in St. Paul. She worked her way up the ranks from Cheese Mouse to Rat to Chinese dancer to a Friend of Clara. Despite many tears about not making it to a Reed Flute, we are both happy she retired.

Anna and I, along with all of the other Ballet Moms, will never again watch or listen to a Nutcracker as a normal guest in the audience. Why? Because we know what goes on backstage. As the music of the Nutcracker Suite begins, we know what is happening behind the scenes. 

Auditions and rehearsals start in September, costumes are pulled out for repair in October, lessons and tips on hair and makeup abound, and costume fitting is over Thanksgiving weekend followed by more costume repairs. Rehearsal time at the studio ramps up until you feel like you should just move in or buy a condo in downtown St. Paul. Finally everything moves to the big stage at the Nutcracker venue.

More rehearsals the entire week leading up to the show, the costume shop in the basement under the stage is buzzing and a place of frenzy and terror as dancers and instructors search for costumes and props, dancers and their stuff are everywhere, angel wings, candle batteries, rat masks, Chinese umbrellas, Madame Ginger, Clara in her nightgown, toy soldiers with their red dot cheeks, getting everyone on and off stage for grand bows. Seven big shows and usually at least one major snowstorm thrown in for fun and all right before Christmas. The dancers love it; the Ballet Moms are in survival mode.

I cannot say that I look back on the Nutcracker season with fond memories. Nostalgic perhaps. Those lasting bonds of Ballet Moms working backstage and making the shows happen will never be forgotten. Looking back on seven incredible years backstage at the Nutcracker with all of the Ballet Moms I do have to wonder how we pulled it off for all of those shows. Here's to all of the Ballet Moms out there...break a leg and have a glass of wine afterward!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

5 Things to Do on Black Friday That Do Not Involve Shopping

 Black Friday seems to start earlier every year. 6 pm on Thanksgiving is the magic hour this year when the local Target, Kohls, and the Mall of American open their doors. Remember when Thanksgiving was for gathering around the dining room table with your family or friends and Black Friday actually fell on Friday? This post is written in spirit of Black Friday actually hitting on Friday.

Don't feel like facing the Black Friday crowds tomorrow? There's plenty of things to see and do that do not involve standing in line at Toys R Us at 5 am or driving around just trying to snag a parking space at the mall.
  1. Go outside. REI is closing their doors on Black Friday and urging REI shoppers to pursue an activity in the great outdoors. If you live in Minnesota you can get into any state park for free on Friday. Outdoor ice skating rinks are open in my part of the world. Or take a jog around the neighborhood to burn off some of the indulgence of your Thanksgiving feast.
  2. Paint. You know you want to do it. Something in your home could probably use a touch-up or a fresh coat. Paint a room, paint a mural on your wall, find a place to paint pottery, or even a paint by number. Remember those? Indulge your inner artist or just brighten up your powder room.
  3. Take in a movie. This option may involve crowds and even standing in a bit of a line. But at the end of your wait, you get to sit down with your popcorn and Blue Icee  and enjoy the show. Here's a  listing of a few movies opening on Thanksgiving Day or earlier in November that you and yours may want to catch: movie insider.
  4. Hit the gym. Black Friday is an excellent gym day after all of the consumption on Thanksgiving. Take a class, reserve a tennis court, or hop on an elliptical. Your body will thank you!
  5. Spend time with your family, unplugged. That means without screens. Pull out a board game, a puzzle, or a game of charades. If your family is like mine, detaching from screens is always a challenge but we all seem to somehow survive and have fun sans screens.
In the hours remaining until Black Friday hits, I wish you and yours a most Happy Thanksgiving and hope you have time to reconnect with family, friends, and community!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tis' the Season

Milo Baughman Chaise
Has the pre-holidays onslaught been filling up your mailbox since September and overflowing out of your mailbox over the past few weeks? Catalogs, special offers, sweet deal post cards. The season is upon us—the holiday shopping season complete with the stacks of holiday catalogs. E-mail offers abound as well, but I'm talking about those glossy catalogs and fliers that you get to lug into the house everyday or just pitch directly into the recycling bin.

Despite seeming like a huge waste of paper, the annual holiday catalogs are interesting to flip through and a mindless time wasting activity that I've enjoyed every holiday season for as long as I can remember. My favorite catalog was always Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, which featured every unimaginable item that I could not possibly afford.  Since I never bought anything Neiman Marcus finally got the hint and took me off their list.

Neiman Marcus has quickly been replaced by the Restoration Hardware tome. Their RHModern catalog is a hefty 540 pages of rather expensive and very much modern housewares with a dark and heavy aura. Some of which are just so impractical, ugly, and even dangerous that I have to share a few favorites that would not survive a week in my house:
Cast Cambium Console
  • Cast Cambium Console Table is a mere $1195 and is supposed to resemble a tree trunk. If I didn't know this was supposed to be a tree trunk table I would think of it as a piece of modern sculpture that could be easily tripped over.
  • Fortuny Studio 76 Floor Lamp at nearly $4000. If this lamp were to remain standing in my house while balanced on spindly legs, it would certainly be deliberately pointed in someone's eyes  in an attempt to blind a guest who might take one of the boys up on their offer to just stare into the light. Plus it looks like a gadget out of a 1960s James Bond film.
  • The Texture of Tibet collection is my absolutely favorite in luxurious impracticality. The Milo Baughman Model #149 Chaise, 1954 in Ivory Tibetan Wool is the ultimate luxury item that would instantly get destroyed in my home. For starters it is white. Being furry and a chaise lounge just creates more temptation. The boys, their friends, and the dog would all be drawn to climb on, eat snacks on, wipe their dirty fingers and paws, and spill pop all over this lovely lounger. How could anyone keep this chair clean and not end up with a nasty, matted woolly mess that just drained you of $3295?
Fortuna Studio 76 Floor Lamp
Restoration Hardware Modern wins—catalog with the most expensive and least festive (in my opinion at least) holiday catalog. They beat out the flying drones, back hair shaver, and customized bobble-head statue of yourself in the Sharper Image catalog and the extravagant Nutcrackers and expensive fake, plastic Christmas trees in the Frontgate catalog. Consumerism at its finest brought straight to my mailbox.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Bigger Problem Than a Paris Setback

Friday night's massacre in the City of Lights has illuminated a growing global problem. ISIS and other terrorists groups are not just confined to the Middle East and Africa. If they can hit Paris twice in 10 months what will stop them from striking in other cities around the world?

The ISIS network first came onto the mainstream American radar screens back in June 2014 with invasions in Iraq and Syria. This pesky ISIS problem was seemingly ignored as a minor irritating terrorist group that showed disturbing videos online and was social media savvy. Fast-forward to November 16, 2015. ISIS and ISIS affiliates are now active and/or actively controlling parts of 13 countries stretching from Algeria to Pakistan to the Philippines. Something is working for them and anyone reading this post has some idea what is working for ISIS and failing for the West.

Last week not only saw the simultaneous and carefully planned attacks on Paris, but also attacks in other countries that were overshadowed by Paris.

  • 250 innocent people were injured and 43 were killed in a double suicide attack in Beirut on Thursday. ISIS claimed responsibility. 
  • At a funeral in Baghdad last week 19 people were killed and 41 wounded by a suicide bomber. Who is rumored as the culprit? ISIS. 
  • Thousands of refugees flooding out of Syria, Iraq, and Africa are seeking asylum in Europe only to have borders closed when they finally arrive after a harrowing journey. 

Dwelling on evil and wallowing in blame and sorrow is easy. Fingers are quickly and, in some cases, wrongly pointed at many politicians, religions, and world leaders in the aftermath of terror attacks. Figuring out the solution is the challenge. The world is brimming with good people who will not stand for terror. Peace, justice, and the good in humanity will eventually override the few who are creating the evil and chaos that is seemingly taking over parts of the world. The solution must come now, not 14 months from now when the administration changes in the White House.

What happened in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad last week could happen in Peoria, Buenos Aires, and Brisbane this week. This is a world problem that calls for a world solution. Paris is not just a setback; Paris is one horrible example of evil that will be repeated unless ISIS is stopped soon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Portlandia or Presidential

Season 5 of Portlandia won out over watching the fourth Republican Presidential candidate debate tonight. This probably reflects badly on me as an American voter and someone who cares about politics. I really do care, but tonight I cared more for Portlandia than having to watch Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. There are just too many candidates in the pool for my liking.

Sadly given the busy schedules and demands on time I have taken to just watching the clips and out-takes of the debates—the chatter afterward about who won and who lost which round of a debate. The Saturday Night Live sketches of the debates are also amusing. The Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders SNL segment is a "must see "regardless of your political affiliation; Larry David has perfected Bernie Sanders.

Fortunately it remains early on in the Presidential race and Republican front-runners will plummet and rise in the polls. These Presidential races seem to start a few months earlier each election cycle and cost the candidates more money every four years. Imagine what the United States could do with all of the money that gets poured into Presidential races!

The American public, myself included, will have to turn off Netflix and start paying more attention soon. I'll leave you with this frightening scenario—Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders. Sort of scares you back to reality doesn't it?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Return to Normal

Return to normal, but what is normal?  If you have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account and peer into the lives of those you follow, their lives might seem normal. Or dull. Or even extraordinary given what side of life they share. A social media definition of normal.

The past few months have taught me that normal is all relative and sometimes a life situation that seems normal is not. Since I signed off a few weeks ago for a blog hiatus, my definition of a normal life has changed.

What is normal:

  • Leaving a daughter at college
  • Your son turns 17 and is growing up
  • Your work life changes and evolves
  • Your child gets sick
New definition of normal:
  • Your daughter is a thousand miles away at college
  • Your son thinks and acts like he is 21 and not 17
  • Your biggest work event of the year seeps into your entire life
  • Your son needs ER visits, emergency surgery, and a week long hospital stay
  • All of this happens in the same week.

All that is seemingly normal sometimes takes a turn for the worse and you are forced to adapt. To become even more flexible. To cope. To survive, not only for your family but for yourself. The last few months have been all of that, which forced me to walk away from my passion of blogging. I'm pleased to say that the blog is back. It may change into something that you normally may not see from me, but then what really is normal?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Life Happens

Sometimes life gets in the way of our passions. This is what is happening to me right now. This blog will resume; I just do not know when.

Please keep checking back because I will be back.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Five Terrific End of Summer Reads

Who isn't always looking for a good read?

Look no further for a compelling page turner to get you through the last few weeks of summer. These favorites are listed in no particular order. Since I am quite terrible at summarizing a book without giving away the best parts I've included the descriptions and link to order if you so desire. Thank you to my friends and family who recommended these reads to me.

The Circle by Dave Eggers. 
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. 

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower. 
A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas. America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.
Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. 
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson 
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula's world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization -- if only she has the chance? 

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant -- this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. 
After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers’ snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.

Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesday’s memoir, readers everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want—safety, happiness, and success—and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesday’s life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are.

Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world—the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Morning Run

After feeling the after effects of last night's indulgence on chocolate cake and one too many glasses of wine, the gym was calling. I've never been one to jump up at the crack of dawn to drive to the club for a workout. Nor am I one of those dedicated outdoor runners you see jogging every morning. Outdoor running is a struggle for me unless it involves a slight downhill slope, spectacular scenery, nothing in the air that might trigger allergies, and the promise of a favorite coffee shop and a latte at the end of my run. My ideal outdoor run does not play out nearly enough.

Today my incentive was just that scary number on the scale and an urge to run.

I've been a bit delinquent on my running mileage this summer for a number of different reasons. Today was the day to start up again, and I'm so happy that I did. Since the club was absolutely dead this morning, I could take my time to figure out some new Woodway treadmills and look like an idiot with no one watching me.

Once I figured out how to get my laps set to my pace, turned on the built-in TV monitor to the morning news, and adjusted my iPod I was ready to go. My goal: 1 mile. Doable, easy. Let me just say this treadmill is amazing! The belt is like running on a non slippery cushioned surface with some give. I easily passed my 1 mile goal, felt really good at 1.5 miles, and pushed on to 2 miles.

Maybe for some of you non asthmatic runners who aren't allergic to the world around you, 2 miles may seem like nothing. But for me, hopping on a treadmill and running 2 miles just doesn't happen without time spent working up to that 2 mile point.

At just over 2 miles, I felt incredible! An hour later, I still feel incredible. Now I'm trying to figure out how I can somehow figure out how to squeeze in a run on this new treadmill into my workday routine. That will be the challenge.

If you are dickering about whether or not to hit the gym or even go out for a power walk, just do it! Pull on your sneakers, get out there, and give exercising a try. You may even surprise yourself and pull off a 2-mile run. You will feel much better and something as simple as exercise will make your day all the better. Endorphins are always a good thing!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mt. Fuji Climb Still Awesome

Five years after climbing to the top of Mt. Fuji with my sister Linda and sliding back down, the experience still remains fresh and amazes me. 

To celebrate our 5-year anniversary and continued awe and respect for Mt. Fuji, I want to share one of my favorite blog posts about our incredible climb.


Sisters at our summit of Mt. Fuji

After our day on Mt. Fuji
To my sister Linda who continues to amaze me as much as Fuji, can you even believe that we did this together and somehow made it back down before dark? 

Hopefully this post will inspire you to conquer your own mountain.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Passionate Outrage From Cecil the Lion

Elephant, buffalo, polar bear, mountain lion, rhinoceros, four other bears, and lions (including one named Cecil). Safari Club International records indicate that Twin Cities dentist Walter J. Palmer has killed 43 animals, all with a bow and arrow. By now you've probably heard about the Bloomington, MN dentist who "accidentally" on purpose killed a beloved research lion, Cecil, on private property in Zimbabwe.

I am a bit surprised at the media attention and anger that this story has generated even in Minnesota. Minnesota is a land of hunters. Doing a quick mental count at least a third of my neighbors are avid hunters. I don't condone the annual deer hunts or the duck hunting season especially when the deer hunting season helps thin out Minnesota's rapidly growing deer population. Venison hamburger and steaks as well as pheasant balls are found in some Minnesota kitchens. However I do not understand the desire to kill another living creature. I feel bad when a squirrel runs out in front of my van or I straddle a skunk on the highway. As long as there are legal hunting seasons and big game hunting guides, shooting animals will continue.

However this Twin Cities dentist is on completely different level. Dr. Palmer takes his privilege as a wealthy American hunter to the extreme, paying thousands of dollars for these hunts. Killing 43 animals is exceptional—not in a good way! And unnecessary. Perhaps the rules and limits of hunting and bagging big game will now change with the untimely death of Cecil the lion.

If only the American public would get as outraged about ISIS driving out and killing the Christians in Syria, why fewer than 400 families have donated half of the political campaign contributions for the upcoming 2016 presidential campaigns, or the shoddy deal the world is getting from the Obama administration's Iran Nuclear Pact. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015


America. Land of the free and the brave. Free.
Freedom can easily be taken for granted in my America this 4th of July 2015. While digging out the grass and weeds growing into the herb garden this morning, a realization hits that I don't need to have this herb and tomato patch to feed my family. A hobby for my free time, not a necessity.

The neighborhood is dead quiet as usual on the 4th of July weekend. My family is one of the few who don't have a family cabin up north. Seems that the entire neighborhood is up north at their cabins. Escaping to the cabin while millions are fleeing their homes in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and other African and Asian countries in the largest refugee migration the world has seen since the start of WWII. Over 60 million refugees worldwide, fleeing their homes not only for a better life, but to survive. 

Again that word free seeps in and takes on true meaning.

This 4th of July when you celebrate with friends, family, fireworks, and the occasional adult beverage, remember what freedom means. How America got here, those who died defending our freedom, and how just fragile our freedom really is. 


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Week in a Time Warp

Sounds very '70s'ish doesn't it? Time warp. That's because life this week has been a transfiguration of the decades.

While listening to an old Prince song on the radio, specifically I Would Die for You off of 1984's Purple Rain, my youngest son proclaimed himself a 7th grader. Sixth grade is hours behind him. Those words seemingly hang in midair while I clearly remember my cheerleading dance routine to that Prince song. Wait, wasn't I just 16? How could I possibly have a son who is a 7th grader?

Even more improbable, how could I have a daughter who just graduated from high school a few days ago? She was just born and cannot be 18 already and leaving for college in a few months. That would make me some ungodly old age.

Yes that is right. I added another year to my tally this week. The ripe old age of 47, but why do I feel like I'm still 29? My Dad did make me feel better when he said he feels like he is only 30. Time is a complete illusion this week.

And to top it all off, I met my son Patrick in the driveway tonight. I learned that as of 3 pm today he is now a Senior in high school and was headed out for dinner and a swim at the beach with his friends. Did I not just go through a Senior year? Repeat. Here we go again.

Someone please tell me that time will eventually slow down and I can at least catch up on those fleeting years since I was 29.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Livin' In Eau Claire

Remember that Bon Jovi song from the mid-1980s? "Livin' On a Prayer." That song took on new meaning in the fall of 1986, appropriately renamed "Livin' In Eau Claire." That was the song of freshman year at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire (UWEC). Quite clever huh? My wing mates and I from Murray Hall thought so too...Livin' in Eau Claire!

1986 just doesn't seem all that long ago, but my recent return to UWEC for a prospective college tour with my son brought back plenty of memories. Despite a few new buildings and some hovels rightly demolished, so much really remained the same.

A sparkling new student union has risen up a couple of hundred yards south of where the old student union used to stand—complete with the little space known as The Cabin where we used to see live music. Except that this Cabin looks nothing like the old Cabin. This new Cabin is a luxurious coffeehouse. And now Bon Iver plays sets at the Cabin. We never had the likes of Bon Iver at the old Cabin.

UWEC has always had a massive hill to navigate, which is quite slippery in the winter and which I have  accidentally slid down far too many times. That hill remains. My son thought to ask the tour guide if anyone ever long boarded down "The Hill".  Although it is not exactly legal, supposedly some brave college boys do.

The footbridge over the Chippewa River is still there. The middle of the UWEC footbridge across the Chippewa River actually made a "David Letterman Top Ten" list as one of the coldest spots in the nation back when I had to walk across in the dead of winter. This bridge must be navigated to get to the arts classes and weekend house parties on the other side of the river. And Water Street (also on the other side of the bridge) with the strip of college bars is still there. Surprisingly most of the bars still stand and the same as they did in the late 1980s. I was happy to discover that a nasty house my roommate Theresa and I once lived in at the end of Water Street has been bulldozed and is now a parking lot

Overall it was a somewhat nostalgic, yet surreal, experience touring UWEC with my 16-year old son. I'm not sure if Patrick will follow in my footsteps and become a BluGold. The sight of one of the dorms looking exactly like it did back in 1986 might have been enough to scare him off. For me that old dorm room brought back a flood of memories of livin' in Eau Claire.

(My college roommate and wingmates might be pleased that I could not quickly salvage any photos from our freshman days in Murray Hall to include along with this post.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Humanities Embracing Our World On Capitol Hill

A pause for a photo between House and Senate office visits.
In case you missed it, take a look at my guest blog post for the Minnesota Humanities Center from April 2015:  christi-shortridge-humanities-embracing.html

A different perspective on a lobbyist visits to Capitol Hill offices.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

Jack, Laddie, Anna, and I are not standing in a hole.
Patrick is just so very tall.
Wishing all of you Moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day! 

And thanking all of the Dad and kids for giving Moms, like me,a most well deserved day of treats, pampering, and maybe even peace and quiet in the house for a nap on a rainy afternoon. 

As my 18th Mother's Day comes to a close, I feel very much blessed by the gift of my three kids: Anna, Patrick, and Jack.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Early Demise of a Vintage Mac

"Ma'am? Your iMac is actually vintage and cannot be fixed." There are a number of things wrong with this statement. For starters do not call me "Ma'am." Somehow this term has permeated our culture and is deemed appropriate and respectful. It is not. Secondly, how can a seven-year old computer possibly be vintage? Probably the same way an ancient, forty-something woman can be called Ma'am. Finally, "cannot be fixed" comes off as negative with an expensive underside. Unfixable = replace with new model.

All of the machines and technology that keep my life running with ease are slowly dying out and deserting me. My iMac, which has my life for the past 7 years bound within its circuitry, has a very much broken graphic card that is embedded within the logic board. Technical, yes. Expensive to fix, yes. You know what I will be doing over the weekend. Sadly replacing my vintage iMac.

I should probably replace my aging iPhone along with it since it is nearly 5 years old. My certainly vintage 2006 iPod is at capacity but fortunately shows no signs of a breakage.

But what happens to all of this "vintage" technology? Especially when a request to recycle the "vintage" iMac was met with a blank stare at the computer store. All I can picture is a landfill littered with old iMacs, laptops, iPhones, and iPods.

I guess my iMac will be joining my old lemon washing machine ( and perhaps my new washing machine that has recently decided to act vintage and not work properly. Remember when machines used to last for decades? Seems like such an expensive waste. Especially when vintage takes on the new meaning of trash.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Lily Treasure Hunt at Target

Did you make it to Target bright and early this morning? In case you are not a Lilly Pulitzer fan you may not know that Target's limited edition Lilly Pulitzer line came out today in stores and on line. My daughter Anna and I happen to be big Lilly fans thanks to Anna's grandmother Mae. She spent some quality time in Palm Beach, Florida back in the hey-day of Lilly Pulitzer in the 60s and 70s. And it is rumored that Anna's grandfather, Pat, wore Lilly pants. It was Palm Beach after all!

We did not make it to our local Target when the doors opened at 8 am, but we could tell that others did. By 10 am when we arrived the Lily clothes were pretty well picked through with only the larger and smallest sizes left.

The hunt for Lilly Pulitzer items was like a treasure hunt on a Sunday morning. Probably intentionally done by Target. It was actually kind of fun running around the store looking for Lilly signs and the remaining items left for sale. After grabbing a few Lilly treasures we decided to try another Target a few miles away.

We thought that our Target was picked through, but this one was left with the dregs. I couldn't justify $80 for a creamy porcelain garden stool that would probably end up smashed by a stray football or the cute pastel martini glasses for $30. I don't drink enough martinis at home to justify it. We left that Target empty handed but happy that we had at least found a few Lilly items at our Target.

After doing a quick search of items online, most Lilly pieces were already sold out. I'll have to keep my eye on the clearance rack for Lilly returns and be content with my collection of vintage Lilly dresses.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

An Electric Performance By Hippo Campus

Hippo Campus Live at the Varsity Theater
Sometimes all it takes is a few hours of really loud live music to make you feel like the world is back in balance and all is good. Last night's show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis had that effect. Opting out of a passionate Good Friday service at my church, I took my daughter and her friend to see some of their former classmates from the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists give a most passionate and energized live performance. Hippo Campus is sheer energy.

The boys in the band Hippo Campus graduated a few years ahead of my daughter and basically the whole school has been following their rise from local St. Paul band to a nationally recognized band that recently played the South By Southwest festival in Austin TX, resulting in an invitation to play live on the Conan O'Brien Show last week.

Hippo Campus has been on our "must see" list for over a year, and we finally saw the band last night.

What is going to see a concert without grabbing food first? While dining at the Loring Pasta Bar a few doors down from the Varsity Theater, who walks in for a pre-concert nosh but the band. Hippo Campus saunters in, as only 19-year-old rock stars can do, and climb upstairs to a private dining area conveniently open to all diners below. This did give the girls a nice view of the band upstairs. Score some cool chic Mom points for the restaurant choice!

View from my perch
After visiting the Gothic-inspired, eclectic ladies room, we headed over to the Varsity. The girls stayed downstairs and tried to work their way through the crowd to get closer to the stage. Being understandably ditched by the girls, I found the upstairs bar, got a glass of wine, and found a terrific perch on a catwalk right above the stage. Being small does have its advantages, and I was able to wedge into a space with a view looking right down onto the stage.

Technically I was not attending alone, but I admit I have never watched a live concert by myself so this was a first. But it did not really matter. For me, rock concerts take on a religious experience. I can easily attend my church by myself and feel completely surrounded by the community and friends, never actually feeling alone. Concerts have the same effect. All of us were gathered for the same reason—live music by performed by a favorite band. I felt completely surrounded by this community of concert goers and Hippo Campus fans.

The first band, The Mowgli's, were the headliners. Other than a couple of their songs that the girls played on the drive to the concert, I had never heard of them. That did not matter...they were excellent! There is just something about loud live music that cleanses the soul. The bass resonating in your heart and your whole being feeling completely in sync with the music. Again that whole religious experience encapsulated in a concert.

An appropriate brick at the Varsity Theater
Everyone in the crowd was clearly there to hear the local boys. I even had a nice chat with the lead singer's neighbor right before the set. Hippo Campus was on fire and the crowd was a roaring, energized mass of kids of all ages. These boys have come a long way since I heard a couple of them playing in a guitar ensemble at Anna's high school two years ago. Their sound is full and mature, and they completely captivated their audience. Hippo Campus played a fabulous set with songs off their current EP as well as a new one thrown in; I'll be looking to catch them live again.

As for the girls, I think their ears have finally stopped ringing, and they now share that passion for live (and loud) music and for Hippo Campus.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Center of the Universe

Do you ever feel like if you just sat in one place for long enough most the world would pass in front of you? I have such a place. This place has held the distinction (in my opinion) as the "Center of the Universe" for a quite awhile. Where is that place? The top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

While on a trip to Washington this week, I took the long way back to the hotel and walked from the Capitol back to my hotel in Foggy Bottom. Some may view this as crazy. Remember I am from Minnesota. It was pushing 75° and sunny. I puposely shunned fashion and wore sensible (yet syltish) walking shoes just in case the opportunity arose. Lunch on the Hill with favorite neighbors from Mt. Vernon followed by a meeting at the Smithsonian Castle. Would you want to jam yourself onto the metro if you had just endured yet another long, subzero winter and you had the chance to walk a couple of miles in the sunshine? Walking beat out the Metro.

While walking back to my hotel, I avoided the jam packed WWII Memorial and instead took a quiet side trail over to the Vietnam Memorial. This is an incredibly moving Memorial and worth quiet contemplation, unless you are surrounded by packs of 8th graders trekking through yet another DC tourist site on their Spring Break trip. Onto the Lincoln Memorial.

I almost did not even stop. The steps were loaded with tourists. But figuring the proximity, I had to visit.

Despite signs posted to "Be Quiet" the Lincoln Memorial was a typical, loud sea of humanity with the majority of languages spoken not English. I actually love the Lincoln Memorial exactly for this reason. This IS America...people of all walks of life coming together in one place to pay tribute to the 16th President of the US. Or to take a selfie in front of him. This is America. Look east to the end of the Mall and there is the Washington Monument with the scaffold-wrapped U.S. Capitol in the distance. To the West lies Robert E. Lee's plantation (now the Arlington National Cemetary) and the Potomac River.

This is where we all come together. If you visit DC, visit the Lincoln Memorial. Day or night, this memorial is specatucuar for so many reasons. Read Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address inscribed on the north wall, stop and rest on the steps, look at the view, and think of what America truly means.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It Is Madness

March Madness is living up to its name. I like a good basketball game just as much as any other chic Mom, but the NCAA March Madness tournament is a bit much for the casual observer. Not only are these games playing constantly on every television in the house, but they are also on the radio and online. You can follow live tweets on Twitter. College basketball games are on a third of the TVs at the health club. A Minnesota food chain/sports bar—Buffalo Wild Wings—must have everyone of their floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall TVs tuned into the games. Inescapable.

After being immersed in March madness every March for as long as I can remember I finally broke down and helped fill out the bracket for the Humanities Center where I work. Seems that we are in a bit of a competition with other Humanities Centers around the US. Bet you did not know that folks who work in the Humanities were so competitive when it comes to basketball. We're not actually. It is all madness, and we got sucked in with the lure of the $1 million pot, having no formulas or theories for choosing our pool teams.

My small contribution was choosing the two teams I have actually seen play live on a basketball court—Wisconsin and Georgetown. Seems Georgetown was eliminated early on, but Wisconsin is still alive and winning their game at the moment. I'm not sure how much money is on the table for the winner of the state Humanities Councils pool, but I'm in.

How many more weeks are left of March Madness? Too many, but maybe Wisconsin will keep winning. Unless I've jinxed them by writing this post.

Go Badgers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ISIS Scores Three Child Brides for Jihadists

Why didn't anyone stop them? Perhaps I'm asking the most obvious of the obvious hindsight questions. But really, did any authorities or even any other parents attempt to stop or question trio of  15- and 16-year-old British school girls who boarded a flight to Turkey last week? They have most certainly made it to Syria by now.

As a parent I do try to be somewhat clued in on the lives of my children. If one of my kids has even an inkling of becoming a jihadist or an odd obsession with ISIS I would hope to know. Apparently ISIS has a very sophisticated social media campaign designed to recruit teen boys and girls to come to Syria and join the terrorist cause. Seems as if it is working. And all the more reason to monitor your teen's social media.

What I do not understand is why the British authorities, police, and/or the British version of the TSA did nothing to stop these girls? They were being monitored and the authorities knew about them weeks before they left the U.K. So why let them board a plane to Turkey? I have the luck of being stopped going through security far too often for lots of interesting reasons. Perhaps the TSA and others charged with keeping the skies safe are targeting and stopping the wrong people. Lots of would-be terrorists must not have those underlying issues with airport security that I have. Or else I look more like a threat to national security.

When you have 15-year-old girls being lured to Syria with the promise of a new microwave, a milkshake maker, and a future in terror something is definitely wrong with this world. A very sad day when smart, young women decide to join ISIS and become jihadist's brides. Very sad. Again it makes me wonder when someone will be brave enough to step up and actually make an attempt to stop this madness.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Today's IKEA Adventure....

I venture out to my local IKEA about once every five years, and today was the day. President's Day. A brilliant choice for shopping at IKEA. No one would EVER think of going to IKEA on President's Day right? Today's shopping experience reinforced why I only shop at IKEA once every five years.

Minnesota shoppers do not necessarily follow the same rule as the East Coast shoppers. Get there before noon and you will be fine. If it is snowing chances are even better that the stores won't be packed. Not true in Minnesota. Snow and the chance to sleep in until noon on a Monday are not deterrents for IKEA shoppers.

My first clue should have been those 10 minutes my son Jack and I spent circling the parking ramps trying to find a parking spot. Second clue was the long line at the ball room entrance where parents drop their kids for their child-free trek through IKEA. Jack had never been to IKEA and was amazed that all of those parents would expose their kids to all of the germs in the ballroom filled with kids. Good point!

Jack and I had our list and were on a mission. But that didn't stop us from visiting the kitchen displays, trying out the mattresses, laughing at some very interesting lighting options, and imagining the perfect home office set up.

We did fine loading up our flatbed cart with items that can only be found at IKEA on our once-in-every-five-years IKEA shopping experience. We did not run over anyone as we wove our way to the checkout line. UGH, the IKEA checkout lines on President's Day. We were in for a wait as we joined the rest of humanity also in line, and as usual I chose the absolutely slowest line.

Finally after 30 minutes in line we were at the cashier. She rings us up and asks, "So where is Part 2?" "What Part 2?" we ask. "The Part 2 that goes with Part 1 of your desk," she replies. Really?! Part 2...all we can think of is spending another half an hour in line with Part 2.

But wait, we can just run back, find Part 2, and bring it back to her line. No extra waiting required. Great except that Part 2 is incredibly heavy, and we have left our loaded cart back at the checkout line. Jack decides it is a good thing that Mom lifts weights regularly, and he leads me (loaded down with Part 2) back to our checkout line.

Now I completely understand why the lady wearing the Luther College sweatshirt and her daughter who probably attended Luther College were so annoyed by me and Jack and Part 2 butting in line ahead of them to pay. Sorry but we had already waited in line for 30 minutes and were not about to let Miss Luther College weasel her way ahead of us. Let's just say they were not too happy, but we were just following the IKEA line rules.

Jack and I successfully got our load onto the elevator. I somehow managed a perfect 90° backward park into the loading spot (even within the lines) and heaved all of the heavy IKEA boxes into the Sienna. Success!

Idyllic IKEA moment
Halfway home, we remember that all of our items came in multiple colors/wood grains, which we did not really check for. Actually we did not check at all. We throw caution to the wind, hit a Caribou coffee on the way home, and hope for the best.

Jack did end up with a black desk instead of a walnut desk, but he doesn't seem to care. At least Part 1 and Part 2 ended up matching. I'm just happy that I will not have to visit IKEA for another five years!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Red Wine Workout

Drinking a glass of red wine or slogging it out at the gym for an hour-long workout, which would you rather indulge in?

While running on the treadmill at the gym this afternoon a recent study was under debate on a cable news channel—one glass of red wine is equivalent to an hour at the gym. This intrigued me, being a red wine drinker and a runner. I read the ticker at the bottom of the television to try to follow the discussion.

At first glance it sounded like this study meant that if you drank one glass of red wine you would have to hit the gym for an hour to work off those calories and offset any damage to your liver. But no, the study actually found that drinking one glass of red wine was the same as spending an hour working out at the gym. The health benefits of that glass of red were as healthy for you as an hour-long workout.

Great! I like red wine and we all have heard of the health benefits of drinking red wine in moderation. Given that I am much more wiped out after an hour of running, core building exercises, and weight training than I am after enjoying a glass of red wine, I was a bit skeptical.

A quick Google search found the 2012 study by Canada's University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. Surprisingly the study (in rats of course and not humans) found that "one glass of red wine will improve the same level of physical performance, heart function and muscle strength as one hour sweating it out in the gym." This is all thanks to a natural compound called resveratrol that is found in red wine. Here's the catch, this only works with red wine, not white wine or beer. And one glass of red wine, not three. And I do kind of doubt that it is a "replacement" for your typical session at the gym.

But keep red wine on your short list of health enhancers along with dark chocolate, blueberries, and leafy greens. I'll be enjoying my one glass of red wine while watching the Super Bowl tonight. However I doubt that one glass of vino will offset all of the delicious food that goes along with the traditional Super Bowl indulgence.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Outdoor Fun in the Land of Ice

Minnesota in January. You can either hole up in your house like last winter when it was far too cold to venture outdoors. Or you can revel in the ice, snow, and moderate (for Minnesota in January) temperatures. Minnesota is the home of ice—skating, fishing, bars, castles, caves, hockey. And the latest rage—downhill cross ice, featuring the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Tournament.

Most of these activities can be enjoyed by the average Minnesotan. However unless you enjoy hurling yourself down the Cathedral Hill track you may want to watch Crashed Ice instead of attempting. This is one sport that you must qualify for before racing full throttle down the ice course, and the Red Bull tournament runs through tomorrow. In case you don't make over to the St. Paul cathedral to watch, this video gives you an idea of ice cross: 2015 Red Bull Crashed Ice.

For a somewhat quieter ice experience head over to the southwest metro to the Eden Prairie Ice Castle that is open through March 7 (if the ice does not melt) and features the sprawling castle, ice skating, performances by Frozen Sisters, and even star watching parties.

When and if they open up for the 2015 season visit the Apostle Island Ice Caves. Last year's record cold winter created ideal ice cave conditions along Lake Superior; the caves are not open yet for the 2015 season but check the link above for all details.

If you would rather stay in the Twin Cities, the St. Paul Winter Carnival is on from now until February 1, featuring a treasure hunt, parades, ice golf, and much more.

Might as well get out there and enjoy January in Minnesota. That or escape to Florida!