Sunday, December 29, 2013

Resolution Summary

Just looked back over my 2013 New Year's Resolutions:

1)  Eat better, exercise more. This is a perennial resolution, and I need to suss how to make it mean enough to actually do it.

I did not exercise more. I have been eating a lot better. I'll count this one as somewhat achieved.

2)  Find a dentist. For me and Beatrix. This is a silly phobia that needs to stop.

DONE! I love my new dentist (Dr. Amble, thanks Krista!), and in 2014 the ACA will even cover Beatrix's care!

3)  Gain professional certification by becoming QuickBooks Pro certified.

QuickBooks ProAdvisors actually talked me out of this by noting there was no Mac test. But I did get more proficient.

4)  Build a successful and thriving business with my husband; our new joint endeavor, Gladhill Rhone LLC, starts today!

Success! I am very proud of our first year, and looking forward to building on it.

5)  Work less and create more. This is a scary one, because we are really dependent on my income. But I am feeling pretty fried.

Kind of a fail. Better luck next year?

So kind of a mixed bag, all in all. You? What are you resolving for 2014?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My 15 Minutes

Our good friend Julio is a reporter, and yesterday we were exchanging a lot of discussion via Twitter about last-minute shopping. Which is how I found myself quoted in the following article:

http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_24790406/store-or-online-last-minute-gift-shoppers-get?source=nav

He also posted an article looking for instant last-minute suggestions, and I pointed out he had not included memberships or philanthropy — so he added them:

http://blogs.twincities.com/yourtechweblog/2013/12/24/avoid-the-jam-packed-malls-get-last-minute-presents-online/

Julio's pretty amazing. If you like his writing style, I would suggest you follow his blog, or read him in the Pioneer Press, or even buy his new book, The Mobile Writer (especially if you got an iPad or similar device for Christmas).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kindness

My brilliant husband, on kindness:

http://patrickrhone.com/2013/12/23/kindness/

I especially like this:

And, here’s a little secret I’m going to tell you — kindness in the face of an adversary immediately gives you, the kind practitioner, the upper hand. It often throws those gripped by anger off balance. It often diffuses the tension. It puts one in a position of power to effect positive change. And, even if it fails to do any of those things, it garners the support of those viewing from the outside.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

People Making a Difference

It's been a weekend reminding me about the importance of making a difference.

Last night, we went to my friend Nicole's holiday party. Nicole has a very popular show on cable home channels ("Rehab Addict"), and an enviable track record of saving houses both here and in Detroit. But what I find really incredible about her — besides her unbelievable work ethic (seriously, she is going all the time) — is how authentic she is. Nicole believes completely in the work she does, and she follows those core values as a guidestar. She never does anything halfway, and she is always pushing those around her to do their best work as well. And she cares, passionately, about saving historic homes — and even more about the people who live in them and who work to restore them. Nicole makes me believe, just a little harder, every day.

Then tonight, we went to my friend Barry's housewarming party. Barry and his wife went through an open house in Dayton's Bluff just four weeks ago — and this week, they closed on the house. The house was part of the Fourth Street Preservation Project, an innovative program by the City of Saint Paul designed to intensely focus on preservation work in targeted pockets. Barry and his wife and daughters are the perfect people for a project like this, already attending community co-op meetings and inviting neighbors over and planning summer street festivals and adding vibrant life to a long-vacant home. As we left, they were saying they were looking at this home as a jumping-off place for a new level of change and involvement in their lives. It's pretty inspiring.

And I've been able to do a few intentional acts this weekend as well. I finally sat down and wrote a review of my friend Julio's book. I took Beatrix down to Jerabek's for breakfast, making good on my pledge to go there more often after they got a second chance and re-opened. I remembered to bring a food donation to our friend Chip and Amy's party, where they were collecting for a food shelf. These things felt great, and I need to remember to push myself in ways like that a little more.

But with friends like Nicole and Barry (and so many others, too many to list here) who create great change on a daily basis, I think I can be inspired to do that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

MN Sure

Let me start by saying that, starting 1/1/14, we have what appears to be an excellent health care plan that gives us a lot more flexibility and better service than we have now, for at least $1,200 less annually, and with a 42% lower deductible. Between that and the covered services, as well as the lower co-pays for those services, The ACA has already been of enormous benefit to our family. And I believe people like us, two people building a small company and trying to give back to the community in every way they can while developing entrepreneurially, is the future of this country.

I will also say that this post is in no way a debate on the federal ACA site. I live in Minnesota, where our state government was wise enough to run its own exchange. I have not even looked at the federal site, because I have no reason to.

But Holy Hannah, the MNSure site is bad enough.

We first tried to get on the MNSure site in early November. We had spent about 6 hours total before today looking at plans and creating an account and such, all the while running into issues like the fact that the site is closed from 10pm to 6am daily, and on Sundays. Basically, even most small boutique stores have better hours, and I am not quite sure why the state is treating this like a bricks-and-mortar place that you walk into (albeit one without actual service staff).

But today, lo and behold, the site was actually open, so we decided to sit down and knock out the application. Which we did — eventually — having spent only 5 hours on it each and placed 3 calls to service plus an email. I'll point out here that we still don't actually know if we have a tax credit coming through. My assumption is that this gets hammered out more at tax time, I hope.

This SHOULD be pretty easy for people like us. I have a lot of human resources savvy. We have an independent broker, who could help us some of the way. We have good records. Patrick is a tech guy. But the whole thing was confounding. It kept on booting us out of the system, and we would have to go in and restart, again, and again, and again.

So, if you're still doing this this week, here are some tip tips to keep in mind:

1)  Do it ASAP. It takes a lot longer than you think. Also, don't forget that you have to CANCEL whatever insurance you have right now so that you are not double covered when your new coverage starts. In our case, we had to ensure the new coverage would start 1/1 and the old coverage was cancelled, because once the new plan year started we could not opt out.

2. This is the most important thing I will tell you. At each page, hit "Save and Exit" at the bottom. Even if you don't want to exit. Then re-enter and start again. Otherwise, it will not remember your data. And when it inevitably crashes, you will have to re-enter everything.

3.  If your income is variable, especially if you might make less than last year, (or if you have done something crazy like been self-employed last year and started a small 2-person LLC this year), estimate high to tie to your last years' taxes. Even though it asks you for what you are making this year. Otherwise, if you are not making as much money this year, you may not be eligible for the MNSure regular plans. The system may decide you make too little money, and that you should be on Minnesota Care and Medicaid instead. And then it tells you to sit tight while it mails you out the forms in a few weeks. And you will miss the 1/1 deadline, and then they will decide you are not eligible for MNCare/Medicaid anyway, and you will be uninsured.

4.  Once you submit first your application, and then your health care plan, you are tied to it. No changes. So, for instance, if you submit your application with this year's income and find out you really meant last year's income to get the plan you want (see #3 above), you have to call in and ask them to change the income, which they will try to get to in the next few weeks, and then reapply. You have to keep calling to check and see if they have done that, because they cannot notify you when they have. Meanwhile, your spouse may (read: "WILL") want to open their own account and try again, because now you are officially stuck in limbo.

5.  Each drop down box has a little blank line before the Yes or No. If you accidentally hit that blank line (which you can somehow choose), it can boot you out of the system.

6.  If you are booted out of the system, just keep on trying to go back like a dog trying to tear into a closed bag of food. Try different browsers. Shut down your computer and go back. Use a different machine. The errors are variable and erratic, and you will constantly run into 404 errors, be re-routed to the State of MN website ("oh look, there's Governor Dayton!"), and other exciting detours.

7.  None of the choices are as you expect. For instance, there's a part where you have to define your relationship to the dependent applicators. I could not say I was the "wife" of Patrick, but rather the "spouse," not the "mother" of Beatrix but rather the "parent."

8.  The system is full of redundancies. I had to enter my name, address, and other information I believe 4 separate times. Often, you have to enter the information using different formatting. If you use formatting different than what they want (ie 651-227-1839 instead of (651) 227-1839, it won't accept it and it can freeze you up.

9.  The plan support people are actually pretty helpful, if you can get to it. The tech support people have no clue, and know the system is effed up and that there's nothing to be done, and will literally tell you "I guess you're on your own."

10.  We did all this with the most basic plan possible. We did not specify doctors or clinics, we did not choose the HSA option, we didn't care about gym memberships or weight reduction, we did not elect adult dental. I am 1000% certain that adding any of these would have totally thrown this over the edge. And, as I said, we're still not sure what our tax credit will be.





Friday, December 13, 2013

My Husband is Famous!

For those who didn't know, he was featured in the Business section of the PiPress last weekend. Too bad they took the photos after we had taken down all our art because our ceilings are being redone.

http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_24672415/tablets-turning-tables-traditional-computers

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mom Shoes

Christmas — well, really, the whole Advent season — was enormous in my family as I grew up. From my earliest childhood I remember my grandmother creating beaded Christmas crafts (and who can forget the Three Wise Men with velvet cone bodies and featureless faces made of nylons over styrofoam balls?) There were huge family dinners, at my grandparents' and then at our house later on. We went to holiday shows. There were cookies and breads and lefse. There were gifts that satisfied your deepest longings and thanks for gifts you gave in kind.

My mother wasn't one to ever give you cash, or even its cousin, the gift card. She had an incredible ability to figure out what you needed to accomplish your goal, or what you were giving up or skimping on to achieve it, and then give that to you. When I redid the bathroom, she bought me a candelabra, so I could burn candles while in the bath. The year we decided to forego travel to deal with some other major expenses, she took us all to Florida. Even when she was too sick to shop, she sent out friends to buy things on the lists she put together for everyone.

That all changed on Christmas Day, 2006, when my mother died. In truth, since my mother was in the hospital for the previous two weeks, we basically skipped that Christmas. I remember thinking "Just please don't let her die on Christmas, whatever happens." When she did, the whole holiday had fundamentally changed.

The next Christmas, I was 7 months pregnant, and the next one, we had a 10-month-old baby who was already able to understand the joy of it, and as much as the holiday still left a deep, jagged hole in me, I had to acknowledge it had changed again.

Years later, I decided to do something for myself this Christmas. I had coveted these shoes for months, but they were ridiculously priced. I tried them on again and again, stalked them on the internet, pictured them with every outfit I owned. But every time I turned back.

As we passed Thanksgiving this year and entered the holiday season, I could feel the cold pain beginning again, at the same time that Beatrix began singing Christmas carols and opening her advent calendar.

So I decided to be my own mom. I went out and bought the shoes, and told myself they were from my mom. and when I wore them the first time tonight, to a holiday party and then to a concert, it made me it seem a little more like she was still here.

If you see me wearing these shoes (this holiday season or otherwise), you'll know I'm thinking of my mom. And re-building Christmas, bit by bit.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Sonic Quilt That Is Eastern Europe

This weekend I am working with an incredible concert series, and I hope you can join us!



Friday evening’s concert program, "Muzika: Celebrating the Sounds of Eastern Europe" features award-winning vocalist Natalie Nowytski (natalien.com) with friends, including Bulgarian gadulka player Nikolay Gueorguiev, women’s a capella group Mila Vocal Ensemble (milavocalensemble.com), Balkan party band Orkestar Bez Ime (rogaria.com), and the folk supergroup Ukrainian Village Band (ukrainianvillageband.com).  At 7:00pm the artists will give a talk on what to listen for in Eastern European music to help those new to the music, followed by the concert itself at 7:30 pm.  

Tickets are $12 (with some discounts) and available at the door at Sundin Hall (Hamline University).


Saturday there's a FREE dance party.

Come join us for both! I'm excited for Beatrix to experience this great, Eastern European folk music and dance!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Kimchi

(It's also apparently Hmong New Year.)

This morning, I headed over to the Asian market on University Avenue to pick up some "fun with fermentation" ingredients. I don't know why we don't shop there all the time; the food is so fresh and so much fun!

So then, while Beatrix had her BFF Alma over for a playdate, Patrick and I put up some yummy faux-kimchi (still fermented, but tastes a lot less like eating sea monkeys). Isn't it pretty?

(

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday...at the Museum

Though "doorbuster" prices are appealing, it's generally stuff we don't need or want (well, we could use a new fridge, but...). And the idea of shopping in crowds, and waiting in the cold in long lines (especially starting last night) — well, basically, forget it!

So we decided to do a different Black Friday activity — we went to the museum! Rather than hang around watching cartoons and drinking coffee all morning, as we often do on a day off (don't judge!), we got up and got going right away a little before 7:00. Beatrix was intrigued: "Are we going to the Bakken Museum to see the electricity? The History Museum to see the mine and the Indians and the house?"

No, we were heading to the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, which had their own Black Friday special. We arrived, got free tickets to the "Audacious Eye" Japanese collection exhibition, and headed on in.

We stoppen in the lobby to grab some free Dogwood coffee (mmmmm!) and Rustica cookies (good, but my new dream is to sneak in and futz with their timers so they stop overbaking things!), and so Patrick could check out the Northern Grade pop-up. We then went through the exhibition, which was pretty fascinating. Beatrix was especially perceptive about it, picking up on some of the warrior features of the especially fierce statues, learning about the Buddha, picking up on some of the Chinese influences on some of the scrolls, and especially admiring a modern bamboo mobile.

We then enjoyed the shop, where she picked out a postcard of the jade mountain (my personal favorite piece), and stopped to look at the picture of Cinderella's carriage at CTC on the way out.

Altogether, a much better way to spend Black Friday than any other alternative! We may not have spey/saved a lot of money, but we had some great family time together in a beautiful place.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Daughter Love


I love my husband incredibly, more now in our wonderful life together than even during that smitten phase when we first met. I love my family (well, what's left of it). I love my friends fiercely. I love my pets (well, most of them).

But I am struck every day with the way I love my daughter, almost to distraction.

I love how sweet she is, how she tries to do nice things for us when she thinks of them. I love her questions. I love her phonetic spelling (she's thankful for "trce" — think about it, yes, "turkey"). I love the way she dances, a natural ballerina. I love the way she is always doing projects. I love the way she puts her hands on her hips and says "humph." I love her long legs, and tiny waist, and curly hair, and richly-lashed blue eyes. I love her art and her music. I love the way she pouts just like my mom. I love it when she tries and appreciates new food. I love her babbling on to tell us things, and her questions about how things work. I love her little snore when she is finally asleep. I love the way stories are real to her. I love how much she tries to be just like me (and is). My first thoughts upon waking up are of her (well, because she often wakes me up), and even when we try to go out on date nights, we'll talk about how amazing she is.

There are a lot of parts of parenthood I never expected. But top among them, amazing me every day, is this crazy, wonderful, heart-swelling love.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Styled by Pinterest

One of the other things I did this weekend was spend some time on some creative craft projects. I absolutely love hunkering down and making things, and do it far too rarely — so it was nice to indulge.

On Saturday, Beatrix and I went to a workshop at Wet Paint that Krista had told us about. The workshop was about using shrink film to make things — basically, adult shrinky-dinks. Beatrix wanted us to make matching pairs of earrings, in purple and yellow; I could wear mine now and she could save hers until she gets her ears pierced. I was pretty dubious, but I think they turned out well (all art direction by Beatrix Rhone):


Then, on Sunday, while Beatrix had a playdate over, I kept half an eye on them and devoted the other half to painting a pair of jeans. It was an idea I had seen on Pinterest, but they used stencils — I could not find one I liked, so I eventually used a rubber stamp.

They are far preppier than I usually wear, but I think they are actually pretty cute, and I am kind of digging the Americana look.


I did one more successful project, but I can't tell you about it because you might be getting it for Christmas...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Two Date Nights

This weekend, and amazing thing happened. Due to a congruence of events, Patrick and I were able to have two date nights in a row, something that I don't think had happened since before I got pregnant (and rarely, since we had the boys, even then). The best part was that we were able to attend some wonderful things, bearing witness to the incredible amount of creativity present in the Twin Cities!

Friday night, Beatrix went to Cinderella at Children's Theatre Company with my aunt and uncle, and my cousins children. They loved it and thought it was very magical (I'm trying to get Beatrix to do a guest blogger review). Meanwhile, we had a lovely dinner at Zelo, drinks at the Monte Carlo, and then went to see For Sale by The Moving Company. You know that I have a deep, enduring love for MoCo's work, and that everything I have seen there has been wonderful. But this piece was so truly hilarious that my teeth actually hurt from laughing. For all the years I worked at Jeune Lune, everyone always told me they wished the company would bring back Yang Zen Froggs (which they actually did eventually bring back). If you want something evocative of that kind of humor, but in a slightly different vein, you have one more weekend to see For Sale. Don't miss it.

(We had dessert at Cafe Lurcat afterwards. Enough said on that.)

Last night, we went to the Minnesota premiere of a film co-directed and produced by our friend Jeremy Wilker and Matt Stenerson, Death to Prom, which was part of the wonderful Sound Unseen film festival. It's a locally produced, indie comedy — as Jeremy said in his remarks, "The Hobbit spent more money in their coffee budget than we did on this whole film. By many times."

That said, it's a wonderful flick. It's sweet and engaging and full of first-time energy. For a lot of the performers, it's their first film, and that does show a little. But the direction is loving, the cinematography beautiful, and there are so many enjoyable, engaging parts (spoiler alert:  the day-long shoot was my favorite.) Sadly, there are no confirmed additional showings of the film until it's released for home viewing in February — but I'll let you know if that changes, because it's a must-see.

I am a bit embarrassed to admit I had never before been to a film festival. But this was a pretty great way to start. And so wonderful to see so many people there that I see far too little of!

The weekend left me thinking again about the wonderful range of creativity that is here in the Twin Cities. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by incredible artists — performers, directors, filmmakers, visual artists. I am so happy to be bringing up my daughter in a place where she can be part of that. I'm so lucky to have my career be supporting these people.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Give to the Max

Tomorrow is Give to the Max Day, the crazy annual day where charities each pitch you to give to them that day, where people go online and give to their favorite places, where they encourage people to do the same, where everyone ends up in a lovely frenzy of philanthropy.

Sure, complain what you will, say the fees are too much or you get asked by too many places that day, or what have you. Give to the Max Day is fun! It's a really easy way to go online and give and maybe learn about some new organizations that are doing amazing work that you did not even know about.

Need some places to start? Try any of my clients, all doing great work:

(in no particular order)

IFP Minnesota
Caux Round Table
Bedlam Theatre
KidsPark
Cathedral Hill Montessori
Macalester-Groveland Community Council
Nimbus
Rosy Simas Danse
Black Dirt Theater
MotionPoems
Mental Health Association of Minnesota
Skewed Visons
Waseca County Historical Society
Circus Juventas

ETA: oh, the link would help you, huh? http://givemn.razoo.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Domesticated Weekend

I need to remember that, when I am feeling my most overwhelmed with work, the best thing for me to do is take a big step back and turn my mind to my home for the weekend. Inevitably, I feel much more grounded, productive, and ready to tackle work issues after 24-48 hours of domestic distraction.

(Plus, I wrote down all the projects that simply need to be done in the near future at the Ashland house the other day — and there were 26 of them. Yikes!)

This weekend was perfect for a domestic re-grounding, though. Yesterday, in between tea parties and other fun with Beatrix and her friend Flora, I roasted a pumpkin, made kettle corn pumpkin seeds, and baked bran muffins.

Today, Patrick and I tackled the pantry, which we do every few years when the total chaos of it gets to us. I never remember to take "before" pictures, but here's an "after":


Now, after Beatrix and I ran a bunch of errands, she and Patrick are at the park while I have just raked the back yard and have soup bubbling away on the stove.

I also got to toss in some other fun things that were quasi-home related — my friend's birthday party at her under-construction home, a couple of episodes of Rehab Addict, shopping at an adorable store called Piccadilly Prairie with Patrick while Beatrix was at Norwegian class...

See? Domestic perfection.

(now, back to work...)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Highlights of the Week

It occurs to me that sometimes I write too much about my struggles. So, even though I am STILL sick and overwhelmed, I thought I would record some of the wonderful parts of the week:

-  The pink-purple roses Beatrix and Patrick got me yesterday (and they got an advent calendar — yeah!)

-  An inspiring, exciting breakfast with Jun-Li on Monday that blew me away reminding me how insightful she is about community art, and how she lives those values.

-  An extremely successful Incredibly Fun Party for IFP Minnesota last night, where I got to spend time with wonderful people all night long.

-  Going to Poppy with Krista and Beatrix tonight, where Beatrix dressed as a princess, we ran into the Schlossahab crew, and Jennifer gave me the remainder of her gift card so I could get a most excellent dress. Plus, free earrings!

-  Getting to connect with Chuck over lunch today, after far far too long.

-  A wonderful night out with Leah, which reminded me why she is such a strong and beautiful woman who is so dear to me.

-  Time with my fantastic husband, including My Week with Marilyn tonight, which is a beautiful love letter of a movie.

Truth be told, I live a pretty charmed life. But in a week that started out down, these moments in particular reminded me how much I have even more.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What Are We Doing Today?

Every morning, Beatrix asks "What are we doing today?"

Usually the answer is something like "Going to school, then dance/circus/violin/etc."

To which she replies "And after THAT?"

This weekend has been a little slower. Patrick and I both have bad colds, and she has a minor one. But we still wanted to get out of the house today.

We started the day with the Springboard for the Arts Health Fair. We pretty much go every year, though Beatrix was pretty unhappy the first year we went that it was nothing like a fair, with no animals or rides or cheese curds. This year she was happy to decline the flu shot (since we had already had the mist, which might be why we are sick), but ran around stamping her passport so she could get a prize (a princess book, because Springboard wins!) We got a lot of good information about MNSure, also worth its weight in gold.

We then hit a small batch of fairly new shops along Minnehaha Avenue — Junket, Tumbleweed, Paris Apartment, E's, etc. — that I had been wanting to visit for some time. Part antique store, part reuse centers, part thrift shops, they were a very enjoyable place to visit as a family. Many are only open a couple of weekends a month, so it felt even more special.

After refueling at the Blue Door, we headed home for a rest before going out to an art opening, enormous scale pieces called The NOLA Series, in a West Seventh gallery that was new to me. Finally, we hung at home for the evening, and Patrick and I got to watch Before Sunset after B went to be (we watched Before Sunrise, for the first time in years, last night).

All in all, kind of quiet and mundane, but filled with lovely little moments. I'm glad to know that there's usually something that we are doing that day that meets with Beatrix's approval.

(nothing on the calendar for tomorrow though, yikes!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Educational

Tonight was the PTA Open House for Beatrix's school. We attended and learned A LOT, but maybe not in the way that was expected. We learned:

1)  Always save the slip that comes home in your student's backpack.
I remembered the event while at a client's, and I had not seen the slip in awhile anyway, so I went to the school website. There was nothing about the event on the website, but I found a link to the (separate) PTA website; by going there, I found the event time of 5:30.

Except that the event was at 6:00pm (which we realized when we got there at 5:30 and there was no one there and the sign in front said 6:00). Which gave us time to go to the store and pick up some apples.

I also learned by this that I had better start following the school's principal on Twitter.

2)  Free stuff attracts people.
Tonight's event had flu shots/mist (cue big tears from Beatrix when she realized that), and a pizza dinner (yum). Attendance was good, and it was fun to meet some other parents and see Beatrix's BFF Alex and "second mom" Clara.

But the main thing I learned was:

3)  The Saint Paul schools are desperately in need of a cohesive marketing strategy.
Tonight, I learned that Randolph Heights is one of only three schools in the state that has an accredited Core Knowledge curriculum, which is really awesome. It validated my sense of why it's such a great school, and that it builds on knowledge and teaches in a way that makes sense to me. It made me feel even better about the school. I'm excited about what Beatrix will learn there.

Except, it's five weeks into the school year, and it would have been really great to know this in advance!

Now to give the school credit, there is a "Core Knowledge" snippet on their newly-redesigned web page template (along with several other snippets on Gifted & Talented, Responsive Classroom, Special Education, etc.) But, on the main page comparing Saint Paul schools, it does not mention this particular curriculum (though the school right above it does). Truth be told, though we toured schools and I spent hours comparing them, it did not even occur to me to compare each school's chosen curriculum — or even that each school might have a different curriculum. And though I can't believe I missed this factor, I would bet many — or even most — other parents do as well.

Last week I read an article about how Saint Paul schools had 37,000 students and were unlikely to hit their goal of 40,000 by next year (as an aside, it also said Minneapolis schools had only just over 34,000 students, which seemed really strange!)

Now don't you think that one way to reach that enrollment goal would be to provide clear and comprehensive information about the school choices, thus empowering families to pick the school that best suited their child's learning style?

----

(don't even get me started on the money for a marketing strategy, because I will explode about some spending choices I don't agree with...)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why Blog, Anyway?

Today I attended (much of) the Minnesota Blogger's Conference. Originally founded four years ago by my friend Missy and Patrick's friend Arik, the conference has undergone a lot of changes over time, from a kind of rough-and-tumble beginning at CoCo, to honing for two years, and then a slightly pulled-back-but-still-incredibly-valuable event today. The conference is involving more people — more volunteers (it seems), more people on the steering committee, more topics — and even more male presence (it looked about 60/40 female to male today, a big difference from Year 1 where the group photo with Patrick and a whole bunch of hot women would make a lesser wife very jealous). As it addresses more ideas and topics, it also struggles with some growing pains, but the sheer ability to meet lots of other bloggers, and learn how to be a better blogger while doing so, is incredibly valuable.

(you would think that after all these years and networking and education that this would be a better blog, but I digress...)

A lot of the bloggers there today were new to the conference and even new to blogging, with many having written for less than a year (many of those people maintain multiple blogs as well; how do they keep it up?) Many people who I have known for years through Twitter and blogging were not there, and made me think about how they have subdued their online presence lately — and I miss them. Life is so changeable, and the online efforts that are so important to you at one point in your life can become your total last priority a year later; they ebb and flow just like real life friendships and time do. But it doesn't mean you miss your friends any less.

With new people come new emphases. This year, at least in the sessions I attended, there was a lot of talk about SEO and optimization and making money and the like. Again, important to others — totally not my scene.

Which is what made my friend Kate's remarks on the first panel so much more striking. I've been a Kate fangirl since I first encountered her (also at MNBlogCon), in a break-out session led by the fabulous writer Kate Hopper (who was not at the blog conference today because she was speaking at the Minnesota Book Fair, see earlier comment about shifting time and priorities). When it came time in that break-out to read what we had written, Kate (Selner's) piece was so raw and poignant and beautiful, wrapping up cooking and remembering her mother and everyday life that it forever changed my relationship to all of these things. So, Kate's like that.

Today, her comments were true to that vein. About being your authentic self, about writing what you are called to, about not worrying about analytics and optimization and branding and monetization — but about what you are fully called upon to write.

That's why I write this humble little blog, with its sporadic entries and wide-ranging topics and enormous inconsistency. But even more, it's why Patrick, whose blogs are thousands of times more successful than mine could ever hope to be, also writes — which gives that approach a lot of validation. I'm not saying that the slick, optimized blogs don't have their place in the world.

But I'm going with Kate's approach every time.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ain't No Party Like a Grandpa Party

At least here in Saint Paul, our orchestra (the SPCO) is back from strike and playing. I had not realized how much I had missed them until we attended a free family concert today.

With corporate sponsorship, the SPCO has these events a few times a year. Often they are over in the rehearsal hall, and feature crafts and an "instrument petting zoo" and the like, plus a short concert. This one was actually over in the Ordway, and was targeted towards an older audience, with an educational narrative, some musical examples, and then a full movement from Mozart's 23rd Concerto.

The best part, though, is that we got to go with both grandpas! Grandpa Kenny was in town, so he and Grandpa Dennis came with us. Beatrix got to sit between the two grandpas for the concert, and then share some of her strawberry pancakes at brunch afterwards. Beatrix was so excited about this last night that she started calling it the "grandpa party," which kind of stuck.

I don't get to enough classical music — which I know makes me part of the problem that is affecting the industry. It was wonderful to enjoy the Ordway, and to remember being part of the first house staff to work there. The hall has aged gracefully, and the concert was really fun. Beatrix, who has just started playing violin, loved watching the strings and played along with the piano.

There's a whole political landmine I could step on with the current, one-year plus lock-out of the Minnesota Orchestra — and so I won't. My logic and feelings lie 100% with the musicians, and I am happy to discuss them with anyone in person. The economic issue that former governor Arne Carlson presented towards the economic importance of the orchestra the other day was compelling, as is of course the consideration of the role that the musicians play in our educational system here. But sitting in the hall today, the main reason I can make for the importance of classical music is completely emotional, how it makes you feel and sense and be. And for someone that relies on logic as much as I tend to, that's pretty compelling.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Extra-Ordinary


Last night, thanks to my aunt and uncle who took Beatrix to Children's Theatre and then kept her for her FIRST sleepover with cousins Sunni and Soren, we got a well-timed date night!

Dinner was kind of unremarkable, actually, a quick bite at Tacos, Nachos and Beer thanks to a Groupon. Not exactly fine dining.

Later that night, we ended the evening very differently, with dessert and cocktails at The Strip Club. A delicious "candy bar dessert,"strong cocktails, and one of the best service experiences I have had in a long time.

In between, we saw an incredible show, Ordinary Days at Nautilus Music-Theater. Now, I worked at Nautilus for five years, and their opera/new music-theater mission is dear to my heart. Their new space (downstairs from the old space) is really lovely, and adds a jewel-box like theatre space to Lowertown. But the show - WOW!

Ordinary Days is written by Adam Gwon, a young wunderkind in music-theater. It's 90 straight minutes of catchy music, of building emotion, and of very personal moments. It features four of the strongest music-theater performers I know, two of which are rarely seen onstage anymore (since they direct their own companies). And the casting is SO right and the performances SO strong that, as Patrick said somewhere in the middle of the cocktail, he was astounded it was not written FOR these people. The music director/pianist gives one of her strongest performances I've seen her do, and the set is large yet intimate. Ben Krywosz hits it out of the park putting this piece together.

See it. I can't recommend it highly enough. And if you go to the 2pm matinee tomorrow (Sun 9/22) and say I sent you, you can get in 2 for the price of 1. But it's worth full price in any case.

I see a lot of good theatre — but in this case, just don't miss it!

(sleeping in this morning was great too!)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kitchen Therapy

It's been a hard several weeks with a lot of issues going on. But I knew it had been even harder than I realized when I found myself with a need to be in the kitchen tonight. Creating things usually gets me out of a funk, and cooking/baking/preserving is the ultimate in that for me — I can escape to my own world of thought while doings something beneficial for my family.

So, as the time was measured by the passage of shows on MPR, I settled in. I started by pickling (for the first time ever), converting beautiful lemon cucumbers my friend Maggie gave me into 6 jars of golden pickles.



As that boiled down, and then soaked in the water bath, I mixed up brownies to use as a base for trifle for a dinner party tomorrow night. Since the oven was already warm and the freezer overly full, I defrosted some bananas and made banana bread (we always toss our bananas in the freezer when they inadvertently become overripe, for this very reason).

By the time Patrick got home from taking out recycling at Summit, the kitchen was full of sweet and spicy smells and the washer was humming with laundry. He brought me some mint, so I cooked that down into a simple syrup to freeze in ice cube trays, so fall and winter mojitos can remind me of the warmth of summer.

And, two and a half hours later, I'm finally in a new mindspace and can actually get some work done.

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Day

First day of kindergarten!



Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

So, in trying to be more creative, I've been exploring with more classes. recently, thanks to a Living Social deal, I purchased a Wine and Canvas session....

I picked the session I did because it featured a painting called "Starry Night Over Saint Paul," which reminded me of the night Patrick and I spent at the Covington Inn for our anniversary last year. I found out after I booked that it was the opening weekend for their new space (before now, each night was set up in a restaurant, which I would imagine could get kind of tricky). The space they have now, in St. Anthony, is well set up and has a nice bar and food selection:

So you get there, and they set you up with all the stuff. Nothing as intimidating as a blank canvas, right?

The crowd was mixed. Predominantly female, though a few couples on dates which looked like fun. A few people on their own like me, but mostly small groups of friends. The trio across from me was a group of nurses on a girls night out.

We spent quite some time painting in the background of the canvas, and outlining the skyline, then setting the base. Then we took kind of a long break (more wine!).

Up to this point, I was feeling pretty confident. It was looking like it was supposed to, and we had plenty of time.

The instructor was very chipper, and in the beginning, easy to follow. She did have a habit, though, of forgetting to tell us to do something, and then we had to add it in in the fly, along the lines of "Oh, I forgot you to put THAT building in? Well, ok, just dry off your brush and paint in an orange box here, it's ok if it mixes with the blue."

Then we took a long-ish break, which I think was mainly to let the paint dry. When we got back to it, it got a lot harder. There was a lot of detail to get in, and the instructor moved pretty fast, likely to get it all done in the allotted time. The room is kind of big, and it wash't always easy to see what she was doing; plus, I think it's a little too easy if you are an artist to be like "Ok, put some little dabs of yellow in here, ok, move on to some little dabs of white like this, ok, now use a larger brush for several long lines, of black, ok, now mix yellow and white and shade in here..."

I wasn't the only one confused, and time seemed to race at the end! Plus, it's hard when you are all painting the same thing — you look around the room and are like "Oh, wait, I really like THAT one, why can't mine look that good?" Plus it's kind of disheartening to get pretty far and then feel like you blew it in one section.

In the end, I'm kind of mixed. I was not very happy with the way mine turned out, but Patrick likes it, and I made it for him. If you kind of squint it looks better:

Ultimately, I'm glad I did it, and it did feel really good to create something. I'm not exactly a big threat to Van Gogh though!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Big G

More nostalgia today as we attended a matinee of Pride and Prejudice at the Guthrie (thanks to a great program called PlayDates, parents can attend certain matinees at reduced prices while the kids are entertained upstairs — win/win!)

I couldn't even count the number of years I worked, off and on, in the Guthrie Box Office. Long enough for it to be a seminal part of my life. Long enough ago that the Dram was still in existence, you could smoke indoors, and Dodie still reigned supreme. Long enough I still live in mild terror of printscreens and of Lendre catching a typo. If the phones were not ringing we assembled mailings for Sue McClean's concerts or, in the ultimate make-work, assembled scratch pads. The ticketing software was tetchy and it was ALWAYS better to go in and find your patron the best seats from what you knew, rather than choosing a "best available" option. Theatre-lovers from all over the world would place their own calls to reserve seats, and it was not unusual to suddenly realize you were on the line with a TV or movie star who wanted to see a good show when they were in Minneapolis. The Guthrie had always been known for that.

Which is why, despite all the buzz of "OMG, a real TV star from Mad Men is in the show!" — I really appreciated the ensemble work of the cast. It's true, Vincent Kartheiser has excellent stage presence (he would not be where he is today without it). But he wasn't any better than anyone else in the cast, and I greatly enjoyed the performance (I'll also say I greatly enjoyed Clybourne Park last month on another PlayDate).

It's easy, when you are in theatre, to rail against the Guthrie. it's so much bigger than the other places in town, and just takes up so much bandwidth. But I have to say, it was a wonderful afternoon out.

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After the show, we grabbed some ice cream at the new Izzy's store/factory just down the street. In stark contrast to the hot, crowded Izzy's on Marshall that generally means "summer" to me, this was almost deserted, cold, clinical, and rather soul-less. But the ice cream was still good.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

4:30

The last several nights, we've been awakened at 4:30am, every day. By different things, mind you — a cat with a UTI issue, a loud car stereo outside, Beatrix needing a glass of water, that kind of thing.

But 4:30 every day can get pretty wearing. It's not the right time to get up and get things done; no amount of coffee in the world would make me fully functional at that time. But it's also ridiculously hard to get back to sleep; I lay there for often up to two hours, tossing and turning, before I fall back asleep for 30 minutes and have to get up for real and start my day. I have a hard time getting back to sleep when awakened anyway, but be able to sleep through the night the last couple of weeks has been blissful, and coming back to the wake-ups is making me especially zombie-esque.

Kind of analogy for the rest of the day — when can you easily return to something, and when does it take you a long time to get back in the groove?

Monday, August 19, 2013

10,000 Towers



I first met Aldo Moroni about a million years ago when he made sculptures of the great theatres of the world for the Jeune Lune lobby. Ever since then, I have desperately wanted one of his sculptures. I love the alignment between art and architecture, I love his distinctive style, and I love spending time with him.

So I was especially excited when I saw on his Facebook page that he is doing classes. He has put together classes where people can make their own towers; the ultimate goal is an installation next year where, after everyone has made them and brought them home, they bring them back one day next year for a big art installation. I was especially interested to see that he was offering all-ages and family classes. So, last Saturday Beatrix, Patrick, my dad and I headed over to Aldo's studio and made towers!

It was really the most wonderful day I have had in quite some time. I am pretty intimidated by clay, but Also was generous and helpful in showing us how, and then provided just the amount of freedom/guidance in helping with tower construction and design. Beatrix made a Rapunzel tower, and the rest of us some more traditional ones, all of which had their own wonderful sensibilities.

Aldo's original web page for the class had promised:
Family classes are a great opportunity to share family stories and make art together. In our test classes we discovered that one of the most valuable parts of this experience are the conversations about your family history.  Kids want to know about the great grandpa or the place our family came from. This is an opportunity to create roots in the hearts of your young ones.
To be honest, I thought that was kind of promising a lot, but I was wonderfully surprised that it kind of held true. Working with the clay was a meditative experience, and as we built, we talked about all sorts of things — travel, things Beatrix likes to do, the development of the modern city...

I can't remember a time where I got to spend a few hours just creating something with my family, and the experience was one of the best things I have done in a long time. As excited as I am to see our towers once they are fired, and I'm looking forward to the installation next year, the best part of the experience was just spending that creative time together. I really can't express enough how transformative it was.

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You should do it too! The links above lead you to some of Aldo's pages, and I think he is signing up with Living Social again soon if you like discounts. It would be great to have our towers stand together!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Out and About

We get out and do a lot of things together as a family. In fact, every day, Beatrix asks what we'll be doing that day after school (or "all day" if it's a weekend). As I have noted before, the Twin Cities have  a lot of free festivals and events, especially in the summer, so there is often something interesting to do.

For Christmas, my dad got us a membership to the Minnesota Historical Society, and one of our favorite things to do together is go to historic sites. Beatrix especially loves Fort Snelling, but she has enjoyed every place we've been, even the windy Jeffers Petroglyphs on a particularly frigid Memorial Day weekend!

Today, we had a chance to see the Purcell-Cutts house, thanks to a membership to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that our friends Sommer and Hjalmer gave us (technically, the membership is expired, but since the home is only open a few weekends of the year, and since tomorrow is my birthday, they let us in). We've seen several Frank Lloyd Wright homes, but this was a particularly good example of lesser-known architects that was equally impressive and far more local.



Often my clients give me comps to shows, and this year we had Fringe Festival comps as a thank-you for billeting artists (and some of my clients, like Open Eye Figure Theatre, usually has free kids programming for everyone!) But a beloved annual tradition for us is the SEIU Zoo Day, in which union rents the Minnesota Zoo after hours for one day a year and the members can attend free. Beatrix's aunt and uncle took her to the zoo earlier this year, but usually it's an expense we just can't cover, so it's a particular treat to get there at least once a year and enjoy the animals together.



At times in the past we have gotten Renaissance Festival comps from friends; we have used the library passes to go to museums when that program still existed; my dad, who volunteers at the Bakken, has brought Beatrix there several times and brought us on a tour with the boys when they were much younger. We go to free Songs of Hope concerts and outdoor movies in the park. And we're lucky to have friends who are often up for fun family experiences, even if that is just meeting at Midtown Global Market to enjoy a variety of foods and the free music.

Which is all to say that for our family, getting out and doing a wide variety of things is a core value, and we have been exceptionally successful in making that happen on a shoestring budget. Come out and play with us sometime!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Buckets and Thoughts

Tonight we took Beatrix to "Buckets and Tap Shoes" at the Fringe, which she thoroughly enjoyed. For me, the show was enjoyable, but even more so, it set off a stream-of-consciousness series of memories.

Walking into the Music Box Theater (or whatever it's called now), and remembering when we first began to develop that space as the Cricket Theatre in the 1980s. At that time, the space was a moldy, run-down former meeting hall for the Jehovah's Witnesses I believe, or maybe Seventh Day Adventists. The balcony was almost falling in, and an interior room in the basement was painted in bright colors as a "Jesus Grotto." That project was a labor of love, and though the Cricket is long gone, I am pleased the theater still exists.

Watching the show, and thinking of when I first saw Buckets and Tap Shoes, nine years ago with Annie Cady. We saw tons of Fringe shows that year, and B&TS was the "Best of the Fringe" so we saw their crowded, steamy extra performance to a full and exuberant audience. The performers were young, raw, totally jazzed to be there. If I remember right, they were a last minute addition to the Fringe, something about running into Leah Cooper in the elevator at Hennepin Center for the Arts and agreeing to take a suddenly open slot. That was a great Fringe, and a great night.

Thinking about waiting in the returns line to see Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk even more years ago on Broadway, and a young, young Savion Glover with that same energy. That was the same trip where I saw Rent, and got to see my college friend Kristen burn up that stage with the rest of the cast.

Remembering some of the beginning days of the Fringe, seeing Kevin Kling at the Women's Club, the days when small audiences were the norm (and so pleased with how much they have grown!), sneaking out at lunch on a Wednesday to see a 1pm show (those must have been brutal slots). The original multi-show passes; I think one of them was even on a stick.

Leaving the show, and seeing my friend JP, and happy to know all the amazing performers and talent here. Walking past the building where my grandparents used to live. Thinking of summer evenings spent hanging around Loring Park, seeing Music and Movies in the park, drinking at the Loring, eating at Ye Gadz before it was the Loring. Feeling like I would always be young.

I highly recommend the Fringe. Not only do you get great shows (I fully expect Beatrix to develop a full tap routine tomorrow morning), but you get a free stream-of-consciousness memory trip with each order.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We're Jammin'

Today, my friend Rebecca was kind enough to come over and teach me how to make jam. Here's the thing about Rebecca...she could have just sent me the recipe she uses, or given me some tips, or even pointed me to some blog posts, and called it done and I would have been grateful. But, being the kind of person she is, she simply said "Why don't I just come over, and we'll do it together, so you'll know how."

So I picked up some strawberries and basil and the other items on her list:


Cut them up, mashed them down, and mixed them with the pectin and the sugar and cooked until the jell had set:


Heated up the jars, put in the strawberries and the basil, then heated the jars in a hot bath:


And then, after carefully extracting them and after they had cooled enough to vacuum seal and create nine jars of strawberry-basil goodness:


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stay-Cation

This week, because Beatrix had 3 days plus a weekend off school, she learned the term "staycation." She doubted me at first that it was a real word, but I think she had enough fun so that she will acquiesce the point to me now.

I always love Minnesota in the summertime, and am loathe to leave because there are so many greta things to do! I never seem to be able to go to all the festivals and events that I want to, but we did pretty well at it this weekend.

Wednesday we went to Fort Snelling, which may well be her favorite historic site. Seeing the fort through her eyes is always wonderfully enjoyable. Despite my migraine, we went to the neighborhood patio night.

Thursday she had a playdate with one of her BFFs, Alma. That night, we drove down to Hastings to see Black Dirt Theater's production of "Annie." They are one of my clients, and the production was fantastic, and we all had a lot of fun.

Friday was a pool party, and on Saturday we met our friends Rebecca and leah, and Leah's two daughters, at the Powderhorn Art Fair. I hadn't been to that particular art fair in years, and was surprised an impressed by how it had grown. Plus, we got to see Open Eye's puppet show.

That night, we went to see "Oz" at Circus Juventas — which was, of course, beyond fantastic. Beatrix was all dressed for the part:

Tonight, we saw two Fringe shows (Second Sleight and Heatwave), and ended the night with DQ per Beatrix's request.

Hard to believe it's back to the regular schedule tomorrow!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Front Window

I finished this project awhile back, but am just getting to posting it now!

The woodwork in the front room has bothered me since I bought the house in 1993. So we finally got it scraped and sanded, and I painted the window with some fresh new oil paint. Made a huge difference!

Now, on to the rest of the woodwork in the room...


Saturday, July 27, 2013

May You Lead a Pinteresting Life

There's been a lot of discussion lately about how social media is not quite accurate in how it portrays people's lives.

The general thesis makes sense. Especially on places like Facebook and Pinterest and boutique blogs, we see people's accomplishments; with women and the "New Domesticity"movement, we especially see some rather intimidating creative projects. You know what I mean:
- "Check out the new curtains I made out of my grandmother's wedding dress"
- "Here's a picture of the 18 kinds of varied jams and jellies I made today"
- "Here's the entirely new organic cotton wardrobe I sewed for my daughter for back to school"
- "A picture of our dinner — fresh baked bread and goat cheese I made from our neighbor's new goat Daisy"
-  "Our perfect vacation retreat in the mountains of Costa Rica"

These posts are always beautiful, and inspiring, and kind of intimidating. I know this for a fact, because I often have similar posts.

Because why wouldn't you? You do all this work on something, and you are proud of it and want to share it! And let's face it, it's a lot more interesting than posting pictures of "Here's the Kraft mac-and-cheese I fed my kid for dinner," or "See how much laundry we have to do tonight?" I mean, really, why would you chronicle things like that?

I had heard about the false impressions that these posts may give, but I didn't really think about it and my role with it until recently, when someone I am close to made a comment to my husband about our recent activities, based on something he had posted. Patrick explained earnestly "That's my online persona! That's not real life! If you want to know what's really going on, ask me."

So here's my confession. Of course I am going to post things I am proud of (and I didn't even put up a picture of the awesome chocolate chip/chia seed/banana bread that Patrick just made!) But in case you don't know, my real life is a lot more full of laundry/mac-and-cheese/general daily FAIL than any of my posts would begin to touch on. In fact, right now, there's a lot of struggle to it.

So allow me my triumphs, but please don't be scared by them! And maybe join me in showing me exactly what you're doing, even if it's only comparing pictures of our need-to-be-cleaned refrigerators.