Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Long Winter

Beatrix is sick of us. At the same time, she doesn't really remember what a full week of school is like (the last time she had a full week in a row was before Christmas), and she is decidedly lukewarm on school, as well.

And tomorrow is another day off.

It's been a long weekend of waiting for the shoe to drop with the robo-call from SPPS announcing school would be closed tomorrow. Now I suppose we are waiting on Tuesday.

I'm mixed as to how I feel. The Saint Paul school district does not traditionally close school without a lot of thought. They are all-too-aware that they leaves thousands of families without childcare, many of whom can't bring their kids to work or flex their schedules so that those kids are at home all day alone. They know that, in many cases, that school lunch may be the only hot meal that many children get that day.

But they also know that their bussing contracts are — shall we say — less than ideal? And that many parents have to leave before their children in the morning, and those kids get themselves out the door with maybe no hats or mittens or adequate clothing, and that those busses will likely be late or not show up at all. And let's not kid ourselves; it sounds like deepest Siberia out there right now, and tomorrow is going to be pretty bad.

I spent two hours out in the field last Friday, on a relatively warm day, when we didn't leave the car as we drove around and surveyed neighborhoods. And I still came back with frostbitten feet (due to an old frostbite situation, I do succumb more easily. But still…). And that's when I decided that I think the school district is likely doing the right thing.

That first "Polar Vortex" day was a kind of fun day of bundling up and staying at home and "we're all in this together." But now we are all sick of it, and sick of the snow that happens when it does warm up just a few degrees, and sick of the relentlessness of this. And sick of staying at home; we can't even pretend we are Laura Ingalls Wilder anymore.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Skating on Summit

Not necessarily a "guest post," since I am the lead writer for the Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association blog as well. But still fun:

Skating on Summit

(why don't you go ahead and follow that blog too? We could use some readers).




Monday, January 13, 2014

Good Night

After a long and stress-filled day, my night started like this:


Then Sherlock, with this:




I feel better now.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Polar Vortex Aftermath

I have kind of a polar vortex hangover.

It seems like forever since we have had our real lives. The weekend before Christmas, we were all felled by an awful fever virus — first Beatrix, then Patrick, then me. Then the weird, mid-week Christmas — weekend — mid-week New Year pattern, which seemed like one long fantasy break full of friends and family.

Two days back at school (less or none for those in other districts, thank goodness for the SPPS' decision to start earlier!)

Then the weekend and days and days of cold. I didn't do the boiling water experiment, but everyone else on my Facebook feed did. We did, ill-advisedly, take Beatrix to the MOA for free rides. Our friend Clara and her son Alex hung out with Beatrix and kept our sanity together.

Today, it's back to usual, to school and before-school Spanish class and to a little girl who woke up at 5am and could not get back to sleep. To the dark, cold mornings that make me seriously wonder if we could get a morning nanny so I could Just.Sleep.In. To a backlog of work and a critical need for new tires and bills due and a seemingly unwarranted exhaustion.

Welcome back to real life, everyone!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

#Coldmaggedon and the Grocery Store

Like every other Twin Citizen, we hit the grocery stores today. Target was crazy enough, but Trader Joe's had been decimated; employees were taking advantage of the situation by cleaning out the displays with mini vacuum cleaners. Seriously, the limes were all gone, so no G&T for me!

As I walked through the dairy area, there was  amok asking her teenage daughter "What do you want for breakfast for the next few days?" To which she snakily answered "Caribou."

Which kind of sums it up. The reason the stores are so picked over is not because we think we can eat our way out of a cold snap (or put on weight to hibernate). It's because we are used to eating the majority of our meals out, and when we are faced with staying home, we get a little panicked. We buy All The Limes, and put a run on the frozen pizzas and the chili fixings. WE have cabin fever before the cold has even set in.

I looked it up tonight, and a few studies said that 25% of Americans eat fast food daily. 8 out of 10 eat it at least once a month. We're becoming (have become?) a nation reliant on other people cooking for us — and often food that's not very good for us.

(I'm not throwing stones at glass houses here. We eat out way more often than we should, though Beatrix has never been to a traditional fast food place and does not know what a McDonald's even is. However, we certainly eat our share of Noodles and Company and Pei Wei.)

So here's to some of the great food we can make at home in the next few days. I'm making carmelitas tomorrow, and some kind of warm, stewy, sit-on-the-stovetop all day something. Open a bottle of good wine. Have the neighbors over. Maybe read a book by the fire. And revel in what home means.

If you make something delicious, let me know!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Revolution Evolution

I love New Year's Resolutions. Last week I looked over what I had done (see earlier post), and I had a nice little list of ones for 2014, tucked away in little word files on my computer. Patrick and I had discussed joint resolutions. Most of mine were kind of task-oriented — see how easy? I could knock them off in one day, if needed.

But that's the problem with being married to a writer. There we were at Original Pancake House, discussing resolutions. And sometime after that discussion — and before the teenager behind us ended up puking up all his strawberry pancakes all over the floor — suddenly I was not so enamored of my resolutions anymore.

For instance, my BHAG was to knock off every item on the 27-item list of home improvements I had made for Ashland about 6 weeks ago. It's a pretty comprehensive list of things that need to be done, including:
cleaning out the basement and the garage
new shades for the guest room
redoing the upstairs hallway
repainting the guest room
re-doing the 1F ceilings and floors
framing all our art
getting a new refrigerator
….

See what I mean? Doing all those things would have been a nice long list of achievements I could cross off. But honestly, some of them I care a lot less about than others. And we have 2 more houses that would have been neglected. So I'm replacing it with the far more nebulous:

Resolution #1
To do at least one project in each home that restores the home's sense of spirit.

Over at Ashland, that likely means a series of items that includes the floors and ceilings on the first floor, and likely some painting and elements as well. Much harder, but also likely more rewarding.

Our joint goals were repeats of past resolutions, and were goals that Patrick had that I agreed with. They are:

Resolution #2
At least one date night a month.

These are things that are not work obligations or the like, and were enormously successful in 2013 (even if I forgot to list it in my earlier post.) Sign me up. And,

Resolution #3
An evening with friends (dinner here, out to dinner, whatever) at least once a month.

This was extremely successful in 2012, and we even introduced people that have formed fast friendships. Patrick's goal is every other week, but I'm being conservative at monthly. Also looking forward to it.

But the one person left out of these goals of spending intentional time with people was the most important one — my daughter. So, even as I strive to spend good time with her daily (as well as movies and homework and cooking and pet time and all that), I have:

Resolution #4
Go an an awesome family vacation.

Beatrix loves travel, and is always talking about places we have gone and where we will go. I'm hoping for Costa Rica, but I'm pretty sure any vacation with her will be great.

A lot of my tasks on the earlier resolution list had a lot to do with learning and expanding my skills. So I decided to combine them into:

Resolution #5
Embrace curiosity through learning.

The specific tasks:
Fund 4 Kickstarter campaigns (I'm trying to suss how it works)
Watch 10 TED talks (Love the idea of TED and other similar events, hate watching videos online)
Complete online accounting course

The will likely get supplemented with other opportunities; I've been wanting to check out Coursera for example, or take a one-evening wine course, or take a class at IFP. I'm excited about what I can learn.

These lead me to the final resolution, which is by far the most nuanced and complicated:

Resolution #6
Provide outstanding services to my consulting clients.

I'm caught in a bind right now. In cases where I go above and beyond the call of duty (as in, several last-minute save-the-day instances for fiscal sponsorship clients at IFP in the past 2 days), I don't insist on the recognition I deserve for that.

At the same time, especially with a lot of clients and a lot of things going on, I feel I could be stronger and more pro-active in better meeting their needs. While I always get things done for them, sometimes it feels very last-minute and hectic. In 2014 I want to learn more (see Resolution #6) so that I have stronger skills, and to come up with a system that reassures everyone (including myself!) that my clients are incredibly important to me, and that I routinely go above and beyond the norm to provide excellent and comprehensive service to them.

I had a lot of other ideas for resolutions: find a violin teacher for Beatrix, do more crafts, read more books, finally get a cemetery plot, more blog posts, exercise, etc. I guess I'll just have to do those things without the driver of a list of resolutions. What I have will keep me very busy in 2014, and is (as usual, sigh!), relatively hard to measure. But if I can do these things to the level I want to, 2014 will be an incredible year!