Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Resolutions - How I Did

Ok, I guess there's no time to squeeze in more work on these, so here we are in the recap. My resolutions were as flows:

Resolution #1 – Use
We have SO much. Our pantry is full of half-eaten food, the desk full of gift cards, the bathroom closet full of lotion and product. This year, I resolve to use all of that stuff, before buying new (as much as possible).

This went well at the beginning of the year, and I think we have used up a lot of things. We lost momentum mid-year, when we had a lot going on and it was just easier time-wise to not have to think as hard about things. So a mixed success I suppose.

Resolution #2 – Re-Use
I have been active on several neighborhood Buy/Sell/Trade boards, even co-founding one for my community. In 2015, I will sell 100 items on those boards (and hopefully not buy 100!)

This went great. I've sold well over 100 things, and found a good way to make the BST boards a good part of my life without succumbing to their easy lure.

Resolution #3 – Create
I’m never so happy as when I am making things, even if it is just simple crafts. In 2015, I will do more of that, though I am resisting setting quotas or measurable for it.

Fail. I made about 2 things.

Resolution #4 – Frame
Frame our art and hang it — it’s not doing any good sitting in a pile. Print photos and frame them.

I rocked this resolution. Almost all of my art is now framed. Now I just need to hang everything!

Resolution #5 – Enjoy Minnesota
I’m always talking about how much I love living here. In 2015, I will enjoy Minnesota more — some Minnesota travel (maybe ice caves, or even just the cabin), attending various summer festivals (goal of 15), museums and other places.

I did pretty well on this. Lots of fun festivals and events. This year will end with a bang, with the History Center today and Sound of Music tomorrow. We live in a great place.

Resolution #6 – Date
For the third year in a row, I’ll go on a monthly date night with my husband. Best resolution ever.

Fail.

Resolution #7 – Revive Space
When evaluating how I could serve my clients better, I realized that my workspace(s) need some real help. My home office in particular is messy and cluttered, and I think it saps my work energy to face it. I will make this space (and my on-client sites) better and more productive to work in.

I got pretty far in this. It's a mess now, but it's certainly better and far less cluttered.

Resolution #8 – Preserve
Do something I consider significant in the historic preservation field. Still determining what that is.

In my head, I thought this might be the start of a book. In reality, it was a resurgence of interest in my work on conservation districts, and a great contract for a huge survey in Macalester Park. Definite success!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Blogging for Books - It's Got Soul!

I just started with a new adventure in Blogging for Books, where you get review copies in exchange for a review copy. Not exactly the most remunerative work, but fun. Here's my first review:


I chose this as my first Blogging for Books adventure because I could share the experience with my husband, who was born just outside of New Orleans and for whom soul food runs deep in his family. He's a writer, currently working on a history of his family and the land they acquired during Reconstruction, and I knew the family history at the beginning of the novel would be especially interesting for both of us.

It's clear from the beginning that the Randalls are writers. The writing from the beginning is lyrical and engaging. But they really draw you in to the story, to the quest for a better, healthier (and cheaper) way of eating that pays homage to their family history and to the kitchens of comfort food, and to later generations who replace the kitchen with fast food. That story is especially compelling.

At first, many of the recipes in here seem like filler — Simple Spinach, for example, is just spinach, some lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. But when you keep in mind that the Randalls are speaking to an audience that may lack a basic comfort level with cooking, it makes sense. The more involved recipes, like the Poet Pot Pie we had for dinner tonight, are complex and delicious, and will be meals we return to often.


I cleaned out our cookbooks tonight — and this one went front and center on the top shelf!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Blow Us All Away

Tonight, the day after the Sandy Hook anniversary and when LA schools were closed due to a "credible threat," I'm especially glad for my daughter.

I'm glad for her everyday. Today I'm super proud of her because she did well on her piano recital, and aced her math test, and did well in violin this morning, and finally seems to be getting her math facts, and was a trooper about adjusting her expander. Because she is SO excited for Christmas, and to write in her diary every night, and to be close to moving up a reading level.

But I love her on the days she is cranky, and unhappy, and difficult. Those are the days when she needs love even more, and it's all the more rewarding to be able to show her I love her.

I love this world more because I love her. And I ache to make it better.

I never expected to have this kind of love, and I am grateful for that. And there's a lot of responsibility there, to try to make the world a better place, so that by the time she is grown the "lockdown drills" they practice now are as outdated as "duck and cover."

"Pride is not the word I'm looking for, there is so much more inside me now...If we lay a strong enough foundation, we'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you, and you'll blow us all away."

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Lest you think that this is only the kind of responsibility a parent feels, I encourage you to read a piece by my friend Kelly, as published in my friend Steph's blog. Because we all have  a lot of responsibility to make this world

Monday, December 14, 2015

IFP Minnesota

I really, really love all of my clients — I would not work with them if I did not. And I generally don't play favorites.

But today, right now, after a great afternoon, I am super excited for, and grateful for, IFP Minnesota, for 4 reasons in particular:

1)  The Spirit Awards. I LOVE the spirit awards. In January and February, you can see the top indie films of the year, 2 shows a night, 2 days a week. The kind of films that don't always play here, or if they do it's because they are also in contention for an Oscar, so they can be hard to get in to see. They screen at the Walker, which is also fun. And they are FREE, and available only to IFP members.

2)  The Member Show. Every year (well, we skipped last year because we were moving), IFP holds a Members Show, featuring members' photography. It's free to enter, and the pieces submitted are fantastic. A couple of years ago, my friends Rachel and Michael submitted beautiful pieces that still stand in my memory. Hey, I might even submit a piece this year. The deadline is January 4 and the show opens January 22, and if you joined from that link above, you're a member, so you should submit!

3)  McKnight Fellowships. Fantastic fellowship grants for mid-career film and media artists (including screenwriters, though there's also a separate screenwriting competition). I'm so impressed with the work that these fellows do.

4)  Plain old donating. My friend Nancy just redid the donation page, and it's super-spiffy. If all this work I am blabbering about (and much much more!) is compelling to you, I would encourage you to throw a few bucks IFP's way. It means a lot.

(If film isn't your thing, ask me about my other clients — I'm sure I can find someone to pique your interest!)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Books

Tonight I am glad for reading in bed, and for books in general. I just got some great books for people for Christmas, and there's a lot I want to read myself. If Beatrix would put up with it, I would spend all of Christmas vacation holed up inside reading. I can't think of anything better.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent Uplift

I've taken to calling them "the Decembers." It's that gray, overwhelmed-with-it-all feeling I sink into at least once a day this time of year, when I want to be wrapped in Christmastide and making a great holiday season for my little girl, and instead it's I'm surrounded by an almost tactile sense of those weeks spent in the hospital the Christmas my mom was dying. I can almost see the cold fluorescent lights, can almost smell the hand sanitizer, and every part of my body aches in that tired way. At the same time, my eyes fill with hot tears about the things I can't share with my mom, all the things she has missed. It's an awful feeling. I hate December.

So I was sinking into that and heating up leftovers when the dog went crazy barking at the door. When I looked out, and it was my friend N, who moved away last year and who I email and text occasionally, but who has even more on her plate than I could ever imagine, and who I have not seen or felt very connected to. I'm usually not the biggest fan of surprises, but seeing her on my doorstep was the biggest and most wonderful surprise I've had in quite awhile.

She's in Minnesota only briefly to take care of a couple of things, but we had some golden time to catch up and it made me so happy. And to have those moments, and to hear her say "I always love your home so much!" on a day that I felt down and the house looked like total hell — well, it completely made my day. It pulled me right out of the Decembers.

(and then later the cat tipped over the Christmas tree, which caused total chaos, but that's another story...)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Good Food

Today I am grateful for good food.

The Coconut Curry Pumpkin Pot Pie my colleague made for lunch (happy 8th work anniversary, Kim!)

And my favorite meal ever, goat cheese mac and cheese, that Patrick made for dinner because he knows it's been tough for me lately.

And planning Christmas Eve!

Food is love.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Norwegian Wood

I meant to post every day about things I am grateful for, even if it was only short. But I am afraid that, though I try to be Christmas-y for the kid, this still gets to be way too hard a time of year for me. If I had my druthers, I would hibernate with books and cocktails until January 2. But I can't, so...

Tonight I am grateful for the things Beatrix does with groups of people. She and I just got back from volunteering at Feed My Starving Children with her Brownie troop. I'm mixed about the religious nature of the organization, but very, very thankful that it does something to help, and does it well. And I think it was a great lesson learned for the girls. So cynical as I always am going in, I'm thankful now.

I'm also incredibly thankful for her Norwegian dance group! Thanks to my friend Sasha, Beatrix joined just last month, so she has had only one real rehearsal before she performed with the group at the Union Depot Holiday market yesterday. But she jumped right in, and the group leader is wonderfully kind and reassuring, and all the older kids are so sweet and kind to her. She is by far the youngest in the group (and looks even tinier), but she was so happy to be performing and I think she did a great job!

(photo credit to my friend and chosen family member Carrie and her daughter Ava — so happy they came!)






Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Life in the Theatre

Tonight, as I sewed a scarf using skills I learned in a costume shop long long ago, while listening to Hamilton, and even as I thought of the news of the day — tonight I am glad for my life in the theatre.

I'm glad for the skills I have learned. I'm glad for the knowledge I have gained. And most of all I am glad for the people I know, for strong and amazing friendships from people who get it.

I hundred million years ago, when I started working with Gary Parker at TCity, I could never have known that this would be my life. Thank you to all of you who inspire me daily with the things you create.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Friends

Perhaps the most obvious, and certainly the most important, thing that I am grateful for in my life is friends.

Whether it's Thanksgiving dinner with good friends I have known for almost half my life (yikes!), dessert and puzzle gatherings and a mom's night out with Beatrix's school friends' families, impromptu dinner and pie, or calls and emails and Facebook messages over then holiday weekend, or even shopping at places where I know and like the owners, I feel like I have totally won in the friendship department.

And I think Beatrix, whose holiday weekend has been equally full of playdates and gatherings, feels the same way.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Quiet I

More to post later on what I've been grateful for the past few days.

Tonight I am focused on the fact that though my Myers-Brggs typo has always firmly been ENTJ (years ago, when I was first tested, Vijit said I was the most strong example he had ever seen), lately I seem to slide I when I am super-stressed.

Tonight, the thing I most loved was that I sat down to finally watch the movie Wild with my husband, and that I have shelves and shelves of books I could read. I feel like hiding for a week and only reading.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Paper (Tiger)

It's a good thing I started this day of thankful thing because today would have been a good day to ignore it. Kind of blah and weighted down.

So I'm grasping a little and landed on a project that Beatrix and I actually did yesterday, making candleholders by putting maps and book pages around jars. But I think it turned out super-cute:


I also spent some time tonight fixing a project that has been weighing me down for a long time. The back hallway is covered with brown paper, and over time (and kids) some of it has been ripped or peeled up. So tonight I took some time to paste it all down again and repair some areas — let's hope it matches.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You're Lucky to Even Know Me, You're Lucky to Be Alive

Again, a lot of great parts to today.

But the high point was a house concert tonight.

It was Beatrix's first violin public performance; a few weeks back, her incredible teacher Kelsey asked if she could do it, and she wanted to, so she has been practicing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (or Baa Baa Black Sheep, or the ABC song, depending on how you think of it) since then. It's been a hard few weeks of practice, and she literally only got a strong hold on it minutes before we left for the concert, when Patrick came up with the idea of videoing it and showing her what she was doing wrong. It was like a light bulb came on, and just in time too.

So an hour later, we're sitting on the living room of a quintessential Saint Anthony Park home, the kind I grew up knowing, with a strong architectural sense, full of mismatched mugs and flyers about peace rallies and arts events, picture everywhere, candles burning — a place I feel very at home in, and with an audience of interesting people. Beatrix plays her piece and it's not perfect, but my heart is bursting with pride that she got through it. The Ladies Music Club (whose concert it was) were enormous fun to listen to, and were highly inspirational to Beatrix.

Near the end she leaned over to me and said "Are they going to be done soon and we'll have to go home?"

"Probably in a few songs. Are you getting bored?"

"No, that's just the problem, I don't want to leave."

It's a good night of music when you don't want to leave.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Happy Advent - Donuts

This time of year is always really hard for me. AND I am having a super-stressy deadline month.

So I am starting Happy Advent — hopefully I can stick with it. One thing I am happy for every day.

Today I am happy for donuts. Specifically, my friend Pablo hosting a donut party at Heartland, and getting to bring my daughter to it. For amazing sugar donuts (how could I have forgotten I like sugar donuts?) For a table full of Dans and one in particular. For spending time with and having an excellent conversation with my old friend Mischa and his adorable son Sasha. For remembering that I love Saint Paul and its hangouts, and that there are fantastic people in the Twin Cities. Thank you, Pablo!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wrong Approach

I stayed up last night, unwilling to be torn from my Twitter feed, watching the situation unfold with the Black Lives Matter protests outside Minneapolis' 4th Precinct. I was amazed at the bravery and persistence of the protesters, and it takes some special kind of guts for CM Lisa Bender to say to an officer "If you want to shoot someone, shoot me."

I am all for supporting those who enforce our laws, but I think the police are wrong here, for any number of reasons.

But the main reason I think that this is a major error on the part of the MPD is because, for as long as I can remember, the police force has said that the Northside and that precinct is especially difficult to address, that they are doing the best that they can, but that its simply impossible to keep order there.

And now they are actively fighting against — assaulting with mace and rubber bullets — the very people who are proving that they give a damn about that community and their city and are willing to fight to make things better. Imagine if we had a police that was smart enough and cared enough to engage these people to work better to make improvements. But instead, the alienation and hurt that they are actively fostering will take years, if not generations, to heal.

It's a mistake of enormous proportions by those who are supposed to be our leaders and protectors, and I grieve for that.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris

Those of you who know me well know how obsessed I have been with "Hamilton" lately. Which, even before yesterday, has had me thinking about how America may have descended from England, but owes its freedom to France. A nation of immigrants, stemming from the best of these two great countries, and the hearts and souls of all over the world.

You'll also know then, that I disapprove of co-opting tragedy. I have a number of friends and acquaintances in Paris (mainly from my Jeune Lune days), and they are all safe. We're not in Paris until June. I can't even begin to comprehend the pain of those who were directly affected — I just can't.

But this tragedy in Paris affects us all in a very global way. And I don't know what to do or what to think, except to hold my daughter close.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Give to the Max Day 2015

I'm not the only one conflicted about Give to the Max Day, as I can tell from emails and posts from my colleagues. It's a confusing day, where you want to participate in the festival-like atmosphere, while making sure your donors understand, really understand, how much they mean to you and how that relationship is important.

This year it's earlier than usual — before the 15th of the month for the first time — and people aren't ready, or thinking about end of the year giving. And there's a lot of confusion about the site and how to give and fees and the like.

And I'm distracted by our own needs around here: a girl with tricky new orthodontia, a house that has to be finished, a dog (not ours) that needs a home, and other deadlines.

Still, I think it's important to think about giving and why you support the things that are important to you. Today's a good day to do that, because it's fun and easy and you'll feel good participating in the carnival. But any day is good. If it's easy to give online, do that — or your gift will have more impact (because no fees!) if you send a check directly.

I have a bizillion clients and suggestions:
IFP Minnesota (who doesn't love film?)
Circus Juventas (it's the closest thing to running away with the circus)
Mental Health MN (because we have all had mental health issues at some point)
KidsPark (for cooperative flexible childcare)
The Caux Round Table (a moral capitalism think tank, right here in MN)
Mixed Precipitation (it's picnic, it's opera, it's both)
Theatre Novi Most (Patrick sits on the board but has no time to pimp it today)
Skewed Visions (site specific awesome work)
Sounds of Hope (world peace through music)
Summit Ave Residential Preservation Assn (preservation)

and many more, if you have money burning a hole in your pocket.

But honestly, if you have just a few dollars to spare for a new to you organization, I would actually point you to my dad's first-time pitch, which I thought was heartfelt and amazing:
Just learned that since Medtronics’ move to Ireland, their help in funding The Bakken Museum has taken a big nosedive. As a result, the museum is launching an internal campaign to celebrate the museum’s 40th birthday. I know that GiveMN is coming up next week and that you often encourage your twitter mates to select local causes for donations. Would you consider suggesting The Bakken as one of those choices. An anonymous benefactor has pledged a match of up to $40,000 for all donations received by Dec. 10. I donated $40.00 already to qualify for the matching gift. I would hate to see the museum have to cut back on some of its programs. Thanks for your consideration.
Love, your father
So my vote for someplace extra to throw a $10 donation today and feel really good about yourself? The Bakken.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Why Our Words Have Meaning



This post is one of the most cut-to-the-chase, insightful posts I have ever read (by my friend Nora, who is awesome, but the piece would be just as striking to me if I did not know her). Take a minute to read it. I'll wait.



Ok, you're back. Hopefully you're bowled over — I was, and I can identify with the experience because it happens to me All The Time. Maybe you've never thought of it that way before, and now you are, and that's cool too.

But hey, if you're one of the many (and I am sure there are some of these in the comments to her original post by now, I haven't looked because I have learned that my cardinal rule of life is "Don't read the comments"), who is still thinking "What's the big deal? He didn't even know he said anything. He was just trying to be nice" — I challenge you to reconsider. Hard.

Our words have meaning. Everything we say. When I present something for a client, what I say and how I say it is every bit as important as the data I am giving them. When I snap at my daughter without thinking, it can wound her for days and affect everything else she does. Ninety-nine percent of my disagreements with my husband come from communication misunderstandings. And those instances are from people I have relationships with, who can at least take my words in a general context.

What you say matters (even if you are a jerk). So own that power. Make it matter. Only say what you mean — and then 100% mean what you say.

And never, ever, tell anyone to "just smile" out of context. (However, if it's something like "Smile, because I love you and here's some chocolate and I just got us tickets for Hamilton tonight and our plane leaves in 90 minutes" I will accept it!)


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tweet Grants

A little over a year ago, Patrick and I sponsored a project called #TweetSmallChange. Funded by our pocketbooks, it had a 48 hour submission process where people tweet-pitched their prospective projects (organizations, individual artists, it didn't matter). We got, I don't know, a little over 100 submissions and gave out ten $140 grants. (If you can't guess why the amount was $140, you should give up on Twitter, now.)

It was an incredible experiment. For one person, it was her first arts grant — and let's just go on to say she has gotten many more! We connected an artist with an arts gallery/shop. The other day I framed a set of prints another visual artist created. A local company learned the effectiveness of multiple tweets.

I was reminded of that tonight when I belatedly realized it was the final day for #deluxecares, a Tweet-an-Application program from the local Deluxe Company. I did shoot off a few tweets for clients, and took a quick look at the other submissions. There are  a lot of incredible organizations in the world.

But I can't help but feel a little mournful that #TweetSmallChange is not the only twitter-grant program out there anymore — and to feel even worse that we just don't have the funds right now to run another round. But hopefully we will, sooner rather than later.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween


Last year, Beatrix began having very firm opinions on Halloween — on decorations, her costume, preferred candy, etc. Last year was also the first year she wanted to trick-or-treat with school friends, which was fine with us, because we had a blast going around to the neighborhoods around her school including the famous "Halloween Street."

This year, it multiplied. The kids formed a mini-pack, running from house to house as Dave coached them ("That one, there, with the orange lights on! Go!!") and the parents trailed behind, talking and laughing. Halloween Street was just as delightful as we remembered. Some houses gave out the coveted full-sized candy bars. And as we walked along in the late afternoon sun, kicking leaves, I was astounded how idyllic it was.

Later than night we hit a front-yard bonfire and told ghost stories, and then gathered at a house for delicious snacks and hot chocolate with horchata and more conversation. It was perfect!

(I have to say, though, my own personal Halloween horror was the infill housing going in in Macalester-Groveland. Each block seems to have some (often unsold), badly designed new construction that in my opinion is really harming the integrity and value of the neighborhood as a whole. I'm actually very worried about it).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Staghorn

When I was young, Grand Avenue was a shopping street, but not the boutique destination it is today. On the corner near us there was an Isreali deli, a drugstore, a dry cleaner, a couple of places I can't remember, and a little plant and gift store called Evergreen, run by a hippie guy who looked a lot like the dad in my Sunshine Family set. I loved stopping in to that store on my way home from school, and especially admired the large staghorn fern that hung on the wall.

Years later, we were at Biltmore, and the thing I had to have from the gift store was a potted staghorn fern. But for the past couple of years it has stagnated in a pot, because I had no idea how to mount it and hang it. It kind of rots in a pot, getting a weird fungus on it and generally looking dismal and unhappy.

Today, though, I decided something had to be done about it. I look up instructions online, found a piece of wood in the garage, ran to Frattalone's to get a hook to hang it, and with some trial and error, mounted it.

It looks pretty good right now, let's hope it is healthier and happier hanging on the wall!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Commodore

When I was in elementary school at SPA, our high school squash team played at the Commodore in their original squash courts. I still remember distinctly the 1978 natural gas explosion that closed it down for years and caused injuries to my much older classmates, eliminating our squash program.

When I first moved back to Saint Paul in the early 1990s, the building had been converted into condos, which were selling for ridiculously low prices (but then, so was my house). The Commodore bar itself was a private event space, where the interior bar held its old panache (even if the light bulbs were perpetually burned out and the cocktails basically limited to well drinks). The large dining rooms had lovely old photos but a mossy green carpet and furniture that looked to have been retired after hard use from over at the University Club. Still, over the years, I enjoyed my fair share of events there.

This week, the Commodore opens anew in its old Jazz Age glory. We went tonight, during the soft opening, and met up with friends in that same bar. And I have to say, I am totally impressed.

There's a new lobby bar in what was formerly kind of a wasted space. The dining rooms are soft and elegant, and the menu looks fantastic. The central bar holds all of its former charm, but some new furniture and an extremely tempting cocktail menu. Service was extremely friendly if a bit rocky (remember, it's still a soft opening).

John Rupp is to be congratulated on a lovely new/old space that is a true boon to the neighborhood. We came back and told our roommate that he needs to bring a lovely lady there for an impressive date. And we'll be back, often. I already have dreams of making it my neighborhood bar, something that's been sadly lacking in my life since Zander closed.

Meet me for a drink?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Things You Do For Fun

This fall, I signed up for the adult circus class at Circus Juventas. When I was talking to Dan, the founder, about possibly taking it it, I said I thought it would be helpful for me to know how some of the acts are physically done, rather than just watching them. To which he said "Yes, but you shouldn't do it for that. You should do it because it's fun."

And he was 110%, totally, right. Every Monday night it's hard to get myself out of the house and over to the tent, but I leave an hour later with a sense of sheer exhilaration. That circus class is one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I come home every week in total pain and amazed at my lack of strength and stamina. I have an incredible new appreciation for the things those circus kids can pull off. And most of all, for an hour of the week, I have had a total blast.

I honestly can't remember the last time I did something simply because it was fun. I'm very driven, and so things usually have to have a point — such as understanding circus better. Or taking yoga or pilates because it's good for you. Or the other classes I take because I should learn those things. I have fun volunteering, but that's certainly a duty. I thoroughly enjoy almost every show I attend, but I generally make the choice to attend because I should; I love reading, but my list tends to be "should" books (and an occasional Cape Cod beach read). Our travel always has at least one business aspect. I enjoy working on the house, but that's for sure a "should." And let's not even discuss parenting, the hardest and most rewarding work I have ever taken on.

And there's nothing wrong with all my "shoulds." They make me a better person; they give a focus to my life; I like measuring what I have achieved. After all, I signed up for this circus class at first because it was a should — but it's turned into something very different. And now, just now, I may be open to the fact that there is a lot more fun in things than I knew — and I am looking so very forward to discovering that.

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What things are the most fun for you? And are they pure, unbridled "fun," or do they have some "shoulds" in there too?


Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Most Beautiful October Sunday Ever

Today is the most beautiful October day I can ever remember. Warm (in the 80s!), sunny, bright, it was this golden moment of why we live here. Well played!

This that know me know that pretty much nothing makes me happier than clothing exchanges, and today I experienced two! I hosted one with a group of online friends, and then accepted a last-minute invitation to attend another one. I had a great time at both, hung out with some lovely women, and scored some lovely new finds.

Then I came home and, against my better judgement, kon-mari'd my tee shirt drawer. I'm still a skeptic, but damn, it does look better.

Plus I found more clothes for more clothing exchanges, so if you know of any soon…

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Other activities included the dog park, being able to research for a big project while sitting outside in the sun, and making tuna salad with celery from the garden for dinner (likely the last tuna salad of the summer).

There were two retreats I had wanted to go to this weekend, and we are coming up on MEA weekend and I am sad we are not going out of town. But, for now, I am super-happy with a clean house, new clothes, and a warm night.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Plant Pictures

Beatrix came home from school today and said "We drew plants in science today and I am really good at it. Can I do some from our garden?"

And then she came up with these. I'm in awe.






Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Sunday

In general, I often feel so very lucky about our lives. But lately, we've been in a bit of a rut, overwhelmed and exhausted and generally just worn out. So this weekend, it was nice to regain some of the magic.

Friday night, we attended the Festival of Lights Gala for the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Though religion is not exactly my strong suit, I strongly support the building and its beautiful architecture, and the gala was lovely; plus afterwards, we got to meet friends for drinks at Saint Dinette to cap off the night perfectly!

Yesterday, we got quite a few things done around the house before heading over to the Southern to see one of the last performances of Four Humors "Lolita." (Beatrix did not join us for this one…) I swear, my face *still* hurts from laughing. An amazingly timed comic-tragic-commentary. We spent the night at "Lakansyel: The Music and Dance of Haiti" — which my client the Minnesota Global Arts Institute produced at Sundin Hall — another absolutely compelling performance.

Today, however, was totally perfect. With the girls of Beatrix's book club, we visited her friend Meara's aunt in Willmar (thanks to the amazing Jenn G. who put all this together). We brushed and hugged a pony, fed apples to horses (too windy to ride), and spent time admiring them (Doc was my favorite). We picked raspberries, and petted cats and dogs. We broke open crystalline rocks and incredible ammonites — amazing, shining nautilus fossils encased in the humblest of brown rocks. We visited a small home museum that was absolutely filled with Indian artifacts and fossils and butterflies and rocks and petrified wood and other amazing items. We bought the biggest pumpkin ever for $5. And we ended the night at Beatrix's favorite restaurant (Space Aliens, naturally), where I had a big, delicious Mudslide.

Then we watched the lunar eclipse while driving back, listening to "Hamilton" cranked up high, and then saw it in all its red super moon glory soon after we reached home, standing on the porch with our neighbors, appreciating the moment.

It's true. I'm the luckiest girl on earth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Saturday Spectrum

As usual, our activities last weekend were remarkably varied. That's kind of the story of my life, which I realized last week when I spent a couple of hours strategizing marketing for Skewed Visions (buy a membership, won't you?), and then reserved my tickets for the Cathedral's Festival of Lights Gala.

But I digress….

Much of Saturday was spent at the Renaissance Festival (pics here). Beatrix loves the Renn Fest, and after we hit all of her favorite spots in quick succession (Mermaid Garden, Fairy Forest, Cinderella, and Princess Pavilion) we could wander around and just enjoy ourselves. We ran into our friend Alexis, bought feathers, jumped on the trampoline, pet reptiles and farm animals, saw performances, ate soup in a bread bowl and turkey legs and cream puffs, marveled at sharks in a puddle, saw Twig, shopped, and watched wonderful shows — the best of which, was, of course, the Wacky Chickens.

I've gone to Festival scores of times over the years — as a young child Beatrix's age, in my teens when it seemed all my friends were performing there (because they basically were), and more recently with Beatrix who loves it passionately. And my appreciation for that special place has grown and grown. I believe that, with the encroachment of the mine, it will for sure have to move in the next few years, and I am sad to lose that place and worried about where it will go.

---

That night, we got a sitter and went to Arch Lights at the Southern, which was billed as a celebration of their first year of the Art Share program and an announcement of next year's season. I've been a little mixed on my Artshare membership, actually, as much of its roll-out has been a bumpy ride. But this event was a lot of fun and very inspiring, and it was wonderful to spend time with friends and to see some people I have not seen in years and reconnect.



My one quibble (uh, ok, call it constructive criticism) is that nowhere was it advertised in advance that this was a fundraiser for the Southern! So we got there, and there was a great raffle for a wall of booze, and mystery wine/growler sales, and a "punch wall" where you could punch through a box and get a mystery prize. The latter was especially appealing because it looked for all the world like it had been a wall of boxes of kittens, where all the kittens had broken through and escaped, and I think a wall of kittens would be an excellent fundraiser.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

National ID - Not

This week, it was revealed that, beginning sometime in 2016, Minnesota drivers' licenses will not be compliant for identification on US flights (along with those from New York, New Hampshire, Louisiana, and, oddly enough, American Samoa.)

http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/drivers-licenses-new-york-domestic-flight-real-id

Apparently, we are one of the states who does not have strong enough residency checks when we renew driver's licenses, thanks to the 2009 legislature/Pawlenty administration voting to prohibit the Real ID Act.

There is now apparently a way to purchase an "enhanced license" that does meet these requirements. but when I renewed my driver's license last month I was not given that option.

What really raises my blood pressure about this is that, as you see above, last month I renewed my DRIVER'S LICENSE. That regulates, cleverly enough, my ability to drive. In order to receive said license, I had to be of age, receive a permit, pass a driver's test, and I have to have insurance on my car, and pass a vision test. These all relate to the optional privilege of driving a car — and only that.

Though it is used in place of an identification card (I suppose primarily because it has a picture and so many people have one), a driver's license is not intended to be an ID. Now whether or not we *should* have a national ID is an entirely other question. But I firmly believe that we are in for never-ending problems when we expect one sort of ID — one with very specific requirements and use — to stand in for another one kind of one that has national security implications.

ETA:  One of my friends just pointed out, what if you are enrolled in TSA pre-check (since TSA is where you need the ID), but have an ID from one of these states? Anyone? Bueller?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why I Love Living Here

Because I can take a silks class, and even though I suck at it and hurt all the next day, it's super-fun.


Because I can go to a great show (The Little Pilot, by Sandbox, at the Southern), and tell our friend who came with us that there are over 100 theatre companies in the Twin Cities, which makes me feel less bad that I don't see as much as I should.


Because today I could see Mixed Precipitation's wonderful picnic operetta Escape from Alcina's Island in a part that I did not even know existed.And because my daughter loves to dress up in costume when we go out to things.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pool Parties


As you may or may not know, for the past several years, we hold Friday Night Pool Parties.

Pretty much every Friday, we open up the pool and the hot tub and put some condiments and other food on the table. People bring things to share, things to drink, things to grill. Patrick mans the grill and cooks up pounds and pounds of meat products. The fridge gets filled with beer.

Kids jump in the pool and everyone keeps an eye on them. Adults sometime jump in too, or just hang out and talk. People reconnect, or meet for the first time, or meet people in real life that they have only meet online. It's all ages, all stratas of life, all kinds of people.

Sometimes people come once in a summer. Sometimes they come every week. Sometimes they don't make it at all but beg us not to take them off the invite list (as if we would). Everyone seems to need these pool parties (ourselves included).

Last night someone told me that they had been talking to someone who said "I've heard about those pool parties! How do you get invited?"

Which made me smile a little. The parties are anything but exclusive. They are just a way for us to get the incredible people we know and love together on a regular basis. For us to do something good with a pool/hot tub we are fortunate to own. To make great summer memories. To give back, and to encourage people to give of themselves. To all be together something more than we are each individually.

If you've been part of the pool parties, you've been a part of that, and hold a very special place in our hearts. If you haven't made it yet — well, next summer will be here before you know it!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Summit Garage

It was a busy weekend, but I still found time to get a couple of projects done at Summit that had been bothering me for a long time!

For as long as I can remember, the garage trim at Summit has been in really bad shape. I mean a *long* time, like it looked this bad while my mother has still alive:


So, using some special pains called "Endure" that promises to make a super-strong protective film and last basically forever, I finally painted the trim:




I also added a little raspberry/blackberry patch along the side (thanks to Jennifer for the raspberries and an online listing for the blackberry bush, which has been on my wish-list forever.) Alley garden awards, here I come!
 Meanwhile, our neighbors trimmed their spreading birch, which suddenly made our yard feel much bigger for some reason:

Maybe the biggest win of the weekend, however, was inside, where Patrick fixed the broken shower door. Bathtastic!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fair Warning

I come from Fair-blood. Several of my past relatives were board members or other officials, and my mom first left me, at 10 days old, in the care of others to go out on her annual pilgrimage to pronto pups and mini donuts. Heck, I remember when you could only drink beer in the approved beer gardens!

Patrick and I have many great Fair memories as well, from our first time together (when it rained before we could get any Sweet Martha's cookies), to taking Beatrix as a baby and having her be enthralled with the horses even then, to going with his Fair-loving dad (which made such an impression that to this day Beatrix claims "But we ALWAYS go with Grandpa Kenny!" when in truth we only went the one time.)

Usually we go in the morning, then go get some work done, then go back at night. But this year we only had this afternoon available, so it's what we did, going from 1-9:30. Our usual park-and-rides were full, but my awesome cousin, who lives nearby, is generous with her driveway for parking. So off we went.

We're far from Fair experts. We don't go every day, we don't live for the new food — in fact, I could not even remember them this year — and we have relatively few habits. This year, we even tossed aside the few we usually do, switching mini-donut vendors and eschewing the Dairy Building malts, that have gotten smaller and pricer simultaneously.

There's something about that freedom, though, that was great. We just walked around a lot, saw the dogs and the horses and the eco-building, people-watched, found the bench in memory of our friend's dad, and marveled at the number of landscape design places this year. Beatrix begged for cotton candy and did not eat it. Our favorite cheap pronto-pup place in the Midway was gone.

We did not plan, we just roamed, and it was great. It allowed us to have spontaneous moments with newborn cows, and with superheroes. We listed to Styx from their Grandstand concert (boy, are they old!) We found out that the Creative Arts Building is open late, and is absolutely dead and you can see everything at 9pm. I made a vow to enter something in the baking contest next year.















It was a perfect, rambling Fair day. And I wish that for all of you!



Wednesday, August 12, 2015

CatVidFest


The Internet Cat Video Festival was tonight, and awhile back I convinced Patrick that we should go to celebrate my birthday. Then I convinced Beatrix that the whole event was being held just for me….

So there we were at the new Saints stadium with 13,000 of our closest friends. We got there as the doors opened and it was a blast — cold beer (served by B's kindergarten teacher), people in costumes, giveaways, Barb Abney dj-ing, people-watching, really everything you could ask for.

The night got away from us somewhat when Beatrix and Patrick went to stand in the World's Slowest Face Painting Line. They got back just as the lights were going down for the main event — the videos!

I heard the curator on MPR today and he had some really good advice. Keep it short and to the point, keep people involved, end it at the high point…he should have listened to his own advice.

As befits cat videos, some were hilarious. Some were very touching. And the whole reel was only 70 minutes, so hey, easily sealable. But here's some advice — no one wants to see long music videos, or animation of cats. We are here to see cats doing stupid, crazy funny things. We want Dear Kitten, or the cat in the shark costume riding the roomba. Or we want cute. Give us those, and we are happy.

That said, I'm glad I went. It was a great night and  a good way to celebrate.

And I leave you with this….



Sunday, August 2, 2015

There's No Business Like Show Business...

August is always a crazy month. Along with the waning down of summer, AND my birthday, it's always a month with a ridiculous amount of shows to see thanks to the Fringe and other events.

Last night we went to see 1001 Nights at Circus Juventas. Yes, I work for the circus and I am their biggest fangirl. Yes, Beatrix has been taking classes since she was two and was totally enthralled by the whole thing. Yes, Patrick is volunteer rigging for the show. But don't take our word and involvement for it. See it for yourself — there are just a few tickets left!

This is the deal. The CJ shows are always amazing. They are visually stunning, with gorgeous music — but the main draw is always the incredible acts that the dedicated youth performers perform. But I especially loved this show for how it combined all those elements. I'm lucky to be able to work with these people, but you don't need that kind of luck to get involved. You should just see the show, trust me!

When we can, we like to host out of town artists for the Fringe; we've also hosted for other events, like an accordion festival. It's a great way to meet new people and learn about their art, and to feel like you are doing something to help out (if this has inspired you to do so, contact the Fringe office early next summer and inquire about "billeting" — no pay, but you do get some comps). But here's out little secret — in the last several years of hosting, we have actually never seen our guests' shows. It's usually a matter of time, and family-friendliness, and the like.

But this year, the performer are this awesome trio from Massachusetts (hey, how could that go wrong?), and the show, called "Fruit Flies Like a Banana" looked super-fun, so we kept Beatrix up late another night and attended.

And I am so glad we did! The show was incredibly fun, and very innovative, and Hilary, Greg, and Neil are wicked talented! (sorry, another Boston thing there, just came out). I have seen a lot of very good Fringe shows over the years (and maybe some duds too), but this one was by far the best. It sold out tonight, they have just three more performances — YOU MUST GO.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Backyard Movie Nights

My friend Julio's blog post on his backyard movie nights. We have been the beneficiary of many of these, and they are wonderful events!

http://www.twincities.com/entertainment/ci_28561975/backyard-movie-nights-more-entertaining-with-the-right-gadgets

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cottage Living

Before we went up to Maine for Elaine and Richard's wedding, we crossed an item off my bucket list, by visiting the "summer cottages" in Newport, Rhode Island (you'll remember we road-tripped out to Asheville, NC to see Biltmore a couple of years back, so we figured we might as well see the Vanderbilt's summer place).

It was the perfect way to start a vacation. We pulled up to our charming B&B in the heart of town, and then walked down to the harbor to have our first — of many — lobster rolls of the trip. As we ate outside on a dockside patio, with late evening sun, it felt like another world.

It felt even more so the next day as we zipped through five of the mansions cottages. Of course we started with The Breakers, which was really all we had hoped and more. However, Marble House and The Elms were not too far behind! Perhaps everyone's favorite, however, was the gothic cottage styled Kingscote, one of the earliest of the summer homes. (or last stop, after lunch, was the topiary gardens just outside of town).

We all enjoyed pretending we lived in the homes, picking out which room would be ours, etc. But what really struck Patrick and myself was the craftsmanship. Let's face it, we have many families today who are, comparatively, as wealthy as the Vanderbilts, Berwinds, and Kings were.True, we don't now live with scores of servants and multiple houses (ahem, well, usually…). But where did that kind of amazing creativity go? That love of home that made you want to get every detail perfect, and then entertain to share that with others? It's a great, great loss.





Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Creating Community


We've spent the last week on the East Coast, out here for my best friend Elaine's wedding.

It's been a week to spend a lot of time thinking about community. On either side of the wedding, we got together with friends who previously we had only "known" on the internet. Beatrix made friends with their kids (she is now pestering for texting and email on her iPad so she can stay in contact), and we had a fantastic time with people we got to know deeper than online relationships can allow.

For the wedding itself, we shared a house with my other best friend, Jennifer — and her family, and our mutual friend Melissa. You would think, after being someone's friend for over 30 years, after knowing her family, after appreciating her husband and children, there would be nothing new left to gain by hanging out for the week. But that would be wrong — they are still at that beach house as I write this, and I desperately wish we were still there laughing and hanging out with them. I feel so very lucky to have them in our lives (and Beatrix thinks their daughter Kelsey is The Best Person In The World).

But it was the wedding itself that really created magic. It was small, about 45 people, and held in Kennebunkport, Maine, where Elaine's grandmother had lived and where she spent summers. Her brother and sister-in-law still live there in the family home. People came from all over: Elaine and Richard and his daughters and friends from Indiana, her parents from DC, his family from Maryland, college friends from New York, some of us from Minnesota, and several places in between.

And I don't know how they did it so well, but over those few days, Elaine and Richard created an awesome little community. A group of those of us that were the closest to them, who will support them in their lives together and who all valued being in this special place to share the day with them. People who forged other relationships with each other, and who now have these relationships and that experience to base them on. People who I now know and value and understand why Richard and Elaine thought it was so important that they were there for their wedding.

I am very, very lucky to be part of this tribe. And we all need this sense of community.


Monday, June 29, 2015

June Fail

In a lot of ways, June was a total fail. I participated in two online challenges — both about forms of personal growth — and came nowhere near my goals in either. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to really partake in living in Minnesota — which to me meant especially participating in festivals and events — and this weekend I missed both Pride and Jazz Fest. I have a plethora of house and garden projects to do, all of which are totally stalled and causing me no end of stress. The City of Saint Paul has free yoga in the park classes and I have not gone. I created nothing. I have not designed Inspiring Summer Learning Activities for my daughter. I have not even succeeded in a super-modest goal of spending an hour a week reading in a coffeeshop.

It's been a month of administrivia. It hasn't been a total waste; I made shrub for the first time, I managed to send off our contribution to the DFL before the state eliminates the reimbursement (you only have through tomorrow!), we made it up to the cabin, we hosted some pool parties and I attended some work receptions and got a few things organized. I dug up the back plantings so Patrick could take down the fence for the delivery of the new hot tub. I finished some 990s and majorly revised some bylaws. I attended a Saints game and Books and Bars and Cabarave at the Lab and got to sneak in a date night at the Half Time Rec.

All in all, though, it feels relatively minor.

When people ask me what I have been up to lately, I don't have much to say. It all seems rather small and boring. There's not a lot of there there, as Gertrude Stein would say.

But one friend did make me feel really good when I ran into her at an event the other night. We were discussing how we connect mainly on Facebook and I was envying her glamorous life (Walker roof seating for Rock the Garden! Exciting conferences! Reading great books and seeing great shows! Producing stellar art!) The *she* said how much she liked *my* Facebook presence (mainly pets and kids and shares of community posts, apparently boring enough to get another person to unfriend me). So either Kathleen is the most polite person on the face of the planet (which is a likely possibility), or perhaps its a case of everyone else's life seeming more exciting.

But still, I'm feeling awash in the small stuff.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Not About the Flag

Because it's really not. A confederate flag is a symbol. True, there is no reason on earth it should be flying above a government building. But a glad is a simple thing that could (and should) be taken down. It's the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a toddler's scratch. It makes the situation seem better, but it does not in itself affect change.

What we need to do it to have honest, and real, and painful discussions about race, and the racial divide, in this country. We have to stop hate groups from profiting from their venom, and inciting others to join them. We have to fight the demon of poverty in this, the richest country in the world, which heightens racial issues. We have to teach people that violence is never the answer, or even an option. We have to demand responsible gun ownership in this country, so that no one ever gives an obviously disturbed young man a gun for his 21st birthday. We need to strengthen — no, we need to completely reinvent — mental health advocacy and services.

The confederate flag needs to come down for sure, and should have a long time ago. But it's not even a first step in this, and we're fooling ourselves if we act like it is, or if we don't do the real work because we got distracted by a symbol.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Number 9

Nine years ago tonight, in a candlelit ceremony at the old Nautilus Music-Theater space, I said "I do" to Patrick Rhone.

Nine is not ten, or the big anniversary years of 25 or 50. For nine years, the traditional gift is pottery or willow, which seems rather an afterthought. We even had trouble getting together our plans to celebrate tonight.

But nine is very, very big in a lot of ways. My parents marriage lasted nine years. In my first marriage, we separated a few months before our ninth anniversary. So in this case in particular, I think that nine is pretty important.

Happy anniversary, honey! It;'s been a long and crazy nine years, but amazing ones too!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Things I Suck at That I Did Anyway

(of course, you are thinking that I can't possibly suck at anything, right?)

Just about 9 years ago my mom did a massive landscaping project at the Summit house. Pretty much every day I curse those landscapers (message me if you want to know who NOT to use!) for their maintenance-labor-intensive, strangely planned design.

The ne bright spot is the row of magnolias in the front yard, and for 1 week each year when they are in bloom we have the prettiest house on Summit. But underneath was a wild overgrown forest, so earlier this week we hired a fantastic husband-and-wide pair to clean it out.

But that left the hydrangea dividing and replanting to me. And here's the thing; much as I figuratively dig myself into holes all the time, I super-suck at it in real life. I lack the strength to dig a deep hole, and the footwear to push down hard on the shovel. I always pick the spot with the most roots and usually some giant rock buried about 8" down. I dig, and then I go in with a trowel, and then dig some more, and swear, and curse, and make up tweets that my feed is glad I don't publish.

I'm so bad at it that it took me almost 3 hours to divide and replant 8 hydrangea. And I still don't know what I am going to do with the rest of it.


The other thing I suck at is house parties. My mom used to sell Amway (really, she did), so generally I see house parties and run fast the other way. But my friend Heather, who I admire greatly, just became an Usborne Books consultant — I love the books, and wanted to help her out. So with trepidation, I agreed to hold a party last night.

It turn out to be a ton of fun! It was very low-key — friends just stopped by, and saw the books, and drank wine and ate cupcakes, and we got to talk about books and life and people got to meet each other and it was great. It was very different than other house parties I have been to, and I think everyone had a lot of fun.

(if you still want to order, I have a directed link open through midnight tonight at https://h4638.myubam.com/99207).

Neither of these things seem like much, but they were way out of my comfort zone. And I'm glad I did them!