Monday, May 23, 2016

Milestone Birthdays

I have two friends who had milestone birthdays recently, and man, did they do them right!

This is my (mostly online) friend Serina, who just turned 40. She decided she wanted to kick off her birthday week for the cake smash to end all cake smashes:

That photo has totally gone viral and it's so awesome!

What I love about this is it's so Serina. Hanging out with a few friends, a little irreverent, a kind of wicked sense of humor, and a lot of fun. Exactly how you should celebrate your birthday!

(She actually had a whole birthday week, with 40 presents and a great night out on the town)

Based on that, I think I did 40 wrong. But maybe there's hope for 50.

Last night, the incredible Lisa Channer celebrated "50 times around the sun" (so Montessori!). She also had cake, and cheap wine. But she celebrated by filling the Southern Theater with scores of friends and collaborators, artists and technicians and writers, and just plain people from all over her life. People were invited to pick a year and create a one-minute piece inspired by that year — with dance, a reading, videos, performance art, whatever inspired them (and, since it was commissioned work, they all got $1 at the end!). The passage of time, from infant to teen to young adult to now, as all the more poignant when represented by someone else.

It was truly fantastic (even if each piece lasted well longer than a minute). Patrick and I were still discussing almost every piece, in detail, today. Lisa kept saying "This is the best idea I've ever had!" While I doubt that, because Lisa has a lot of good ideas, it was  pretty amazing night.

I turn 49 this August. I have a little time to plan.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

More Garden

Today, Patrick took Beatrix down to the Cathedral, so I spent some spiritual time of my own — working on the garden.

A couple of years back, I participated in a garden pilot program and got this gorgeous raised bed, but it was in pretty bad shape. So I dug everything out, raked through the soil with my hands, an snow it's ready to go. I still need to replant the sunchokes (somewhere else in the yard — anyone need sunchokes?), and now get some things for it. I have one pepper plant and one tomato, which is a start...

I also dug out my cocktail herb bed and put some nice organic soil in. I moved in some lemon balm from the back garden, and some Kentucky Colonel mint my friend Jennifer gave me. I hope to really get the cocktail bed active this year!

Also this morning, we dug out the old tents in storage and set them up. They may actually work for camping adventures this summer! Fingers crossed...

Saturday, May 21, 2016

How Does Your Garden Grow?

(Among other policies I disagree with), SPPS has a policy that any gardens have to be cared for by volunteers. If any staff time is spent on them, they will raze them and grow grass up to the building. Never mind that the field at Beatrix's school has had most of the grass dead for a couple of years, so that the guy that mows it basically gets a couple of hours of PTO every time he attends to it...

Randolph Heights has a lovely front garden, which is, thus, all volunteer kept. For the past couple of years Beatrix's Daisy troop has done their "Journey" on garden care day, but Brownies have a different schedule so they were not attending this year. So Beatrix went on our own and joined a few hardy parent and student volunteers, and the school's librarian and lead garden person Ms. Hubbard, in working on it.

We weeded out the beds, transplanted, put in almost 50 new plants provided by the PTA, and mulched. It was a long, hot day, with too few people to do the work — but those who were there were rockstars. It's especially great to see the kids working to make their school look good. With the new paint job, we're getting ready for the centennial next year!

Doesn't it look better?

(With all that, did not get a thing done on my own gardens — either here or at Summit. Hot mess. Hopefully tomorrow. Anyone need sunchokes?)

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Though only recently released, this book had been on my wish list, and so when it came up on Blogging for Books, I was really excited. It's one of my favorite genres — basically a documentary in book form, telling a story and having an impact.

It's the story of several people, in all kinds of circumstances (but generally all in poverty), struggling with eviction in Milwaukee. As you can imagine, these are not good stories — and they make the point you would expect — eviction is bad, poverty is bad, we should do something to fix this (and it actually makes some suggestions for doing so).

The stories are compelling; I have a number of notes and dog-ears, especially the sections discussing the disproportionate effect such evictions have on women (single moms and their kids). The best part maybe the epilogue, where you learn exactly how this story was achieved — a fantastic story in itself. To some extent, I almost wish I had read it first.

Eviction is not an issue that faces me day to day, or even one that I have ever truly faced. But I certainly can hold on to the idea of "home" — and how it's a base for the rest of your life. For that reason alone, I am so glad I read this book.

The website gives some great other information to get lost in...

As usual, I received the book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review, but all views are my own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Public Meetings

It's been a week of a lot of public meetings (no big surprise in our lives.) Last week, I had 2 PTA meetings in the same week. Another night, while I presented the audit to the Macalester-Groveland Community Council, patrick attended a community meeting about a terrible recent crime. We attended a super-fun pop-up patin night at 579 Selby, and tucked a board meeting and a book club in there too.

Tonight, through, really represented our spread of interests. We started the evening by attending the "No Cuts for Kids" protest at the SPPS administration building, just before the Board of Education meeting.

Did you know that Anoka-Ramsey (the largest school district in Minnesota, with 1,000 more students than second-place Saint Paul) spends 21 million dollars less annually than SPPS on centralized functions alone? (10 million less on district level administration and $11 million less on instructional support). That would fund the $17 million projected shortfall next year and leave us with $4 million to bolster services! I find that a particularly hard talking point to argue with — there's no reason that we should be spending over 20 million more on the same services as a larger district while cutting classes and kids services.

There were about 300 people at the event (eta: other reports said 100 to 150, so let's just put it at over 100) and I would call it a success! Plus Beatrix learned it is important to speak up about your school. School Board member Steve Marchese came out and spoke to the crowd and said he wanted to hear from us, so make YOUR voice heard and tell him what you think! (eta: Marchese's comment at the board meeting later that night was particularly telling - "Seems we don't have 'strong schools'  in neighborhoods that aren't perceived to be strong.")

I then headed to an Historic Preservation Commission event — the Saint Paul HPC is 40 years old! It was also an awards event for some fantastic preservation projects, including the fantastic Save Our Saint Paul Neighborhoods. It was great to spend some time with people who find it just as important as I do to preserve Saint Paul's amazing sense of place. Here's to many more years!

(Then we came home and did homework. For instance, did you know that the Greek goddess Hera's sacred animals are both the cow and the peacock? Well, now you do.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hoop Dreams

And, in more circus-related news:

Yesterday, I took a class on hula hoops from Hooperina. It was held at Mischief, a local toy store, and I have to say I am very impressed with their new location and community outreach. You should go!

The first hour plus was spent on making the hoop. Why so long? How hard could it be? Hooperina had already made the hoop, which she makes from irrigation tubing. All we had to do was wrap it in tape, right?


I spent the better part of an hour trying to get the duct tape warped right. Not too much overlap, because it will be bulky and heavy and catch. Wrapping duct tape is hard! The adding the electrical tape along the outside....Hooperina made the demo hoop in about 10 minutes. Mine took 6 times as long and looks...rough...

But I love it. I love the style, I love that I made it, I love the way it feels.

Then we spent about 45 minutes learning to hoop. Again, much much harder than it looks. My lovely tape job got all hacked up from hitting the ground. And I still am  TERRIBLE hula hooper.

But I had a breakthrough in knowing what I want to do, and I learned some other tricks like step throughs. I imagine I am only slightly worse than the preschoolers she teaches. And I am much better at, and have fun with, isolation tricks.

I'm excited to keep practicing all summer!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Circus Lessons

I've spent the better part of the past ten days at Circus Juventas, as Beatrix performs in every show, Patrick rigs every show, and I — well, run around doing everything from emails to t-shirts. I've spent a lot of time at pre-show meetings, watching from the corner of my office, and working backstage while immersed in the sound of the music and the audiences. It's been a great two weeks, actually, and it's given me some time to think about why I love the circus so much.

It's all about the work you put into it. Yes, you have to have some natural talent to start with. But what really makes the difference is the work you put into it. In all of these acts, you can tell how many hours of practice have gone into preparing for them. It's about showing up, and doing the work, and working together.

It's about trying again, and again, and again...It's hard when you boff a trick. It can be hard to try and try and try again. But when you master it, there's nothing like it. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. Even if you have to keep trying for a long time to get there.

It's fun. These shows and tech/dress rehearsals are long and grueling. Tonight, Beatrix had to arrive almost 4.5 hours before her single act. But she loves being here, she loves performing, and she loves challenging herself. She's having a great time.

It's about working with others. It's super-clear  in circus when people are not working well together — someone usually gets dropped (Business Manager note - we avoid that at CJ). Not only has Beatrix learned to work together with her act teams, but by watching the other kids, she has learned how to relate with everyone here. Same with Patrick and his riggers, for that matter. She's thrilled to do circus with her BFFs Meara and Brogan, but she also loves to be here with her older friends Elsie and Amelia, who she absolutely adores. She can tell me about every single kid at circus, I think — all 1,200 of them.

It's about creating community. See above. But also community with the audience. The more rousing the audience is, the better the show. Tonight, for a Thursday night, is an awesome audience and the show is through the roof.

You can't help but grow. By challenging yourself and collaborating with others and working your a** off, it's impossible not to come out a better person.

It's circus, dammit! It's exotic and unusual and beautiful and awe-inspiring and artistic and fun and full of glittery costumes and loud music and amazing feats. There's just nothing like it, and I love it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Colorful Wonderland

I'm on a real streak of adult coloring books that relate to real life experience lately. I've just been working on a Cats of Paris one and a Paris fashion one, setting the tone for our upcoming trip. Wonderland is in honor of Circus Juventas performing Wonderland this summer, and I was excited to see what Amily Shen would do with the book. I was not disappointed!

I really loved this book. Physically, it is durable, the pages are high-quality, and it's easy to use everything from colored pencils to specialty pens on.

But the real delight is the story it tells. The drawings are whimsical and charming, and a real delight to work with. There's even some engaging text.

I've struggle hard to find an adult coloring book that really engages me and does not just seem like busywork. Some have come close, but I have to admit to more than a few half-colored pages. That won't be the case here; I am looking forward to every page of the book!

More info here, or ask for it at your favorite (independent) book or art store!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

ETA: I just got a download link for a free coloring page!