Friday, September 30, 2016

A Hundred Little Wings

My friend Heather posted this on Facebook, about 5 minutes ago:
Maybe it isn't a diamond bullet that will fix this. Maybe its a hundred little things, with a hundred little wings that will move you.
We're ok, relatively. We're reeling, but still standing (if holding on for support). We (we, really Patrick, and then I do what I can to support him) have to process complicated information quickly, and then time drags on again. There's almost no control to this, which I suppose should surprise no one.

We're not sleeping, we're feeling kind of sick, we're trying to hold it together for the sake of Beatrix. We're behind on a hundred things, and if you are the hundred-and-first, please forgive us.

The little things help. Cleaning the bathroom. The flowers and plant that arrived at our door. Coffee with friends. Little gifts dropped off with heart. A delicious dinner, delivered with heartfelt love. People over for patio night. Our steadfast neighbor, the best defense lawyer in the state and likely the country, going to bat for us again and again. Cookies made by Beatrix's friend and her mom, with a comment that "They are not friends, they ARE family!" Donations made to mental health groups.

And above all, the stories. So many stories of so many people with far too similar situations, almost always stories that have been rarely shared. So much pain. So many people who understand exactly where we are.

I don't know how long this will go on; I fear a long time. But I know that I would not have made it this far without all of you. Thank you.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Shop Local Saturday

This morning, Patrick was ferrying around filmmaker Gary Huswit for the IFP Filmmaker's Conference, so Beatrix and I did  little local shopping — and had a great time!

First we hit Spoils of Wear, a new shop that opened on Selby near Snelling. The owner was there, and could not have been nicer (though we've hear rumors that she sometimes brings her pug dog with her and he was not there today = boo). The clothes are fantastic, very stylish and unusual and at a good price point. The store is carefully selected, and I loved a lot of the distinctive items. Best of all, all items are sustainably sourced, and many of them are local, so you can feel great about buying.

Next was ER, a tiny little extension of Elite Repeat featuring new items, many with a Minnesota theme. While Beatrix smelled the lovely candles, I appreciated the lovely accessories. There was some great jewelry, and some especially nice scarves and items (though I need a new scarf like I need a hole in my head). It's a lovely little shop, the perfect place for gift shopping, and had the bonus that I could stop at Cold Front for a flannel latte — yum.

I had wanted to check out Valise, though I was pretty sure it was somewhat above my price point. Honestly, that was my biggest surprise of the day. Though the clothes are not my usual bargain shopping finds, they are gorgeous and classic and well-made, and I can definitely see myself saving up for a couple of the items I saw. The biggest surprise was their line of Jane Iredale make-up, which is luxurious-seeming and well-priced; I'm thinking of getting together a girls night there!

On the way home, we stopped at Mischief, to pick up  birthday present for a party Beatrix is going to. Though most of their items are meant for teenagers and tweens, Beatrix fell in love with a lot of items there. I guess we're moving out of the Creative Kidstuff days and into some older items...

(Mischief is where I took a hula hoop making class with Hooperina awhile back. Highly recommended!)

Here's Beatrix, demonstrating on of her favorite things there (well, 5 of them, really):

Add these great places to the errand stop that Beatrix and I made yesterday, where we got cookies at Bread and Chocolate, looked through the racks at the Poppy pop-up, and tried on these much-coveted boots at Shu, and I feel extremely fortunate to live where I do and have so many fun and unusual shops nearby. It's been awhile since I've headed out for some retail therapy, and it was much-needed!

(Disclaimer: I'm not getting anything from any of these places from mentioning them, and they don't even know I'm writing this. But I thought they all deserved to be highlighted. Do you have any similar places you like to check out?)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

#TBT - Vegetarian Style

I picked up Anna Jones' a modern way to cook because I wanted some new, quick, vegetarian recipes for family meals. Instead, I found myself thrown back into London living circa the late 1980s. And that's not a bad thing.

Everything about the book is reminiscent of a small cafĂ© (that's pronounced "caff," by the way) in Notting Hill pre-Hugh Grant fame. The spare, clean pictures of the meals. The wide margins. The terminology (there's a lot of "mash" in these recipes.) It's all very earnest. You can imagine having  cup of tea, and then your carefully created pea and beet mash flatbread, with a rustic fruit crumble for dessert.

For the most part, honestly, these are not meals we will cook as a family. Jones herself knows that — all the pictures are of two sets of hands, lovingly scooping up exotic soups or multi-colored bowls of vegetables. But the recipes range in complexity — there are quite a few that take under 20 minutes to prepare — so I can imagine us making some of them after a long day, when Beatrix has grabbed dinner-to-go in the car in the way to circus and we want something just a little more adult. I would like to see what our house-mate does with some of them while cooking for his vegan friend. Though most of the recipes seem a little overly precious in presentation, I'm guessing that once they relax a little, once you substitute a few things and don't have to use your "excellent knife skills" (that really is a phrase Jones uses), that they are actually quite nice.

Interspersed between the chapters are some truly usefully little sections, such as "10 simple baked potatoes" (obviously translated, the Brits call them "jacket potatoes") or "10 favorite suppers from 10 favorite vegetables." These are not listed in the Table of Contents, but just kind of turn up as you are going through, and I think they will be the most useful part of the book. I already whipped up a salad dressing ("10 flavor boosts" — yes, she really does need to learn to capitalize words) today, and it was very tasty.

And if a cookbook can remind me of a 20-year-old me with an Annie Lennox haircut and Doc Martens, living in the heart of London, I'll take it!

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Online Communities

I've been thinking a lot about online communities recently, and it came home to roost in a very tragic and surprising way today.

About 11 years ago, pre-Facebook and Twitter and even before texting was a common thing, I was part of women's online forum. It was totally old-skool, the kind of static, forum board with multiple threads that people posted on. Everyone had a "handle" (to maintain some kind of internet anonymity), and there were a variety of topics, but mainly relating to getting married and having kids and navigating work-life balance and what to have for dinner and what people were reading and the like. There were a lot of members (over 6,000 when I look at it, though I would say closer to several hundred active at any given time), and I developed a lot of IRL friendships, some of them very close, with local members and those spread across the country and the world.

Time passed, and my needs changed, and somehow that forum did as well. I found myself going to it less and less often. At the same time, I found myself becoming more and more active with several other virtual communities:

-  My earliest Twitter friends. When Patrick first showed me Twitter, I was like "So you're friends with them just because they are on this platform and local? That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard." Until I got to be friends with them (virtually and IRL) because they were on Twitter, and suddenly I got it. Some of my extremely important relationships (I'm looking at you, for example, @irishgirl, @swirlspice, and @lindsi) would not have started without Twitter, and we would not have the pleasure of @sweatingcomma's company without it.

And then Facebook groups took over, and when I think of those, there's also a lot of diversity:

-  Local BST boards, each with their own personality and sense. I know the Midway-Frogtown group has certain personalities, and the Highland Mac-Grove one another, and the Saint Paul Perennials one yet another sense, and I appreciate them all.

-  Several keeshond groups that I got involved with when we were looking for a new dog after Geronimo died. In particular, I found a group fighting to close down an absolutely reprehensible breeder in upstate NY, and now I have keeshond-loving friends all over the country and Canada, some of whom I have met IRL. (And that's also how we got Coya!) In one of those groups, two of the mods are making a pilgrimage to a dog chapel in Vermont this week, and taking pictures of dogs who have passed — Geronimo is included.

-  Another group that is working really hard to investigate societal roles and privilege; I'm not going to say a lot about that one because it's undergoing some turmoil and revision right now. But I have met MANY people from that group IRL, and consider them some of the most wonderful, creative, and change-making people I know; I feel so lucky to have them in my world.

-  A Saint Paul "mom's group" (but much more than that) that originally spring from a BST board. My 400 "Housies" have each other's backs, whether it's helping out each other, or rallying for a cause, or renting an entire movie theater to see Bad Moms. Beatrix is in awe of my membership in this group.

Today, the original forum came full circle, and (unfortunately due to an incredibly tragic incident) formed a Facebook group. It was like coming back to a close-knot campus after your junior year away, where you have grown so much while apart but still value those people and connections and are so glad to have them in your life.

There's a pattern in these groups, where I have "met" people on the internet, then in real life, then our friendship has deepened in a parallel of internet and actual communication. This is the general pattern, but in some cases, I have met people IRL and not gotten closer to them in cyberspace. In others, I consider them close friends but have not actually met face to face. It's an amazing and awe-inspiring thing, these collections of pixels that lead to relationships, and my life is all the richer for it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Some Summit Changes

Yesterday, Beatrix got to spend all day at the Renaissance Festival with her friend Alexis:

Which meant that we got to get some projects done at Summit (as well as head to a tap room for awhile, where we excitingly cleaned our computer files...)

The back first floor windows and door had suffered some rot, which we recently had fixed. I used "Endure" paint to repaint them — we'll see if it really lasts as long as it says. Nevertheless, they look a million times better! (and I love the way this clearance mat from Ikea ties the inside and outside together.)

I also was given new blackberry bush, which I hope makes it in the raspberry/blackberry plot by the garage). Now all I need to do is find  new hammock — my old one mysteriously broke one week while we were not here :(

Inside, I scored some new throw pillows (free from a BST board!):

But my favorite project is the "book nook" we created on the second floor landing. I got the fainting couch (cheap) and the pictures (free!) off a BST board; the table was an old one I rescued from a dumpster 20 years ago, and the lamp used to be in my grandparent's study on Carter Avenue. If I had not just finished my book last night, I would be curled up there reading right now!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Stop for Me

I got a chance to be part of a Stop for Me Initiative last week, which was really informative.

Stop for Me is a project of the Saint Paul Police Department (with a number of local partners, including SARPA which is why I was involved). It's a campaign to raise awareness of pedestrian safety, especially at unmarked intersections (because EVERY intersection is a crosswalk, by state law). So far this year, over 100 people have been hit by cars in Saint Paul alone; in all of Minnesota last year, 900 people were hit, of which 40 died. We simply have to do better.

The idea behind the campaign was simple. The officer in charge of the campaign was in plainclothes; he had a videocamera so he could record everything. He had a collar radio, so he could be in communication with the 3-5 officers assigned to the effort for ticketing (in this case, most were in marked cars/motorcycles). The project area is clearly marked with orange signs as a pedestrian safety effort, and there are cones set up on the street so that officers can easily judge distance.

We had 2 sets of 2 people who then crossed the street, as one would normally do when we were walking somewhere. We were instructed to use normal protocol — step into the street, don't leap out in front of a moving vehicle, make eye contact with the driver as possible, cross the street. Since these are well-used intersections, we were by no means the only one crossing the street at these times — we were joined by many people crossing from the school, or coming up from Grand, walking dogs, etc. One of our volunteers tallied the cars who did or did not stop.

The officer in charge watched us (or others) as we crossed, and then radioed to the nearby police to pull over people who failed to yield. It was a very controlled experiment — the driver needed to have had enough time to see us and safely stop (that's why the cones were there, indicating a distance of about 2x the distance between bases on a baseball field). Our movements, as pedestrians, had to be clear and visible. The officer in charge, who has done this several times already this year, had to have clear, defensible video. Nothing was left to chance.

I walk a fair amount, and I am aware of how rarely people stop for pedestrians. But this really hit it home for me. It was amazing to me how many times people  completely blew through the intersection, including once as two of us were walking across with a large "Stop for Me" banner held between us. Another time, a driver who was texting as she blew through literally held up her phone to show us what she was doing as she sped through (the officer really liked that one when he wrote up her ticket). In the last part of the Summit/Oxford session, all the police were busy when Tom and I decided to cross back so we could speak to the others — and as we were in the middle of the intersection, 5 cars blew through as the light at Lexington changed; the plainclothes officer had enough with the 6th when it came within a couple of feet of us and waved him over, pulling out his badge and calling over a motorcycle office who wrote up the ticket. That person was especially mad, and I actually felt worried for my safety, so I'm glad that was the end of that session.

Some questions/comments that I encountered:

"So, do the police just need to make some money?"
The tickets are a moving violation, so are expensive (about $180.) But the officer in charge actually said he had a hard time getting officers to do these shifts, because they don't like to write tickets.

"That's entrapment!"
No, entrapment would be when you coerce someone into doing something they would not otherwise do to get them to break the law. In this case, all we (and other pedestrians) were doing was crossing the street, at legal crosswalk. Police were simply targeting their response.

"How do I know that someone is crossing the street and not waiting for the bus/looking at their phone/etc.?"
This is an area where I think everyone would be well-served by a "Just One Foot" campaign. The indicator that you want to cross the street is putting one foot out into the street. When you as a pedestrian do that, you are making your intent clear, and you have the right to expect drivers to stop. When you as a driver see that, you should stop. Easy as that.

"What regulates how pedestrians cross?"
At a traffic light, pedestrians must obey the signal. If there's a case where there is a pedestrian sign (such as in the middle of the median where there is sign saying "No pedestrian crossing here"), they have to obey that. Otherwise, at every corner, pedestrians have the right of way, whether it is striped or not.

"What about bikes?"
They are regulated by the lane of traffic. If they are in the crosswalk itself, drivers need to yield. If a pedestrian is crossing as they come down the bike lane, they need to yield. I know at least one cyclist got a ticket or warning (not sure which) during our session.

"I didn't know why the person ahead of me stopped, so I went around them. I didn't realized they stopped for a pedestrian."
Flat out illegal. The driver ahead of you may be a moron, but the law says if they stop, you should assume it's for a good reason and you can't go around them.

"I didn't see the pedestrian."
Well I would hope not. Look more carefully.

"They leapt out in front of me."
This was often cited during our session, and I can promise I did no leaping. Really, can you say something like that with a straight face? The closest I have ever come to that is the other day when I was turning a corner onto Selby and a kid's ball bounced into the street and he ran out without looking, and I still managed not to hit him.

This is a really great effort that got me thinking a lot more about how both how I walk and drive, and one I think is really important to changing attitudes city-wide.


Friday, September 2, 2016

The Great Minnesota Get Together

The Fair is ingrained in my DNA. It's always been a part of my family history; the first time my mother left me, a 2-week old infant, was to go to the Fair (and I'll bet that pronto pup, without baby responsibilities, was amazing!). When I was young, my mom and I used to go first thing in the morning — we would have a donut and coffee for breakfast in a little booth that was just outside the doors to the Coliseum, and watch the horses exercise and practice of the door was cracked open. We would linger through the barns, check out the Midway, walk through each building, see the parade, eat pronto pups and malts and mini donuts (always from the booth by the Grandstand) and cheese curds, ride the Big Slide, sit on the grass and people watch. When evening came, we would visit our relatives Bonnie and Logan (Logan sat on the board, and they lived on the fairgrounds during the fair each year), and then they would take us to whatever concert was occurring that night at the Grandstand and we would sit in their box. Afterwards, we would sleepily ride the Skyride back to the gate.

My fair attendance has varied a little over the years. As a child and then a teenager, I would go with my mom and then also with friends another day. As I grew older, sometimes I was not even in town for it (sacrilege!). Since I met Patrick, we've gone every year for varying lengths of time, and of course the last eight years have included Beatrix. We have pictures of her every year, from a baby staring in wonder at the horses, to a toddler in the barns, to a young lady going on her first big-kid ride, to an elementary school-aged child with a wide range of interests.

So much of the Fair is the same, and so much is different. When I was a child, there was not the Miracle of Birth barn, or even Sweet Martha' cookies. Rides change (and get safer, it seems like when I was young one would break down dramatically every year, leaving people suspended in mid-air), there's no "freak show" section of the Midway anymore, and people I know now win Creative Arts prizes (how did we get so old?)

This year, in particular, Beatrix was a trooper. She won us tickets through the library reading program, and generous friends gave us a barely-used coupon book and some ride tickets. We ended up spending 11 hours there, from 9-5, then back home for a brief break, then back from 7-10. It's amazing to see things through her eyes — she still loves Little Farm Hands, and pretty much everything in the Eco Building, but this year she really enjoyed ALL the exhibits (was crazy about the Education Building, and the Grandstand, and the Creative Arts, and Horticulture) — and her hands-down favorite was the Stunt Dog Show. We saw piglets that were just a  few hours old (and had to jeep going back to the barn to see if the cow had given birth), we agreed the parade was fun but no Mardi Gras, we walked through the Midway and enjoyed all the lights (even if she sagely commented that the games were likely not as easy as they looked). We missed the llama costume contest because the app had the wrong time, but we did see some of the horse judging. The jazz band at Cafe Caribe was way too loud, but the salsa band at the International Marketplace (which will likely forever be the Mexican Village in my mind) was just right. She loved seeing the Hilary signs at the DFL booth, and we all tested the saunas (we really need a sauna!). And late at night, as we were getting ready to leave, we listed to Demi Lovato and ate Sweet Martha's cookies (my first ever!) outside the Grandstand, then headed to the busses while watching them light up the fireworks in the field.

I love the Fair, and I love that my daughter loves the Fair, and somewhere out there I hope my mother still loves it too. Happy 78th birthday (yesterday), mom.