Saturday, June 17, 2023


 Where to begin.

The home we moved to has been two years in the planning. Wayne and I bought the lot in April 2021, planned and designed it with the architect and interior designer for about a year, then spent the next 8 months having it built.

Despite all the lead up to the home, moving into it is still a bit of a shock to actually move in. For the longest time I mourned our Minneapolis home and neighborhood that we've lived in for nearly 21 years. I worked to accept that it is possible to be both sad to leave the only home our children have ever known, and be excited for a new chapter. 

I believe I can say at this point that I am happy for the change. 

We can see the sunrises from one side of our home, sunsets from the other. We have woods behind us and are anxiously awaiting the sighting of wildlife emerging from it. We were rewarded with a deer walking across our lot our first evening, but I fear the cacophony of dogs barking through the windows are preventing others from appearing. 

For the first time in our family's lives, the girls' bedroom doors are not right next to ours, and they do not share a wall. I don't hear one kid yelling at the other to be more quiet, nor am I constantly alerted by the sounds of their feet as they walk past our bedroom to the bathroom. Our bedroom is a sanctuary of quiet and peace. Wayne no longer has to play ocean sounds at night to drown out the constant noise of airplanes overhead at all hours of the night. 

Beauty spends her days watching wildlife from every possible angle of our windows, content at the variety of new things to observe. And once we fence in a portion of our yard, she will have room to roam freely, much more than she ever had before. As she's done since she was rescued by us, she's learned that where her family is, there home is. As long as her people are with her she is happy. And then there's Finn, of course, of which I say this: Beauty loves her personal space. Finn loves Beauty's personal space, too. 

We have been in our new home for all of 3 days now, we will see how I adjust to the new long commute to work. For now, I am incredulous as to how I am so lucky to have this amazing life. 

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Curling My Daughter's Hair

 I came home from a coffee run to find Marissa sitting in her room, make-up freshly finished, dress on, and struggling to curl her hair.

"Hey Mom, can you help?" she calls out. She has a traditional curling iron, familiar to me as a teen from the 80's. She only knows how to use wands, and we don't have one.

"Sure I can do that for you," I say. I take a piece of her hair, twist it around the iron, wait a bit, and then let go. The result is the most perfect spiral she's ever seen.

"How do you know how to do that?!" she exclaims. I have officially been recruited to curl her hair.

She sections off each piece for me, deciding which strands to include or exclude. She has twisted the hair we aren't working with into a bun on the top of her head, then brings down a little with each section we complete. 

We talk about the day ahead. We talk about what it was like for her to grow up in Minneapolis, how different that was from my experience spending most of my formative years in a small town. We listen to music and occasionally blast the good songs that make us want to move. But small movements only, a work of art is in progress.

"I wanted to do this myself, but I guess sometimes I still need a mom," she says. 

"We always need our moms sometimes," I respond. We stay in silence for a while, listening to a song.

Finally, the last twist is done and she gets up and shakes out her hair. It cascades down with light waves, exactly the look she wanted. "It's beautiful," I proclaim. 

"Thank you so much!" she says, meaning both the compliment and the work to style her hair. "Well, I have to go, graduates need to be there early to line up." 

"Okay hon, see you in a few hours," I reply. "But first, let me snap a quick photo before you go."

Happy graduation day, to my youngest.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Season of Change

Many things will be changing in our home come the start of the new year, so I've been savoring as much as I can now.

Lindsey will officially be moving back out after a semester at Normandale Community College. After her first year at St. Cloud State she decided that she wasn't loving it there and chose not to return in the fall. So she transferred to Normandale, completed the classes she needed to get her associates, and lived at home while doing do. Now she has transferred to Hamline University and has rented a studio apartment just a block from campus. She's moving there in two days. 

Marissa is officially graduating high school a semester early. She took two college classes through Normandale which completed her year-long requirement for social science classes, and her other classes she only needed one semester credit in them, so she is officially done as of January 25. She is planning on taking a gap year, so she will be around for the next 18 months or so, and then who knows.

Christmas morning chaos, after all the presents have been opened

Construction has started on our new home. We are hoping to move in June so we've got six months of city living to savor before having to drive 20 minutes in any direction to reach...well, anything. We are trying restaurants that we've never been to that are near to us, taking advantage of walking down to 50th & France, meeting friends at local coffee shops. There are a lot of wonderful things that I'm going to love about our new home and wide open spaces, and there are also a lot of wonderful things I will miss about where we live now.

I am six months into my new position at Crescent Cove, a children's respite and hospice home in Brooklyn Center, and I could not be more happy in a job or at a place. It is truly a place of joy and light — I look forward to going in every Monday and miss the place when I'm not working. And I'm finally in a role that I've worked around much of my career but have never been the main person in charge of it, and that's communications. Sure, I've written emails, direct mail, web copy, but have never been the person in charge of ensuring it goes out flawlessly, selecting the photos that represent our mission on our social media and website. I love every aspect of what I do and the mission that I'm working on.

This is the last Christmas in this home that we've lived in for 20 years, likely the last one when both girls will be living at home. We have played all the games, watched all the movies, baked all the cookies, and eaten all the food. It's been an absolute joy to have everyone home this holiday season. I know that this is not the end, but it will always be a little different after this. 

This year's coffee/ugly cake.

Watching "Christmas Vacation" on Christmas Eve.

Our Christmas Day table with family china

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Hey Drunk Guy in Section 201, Row SS Seat 122

You were my greatest concern as I planned a solo trip to Wisconsin to see Rage Against the Machine. And there you were, trying to ruin my night. 

I bought a single ticket to see the show about a week before the show. It was a last-minute decision to see a band that, while others have been fans for years, I only recently discovered after the killing of George Floyd. Their lyrics about police brutality and racism were, sadly, as relevant 30 years later as they were when they were first written in the 1990s. 

And so I made arrangements with a friend and with family to stay with them, to connect in person and spend time before and after the Saturday evening event at Alpine Valley.

That night, I made my way to my seat and there you were in all your drunken glory, weaving back and forth as you struggled to keep your balance. The minute I saw you I thought to myself, "This guy is not going to make it to see this concert." (Spoiler alert: I was partially right.)

You asked my name, insisted on a fist bump (which you almost didn't pull off because you nearly fell over trying to connect your fist to mine) and asked if I was ready to RAAAAAGGGEEEE!!!! 

The guy on the other side of me was the opposite. Focused. Serious about his music. Nothing was going to keep him from enjoying this concert.

Sure enough, when the music started, the guy to the right of me was standing as close to the seat in front of him as possible, fist pumping, focused on the stage, rapping every word to every song. Damn. That's a fan.

And you. You started dancing. Dancing? Who the f*ck dances at a Rage Against the Machine concert? No, this is fist-pumping, head-banging music. But then I feel the ulterior motive behind your dancing. Because with every swing of an arm, you touched me.

You touched me on my shoulder. My buttocks. You actually grabbed my waist once, I am sure you don't remember that, you likely don't remember any of it. 

I turned to you and yelled "Don't touch me."

You ignored me.

It got worse, like you were pawing at me. You put your hand on my shoulder as if I was there with you. I shoved you away and yelled "Stop touching me! I'm here to enjoy this concert, don't ruin this for me."

"Okay okay, I'm sorry, I'll stop," you said. But you didn't. 

Finally your friend changed places with you, putting a barrier between you and me. He was drunk too, but not as bad as you were.

If there had been a security person near the end of our row I would have sought them out and asked to have you moved. But I didn't want to miss a single song, so I did what women in our society are taught to do. I tolerated it. I tried to ignore it. But the people both in front of and behind us could see my irritation and would push you back toward your seat when you kept making your way nearer to me. (I found this out later.)

And eventually, the movement that I could sense to my left stopped. I turned and you were gone. I can ony assume you threw up, passed out, or did something else to get ejected, because you were no longer "raging" at this concert that you were so excited to see. You missed it. And likely, the part you did see you don't remember. 

Before this trip my husband expressed his concern about my going to this concert alone, about my driving 6 hours across Wisconsin, driving to the venue alone, being there by myself. I was confident that I would be safe. After all, RATM fans are now in their 40s and, seriously? 

But here you were, drunk, 40-year-old white guy, trying to ruin my night. Instead, you ended up ruining your own.

You may normally be a nice guy in life, maybe with a wife and kids, kind to people at work, but to me you will always be an asshole. I'm sure you don't remember the concert. I hope to hell you woke up the next day with a raging headache and a nagging sense of regret for the way you acted that night. 

I enjoyed myself very much that night, despite you being there. In the words of Rage Against the Machine, "Fuck you." 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

What Price a Life?

I find myself buying sympathy cards by the handful these days. My friends and I are at the stage of life in which many of our parents are passing away. Sometimes it is expected, after a long illness or decline, other times it is unexpected but not surprising when a parent leaves us.

Which leads me to the question..."What price for a life?"

Sometimes the bereaved is a very good friend, sometimes a distant relative. Sometimes the person is grieving, but are struggling with also being relieved that the person is no longer in pain. Sometimes the deceased was cruel and conniving, and the bereaved person is relieved that they are no longer in their life. Or they know they are truly missing their best friend and rock in the world.

Many times it is all of those things.

Trite cards of "sorry for your loss" lose their meaning among a sea of "sorry for your loss" sentiments. We are all sorry. Sorry for what? That they are no longer here, or that they suffered? Or that they made YOU suffer? 

Do I write a memoriam gift of $25? $50? $100? In the end, does the amount really matter? Writing the check for memoriam gifts is the one check that I think about for the longest time. Will they think less of me, or more of me if I write a check of a certain amount? Do they know that this amount is a sacrifice? Do they know we can afford more?  Does it matter?

Does it matter to them?

Does it matter to the deceased?

And so I express what I can, and focus on the things that made a person happy. Treasure the memories, be grateful for the gifts of the person's presence, for the happiness and good times that were had.

At the end of the day, that is all we can bring to others. 

Because no amount is ever enough. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Three Dog Circus

After Lindsey's freshman year of college we knew that she would get an emotional support dog to go back to school with her for year 2 and beyond. She, like many people, simply do better with loving pets in her life.

So back in March, when my friend Nicole who had rescued three street dogs from Aruba, was going on an extended diving trip, our family agreed to be a temporary foster for one of her dogs, Percy. I figured it would be a good trial run for us to see how Beauty would do with another dog in the house. Percy is a sweet, gentle Australian shepherd mix who loves to just hang with people. 

Percy became a part-time pet as Kristi decided to adopt him from Nicole.Wwhen Kristi works her overnight shifts, Percy comes to our house and he and Beauty hang out. It's been fun to watch the two of them together. At first, Percy and Beauty played together a lot. Percy would lunge for or play bite Beauty's leg. Beauty HATES that, and would pull back, and it was on, with Percy trying to nibble at Beauty and Beauty trying to protect her legs from him. After a week or two of this Beauty decided she was tired of playing. So he would grab her leg and she would just stand still and wait for him to let her go. 

Eventually the two of them got into a good rhythm whenever Percy would come over. Beauty taught Percy how to chase squirrels, Percy taught Beauty the finer points of enjoying food by eating slowly. 

And then...Lindsey introduced Finn to the family. She had been checking the website of a rescue organization called "Adaoptabull" for a dog, had already applied and been approved to adopt through them. They texted her a photo of an adorable puppy and asked if she would be able to foster him. He was part of a litter being rescued in Texas and if they didn't have fosters lined up for them they were going to be euthanized. I didn't think that ever happened, but here it was, a text on her phone from the organization, saying "can you foster this cute puppy so he doesn't get killed?" I mean, who would say yes, go ahead and kill this adorable little thing?

We were told Finn (then Scrappy) was a 5-month old puppy and the photo of him was of a tiny little pup. We were surprised to get a long-legged, gangly pup with a tall body and huge paws. He has no concept of personal space. His idea of snuggling with his humans is getting as close to your face as possible. He is learning to not nibble on humans, and when he wants attention he finds a random shoe, brings it to your general vicinity and looks at you, because he knows better than to chew them but still wants your attention. He trips over his own feet when he runs after balls or toys. 

Beauty tolerates him with unending patience. 

I tell people now that we have two and a half dogs, two who live with us and one who visits frequently. When Percy's not here it feels weird. We are always counting the dogs and thinking we are missing one.

It's a bit chaotic, it's a bit messy, but it's a whole lot of fun. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

New York City

"Imagine" artwork inspired by John Lennon, Central Park

I had the opportunity to spend a week in New York City, helping my sister-in-law, Laurie, after knee replacement surgery.

I have been traveling to NYC for years, my first time in January of 1996, in the middle of a blizzard. The airline did not cancel the flight despite weather conditions, and so I went. I remember stepping over piles of snow up to my thigh on street corners as the city dug itself out. I arrived at my company's corporate headquarters hoping to get trained on some software I really needed to learn. Instead I filled in to get work done for the many employees who couldn't make it in due to the weather conditions. Weather conditions that, in Minnesota, would have caused a hiccup but not a work stoppage.

That same trip I got hungry around lunchtime and was given directions to a little deli around the corner where I could buy an amazing sandwich. The employee's recommendation was, "You'll never get sick there." I replied, "Wow, that's quite a recommendation." She looked at me and said, "Honey, in New York it is."

Aah, New York. I grew to love it after years of traveling there multiple times a year. I stayed in different hotels around the city, explored different neighborhoods. I remember being in the Minnesota office, travel bag in my car, expecting to head to the airport later that afternoon. It was September 11, 2001. Our cohorts in New York could see the smoke and chaos from their office building. I called several clients who I knew lived in the city out of concern, before the phone lines could no longer handle the traffic and all calls stopped. We watched the TV in our office in silence until some of us could no longer hold back our tears. Many of our New York coworkers who lived in that area weren't allowed back into their apartments for weeks. We closed the office that day and went home, in shock. We grieved with them. We grew strong with them. And we felt like New York was a part of us, not some distant city.

Years after 9/11, I remember walking the city and having someone ask me which way Madison Ave was. And I knew!! I knew we were west of it and that they should take a right at the next corner and go down two blocks to reach Madison. How crazy was that, that someone mistook me for someone who KNEW something about the city, and I actually did?

Central Park

George Washington Bridge, as seen from Wash Heights

And now, most recently, I got to know the city the best. I arrived here to take care of my sister-in-law Laurie as she recovers from knee replacement surgery. She moved to Washington Heights 6 years before, far from her previous home in Midtown. I'd visited her a few times in Washington Heights, but it always felt foreign and a little not like the New York I knew. It was quieter here, not bustling. You could not buy a New York t-shirt for blocks around -- no "I heart New York" hats or little Statue of Liberty trinkets. Just grocery stores, local marts, doctor offices and places for people who live here.

I had lots of time to myself as she was in the hospital for two days after her surgery. I took the subway downtown to visit her. I walked Madison Ave, walking in and out of stores far out of my league, smiling at the doormen who opened doors for me, even though it was obvious by my appearance that there was no way I was buying anything in those stores. 

Flowers planted around a tree in the sidewalk, Upper West side.

I walked Central Park, savoring the sun, lilacs and crabapple tress that were in bloom while Minnesota was experiencing the longest "gray out" of any April. I ended up in a different neighborhood on the other side of Central Park and figured out how to transfer trains to get back to Washington Heights. Once there, I learned the local bodega, the best liquor store, the local pharmacy where I picked up prescriptions for Laurie.

I visited a grocery store in the neighborhood where Lin-Manuel Miranda lives, picked up a bottle of wine from the wine store that Laurie has seen his wife shopping in. I didn't run into either of them, but I got to meet the sweetest massive doodle you ever met and talk with its owner for a while. The dog walked up to me and expected to be petted. His owner was embarrassed, I was thrilled. 

Artwork provided by students over a footbridge, Wash Heights.

The local church's community fridge, Washington Heights

There is so much greenery in New York, so many hidden walking trails through flowers, trees, and along the all surrounding waters, be it the Hudson, the East or the Harlem Rivers. The parks I travailed were not filled with garbage, were not littered with the belongings of homeless people seeking refuge among the trees. They were peaceful, only disturbed by the occasional bicyclist or walker. 

Aah, New York. Until we meet again.