Sunday, August 30, 2009

Prelude to a Sunrise Thunderstorm

Last night, the insistent wind demanded to be let into my house. It pushed its way in through my half-open windows, the shades rattling their discontent as it entered. It swirled through my room, all clothed in scents of trees, of coolness, of coming rain. It left through my door, the hinges creaking with its passing and the latch acknowledging its leaving with a click.

I could have shut my window to its passage, but instead threw open the complaining shades and breathed deeply of the summer day that was done, of the one that was anticipated. I opened my door wide to ease its passage without further disturbance, and I sunk into my bed with dreams of summer days to come.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

End of an Era

Yesterday was Marissa's last day at KinderCare. She'll be home with grandparents/aunts next week, and then on September 1st she begins a new program called Fours Explores. This program is part of the Mpls KIDS program and is geared for kids for whom this is their year before kindergarten.

We've had one or two kids attending KinderCare since 2003 -- six years. It's hard to believe that we'll be done with dropping our kids off there, seeing all the parents and the other children who attend, and especially seeing the teachers and director(s). The director has been there the ENTIRE time, something that's unheard of in terms of daycare centers. Usually directors are at one place for a while and then move on.

But it's also a relief for a couple of reasons: it's expensive. Damn expensive. We're going to have several hundred dollars per month get freed up come September. And secondly, over the years we've seen lots of teacher turnover in which our kids' day became inconsistent, depending on who was running the room. Marissa's pre-school class was made of 3 through 5 year olds -- can you imagine trying to develop curriculum to help each of those ages at their various levels? Not very practical.

I love these photos of her in her graduation cap -- she was jumping up and down and very excited to be starting her new program.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Last night we were trying to get the girls ready for bed, a task they both have become skilled at procrastinating.

Marissa decided she needed to put her baby to bed, and had her baby in her toy baby carrier in her room and was in the process of covering her with various little blankies, etc. Wayne kept telling her to come to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Finally he had to tell her she'd get to watch no TV the following day unless she got to the bathroom on the count of 3 to brush teeth.

Marissa's response was to give a big sigh of annoyance -- I cannot even determine which vowels to use to describe it. It's something like "uuuuuuuUUUUGH!" or "RrrrrruuuuuuHHHHH!" and then she said, "You're RUINING my LIFE!"

We actually laughed, even though we weren't supposed to. She is 4 going on 14.

Monday, August 17, 2009

While in Wisconsin this weekend...

My youngest daughter Marissa accompanied me to Wisconsin when I returned for my 20th high school reunion. Yes, 20. I know, I don't know how that happened either. But we'll return to that story another time...

She was digging around in my folks' outdoor storage container. At our house it is chock full of toys -- at their house it is full of cushions for outdoor furniture, with one radio with built-in CD player at the bottom. She saw the CD player and wanted to play it. So we plugged it in, and she wanted the CDs that go with it.

My mom said, "Sorry, we don't have any children's CDs to play."

Marissa looked and her and very seriously said, "Well, we could play BORING CDs..."

And I thought they only thought our music was boring when they got to be teenagers. It must start earlier than I had realized!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Defining Moment

Written on 8/13/09, posted at a later date.

I’m on my way back from the NY nonprofit conference, an annual gathering of nonprofits and their collective vendors for networking, training and other such gatherings. I had the opportunity to hear Gail Blanke speak this morning. She wrote a book called “Your Wildest Dreams” which, you may or may not know, Oprah picked up and did a one hour special on some time ago. The entire hour was dedicated to this topic. I didn’t see the Oprah show, but because I subscribe to the Oprah Magazine I read an article about it and saw that they had a contest in which women with little opportunity ahead of them were given the chance to compete to have their wildest dreams realized.

Gail is also a life coach and has written numerous other self-help books. She joked that she should’ve written a fitness book, which she would have titled “Eat Less, Move More,” and all the pages inside could be blank. And now, back to our story...

One of the points of her discussion was to talk about making sure that as human beings we separate fact from interpretation. This is something that I and many people (women in particular) I know are wont to do. She spoke of an incident when she was 9 and was picking out a loud, frilly pink party dress for her birthday party when her mom didn’t buy it for her and instead said she was the “tailored type,” which she interpreted to mean plain. It wasn’t until her adult years that she found out her mom meant “elegant” type, but she’d already spent decades thinking she was plain because her mom said so.

Then she gave the following recent example, which I just loved.

For the aforementioned Oprah show taping, she was left to her own devices for an hour and a half before the taping of the show. This was simply a fact of the production situation, not by intent. She could overhear Oprah on the monitors as she critiqued her own hair, her choice of wardrobe, and her own little demons of criticism in her pursuit of perfect. She began to internalize those criticisms that Oprah of making of herself, thinking that perhaps Oprah was having an “off” day and wasn’t going to be enthusiastic about the day’s taping. As she says, a lot can go through your mind in an hour and a half, and she began to doubt herself. Who was she to be on Oprah? How was it that others could see her as an expert in this? By the time she was fetched for the taping, the old demons of “I am plain” had circled her head and were about to roost.

She met Oprah on stage in front of the live studio audience. The set had two bright yellow chairs on it, set at a 90 degree angle to each other, for the show in which Oprah and Gail would be next to each other. She was feeling uncertain of herself, and after their initial introductions, Oprah turned to the production team and said, “Get the bench.”

Suddenly the two chairs were swept off the stage, to be replaced with a single yellow bench, and Oprah took a seat in the studio audience. Gail began to interpret this in this way: “She doesn’t like me, she’s going to sit in the audience and grill me, I’m being put on the hotseat, this will become a criticism of my book, I am in over my head, what does this truly mean?” And then she took a step back in her own mind and said, “Don’t interpret – you are NOT plain, be sure of yourself and do it.”

I know that that particular show was an incredible success, and that it spawned a 2-hour special called “Your Wildest Dreams” and helped propel Gail’s book to the NY Times Bestseller list.

After the taping, Gail spoke to her agent about how it had gone and he informed her that by Oprah asking for the bench, she was giving the entire show over to Gail. She wasn’t switching out the seating as a vote of non-confidence, she did it in a gesture of complete trust that Gail would be so truly compelling that she handed over the entire content of her episode to Gail.

Gail and Oprah did not meet for a single moment prior to that second. Pretty amazing that she had that level of trust having just met her.

What an opportunity that could have been squandered had Gail gone with her first interpretation of what Oprah had meant.

It makes me look at various situations in my life, both professional and personal, and how I have chosen to interpret feedback that I receive. I am thankful that for the most part I have developed a good sense of self-worth and when I hear something that doesn’t jive with what I believe to be true, I’ll ask for further details and get clarification. I don’t know how I developed this, I truly don’t. For as much as my mother obsessed over her body image while I was growing up, I should be incredibly self-critical of my own, as many women are. But I’m not. I suspect that even if I weighed 300 lbs I would still think I look damn good. I like to think I’m pretty smart. I’m not trying to brag, but for a small town girl who graduated from a small school (at least in comparison to others), I felt like no doors were closed to me in whatever I chose to do with my life. I remember wanting to apply to Harvard, just to see if I could get in. I knew I could never afford it, and the application fee was prohibitive to me so that I never did apply, but I wanted to, just to see if I could.

I had no ambition to be a doctor, a lawyer, to reach some “lofty” goal, and by lofty I mean one that is valued by society. I knew that if I chose to be a garbage collector my parents would be proud of me as long as I was doing what I loved, and that would be all that mattered. I don’t remember their ever saying that to me, but somehow that message came across, and I love them for that.

Looping Back: A Vacation Story

I have to write of an event from our vacation over the 4th of July.

One day while our family was frolicking in the hotel pool, a woman came through the area to take advantage of the outdoor patio area that was just outside of the pool area. She carried a towel, a book, a vat of coffee and other such sundries. She proceeded to undress down to her bikini, slather baby oil onto her already deeply tanned skin, drink her coffee and smoke her cigarettes while reading a book. It was the triple-play of cancer-causing activities.

My kids were fascinated by her behavior. For one, they’ve never seen a person smoking cigarettes up close before. Marissa kept stopping to stare out the patio doors at her, wondering what she was doing.

Wayne and I took this opportunity to talk about the fact that some people choose to smoke and the toll it takes on your body and lungs. Lindsey asked what it might do to your body, so we talked about how it turns your lungs black, makes you unable to breathe a full breath, etc.

Shortly after this Marissa got even closer to the patio window to watch this woman who was thankfully blissfully going about her business without paying attention to the two little girls staring at her unabashedly. I finally called Marissa away, that it was rude to stare at people.

She replied, “ But I want to see her turn black.”

I had to explain that smoking makes something on your insides turn black, not your outsides. I think for a minute there she thought all African American people were smokers.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


A few weeks ago the city of Minneapolis began a re-paving project on France Ave. This is when they have a grinder come along and grind up the top few inches of pavement, then come back through and lay new pavement on the top of it.

So they came along with their nifty equipment, ground off the top few inches, leaving the manholes sticking out of the pavement, making the road quite bumpy until the re-paving occurred.

Which still hasn't happened.

What they HAVE been doing is grinding down all of the rest of the roads in the area, too. Our neighborhood is accessible primarily by four city streets: France Ave, Xerxes Ave, 44th Street and 50th. As of today, three of the four are all ground up, waiting for new pavement.

It's been about three weeks and it's getting ugly. I would love to know the reasons why they have not yet paved France Ave, and instead are going around grinding down the rest of the roads in the area. Are they trying to make it difficult to get around? Because they are definitely succeeding at that.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Travis & Elizabeth's Wedding

What can I say, it was beautiful.
The venue was incredible, the day was perfect, it all went off without a hitch.

I was very proud of my girls, the flower girls, in this wedding. How ironic that my girls were the flower girls in our ring bearer's wedding.

The wedding took place at the Gale Mansion in Minneapolis. The ceremony was outside on the side lawn and the reception was on the grounds and in the home. I've been to two different events at the Gale Mansion and one of my favorite parts of this old, beautiful home is that they don't close off many parts of it to the public. After the wedding, you could find little clusters of people standing in various rooms, chatting or looking at the wall hangings, as if they were at a party at someone's residence. People pulled up chairs wherever they were and just visited.

I love this one during the ceremony because Travis was so obviously nervous and stiff. He looked very serious and stoic the entire time. At one point during the ceremony the minister told him to relax, smile, and enjoy the moment. This was his reaction, which I thought was pretty awesome. And how can you not love his grandpa, the best man, behind him?
I'm bummed that this one is slightly out of focus. This was during the one and only song of the wedding, when Elizabeth's aunt and uncle sang. I love the look on her face because she is smiling out of sheer enjoyment of the song. Shortly after this she began to tear up and I didn't think she'd appreciate my taking a picture of that so I didn't. It was really sweet.