Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hippies Attack!

Awhile back I mentioned my first job about of college, where I worked for a hypocritical hippie and ended up storming out because of his complete lack of journalistic ethics.

I thought it to be a BWE that Mr. Peace & Love showed up in the paper today. This time his sloppy "journalism" has landed him in court. Really? You can't just publicly imply wrongdoing without having any sources?

I love that he's taking the civil liberties martyr route given that this is the man who told me I could no longer write about venues that refused to advertise in his paper. The man who stopped my last paycheck out of spite and who later got dragged into small claims court for pulling the same stunt with two more editors after me. (and was ordered to pay, I might add)

I'm not bitter (okay, I'm still a tiny bit bitter), I just can't believe someone can be so obviously hypocritical without any kind of self-awareness.

Anyway, reading the article was a little blast from the past for me. And yes, it's nice to see that someone found a way to prosecute him for his complete disregard for journalistic ethics and integrity. He should be an embarrassment to hippies (and journalists) everywhere.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happily (N)ever After

What do Cirque du Soleil and Duluth have in common? They've both recently caused me to ponder what the hell I'm doing with my life.

To be fair, my morning trip to Starbucks and watching Top Chef both have similar effects, but that is not the point.

I took the boys to see Kooza last weekend. I have a love/hate relationship with Cirque du Soleil. The artistry and vision that goes into their productions nearly brings me to tears, but I could do without the clowns and I despise the predictable bit with the person who we're supposed to think is a randomly selected audience member, but is actually a member of the cast. But, I digress.

Kooza is amazing (perhaps you would like to read this article about it) and it was really fun to get to experience it with the boys, who were similarly amazed. Cirque du Soleil productions tend to cause me to wonder why I didn't pursue a career in, say, highwire acrobatics (I mean, besides the obvious reasons), but I hope that for the boys, it opens their eyes to the possibility that with enough training and dedication, one actually could travel the world doing such things.

I'll say it here now, lest I forget once my boys are actually on the cusp of becoming adults: If they ever want to run away with Cirque du Soleil, I will encourage them to follow their long as they call often.

So, with my laments of not being a circus performer still fresh in my mind, we took the kids to Duluth this past weekend. Honestly, I wasn't that excited about it. A three-hour drive to look at a lake isn't my idea of fun, but the boys fell in love with Lake Superior last year...

The boys' top three activities of the trip were (in order): 1) throwing rocks in the lake, 2) swimming in the hotel pool, and 3) eating Fruit Loops at the free hotel breakfast. It's entirely possible that similar results could be achieved in our own neighborhood with a stream, a trip to the public pool and a stop in the cereal aisle, but there's something fun about road trips, right?

Actually, I ended up having so much fun that I revisited my fantasy about selling our belongings in order to buy an RV and become a traveling family. There's something magic about that lake.

I figure all I need to enact this plan is: 1) a job that I can do from an RV (hmmm...sounds like being a freelance writer might work), 2) a job for my husband to do from an RV, and 3) the licensing, knowledge and fortitude required to homeschool my kids. And the RV, of course. Yep, in no time, we'll be ditching this pesky house we built and heading off into the sunset...

And I will never have to ponder what I'm doing with my life again. The end.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seizing the Day...and Not

A friend of mine just had a health scare – the kind that is so terrifying that it changes your life even when you find out it’s really okay (and it is really okay, thank god). Obviously the waiting to find out was much more excruciating on her end, so I won’t belabor my own agony, but it did get me thinking. 

I’m getting CaringBridge updates on two different people who are deep in the fight with cancer right now. One who I believe will win and one who, it pains me to say, I’m not so sure about…and, you know, it feels totally arrogant to even mention the way I feel about any of it because I’m sitting safely on the sidelines…and yet, well, it’s my blog, so I suppose that makes me a tiny bit arrogant from the outset.

My first instinct to being confronted with the mortality of people I care about is to embrace carpe diem. No day but today! Live each day as if it's your last! Right, and then you realize that just in case this day isn’t your last, you should probably go to work.

I suppose it’s the same struggle as always, just slightly more narrowly focused for a moment: How do you find meaning in life? How do you make a difference, leave a mark, or make a contribution to the world that you will one day leave behind? What do you want people to remember about you?

I suppose my 40 by 40 list is an attempt at committing to doing what’s important to me…albeit over an eight-year span. Isn’t it just a little presumptuous to make such a list?  

If I found out today that I had a week or a month or a year to live, would I run out and do all of the things on that list, or would I hunker down with my husband and my precious babies and attempt to absorb a lifetime’s worth of joy? Would I attempt to journal every bit of motherly wisdom that I’ve been assuming I had decades to impart? In Ireland, perhaps?

It’s so easy to look at it and say that it’s all about priorities, it’s all about following your heart, but we all know that sometimes priorities and heartstrings collide and we’re not always enlightened enough in that moment to make a decision we might be proud of for eternity…

Sometimes we just make the decision that gets us through the day. And that’s okay, sometimes. Because it has to be. I guess we just hope that over time, we make more of the right decisions and less of the wrong ones, and that slowly, but surely, we steer our lives to the place that we want them to be. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The life of Jimmy

This is Jimmy. A few hours ago, Jimmy was living the wild and crazy carny life, traveling from town to town, swimming around in his 150 mL of water, tricking kids and young lovers out of their dollar bills with the promise of winning him or one of his brethren by landing a ping pong ball in one of their tiny fish bowls.

Then my kids came along. Now, Jimmy probably had no clue his life was about the change, what with the less-than-stellar aim my kids showcased with all 14 of their ping pong balls...but just as my kids were sighing their sighs of defeat (and my husband and I were sighing sighs of relief at having not just acquired a new pet), the man running the game surprised us with Jimmy, all nicely packaged in a ziploc bag. 

Having stopped at Petsmart on the way home to get Jimmy a spacious new fish bowl and some food, we are now hoping he will survive his transition to the quiet suburban life. But, as Aidan somberly noted on our way home from the carnival, "We will love him as long as he lasts."

Judging from the worsening tilt in Jimmy's float, I'm thinking that won't be very long.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wardrobe Perils

On Monday we had a big important event (BIE) at work, complete with local government officials and media. So I tried to cobble together an exceptionally professional-looking outfit from the hodge-podge of clothes I have leftover from my previous days in corporate America. 

I've really only bought a handful of office clothes since starting this job (mostly because of money, but also because I guess I still don't feel like it's a permanent thing), which leaves me scrambling almost every morning to figure out what to wear. Especially with this extra weight I seem to have put on in the last year or so...sigh.

So anyway, in an attempt to appear professional, I decided to wear the black pencil skirt I bought on clearance at the Gap recently. It was the first time I'd worn it, as I usually avoid skirts because A) they require me to shave my legs before work, and B) my legs are virtually translucent thanks to my aversion to shorts. 

So I get to work, looking halfway like a grown up who works for a Fortune 500 company, and all is well for an hour. Then I make the stupid mistake of using the restroom (Starbucks, I blame you)...this is where I run into trouble. Upon attempting to re-zip my skirt, the zipper appears stuck, so I spin it around to get a better look and learn that it's not just stuck, it's actually split all the way open...the zipper that spans a good 6 inches down from my waist....

Was it split open before I went into the bathroom? For my own sense of pride, let's just assume not. But it was certainly split beyond repair now. 

This is where that teeny, tiny clasp that they put above zippers on women's clothing, which usually seems to serve no purpose, actually saved the day. Or, at least, it allowed me to walk briskly back to my desk to grab my purse, descend the three stories to the front door and scurry out to my van without my skirt ending up around my ankles. Thank you, tiny clasp. 

And so, I made the 40-minute commute back home to change clothes and hurry back to the office before the dignitaries showed up for the BIE. 

I could make this into a tirade about getting older and struggling with my weight for the first time in my life and how I either need to decide to start working out or buy bigger clothes, but that can all wait for another blog...instead, I'm blaming the Gap for shoddy workmanship. And they better take the f*ing skirt back. 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Speed(y-ish) Racers

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year because it was the day of the Great Urban Race! Although I normally steer clear of both competition and physical challenges, I make an exception for treasure/scavenger hunts.

The Great Urban Race is sort of like "Midnight Madness" (the movie, not any basketball nonsense) meets The Amazing Race, with digital cameras. Basically, it's a really fun way to run around the city doing things you would never normally do. 

You might remember that last year I competed with my friend Kevin as K-squared. We finished in 152nd place (out of 162 teams). Since Kevin has since run away to India, this year I competed with my friend Gretchen as team "Communication Breakdown." Our goal was to make the top 100.

Even though I knew what to expect this year, I still went into a bit of a panic/hyper-focus mode when it came time to rip open that clue envelope.  

Twelve clues and we could choose to skip one. The first was in Pig Latin, so I moved down to number 2: Make your way to the Minneapolis music club made famous by Prince in the movie Purple Rain. Take a picture of all teammates pointing at the silver star representing the band that has albums titled "Elephunk"and "Monkey Business." Awesome! We knew we needed to head downtown. Even more awesome was that this year, we'd actually researched the bus routes and were able to quickly board a bus going in the right direction. 

Even before we boarded the bus, I got in touch with our Google team headquarters (a.k.a. my husband) and began requesting information:

"Who has an album titled 'Elephunk'?" "Where did the Acadia move to?""Where's the Tin Fish?" "What does Molly Shannon's 'superstar' pose look like?"

By the time we got off that bus, we had all of our clues but one solved. The straggler was #9: Take a picture of all teammates in front of a sign that reads 'for bread * cake * pastry. It sounded so easy...

Undaunted, we quickly snapped our photo in front of the Black-Eyed Peas' star on First Avenue (clue #2), decided against recruiting eight other people to strike Molly Shannon's "superstar" pose under the Hard Rock Cafe guitar (clue #7 and a detour, which gave us another option), and ran back out to Hennepin Avenue to hop back on a bus headed to Uptown. 

We didn't know it at the time, but that bus ride was a critical juncture. First, my lovely stepsisters, who were also competing (as the intimidating team "Chicken Dinner") were already on the bus and we decided to partner up. Second, last year's winners (the Oozing Monkeys) were also on the bus. (We would later realize that 4 of the top 5 teams were on that bus with us.)

Once in Uptown, our competitors scattered. We (with the sisters, we were now four) ducked into a bookstore to complete part of clue #8: Find the Minnesota Literacy Council next to the Tin Fish on lake Calhoun and donate at least one new pre-school age board book.

We then hit Calhoun Square - clue #5 directed us there, but more importantly, we needed a bathroom break. Not wanting to appear rude, we ordered drinks at the bar before using their facilities...and naturally, we had to drink those drinks after having paid for them and all...

In case you're keeping track, that means we took our first pit stop after completing just 1.5 clues. 

After rehydrating at the bar, we counted all of the butterflies in the Fairy Godmother shop window, as instructed in clue #5. (I counted 106.) Then it was onto Amazing Thailand (part one of clue #12) to find the "tuk-tuk" and read its license plate so we could add the digits together.

After stopping at the East-facing mural at Cal Surf  to have our photo snapped holding up the proper number of fingers, based on the total of the license plate numbers (part two of clue #12), we continued on to Lake Calhoun, where we finished off clue #8 by donating the book, and then embarked on clue #4, which had us canoeing out to a red buoy and back. 

I was quickly reminded that I have not been in a canoe since I last went to summer camp at age 11. Though I managed to recall the very basics of how to steer a canoe, I would later learn that having both paddlers facing each other is not the ideal way to go...perhaps that explains why we spun the canoe around so many times. The good news is that we didn't drown. There really is no bad news, as that was a really fun part of the race. 

After getting our stamp to prove that we had canoed, the four of us were off and running. We thought we had figured out that elusive clue #9 (for bread * cake * pastry) and planned to hop a bus to French Meadow Bakery. Only rather than stopping to determine which bus to take, we just kind of kept walking the 1.5 miles, only to find out that it wasn't the right place (and they were a little tired of people asking, thanks). 

Feeling a little flustered, we decided it would be best to regroup at the neighboring CC Club (number of clues completed: 5). There, I grabbed the yellow pages, ordered a beer, and set out to solve this mystery. Everyone in the bar was eager to try to help, especially this kind old woman (who was drinking at 2 in the afternoon), who insisted that somebody had a bakery in Excelsior and their mother had a cafe nearby and that they sold bread. Right. 

So intent were we to solve this clue (and drink our drinks) that we missed our bus. Oh well, what's another 20 minutes? Drink up.

Once on the bus, we set out to solve the remaining downtown clues. First we hit the bird fountain on Nicollet Mall (clue #3, which was a cryptogram), then I channeled my former cheerleading self to make a human pyramid in front of the pyramid sculpture in front of the IDS Tower, also on Nicollet Mall (clue #7, the other detour option). Thankfully, another team arrived to help with that one, as recruiting strangers to be in a human pyramid can't be easy. 

From there, we walked over to the triangular statue that was pictured in clue #10 (we could have found the cross-streets for it by finding out the number of runs the Minnesota Twins had against the New York Yankees in Wednesday's game and the number of runs they had in Tuesday's game, but luckily Gretchen knew where it was). 

Next stop, the Mill City Museum, the answer to clue #1 (the one that was in Pig Latin): Take a picture of all teammates standing in front of the best smelling museum ever created. Google team headquarters really came through on that one...apparently it has something to do with flour because the museum is in the former Gold Medal Flour factory. I don't know.

Again, we intended to hop a bus back to the West Bank, where the race had started and where we knew we still had two more clues to complete, but we ended up walking the whole 2+ miles. Did I mind? Not really. I was completely distracted by how much fun I was having. 

Having finally given up on clue #9 (therefore making it our skipped clue by default), our last two stops had us feeding each other cookies at the Acadia Cafe and then playing bocce ball at the Nomad Pub. And then we were done! And, in contrast to last year, there were actually other teams around as we walked to the finish line!

So excited at the prospect of beating last year's time, I ran the last block to the finish line. Woohoo!! We did it! No penalties!

As it turns out, the answer to clue #9 was rumored to have been etched in the side of the Gold Medal Flour building, which I suppose makes sense, but I still don't think I would have ever figured it out. 

We finished in slightly under 4 hours, while the winning team - the same team that won last year - finished in 1 hour and 41 minutes. That means they were probably crossing the finish line while we were spinning around on the lake. I know that last year, right here in the comments of this blog, they denied being superhuman, but my new theory is that they are able to teleport. (Maybe they aren't superhuman, they are simply time travelers?)

Anyway, it was a lot of fun. In fact, I'm thinking of devising a scavenger hunt workout routine, as it seems to be the only way I'll ever be motivated to walk that far...

Did we break the top 100? We don't know yet - we're still waiting for results to be posted. 

**UPDATED 7/14/09: Results have been posted and we came in at #130. Oh well.**

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Working at not working

I've mentioned my return to corporate America. I've been hesitant to provide updates on that, since 1) it's not that exciting, and 2) you never know who might stumble upon your blog. 

But without getting into specifics, I thought it was blogworthy to mention that what started as a part-time gig is creeping into becoming a full-time gig...or rather, it would if I let it. 

When I quit my former corporate job, I thought I'd stay home for a year, have an epiphany and then go on to do meaningful work and make lots of money...or write a best-selling novel or something. Well, thanks to my good fortune in freelancing, one year turned into 3 1/2 (with momentary lapses into employment here and there).

I never had that epiphany, but I did get to spend a lot of time with my kids...finally enough time that I could actually leave them now and then without feeling horribly guilty (overcoming my overcompensation for being a latchkey kid). 

I always said I'd go back to work full-time when they started first grade. It seemed reasonable enough, right? And yet somehow that day is now quickly approaching (in fact, it's two months from tomorrow) and I still don't want to go back to work full-time. I don't think it's pure laziness, either. It's feeling like there's no way in hell I can keep up with all the other stuff if I'm trapped in an office for 40 hours a week. 

I don't begrudge anyone for choosing to work full-time, mind you. Actually, I'm thinking that families where both parents work full-time deserve some sort of award if they still manage to keep their households and families intact. I know it can be done, I just don't want to do it. Not if I don't have to. Not yet.

And so, when my boss informed me last week that she would be able to bring me on full-time this fall, I fought the part of me that was screaming about being practical and paying off the credit card and I countered with an offer to work 30 hours a week, which will get me home in time to greet my boys as they get off the school bus in the afternoon. 

It's probably not the smartest financial or career move, but it's a happy medium. And it buys me some more time while I await that's coming, I just know it. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Soccer Mom

I've been driving a minivan for nearly four years, but only yesterday did I become a real soccer mom. 

Yes, I signed the boys up for soccer. I'm trying to do my part to help them overcome their genetic predisposition for unathleticism. 

As with all group activities, I knew it would be a gamble. They played T-ball last summer and although they had fun, they also seemed to take turns having meltdowns at every game. Still, Aidan has been talking about wanting to play soccer for some time and I figured that it would be preferable to one of the more dangerous (and expensive) sports, like hockey or football. 

So we suited them up in their little YMCA jerseys and told them to listen and have fun, and off they went. The first half was just drills and they both did fine, although it took Owen an eternity to dribble the ball around the perimeter of the field, as he muttered "I need to focus!" to himself. 

Then it was time for the match. You know, because 30 minutes of practice seems like ample preparation for a group of 6 and 7 year olds who may or may not have ever played the game before. Aidan got his coveted position as goalie. Owen was a forward. 

And that is where the boys' experiences diverged. Aidan ate up the extra attention as goalie and didn't even seem to take it personally when the ball got past him. 

Owen, on the other hand, lost track of the ball and began to get agitated. Attempts to encourage him to go after the ball only made it worse, as he perceived us to be scolding him for not going after the ball, when he was still busy trying to make sense of the kids running past him in all directions. It was just too much.

To their credit, his coaches were patient, encouraging and even asked us if there was something they could do to make him feel better. I didn't play the autism card - it felt unnecessary. His coaches looked bewildered enough. Plus, the fact that he has autism doesn't make a fit in the middle of a soccer game less distracting for all of the other players. 

At one point, the coach came over to suggest that maybe chess would be a good game for him. She was kidding, but she's probably right. 

I felt bad for Owen because he was so frustrated with himself - we could see that he was struggling between absolutely hating the game and wishing he could play it. But I also felt bad for Aidan because while we were busy comforting Owen, he was still out there making some nice moves, and he needed our attention too. 

In the end, we left with one extremely happy and proud boy (Aidan ended up scoring a goal!) and one sad and frustrated boy who vowed to never play soccer again.

It would be really easy for me to say that I'm just not going to subject Owen to organized sports anymore. I could make that decision for him out of my intense desire to protect him from feeling scared or getting hurt. But I don't think that would be fair. It feels too much like letting the autism dictate what he can and can't do. If he decides he doesn't like sports, well, hey, he'll be in great company, but it's not my place to decide for him...even if it means I have to hurt right along side of him when things don't go well. 

So, next week we'll go back to soccer and maybe he'll play or maybe he won't. Either way, maybe he'll at least pick up enough knowledge of the sport to help him survive gym class. Here's hoping.