Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ringing In - and Out - the Year

In about 7 hours, the new year will be rung in in the Minneapolis area. I've been trying to think of something appropriately witty or erudite to put in here to wish you all a good 2010.

I stumbled across the following quote earlier today, and thought it would be a great way to look at the ending of one year and the starting of the next.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wishing you all a spirited and unencumbered 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Worry. I'm Okay. (?)

Remember how, when I took my car into the shop, they said that they were pretty sure that they figured out what was wrong and fixed that, even though they weren't 100% sure? Well, imagine that same basic story, but today put me into the role of the car.

After having a strange evening, yesterday, wondering what the kind of random ache near my belly button was, I went to work this morning and had some strange other achy feeling in the same area. Of course, being someone who works in front of a computer all day, I did some Googling and found two top possibilities for what pain near the belly button could be connected to: hernia or appendicitis. But, as with pretty much all online self-diagnosis, I figured I'd just take it all with a grain of salt and get back to work.

On the other hand, when I felt myself get a little flushed late in the morning, I decided that maybe it was time to see what my insurance is actually good for. (In case you don't know this, fever is frequently a direct result of the body trying to fight off an infection. You know, like a sinus infection, or an inflamed appendix...)

I made my excuses to leave work, then called my folks. Dad (have I mentioned that he's a pharmacist?) suggested an ulcer as another possibility. Definitely not the worst of the options, but still not fun. With Christopher's help, as well as a couple of mis-steps at hospitals whose Urgent Care departments are only open in the evening and overnight, I eventually found myself settled in at an Urgent Care that Christopher has gone to.

An hour or so later, I was being poked and prodded and probed by a very congenial doctor as he asked a bunch of questions. Basically, we spent our 10 minutes together taking things off of the list of possibilities. But, in the end, we never put anything into the definite column except the fact that we're 95% sure that I do still have an appendix (I honestly wasn't sure... long story).

So now I'm at home. With Christopher's insistence, I'm drinking lots of clear fluids and trying to rest. (Okay, so I cleared the sidewalks, again, after I got home today, but it was light, at least.) And I apparently did the absolutely wrong thing by eating popcorn for dinner (while trying to avoid anything "bad" in the kitchen, I thought it would be good to eat a dry, innocuous food... my dad has since informed me otherwise).

The doctor sent me home after suggesting that I just monitor my health for the next 48 hours or so. If it doesn't get worse, we're probably okay. If it doesn't get better, we'll have to re-assess. Oh. And if I find myself doubled over in pain and sweating profusely, he suggested that I go the Emergency Room. But... yeah... I think I had that one figured out on my own.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's NOT the End of the Decade!

Tonight, I rant.

I'm sure you've been hearing it on the radio, or on the TV news, or in the countdowns in newspapers, or wherever. People keep saying that we're at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

Not to throw a wet blanket on all of the celebrations and retrospectives, but... No. We're not.

In the same way that the rollover from 1999 to 2000 was not the end of the 20th century, this is not the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

It's elementary, really. When a small child is taught to count, she starts with 1 and goes to 10. She doesn't start with 0 and go to 9.

So why is it that adults keep wanting to count from 0 to 9? Who knows.

But, as for me, I plan to keep counting this decade for another year. That means it has another 367 days (give or take) to shape up before it ships out.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yes. It's Still Snowing...

I fully admit that there are times I do not know why I moved back to the middle of the country. I grew up in South Dakota, where I learned early on how to deal with large amounts of snow. I learned how to shovel it. I learned how to drive through it. I learned to detest it while dealing with it. Then I moved away.

For some reason I can't currently bring to mind, I moved back to this part of the world a few years ago. And although most of the winters have been fine, I'm noticing as time goes on -- and I get older -- that I'm not such a big fan of the winters. I don't mind the cold so much. It's the snow (and rain and sleet) that bugs the heck out of me. The past few days have re-proven that point for me.

We have had snow every day since last Wednesday. It came down heavy on Thursday and Friday, followed by temps in the upper 30s. That sounds like it would be a good combination -- since snow melts above 32 degrees -- but it means that the 8 or so inches of snow all started to soften and turn to slush. When the temps dropped on Friday night, everything froze.

Right now, our sidewalks are iced over. Luckily, since it was slush when it froze, the ice is "bumpy" which allows for traction. The same can basically be said for the sidestreets around here. The main roads (freeways and major streets) are pretty much completely clear. But the sidestreets will probably be rough and bumpy until March.

I spent a large part of this morning just trying to shovel out the end of the driveway, which had been filled by boulder-sized packed snow/slush/ice chunks. The snow shovel wouldn't actually dislodge the chunks. I went for an ice scraper/chopper, but split the handle in half when I tried to pop one of the chunks free. Finally, I went for the garden spade and worked my way through the top layer of the blockade.

After an interlude of warming up in the house, I was back outside for more chopping. Finally, I cleared out another layer using the snow blower. In the end, I was able to take the car out to go to the hardware store to get a new ice scraper, as well as some sand and ice melt for the sidewalks.

Now all I need is somewhere to go where I could buy an early spring.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Of Christmases Past...

The drive I take to get home from work these days is all surface streets. No highways. I started doing that a while ago, because the highways were always backed up. I probably take a little longer on the streets, but because I'm constantly moving (even at speeds maxing out around 25 mph), it feels better.

The past few weeks I've also been able to enjoy all of the Christmas lights on the drive. You see, I drive through some pretty high-end real estate on the way, and there are some massive -- yet mostly tasteful -- displays of lights. But there are also the less high-end homes with more heart in their lights which make me even happier.

One of the totally random lights that I love to drive past is a small (maybe 4-foot-tall) fiber optic Christmas tree which one house has alongside the driveway. It's the kind of tree that changes colors gradually. I slow down a little while I pass that one each night so that I can watch the blue shift to green and the yellow shift through orange to red.

Last night on my drive, I was looking at that tree (minding the road, of course), and started thinking of the odd variety Christmas "trees" that were around when I was growing up.

My paternal grandmother had a little green ceramic tree that was probably about 18" tall. It was painted to look like it had needles (well, in a "painted on ceramic under the glaze" sort of way), and had small colored glass pegs which were shaped like Christmas lights that went into holes on each of the "branches. There was a small lightbulb inside the base of the tree, and when it was turned on, all of the bulbs -- and the star on top -- would glow. I used to love rearranging the lights, just because.

Slightly stranger -- and, honestly, more vague in my memory -- was a little tree we used to put in the front window of our house when I was growing up. It was a hollow translucent white plastic tree shape, with kind of a glittery finish. I seem to remember that there was one of those rotating colored lights (the kind that had a four-color plastic disk which turned in front of a lightbulb), that we would aim at it. Although, I admit, I may be completely off on that. But I know there was the white plastic tree, at least.

At my dad's drugstore, we always hung decorations up above the aisles at this time of year. Tinsel garlands and, later, the fold-out foil stars and snowflakes. Of course, the front windows were always sprayed with "snow" decorations. Writing backward was a skill we all learned early, thanks to that. (And it probably helped that there's printing in my genes on my mom's side of the family -- a generation or two of people reading type backward and all.) The tree at the drugstore was always a snowy thing with dots for "balls" and snow stripes for garland.

At home we always had a big "live" tree. They figure in in Christmas photos for as long as I can remember. For years in the living room, and then in the family room (after the addition was built on) near the fireplace. The trees sometimes toppled due to cats, so we got good at tying the tree off to secure points (like a planter-hanging hook in the ceiling). A few ornaments bit the dust that way, but there are still boxes and boxes of surviving ornaments which are filled with history and love. To this day, I love to sit in the glow of the Christmas tree lights in the evening and just think about all that has come before.

I think I understand why the Ghost of Christmas Past got the most screen- (or, rather page-, or at least stage-) time in Dickens. After all, the past seems to be where we all spend a lot of time this time of year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Working for the Weekend

Okay, I'm going to tell you something, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else: I'm blogging from work.

Right now, it's the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday (December 23rd).

We've had our staff "Holiday party" (with delivered lunch from a local sub/pizza place). We've done the obligatory White Elephant Gift Exchange (with requisite shouting and "stealing" of gifts). And -- more importantly -- for the first time all week my inbox is actually pretty steadily slow. So, well, I'm caught up with work and have to kill a couple more hours.

On the plus side, it's nice to not be crazy busy before a long weekend. On the minus side, it's really really hard to be here with nothing to do when I could be home listening to Christmas music or watching a movie or sleeping.

And, yes, I admit that I'm really lucky that we're not open tomorrow through Sunday. That's really a nice feeling. I'm used to having to work right up until the end of Christmas Eve (lots of years in various forms of retail and customer service), so having the full day off on Christmas Eve is going to seem peaceful and calm.

I was in one of the malls last night, though (I met up with Kelly for a movie, but we ended up having dinner, instead), and was actually a little surprised at how busy it was. Especially since shopping last Sunday was pretty easy (except at Target where the parking lot was packed -- but I was shopping for groceries, and no one was in that section of the store). It's kind of fun to be done with everything and able to just stroll through while other people are having fits.

I guess this is the same reason why my folks say they like coming to visit for a couple of days before flying out to LA for Christmas. They say they like being all done with the pre-holiday chaos and having some time to just do nothing before the festivities start. That's how I'm looking at tonight and tomorrow. Christopher and I will probably have a quiet dinner tonight, and get up late tomorrow and just lounge about before heading out to his folks' in the afternoon.

But, that's tomorrow. For now, I've still got a couple of hours to go to get to that relaxation.

Here's hoping you're all about to that peaceful part of Christmastime, too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Predictably Unpredictable

I've just finished watching the "early" evening news's weather. And -- no surprise to me -- the forecast for the coming week is just as vague as it was this morning.

I've talked with friends of mine about this situation plenty in the past. We joke about how it must be nice to work in a job where you can be mostly wrong about half the time and not lose your job. I mean... really... imagine if you were wrong that often in your own job. Would you still have a job?

That's probably part of why the forecast for this week lists a possibility of anywhere between 2 and 12 inches of snow. I guess that's one way to hedge your bets, isn't it? That's an awfully wide swath to aim for. Kind of like betting your favorite horse will run somewhere between 1st and 10th in a race that has 10 horses.

So, Christopher and I are taking the week as it comes at us. We're hoping for the best and starting to figure out how to prepare for the worst. I guess we're really lucky that our plans only include a one-hour car-ride. No planes. No day-long drives.

We'll be thinking of everyone we know who is out driving in all of it. Wishing them the best. And hoping that the forecasters who are calling for chaos are all wrong. Again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

John Barrowman Sighting - As Robin Hood

I realized, recently, that it has been ages since there has been a John Barrowman sighting on my blog. And, as if by magic, that same day I stumbled across an online story about the "Panto" he is currently in.

For those who haven't experienced a Panto... well... it's kind of a strange theatrical event to describe. The name is derived from "pantomime," but there's not a single white-faced mime to be found in any of them that I know of. Instead, these are British family-friendly, over-acted, frequently-musical, melodramatic comedies.

Pantos are the kind of shows where everyone in the audience (young and old, alike) gets to cheer for the hero and boo the villain. They're frequently based in well-known stories (like "Cinderella" or... obviously... "Robin Hood"), but can be written and/or improvised for specific audiences. Mainly, they're just a lot of really good fun.

Last year, Barrowman played the lead in "Robin Hood: The Pantomime Adventure" to packed houses in Birmingham (the top image is from that), and this year he's apparently breaking sales records in Cardiff in the same show. (And, according to his website, tickets are already on sale for a version of "Aladdin" that he'll be in -- in December of 2010 -- in Glasgow!)

So, anyway...

There's the John Barrowman sighting of the moment. I now return you to your regularly-scheduled pre-Christmas chaos.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Car Story Wrap-up

Just a very quick post to make sure everyone who is paying attention knows that my car is back from the shop.

Apparently it just had some rattling parts due to its age. (Don't we all?) One piece replaced, another clamped in place, and a transmission flush later, I'm back in my own car.

AND I even had enough money left over to go out to dinner at Dairy Queen with Christopher on the way home!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

C Minus 8 Days And Counting...

Oh my gosh. Can you believe it's only 8 days until Christmas? (Or maybe 9, depending on how you do the math.) With that in mind, I'm going to bullet this blog posting, to save us all a little time.

- The story of the purse: The Lost and Found office is a little window in the wall on the Mezzanine level above the ticketing area. There's a magical box in the wall next to the window where packages can be passed through without the Lost and Found office ever being exposed to the world. It was nifty. And the purse is currently safe and sound at home with us.

- My Christmas shopping is done. That's really exciting. Although my car started making odd noises just as I got home. So it's at the shop tonight, and I hope to be told that it was an easy fix tomorrow when they call me. (I really hope.) Luckily, I currently have Mom and Dad's car as a back-up, at least.

- Last week Friday we took my folks to see the Valley Chamber Chorale's Christmas concert out in Stillwater. (Christopher's mom is one of their accompanists.) The concert was amazing, and Mom and Dad really enjoyed it. A very nice evening -- and we got to hang out with Christopher's folks for a while that afternoon/evening, too.

- Last Saturday we went to a Christmas party which was really nice. Good food, good wine, and we got to spend the evening hanging out and talking to friends -- and meeting the new son of some really good friends. Amazing how the Holidays are more and more about friends as we get older. Love that.

- Monday night Christopher and I went to the Galleria (it's a shopping center in Edina), and stumbled across a whole bunch of kids playing violins. Apparently it was a recital of some kind. It was nifty hearing the music playing, and then realizing that it was live.

And now -- having gotten home from a fun and convivial dinner with a couple of my cousins -- it's time for bed. One of the hazards of the Christmas season: it takes a lot of energy to be so energetic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

...Make That G22... or G18...

Just wanted to update you and let you all know that my folks made it out to Los Angeles. Of course, not until after they had to change gates at the last minute. (No. Really last minute. First class had already boarded.) This meant they had to go from the easy-to-get-to gate G2 all the way to the other end of the concourse.

I learned this last night while watching their flight not take off while staring at the screen for about an hour. I was okay with it when it was just a little delayed, but then it got really late and still just listed as "delayed." So I kept refreshing the screen and checking. Christopher went to bed. I finally joined him after I saw the "in flight" status show up.

Oh, but it got even more fun -- my mom's purse went missing in the shuffle. Luckily, she had her driver's license in her carry-on (for check-in and such), but that meant that her credit cards and cash were gone.

I found out the latter portions of this in an email from one of my sisters first thing this morning. They had reported the purse missing right away in LA, and -- I think, but I'm not sure -- they notified Minneapolis airport immediately last night, too. But they hadn't heard anything this morning, so they were all set to start cancelling cards.

I made a quick call to the Lost and Found office out at MSP this morning (between calls to my sister -- for details -- and Christopher -- to see if he could check in the cars), and was informed that they had Mom's purse right there at the airport. Still had its credit cards and cash in it. As far as we can tell, nothing is missing.

They said they could keep it for 30 days, but I'm going to head out there tomorrow morning to pick it up, just so we don't push our luck on Midwestern Holiday Goodwill.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Now Departing From Gate G2...

There's a long speech at the end of "Love, Actually" where the voiceover talks about how, if you need to know whether there is love in the world, you just need to go to the arrivals terminal at the airport.

I wonder what that means about watching people at the departures area?

I just got back home from dropping off my parents at the airport so that they could fly out to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with their grandkids (oh -- and my sisters and brothers-in-law, too). They've been staying with us in Minneapolis since Thursday evening (you can blame them for the 3 non-blog-posting days), as a kind of "stopover" on the way.

We've spent some quality time hanging out, seeing the holiday sights (including a Christmas concert by the Valley Chamber Chorale, and an afternoon screening of the British Television Ad Awards at the Walker Art Museum), and eating WAY too much. Yes. I even dragged them to the Hopkins Center for the Arts to see the photography exhibit I wrote about a few days ago.

But, tonight, after just over 3 full days of having them, here, I drove them to the airport. I parked the car and walked in with them, then watched their bags as they got all checked in. Finally, I hung out while they worked their way through security, then phoned my sisters to say that they were on the way, and headed home to Christopher and a more normal, but much emptier, house.

On the plus side, they'll be back in just about 2 weeks, spending one night with us before heading home. And, at least at that trip to the airport, I'll get to be one of the overly-happy people who are meeting friends or family at the arrivals gate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow... Tree... Sleep...

In case you haven't seen it on the weather, the upper-middle section of the country got hit with snow this week. It's December, so that's not really out of the ordinary. But the shock was that we went from warm November with no snow on the ground to COLD December (high tomorrow predicted as 10 degrees), and about 5 inches of snow on the ground. Usually we kind of get eased into it. This was not "easing."

But I made it through last night's commute just fine, and got to work today taking only about an extra 5 minutes, and so I wasn't really minding the snow. Until I got home from work and couldn't get up the driveway to put my car in the garage. It's not a steep driveway. And I have All-Wheel Drive, so I really don't have trouble in snow. Unless, of course, the snow has drifted and the car starts to get high-centered on the packed snow in the middle of the driveway.

Before I'd even gotten "home" I was starting up the snow blower and clearing the driveway and the sidewalks. Of course, the reason Christopher bought the snow blower was because we live on a fairly large corner lot. Corner lot = lots of sidewalks. And these sidewalks are about 4 feet wide. Yeah. I was kind of chilly by the time I'd gotten everything cleared, pulled my car in, and come inside.

Once inside, though, I found Christopher playing Christmas music and getting out ornaments to put on the tree. So we spent the next hour decorating the tree and putting out a few more decorations around the house. We really don't go overboard -- just enough to let people know when they're here that we're in a festive mood. Right now I'm writing this by the light of the tree and the star lights that are on the opposite wall (okay... and the light of my monitor).

Sitting in the almost-dark like this is what really makes the Holidays for me. Smelling the oranges stuck with cloves, seeing the first of the Christmas cards sitting on the buffet. Yeah. Christmas time is upon us.

Which leads me to the last of the three things in the headline: Sleep. My folks are coming in to town tomorrow -- spending a little time, here, before flying out to LA to be with the rest of the family for Christmas -- and so I'll need the rest to help me get the house put together before they get here. Oh, and I probably need it for the day tomorrow, since I'm sure that tomorrow's commute will be worse than today's simply because more people will be out on the roads.

Ugh. Before I start thinking about that, I'm going to sign off, stare at the lights a little longer, and snuggle into bed. Stay warm.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Musical Monday

I know that Mondays are typically "Movie Mondays," but I gave myself an early Christmas gift this past weekend and went to see "In the Heights" as it toured through Minneapolis.

It's an interesting show -- probably one of the least-known Best Musical winners in the recent past. Here's the basic story, in case you don't have any idea about it: It takes place on the 3rd and 4th of July on a mostly Hispanic corner in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. It's a story of dreams lost and found. Of the families we are born into and the ones we choose. And of how money can change your life.

It's also one of the few shows on Broadway (or anywhere) that isn't totally and completely in English. In fact, there's quite a bit of it that is in Spanish. Which is not to say that someone (like me) who doesn't speak Spanish can't follow the story. It's incredibly easy to follow everything that's going on. It was even easy for the women behind me who commented, during intermission, that they couldn't understand all the speaking because -- they assumed -- of the accents. I guess a whole different language is about as strong an accent as you can get, right?

The whole show is alive with singing and dancing and emotion. The music is the kind of stuff that makes you want to dance in your seat. The voices on the stage were amazing -- and some of the unspoken moments were even more powerful than the spoken ones.

Now here's the strange thing about the show: It struck me, as I was leaving, that it was the perfect Christmas show. Sure, it takes place on the hottest day of the year, but the tale is all about family and friends and knowing where your home is. How much more perfect can you get for Christmas?

If the "In the Heights" tour comes to your area -- or if you can make it to Broadway to see it -- I'd definitely recommend it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas is Coming

We actually have our tree up in the living room. It's not decorated, but it is up and has lights on it. So far, it's looking pretty good.

And, you know, that's as far as we got in the house today, and that's all the further I'm going to get in this posting.

18 shopping (and decorating) days to go. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 4, 2009

One Nod. One Short Conversation.

Wow. In the past week, I've had both a nod (from a woman in the hallway), and a short conversation (from a guy in the stairwell), at work.

The nod was probably the bigger of the two surprises. The woman walked out of her office looking nervous and shy, then looked up and worriedly made tentative eye contact. When I smiled back and nodded at her, she actually smiled back and nodded in return. Amazing how much friendlier that made the hallway.

The stairwell conversation was brought about because of the logistics of the space. The stairwell is way too narrow for people to pass on the actual stairs. Instead, as you're walking, you have to pause at one of the corner landings and wait for the other person to pass. Today, as I was going up, a guy was coming down with his hands full of lunch and paperwork. When I stopped to wait for him to pass, he smiled, then commented that the only way to pass anyone was at the corners. Not exactly Algonquin Round Table conversation, but it was more than usual.

Who knows? Maybe it's the start of the Holiday season that has people making connections. Or maybe it's the fact that, when it's cold out, it's good to be warm to the people you're around. Either way, I'm hoping this is just the start of the thaw.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Open to Interpretation

No. That's not the way I'm feeling about my day. "Open to Interpretation" is the name of a Photography Exhibit by Clare O'Neill which is currently taking place at the Hopkins (MN) Center for the Arts. It's a nifty exhibit where the photographer has asked writers to give their interpretations of each of the images.
The writers were given the 12 images and simply asked to choose the pieces they wanted to write about and then do just that -- in 300 words or less. For the exhibit, she has mounted the photos with the write-ups and all are on display for the world to see.

Aside from the obvious fact that it's an interesting idea, why is it important to me? Because *I* am one of the writers who contributed and is featured! That's right. Now through the 10th of January, you can see two super-short stories that I wrote on display with all of the other pieces people contributed.

The exhibit, called "Open to Interpretation" (which uses the artwork, above, as it's "header"), had its "opening night" tonight. (No, I didn't actually write about any of those three images.)

Of course, vanity being what it is, I had to go to see it.

Christopher and Darci (remember her? The stunningly attractive blonde I've mentioned in the past?) and I went over to see it tonight. The exhibit is in the "Lobby Gallery" which makes it incredibly accessible, but also a bit odd at times when there are other events going on -- like tonight's 7 o'clock curtain for "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Overall, though, it works because it's a big open space with plenty of room to walk up to or away from each piece.

The images themselves are amazing. From landscapes to intimate not-quite-portraits, each one is different and all are evocative. And with the added benefit of the written pieces... well... it's pretty darned cool. Granted, some of the writings struck us as better than others, and some of the pictures were more interesting to us than others, but that's what art does, isn't it?

Oh. One nifty thing about the exhibit: This was the first time I'd gotten to see the titles that Clare (the photographer) had given each of the pictures. You see, we wrote our short pieces without any input or leverage. Which makes it even more interesting to see how people wrote about them. Some stories were very similar (like the two about the white dress pictured above), some were opposite sides of the same coin (there are two where one talks of the road in the picture, while the other talks about the tree), and there are some that are just a bit odd. But it works.

And, if you're in the area, I'd really suggest going.

Not just because I'm in the exhibit -- although when I stopped to talk to Clare she introduced me to the two gentleman standing with her because they had both thought one of my pieces was the best in the exhibit -- but because it's really cool.

And really cool can go a long way to warm up a cold day/night!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009

I've spent a lot of the past couple of days debating how to write about World AIDS Day in my blog. It's not that I wanted to pretend it wasn't there. It's not that I was afraid I'd offend anyone. So why was it that I didn't know what to write?

I think it's because it's one of those scary topics that is easier left in the dark. It's easier to whitewash it out of the way with some well-placed denial and not have to think about the 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV and AIDS. It's easier to not think about the possible SEVEN THOUSAND new infections which happen on a daily basis worldwide. Or to think of the 25 million people who have died of AIDS since it was first named less than half a century ago.

I remember seeing the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt laid out on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in (I think) 1996. I remember the tears and the fear and the outrage that not enough was being done to stop the spread of the disease. And here we are nearly 15 years later, with new infections once again on the rise and AIDS ravaging portions of the world population.

Yes. Great strides have been made in the treatment of HIV and AIDS, and some people are living longer and longer with the help of those treatments. (I thank the powers above for that on a daily basis, because I have some great friends I do NOT want to lose any time soon.)

There are still fears and tears, but the outrage seems to have faded. Let's hope that the outrage has been replaced by work and diligence -- and not simply faded away because it was easier to move on.

I stumbled across a set of videos on YouTube, today, which was sponsored out of New York City. They are all videos addressing why people talk about HIV and AIDS. The "main" video is here at .

Please take the 2 minutes to watch it. It may not be easy, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

Here's to a day in the future when World AIDS Day no longer has to exist.

** Scary Sidenote ** When I ran spell-check on this posting "HIV" and "AIDS" were both recognized terms in the dictionary. Wouldn't it be great if they didn't have to be? ** End Scary Sidenote **

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Special

On this day after Thanksgiving, I offer the following extra Thankses...

1) I'm thankful that I don't work in retail this year and didn't have to work either all day on Thanksgiving or at 3am or whatever today. (And I feel really really sorry for the people who did.)

2) I'm thankful for good memories of Thanksgivings past, shared over Thanksgiving present.

3) I'm thankful that I remembered to bring my toothbrush.

4) I'm thankful for anyone and everyone who reads my blog. :-)

Here's to the joyful chaos of the next 4 weeks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Morning

Okay. I know it's a little cliche, but I thought I'd toss out a few things I'm thankful for today. (Oh. By the way... I did post late last night, as well, so be sure to check out that posting, too. )

So, in no particular order, here are a few things I'm thankful for:

* Great friends (some of whom are even family members!) with whom I share my life -- whether near or far

* Sesame Street (I never said these would all be serious things.)

* Christmas music (but not until tomorrow)

* Having a job (I may gripe a lot about it, but it does pay most of the bills -- and I get to wear jeans)

* Real physical mail (I *love* getting things in my mailbox. Email is fine, but real mail is wonderful)

* Food that appears at the door (room service is grand, but I'm equally happy for a delivery pizza or Chinese food)

* Decent eyesight and teeth (thanks to the medical folks) and good hearing (thanks to the genetics)

* Clean dishes in the sink

* Flowers and Flour (one for the heck of it, one for the fact that baking helps me de-stress)

* Good movies, good music, good TV shows, good books, and the ability to find and enjoy those things

* A partner who (mostly) understands me, and stays with me, anyway

And, that's my not-overly-thought-out list for today. I hope you're all enjoying a thankful day, as well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Calm Before the Feast

Due to the fact that it's gotten rather late tonight, and because I want to write a bunch about Thanksgiving tomorrow, tonight you get a diet-sized portion of blogging. And, for easy consumption, it's even going to be bulleted...

+ It's odd how an extra hour can mess up your schedule. We got let out of work an hour early today, but somehow it's after 11 and I'm just getting around to this. Strange how on a day when you're running out of time you seem to get things done in a more timely fashion.

+ There's a homemade -- from scratch -- pumpkin pie sitting on the counter in the kitchen right now. (Made with Libby's pumpkin, of course, Libby!) One of my favorite things about this time of year.

+ I spent part of the evening wiping the "haze" off of the tiles in the bathroom. Christopher regrouted the shower, yesterday, and I did the much easier step this evening. Pie and Grout. Now there's an interesting evening...

+ I did take the time to watch Glee tonight on TV. I have to admit that, just when I was getting really bored by the episode, they came out with an amazing rendition of "Imagine" by the Beatles. Definitely one of the best things on TV these days.

And, for today, I think that's it. I hope you each have a long weekend ahead -- or at least a day off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Not Even a Nod

Yep. It happened again today in the hallway at work. (You'll understand the "again" better if you remember Making Smalltalk.)

I was walking toward the office, and someone came out of the door across the hall from ours, and started walking toward me.

The guy is probably in his 30s. Does not wear glasses (although may have contacts) -- either way it means he has good eyesight. Almost the same height as me. No way he could pretend that he didn't see me.

I looked him square in the eye and, as we got closer, I smiled, raised my eyebrows, and did the "head nod" thing to acknowledge him.

He never batted an eye. Just kept looking down the hallway past my left shoulder.

Next time I think I'll body check him (or whichever semi-oblivious guy I pass) into the wall as I go by.

Do you think they'd admit that they noticed me after that?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm SO Not Ready

Today, while Christopher and I were out doing some shopping, I heard my first blast of Christmas tunes coming through the store sound system.

The grocery store close to us put up Christmas decorations a couple of weeks ago. And the Target close to us put up snowflakes all over their windows a week or so ago. And, yes, the store we were in had all sorts of Christmas decor at the front of the store.

I should have expected the Christmas music. After all, there was a small kid walking in in front of us with his parents and as we entered the store he said "Why do they have Christmas up? Why don't they have Thanksgiving?" And... man... I am right there with him.

I used to work at Williams-Sonoma, and although it was HELL changing over the store from Thanksgiving decor to Christmas after we closed on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, it was also really nice to work somewhere that did one holiday at a time. (And, you know, it was also more exciting setting up for Christmas on Thanksgiving Eve than it was tearing it all down on Christmas Eve...)

But back to today...

I haven't started my Christmas shopping, yet. I haven't even started shopping for my Christmas baking, yet, or bought Christmas cards.

Yeah. I'm just not ready. And part of me is okay with that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Channelling Carrie Fisher

When Christopher and I were in New York a few weeks ago, we went to see Carrie Fisher's one-woman show "Wishful Drinking." I may have mentioned it before, including the fact that I laughed for pretty much all two hours of the show.

This week, one thing that she said early in the show kept popping into my head. She said it at a point where she was laughing at herself and letting the audience know it was okay to laugh at her, too. She said something along the lines of:

"Laugh. It's my life, but it's got to be funny. After all, if it's not funny, then it's just true."

Unfortunately, a lot of this week I haven't been finding life funny. I've been finding it stressful and exhausting. And I've been feeling cash-poor and mentally without any reserves. And Christopher can probably attest to the fact that I've been less fun to be around than I usually try to be.

I was driving home tonight from an evening of Chinese food and movies with some friends, and that came into my head, again. I've still got a ton of work to do this weekend, and I'm still exhausted tonight (at only 10pm), but it's good that I have Carrie's reminder that I need to keep looking for the funny in all that I'm running up against.

And that's the truth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's With Wednesday?

There seem to be a lot of people commenting on the fact that today is Wednesday. I've had multiple emails today mentioning it. And -- not surprising -- most people are asking how it can be "only" Wednesday.

I really wonder what it is that is making this week seem so strained and so long. I realize that, for me, I was out of town last weekend and didn't get home until Sunday afternoon, so when I started Monday I wasn't as rested as I might have been. But I'm not the only one commenting on this. Friends of mine who didn't do anything major last weekend are having the same problems.

I wonder if it has something to do with adjusting to the rapidly-changing amounts of light we're getting. Or the imminent impact of the Holiday season. Or maybe everyone has been staying up to see the Leonid meteor shower and not getting enough sleep.

Whatever it is, I hope the rest of the week somehow evens out. So that people in need of a long week get the time to do what they want and people in need of a short week get to the weekend soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mediocre Monday

I got up this morning with the hope of getting to work a little extra early so that I could try to dive into what I was sure would be a packed Inbox (since I wasn't in on Friday). But by the time I got in and got settled I was only about 5 minutes early -- not nearly early enough to do any good.

Lunch was leftovers from yesterday's lunch, and although they were quite tasty, yesterday (at Fitger's Brewery in Duluth), they had lost a little more of their luster than I had hoped.

I worked through my email (and voicemail) with only the shortest of breaks, but ended the day with more emails than I usually have when I start the day. I don't even want to know what I'll be walking in to find tomorrow.

The movie theater still offers a "less expensive" combo at the concession stand, but it was a $5 pop and popcorn up until last month. Suddenly it has jumped up to an $8 combo, but the size hasn't changed at all.

And then there was tonight's movie. (Yes. I actually went to a movie on Movie Monday, for once.) Kelly and I went to see "2012" -- the latest End o' the World flick. It had some cool special effects, and some really cheesey ones. There were some interesting points raised, and some really boring ones. We were sad to see a few characters bite the big one, and kind of happy to see others go. (I'd give it a C for being totally down the middle...)

Overall, though, it was probably the perfect capper for a mediocre Monday.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Please Tell Me You Knew This

I have been completely amazed by a few product warnings, lately, and I wanted to share them with you. I swear I am not making these up. I could never make these up. Well... I could... But they probably wouldn't be as funny.

1) On the side of my Men's Multivitamins: Do not take if you are pregnant. (Wow. I wonder how many men have to worry about that?)

2) On the ingredients listing of my frozen Shrimp Fried Rice package: Caution contains shellfish (shrimp). (Granted the meal was only a buck, so I guess it wasn't a guarantee that there would be shrimp in it. Maybe this was more of a promise than a threat?)

And my favorite... This was in a bakery on Friday...

3) On the label of a chopped-peanut-covered "Nutty John" frosted long-john "donut": Contains nuts. (I'm happy to say that the Apple Fritter also contained Apple.)

Okay, yes, I know that last week there was a day when I was walking past the iron I had used the night before and -- to check whether it was hot -- I put my hand almost directly on the possibly-hot plate. I knew I hadn't used it in about 24 hours, so it should be cool. It was still stupid of me to touch the plate, but if I had burned my hand on the hot iron, it would have been my own danged fault.

But, you knew that, right?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sing... Sing A Song...

Of course, all of the people on Sesame Street needed something to do. I know that they were teaching me as they went along, but mainly I loved the songs. Without really any advance planning, I thought I'd list some of my favorites. Granted, I may not know titles for them all (I don't even know if they had titles), but you should get the ideas...

Sing... Sing a Song...

Run (Run, Everybody Run)

One of These Things is not Like the Others

C is for Cookie

Everybody Sleeps

I Don't Want to Live on the Moon

La La La La Lemons

I Love Trash

The ABC song (that Big Bird sings, the one where he makes it all one word)

Ladybug Picnic

We are All Earthlings

It's Not Easy Being Green

Yes, I know there were a ton more. There are at least 3 CDs worth of them out in the world (I have the first one, but I wanted to go by memory this time, instead of looking for tips).

The point is that they were wonderful. And they were sweet. And they told stories. And they taught me things. And I remember them to this day. And... well... life wouldn't be the same without them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The People in my Neighborhood

** Starter Sidenote ** First things first. I feel I should mention that I pulled the lyrics for the Sesame Street themesong (posted on Monday) from a website. Although I knew them all when I saw them, and could work my way through them as soon as I had the first words of any line, I didn't know them all. ** End Starter Sidenote **

Speaking of such things, here are a few of the people (and "people") I remember from Sesame Street...

Sherlock Hemlock

Kermit the Frog as an on-the-spot reporter

Prairie Dawn (that's the name of the little blonde girl muppet)

Molly the Mail Lady (played by Charlotte Rae - she eventually became Mrs. Garret on The Facts of Life)

Mr. Hooper (I remember going back to watch the show when they dealt with his death. It was heart-wrenching)

Snuffalupagus (I even remember when he wasn't able to be seen by adults)

The Fix-It Shop (I don't know what it is, now, but it stopped being the Fix-It Shop a while ago)

Super Grover

Little Bird (Big Bird's cousin)

Gordon and Susan and Olivia and Maria and David and Bob and Linda

and, of course, Bert and Ernie and Big Bird and Oscar and Cookie Monster and Harry Monster...

Ah... What great friends!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Can You Tell Me How To Get To...

Sunny day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet!
Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street?

Come and play
Everything's A-okay
Friendly neighbors there
That's where we meet.
Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street?

It's a magic carpet ride
Every door will open wide
To happy people like you
Happy people like
What a beautiful

Sunny day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet.

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street...

How to get to Sesame Street?
How to get to...

Today's post was brought to you by the letters P, B, and S, and by the number 40.

Happy 40th Birthday to Sesame Street!

(Officially, the birthday is on Tuesday, November 10th, when the new season starts, but I wanted to get it on here early, so you can all set your video recorders accordingly.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Snow Day

Today feels like a snow day. Which is rather odd, considering that it's supposed to get to around 60 degrees and all.

Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like one of those fun "don't have to do any work because it's snowing out" days. It feels like one of those grey winter days when the sky is oppressive and you just wish that it would snow so that the world could lighten up a little.

Each time I see - in my peripheral vision - a leaf fall past the window, part of my brain gets all excited and says "Look! The first snowflake!" Yeah. Not so much.

** Leafy Sidenote ** I went out and raked the backyard, yesterday. The leaves were pretty dry, so although the whole yard was covered, I was able to compact them into 3 bags. I was just finishing up as this HUGE yellow and green maple leaf slowly drifted down to land on the ground just out of rake's-reach. I fully admit that I looked at the leaf, looked at the tree, and said to both of them "That's just rude." Then I turned my back on both of them and finished up. ** End Leafy Sidenote **

Perhaps, on this not-as-sunny-and-warm-as-yesterday day, if I get myself moving and go out and run errands (I need to get my car's oil changed since I've got a couple of long drives coming up in the next three weeks), I'll feel better about the day and the weather.

Or perhaps we'll have the first 60-degree snow I've ever seen.

I'd be okay with either one.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Making Smalltalk

I am not, by nature, an overly extroverted person. Gregarious, yes. Extroverted, no. Which, considering I love to entertain and have people over for dinners and brunches and the like, may seem a bit strange. It gets even stranger when you know that - as part of various jobs I've had - I've had to play host to large groups of people, complete with the whole mixing and mingling thing.

I do fairly well in small groups, and I have absolutely no problem getting up in front of a room filled with people and speaking. But drop me into a room of people I don't know who are all chatting in small groups, and you'll probably find me looking at the artwork on the walls instead of trying to break into a group to chat.

I tell you all of this because I had two related - though totally different - happenings today.

The first was more of a realization than a happening. The office I work in is in an old warehouse, on a floor with four other offices of various sizes - and a yoga studio. Our office is at the end of a rather long corridor, and pretty much every time I walk down the hallway there is someone else walking toward me. And it's a broad spectrum of humanity that I pass.

There's the tragically hip folks from the office at the other end of the hall. There's the people in shorts carrying yoga mats. There's the semi-business-professional looking people from directly across the hall from us. And there seem to be a higher-than-normal number of delivery people. But, here's the thing: Aside from the delivery guys (most of them are guys), no one looks you in the eye or acknowledges you as you approach each other in mid-hallway.

Now, I'm not looking to strike up a philosophical discussion in the hallway, but eye contact and "the nod" might be nice. Maybe a smile. Maybe even "hello."

I walked past someone today who actively looked down at her feet when she noticed that she was about to make eye contact with me. And a guy I've met multiple times (who says hello in the stairwell) simply puts his head down and walks past in the hallway. What's up with that?

My second odd social situation today came during one of the "meetings" (actually a social gathering potluck) of one of my networking groups this evening. It's been a while since I've made it to one of these, but this was being held in a small museum and the draw of being able to wander around a museum after hours was too strong for me to turn down. I arrived. I placed my food on the table (really - it's a potluck). I wandered off to check out the museum.

When I got back into the main room, people were mingling and chatting, mostly standing in the small groups of people they had come with. I spied a couple of people I knew and worked my way into their circle to chat. When people split off for more food or drink, I re-circled the food table, then found another group to edge into. We made smalltalk for a bit, then people started wandering off to peruse the museum, to get more food, or just to wander off.

Left alone, I took another quick pass along the food table (it's easy to make smalltalk over food), and then started checking out the books in the museum's collection. Having pondered where they all came from, and realizing that I probably should not touch them with my not-overly-clean post-eating hands, I took another look at the room. The people I knew were in tight conversations. And the door was only a few feet away. I left.

The morals of the stories: If you want to hang out with me, invite me to dinner - or invite yourself to dinner at our place. And, if you pass me in the hallway (or online :-) , please say "hi."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Random Randomness

I honestly have no idea what to write in here tonight. So, now that you're forewarned, here we go...

Christopher and I just got home from dinner with some friends at a new fish and chips place in Northeast Minneapolis. It's a place called Anchor Fish & Chips, and it was perfectly fine. Just not amazing. On the other hand, it was PACKED, which may have been part of why it was only fine. But, of course, we don't go out to dinner just for the food. We go for the company. And we had a really good time hanging out and enjoying time together.

Also on my mind tonight is something that happened at work, yesterday. One of my coworkers got a traumatic phonecall about an illness in her family. After she left, another coworker said to me "[the boss] isn't going to be happy that she left." I couldn't think of anything to say, so I simply said "He'll have to deal." I couldn't believe the callousness of that statement. So far, I haven't seen our boss saying anything negative about it all. But I have to say that I just can't imagine worrying about the boss's feelings while watching a coworker leave in tears. It's been over 24 hours, and I'm still bothered by that.

In lighter news, the weather is supposed to take a huge turn for the better starting tomorrow. By this weekend we're supposed to have sunny weather and 60-degree temps. I'm really hoping that, with the change in weather systems, my sinus/jaw weirdness will let up. But, even if it doesn't, I'm seriously ready to enjoy the weather!

And... well... there's what's in my mind at the moment. Wish me luck making it through the rest of the week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Election Eve

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 3rd), is Election Day.



It is.

I know that it's not a big Presidential election, but it is an election. I know for sure because I just spent a couple of hours tonight helping Christopher set up his precinct's polling place. You see, Christopher is one of the judges (or, rather, the head judge) in his polling place (technically, he's the Chair Judge). And this is the second year I've helped him set up.

We got out the little plastic voting booths. We set up the tables and arranged the extra chairs. And I put up the "How to vote" signs that are in English, Spanish, Hmong, Somali, and Russian.

Tomorrow Christopher will be in that room for somewhere over 14 hours (he has to be there at 6am, and the polls are open from 7am until 8pm), so the least the rest of us can do is go to the polls, stand in line for 5 minutes, and vote.


(FYI: The only appropriate answer is a solidly affirmative "RIGHT!")

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Time-ly Posting

Okay. So I thought I had talked about this before. But I've gone through last October and both March and April of this year and can't seem to find anything about it. Of course, I'm talking about the time change.

As it is currently almost "bedtime" on the Saturday night of the fall time change (I honestly can't remember if we're going into Standard Time or into Daylight Saving Time, so I'm just going to stick with "the time change"), Christopher and I have set about walking through the house and adjusting the clocks. And, yes, there are enough of them that both he and I need to go to work changing them.

Upstairs we have just the "usual" number of them. The alarm clock in the bedroom, the TV and VCR, the clock on the stove, the clock on the kitchen timer, and the chiming clock in the living room. Not so bad, right? So I let Christopher tackle all of those, and I headed into the basement.

You see, I have a thing for clocks. I'm not obsessed with time, mind you, but I simply like timepieces. So while Christopher was already done with the six clocks upstairs, I was downstairs resetting the... well... let me count... there's the 1 in the pantry, 2 in the bathroom (one is a radio), 1 in the spare bedroom, and then the 1 in the VCR and the 1 in the TV. That's not bad, right? Only 6.

Oh. But then there's the chiming clock. And, ummm, the 5 clocks all grouped together on the end wall, showing current local time, the time in Paris, Greenwich Mean Time, Mountain Time, and Pacific Time. I'm really not sure why I don't have one set to Eastern Time. I guess that one's just too easy for me to figure, so I don't have a clock set to it. That makes, what? 12? Okay. Not so bad.

Until you count the watches.

Let's just say it's a good thing I've got the extra hour.

(Okay. Even I'm not that bad. But here's the thing: If I say I have more than 2, it sounds like I've got a lot. If I say I have less than 10, you'll all just think I have 9. Suffice it to say that it took me less time to change them than it did to change the rest of the clocks in the basement. All things considered, I think my final line, above, is a much better punchline, don't you?)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Trick (or Treat) Question

I was in the car, on Tuesday, and was hearing all about the favorite candy to buy in this area -- and throughout the U.S. -- for Hallowe'en. There was a whole discussion of whether you should buy what YOU like, or what the kids will like. And people were talking about buying bags and bags of candy, and then having to figure out what to do with all of the leftovers.

At Target on Tuesday night, I noticed that the Hallowe'en (yes, I like using the "we'en" spelling) candy was already being marked down, as the Christmas decorations had begun to encroach upon the orange-and-black space. And bags and bags of candy were being bought and sold all around.

Today, when I got home from work, I had the news on and they were talking about how low the supplies are in the food banks already this year. That they are not only lacking in food and donations, but also lacking in volunteers. And that they're really worried about how they're going to make it through the winter.

On the up side, General Mills, Cargill, and Land o' Lakes (all headquartered, here) are planning a major summit to discuss how to combat hunger. Which is kinda cool.

But I got done watching that segment and thought "What if every person who spent $10 on candy also bought a $5 food donation bag at the grocery store?" I mean... really... what if each of us, while we're planning for a night of total and complete gluttony also put just a little aside for the kids who won't be having dinner before they go Trick-or-Treating?

Imagine what the food banks could do with all of that food. Do you think any of those kids who only got one mini-Snickers instead of two would really care?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Donated Space

It's been at least 48 hours since I last griped about work. Well... Since I griped to you, at least. And I'm sure of that because I haven't blogged since Monday. I'm going to do my best to keep that "non-work-griping-in-my-blog" track record for at least the next 15 minutes...

To keep this promise, I think my best bet is to donate today's blog space to someone else (in this case, even without the person knowing I'm about to do it).

I'm very excited to announce that someone I have had the great good pleasure to meet and spend time with in my own little hometown has a new book out, in collaboration with a few of her friends. It's a book of poetry called from the lonely cold, and my friend who contributed is listed fourth on the listing. (Again... I'm trying to be good and not name folks in my blog without asking. But since her name is listed there, I figure you can go look at it, for yourself.)

I fully admit that I haven't had a chance to read it, yet (it only just came out), but I've read some of her other pieces and I'm totally enamored of her poetry. I highly suggest checking it out.

And don't worry... I'm sure you'll be hearing me gripe about work again any day now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mini-post Monday

I should be writing, tonight, about a movie. But the last movie I saw in a theater was simply a nice little move which didn't really do anything for me one way or the other. It was "The Boys are Back," and when it was over Kelly and I fought for words to describe it. All either of us could come up with was "It was nice." Which, well, seems that it doesn't deserve its own blog posting.

I feel a little the same way about the "Broadway Rocks!" concert I went to at The Minnesota Orchestra on Saturday night. It was mostly Broadway, and it sorta rocked, but mostly it was just a cheesey crowd-pleaser version of either of those things. But it was a nice way to spend the last night at home alone without Christopher, at least.

I DO need to say that the sun came out for a short while today. We got up to 51 degrees, with no snow or rain. It was great. Tomorrow we could get into the upper 50s with sun all day. I'm definitely planning to go out for a walk at lunchtime, even if I don't plan to buy any lunch. I plan to enjoy as much of our 2-day fall as I can get!

And, finally, I'd like to say that Christopher's flight got in on time on Saturday night, and we spent all day yesterday completely ignoring the outside world. Some days that's all that you need.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Sun'll Come Out... Tuesday?

I'm very happy to report that when I woke up this morning the sun was shining. There was actual sunlight coming through the windows. It wasn't raining. It wasn't snowing or sleeting or "snaining." It was actually sunny.

So I spent part of my day outside raking -- but only in the front yard where the one big tree has already dropped its leaves. I didn't do the side yard or the back yard, where all of the trees are still leafy. I just figured I should do what I could since it's the first day that being outside hasn't seemed like a completely stupid idea.

While I was out there, I also took the opportunity to clear out some of the flower beds and get things a little more ready for winter. Strange to be celebrating a warm (okay -- 52-degree) fall day by preparing for winter. It seems that we've completely missed all of the "normal" fall weather and gone straight into November. And, although fall isn't my favorite season, I certainly like it better than the wet, snowy early winter we've had, lately.

By the time I was finishing up in the yard, the sky had become hazy, and by the time the sun went down it was cloudy. We hope to see the sun again on Tuesday. Or, rather, I hope to see it every day, but the forecast says we probably won't until Tuesday.

But, as I'm typing this, I'm also kind of cyber-stalking Christopher's return flight. According to the airline website, he's about 90 minutes out from here. I think the next few rainy days will be a little brighter -- even without the sun.

(Sorry. I know that's cheese-y. But you'll deal with it, right?)

Friday, October 23, 2009

New York Nosh

Since this is Friday, and I typically like to write about food on Friday, I thought I'd talk a bit about the food I got to enjoy last weeked in New York City.

I know we already talked about last Friday night's dinner at Vynl, so we'll jump past that. On Saturday, Christopher was up and about first, and he went to a charming little tea shop called Alice's Tea Cup about a block away, and came back with 2 Pumpkin scones (drizzled in some kind of maple syrupy glaze), and 2 "regular" scones. Yeah. Okay. Even I thought that that was a nice way to start the day!

We spent the first part of Saturday on the trail of a kind of chocolate Mecca. We made our pilgrimage to La Maison du Chocolat near Rockefeller Center. Okay, so it's not quite the same as being in Paris, but it's still wonderful. And the ice rink had just opened, so we got to watch people skate for a little while, too. We bought chocolates and macarons and -- once the staff realized we were shopping and not just browsing -- we even got samples. It's not a cheap place to go, but it's worth it!

That afternoon we got a little "food for thought" by going to Carrie Fisher's one-woman show "Wishful Drinking." I'd guess that we were some of the youngest people in the theater, but we had a great time. I laughed for almost 2 hours straight. If you get the chance -- and are even remotely familiar with who she is and who is in her family tree -- I recommend it.

Of course, it wouldn't be a day of chocolate shopping without a second chocolate store. We stopped at the Jacques Torres Chocolate store on Amsterdam Avenue just a few blocks from Colleen's. It was a totally different feel than La Maison. Much more accessible, complete with an espresso and hot chocolate bar. But... Yeah... Pretty much just as expensive. The hot chocolate I had and the "chocolate chip" cookie Christopher and I shared were amazing. WAY too rich to have on a daily basis. But perfect on a chilly afternoon.

We had dinner in on Saturday night. Or, rather, we co-hosted a party with Colleen. We had a ton of food -- expecting about 15 to 20 people -- and only ended up with about 8 people, total. But it was fun, and everyone enjoyed the food. We had a couple of different baked brie, and baked cheesey puffs, and fresh vegetarian spring rolls, and apple crisp, and "bourbon hot dogs" in the Crock pot, and guacamole and chips. And, in the middle of it all, I broke a corkscrew when I was trying to open a bottle of wine. Luckily, there was a back-up.

Sunday brunch was nice, but nothing incredible. But, again, the conversation was the point, and that was as good as ever. Then Christopher and I were good and aimed for a little more culture, so we went to the Frick Collection (which is housed on the first floor of what used to be someone's mansion. I could have stayed in the library for days...) and the Asian Society Museum (which was odd, but had a couple of amazing things in it).

After a lovely -- if chilly -- walk back across the Park, we decided it was the perfect blustery night to order in. Colleen, Christopher, and I ordered a Buffalo Chicken Salad (and fries), Pork Chops with mashed potatoes and applesauce, and a Chicken Quesadilla with pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream, which all showed up at the door -- all from the same neighborhood restaurant, The City Grill. I love New York!

Oh. I do have one other chocolate story as I wrap this up.

On Friday, when Christopher and I braved shopping at Fairway Market (on Broadway at about 74th), we were kind of swept up in all of the chaos. Luckily, we've been there before and knew what to expect! We didn't opt for a cart, but did it all with a hand basket, and we bought a lot of stuff for Saturday night. So, as we were waiting to check out, Christopher had gone of in search of a couple last items, and I set down the basket and waited. An older (possibly elderly, even) woman came up to me, shoved a chocolate bar in my face, and said "What's this say? I can't read it. I'm blind." She was on a quest for a dark chocolate with a filling. We walked the few steps over to the chocolate bars on display and found her a nice 70% cocoa bar with orange infusion from Lindt. And then she disappeared again into the chaos of the store. It makes me happy just thinking about her determination -- at least toward chocolate.

Man. I don't know about you, but I'm suddenly feeling kind of hungry. Sorry 'bout that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Thursday Too Far

Maybe I should actually say that Friday at 5pm is simply too far away. But, as I'm sitting here at work desperately trying to not explode, implode, or plode in any way, I thought I should share some of the strangenesses of the moment:

1) A true series of phonecalls I've just had. (I've mentioned that I now play receptionist for 2 phonelines, right?)

9:54am - Name on Caller ID "Owen S" - I answer...
May I help you?
"Extension 201, please"
He's in a meeting. May I transfer you to voicemail?
- call ends -

9:57am - Name on Caller ID "Owen S" - I answer...
May I help you?
"Extension 201, please"
He's not at his desk at this time. May I transfer you to voicemail?
- call ends -

9:58am - Name on Caller ID "Owen S" - I answer...
May I help you?
"I just left a message on Extension 201. We were talking before but got cut off. I'm sure he'll call me back."
I'm sure he will.
Have a nice day.
- call ends -

2) My office is a casual workplace. When I show up in business casual attire, I frequently feel overdressed. Now, I'm the last person to complain about being able to wear shorts all summer and come in unshaven, but some days it's a bit odd coming in here. Right now someone is meeting with an author. She's in a baseball cap and a cardigan over a plain white t-shirt. Not exactly what you'd expect. Oh. And then there's the person who walked in this morning looking like Little Red Unibomber in a cut-off grey hoodie made of "flowy" fabric, with the hood up. She's still at her desk that way.

3) My email inbox is going crazy this week. I don't know the last time I really looked at my personal email, because by the time I'm done at work, I just don't care to do any more of it. Having been gone last Friday, I came in on Monday to 73 new emails. Between last night at 5 and this morning at 8:45, I received 28 emails. My goal each night is to leave no more than 10 un-acted-upon emails. I think I'm currently leaving about 15 of them un-acted-upon as I type this.

4) Christopher is still in New York. One of the things getting me through my week is knowing that he's having great weather and enjoying some downtime in the big city. When I talked to him last night he was awaiting a delivery of Chicken Vindaloo, which he was planning to eat out on the terrace overlooking the city. Yes, I'm jealous, but I'm also thrilled that he was able to do that. And I had one of my favorite meals last night, too: leftover Orange Chicken while watching "Glee."

I know I owe you more tales of the trip to NYC. I'll try to get to them, soon. For now, though, I'm diving back into my inbox -- which is now up to 21 un-acted-upon emails.


10:56am - Name on Caller ID "Owen S" - I answer...
May I help you?
"Extension 201, please"
He's not at his desk at this time. May I transfer you to voicemail?
- call ends -

I think it's going to be one of those days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marking Time(s)

I've been home (or at least on the ground) in Minnesota for about 38 hours. Considering that I was only in New York for about 63 hours, it would seem that I should have readjusted pretty well by now. But...well... that would be wrong.

You see, on Sunday night/Monday morning, I only got about 5 hours of sleep (plus about another hour on the flight), which was followed by a full day of work. Then, Monday night (last night), I couldn't fall asleep. I was up until after midnight. Which would have been fine if not for the serious sleep deficit. My alarm got me up by 7 this morning, so in the past 48 hours, I've slept for about 13 of them. Oddly enough, I'm not totally wiped out. Hopefully I won't be up for another 2 or 3 hours tonight, though.

But enough about all that. What I really want to talk about is the first evening that Christopher and I were in New York.

As you probably already know (if you've been paying attention), we didn't get to New York until Friday afternoon. By the time we had dropped our bags at Colleen's and run out to do some grocery shopping (for a party we were co-hosting on Saturday night), it was almost 5 o'clock. Colleen met up with us at her place, and we told her of the dinner plans we had made (having rescheduled the lunch plans we missed due to our flight change), and about 6 the three of us headed out to go into Hell's Kitchen (it's a neighborhood that's along 9th Avenue where, I believe, the streets are in the mid-40s -- but don't quote me). We met up with another friend -- whom for the sake of this blog we shall refer to as Tiz -- down there, and the four of us headed to a restaurant/diner called Vynl for dinner.

** Timeline Sidenote ** Let me be a little more specific about the friendship timelines: I've known Colleen for about... ummm... 15 or 16 years (we met through her older sister). Tiz and I met when I was working in Baltimore about 8 years ago. Christopher and I have been together for about 4 1/2 years. And the three of them all first met a little less than 2 years ago on our last trip to NYC. ** End Timeline Sidenote **

It took a little while for a table, but we didn't really notice because we were all talking and getting caught up. Our waiter was great -- very friendly and just attentive enough without being annoying -- and the food was pretty darned good. (I definitely recommend the place!) But the focus of the evening was the conversation.

Wait. That's not right. The focus wasn't the conversation. The focus was simply the four of us being together.

We talked about jobs and lives. We talked about food and travel. We talked about the internet and we talked about the weather. But, overall, the conversation was simply a way to be able to look at each other and say "I'm glad you're here."

I am lucky enough to have a lot of really good friends in my life. And it is times like last Friday night, hugging hello on the street, sitting in a diner, talking about the mosaics in the bathrooms, truly feeling like a part of a bigger whole, that make my life worthwhile.

The trip was really short (don't worry -- I'll tell more stories, soon), but spending that time together will forever mark it as one of the best nights I've ever spent in New York.

** Looking-for-sympathy Endnote ** As you may remember, Christopher is still in NYC until the end of the week. I was too tired to truly miss him last night. Tonight... well... Let's just say that the countdown to Saturday night has begun. ** End Looking-for-sympathy Endnote **

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the Up Side...

Remember how, yesterday, I said I was going to be offline for a few days while I was in New York City with Christopher? We spent all last evening packing and getting ready. We went to work early today to be sure we could out the door on time. And about 90 minutes before we were supposed to leave work, Christopher called me to say that we weren't going to be flying out.

Apparently, the slight drizzle in Minneapolis, combined with rain in New York, was enough weather to result in our flight being cancelled.

** Spelling sidenote ** I prefer "cancelled" with two "l"s in it. I feel the same way about travelled. Spellcheck does not. ** End spelling sidenote **

We had considered this type of issue, which is why Christopher and I had opted for the second-to-last flight of the day, and not the last flight. But apparently the last flight was already over-booked by the time Christopher got our notifications. So the automated re-seating put us on DIFFERENT flights out tomorrow. He was scheduled to leave at 7am, fly through Indianapolis, and arrive in New York at about 2:30. I was scheduled to leave around 9am, fly through Columbus, and arrive in New York at about 1:45.

Christopher, thankfully, didn't want to take that option as our answer. He called the airline (we booked through Northwest, now it's officially Delta...), and expressed his dislike of those new arrangements. Eventually, with enough pushing back, he got us both on a flight that leaves at a little after 10 tomorrow morning and gets us to JFK at about 1:45.

Of course, about half an hour before this news came through we were finally able to firm up plans for lunch with a wonderful friend of ours -- at 1:30 in Manhattan. So after I heard from Christopher I emailed her once again to explain that we needed to reschedule, which we now may or may not be able to do. I also called our hostess, who picked up my call saying "Hey! What's going on? You're not delayed are you?"

You see, the last time we went out to visit her in New York, we called her right after we had landed. Unfortunately, after being on the plane -- and in the air -- for about 4 hours, we hand landed back in Minneapolis. So I think she thought we were having that kind of problem, again.

So, as my 3 1/2 day weekend in New York becomes a 2 1/2 day weekend in New York, I am doing my best to look on the bright side. After all of the stresses of the week, Christopher and I were able to come home, relax, have dinner, and spend a restful evening before travelling.

Okay. So a night in Manhattan might have been more fun, but... well... at least we aren't stranded in Columbus or Indianapolis.

** Superstitious endnote ** I refuse to jinx myself by leaving this open-ended. So I'm adding one final word (coming up, below), just to make sure the universe knows that I'm looking over my shoulder. ** End superstitious endnote **


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog Break

Tomorrow after work Christopher and I are taking off for a few days in the non-Minne-Apple, during which I probably won't have a lot of internet access. So... Well... Probably no blogging in the next few days.

On the other hand, I'm hoping to see a couple of the people whose blogs I follow, which should be fun. I'm sure they'll probably end up in my blog sometime next week.

Speaking of people ending up in my blog. Now that I know that Darci is okay with being in my blog, I can mention that Christopher and I just got back from dinner at Broders' Pasta Bar where we celebrated Darci's birthday with another friend of ours (who... you guessed it... I haven't yet asked whether I can put into my blog).

It was a great evening. After a day where I was dealing with sinus issues (and sinus med issues), it was great to finally be feeling better and just go out to dinner with everyone. Broders' is one of those places that doesn't take reservations, but has a "waiting list" which they ask you to call and put your name on an hour before you want to be seated. Luckily, Darci was the one who called, and she happened to mention that it was her birthday. That may not have changed anything, but it certainly didn't hurt.

We started dinner with roasted garlic on some kind of crisp bread, then we each had our own pastas. Mine was fairly simple with tomato and garlic and -- for a seasonal touch -- butternut squash. It was amazing. Darci's had chicken and artichoke. Christopher's was a spicy pork. And the fourth plate of pasta actually had wild boar sausage mixed in. Dessert was a "bestia nera" (flourless chocolate cake) and a couple of very small cannoli which we split. (One of the cannoli actually came out with a candle in it!)

It was a really great evening. Sure, the place is kind of small and won't suddenly be on my "gotta go there" list, but it was a great evening. Perfect start of the long weekend (now if only I didn't have to work tomorrow, first...).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stranger than Fiction (or is it?)

Work has been a little strange this week.

And I mean this as in stranger than usual. This week, along with the usual yelling and screaming fits that we get from people calling in each day, we've had some interesting little facts come to the surface.

** Sidenote ** About the yelling and screaming fits... Luckily, for me, I don't answer the main phoneline. So I only get a few of the yellers and screamers -- instead I mainly get the emailers who passive-aggressively type ALL IN CAPS. ** End Sidenote **

In the past two days, though, I've found out that one of our authors is a zookeeper and that one is the ex-wife of a guy about whom a Lifetime TV movie was written (and, no, it was not a romance).

I guess, maybe, some of this stuff really is just crazy enough to be true.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Second Snow of the Season

Today is October the 12th.

We had something like 3 inches of snow today.

Tonight it's supposed to get down to something like 27 degrees. (Which means any wet surfaces will freeze in time for rush hour tomorrow.)

I promise to not keep complaining about the weather. Eventually. I might have to wait until it gets to at least within 10 degrees of the average high this time of year (which is around 60), though. Of course, this time of year, that might be a losing battle.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Change Can Do You...

I guess it all depends on the change to figure out what, exactly, it can "do you"... Let's look at three examples:

On Friday night, on my way to Happy Hour with Christopher and a friend of ours (whom I haven't asked if I can name by name, hence the vagueness), I realized that finding a parking meter in Minneapolis at 5:30 on a Friday evening would be nigh impossible. So I decided to park in the $5 ramp. I had three dollar bills in my wallet and 52 cents in my pocket. (I hadn't planned for a cash need on Friday, obviously.) I figured it was no problem, because I always have quarters (for meters) in my ashtray. In fact, I had 5 quarters. Close, but not quite. I kept scraping and found 1 dime, 2 nickels and 3 pennies. So... doing math while driving... That meant I had $3.52 in my pants and $1.48 in the car... Exactly $5. I pulled into the parking ramp, and handed the guy all of the change, followed by the three dollar bills. He gave me my ticket and I parked.

When I woke up this morning, Christopher said "You may not want to look outside." Remember how I've been complaining about the weather? I opted to turn on the TV and check out the weather channel. It was informed that it was a whopping 26 degrees outside. When I finally looked outside, I saw snow on the ground. And not just a dusting, but actual snow. As we ran errands today, Christopher and I were watching leaves falling like rain from the trees, amid the snow. I looked outside late this afternoon and there was still snow along the fence in the backyard (where the sun only hit for a short time today). In case you're wondering, average highs this week should be in the 60s, with lows in the upper 30s. This is not normal. I am not happy. But, as one friend pointed out, how often do you get to see green leaves with snow? Even I have to admit that it was kind of pretty...

Tomorrow (Sunday, the 11th) is the National Equality March in Washington, DC. The "official" march begins at Noon, and the rally begins at 2pm. CSPAN is apparently going to be covering the rally portion of it, and I'm hoping to see it show up on most network news shows, as well. I won't be there, but you've already "met" a few people I know who will be marching for Change. I'm really proud of my friends who will be marching. If you're reading this and you're in the DC-area, I really hope you'll go stand and be counted and work to be heard. If you're not going to be in the DC-area tomorrow, I hope you'll continue working to be heard, wherever you are.

After all, a little bit of the right kind of change can do us all a lot of good.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Perhaps I Shouldn't Blog Tonight...

It's Thursday night.

I'm tired and feeling like I really haven't gotten nearly enough done tonight. Or this week. Or, perhaps, in the past 42 years. It's been that kind of week.

It did NOT rain today (a good thing), but the weather forecasters are predicting snow for the weekend (a bad thing, in my opinion). Average highs this time of year: low 60s. We're hoping (yes, actually hoping) that we can get highs in the upper 40s this weekend, and that our lows only go slightly below freezing.

The yard needs fall work done, and I'm not sure that's going to happen if it's snowy and in the 40s this weekend.

I forgot to buy bread, Tuesday, so I may not be able to make sandwiches to take to work tomorrow. But I also forgot to buy lunchmeat, so I'm not sure what I'd put on them, anyway.

Christmas is 11 weeks from tomorrow, and I haven't even thought about shopping, yet. (Okay. You know that's a lie. I've been thinking about it since at least July. I just haven't started, yet.)

And my sinuses are acting up. Again.

How are you?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mid-day Getaway

As I was walking across the street to take some mail out to the mailbox, today (yes, it's part of my job -- which is why I may have mentioned it, before), the rain had lightened up a little and there was something in the air. I took a deep breath and it smelled like... well... It smelled a little like Paris.

I don't know what it is about days like today. For some reason, on days when it is damp and grey and chilly (or at least damp and grey), and not all that nice to be outside, I occasionally catch the scent of something that reminds me of my year in Paris.

Maybe it's because that was the first year I lived in a city, and so the smell of wet pavement and the chilly air reminds me of winter, there. But it must be something more than that, because it doesn't happen every day.

When it does, though, it's amazing. For those few seconds I'm transported. And I can daydream about it for the rest of the afternoon if I work it right.

Hmmm... I think it's a good thing that Christopher and I are going away for a little while in the middle of the month. Don't you?