Top destinations

>> 12.31.2009

As I perused today's Wall Street Journal, I learned that vacations are making a comeback, per a survey conducted by the US Tour Operators Association. I also learned that in 2009, the top domestic destination for tour- and package-type travelers was New York City.

I have no desire to travel to New York City. As you may know, my destination happiness normally revolves around beaches and/or golf carts. I'm not likely to find those in NYC. My travel happiness often involves peace and quiet and non-urban hiking. Again, don't think so. If you're of the "don't knock it before you try it" camp, be assured that I have spent the better part of a whole day in the Big Apple during a high school youth group trip. We took a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. I took photos of the World Trade Center. I have slides (remember those?) to prove it. But sorry, no desire to return. I'm just not a shows-restaurant-urban girl.

On the other hand, the top international destination for 2009 was Italy. And despite a lack of golf carts and beaches in Florence, Italy, a friend and I did visit earlier this decade. Maybe the little cars reminded me of golf carts. Maybe the unseasonably warm March weather made it feel tropical. Maybe it was just cool and full of history. To Italy, I would return.

This just in: airfare alert! Cheap flights to Florida in January ($100RT)! Must... go... now...


In Memoriam

>> 11.13.2009

Today would have been my grandparents' 66th anniversary. Last year we celebrated their 65th, and in July we had a party for my grandma's 90th birthday. Last night, just three hours shy of his anniversary, my grandfather went to his eternal home.

We're giving them credit for 66 years, since in Greenland, where he served in the Coast Guard during World War II, it already was the 13th.

This week has been interesting, and nothing I've exactly experienced before. As of last Sunday, we knew Grandpa wouldn't live through the week and wouldn't regain consciousness. Relatives flew in to say their good-byes. His 90-year-old wife sat at his bedside every day, holding his hand continuously. People sang hymns and read to him, told stories, and asked Grandma about the past.

He was the only grandfather I ever knew, and as the oldest grandchild, we were pretty close. A few thoughts:
  1. No matter what your observations of a couple's relationship have been over the years, you'll see the true relationship when one member of the couple is dying. Obviously they were together for 66 years, but my grandmother controlled all conversations in the relationship and dominated the household via the kitchen (like a good German woman). But to hear her talk about her loving husband this week, she will be lost without him.
  2. Everyone reacts differently. I took the "let's talk and tell stories" approach so I didn't turn into a puddle of tears (that was reserved for quiet moments at my office desk, which conveniently was across the street from the hospital). We had one marvelous day when, though uncounscious, Grandpa reacted by squeezing hands, smiling, and moving to various comments and questions. This biggest reaction came when we asked if he wanted to go buy a car. Grandpa had still talked about getting his car back years after he'd stopped driving.
  3. My father-in-law entered the hospital this week also and will head to a nursing home permanently. It's a whole different set of relationships, reactions, and approaches. 
We shall see what unfolds.



>> 10.20.2009

I haven't vented about plastic bags, especially from Target, in a while, but I just noticed a few things the other day:

  1. Target now gives me a five-cent credit for bringing my own bag.
  2. The cashiers are routinely impressed with how much I can fit into my reusable bag (I pack my own).
  3. We're out of Target bags at home! Still using a few miscellanous-sized plastic bags from the back of the closet, and you've always got to keep a few around for emergencies, but it feels like I've won. Of course, the kitchen chairs are overrun with our reusable bags, but we've been very good about moving them from the car to the kitchen and back to the car. My husband is even trained in this process.

Other things that make me feel as if I'm accomplishing something:

  1. We rarely have soda in the house... only when we're expecting guests who expect soda.
  2. My husband has given up white bread, and the child doesn't remember ever eating it.
  3. Most of the child's "new" fall clothes came from resale shops.
  4. My husband has started using our natural shampoo.
  5. We had a Dumpster in our driveway (new roof), and the roofers were shocked that we didn't have any junk to throw in it. Anything we aren't using either goes to our neighborhood rummage sale, the thrift store, or our community's recycling center.

Finally, discovering recently that my sister-in-law and a neighbor have similar beliefs and feelings toward these issues really helps and gives me someone with whom to share ideas. I could be doing so much more, but every little step helps.


September in review

>> 9.29.2009

The month of my birth is ending, along with my seasonal part-time gig and our streak of San Diego-esque weather. Yes, it was a beautiful run of sunny, 73-degree days. But now the furnace has kicked in. And I'm cold. You know my feelings on that topic. If not, just look at the title of the blog.

To add insult to injury, I don't get paid to use a walkie-talkie and clipboard for another six months.

The month in which fall began included stops at this warm and sunny beach.

Later in the month, the child made her debut at a famous stadium. We spent a beautiful sunny afternoon watching the green and gold lose (while getting sunburned at the frozen tundra).

But the weather turned ugly on the way home when we stopped at the same beach, no longer warm and sunny.

Finally, we took a late September hike to the Appalachians? No, it's still the Badger State. That's just fall rolling in, with winter right behind it. I'm looking forward to the fall colors if the wind and rain doesn't get to them first.

My other September happening was being present at a gathering of people with whom I graduated from high school a round number of years ago. I need a little more time until I can properly reflect on that evening.

Don't worry, it's not as bad as you think.


The elusive triple play

>> 9.06.2009

Last September I referenced the fact that I had never witnessed a Major League triple play in person. That changed today... saw one.

What else is there to dream about in my future baseball game observances? Have to think about it.

In other news, I spent Saturday at the beach. Remembering to bring the sand toys for the child (for once) got me some bonus "sit on a blanket and read" time.

Beach, triple play... there's one day remaining in this holiday weekend.

What's left but to drive a golf cart?


Walk, don't run

>> 8.30.2009

The title of this post has a double meaning, of course. First, the literal. I haven't done much walking or running (for real exercise) this summer, and apparently with 40-something temperatures upon us in August, summer is over.

When I occasionally did venture out for fitness, I was trying to do more jogging than walking, in theory to get a better workout in less time. In reality, I just gave up on jogging early on and walked home slowly.

I, a speed-walker, had lost my walking groove. But today it returned; I don't know how or why. I was leaving my part-time seasonal gig, trailing a professional athlete--who had an off day to get to--by 50 feet or so, and I still had to stop and clock out. But by the time I got to the parking lot gate, I had passed him, walking my normal, in-the-groove pace. For holding the gate, I received a "Thanks, have a good one."

To make sure this wasn't a fluke, I took a lap around the subdivision this evening. The speed-walker was back, practically floating down the street. Walking was suddenly so much better than running again.

The other meaning? I had my annual "summer is over I spent no time outside I hate cold weather when am I ever going to get anything done my house is a mess" meltdown. And with everyone going back to school, you can throw in a little "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up should I go back to school or maybe just move to an island and live off the land" to top off my crisis.

I need to breathe, relax, and realize that I shouldn't run the race called life, but rather walk it, one baby step at a time. It'll all get done, or not. (Maybe now was not the time to bring up bins of old photos from the basement to scan and organize.)

The child is looking at September 1 as Day 1 of 180 days of school. I'm looking at it as Day 1 of 12 years of school, 12 years of the biggest challenges as a parent. I think I need to adopt her outlook, or take it one step further. It's just Tuesday, September 1, and there's a three-day weekend ahead. Maybe I can sit on the patio and enjoy the fading flowers.

If you've made it this far, you get to look at photos that can only be obtained by walking. Our four-day summer "vacation" didn't involve a single beach or golf cart, but we did walk. A lot. I love not getting in the car if at all possible (especially after a six-hour drive).

View #1 of St. Louis, available only by walking across the Eads Bridge at the end of a day of urban hiking.

View #2 of St. Louis, available only by hiking the Ridge Trail in Pere Marquette Park, near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

Two meanings, two points of view, two hikes. One step at a time.


Must... post... somewhere

>> 8.06.2009

I have limited creative outlets and news sources today (though it was a semi-productive day at work, despite the oh-so-slow servers). Twitter has been down, Facebook has been iffy, and my RSS feeds are cranky.

Plus we no longer get a newspaper at home during the week. (Reason: The child was learning more about copy editing marks than about health care plans from the Wall Street Journal. As a recovering copy editor, I feel a newspaper loses credibility when I read it with a pink editing pen in hand, something I started while reading my college's newspaper. And yes, the child used to read from the WSJ every day. Doesn't every 6-year-old?)

So, how was I to know that John Hughes died? And what else have I missed today? Instead of getting this vital information 140 characters per bite, I've been forced to make my own observations, with nowhere to post them but here.

For example, while walking through the mall tonight (note: not a normal occurrence), I felt like the tallest person there. I'm only about 5-8 but I was towering over 97 percent of shoppers. Disconcerting. Also, overly anxious waitresses who try to rush you when the restaurant is half-empty are annoying. And traffic was backed up, since no one was Tweeting about the delays while driving. Or is that a good thing...

Anyway, life likely will return to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, I had a reason to blog.


Outside the box

>> 7.27.2009

There was no wi-fi available at work today, so the sit-at-the-picnic-table plan didn't pan out. Instead I used every wired Internet capability at my disposal to escape the office for a bit. Yes, I would love to tell you I drove to the airport and got on the first available flight to a warm beach. Someday I'll pull that stunt.

But today, you see, a really big airplane was going to land at our little international airport, and after missing all the weekend's air festivities, I wanted to see something cool, anything.

So I called upon my friends Twitter and Google and hosted a little search party. Quickly I found out the approximate landing time, best observation area, where to park, hash tags for future Tweets, where the plane was going to taxi and park, and which runway it most likely would use.

Everything went as planned, and I had photos of the A380 posted to Twitpic and Facebook an hour later. Half a day later, here they are for you. Sorry, no live-blogging today.

This little social media/web project is right in line with what we're doing at work, so I'll call it a field trip. My observations:

After editing, posting, and re-posting some of the same photos, I need to look into social media integration applications. And an iPhone. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

On the other hand, the photos I picked for each outlet were specifically selected for that outlet. You don't see any photos of people on this page, but on my more-tightly controlled Facebook photo album, there are tagged faces in front of the Airbus.

Within seconds of posting to Twitpic, I had 40 views of my photos. Gotta love saved searches and hash tags.

In conclusion, I did a little research outside the box at work, got outside the walls, and finally got to see a cool airplane. Further justification: The rest of the staff was at a golf outing. Driving golf carts. Need I say more?

Don't think I can justify watching it take off tomorrow. Can I?


Bouncing off the walls

>> 7.26.2009

I worked through another beautiful weekend, so by tonight, after sitting in the desk chair of power for two days, I was bouncing off the walls at home. The husband told me to go for a run. Since I don't run (I walk quickly or jog slowly) and the only shoes near the door were sandals and it was getting dark, I put on the sandals and bailed out before anyone changed their mind.

It was a quiet, still, perfect-temperature, bug-free evening. The best kind, topping off an action-packed weekend in our fine city, most of which I missed. I did catch glimpses of the Thunderbirds in the air show from my clipboard-and-walkie-talkie perch, but the rest of the household witnessed the event from a real beach. No fair. The closest I came to a beach was Saturday morning's quick walk around a glorified retention pond.

I hope the wi-fi access is back up at work Monday. Laptop on picnic table while listening to iPod followed by mid-afternoon walks sounds like my prescription for the week.

No walls, please.


Workin' for the weekend

>> 7.12.2009

Actually, I worked through the weekend, so I'll have to wait another five days to enjoy next weekend.

Despite the weekend work at my part-time gig, I did accomplish more organizational/annual-cleaning tasks around the house.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, between parades and fireworks, we tackled the "put new shelf paper in all the drawers" project: my husband, with his straightedge and razor blade, and me, washing the contents of each drawer. Fun times, lovely results. Once a decade only, please.

This weekend we moved mattresses, box springs, and dresser-drawer contents to the floors as we vacuumed out every crevice and washed everything in sight.

While all this is productive and necessary, it brings me to a bigger issue: I need a project. Something to plan, work toward, research, analyze, produce. To the best of my knowledge, I have no upcoming weddings, pregnancies, moves, or big trips to plan. What else is there?

Hmm. I could go back to school. But I always think that's a good idea when the back-to-school gear shows up at Target. Buying a new notebook usually satisfies the urge, plus July is a little late to enroll for fall. And by mid-winter, the idea disappears.

Other ideas? Plan trips I won't take? Nah. Though I'll keep my low-airfare alerts current, just in case. But not likely.

Start another blog or other writing project? Maybe, but inspiration is lacking right now.

Figure out how to get more beaches and golf carts into my life? That's obvious, but the inspiration problem floats around that one too.

My part-time gig has just 10 weeks left in the season, the child goes to "real school" in six weeks, and the other member of the household's busy season runs October through March.

What's there for me to look forward to, work on, plan? Ideas, please!

I don't have many drawers and closets left to reorganize. Please save the remaining clutter in my home from my restlessness.


Escaping Wisconsin

>> 6.21.2009

We escaped the Badger State for the first time since last summer. Granted, it was only a border
crossing (no passports necessary), as was the prior escape, but the child did get a new state added to her life list. Hello, Iowa!

Random observations from the two-day jaunt to the Mississippi River:

1. Wind farms make for an alien landscape. You keep staring, feeling like you've stumbled onto a Star Wars film shoot.

2. McGregor, Iowa, is cute. Going down a barely marked road and finding a shady observation platform on which to eat lunch and watch grain operations (t
rucks, trains, and barges) was a fine discovery (see number 6, below).

3. It's marvelous traveling with a six-year-old who has just developed a voracious appetite for chapter books. She quietly read to herself for more than an hour. Yet she's still young enough to sl
eep for the other two hours. She also can handle the water slides and the bathroom stall alone, bonus points for Mom.

4. Fur trading re-enactments make you feel like you've stumbled onto a film shoot of another genre, more Blazing Saddles-esque.

5. Free entertainment on a Friday night kept the family entranced for nearly two hours: We watched bar
ges go through Lock 9 on the Mississippi. We met tug boat workers and lock employees, saw them break up two river tows, learned how everything worked (I'm married to an engineer, after all), and avoided the heavy rain that traveled just south of us before pummeling our house again. (Our only fallout from the rain was a wet hiking trail while observing a muddy Wisconsin River.)

6. The
"I don't like to travel" spouse will have a grand time away from home as long as I find interesting airplanes, trains, or ships, or related museums. Mr. "Why would I ever want to go to St. Louis?" now wants to go ASAP to watch the river tows grow from 15 to 45 barges.

7. The new vehicle, complete with its very own state parks pass, got its first taste of the open road and rewarded us with 39 mpg with the air conditioning on most of the way.

8. We found a cave, waterfall, and a pink elephant. You just never know...

9. Being able to order cheap but decent food (and beer) poolside, while reading a magazine and watching the child run herself ragged on the water slides was a great way to wrap the day.

Next stop: ???
Maybe passports finally will be required.


One of those days

>> 6.15.2009

Some days you just want to vent to anyone who will listen. And what better place to do that than on a blog.

But after running through the events that made this day annoying, I've decided to spare you the details.

Instead I will summarize my biggest pet peeves:

1. Overturned semis that close freeways during rush hour leading to four-suburb gridlock.

2. Stores that don't have anything you need in stock.

3. Overpriced big-chain food stores, that also don't have what you need in stock but you stopped in because you were in the same strip mall as the stores in item 2.

4. Parents who "raise" rude, obnoxious children, who are left free to roam the zoo without regard for fellow citizens.

5. Weak iced coffee.

I think that's about it. I left out a few others, but you get the idea.

As a local news anchor used to say, good night, and better tomorrows.



>> 6.12.2009

I remain in hibernation due to the late arrival of temperatures I deem acceptable. Beach girl hasn't even used her state parks pass yet. There is potential for this situation to change next week.

Stay tuned.


Cleaning out

>> 5.21.2009

We've gotten past the annual rummage sale and moved my grandparents out of their apartment.

And my mother-in-law has started removing extra stuff from the very large house that they may or may not sell this month or next year.

So we've made lots of trips to thrift shops, worked ourselves ragged at a rummage marathon (five days), and refuse to deal with any more boxes.

Except for this one, for a moment.

It was in the in-laws' basement. You have to wonder how long it was down there, and how they got it in the first place.

The wooden crate came to Milwaukee (pre-ZIP codes) via two railroads, apparently: the Erie RR and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (The Milwaukee Road). It contained glass, according to a label. Even learned a bit about the Cordes Supply Co. (which started doing business under that name in 1921).

Sometimes stuff gets to be so old it's almost cool. Almost. I took a picture, we reminisced for a moment, then we left it at the curb for pickup.

It had served the in-laws well, holding firewood (and related critters) for decades.

Time to move on.


Is it Friday yet?

It should have been Friday, based on how messed up everything has been this week.

The date mix-up came on Wednesday, when I reviewed the child's hot-lunch menu and announced, "It's pancake day!" So I sent her to school for a (not-so-frequent) trip through the lunch line.

She came home and said, "I had to eat pepperoni pizza. Thumbs down." That's her rating system for food, by the way: thumbs up, thumbs in the middle, and thumbs down. She hates pizza, especially pepperoni.

Bad mommy. Pancakes were Thursday. I heard about that mix-up all night.

In other news, it was the first week at work without the 20 employees who were let go in cutbacks. Everyone is on edge, and we're all stressed and working at home at night to try to keep up.

One more day of work this week. Wish me luck; I'll need it.


Surf colleges

>> 5.15.2009

I work for an institution of higher learning. I love beaches. There has to be a way to use this list of top surf colleges to my advantage. I think I'll work on that this afternoon.


Golf cart sighting

>> 5.06.2009

I hit golf balls at the driving range last night and got to see real golf carts, live and in person! That makes me happy. Doesn't get me any closer to my dream job, but it's something.

The child made her driving-range debut yesterday. Now we have a new family activity!

Next step: condo on a golf course in a warm climate, with a golf cart in the carport? Probably not. Give us a couple years to work on her game.


The fruit no one wants

>> 4.29.2009

Honeydew is to the fruit platter what celery is to the veggie platter. No one eats them. And they're both pale green.

How deep is that observation? Just had to verbalize it, as I stare at yet another pre-cut bowl of fruit in my refrigerator, which has only honeydew melon left for my consumption. No one wants it, but it makes great filler for the food store, apparently.



>> 4.25.2009

I'm on social networking overload. Didn't think it could happen. But we pulled off our coverage of the "big event" at work. I edited and uploaded photos from each segment of the day before the next portion ended, while live-blogging. We posted to our Facebook page. We Tweeted the whole thing and had people at a technology conference following us. Our "news" was posted to a newspaper reporter's Twitter feed within minutes of an announcement. All the while being personable representatives of the PR department. All while wearing heels and a dress, toting a laptop and camera.

Phew. Lots of work, but lots of fun.

It just reinforced my belief that I love producing events. I don't PLAN events, I PRODUCE them, either to a crowd in my part-time seasonal gig, or to anyone who logs on to our event coverage. Still trying to figure out how to turn this into a job that supports the family. In the meantime, I'll take the "rush" of event production wherever I can get it.


Not answering

>> 4.21.2009

It's been a nose-to-the-laptop kind of month, with about two days of nice weather (which I spent outside instead of blogging about them).

Anyway, my day has lacked congruity. I've experienced a clash of technologies, or rather, a clash of technology and an aversion to technology.

Background: I don't like talking on the phone. I'm more of a written-word person. I'll IM, Tweet, chat, blog, converse on Facebook, but I just don't like picking up the phone. It seems like such an invasion and interruption when the phone rings. I'd rather respond at the time of my choosing, or at least know the topic at hand (subject lines in emails... please use them).

Getting caller ID at home, on my cell (for emergencies only, thank you), and at work has let me perfect my ability to avoid talking to vendors, my alma mater, and anyone I'm not in the mood to deal with or give money to. I know this sounds harsh, but I'm just not a phone person.

(Ironically, this post has been interrupted by three phone calls that I had to take.)

Moving on, we're developing a social-media plan of attack for a big event at work this week. I'm up to my ears in Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and related applications, all the while IM'ing a co-worker with whom I'm collaborating.

In the middle of all this, the phone rings. It's a vendor's number. Then the unavoidable flashing red light indicates I have a message, so I need to stop, wade through voicemail menus, and find out she just wants to see how we're doing. Ugh. Moments later, a person with whom I work, who does not connect with anything in the previous paragraph, asks if I've "actually spoken with" another staff member on a certain issue. She is leery of even emailing "because people can forward it." Sigh. Big disconnect, especially when trying to explain the aforementioned strategy for this week.

There's a time and a place for all forms of communication, and I will pick up the phone if that's the best way to get a message across. But 98.6 percent of the time, one of my six other "new techology" ways of communicating gets the point across while allowing me to multitask my little heart out and be far more productive.


The next step

>> 3.21.2009

I took lots of steps today; I should have worn the pedometer. The setting on this beautiful Saturday afternoon: the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Lots of people came out of hibernation to see the newly awakened animals, but the great part is the paths are wide, so someone doing four 18-minute laps around the zoo while wearing her iPod had plenty of space to navigate, without coming near a double stroller.

What brought me to my favorite zoo? Well, the child was exploring the South Pole in zoo class, so I had two hours to myself. In keeping with this week's pattern, I left the car in the parking lot (the mall down the road held no appeal) and started walking.

(Side note: I've experienced zoos in DC, Tampa, and San Diego, and in comparison Milwaukee's is the best for accessibility and ease of navigation -- especially during the stroller days.)

The iPod selected a marvelous variety of music to pace me while I moved past the elephants, wrestling brown bears, sunning hippos, and pacing zebras. Even the badger had emerged from hibernation. (His NCAA basketball counterpart barely woke up in time to stay alive in the big tournament yesterday).

I took a break after two laps to do some work. Outside. In the warm sunshine. At a picnic table. With golf carts driving by. The only thing missing was an ocean. I'm very productive in such a setting.

Reflecting on my afternoon several hours later, I have but one regret: I should have worn walking shoes. Selecting fleece-lined, Croc-type clogs (shown at right) was not my best move. I was fine until the very end, but my feet are a bit raw now.

(Side note 2: You'll notice how my blog posting picks up as the weather improves. I have time to think, plan, and analyze while I enjoy the outdoors, and I have more to talk about than "drove through snow on the way home; made dinner; too cold to leave the house again.")

Overall, I had a fun day. But I think I'll stay off my feet tomorrow.



>> 3.20.2009

If you're like me, two things can happen when you see "1985."

One, you have bad flashbacks to awkward early teenage years, or two, you start singing "She's seen all the classics, she knows every line, Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, even St. Elmo's Fire..."

Yes, it's the song by Bowling for Soup that recounts the mid-'80s, right down to my Duran Duran obsession (but I didn't marry a CPA).

And hearing that song tonight took me back to 1985.

I was standing along a wall during a school dance, barely knowing anyone, being ignored, not going near the dance floor.

Um, that was tonight, actually. I never even attended a dance as a student.

Yes, I took the six-year-old to her school's fundraiser, our first of many to come, while the husband stayed home sick (he really was...).

After dinner, at 6:00 sharp, the DJ kicked things off by playing "1985," aimed squarely at all of the uncool, SUV-driving parents in attendance, I'm sure. Ouch.

I now return you Back to the Future, because I have absolutely no desire to be 14 again.


Please rise

>> 3.19.2009

Since I obsessed about sitting in my previous post, I will make up for it by getting on my feet.

For four glorious days this week, I got to walk to my destination, instead of depressing an accelerator to move from Point A to Point B. It's all about location.

Walk number 1: While cleaning out the grandparents' apartment last weekend, we discovered a strong need for Magic Erasers, as nothing else would remove three years' worth of grime from the refrigerator and the walls. I quickly volunteered to walk "across the street" to the store. I believe it was faster to navigate by foot through the complex, down two blocks, and across the busy road and parking lot than it would have been to drive the vehicle over the same route. I rediscovered my need to live within walking distance of places I often visit.

Walk number 2: For once, we had a beautiful Monday night in March, so the child and I (with special thanks to Daylight Savings Time) walked to her golf lesson at the local community center (formerly our library... the new library is quite a haul on foot). We saw birds, we skipped, and we enjoyed a car-less night.

Walk number 3: The final two walks don't count toward lower carbon emissions, because a vehicle was still used, but I did get to walk somewhere. I stopped at the park on the way home from work, with the assumption that I'd find the other members of my household. They were located, and the child and I walked home while the husband drove.

Walk number 4: Again, thanks to mild weather, the child and I walked to my parents' house for dinner. The husband drove again, since the child wasn't going to last for the walk back, and it doesn't stay light and warm THAT long yet. Still, a 1.5-mile walk is better than nothing.

In summary, those are the three locations to which I can reasonably walk from our house, plus a bonus destination. This week has given me a taste of what living in my dream "walking community" would be like every day.

Move along.


Please remain seated

>> 3.10.2009

"Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened until the plane comes to a complete stop." I haven't heard those words in more than a year. In fact, the last time I flew, you could check your luggage for free. How quaint.

My thoughts about seating are wide-ranging at the moment, so I'll ramble.

1. Today I received tickets for the right-by-the-stage seats I picked out for this summer's jaunt to the American Players Theater. The seat locations are outstanding, and the chairs themselves are comfy, so no seating issues there. We'll just hope for a 72-degree day in August, slightly overcast, with a light breeze to keep the bugs away.

2. I wish I were picking out my seat for a trip on a plane. (Can you still do that, or do you pay extra for that too?) But I'm not going anywhere, so I won't dwell.

3. My lunchtime seating today had a water view, normally a plus for a beach fan. Unfortunately, it was a view partially obscured by fog, and the river was full of debris and ice chunks breaking free from a mess upstream.

4. The days aren't getting longer just because of Daylight Savings Time (not being a morning person, I'm a big DST fan, by the way). My office chair has started making me long for shorter days.

Back story: At my previous place of employment, we had Chair School, where we rolled our assigned seats to a large open area and learned to use the very expensive ergonomic office chairs. Many people did not see the value in this exercise (and even suggested it as a topic for Dilbert), but I absorbed the lessons and actually used all the settings on my chair, depending on my task.

I could've been a Chair School instructor, but I think they gave up on formal lessons and just handed new employees a manual at some point.

Fast forward a few years: The first chair at my current place of employment came complete with stains of unknown origin, dog hair (I don't have pets, nor do I appreciate having their fur transferred to my clothing), and chipped armrests. You only can cover armrests with packing tape so many times before it becomes ineffective and you start scraping your arms on broken plastic, so I hid that chair in storage when we moved our offices.

At that point I "acquired" a brand-new-looking conference room chair (we had too many to fit around the table, trust me). Looks are deceiving: it doesn't roll on carpet, and as I've recently discovered, only has sufficient padding for sitting on through a short meeting. It's not an eight-hour chair. There really is a difference between this cheap chair and a $400 one.

Potential solutions: I could figure out a way to stand all day. (I always was jealous of art directors with stand-up desks.)

I could sit on a piece of foam or a tie-on cushion from grandma's old kitchen chairs. (I'll have to rifle around and see what I can find.)

I could buy an exercise ball to replace the evil chair. (I've investigated and shopped, but can't bring myself to buy, yet.)

Haven't reached a conclusion; I'm still thinking. Suggestions welcome.

You may be seated.


Farewell, February

>> 2.28.2009

Finally we can bid a not-so-fond farewell to February.

It is not a month that's traditionally beach and golf cart friendly, unless you venture to Florida. The past two years I've had that opportunity, but the flight south didn't come to fruition this year.

It has been a long two fortnights, filled with old snow, slush, cold, fresh snow, freezing rain, and ice. Plus we're wrapping up a full house of winter colds, and my grandparents both fell, forcing decisions to be made about new living arrangements.

The final week of February saw a round of firings at my place of employment. Though I have survived these job cuts, I am sad some of my favorite fellow workers did not.

I feel slightly better now, having used so many f-words in the previous sentences.

On the brighter side, spring training commenced, always a sign of better things to come. And the calendar says spring begins in three weeks.

I'm ready to flee February and find March.


Reflections on a career thus far

>> 2.02.2009

Fifteen years ago, on the fifth Monday of the new year, I started my first "real" job. I was slightly removed from my college career, but I was finally working in my field. Well, not really, but you could make a connection.

I had purchased my first new car (1995 bright red Neon, aka, the lemon) and was looking for apartments ($400 a month or less please). I wore a skirt and heels to work that day, for the last time in 15 years.

Why am I feeling nostalgic? I have no idea. Fifteen years seemed like a good time to reflect. Or this anniversary just occurred to me tonight while staring at Self magazine on the elliptical trainer, so I wrote a blog post in my head instead of focusing on why white carbs are bad and more exercise is good.

I've spent the past decade and a half writing and editing magazines for three employers. During the entire stretch I've held a second job. For the first two years it was to pay for, well, food. After that, the new second job gave me a clipboard and walkie-talkie, plus money, which is always welcome.

I've been a copy editor, managing editor, editor in charge of it all, plus interim editor of magazines on myriad topics.

I've had marvelous bosses (one of whom left me and moved back to the heart of the magazine industry in New York, where I refuse to move) and one who told me I looked good in a skirt. On my first day at work. Which is the reason I haven't willingly worn one since. At least I outlasted him in the publishing industry.

I've hired and fired people. Some assignments have been a lot of fun (at one point I got paid to discuss Blazing Saddles) while others have caused great angst (closing a magazine).

I probably have two more "15-year recaps" to write before I retire, and I have no idea what I hope they will contain. Golf carts near a beach would be nice, but giving the current economic situation, just having something to recap will be grand.

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I've learned a lot about several industries and topics in my career. I think this is a good time to do some personal reflection, take inventory, and set some goals.

I'll let you know if I have any brilliant revelations.


Cold turkey

>> 1.29.2009

I don't eat much meat anymore, so the turkey reference isn't overly appropriate. But I've realized that over the past year, two seemingly unrelated items have disappeared from my daily routine: soda and a watch.

Those who know me understand that I am a creature of habit. So every morning when I got dressed, I fastened my watch on my right wrist, since I'm sort of left handed. This routine probably dates back to when I received my first watch: It had a white band and Lucy from Charlie Brown on the face. Lucy's hands pointed at the numbers.

Last week I was shocked to realize that I haven't worn a watch in months. I even had to think hard about which wrist I put it on. I believe this change stems from two things: a lack of meetings requiring my attendance during a period of transition at work, and the fact that I now carry a cell phone most of the time (since I'm an emergency contact for the child, who started school full time last fall). I rarely use the cell phone, but I always can unearth it to look at the time, if need be.

Abandoning my daily can or two of soda was a conscious decision in February 2008. It went along with giving up high-fructose corn syrup and a few other unhealthy food items, plus the aforementioned decrease in meat consumption. I tried a Mountain Dew a month later and couldn't stand the taste, and I haven't looked back. My beverages of choice are natural iced tea and water, plus the requisite iced coffee. Yes, I still enjoy/need a little caffeine.

Given my dedication to consistency and routines, I'm pleasantly surprised at how painless these lifestyle alterations have been. See, I am capable of change. I just wish I still had my Lucy watch.


Picture this

>> 1.18.2009

I spent part of my afternoon the following way:

Wearing flip-flops and shorts, breathing in warm air laced with humidity, I walked along the water's edge as waves splashed just inches from my toes.

Nice image, isn't it?

Reality: I was walking next to the YMCA's swimming pool with the child, inhaling chlorine fumes. Screams pierced my tropical fantasy, as kids who have cooped up for a week splashed and played in the water.

But for five seconds, I was living my tropical dream.



>> 1.17.2009

To a model railroader, "undecorated" is seen as an opportunity. It may be a plain gray locomotive that the modeler can paint in the scheme of his or her choice, or perhaps it's a piece of rolling stock waiting to be decorated for a certain railroad, in a certain era, with a certain number. (Please don't ask why I know enough to have written that last sentence.)

But to me, sitting in my living room a few long weeks after Christmas, "undecorated" means a bare mantel, an empty banister, and a gaping hole where the tree once stood in all its illuminated glory. It means that the holidays are over and the long remainder of winter lies before us.

Undecorated also means chaos (see above) that needs to be repacked into plastic bins until next Thanksgiving. Ooo, at least I get to organize things for a while, which makes me happy.

Well, that's done, and the bins are back in the basement. Excuse me while I check airfares to Florida.


Lessons learned

>> 1.05.2009

Subtitle: Things I've pondered during my ten months on Facebook.

Caveat: I originally joined Facebook for work purposes, so I could be an admin on my employer's site.

The benefits:

1. I communicate far more regularly (even daily) with my siblings. A quick wall post or comment is easier than an email at times, for all of us. When my mom gets concerned that she hasn't heard from my brother in a while, I can reassure her that he just posted a status update, so he is alive and probably well.

2. Along the same lines, within the past few months, several far-flung college friends have become Facebook regulars. By reading status updates and looking at posted photos and videos, I feel closer to their everyday lives without relying on Christmas letters and infrequent emails for updates.

3. After "friending" a few cousins on Facebook, I found that we could skip the banal conversation about work and family at Christmas because we knew what everyone had been up to. We had far more in-depth chats, such as about which meats we had given up and why (and discovered that we're following remarkably similar paths).

The drawbacks:

1. It can be addictive, and it takes time to follow and respond. Facebook is another thing to stay on top of, in addition to a LinkedIn profile, two blogs, and those old-fashioned email in-boxes. All five of them.

2. You lose one-on-one (private) communication with some people. Of course, if it's a wall post or nothing, I'll take a wall post to stay in touch.

3. You can unintentionally offend several friends (or relatives) at once, with a misinterpreted status update. Word them carefully.

Just a bit of advice: Even if "bracing for an onslaught of relatives" accurately reflects your feelings as you await the arrival of 22 in-laws to town for a week at Christmas, don't post it. Sensitive teenagers who call you "aunt" may take offense.

The "not sure yet":
1. Here's one I can't come to grips with: 80 members from my high school class (of about 300 people) have joined a "Class of 19xx" group for our high school. Everyone just found one another without any publicity. And we're quickly becoming "friends."

Here's the issue: I haven't stayed in touch with anyone from high school. I recognize several of the names (if I played soccer with you, I'll accept your friend request without hesitation), but others I looked up in the yearbook and would swear I've never met.

What is to be gained from these re-connections? Do I have anything in common with my classmates beyond a year of graduation? Why did I feel left out (high school flashback) when several of them met over Christmas break, near my house, and I only learned about it by seeing the photos posted to Facebook?

It's fun to "see" old friends and find out what they've been doing (five kids and living in Colorado) and who married whom. But what else is there, beyond pure curiosity?

I haven't come up with a good answer.


Sparks fly

>> 1.01.2009

Happy 2009 to my faithful readers (you two know who you are).

Stop number one in this new year: Milwaukee's lakefront. For the annual polar bear plunge, you may ask? It's at a beach; I will give you that. But you should know that my dislike of the cold trumps my love of the beach. My bare toes do not v
isit sand and fresh water outside of the happy months (June through September). They may visit salt water during the other months.

No, we watched kites and their humans participate in the kite festival at Veteran's Park... from the comfort of the car for the most part.

The day's other stop: Discovery World, to see sparks fly at Tesla Lives, a live theater show that gave us an enlightening refresher course on the development of electric power. Nikola Tesla's A/C power rocks because Edison's D/C power wouldn't roll far enough (sorry, couldn't resist). Oh, man. Moving on.

At home, due to a lack of water in the air (despite the sump pump staying out of hibernation), we've unwittingly been conducting our own demonstrations of static electricity. Fleece blanket plus fleece jacket plus laptop equals, um, let's be careful out there. Then the child discovered that flannel sheets plus fuzzy pajamas equals a lightning show of her very own, using mom as the ground for a shocking grand finale.

As we start the new year, I raise my mug of hot chocolate to warm memories of beach vacations taken during 2008, with many more to come (both warm memories and beach vacations, that is). Cheers.


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