Sunday, July 31, 2011

Minnesota dreaming... on such a summer's day

Uff da!  It is another hot one out there!  Now I know that Minnesotans have taken a lot of heat (pun intended) over our wimpy response to hot and humid weather.  Believe me, I read the blogs of gals who lived in Texas and Alabama and now are here.  They have not been afraid to point out that our toughness may be limited to the cold.

I am not going to argue with that observation.  I only offer that this is NOT the kind of weather we are used to having in this state.  One of the best things about living here is that our summers are temperate.  How else could we endure the lengthy winter chills?  We believe that we will be rewarded for this endurance with a lovely (albeit brief) summer season that allows us to be outside, wear shorts and sandals and absorb sunshine. 

This really doesn't mean that we can't endure heat and humidity (despite all of the weatherman's warnings to the contrary), it just depresses us in a way that blizzards and ice storms cannot.  When the very act of sitting in a chair induces one to sweat copiously and breathing becomes a less than pleasant experience, the only solution is to seek out air conditioning.  If one is fortunate enough to live, work and travel in air conditioned environments, life is OK. 

The people who truly suffer in this kind of weather are those who lack A/C in any or all of these areas. 

Today I met my friend Jill for brunch at a lovely cafe called Common Roots located in south Minneapolis.  It is really a great neighborhood joint serving meals, treats, coffee, wine, beer and other assorted goodies all day long.  This place is POPULAR.  We arrived during brunch time and had no problem finding a seat.  However, by the time we left, the lunch rush was in full swing and seating was at a premium.

Now, I did notice that the cafe felt a bit "less than chilled."  Not sweltering, but definitely not the icy refreshment that true A/C usually brings.  I noted this, but I had dressed to sweat, so I was OK.  Until I stood up.  The back of my legs and backside were very damp and sticky.  Very unpleasant.  TMI?  Oh well, 'tis the truth. 

We departed the restaurant into the even hotter and stickier outside air.  Thankfully our walk to my car was not long and I had the A/C going quickly.  Not to jump around too much in this story, but I should add that Jill had offered to drive to the restaurant.  The reason that this did not happen is that her husband stopped us on our way out the door to ask that she not take the white car because he was going to take the dog somewhere and they needed the A/C.  As their other car does NOT have A/C, I quickly offered to drive instead.

Back to brunch.  We left the cafe and returned to Jill's house.  Jill and her husband live in one of the loveliest neighborhoods in all of Minneapolis in a truly prime location.  They love living there and I love that they live there too.  Unfortunately, the houses in this area are older and some (Jill's included) do not have central air conditioning.  Even more unfortunately, Jill's house also lacks a window or portable A/C unit as well. 

As remarkably resourceful people, Jill and her husband live through this.  They keep the windows covered and fans running.  They also keep properly hydrated.  But it is HOT.  We have had hot spells in MN before, but this year has really been a doozy.  They have made it through all of it.  There are plans to get a window unit next year, but until then, light clothing and shade are the name of the game.

So to all of you people out there who want to make fun of Minnesotans and how we wilt in the heat, I am here to tell you that some people are a lot tougher than you think.  I should also add that Jill's husband is a native of Sweden, where they are even MORE accustomed to cold weather than us.  As for Jill, I am fairly certain that if you asked her whether she prefers this or winter, she would still choose this. 

Does this make them the toughest Minnesotans of the summer?  I think it makes them strong contenders.  I certainly know that the next time I think about complaining, I will think of them and hopefully keep my mouth shut and dream of snow.  Lots and lots of snow. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cry me a river

In case you didn't know, looking for a new job is tough.  Thankfully, I am not in a position that I am without work and am at a point of desperation.  However, with the end finally in sight for my MLIS degree, I am getting antsy about my prospects.

I suspect that this principle may apply to most professions, but in most of the library jobs I find that sound interesting, I am noticing that not only do they require a completed MLIS degree from an accredited school (which I will have after December), but they require at least some library experience. 

To me, this means that I need to get a library job that doesn't have the degree requirement so that when I do have the degree I will be able to fulfill both of these areas.  Got it? 

The problem with this scenario is that library jobs without the degree requirement are typically not high-paying or even necessarily full time options.  Personally, pay really isn't of huge interest to me.  Unfortunately, the people who send me monthly statements and bills may feel differently.  I own a house, which alone is enough to make me think twice about how much I can accept for income. 

You may be thinking, "Why not just sell your house?"  Well, it appears that the same thing that has happened to thousands of other homeowners in the U.S. has also happened to me.  I bought high.  I could go into all the complicated reasons why selling is a bit of a non-option for me at this point, but you don't want to hear that, right?

So... for the past few months I have been scanning posts and occasionally submitting applications and resumes for positions that I think I might have a chance at getting.  So far, nothing has come of it.  I am not sure if my resume is weak due to the fact that I have been at the same company for over nine years and it is the only job I have had since college.  Or maybe I am not writing up the right qualities and job duties in my list of accomplishments.  Maybe the font is off-putting.  Who knows.

Today I actually filled out an application to a position for which I know that I am over-qualified.  I wish that this could be some assurance that I would get it, but my confidence is really not that great any more.

Good grief, this is a whiny entry!  Time to get a move on!  Take a shower!  Bring the dog to the groomer!  Pick out a restaurant for dinner!  Brush my teeth! 

Maybe not in that order.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Plans for support

Well, it's Friday.  Like all Fridays, this brings the question from any and all acquaintances, "So... what are your weekend plans?"

This time around, I just shrug and say, "Not much."

Just so you know, this is the truth.  I officially have no set plans for the weekend.  Of course, I do hope to get my dog in for a quick nail trim treatment and my usual place is unavailable so I may brave the aisles of Petsmart.  Does that qualify as a plan?

Oh, and it is quite possible that I will embark on one of the most hated types of shopping imaginable (to a woman):  bra shopping.  About a year ago, I finally was introduced to the wonderful world of Nordstroms and their personal shoppers. 

Note:  if you are a guy who is related to me and get squeamish at talk of female undergarments worn by your sister/daughter/niece/other, read no further.

Back to Nordstroms.  Ladies, this is one of the greatest setups I have ever heard of.  You are ushered to your own dressing room and assigned your own salesgirl.  She measures you to get an accurate reading (because who really knows their proper bra size), asks about style/needs/comfort and then whisks away to find you a dazzling array of options.

After giving you a chance to try them all on, she reassesses your mood and needs and then goes back for another round.  This continues until you have what you want.  Or give up, dissolve into tears and run as quickly as you can back to the parking ramp.  But where did you leave your car?  Never mind.  That has never happened.  To me.

I think that one of the reasons it is so nice is that you really truly do feel like someone is taking care of you.  No longer do you have to dig through racks of delicates to find your size only to wonder if this particular brand runs big, small, loose, tight etc.  Your new fairy bramother will do it for you! 

There are only two downsides to this whole rigamarole.

1.  Good bras are EXPENSIVE.  I realize it is a necessary and worthwhile investment, but paying this much for a foundation garment is a little hard to accept sometimes.  Especially when I am the only one who really ever sees it. 

2.  The only Nordstroms in MN is at the Mall of America.  To be clear, I have nothing against the MOA itself.  I simply hate that I have to contend with the crowds that show up to such a gross behemoth.  I like to park near the store and get in and out quickly.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of parking where and when you need it.  There have been times when I have spent 30 minutes circling the levels of the parking ramp, only to end up parked in the middle of nowhere at the opposite end of the mall from my store.  After parking, I must then fight my way through the crowded hallways clogged with double strollers and lollygagging out-of-towners.  Grrrr. 

So... it looks like I may be adding another plan to my weekend.  True, it is one that is nearly guaranteed to raise my blood pressure, but at least I shall be properly supported.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Good news, world.  My air conditioner works!  Turns out I am not crazy and there was a problem.  But not a hugely expensive problem.

Truly Wednesday was a day full of amazing discoveries.  My air conditioner works, therefore Lena and I were able to sleep in our OWN bed last night.  The one I paid for.  In the house where I keep most of my stuff.  I say most because I do keep a few things at my parents' house.  Still.

Once the A/C was under control at a relatively minimal cost (relative to the $2000 I was afraid it would be), I made a Target run.  Not too exciting to some, but keep in mind that I have not made a full-on Target run for two months.  Pretty exciting to me.

In this Target run, I managed to acquire many essentials along with the inevitable impulse buys.  Such is par for the course at Target.  I went in to get laundry detergent, juice, milk, water and a baby gate.  I came out with laundry detergent, juice, ALMOND milk in two flavors, water, a baby gate, season one of "Modern Family," Triscuits, KaBOOM! bathroom cleaner, 409 Spray, Raid bug killing spray, OFF! mosquito repellent, a new retractable leash (in pink) and hamburger buns.  Don't judge.  It was all necessary.

I returned home to an excrement and urine-free properly air conditioned home to find my dog calmly awaiting my arrival.  It was nice.  I then proceeded to put away groceries and spray Raid around all my outside doors.  Don't worry, I kept Lena away from the spray as directed by the instructions.  No worries.

Today I am testing out the baby gate.  You see, I am embarking on a new phase of life for my dog.  I really REALLY hate kenneling her when I am out and have long hoped to be able to trust her to be unconfined during the day.  I am realistic about this; I realize that there may be some accidents.  That is why I bought the Bissell Spot Bot several months ago, right?

This is also the purpose behind the baby gate purchase.  While I do not think that Lena would actually choose to spend much time upstairs, there really is no need for her to have access to the second floor of my house while I am away, so I am trying out the gate to see if it will help her remember to stay downstairs.  If push came to shove, I am certain that my dog could scale (or leap over) this impediment, but I don't think she has much impetus to do so.  Her water dish and toys are all downstairs.  Plus she has access to a couch, two chairs and her dog bed.  Plus my living room is carpeted. 

I am strongly tempted to go home at noon to let her out, although she has been known to hold her bladder all day while kenneled.  Again, I am OK with accidents.  When I see the state of my house this afternoon, I may change my tune, but for now I am fine.

On a different note, this weekend is going to be a strange one for me.  Why?  I have absolutely nothing planned for it.  No homework, no parties, no trips.  It will be even weirder because this is normally the weekend that I go to Ely, MN with my mom and friends for our girls' cabin weekend extraordinaire.  We have known for a long time that this year was not going to happen (although it would have been our 10th anniversary).  I doubt that we will attempt to do any of our normal activities down here in civilization, so we will just have to renew our antics next year.  I wonder if the local fisherman will miss us.

To change the subject yet again, it appears that I have now been blogging on this blog for one whole year!  In the grand world of blogging, I don't know how that rates, but I am pretty impressed with myself for not abandoning the endeavor last August.  My stats and follower list may not impress that many, but the fact that anyone reads this at all is enough for me.  Here's to another year!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A/C Update

Well, readers, I must admit defeat.  My heroic attempts to avoid paying a repairman for my air conditioner have all failed.  I was supremely optimistic after replacing the filters.  It may have been wishful thinking, but I thought the air in the vents felt cooler before I left.

When I returned after work, it was clear that I was delusional.  It was 75 when I left and it was 75 when I returned.  No change, but after I moved around in there a bit, it moved up to 76.  Clearly, there is a need for professional help.  Rats.

I did briefly contemplate living with it and simply sitting completely still all the time.  But I don't know if Lena is capable of that, nor do I want to make her do so while I am away at work.   So... tomorrow should be interesting.  Hopefully by evening I will be back in my own bed.  With my dog.  And a nice, cool breeze. 

Filter THIS

So the saga continues.  Yesterday after work, I detoured up to my house to try out a new suggestion courtesy of our office manager. 

To do this, I had to first take care of a few other things.  First, check to make sure that my outdoor spigot is not still "winterized."  Check.

Second, locate the garden hose my father bought me when I moved into my house.  Check.

Third, change clothes.  This could get messy.

After completing these steps and hooking up the hose to the spigot I approached the air conditioner unit.  Using Leo's carefully explained method, I indirectly sprayed off the outer coil vents of the unit to remove any grass, cottonwood seeds, rocks, etc.  I think I did a pretty good job not only of removing debris but of not completely drenching myself in the process. 

Mission completed, I went back inside to wait a few minutes.  Obviously I realize that change takes time.  It is worth noting that it was 75 degrees when I got in the house and it was still 75 when I left.  It is supposed to be 70.  Meh.

The reason I could not stay too long to wait for results was that I had dinner plans.  While eating dinner I received another good suggestion.  So good, I feel a bit dumb that I did not think of it.

See, in most central ventilation systems these days, there are these things called filters.  Now, when I moved in, I was told to change these twice a year, usually in the fall and spring.  I always bought the fancy 3M Filtrete ones that cost in the range of $10-15.  No big deal.  Except when I am at Target and forget the size of the filter I need, purchase the wrong one and waste a bunch of money.

Anyway.  As hard as I try, I cannot remember exactly when I last changed the filter.  If I had to try, I would say it was probably last fall or even winter.  I am fairly certain that it did not get replaced this spring because I was not home very much. 

So when Nick asked if I had replaced my air filter, I had to sheepishly reply in the negative.  I then learned that I had been spending WAY too much on filters and replacing them nowhere near often enough.  Apparently one can find much cheaper filters at, say, Home Depot that can be replaced monthly. 

Therefore, my lunch break plans today will include a jaunt back up to my local Home Depot to purchase filters and another quick run to my house to replace what is likely a completely clogged one.  I will then hightail it back to work.

After work today I will be making ANOTHER detour to my house to check the temperature situation. 

If all of this seems a bit ridiculous to you, let me give you a bit more information.  You see, I have a scheduled appointment for the A/C repair person to be at my house tomorrow.  This will likely cost me money in the end.  Oh, and I will have to take off of work for it.  Not exactly the kind of thing I like to use my days off to do.  So... if I can solve this problem myself for the cost of some new filters (and gas for all my extra car trips), I will do it.  If it doesn't work, oh well.  At least I will be spared the embarrassment of having the A/C person find that everything was because of an old air filter.

The bonus to this is that IF this latest attempt works, Lena and I can come home tonight.  Of course, we will probably be back down on Thursday night for the weekend, but it could be glorious to actually get some cleaning done at my OWN HOUSE.  The one I pay for every month.  The one I will likely be paying for every month until the day I die.  Better get cracking.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Canadian ranchers and hormonal females

So right now I am a bubbling cauldron of hormones.  You can guess the biological reason, I'm sure.  If you feel that this is TMI, sorry that you had to face the cold hard truth of female reality.  Maybe you would like to hang out with my ex-boyfriend for a while and cover your ears when anything remotely related to women and nature comes up.

To update on the A/C situation, they are coming out on Wednesday.  No time in particular, just the "afternoon."  Between 12 and 4.  So guess who will be taking time off of work to sit in a warm house waiting for someone to come and tell me how much it will cost for me to have a house at a livable temperature?  This girl. 

So my dog and I are back at the parents.

Yesterday I went to St. Cloud to meet my aunt, uncle and cousins for my grandpa's birthday lunch at Famous Dave's.  I do love FD, but I do not get to eat there very much these days.  Perhaps now that my mom has tried and likes their Rich and Sassy Bloody Mary's, we will be back soon.  Fingers crossed.

Anyway, on this outing, the primary source of conversational entertainment was not my grandfather.  It was my cousins.  These are the cousins of Wii dancing fame. 

The first conversation of note remains somewhat perplexing to me.  I suppose that most of the nuances of it can only be explained by that special bond that two brothers in early adolescence can share.  It started with some sort of discussion about playing in band and somehow devolved into what my 11 year-old cousin wants to be when he grows up. 

Actually, the information did not come from the 11 year-old, it came from his eager-to-share 13 year-old brother.  For reasons unknown to me, the revelation that my youngest cousin may want to be a rancher someday was very traumatizing.  He was VERY upset.  Things got even weirder when big brother decided to add that little brother ALSO wanted to be a Canadian. 

A Canadian rancher, eh?  Sounds alright to me.  I tried to reassure him, but I lacked the full backstory to know why this was so embarrassing, so my words were likely of little help.  Coincidentally, I have always secretly thought that if I couldn't marry someone as exotic as a British gent or a Scandinavian lad, I could probably deal with a Canadian.

Also, I often find myself perusing the Pioneer Woman blog in my free time just to look at her photos of cowboys in chaps. 

All this to say, if my cousin could somehow introduce me to some attractive Canadian ranchers, I think I could deal with it.  Unfortunately, he is currently only 11 and I am 31, so it will be a long time before he can work that hookup for me.  Darn. 

Moving on to the next most "interesting" thing that my 13 year-old cousin said.  We were discussing new teachers for the upcoming school year.  Apparently there are two teachers for 6th grade in their district, one man and one woman.  My older cousin had the man, but my younger cousin is set to have the woman.  No big deal, right? 

What made the conversation become more interesting was my older cousin's amusing logic for why he preferred male teachers.  Can you guess?  I would never have expected to have a 13 year-old boy admit to this in front of his mother, aunt and female cousin:  PMS.  I believe he used a euphemism for it, but essentially he couldn't handle the hormones.  A 13 year-old boy.  Ha.  Ha ha ha.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! 

All I can say is, the poor guy is in for a BIG surprise when he learns that potentially hormonal teachers are the least of his worries in this regard.  I almost asked the self-avowed woman expert whether or not he picked up any hormonal imbalance in my presence, but I figured that I would spare him that particular trauma.  This time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

So close yet so far

You know what they say about the best laid plans...

So today was supposed to be my big homecoming.  After staying at my parents' house for over a month (thank you, Mom and Dad), I was actually pretty excited to get back chez moi and spend some time dusting off cobwebs and getting back into my space. 

The only other big plan for today was meeting family in St. Cloud for my grandpa's birthday lunch.  As my house is "on the way," I decided that I would go up a little early with Lena and get her situated.  It was the big try-out for her as a free-range pooch in my house as I always feel terrible that she has to stay in her kennel while I am out. 

I arrived home fully expecting the air to be a bit stale.  Throughout the major heat waves we have had, I have not thought it wise to attempt to run my A/C as there would be no one staying in the house to appreciate.  Besides the spiders.

So, when I came in, one of my first steps was to get that started.  The room temperature was at 77 degrees.  Not terrible, but not livable for me.  So I set the temp to 70 and turned on the system.  It roared to life, and I was comforted by the fact that within a minute, the room temp had dropped to 76.

Once I had Lena secured with a fresh Dingo and "Rocky & Bullwinkle" playing on the DVD, I took off.

I returned home a few hours later to discover that Lena had survived the time alone, the DVD was done playing, Lena had piddled upstairs and that the room temp was 79.  All in all, nothing disturbed me quite as much as the temperature.  The system was clearly still running, and air was coming from the vents, but it did not seem to be dropping in temperature.

I decided to drop the set temperature to 65 and take Lena for a walk.  It was actually nicer outside than inside.  I suppose you are now wondering why I would not open a window.  Simple.  All of my windows face west and I have no cross ventilation.  Plus, I wanted to make sure that the A/C worked as my dog would be staying in the house all day tomorrow.

After the walk, conditions had not improved; in fact, it was 80 on the temperature gauge.  I took the next step and called my parents to see what advice they could offer.  I checked the fuse box as I had been told there was a power outage in my neighborhood last week, but that looked fine.  I checked the fan on the A/C unit, but it was moving. 

At this point, my only guess is that air is being moved and recirculated, but not cooled.  I put in a call to the local A/C repair company, but they are not open on weekends.  I then repacked my bags and took off with Lena for my parents' house once more. 

This time around, I only brought enough clothes for three days.  Hopefully the A/C guy will call tomorrow and the fix will be quick and relatively cheap/painless.  If not, I am afraid that I will be imposing on my parents for a bit longer.  While I certainly appreciate their hospitality, the amount of dusting and general cleaning needed at my house is starting to make me nervous. 

So if any of you are A/C experts or have experienced this yourself, feel free to offer advice.  I did take a look at the unit and the connected wires, but it appears that it will need someone of a higher skill level than I to remedy. 

At least this means that Lena gets to stay at the house and take her bathroom breaks off leash, so it's nice for her.  And it gives me more time to get to the grocery store so that I will have something else to drink in the house besides old juice...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just dance

You know, when I wrote my last entry I firmly believed that I would not be able to write again for a long time.  Then I logged back in and wrote an entry.  A painful entry.  I am not going to share it, but I am glad that I wrote it.  All of the things that ping around in my head all day long eventually need an outlet that is non-violent, and I prefer not to write it all in a diary any more.  Childhood trauma involving my mother breaking through locks or something.

So here I am.  I am going to write.  The things that I write to publish will be less personal than the things I write just for me, but such is life. 

Have you heard of these things called "video games?"  Maybe?  Well, I have.  No, I am not a gamer, but I enjoy a good round of Mario Kart or Super Mario Brothers on my Nintendo Wii.  In fact I am actually good at Mario Kart (to the surprise of many). 

So last weekend, out in Brooten I encountered a new game.  New to me, anyway.  Not new to younger, hipper cats than me, I imagine.

My cousins own it and it is called "Just Dance 2."  This is obviously the sequel to "Just Dance," but I will get to that soon.

Essentially, one must watch and mimic a dancing silhouette on the TV screen while holding the Wii remote.  The motion sensor judges your dancing abilities from this and awards points.  It is a lot harder than it looks.  After watching and being owned by an 11 and 13 year old boy dancing to Kesha's "Tik Tok," I secretly vowed to imrpove my skills.  Of course, I did get the high score to Ike and Tina Turner's "Proud Mary."  But I need to work on it.

So... yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought myself the original "Just Dance" game.  While I was standing in the game aisle, an overly-enthusiastic floor sales rep approached me (as is their custom) to see if I needed assistance.  He noticed that I was looking at "Just Dance" and comparing it to the new "Just Dance Summer Party."  It was a tough choice. 

In situations like this, I like to seen more savvy than I really am.

Dude:  Hi!  Is there anything I can help you with?

Me:  Uhhhh, I was just looking at these dance games.

Dude:  Are you familiar with them?

Me:  Yes.  My cousins have them and they really like them.  [Note:  I was trying not to make it seem like I was buying this for myself.]

Dude:  Oh yeah, they're super fun!  We have the new Summer Party that I see you're already looking at and... [aside] you know, "Just Dance 3" is coming out soon.  You can preorder it if you want.

Me:  Why yes, I did know that.  My cousins mentioned it [Not true - I saw it online when I looked it up for myself.]

Dude:  So do you need any help choosing?

Me:  No.  I think I know.  This one has MC Hammer.  It is the winner.

Dude:  Awesome!  Let me know if you need anything else.

So yes, I did buy the one with MC Hammer.  Last night, I played it.  For an hour and a half.  It felt great.  I really needed to the physical exertion to get my mind off of other things. 

This morning, I was sore and could not figure out why.  Then I remembered all the flailing and jerking I did as I attempted to "dance."  But I cannot give up.  I must be awesome so that I can prove to my cousins, brother and the world that I can beat their high scores. 

Also, I would really like to get some of these moves down so that I can surprise people the next time I have the opportunity to dance.  Apparently, the 7th grade boys in Brooten (including my cousin, Ben) have used some of their Wii dance moves at the school dances.  That's right - BOYS.  The girls in Brooten (at least the 7th graders) don't dance. 

Picture it:  a group of awkward 13 year-olds moving in time to Kesha.  Unbelievable.  If only this stuff was around when I was in Jr. High. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Excuse me

Hi all.  I have been thinking about this entry very carefully, and I think that it is just best to be honest and let you know that it has been a terrible week.  Yes, school is done, but I really don't care.

On Monday, I received some of the most horrible news that I have ever had in my life.  My best friend's baby died in utero.  She was due today.  Instead of spending today texting my friend every 10 minutes to see if she was in labor yet, I am trying to explain to friends and coworkers "how they are doing." 

I thought about being generic, but for some reason I have opted for bluntness.  It is just a shitty time and there is no way to sugar coat it. 

Do not mistake me, I am not angry that people are asking.  It shows concern and care.  Ask away, really.  Just do not be surprised if I do not have much more to say.  The plan has changed, and no one is happy about it.  It is painful, it is disappointing, it is unfair. 

Be patient with me and at some point I will be able to write again.  But for the first time in my life, words are very hard to find.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Humidity? Nah, I don't believe in it.

You know that you might be a little crazy when you are happy to see rain outside.  Thus is the case with me.  After the disgusting heat/humidity combination of last weekend and with the impending doom of a repeat of this weather for the coming weekend, I am not upset at all to see a "normal" rainy day.  At least the temperatures are decent, right? 

So you've possibly all been waiting for my update on this past weekend and Bonanza Valley Days.  Or not.  Whatever.  I have been a bit lax in updates due to the fact that my summer semester is gearing up to conclude.  Last night I gave my super exciting presentation of a comparison between the Statistics Canada website and the U.S. government's website.  Thrilling, I tell you.

Now that the pressure is off for the public speaking component of the class, I can focus on the final two written assignments.  If you have learned anything from reading my blog thus far, you know that this is not something that I really stress over.  A five page paper?  Smeh!  Bring it on! 

With the formalities out of the way, I shall move on to the main event.  I have been a bit troubled at how best to summarize Bonanza Valley Days 2011.  I don't really feel that a daily play-by-play is necessary or interesting.  I shall try to cover the top salient points and hope that you will be able to get the general sense for what I experienced.

To set the scene, you must imagine a constant feeling of sweat, heat and humidity.  At times, to the point that even breathing presents a problem.  OK?  Now throw in a 2 mile walk/run with two dogs, but with my cousins finishing first and third in their group (go Ben and Joe!).  Add in numerous trips to the Red Onion drive-in.  Some bakery runs.  A failed attempt to have root beer floats.  Some amazing grilled chicken and out-of-this-world salsas and guacamole made by a gal from Arizona.  Buying beer with my 11 year old cousin (Note:  Not for him, just with him.)  Watching the bizarre people that the nightly street dances attract gather and preen in downtown Brooten.

Last but not least, there is the phenomenon known as Grandpa Geno.  How to explain?  I really can't, at least not in one entry.  Maybe in a multi-volume work?  Essentially, he spent the weekend baiting me over the fact that I dared to ridicule his honey supply.  His nearly-empty plastic honey bear with dried honey encrusted to the side.  Which he claims to use in his morning coffee.  And by "morning coffee" I mean the crystallized substance his sister, my great-aunt "Lena," left for him after her last visit in a small glass jar with a masking tape label displaying "INSTANT." 

In addition to continually asking if I wanted honey on any and all things I ate, he also proceeded to explain his "rationale" surrounding his decision to purchase and then not use his medication.  I am not talking big stuff.  Not prescription - although he has been known to ignore these as well.  No, he essentially has someone pick up allergy meds, reads the package and then decides that he doesn't "believe in them."  Don't even try to follow the logic.  Just know that this is what consumed a lot of my conversations last weekend.

So what are my big plans for this weekend?  Ummm.... back to Brooten?  You see, my youngest uncle is turning 50, and there is a party.  Complete with a cake that will hopefully read "Oh My Gosh, You're Old!"  At least that is what my cousin Joe suggested we use.  While I am certainly excited to return to good old Brooten again, I am even MORE excited that my brother is coming home for the event.  Of course this is because I enjoy seeing him, but it is also because is yet another witness to attest to the convoluted logic of my grandfather and who can share my sincere hope that such eccentricities are not hereditary.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Raindrops on roses

Oh dear.  It looks like this past weekend my readership levels were pretty low.  Not that I am becoming obsessed with numbers, but I am not sure if should be worried or pleased.  Worried for obvious reasons, but pleased because it means that the people who read me actually do have lives and real things to attend to.

As for me, I have been busy.  Not only is school gearing up for the grand finale of work, but work has been a bit of a drain lately.  Oh, and I spent the past weekend in the crazy experience that is Bonanza Valley Days.  I shall have more to say on this in the future, but to keep it simple and within my brainpower (and to have it done in the 10 minutes I have before class), I will share a simpler story.

Last night I had the duty (or privilege, depending on who you ask) of sharing my bed with both my dog, Lena, and one of my parents' dogs, Pippi.  They are nice girls and usually give me no trouble. 

Unfortunately, Pippi has a slight issue when it comes to storms.  Specifically, she gets a little worked up over thunder.  Nothing major, she just can't settle down and sleep until its over.  Normally, she heads for the basement and lays on some blankets, but my bed was on the second floor and my door was shut.  Oh, and we needed to be quiet because my mother was to rise at 4 a.m. for work. 

After a weekend full of obscene heat and humidity (and allergies) I was more than ready to sleep soundly on Sunday night.  I gathered my dogs to slumber, when... BAM!  An extremely loud and slightly scary sounding storm hit.  It was so loud and unexpected that both Pippi and Lena were startled and a bit shaky.

What happened next was a bit strange.  At least for me.  In my own head. 

All of the scary storm noises paired with the fact that I was trying to comfort a couple of scared young pups in my bed made me draw a connection to something sort of.... dorky.

Have you ever seen the movie version of "The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews?  I have.  Many times.  I am not going to go into background and set up for this for those who have not seen it, but those of you who have, you should know where I am going with this. 

Essentially, in my effort to calm the dogs, I found myself humming "My Favorite Things" to the dogs without realizing why I was doing it.  After a few bars, it hit me that I was pretending to be Maria singing to the frightened Von Trapp children.  Oddly, there is a line in the song that says "When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad." 

Can the song still be comforting to a dog?  I don't know.  All I know is that until that storm officially passed over our house, there was no peace for me.  Don't worry, it didn't drive me to think that I could make the dogs cute outfits out of my mom's comforter. Mostly because I wouldn't have the first clue how to do that.

OK, it looks like my time is up and I have to head down to class.  I am starting to regret that I did not take this time to find food.  A handful of Triscuits for lunch might not be enough to get me through the next three hours.  Or maybe the hunger pangs will be what keeps me awake.  Maybe it's time to sing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Keep a Cool Head

Depending on who you ask, you may or may not learn that I am prone to overreaction.  To some, I am deserving of the epithet of "laid back."  I believe this is largely due to the fact that I am a bit reserved in general.  Even shy if the mood strikes me.  It is true that I do not not obsess over things like germs, fashion, dust, hairstyles, decorating, etc. 

This is not to say that I do not care about anything.  Grades are important.  Being able to pay bills is right up there as well.  I also really care about Dansko shoes.  OK, so you don't really need a list of my likes, dislikes and don't cares, right?

I have been able to maintain the appearance of nonchalance for such a long time probably because I do not have children.  As long as my primary safety responsibility is for me and me alone, I think I have it pretty much under control.  I know now not to eat dirt.  I know that the water in the puddle is not for drinking.  I know that sharp pointy objects can hurt me.  Babies do not know this and children are in the process of learning these things.  This makes me a bit nervous to be around babies and kids at times, but I am pretty good at keeping these fears hidden from others.

Now that I have a dog, it has become a bit more difficult to keep the appearance of sanity at all times.

My dog is lovely.  She is usually very sweet and loving and despite her bouts of hyperactivity and Yoda/Cujo/Grover-like vocalizations, I think she is fantastic.

I do not really know the right way to phrase this, but Lena is also a bit "mouthy."  That is, she likes to pick things up in her mouth and carry them around.  Occasionally she will eat the object, but often she just likes to act like she is eating it.

This is fine for most things - socks, tissues, sticks, mulch, pinecones, etc.  Unfortunately, I discovered the extreme downside to this habit recently.

As I was preparing for work one morning (at my parents' house), I noticed that Lena was doing her usual routine when she has something foreign in her mouth where she rolls it around on her tongue and spits it out on occasion.  I heaved a sigh and went to see what the objet du jour would be, and to my horror and dismay, it turned out to be a straight pin.  If you are unsure of what a straight pin is, it is the kind of pin used by tailors and seamstresses the world over - a long metal pin with a small plastic ball head at one end.

After retrieving the pin from the floor, I examined it.  The pin was not bent, but the plastic end was indented as if with teeth.  My mother was not home to consult in the matter, but I set the pin aside to ask about later.

When I finally was able to show my mom the evidence, she was as shocked as I.  I honestly am not sure where Lena picked it up, but I did not find any more, so I was hopeful that this was the last of them.

Move ahead to last weekend.  I believe I have told you how I have tapped the domestic part of my skill set to embroider a cross-stitch sampler for my friend's soon-to-arrive baby girl.  Yes?  Good.  In order to complete said sampler before this baby's due date in two weeks, I have been working furiously in my free time and I am happy to say I am nearly done.

In order to keep this pace, I was forced to bring my stitching supplies to my parents' house.

If you have any knowledge of embroidery, you know that it requires a needle to pull the thread through the fabric to be embroidered.  It bears some resemblance to a straight pin in that it is small, sharp and metal.  It is usually a little bit thicker than a pin, and instead of a plastic ball at the end, there is an opening, or "eye" through which thread is, well... threaded.

With this in mind, picture this scene.  I was sitting in an armchair in my parents' basement.  I have a blanket on my lap, and Lena is on top of said blanket, napping.  I am working on my sampler.  My mom is in bed already.  My father is upstairs working on his computer.  All is peaceful.

Got it?  OK then.  Next, picture me finishing a section and preparing to place my needle on the table while I regroup.  Suddenly, something upsets my balance and the needle slips from my grasp and falls towards my lap.  Lena does not sense this and continues to slumber. 

At this point my brain flashes into alert readiness.  I carefully examine the area where I think it should be, but I see nothing.  My next thought is to get Lena out of there ASAP, so I gingerly pick her up and escort her out of the basement and shut the door to keep all canine investigators at bay.

Then the insanity starts.  Actually, no.  I think I was pretty calm at first.  I checked the expected places - the chair, the floor, the blanket.  Nothing.  Of couse it didn't really help that the carpeting in the basement is the color of dead grass, about 20 years old and not always thoroughly clean.  When my initial search turned up nothing, I had the momentary brilliant idea that I could perhaps use a magnet to help find what my eyes and fingers could not. 

A magnet.  Great.  Now where would I find one of those?  Maybe greater minds than mine would have thought of a better idea, but my first thought was the refrigerator.  I quickly proceeded up to the kitchen and selected what appeared to be a good specimen:  an orange square magnet with a black and white photo of a small child with the caption:  "Like most politicians, my pants are full of crap."  A former gift of mine to my mother.  Perfect.

With an episode of NCIS playing in the background, I laid on the floor and systematically swept the magnet across the ground.  Result?  Nothing.

At this point, I was starting to get worried.  And sweaty.  Our basement is usually a bastion of cool in the heat, but not that night. 

Anyway.  As I believed that I had exhausted the floor as a potential location for my needle, my attention turned to the chair.  It is a nice chair.  Comfy, etc.  My parents have owned it for many years, and I believe it came to us during the "Wisconsin Years."  The seat cushion is easily removed, but as no needle was immediately visible, I turned my eyes to the nether regions of the furniture.

I soon discovered that at the edge of the seat base there are deep indentations that can be accessed only by forcing one's hand deep into the dark reaches.  My preliminary expeditions gave evidence that there were indeed "objects" to be found in the depths, but I was not 100% sure my needle was among them.

What I needed now was something to prop open the crevasse to allow me to search with a flashlight.  But what to use?  After many failed attempts with a remote control and dust buster (useless piece of junk) I discovered that the dogs' Gumby rubber chew toy was perfectly designed for the task.  Armed with this setup, I retrieved about 42 cents in change, a safety pin and two pieces of ancient tortilla chip.  No needle.

By this time, I was really getting frustrated and even more sweaty.  How would I ever be able to let the dogs safely roam the basement ever again?  Would my parents disown me for negligent stupidity?  What would my veterinarian brother and his veterinarian girlfriend say? 

In one last effort to search the floor, I lay prostrate on the ground while all these overdramatic hypothetical questions ran through my head.  Finally, with my hands full of dog hair and dust (and goodness knows what else), I sat up and forlornly gazed at the magnet I had left sitting on the couch. 

GASP!!  I swear, I nearly fainted when I saw what was stuck to the backside of my little magic finder tool.  It was the needle.  I know you're thinking that I need to have my vision checked out right about now because I honestly did NOT see it there before.  So I have no idea when or where it picked up the needle during my search, but the important thing to know is that I FOUND IT. 

I triumphantly opened the basement door and Lena came rushing down to join me.  I apologized profusely and promised never to be such a klutz again.  I contemplated laying down a tarp around the chair while I sewed, but I nixed that idea quickly because I sensed that my mother would not go for it. 

So far, I have kept my promise.  Mostly.  I did drop the needle one more time a couple of days ago, but I was able to find it in two seconds because I actually saw where it went. 

The good news is that I am almost DONE with the project.  Until Baby Girl arrives, that is.  Then I will need to enter her name, birthdate and weight into the designated spaces.  But THEN I will be done.  Forever?  Quite possibly.  Or at least until the next baby comes along.  Hopefully my parents will have replaced the basement carpet with something that renders objects more visible.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I survived the 4th

It looks like I had a serious downtick in viewings over the weekend, but that is a good thing (in my opinion).  That means that instead of sitting indoors on your computer, you were out there in the world, experiencing the joy that accompanies an extended weekend celebration of Independence Day (if you are from the U.S.) 

In case you were wondering, my weekend was very nice.  Pretty relaxing, actually.  True, I was not quite as productive as I had hoped to be, at least from a scholarly standpoint.  On the other hand, I did complete my three chapters of reading and pretty much completed the work for this week's assignment.  It just needs to be typed up.  Oh, and I also did manage to locate some articles for next week's presentation just in time for tomorrow's deadline.  Boo-ya.

One important revelation I had this weekend is that I am really anxious to start spending some more time at home.  Nothing against my parents and their hospitality, but paying out for a mortgage every month really makes me feel drawn to actually sleep under that expensive roof once in a while.  Thankfully, two weeks from tomorrow, summer school will be OVER.  It has indeed gone by quickly, but I will not be sorry to see it end.

To be honest, I am feeling a little bad that I do not have anything interesting to share with you about my weekend.  Of course, this should be balanced against the fact that my next two weekends are going to be full of interesting stories to share as I venture out in both instances to scenic Brooten, MN. 

If you've never heard of Brooten, you really must Google it sometime.  You're sure to be impressed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Cry for Help

The time has come yet again for me to call upon you, my Accountabilibuddies, to help me help myself. 

Under no circumstances should you ever EVER EVER EVER EVER let me think that it is OK to consume Papa John's Garlic Sauce with my pizza.  No matter how much I beg, rationalize or threaten, you must hold firm.  It is absolutely VERBOTEN!

Here is an illustration:

Apparently I am contemplating the unthinkable.  What do you tell me???

Simple enough, right? 

As a thank you for your continued diligence, please enjoy this festive piece of art.  Happy long weekend!

Just Do It : New and Improved!!!

You know what?  I have been working on this entry off and on for FOUR days.  I suppose it is time to hike my skirt up and give 'er the old "Publish Post" heave-ho.  Sorry for the delay and any frustration, angst or confusion it may have caused. 

Apparently, the literary critics in the crowd (my mother) found my first entry to describe the Hallinglag adventure to be "boring."  I don't know how many others agree with this assessment, but I shall endeavor to liven this one up.  Maybe with some last minute plot twists, explosions or dancing cats.

I believe I left you all with the big reveal that I had a margarita with my lunch and that this was for good reason. 

That reason = Ulen, MN. 

Google it, I dare you.  Find it on a map.  Or just click on this word:  VIKING.

I have no interest in explaining the slightly ridiculous and hardly credible story of how a sword was discovered in a field that the locals believed to have magic powers or something equally implausible. 

Just know that I have been to this place.  Oh, and also know that if you are ever going to a new and unknown place and want me to drive, get specific directions.  I am very good at finding my way, but I am a firm believer that streets are given names and numbers for a reason.  Guessing at how many miles out of town we are to decide which random gravel road to turn on to is not going to make me happy.

Apparently this shed is old.  Some ancestor of mine may have built it.  Are you impressed?

Another old building.  Actually, I think the precise grass mowing is quite impressive as well.
Another view of the spectacular lawn.
The best part of the trip.  A barn full of vintage tractors.

As I am now paranoid about boring everybody to tears with my ramblings, I will give you the shortest version of the remaining events possible (from me).  After Ulen, the next big event was a "banquet" at the Fargo Sons of Norway Lodge.  I could probably spend some time explaining Sons of Norway, but you can just Google it, right?  Right.

At this point, I should probably gloss over the rest of the weekend.  Especially as it has now been one week since the events started.  However, I feel I must break for a moment to explain a strange and eerie occurrence.

My grandfather is a collector of "art."  His walls are amply covered with mostly framed enlarged photographs.  Two of his most noticeable non-photographs are large portraits of the former King and Queen of Norway, Haakon VII and Maud.  They are not originals; my father has always surmised that they were purchased or received free with other purchase of some other object at some point in our family's farm history.  At present, I believe they are located in my grandfather's bedroom where he can gaze upon them while resting in bed.

The point of this explanation is that these pictures are very familiar to me and other members of my family.

Imagine my surprise when I was wandering amidst the antique bric-a-brac of the Ulen Viking Sword Museum only to discover that the exact same pictures were hanging on the wall in the mock-up living room section.  Frames and all.  I quickly drew it to the attention of my father and uncle who were all just as baffled as I was to see their familiar faces.  In the end, we had a good laugh, took a few pictures and moved on with the day.

Sorry for the glare. 

An even greater shock was in store for us later at the Sons of Norway Lodge.  Immediately within the entrance to the building, right there on the wall above the sign-in book, guess what we saw?  You should be able to deduce the answer, but if not, I will tell you.  THE SAME PICTURES.  Twice in one day.  Coincidence?  You tell me.

I apologize for getting in the way.  And again with the glare... on my glasses.

Dear readers, I tried SO hard to find images of these pictures to share with you online.  I was completely unsuccessful, thus adding to the mystery.  How could two such paintings as ubiquitous as these not be out there for the finding in a simple Google search?  Maybe they are trying to send me a message.  Am I the mysterious true heir to the Norwegian monarchy?  Interesting thought.

Blech.  This entry has taken WAY too long to write and I just want to finish and be done.  It is time to start the 4th of July weekend already and I cannot bear the thought of this conclusion dangling over my head as I try to get some "real" work done on my upcoming school projects.  Therefore, please pardon the lack of detail in the conclusion of this narrative.

Someone is bored with my blog entry and clearly being overdramatic about it.

My Hallinglag experience concluded with the business meeting for the group where I also claimed my silent auction item that I was victorious in winning despite no opposing bids, followed by a trip to the Scandinavian Festival at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, MN.  I do not wish to imply that this event was not fun/interesting/worthwhile because it certainly was.  But in the interest of saving time, I will simply share that the highlight was the food.  Real Scandinavian food.  Especially the Danish Æbelskivers.  Mmmmm...

Perhaps I will write again this weekend as I endeavor to work ahead in my studies to avoid last-minute stress over assignments due to the fact that the next two weekends are going to be busy for me.  Procrastination in the form of blog writing is always good to get the scholarly brain juices flowing.