Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The End

Are you ready for another imposed theme?  Where to begin.... the end?

Let's see.  When I graduate in December, my grad school experience will be at an end.  Is that OK?


Shall I ruminate on the word "end?"  Really, doesn't it look more like a word fragment than an entire word? 


How about we change it to "The Ent" and make it a LOTR thing?  Hark!  Is that Treebeard?


"The End" of summer? 

Been there, done that.

OK, then.

Once upon a time, there was a woman.  Some might still call her a "young" woman, but age is relative, so we'll keep it general. 

This woman had many friends and a nice family.  And a dog. 

One fine Saturday in the month of August, she attended the wedding of an old friend.  The event was lovely, but the mosquitoes were not.  Hence, the woman ended up with approximately 15 bright red itchy welts on her feet for the next week.

In consideration of everyone around her, she opted to forgo the wearing of skirts lest anyone see her wounds and assume she was a carrier of the Plague.

The End.

Well?  Not my greatest work, I will admit, but my feet are SO DARN ITCHY!!!!!! 

On a different note, can I do some product placement? 

As a single gal, I recognize that grocery selection is important.  If you wish to avoid the temptation of certain foods in your daily life, the solution is simple.  DO NOT BUY THEM. 

This has proven harder for certain things than others through the years.  One thing that I usually am good at avoiding is ice cream.  Bypassing the dairy treat aisle at the store is not hard to do.  There is usually nothing else in that area that I legitimately need.

Honestly, the only brand that usually throws me for a loop is Ben and Jerry's.  Their creations are unique and come in such beautiful containers.  Plus, they are small, which sometimes leads to last minute justifications on my part.

Then the Blue Bunny company upped the ante.  If there is one weakness for me in the sweets department, it is cake.  Almost any cake will do, except for perhaps coconut.  Or anything with raisins.  But otherwise, it is all fair game.

A few years ago, a new cake trend moved its way out of Southern tradition and into our cold Northern households:  Red Velvet Cake.  There is just something special about it.  The bright and startling shade of crimson.  The not-so-overpowering level of sweetness.  The hint of chocolate.  Combine it with cream cheese or buttercream frosting and it's all over.  I'm done for.

Well, the Blue Bunny company hopped right up onto this bandwagon and combined forces with Duff Goldman (of Food Network cake-making fame) to make Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream.  They have been advertising this stuff for months, but I remained steadfast.  Until this week.

To use a semi-current popular slang term, OMG.  This is amazing stuff.  So amazing that I would honestly consider cutting out all other foods and meals to eat this once a day.  OK, so I haven't exactly eliminated all other foods, and I do consume it in moderation.  But it is difficult to restrain myself.  This stuff makes me so happy, I wish that I could just kiss Chef Duff on his shiny bald little head.  And then hug the Blue Bunny.

Now that my ice cream truck is up and running, I may just have to sample the new and supposedly amazing Sweet Corn ice cream at the State Fair this weekend and do a side by side comparison.  Of course, I still need my chocolate shake in the Dairy Building.  Hm.  This could be a high dairy count weekend for me.  Better get myself in shape.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

School Days

Please be kind to me; I just realized that the month of August is nearly spent.  In just more than one week I shall be returning to the hallowed halls of learning to start my final semester of graduate school.  The full meaning of this has yet to sink in, but I am sure that once I go to my first classes and experience that rush of anxiousness that arises whenever I learn just HOW MUCH I will have to do, it will hit hard.

At the risk of sounding like a total lame dweeb, I have to say that I do like the feeling of returning to school in the fall.  My first year out of college, after I had decided that law school was not the path I wished to follow, I found that I was depressed when September came around and all I had was a job to fill my time.  I felt like I was missing something.  I suspect that I was mourning the end of youthful irresponsibility. 

True, this realization should have come much sooner.  Perhaps at graduation time?  But no.  It took the passage of Labor Day followed by a day of the same sort of thing I did the Friday before to really awaken me to the reality.

As much as I would like to think that this was because I just love learning, I think there may be some other factors in play. 

First of all, school is a social outlet.  Every year, we eagerly awaited the end of the school year and the perceived freedom that summer vacation entailed.  Days of sleeping in, playing outside and not having the pressure of grades and homework seemed like heaven. 

In addition to this, summer vacation meant a bit of natural separation from one's friends.  Sure, play dates could be arranged when we were kids, and impromptu gatherings occurred once we were old enough to drive, but that routine daily contact within the safe hallways and classrooms of school were out of the picture.

Normally, the only people that one would see over the summer would be the friends close enough to make an effort to contact.  All other periphery acquaintances were put on hold and out of mind.  (Unless they were cute guys.  We would usually try to make an exception for them.)

By the end of summer, we all had adventures and new stories to share.  We were all a bit more tan.  We all had new clothes.  New pens, folders and notebooks.  We were ready to show off. 

In high school, we always had to make a visit to the school about 1-2 weeks prior to classes starting for "orientation."  Fees were paid, pictures were taken, hugs were given.  It was one's first chance to premier a new look or to wow someone special.  Everyone received and compared their class schedules. 

When we all arrived at school after Labor Day, the excitement had not completely worn off.  Arriving in classes on the first day was always a bit exciting; especially if it turned out that many of your friends were in your class as well.  It was a bonus if one of your crushes was in there as well, as long as it wasn't a class that promised to prove embarrassing at some point (like P.E.). 

As the first week wrapped up, everyone prepared for what was usually one of the first home football games of the season.  At this point in MN, the weather is still nice and the sun is still shining when the game starts.  It was tradition in our school to have a dance on the first Friday as well.  Again, another great venue to show off our tans and bust a move in front of hotties that hadn't seen us all summer.

After a few more weeks, things started to die down, classes got more demanding, tans started to fade.  Homecoming week always stood as the "last hurrah" of the fall before we moved into the long haul of winter that would only really conclude with the start of summer vacation.

I suppose if you don't live in a climate like MN, your feelings about the school year cycle may be different.  For instance, if you live in Texas, you may enjoy warm weather year-round and your ability to tan may not be dependent on your willingness to fry in a tanning bed or apply orange-tinted lotion.

But for us, the celebration of fall was essential before entering our coccoons for winter to emerge pale and pasty in the chilly sunshine of spring. 

So for all you students out there returning to the world of academia next week, enjoy yourselves.  The next couple of months are the best of the year, so make the most of them.  Even though I am a 31 year-old graduate student, I shall endeavor to share in the spirit of the new year as well.  Minus, of course, the dances, football games, and P.E.  Oh, and the tan.  I am definitely without the tan.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday is Fun-day!

Don't get too excited.  I did not actually post twice in one day.  The post I put up earlier today was actually written earlier, I just didn't get around to publishing until this morning.

I just got back from an exciting Sunday outing that has been affectionately dubbed, "Sunday Funday."

First, let me say that my Saturday was also quite fun.  I attended the wedding of an old friend.  Katie and I have known each other since grade school, and we suffered through the indignity of being orchestra geeks together for three years.  We referred to each other as "Cello Buddies."  Fortunately, our cool factors were great enough to lead us out of this temptation and into better social circles.  We ended up together in church activities and even chemistry lab partners in high school.

We did lose touch after high school (I blame this on the fact that Facebook did not yet exist at the time), but reconnected at a random U of MN Gopher hockey game several years ago.  If you need to know anything about Katie, know this:  her voice carries.  Big time.  So when you hear your name being shouted by said voice across the entrance of Mariucci Arena, it isn't hard to guess who is doing the shouting.

After this chance connection, we made sure to get in touch and managed to get together with each other (and Jill) every six months or so for the past... five years? 

Katie is awesome.  I know, I know, all my friends are awesome.  But they are all awesome in different ways.  Katie is fun.  Really really fun.  She has an awesome job, a great family and people just love to be around her.

So when she mentioned at one of our dinner outings that she was seeing someone new, we were excited.  Six months later, she brought Dan to my 30th birthday party.  We were all impressed; he was clearly a good guy.  When they became serious travel buddies, we knew that this was probably "the one."

Yesterday, they got married.  It was (of course) a lot of fun.  It was like a mini high school reunion, in fact.  Except that we are all older and much better looking.  Right?

I hesitate to say that there was a downside to the reception, because the fact that it was semi-outdoors was really very nice.  Until the sun went down and the mosquitoes took over.  As long as we were in motion on the dance floor, it seemed to be OK.  But as soon as we took a break, OMG. 

Even though it was hot, I was forced to keep my cardigan on to protect my shoulders after three nasty bumps appeared.  My feet were not so lucky.  I would love to be soaking them right now in a nice ice bath, but that hasn't materialized just yet.

But this brings us to today.  My friend Briana introduced us to Sunday Funday a few months ago after a particularly lovely brunch.  It so happens that the local VFW has BINGO every Sunday at 2 p.m.  The drinks are cheap and the BINGO cards are even cheaper. 

So when we received the text that Sunday Funday was happening again today, we were all ready.  While there were two big winners in our rather large group, I was not among them.  Additionally, as the day wore on, the temperature of the room rose by about 100 degrees, so we were all sweating pretty hard by the time we called it quits.  One of these days we will make it to the final blackout round, but probably not until the winter chill brings us a little relief.

So for all you people who thought that I was maybe turning into a bit of an old fuddy-duddy, I offer up this weekend as an example of why I am still able to party with the best of them.  If the best of them are all over 30 and like to play BINGO and dance to Warren G's "Regulate."

Challenge Accepted

I am trying something new, readers.  I am trying a "writing prompt" from a blogger website.  What is the prompt?  See the title of this entry.


If you knew me in high school, you probably did not find me very exciting.  I was a rule-abiding, school-attending Borey McBorrington, that's for sure.

How do I know for sure?  Take a look at my yearbook sometime.  If you dare.

If you do, you will find that I participated in one of the hallmarks for boring kids who secretly wish to be exciting and cool:  band. 

Don't let those stupid people on Glee fool you.  The real nerds are not in choir.  Nobody throws beverages on kids who can sing like that.  If you want to find some good old-school geekery, go to the band room.  (Of course, anyone at my school could tell you that the really hopeless yokels were actually in orchestra, but that's a different story.)

When I was in middle school, 5th grade to be precise, my band journey began.  It all started with the age-old question, "What instrument is right for me?"

Always a bit of a non-conformist, I was drawn to the eerie and bizarre qualities of the oboe.  I had my sights set clearly on this instrument and no one was convincing me otherwise.

Before I could officially begin my life as an oboist, I had to meet with the band teacher.  His name was Berge.  Pronounced "burr-jeee."  He was an old fart, but that is again besides the point.

Essentially, Berge managed to talk me out of the oboe.  This was accomplished in a sneaky way.  Actually, no.  It was not sneaky.  It came down to the fact that we already owned a clarinet that formerly belonged to my mother.  Clarinets look an awful lot like oboes, and according to Berge, they were easier to learn.  Thus, I became a clarinetist.  Clarinetter?  What is the right word?  Someone Google it, quick!

By some amazing act of God, I remained a clarinetist right up through my high school graduation. 

Lest you think that clarinets are girly, let me notify you that we had THREE male clarinetists in my high school band, all in my grade.

Two of these guys were screw-offs.  My assumption is that they were high most of the time, but they may have just been dumb.  I have no idea why they stayed the course so long when they were buried at the bottom of the pecking order.

What do I mean by "pecking order?"  If you are a fellow band geek, you probably understand the "chair" scheme employed by most directors to reward the best players with the most prominent positions.  In musical arrangements, first chair parts typically are closer to the main melody and are a bit higher in the register scale.  The level of difficulty is often higher for first chairs as well.

As one might expect, there are usually second and third chair parts to be had.  For instruments with larger populations, clarinets included, this leads to subdivisions in the section.  For example, in my band, there were usually three or four people on the first chair part and at least that many on the lower ones. 

Within each instrumental section, there was always one person designated as the titular leader (or tyrannical despot) known officially as the Section Leader.  Not only did this person get the solos for the group automatically assigned to them, but they were in charge of collecting and distributing music.  Sounds like fun, right?

You may recall that I mentioned there were three guys who played clarinet in my band.  Two of them were no-good slackers.  One was my nemesis. 

OK.  Maybe nemesis implies a more sinister tone than really existed.  Let me explain.

Adam (my nemesis) was honestly a very talented guy.  Musically, anyway.  Unfortunately, he had a problem when it came to truancy.  Sorry, is that not a word you know?  Sucks to be you! 

In many situations, Adam was able to skate his way through things simply because he was pretty good at music stuff.  As I was a person with broader interests that did not involve practicing my clarinet (ever), I did not have a problem with the fact that he was named Section Leader of the top band in the school as a 10th grader.  Some of the juniors and seniors may have done, but I had bigger things on my mind.  Like cute seniors.  Ha.

When a new school year started, the band director would set us up in order within our sections.  Usually our placement was determined by prior year performance, but I have no way of knowing this for sure.  So up until senior year, I was more than content to sit wherever I was placed as long as it was next to my friends.

At the beginning of my senior year, my band director decided to radically change the order of things.  How did he accomplish this?  He made me Section Leader. 

Honestly, I was flabbergasted.  Especially as he put Adam, my nemesis, three chairs down the line.  You can imagine that Adam, having held this "prestigious" position for two years running, was not pleased.

Almost immediately, he initiated his plan to regain control. 

In band, this is accomplished through the process of "challenging."  It has to be done slowly and it can take a long time for it to work.  Essentially, you must inform the band director that you wish to "challenge" the person sitting in the seat ahead of you.  The band director then notifies the challengee and assigns the two a song or even just a difficult passage of a certain song.  Both parties get a certain amount of time to practice and then they each perform it for the director who then decides the winner.  If the challenger wins, they move up a seat.  If they lose, they must wait a certain length of time before challenging again.

Oh but wait, there's more.  If the challenger should win, there is always the possibility that the challengee can request a challenge.  This is both time consuming and a pain in the butt.

Luckily, I had a few things working for me.  Number one:  he was three spaces down the line.  To get to me, he had to get through a couple of other people first.  Number two:  his issues with truancy.  Several times in the course of challenging my fellow clarinetists, he failed to show up to class on the day of the challenge.  Many teachers would probably have called this a forfeit, but ours were nice and allowed him to reschedule.

This had the unfortunate effect of keeping the challengees on unsure footing as the date of the actual challenge was constantly in flux. 

Oh, and the third thing working for me?  Everyone else in my section considered Adam their nemesis.  They found him to be arrogant, and I think they were all secretly pleased when he was taken down a few pegs in the pecking order.  Hence, they did their darnedest to keep him embroiled in challenges all year long.

Eventually, he did get far enough in the process to challenge me.  Did I practice for it?  Honestly?  No.  I did not.  I figured if my God-given talents were not enough to keep my seat, I did not deserve it. 

After several failed attempts to have the challenge (again due to Adam's truancy), we finally performed.  And guess what?  We tied! 

This meant that not only could I keep my seat, but he had to wait another two weeks before challenging me again. 

By this time, it was nearly the end of the school year.  Seriously, it was about three weeks from commencement and I had a lot going on in my life.  By this point, I was feeling a bit more punchy about the issue, and I decided that I would absolutely be sitting Section Leader at graduation. 

So I went to the director.  I explained my situation.  It was the end of my senior year and things were pretty busy.  I had held the seat all year long, and I felt I had done a good job.  I had held off Adam's last advance, but I really did not need the stress of another attack.  Could he just tell Adam that the challenge was off?

To my surprise, my director agreed.  It is my secret belief that the director was as annoyed with Adam as the rest of us and was happy to have a reason to shut him out of his crazy dream of winning at the last minute.

Oh, believe me, Adam did not take this well.  But the rest of us rejoiced in our victory for the underdogs.

In conclusion, or rather, as a postlude, I have not played my clarinet since graduation.  Adam, on the other hand, went on to play clarinet in the Marine Corps Band.  Good for him, I say.  But I will always know he never defeated me in a challenge and that gives me no end of satisfaction, no matter how ridiculous or petty it makes me sound.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Evening: a narrative

Clearly, Lena wants something. 

She has already been on a lengthy and smell-filled walk during which time she voided both her bowels and bladder.  Upon returning from this perambulation, she rapidly consumed her pre-portioned 1/2 cup of food and a small amount of water. 

Now that she is done, she does not appear satisfied.  As her human companion eats her dinner in a much more refined and less rapid manner, she paces.  Occasionally she pauses to pick up an errant toy, thrash it about before tossing it across the floor.  Each time she completes this show of prowess, she furtively glances at the girl to see if she notices. 

When the girl finishes her dinner, she returns full focus to Lena.  She even goes so far as to pick up toys and attempt to play in the way that Lena likes.  This is not what Lena wants. 

After several more minutes of miscommunication, the girl finally acquiesces to Lena's implied demand and gives her a chew-toy treat.  Lena happily consumes this gift within 10 minutes and is again restless.

As the girl has used the 10 minute break to start her computer and check out the world on the Internet, Lena now has to try a bit harder to get noticed. 

She tries for a physical attack.  As she is clearly barred from standing on the computer, she cozies up next to the girl and dramatically throws her body towards the girl's lap.  She repeats this exercise until the computer is put away and the lap is clear.  Success!

Lena contorts her body into odd shapes on the girl's lap and throws in some alien-like noises for good measure.  The girl tries to calm and cuddle Lena, but this is not what is really needed.

Once she is certain of the girl's attention, Lena leaps off of the lap to the floor.  She play bows to the girl with her plume-like tail waving wildly.  The girl stands up.  Lena eagerly runs to the front door with an expectant look.

Although the girl is doubtful that Lena needs to perform bathroom duties, she decides to be safe rather than sorry and grabs Lena's collar and leash.  The two then emerge into the fading sunlight covering the front yard.

With her head held high, Lena surveys the surrounding area for friends, enemies and squirrels.  Finding none, she lowers her head and sniffs out a trail on the ground.  Eventually this trail leads to the grass and she begins a more intensive sniff investigation.  When a scent of interest occurs, she pushes her nose further into the grass, as if to force out anything that might be hiding. 

Most of the time, nothing emerges.  In rare instances, tiny frogs or insects have fled the nosy intrusion, but tonight there is no one home to disturb.  Lena continues her hunt for several minutes before the girls realizes that there is no imminent need for them to be outside as any urgent bathroom needs would have been attended to already. 

While the girl would love to allow Lena to remain outside without a leash, this is not possible.  First of all, the rules of the association forbid unleashed dogs to roam free in the neighborhood.  Second, Lena has a tendency to snatch up and eat foreign and potentially harmful objects if not carefully monitored, and the outdoors is teeming with such things.  The bill for the full day of vet care Lena received two weeks ago for an unknown stomach issue still remains prominent in the girl's mind.

The girl simply says, "OK," and the Lena gives up her search.  She turns and walks towards the front door willingly.  They enter the house and the girl removes Lena's collar and leash. 

After a short break in which Lena drinks some more water, the girl fills Lena's treat-dispensing ball with small chicken-flavored treats, and Lena is occupied for another 10 minutes.  When this exercise is over, Lena is satisfied.  She lays down at the opposite end of the couch from the girl and dozes.  She does not sleep soundly as one eye is always kept open on the off chance that the girl moves or is inclined to give her another snack.

I call this, "The Nightly Routine of Megan and Lena." 

Pondering the past

Today is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair.  I have written about this before, I think, so I will spare you the details.  While I would love to be there for opening day, I sadly must heed the call of duty and be at work.  Again, I would love to partake in the festivities this weekend, but I have a wedding to attend on Saturday.

Lucky for me, my brother and his girlfriend are coming home next weekend specifically to go to the Fair, so I know that I will get there eventually.  Hopefully they will save a Pronto Pup for me!

Last night I spent some time on Facebook.  Due to some changes in my internet connectivity at home, I have not been as much of a FB stalker as I used to be, but I think that it alright.  I have noticed that some people reach a point of burn-out with the site and opt to simply inactivate their profiles rather than just cut back.  I suppose this demonstrates a lack of discipline, but I am always surprised.  It is never the people you wish would try it; it always seems to be the people you don't see on FB that often anyway.

Oh well, I have no intention of quitting any time soon, and I think that I have managed to get to the point where I can just check in occasionally on random friends and find out who is engaged, pregnant, divorced or taking a vacation.

In the course of my perusal, I happened across a picture of me with three of my friends that was taken approximately three years ago.  We were gathered for my friend Emily's bachelorette party in her sister's apartment.  Everyone is smiling and holding martini glasses with the yummy grapefruit cosmo that her sister served us way to many of over the course of the evening. 

Anyway, the drinks are not the point.  When I looked at the photo, I realized that the ratio of married to single in that photo is now inverted.  At that moment in history, Jill was the only married girl of the four.  Emily was shortly to be married (as it was her bachelorette party), but technically she was still unmarried.  Rox, the third friend, was definitely still single, although she had just started dating Bill, her future husband, about two months prior.

Now here we are three years later.  Jill is still married.  Em is married with a two year old daughter.  Rox is married and she and her hubby are building their dream home.  As for me?  Well... I got a dog, didn't I? 

Don't worry, this is not a pity party.  I am not here to lament the fact that I appear to be the cheese left standing alone at the end of the Farmer in the Dell.  Although that is a good analogy, right?  I haven't played that game for a loooong time.  Maybe we will play it at Saturday's wedding dance?  I can always request it.

I really do love that my friends are all married.  They are all still my friends; they just have an added support person in their lives.  True, on occasion I do wish that I had such support (especially in driving situations), but I have done alright so far and I can continue to take care of myself if that is what I need to do.

My point is that things can change quickly.  One minute you and your friends are all single, sitting around and sharing your dating horror stories, and the next minute you are discussing gift registries, house plans and family planning.

In my social life, the most obvious change is that I get out far less often.  At first, this bothered me quite a bit.  Now that I have adjusted (mostly by adding graduate school into my schedule), I don't notice it as much.  This may change once I graduate, but maybe I will take up a new hobby.  Embroidery?  Cooking?  Dog fashion designer?  The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Heed this

Months of research have rendered up results that I find a bit surprising.  Keep in mind that this research is far from scientific and probably not reliable.  Highly subjective, you could say.

For all you men out there who are a bit squeamish about things related to women's health, avert your eyes from this blog entry.

Once a month, pretty much on time down to the minute, I experience my period.  (Please note:  I did contemplate using a euphemism for "period," but I think the time for delicacy is long gone.)  If you are too young to know what I mean at this point in the entry, you can probably skip this entry as well.

When discussing periods (or menstruation if you want to be proper), the discussion almost always leads to PMS horror stories.  PMS, if you did not know, is Pre-Menstrual Syndrome.  It is that blessed span of time shortly before the start of the monthly menstruation when hormones start to get all funky which leads to some fairly erratic mood swings.

Honestly, I think that the PMS excuse gets abused a lot.  Let's face it, sometimes we're just crabby and we like to have a medical excuse for it.  Men fear the letters.  If you're a man who is still reading, you know what I mean.

This is not to say that PMS is bogus.  Oh no, I can definitely say that hormonal mood swings are for real and that they greatly increase in intensity when my "monthly visitor" is due to arrive.  (There.  I used a euphemism.  Happy?)  This does not always equal anger.  It can sometimes mean a greater tendency to weepiness, which would explain why I got teary-eyed during a recent episode of Ice Loves Coco on the E! Channel.  Do NOT ask.

My recent research has been into a strange phenomenon that seems to happen at the end of my period.  Obviously, hormones are still in play, but it seems that all my rage comes out when I am almost done with the cycle.  Seriously.  One minute I am calm, fine, at peace with the world.  The next minute, some minor setback that would normally just cause me minor annoyance has my blood pressure skyrocketing and my internal temperature increasing rapidly. 

Why does this matter?  Maybe it doesn't.  But maybe this can serve as a warning or wake-up call to people who have wondered why their moods didn't immediately improve once their periods were done.  Maybe you've been wondering if you're just a crabby person that hates everyone and this troubles you.  I am here to say that you're not alone. 

If you are the person who has to deal with a woman who turns into a fire-breathing dragon at the drop of a pin once a month, let this be a warning.  Once you know when the woman in your life is scheduled to entertain Aunt Flo (another euphemism), you should just plan to keep your potentially controversial comments and suggestions to yourself.  Maybe you can bring them up in a week or so.  If you dare.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Walking Wisdom

Due to thunderstorms this morning during our awakening/walk time, Lena was forced to do all her bathroom duties in our own yard while I waited under the porch overhang, holding her leash.  Of course, as soon as it was time for me to leave for work, the clouds had parted and the downpour had ceased.  Forecasts are calling for high temperatures accompanied by high humidity, so our afternoon walk could be a completely different story.

Now that we are doing morning walks, I have started to notice some different things about my neighborhood that were heretofore unbeknownst to me. 

First, I am starting to know the sprinkler schedule.  Ours is a fully automated system, the timing of which is determined by some unknown and all-powerful lawn expert.  For example, I have learned that if I want to take Lena out for her last bathroom break of the day around 10:30 p.m., the sprinklers for my yard will be going in full force and I will need to walk her down the street to find dry grass.  Therefore, it is generally a good idea to wear pants.

At 5:45 a.m., on the other hand, my yard is quite safe.  Unfortunately, this is the time that many of the walkways through my neighborhood are transformed to a bit of a gauntlet set up.  If you time it right, you can run or briskly walk on the sidewalk without getting soaked.  However, trying to do this while tethered to a very curious part-terrier is a bit tricky.  As of late, when in doubt, I opt to walk in the street.  Now that the sun is rising a bit later, this may be a bit more dangerous.  Maybe it is time to invest in some reflective clothing?

The second thing that I have noticed is that there are a LOT of people who leave for work at 5:45 a.m. in my neighborhood.  Frankly, I am a bit impressed.  While I am struggling to get out of bed just to throw on shoes and do the zombie walk with Lena, my neighbors have showered and are ready to operate heavy machinery.  Wow.  It should be noted that I am not the only resident to be up walking the dog at this time.  I am never quite cognizant (or groomed) enough to really want to encounter them up close, so we usually do the head-nod greeting from a safe distance.

In the center of my neighborhood there is a lovely little man-made pond.  I suspect it serves as a drainage area, but during the day in warm months, there is a fountain that sprays and makes it look all nice.  At 5:45 a.m., the fountain does not run.  As of late, there has not been much by way of a breeze in the morning, which means that this lake remains quite still.

This body of water attracts a certain breed of waterfowl known as geese.  I am no ornithologist, and I dare not make the incorrect identification of the breed, but they are large, have black necks and leave green poop all over the place. 

Like I said, the sun is rising later as the days grow shorter, which means that we are walking in near-dark for most of the time.  This makes it much harder for me to note and identify goose droppings that may attract the attention of Lena.  So far we have managed to avoid them, but I know it is only a matter of time before one finds its way to her mouth or the bottom of my shoe.

I don't know if some sort of charm has befallen us for most of the summer, but today was the first morning that we were officially rained out.  I learned my lesson a week ago on why it is not a great idea to go walking in the rain.  It was after work and raining lightly.  I knew Lena needed to get out, so I put on my old rain jacket and some waterproof shoes for a "quick" jaunt.

About three blocks into the walk, it started to pour.  Hard.  Thankfully, Lena made the decision to poop right before this happened, so we were able to feel that we had accomplished something before we ran through sheets of water back to shelter.  My shorts, shoes, jacket and Lena's fur, leash and harness were soaked through.  After laying everything out to dry, I decided not to make that mistake again, if I could help it.  Running through downpours may have been fun in college, but I am not into it so much any more.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I continue to impress the people in the world around me with my thorough knowledge of pop culture, and I owe it all to Nintendo Wii.  Without Wii and its assortment of games, I not would know the words to any Katy Perry songs.  I would not know how awesome I am at dancing to Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell."  My skills at defeating all the odds to be super champion of MarioKart would still be undiscovered.

To be clear, I am not openly declaring myself to be the champion of all Wii games ever made.  But I am pretty good at some of them.  Maybe not Call of Duty or Raving Rabbids, but maybe someday.  Actually, combat games are never going to go well for me, so let's just forget about those.  I get too disoriented and just start shooting everything.  Never a good sign.

Now to totally change subjects!  Tonight I am going to a wedding.  It should be fun, but wearing a dress is always a little bit scary for me.  Why is that?


When I was a child, we were a regular church-going family.  Every Sunday, rain or shine, we were up earlier than is decent for a weekend, freshly scrubbed, dressed to the nines and expected to sit nicely in a pew and attend Sunday School. 

Most of this routine was not bothersome to me, but the part where we were "dressed to the nines" always caused some consternation.  At least for me. 

First of all, the prerequisite item of clothing to be considered "dressed up" is right there in the title:  a dress.  I did not hate dresses.  I was actually somewhat ambivalent towards them.  Sure I wore them on occasion in my daily rotation, but I wasn't the kind of girl who insisted on them (or against them).

Next, when wearing a dress, at least back in the 1980's, the ensemble could not be considered truly worthy of a formal occasion unless tights were worn underneath.  This served multiple purposes.  First, we lived in Minnesota and sometimes the weather was inclement.  Tights provided added protection for the legs from the elements and sometimes additional warmth.  Second, modesty is sometimes an issue for children as they are prone to climbing, running and jumping all over the place regardless of what they are wearing.  Underwear may come into view at some point, and this simply is not acceptable in public, especially at God's house.

Now that you know why I wore tights, I will tell you why I hated wearing them.  There is some inherent flaw in the design of tights, likely due to the fact that they encapsulate the feet as well as the legs and have a tendency to take a downward dragging direction in the course of movement while wearing them.  This sometimes leads to one's mother stopping to hike them up, often in an obvious and slightly embarrassing manner.  The top of the tights also have an odd propensity to "roll."  As in rolling down.  As in eventually rolling off.  This problem is uncomfortable and even more embarrassing to remedy.

The final piece of dress up that was required were "nice shoes."  While children's fashion has now evolved to include much more stylish and comfortable varieties of footwear, during the 80's in rural MN, there were far few options.  Buster Brown Shoes were the haute couture items du jour.  Mine were usually black flats with some sort of dressy punch out design on the toes and featured buckles.  They were not wildly uncomfortable, but they were extremely cumbersome to put on and remove.  Also, they were quite slippery on all surfaces, but apparently snow boots and/or Care Bear Velcro sneakers were not acceptable alternatives.

Now that I am older and have more control over my wardrobe, things are different.  When I wear dresses, I do not wear tights, or even panty hose if I can avoid it.  I also have a wider variety of shoes, some with buckles, but mostly with a heel.  I have now achieved some degree of master over buckles, but I have to admit that most of my dress shoes are slip-ons. 

Unfortunately, I still must contend with the sometimes inclement weather of Minnesota.  For this reason, I rarely wear dresses after October or before May.  As it is August, tonight I will be going without tights and wearing heels.  With buckles.  I hope this means that they will stay on securely as I intend to use some of my new-found Wii dancing skills to impress at the wedding reception.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Taking a break

As is often the case, my gas tank is perilously near empty.  It used to happen that my father would graciously utilize my vehicle to run his weekly Saturday morning errands, after which he would fill up the tank for me.  Those days appear to be over.

I exit the building and dart across the parking lot to my waiting oven-like car.  I would prefer to stroll leisurely as it is a nice day, but I am on a mission and time is of the essence. 

In order to avoid being stranded on the side of the road during my lunch break, I make a pit stop at my local Petro Pad.  Pay-at-the-Pump has made my life so much easier, and I ponder this as I stand and wait for the tank to fill with regular unleaded gasoline.

When the pump shuts off, I carefully remove the nozzle so as not to squander any precious and overpriced liquid petroleum.  After my receipt is in hand, I depart.  The whole transaction has taken less than five minutes.  Perfect.

Today is my lucky day; all the stoplights are timed in my favor.  Before I know it, I am on the freeway on the way to my mission's destination:  my house.  In good traffic, this journey takes about 15-20 minutes.  Traffic is good today. 

I arrive in my neighborhood and wonder at the lush beauty of August in Minnesota after a good season of rainfall.  Unfortunately, I do not have time to stop and smell the grass in front of my house for too long.  I push the button for my garage door to open and drive in. 

After fumbling for my keys for what feels like several minutes, I am finally in the house.  I consult my list of tasks.  First is "dog meds."  This is because today is Lena's day for Heartguard and Frontline.  Like an absent-minded fool I neglected to take these with me before I left.  I grab these quickly as I have made a point to keep them in a central location to avoid 30 minutes of hunting through cupboards and closets.

Second on my list is "scarves."  In my rush to depart on Tuesday, I was not able to locate the black shawl/scarve that my mother asked to borrow for a wedding on Friday.  In the meantime, I have thought of another potential hiding place for this item, and I go to find it.  Eureka.  I make a split second decison to grab a pink and blue pashmina for myself.  Time is of the essence, you know.

Third on my list is "mail."  As this is located outside the house at the end of my street, I opt to move this to the bottom of the list and move on to the next item:  "chocolate."  My mother picked up some wonderful confections from DB Infusions of Madison, WI last weekend, and I need to have them with me so that they don't go bad before I get home this weekend.  Into the bag they go.

There is nothing else left on the list except for the mail, so I grab my bag and head out the door.  I briefly ponder whether it would be more efficient to walk to the mailbox or drive.  I decide to walk.  As usual, my mailbox lock fights the insertion of the key with extreme valor, but I prevail.  It is only a matter of time before the tide turns against me, but for today, I am victorious.

Thankfully, the piece of important mail I seek is NOT in the pile.  Oh well, you can't win them all.  I walk back to the house, throw all my listed items in the car, and back out of the garage.  Absently I push the button to remotely close the garage.  As I drive out through the neighborhood, I pause in a brief panic to try and remember if I closed the garage.  I consider looping back, but this would take too long and traffic on the return voyage can be unpredictable.  If someone wants to steal my old bike and the foosball table, oh well.

Sadly, the lights are not in my favor on this leg of my journey.  People are driving like slow-witted dust mops, and I grow impatient.  After what feels like two hours (but is only 10 minutes) I am back on the freeway.  I drive over the speed limit, but within the threshhold for tolerance.  I breeze into the parking lot just in the nick of time to find the my parking space is still available.  It's a small victory, but it pleases me.

I march back into the office and return to my desk, slightly out of breath, but ready to resume working. 

Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Does anyone have any mango habanero hot sauce for me?

They say that variety is the spice of life.  Does this phrase make any sense to you?  It really does not work for me.  I mean, I like spicy food as much as the next guy, but can one really liken it to something as generic as “variety?”  Maybe I am being too literal.  Hm.

Readers, I know I say this a lot, but I am so ready for a new direction in my life.  Mainly, I am referring to my career.  If you can call it that.

Is the work that I do challenging?  Not very.  Is it rewarding?  Not at all.  Essentially, the only redeeming quality it has is that it provides me with monetary compensation that allows the other areas of my life not to fall into arrears.  But is that really enough?

“Sure,” you say, “for goodness’ sake, Megan, just be happy that you have a job!”

Yes.  I am indeed happy to have a job in the most basic sense.  Then why I am I daily tested not to just turn heel and walk out the door?

I am not going to be one of those people who blame all their issues on other people.  If I learned nothing from Stephen Covey, it is that no one can make me feel or react a certain way.  Sure, maybe sometimes their intentions are to generate a specific result, but ultimately, I should be in control of my own expressions and emotions.

That said, I recognize that the best way to remedy the daily feelings of frustration may be to remove myself from them.  Please believe that I am trying my best to do so.  Unfortunately, that process is not moving as quickly as I had hoped.

You may recall that I had a goal of finding a new job by the end of summer.  So far, that has not materialized.  As always, there are a few hopeful possibilities in the works, but alas, the process of job hunting is never quick and easy.  If only I possessed all of the experience, education and qualities that were required of every job I found interesting.  But the applicant pool is deep, it appears.  I am not the only one out there looking for greater career fulfillment.

The funny thing is, if you were to come to my parents’ house and hang out with us, you would find that both of my parents are singing a similar tune.  To be clear, my mother is working for a coffee shop chain and doesn’t “need” to work, but she would like to line up a “real” job before she quits.  Understandable.

My father is a different story.  For all of my life, my father has worked a full-time, 9 to 5, business-suit required job.  He has done a wonderful job providing for his family, but he always made sure that his free time was spent with us as well.  It’s hard to beat my dad.

He started his career in the field of accounting.  Not the most glamorous, but well-suited to his aptitudes and tendency towards fiscal conservation.  A little later in life (in his 30’s), he made a career switch to financial work in the health care field.  While this proved to be more monetarily rewarding, the stress level of dealing with health care professionals is a bit higher.  He is 56 years old and not quite at retirement age, but I think that he would retire if he knew that he could.  My mom likes to joke that now it is her turn to get the high-paying job and my dad to stay home with the “kids” (a.k.a. their two Jack Russell Terriers).  Maybe this will happen. We’ll see.

My well-thought out solution to all of our assorted job-related ennui is to think of a business plan that utilizes all of our advanced degrees and work experience, quit our jobs and go into business for ourselves.  Unfortunately, a business that incorporates finance, health care administration, counseling, coffee preparation and library science does not immediately come to mind.  I suppose we could convince my brother to bring on his veterinary skills, but still.

So until someone comes up with this miraculous business plan, I will stay put and continue my search.  It may lead me to take the desperate leap back into retail, but at least it would be something new, right?  Maybe that is what they mean by “variety.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lena Speaks

I apologize for my absence.  Please know that I started several entries only to be sidetracked by things like life.  And sleep. 

So in my stead, Lena will be composing this blog entry.

Howdy, Humans!  This is Lena Bernice, canine extraordinaire.  After all those nights trying to distract Megan from her blog to pay attention to meeeee by dramatically throwing myself across the glowing shiny box that she stares at for way more time than should be necessary, I am finally in CHARGE.

It's been a big week for me.  Honestly, it's been a big year for me, but you probably know all about that already.  Actually, time is really non-linear to me, so I don't think in terms of weeks, months, days, years, and so on.  I am pretty much an "in the moment" kind of gal.  But for you guys, I will stretch my powers of memory.

Last week I had a bit of tummy troubles.  To be fair, Megan had them first.  But because my spoken language skills are a bit lacking, I was not able to tell anyone what was really wrong. 

Megan did not seem too thrilled with the fluid that kept coming out of my mouth and landing on her bed and floor.  Next thing I knew, we were in the travel machine and when I was released, we were at my favorite place.  The place where Pippi and Thor live: the Happy Place.  The place where I am free to dig up worms and cover myself with their scent. 

Unfortunately, we did not stay here long.  After I deposited some more mouth fluid on the floor, I went back into the travel machine.  We went to a place that smelled like fear.  They poked and prodded me on a shiny table.  Then... horrors... Megan LEFT me! 

It felt like forever, but in the meantime, I made new friends.  It is amazing what some tail wagging can do for you in a joint like that. 

Megan came back and we went back to the Happy Place.  People came and went, as is their custom, but Pippi, Thor and I did not care.  We went about our business, sleeping, eating, chasing, barking, hunting and mulching without a care in the world.

On what Megan says is "Friday," I had to make another trip to a different building that smelled and sounded like torture and fear.  This time, I must have managed to scare them off because all they did was poke me with a couple of strange objects and we were free to go.  I did feel a little sore afterwards, but I kept the humans from touching the soreness by growling and screeching like a wounded Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Megan said I sounded like a gremlin.  Whatever that is.

Not too long after this, I noticed that Megan and the human she calls "Dad" were acting strangely.  Next thing I knew, they were forcing us all into our Garments of Forced Direction and attaching our tethers.  Pippi, Thor and I are always a bit leery of this action as it can have results of varying appeal. 

In this case, it meant that we were all going into a travel machine with Megan and "Dad."  Megan sat in the front near the large circle, but "Dad" sat in the seat with us.  Pippi sat on top of "Dad," but Thor and I laid down on the seat and tried to nap. 

After what felt like an eternity, the travel machine stopped.  This is my cue to bark as loud and as viciously as possible to ward off any potential predators that may want to ambush us.  It usually works quite well. 

We spent a lot of time getting in and out of the travel machine.  Sometimes we got out and went into familiar buildings.  One of them smelled really interesting.  Apparently the smell was not as appealing to Megan and "Dad" as they did not wish to stay there long. 

I did get to see two of my favorite people:  Ben and Joe.  They are always very nice and play with me and pet me.  There are two "cats" in their house.  I would like to know them better, but they are a bit standoffish.  They are not fans of butt sniffing.  Go figure.

Finally, the travel machine brought us back to the Happy Place.  We did some running and rolling, but we were tired.  If you can believe it, Megan and I got back into the travel machine and ended up back at home. 

Clearly, we were both pooped.  Megan tried to tap on the glowing shiny box to work on this blog, but her eyes kept glazing over.  We gave in and went to bed. 

In the morning, we went outside wearing the Garment of Forced Direction and the tether and paraded around the neighborhood.  We then returned to the house where I breakfasted and then watched Megan "get ready" with what I hoped was a mournful gaze.  Instead of letting me have free run of the house when she finally abandoned me, she asked me to return to my KENNEL. 

I suffered this indignity only because I know that it enables me to receive copious amounts of crunchy snacks. 

When she returned after what felt like ETERNITY, we went for our afternoon parade.  After coming home and dining, Megan disappeared into the smelly dark room where the travel machine lives and came back with a LARGE object.

Once it was on the floor, I examined it.  It appeared to be a larger version of my kennel.  Just to be sure, I went in as Megan requested and was rewarded with crunchy snacks.  My incarceration was short-lived, but I fear that there may be extended stays in my future.  On the plus side, the ceiling of this k-word is higher and the floor is bigger.  I can stretch out in there and do a little jig if I so please (and I do).

What will the future bring?  I hardly know.  If I had to guess, there will be more parading and eventually we will (hopefully) return to the Happy Place.  This new k-word along with all the newly washed sheets and carpets are really cramping my scent.  I need to roll in some worms.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nursery Rhymes

Note:  This series is from my back catalog.  I think I made it with the soundtrack of "Oklahoma!" playing in my head.

Francis or Franklin

OK, so that last entry was a bit lethargic.  I need to get snappier.  What is wrong with me???

Maybe it is due to the fact that I did not have espresso today.  Just two cups of the violently disgusting brew of toad droppings that is the coffee provided by my employer.  They mean well.  We used to get Starbucks.  I don't know who angered the office manager to the point that we had to switch to "Rainy Day Blend," but I apologize on their behalf.  Seriously.  "Rainy Day Blend?"  What a way to start the day.

I know that I have done it before, but this weekend I will be tempting fate and spending three days alone with three small hyperactive dogs.  One is mine, who incidentally is recovering well after her dramatic day in the hospital.  Although I am not a wildly social person, I have been making small attempts to reach out.  So far, I have had no affirmative responses.  Most people are going out of town.

Speaking of the hospital, it sounds like my grandfather is in one now as well.  Poor guy has been having some problems lately and being the true passive-aggressive Norwegian that he is, he hasn't wanted to complain, but it has become blatantly obvious that all is not well in his world. 

This is my only living grandparent, and he just turned 85.  While his health has not always been perfect, there is really no reason to suspect that he will not make it to 90.  Just not in his current independent living situation.

Getting old is not easy, no matter what age you are.  Suddenly finding that you can no longer do certain things and that you may have to become dependent on the kindness of health care staff to accomplish basic daily rituals cannot be appealing.  Thankfully, my grandfather is a social guy and I think that he actually likes the attention of the nursing staff.  Especially if they are cute girls.

Of course, he has also been known to attempt to play yenta for me.  Several years ago, during an extended hospitalization, I came to visit him.  After initial pleasantries were exchanged, he informed me that he had found me a nice young doctor to marry.  Thankfully, there was never a chance for introduction, but it was interesting to learn that my grandfather may be just as anxious to see me married as my mother.  Especially as this is my father's father.

Please keep in mind that this is the man who found great amusement in passing me false information about seemingly insignificant facts for his own amusement.  The most memorable of these instances happened when I was quite small. 

As a child, I was consumed with knowing minute and strange details about my friends and family.  You could say I was obsessed with trivial facts.  For example, I had a big interest in middle names.  After my first day of preschool, I came home and recited the first and middle names of every single classmate. 

Naturally, I made inquiries to family members as well.  I remember distinctly asking my grandfather about his middle name, and he informed me that it was Francis.  As a trusting child, I saw no reason to suspect otherwise. 

Fast forward to my teens.  I don't know how it came up.  Perhaps it was on a document or maybe someone mentioned it in conversation.  Either way, it was pointed out that his middle name was Franklin.  I was completely caught off guard.  I questioned the source and tried to insist that he told he it was Francis.  True, the two names are not wildly different, but I knew what I knew.

Turns out, he lied to me on purpose as part of a joke.  A joke that only he knew about.  A joke that would only reach its punchline many years later and likely not when he was present.  You may think that his sense of humor must be a bit off.  You may be right. 

Part of being in a family is knowing what makes everyone else "tick."  For all is bizarre ideas, my grandfather knew at my young age what sort of thing would work on me and my own idiosyncrasies.  He was right; it really did irritate me when I learned I had been duped.

I wish that I could say this was the only time he did this to me, but that would be a lie.  My gullibility has been the source for much amusement over the years, and even my own father has taken to participating on occasion. 

I really do hope that he recovers to trick me again in the future.  I need someone to remind me that I do not have all the facts yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Open to suggestion

It is always nice to get a long email from an old friend.  For those of you who don't know me personally, the fact that I tend to be a bit verbose in written form belies a certain aspect of my verbal communication preferences.  Essentially, I hate spending a lot of time on the phone.  Generally, anyway. 

Today I received an email message from a good friend who lives too far away from me to see on a regular basis.  It was nice; but it made me start to think about things that I have been trying to ignore for the present.

Essentially, at some point I need to decide what I am going to do.  About what?  My life. 

I am definitely open to suggestion, but I would prefer that the ideas fall into the line of the MLIS degree that I shall soon possess. 

Don't get me wrong, I realize that almost everybody goes through this sort of crisis every once in a while.  Being on break does strange things to a person's mind. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lena's digestive system revolts

Sit back and let me tell you the tale of my life for the past couple of days. 

It all starts on Sunday night with some severe stomach cramps that led to a very restless and wakeful night.  My constant movement and unsettled attitude clearly had an effect on my dog, who decided that 12:30 a.m. was the proper time to rise and shine for the day ahead. 

I was able to convince her to remain in the bedroom, but alas, there was no more sleep to be had for us.  This resulted in a "sick day" for my Monday.

It was a fairly lethargic day with one exception.  I decided that after my night of pain and drama that I would wash all of my bedding, including the three quilts that cover my bed every night. 

Monday night was eagerly awaited as I hoped that my general lack of sleep would make it much easier to get through the night.

This time around, it was not my stomach causing problems; it was Lena's.  Around 3 a.m., I was awakened to the strange sound that sounded like laughter at the end of my bed.  I saw Lena's outline and quickly switched on the light.  I beheld my poor dog sitting over a pool of vomit on my comforter and top sheet.  Although I was a bit disappointed to see this on my newly laundered bedclothes, I quickly stripped the soiled linens and put them in the washing machine. 

Optimistically, I returned to bed, hoping that this episode with Lena was a glitch and all would be well now.  I realize now that this was pretty stupid of me, but it was 3:30 in the morning and I really wanted those last two hours of sleep.

One hour later, Lena was curled up by my side when I heard the faint sound of her lips smacking.  Fearing the worst, I turned on the light.  Sure enough, she had vomited on the fitted sheet and another quilt.  This time, however, it also soaked through to the mattress pad.  At this point, I decided to cut my losses and get up.

More laundry was started.  I was upset.  I was frustrated that I had now washed the same things twice in 24 hours.  I was sad that I could not get more sleep.  I was worried that something was wrong with my dog. 

In response to all of these things, I had to sit down to calm myself and consider my options.  I did not want to take another "sick day" to sort this all out, but I could not in good conscience leave my dog alone while I was at work.  Not only because of the potential mess I could encounter upon my return, but mostly because I was not sure if she would survive.

My final decision was to pack up and drive down to my parents' house before traffic picked up.  My reasoning was that this would allow me time to clear my head and would also bring me closer to my vet clinic. 

Before I left the house, I made a quick call to my veterinarian brother in Wisconsin.  I knew that it was unlikely that he would be awake at 5:20 a.m. on a Tuesday, but I figured that leaving a message couldn't hurt.

I sent my parents a message to warn them of our imminent arrival and hit the road.  Shockingly, Lena did not vomit in the car on on the way to the house.  She had already vomited on the carpet of my loft, bringing her tally to that point to three.

We made it to their house safe and sound.  The dogs all greeted each other and my concerned parents offered up advice before departing for work.  I decided to shower and think about things.

Shortly after I finished my shower, Lena threw up a large amount of what appeared to be water all over the hallway floor.  I decided to give my brother another call.  This time he answered.  After consulting his veterinarian girlfriend, he told me that based on the number of times she had vomited, I should probably bring her in.

I dressed and we left for the emergency vet clinic.  Thankfully, we got in right away and the staff was very kind to me.  In the end, after more consulting with my brother, I opted to let her stay in their care for the day.  I know I did not make the wrong choice, but I am sure the monetary repercussions will not be slight. 

So yes, I was able to avoid taking another full "sick day," but I am still unsure about the final diagnosis for Lena.  I am hopeful that it will all pass through her system, tonight will be normal and tomorrow will bring no new drama. 

The past couple of days have felt like weeks.  I have a planned three-day weekend coming up alone with three dogs.  As long as there are no more vet visits, I think I should be OK.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hitching a ride

Weekends are typically slow times for blog updates for everyone that I follow.  For some reason, I have chosen to be a bit more prolific as of late.  We could explore the reasons, but it probably would not lead to a satisfactory answer, so I will refrain.

Right now I am sitting at my parents' house with three dogs, listening to the barks of two and watching the attentive listening of the third.  My mother is at work and my father has taken a day trip out to Brooten.  I think that I may put on some better clothing and visit my mom at work when I finish this entry.

Last night, I was able to meet up with some friends for dinner.  Two of them are regular readers of this blog - so HI Bill and Rox!  We had a lovely dinner at the Downtowner in St. Paul followed by dessert at Cafe Latte.  Always lovely.  The other friend on this outing was Jill who was gracious enough to be the driver.  Now that I have shared how much I love being driven, you know why I truly appreciated this.

We had good conversation and good food, and the only "odd" occurrence came after dinner on the way to the car. 

From my vantage point in the restaurant, I had a pretty clear view of the host/hostess desk and entrance.  As most of my focus was on my dinner companions, I did not take great notice of the other diners comings and goings. 

Towards the end of our meal, I did notice a man wearing a somewhat bright Hawaiian-style shirt conversing with the host, but that was mainly because of his shirt.  I might have noted that he was alone and that there did not seem to be any effort to seat him at a table, but I did not.

It turned out that this man had a story to tell and some requests to make.  When the restaurant staff was unable to help, he decided to approach Bill and Roxanne as we exited the restaurant.  They politely conversed with him as we walked to the parking lot while not complying with his request for transportation assistance or money to get transportation to his intended destination of the Greyhound Bus Depot in downtown Minneapolis.

I do not share this story because I want to make any kind of social point.  I share it because of his claim that he had been hitchhiking on the freeway and was stopped by the police.  Of course, I have no idea if this was true, but the idea is strange and a bit interesting.

It is my understanding that back in "the day," hitchhiking was not uncommon.  In fact, I think that one or more of my parents may have done it.  They are both alive today, so it did not end terribly for them.  So what happened?  Too many bad eggs on both sides of the equation, I would guess.

As for this man, I have no idea where his real story began or where it ended last night.  I suspect if he continued to accost customers leaving local restaurants and bars, there may have been a complaint.  Perhaps the police showed up and were able to escort him to Minneapolis.  Or maybe it was all part of a hidden camera piece for some low budget/low viewership TV show. 

If so, keep your eyes peeled and let me know if you see us.  I will be the one walking out in front of the group with my friend Jill, exchanging nervous glances and wondering if he is going to follow us all the way to the car.  (He did not.) 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wink if you think I'm cute

Don't worry, you're not going crazy.  I updated a few things in my blog's layout.  I felt it needed a little facelift.  While I would also like to change the background drawing, I have yet to feel the artistic inspiration to create a new option.  Perhaps if I had some fancy software like Photoshop my problems would be solved.  We shall see about that someday.

My father went to see the final Harry Potter yesterday.  By himself, of course.  My mother returned last night from her visit to see friends with lake homes.  I am trying not to be jealous, but it is really really hard when the weather is actually really nice and perfect for being in a lake when I know that there is 0.00% chance that I will be going to any kind of lake in the near future.

Perhaps I should add that to my list of "wants" for my personal ad.  In addition to being a willing driver, you must also have some sort of ready access to a good swimming lake in Minnesota during the summer months.  I do not really care if it is a fancy pants cabin or not.  I suppose one stipulation would be that it be a somewhat private swimming location.  I really do not need to see a bunch of scantily clad teenagers wearing age-inappropriate swimwear. 

I suppose that now is the time for me to 'fess up and tell you that as much as I seem to mock online dating, I have partaken (partook?) in the practice a few times in the past 10 years.  Web sites I have tried include:, eharmony and  I realize that the last site is actually linked to, but it involves a personality quiz, so it has the appearance of being more legit.

Every time I have started up (or re-started up) on one of these sites, I am always cautiously optimistic.  Lord knows why.  It always runs a similar course, although now that I am in my 30's I am finding that the number of interested parties has decreased a little in general.  There just must be something universally appealing about 24 year old women that man cannot resist. 

Here is my somewhat faithful account of the cycle of online dating for these sites.

This is probably one of the most well-known dating sites, which could be construed as a very positive thing as it is more likely to attract a broader range of person.  It is also fairly "open" to searches and viewing, thus leaving much of the selection work up to the user.

There is no qualifying quiz for this site, although all profiles must be approved before they are open to viewing.  This eliminates (hopefully) the yuckity-yucks who write about disgusting acts in language that can only marginally be taken as English along with their similiarly disgusting and inappropriate pictures.  Save it for Craigslist, folks.

There are a lot of areas for free writing on this site.  For me, this is important.  While I realize that not every person worth meeting is a good writer, I need to know that someone I would potentially consider dating can at least write originally and convey meaning. 

Sadly, the free writing aspect is a problem for some.  Many a young man openly and quickly laments the fact that they don't want to write about themselves because they don't know what to say.  I understand.  Not everyone is confident in their writing skills and not everyone knows how to fully convey the essence of their complex personality in a concise and literary manner.

Still, this makes weeding through profiles very monotonous.  There are only so many easy going "athletic and toned" guys who love sports, camping and cuddling that I can take.  I have yet to find one that openly states they wish to cook, clean and chauffeur for their significant other.


I have an interesting relationship with this site.  When I first tried it, many years ago, I was optimistic.  I completed their questionnaire as honestly as possible for me (at the time) and was allowed to be a part of their "elite" singles group.

Unlike, this site does not allow users to simply seek and find people on their own.  No, for the extra cost, they take care of locating matches for you and presenting them on a daily basis.  You are then left to review the profiles and then initiate contact if you feel so inclined.

In this case, "contact" means that you start the inane process of answering sets of questions designed by eharmony that are chosen by your "match," reviewing their "must haves" and "can't stands," and a few other steps that I can't quite remember.  If you make it through all of these steps, you reach the "open communication" phase where you can freely email one another.

At first I found this intriguing.  Helpful, perhaps.  After a few go 'rounds, I was less eager to continually keep up and became confused over how far along I was with which person and what I really thought of any of them.

I think that I made it through my three month subscription without having a single date.

I did come back to this again, years later, only to re-take the personality test and be told that there were no matches for me.  I can only assume that my more jaded and cynical (and perhaps more honest) responses did not meet their criteria.  I tried again once more and managed to trick the system into letting me in.  After one more three month trial and two dates with one ridiculously incompatible guy, I gave up on that for good.

Whenever I see their TV ads, I always have a pretty good laugh.

This site is actually part of, but they are trying to go after the more discerning eharmony crowd by making you take another quiz before you can be on their site.  In this case, I don't think that the quiz can disqualify you, but theoretically it is supposed to ensure more compatible matches.

I did this once.  They ask very probing and insightful questions, such as "which picture of a hand most resembles your own?"  As if proportional finger length is supposed to really mean anything.  Also, you have to do these spacing and visual exercises that vaguely remind me of an IQ test I took when I was 5. 

In the end, the communication process is not quite as tedious as eharmony, if I remember correctly, but the results were no better than what I saw anywhere else.  It did introduce me to Jeff, a young man who still lived with his wealthy parents in Wayzata, installed home sound systems for a living, played mandolin in a bluegrass band and bought pot in his parents' driveway while I was on a date with him.  You can guess how long that one lasted. 


What did I learn from all of these experiences?  It is hard to quantify.  I am sure that some people are wildly successful with this mode of dating; my hairdresser is a victorious case-in-point.  She has the ability to find new boyfriends immediately after breaking up with the last one just by reactivating her profile on

As I have a slight aversion to initiating contact in any circumstance, I am left to the advances of those brave enough to contact me.  No matter how specific I am about age, marital status, education, location, etc. in my profile, I am inevitably contacted by men over the age of 40 with profiles containing little to no punctuation. 

With the amount of time I spend trying to make my profile witty and honest, I have been left a bit depressed with the outcome.   Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me to lower my standards, but I think I have a few good years left in me before I have to succumb to the siren call of the illiterate rednecks.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Crappy coffee and its side effects

Today may be Friday, but it is shaping up quickly to be one of those days.  What do I mean by that?

Well, let me back up a bit. 

Last night, I returned to my parents' house for my weekly visit.  Nothing strange there, except that my mom is out of town visiting friends, so it was just me and my dad.  We took the dogs for a walk and chatted.  It was nice.

We stayed up, watched The Daily Show and went to bed. 

Here is where the story really makes a shift.  Are you ready? 

I finally got to sleep in "my" bedroom last night.  I use quotation marks in this case because I technically do not share a residence with my parents and therefore have no real right to lay claim to a specific room, but I do it anyway.  It comes from old habits of being the oldest child and only girl in my family.  The only time I have not been given the choicest room was when they moved to Wisconsin without me and did not feel compelled to award the largest space to an absent person.

Never mind. 

So, I believe I have mentioned that I spent most of June and July staying at my parents' house due to school and dog requirements, yes?  Good. 

I was not the only guest at my parents' house this summer.  My chief co-guests were my aunt and uncle who were home for summer break from Belgium.  I believe I have spent more time with them than I have in combined hours for the past decade, so I feel fortunate to have been around for that.

However, their presence meant that my sleeping quarters were relocated mostly to "Michael's" bedroom (as named by me) and on rare occasions to the basement couch or twin bed. 

Now that their visit is almost over, they have decided to spend most of their time relaxing up at their cabin in Wisconsin.  Understandably, I believe.  If I had a cabin up in the woods, I know where I would be right now as well.

So when I arrived last night Chez Parents, my father informed me that I would be able to reclaim my bedroom for the first time since June.  At first, I took this information with an air of nonchalance.  A bed is a bed, right?

Not so, as it turns out.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, I slept REALLY hard last night.  The only thing that woke me prior to my actual alarm was my over-eager dog leaping from the bed at the sound of her canine companions arising with my father. 

While I have never been a morning person, I felt that I was dragging through this entire morning.  My sloth-like movement paired with Thor's obsession with barking at trees made my departure time for work much later than intended, with the end result being that I did not have time to stop for a proper coffee drink.

When this happens, I am forced to drink copious amounts of the disgusting sludge provided by my employer just to stay viable.  There are sometimes unintended side effects, but I am usually able to restrain the visible signs of my crankiness.  Hopefully no one gets hurt.

This entry is pretty pointless, I admit.  I would probably not consider posting it, but it does serve to document the state of my brain which could be useful to future research.  Just be sure to cite me if you use it. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Baby, you can drive my car

It is amazing how much influence my morning commute has on my morning frame of mind.  Sad, really.  For reasons that I cannot pinpoint, it seems that drivers continue to get less and less responsible and more and more insane as the years go by.  I could run through the litany of stupid things that people do on a regular basis, but most people probably already have seen it. 

I wonder if it would help to send everyone back to driving school every 10 years.  Or place monitors in cars that record bad driving to report to insurance companies or police.  Maybe someday.  But then there will be the people who protest that this is an invasion of privacy.  Not when you take your idiocy out on to government funded roadways, moron. 

My conclusion is that driving is not good for my health.  It is dangerous enough to be on the road with other drivers, but when I have to dodge around them and constantly be dealing with people who operate in a constant state of total self-awarded entitlement, my blood pressure escalates.

The solution?  I need a driver.  Rest assured that I am not speaking of a limo driver, or even a town car driver.  I just need someone to operate my vehicle while I sit in the passenger seat, make small talk and admire the scenery.  I need to not have to concentrate on the road at all times. 

This was illustrated to me perfectly a couple of weeks ago when my mother and I went to St. Cloud for my grandpa's birthday lunch.  Normally, I somehow get roped into driving when I am with my parents.  Probably because I usually know where I am going and also because my mother gets annoyed with my father's driving habits. 

On this day, for some reason, my mother agreed to drive.  It was amazing.  I noticed signs, buildings, shops, trees; all things that are always there but I never get to see because I must concentrate on the totally un-scenic freeway.

Perhaps you are thinking that the better solution to the problem is obvious:  I should use public transportation.  Believe me, I totally would if I could.  In fact, I live right by a commuter train line.  Unfortunately, said train runs to downtown Minneapolis and does not cut through the suburb in which I work.  Not by a long shot. 

Other cities in the U.S. and around the world possess fantastic public transportation systems.  Maybe someday this will be true of Minneapolis/St. Paul.  For the moment, it is not.  My only option is to drive. 

Before you suggest that I take my bike, please note that all roads from my home to work involve some degree of freeway interaction.  As I do not have a death wish, I refuse to ride bike on the shoulder of a road that is covered by the very drivers who already make my car commute hazardous.  Also, this would defeat my goal entirely as I would still have to concentrate on the road.  I would also have to wear a hair-crushing helmet and sweat like a pig while doing it.  No thanks.

How can I achieve my new goal of being driven to my various engagements?  To add to the complications, I would prefer not to pay this driver.

So.  I need someone who will drive me to the places I need to go, will not require payment and will let me sit in the passenger seat.  Hm.  Sounds like I may need a boyfriend and/or husband.  Rats.  I may need to construct a personal ad.  I will have to be sure that I specify that they need a valid U.S. drivers license.  That should take care of it, I think.  I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lena does her part to save the planet

Yesterday was lawn mowing day in my neighborhood.  One of the many delightful perks of living in a townhouse is that chores such as yardwork, snow shoveling, shrub pruning and the like fall to the hands of the association.  Although I have complained about their slow reaction time in the face of major snowfall (and will likely complain about it again someday), they generally do a pretty good job.

Now, I have not been around the house much this summer, but I do believe that the normal day for grass cutting is Monday.  Due to the scary/rainy/dangerous weather we had this Monday, the work was postponed until yesterday.  OK.

Our copious amounts of rainfall paired with days full of straight on sunshine has made for some pretty lucious lawnage.  It grows pretty fast.  This means that by the end of the week, things start to look a bit jungle-like.  Again, OK.

When long grass is finally cut, one of the potential side-effects is that you may end up with large clumps of clipping scattered at random.  Some people use bag attachments to their mowers to avoid this, but the mowers used for huge mass cuttings such as, say, an entire neighborhood are a bit larger and more industrial.  No bags here.

Again, does this bother me?  Not in the least.  I probably wouldn't even notice it, except for the fact that I now have a dog.

It is nothing new to note that dogs sometimes like to eat grass.  I have been told that they usually do this when their tummies are upset, but I think sometimes they just think it's fun to munch on vegetation that is not chicken, liver or other meat flavored.

My dog, Lena, takes it to another level.  Now that she is becoming a free-range dog during the day when I am at work, I find it necessary (for my own peace of mind) to take her on a walk first thing in the morning.  This helps her in her bathroom duties and lets her expend a little energy as well.  Plus it gets me moving in the morning. 

When Lena walks, it is important not to ignore what she is doing.  She loves to sniff around, but occasionally she will pick something up in her mouth.  Normally, she will not eat everything she picks up, but if I stop to try and remove it from her mouth, she may try and eat it just to keep me from taking it away.  It is a tricky manuever. 

Some things she simply cannot eat.  Socks, underwear, rocks, feathers, frogs.  These are relinquished with relative ease.  It is much more difficult when it comes to dirt, leaves and grass. 

This morning, literally one minute into our walk Lena had already snatched up a large clump of damp grass clippings.  As she is also prone to dropping things as she finds other objects of interest, I decided to let her be for the moment.  Unfortunately, things did not go as expected.

Somehow in the course of the first half of our walk, Lena managed to pick up several more clumps of grass.  By the time we reached the halfway point, she resembled a baseball player carrying a wad of chewing tobacco in their lip.  A very sloppy baseball player who let their chew hang outside their mouth, that is.  When I finally stopped her to address the situation, she looked like she was wearing green wax lips. 

Fortunately, when the grass is so abundant that it protrudes from her mouth, removal is a bit easier.  This means that I do not have to mess with the jaws of death.  I simply grab on to the exposed clump, pull out as much as I can and toss it as far away as possible. 

I did this a couple of times on our walk this morning.  I believe that she did manage to eat a small amount based on the amount of smacking that she did after I threw away the last major clump.  By this point in the walk, she had already done her duties bathroom-wise, so I had no problem restricting her wanderings to stay on pavement. 

So far this week, my dog has been my major source of entertainment.  This may be due to the fact that I have no other live interactions at my house.  Or the fact that when we are home, all of Lena's outdoor activities end up being monitored while at my parents' house she is given free reign of the fenced backyard with relatively little micromanaging on my part.

Whatever the reason, I am sure that both of us will be more than ready to return to civilization for the weekend. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love in the time of cubicles

I know that I should not balk at the thought of telling you exactly what I do for a living (at present), but I am.  Know this:  I work in a customer service-type position for a relatively small company.  I deal with customers face-to-face, over the phone, through the mail and over the interweb. 

My partner in this daily endeavor is a young lass by the name of Mary.  She sometimes reads this blog, so HEY MARY!!!! 

Mary is a lovely person.  She is cheerful when I am not and always helpful when trying to figure out what I should eat for lunch.  If I didn't have Mary working next to me, this job would be next to impossible.  This makes her vacations pretty hard to bear, but I always reassure myself that they are short-term losses.

Anyway, this entry is not really just about Mary and how wonderful she is on a daily basis, because I think she might smack me if I did that.  Just kidding, she has never hit me.  Yet.

This entry is about Mary's special not-so-secret admirer.  To protect privacy, I will not share his name.  Let's call him... Eddie.  (This is short for Edward, who is Mary's favorite "Twilight" character.)  Eddie comes in to see us fairly regularly.  In fact, we usually know when he is coming to see us based on the day of the week and time of the month.  No further clues, alright?

Eddie is a nice guy.  He's been a little down on his luck in the last year, but things are starting to look up for him.  Through it all, he has always been upbeat and nice.  And in love with Mary.

How do I know?  Well, let me tell you.

I don't know where I learned this fact, but I know it was somewhere reputable, but if you wish to show someone that you are truly interested in them and what they have to say, you should call them by their first name as you converse with them.


Me:  Good morning, Lena!  How are you doing?

Lena:  (Sits and drags butt across floor).

Me:  Wow, Lena!  That is so special!  Lena, thank you for demonstrating that manuever!

Lena:  (Burps).

Me:  Oh, Lena!  You are too funny!


Back to Eddie.  When he comes in to see us, he usually prefers to work with Mary.  Not that he will refuse to work with me, but he typically makes a beeline for her desk.  If she is already with someone or on the phone, he may relent and work with me, but he will always make sure that he speaks with her.

Eddie is a man who makes good use of the conversation tip I illustrated above.  Where most people would stick to "Hey Mary, how are you?" as their sole use of her name, Eddie finds a way to use it in nearly every sentence.

"Hi Mary!  How are you today, Mary?" 

"So Mary, got any big plans for the weekend?"

"Yeah, Mary, the new job is going well."

"Hey Mary, do you have any kids?"

The last sentence is not spoken in every encounter; it was only used once.  It was over a year ago, and I was not fortunate enough to overhear it.  It happened when Mary was first dating her current boyfriend.  I suppose Eddie sensed that she was not totally engaged in a serious relationship yet and seized his chance.

His inquiry started normally.  It moved into weekend plans.  Then it turned to children.  Then it became an invitation to do something over the weekend.  At this point, Mary had to reveal that she was seeing someone and therefore was not accepting offers for new dates.  Eddie took it in stride in his good-natured way.

This rejection would have driven some men to pursue future interactions with another customer service person.  Or to conduct business by mail, phone or internet.  But not our Eddie.  He valiantly continues to come in again and again to face the woman he cannot have and say her name at least four times during the course of his few minute visit. 

I wish that I could say that this all goes largely unnoticed.  Unfortunately, as you can see by the fact that I have written an entire entry about it, many people know.  Including one of the managers.  Said manager sits in close proximity to us and if he happens to be around when Eddie comes in, it is not uncommon for him to sit quietly and listen to the conversation.

After Eddie leaves, a little teasing takes place which Mary takes in good humor.  As for me, I am patiently waiting for the day when Eddie asks Mary about the state of her love life.  I am sure that he has been biding his time and hoping that by making himself repeatedly visible to Mary that she will think of him first should she ever be in need of a new boyfriend.  Sadly for Eddie, it is looking as if Mary's current boyfriend may be her last boyfriend (if he ever proposes), so he may have to move on. 

Before you jump to any conclusions and think that he may move on to me, think again.  Not only will I be moving on to a library setting sometime in the (hopefully) near future, but I am nowhere near as friendly, cute and petite as Mary.  Eddie is somewhat vertically challenged which makes Mary's 5'2" height a far more attractive feature than my 5'9" stance.

So that is the current state of affairs for lovesick customers in my office.  Truth be told, I prefer the lovesick ones to the irate and complaining ones, so perhaps we should hope for a few more like Eddie.