Author Archives: DonniT

Feeling Helpless?

I’ve held it together pretty well during pandemic shelter in place, grimly confident that while it was bad, I would come out okay. While I still feel that way to some extent, I actually feel guilt about how OK I will probably be (see previous blog post about privilege).

This weekend I’ve been lower than I’ve been in a very long time.

The chaos on the streets of the Twin Cities has been gut wrenching. Politics has yet again come to bear. Who is at fault? Who is in the right? Watching the news is like watching the waves crashing on the beach: information rushing forward, new revelations as the water recedes, then another rush of information moments later. It’s dizzying.

Meanwhile, on a personal note, Sailor Boy is going through a crisis and I can’t help him. He can’t help himself. He feels all alone. By the end of the day today someone will essentially decide the course of his future. No, he hasn’t done anything wrong, so it’s not like he’s being punished exactly, although it feels that way to him.

So whether I look outside my home at my community, or within my home at my family, I feel helpless and out of control.

On Saturday I was able to do two small things which made me feel like I could make a small difference.

HWSNBN and I donated blood in the morning, and I did a 4 hour round trip drive to help save some dogs.

In the grand scheme of things neither was a big deal. But as the technician placed the bandage on my arm at the blood bank, he thanked me and said “you just saved three lives.”

And when those 7 dogs stared at me from the back of the transport van, I knew I had played a role in saving their lives.

So while I cannot put out fires on Lake Street, or can’t change the systemic injustice that sparked them, and I can’t tell the admiral to let my son have his hard-earned transfer, I can do something.

We can all do something.

Sorrowfully Privileged

Dear friends and family not in Minnesota: we are, I am somewhat embarrassed to say, safe.

I woke up this morning forgetting for a few minutes what was going on 20 minutes from my home. This white woman, who, all her life, has been middle to upper middle class, was safe in her suburban home, worried more about whether she was going to get control of the weeds in her garden today than anything else.

Then I remembered the horror the Twin Cities is going through right now. Which in turn made me remember the horror peoples of color have endured for hundreds of years.

And I was ashamed on so, so many levels.

I was horrified and outraged when I heard the news and subsequently watched the footage of George Floyd being murdered. I turned to my husband and said “This is going to be bad.”

Clearly I understated things.

I also should’ve reminded myself at that moment that it had been bad before, even in a city and state that prides itself on being open, accepting, liberal.

I pride myself to have the same qualities, but I find myself wondering if I have ever done anything to perpetuate this injustice, even inadvertently? What can I do other than continue to be aware, and to point out when I see people acting wrongly. But in my desire to do the right thing, I find myself afraid to ask questions and state opinions.

Today I replied with much hesitation to a Facebook post made by an African American friend , Adrian Walton, who used to live in Minnesota. I must have typed and deleted and retyped my remarks a half-dozen times. I wanted to express how I felt, but was afraid I would come off as not understanding.

I wrote, “I can’t even look at the news. And I don’t know how to say anything — as a white, upper-class woman, I have no right to be angry or sad or outraged. Everything I say is wrong somehow. I know that the officers who filled Mr. Floyd are heinous individuals that should be jailed forever. I know that the protests were righteous. I can’t get behind the riots — and for that, I am told to check my privilege. I feel for the employees, the patrons, the small business owners, the people whose low-income housing is now gone. Somehow that makes me on the wrong side. I ask myself over and over — what can I do to help this never happen again? I try to be an open-minded person. I don’t like the idea of being blind to race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I want to SEE it all for the beauty everyone’s unique diversity brings to the world around me. ”

Adrian graciously responded: “the best thing I would suggest is speak up against what you see is wrong and don’t conform to the rhetoric of staying quiet. What hurts me more is seeing my white friends quiet or mute on this issue yet they vocally speak against everything else. I believe, well I know others feel the same. The only way to help in this problem is buck the norm. I get killed when I speak out against blacks doing wrong… but I’m going to always speak what I believe and think is right or wrong. You may lose some friends but if they are your real friends then they know where you stand ethically and morally anyway. This situation won’t stop until more people of other races feel like you yet speak out against it and correct it when it’s wrong.”

I thanked him for his response, and cotinued:  I do feel…that …I am walking on eggshells when I speak in favor of a group I feel is being wronged, whether POCs, LGBTQ, Muslims, etc. Often there is eye-rolling, or you don’t understand, type comments. Of course, I don’t understand! But it doesn’t mean I don’t grieve or feel empathy or want change… I will continue to smile at everyone, be kind, courteous and respectful, not change to the other side of the street, or grab my purse tighter, or make assumptions about someone based on their appearance. If you ever see me doing something that needs “checking,” please let me know, AD!”

My daughter helps me be more aware every day, navigating the world of non-binary pronouns and helping me identify ways that may inadvertently come off as insensitive. So I continue to try. In talking with her today, she pointed out that being shocked or surprised about what happened to Mr Floyd is a form of privilege. The African American community is wearily not shocked anymore. It’s expected — every day — to be a suspect. To be looked at furtively. To be wondered about.

Think of that wretched white woman in Central park, who called the police on the African American man who was reminding her of the leash laws. While she essentially strangles her dog, she tells police he is threatening her, when he CLEARLY is not. She and he both know how the police could respond to the woman’s pleas — and he bravely stands his ground. How easily Christian Cooper could’ve been the next dead black man., had the police not recognized the shameful situation for what it was.

That, my friends, is white privilege. Using race as an indication of good vs evil, right vs wrong. Luckily, rightfully, she ended up the villain, and he was the hero.

I’m not saying that George Floyd was a hero. I’m just saying that he was a human who deserved to be respected by and protected by the police, not treated like vermin to be stepped on in the street.

Don’t we all just want to be respected? And to feel safe?

I am also not going to blanketly blame law enforcement. If we say all cops are bad, that’s just like saying every person at the protest looted and burned and destroyed. OK — wait — that’s gonna piss someone off. I know it’s not the same. But is it so different that we can’t at least take a breath and talk about it? So let’s not say “the cops.” Let’s say “THOSE cops.” Yes: it is a systemic issue that must be forever and radically changed. But please: don’t assume that all police officers would’ve acted that way. We know they wouldn’t. But yes: it clearly happens so frequently that the headlines are saying “again” and “another” POC killed by cops.

We also need to be careful about others who are being blamed. The owner of the Cup Foods, where the incident with Mr. Floyd originated, spoke publicly about the situation. He said usually when counterfeit money changes hands, the person handing it over has no idea the bill is counterfeit. Usually, the police arrive and just ask the individual where they obtained the false currency, and let them go. Obviously this did not happen in this instance. The store is appalled that their call resulted in this catastrophe. The clerk is devastated. The owner has offered to not only pay all funeral expenses, but wants to help the community heal however he can. I do hope that this small, minority-owned neighborhood business does not suffer. We don’t need that in a time when small businesses are failing daily due to the current health crisis.

The COVID-19 situation crossed my mind on the first day of the chaos: if it weren’t for the boredom of a pandemic, would the rioting and looting be as bad? I mean, I was a reporter once. I know the media is grateful for any non-pandemic news right now. And people are bored, and cooped up. Quickly I quashed that thought — and chastised myself for what was clearly a train of thought which diminished the complexity and severity for the situation.

Ironically, today I read an enlightening op-ed piece in the New York Times by writer Keeanga-Yamhatta Taylor. Ms Taylor, an associate professor at Princeton, eloquently gave some background on why, right now in particular, Mr Floyd’s murder is so incendiary. She actually mentions COVID-19, and that yes: it does play a role. But not how I thought.

Ms Taylor talks about how COVID-19 has disproportionately ravaged the black community “highlighting and accelerating the ingrained social inequities that have made African-Americans the most vulnerable to the disease.” Secondly, she talks about how the response to the pandemic is skewed “It’s not just the higher rates of death that fuel this anger, but also publicized cases where African-Americans have been denied health care because nurses or doctors didn’t believe their complaints about their symptoms. Just as maddening is the assumption that African-Americans bear personal responsibility for dying in disproportionate numbers.”

She also talks about something that has been mentioned repeatedly on social media: why are white protesters, heavily armed, allowed to walk into the Michigan state capitol and other areas, and scream in the face of police, without repercussions? In fact, our President praised them as “very good people,” whereas he called the protesters in Minnesota “THUGS” (his caps, not mine).

Even my candidate for President, Joe Biden, screwed up by saying “you ain’t black” if African Americans consider voting for Trump in the fall. Dude, you are a rich white man. You have no right to say something like that. I’ll vote for you, because we gotta get rid of the current abomination, but I’ll be honest: you were not my top choice.

Getting back to Ms. Taylor, who eloquently summed things up: “The convergence of these tragic events — a pandemic disproportionately killing black people, the failure of the state to protect black people and the preying on black people by the police — has confirmed what most of us already know: If we and those who stand with us do not mobilize in our own defense, then no official entity ever will. Young black people must endure the contusions caused by rubber bullets or the acrid burn of tear gas because government has abandoned us. Black Lives Matter only because we will make it so.” I urge you to read her piece in its entirety.

Back in the Twin Cities, everyone is agreeing it is time for real change. In today’s press conference, Governor Tim Walz gave an impassioned speech insisting that real change would come, but first the neighborhoods had to be set to rights. Kind of a clean up the broken glass before we can fix the foundations thing. I get that, appreciate it, and support it. He and the other elected officials seem to be truly committed to change. I hope so.

It might help that business leaders are vowing to help.

Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children’s Minnesota, released a statement today co-signed by 28 corporate leaders, from companies as diverse as General Mills, Best Buy, the Minnesota Wild, US Bank and Ernst and Young and Medtronic (full disclosure: HWSNBN works for one of the signed companies). It read, in part:

“As business leaders in Minnesota committed to the principles of greater equity, diversity and inclusion in our companies and in our community, we are deeply saddened and horrified by the recent death of Mr. George Floyd… His death … reflects deeply ingrained, long-standing injustice within our society. .. The repeated occurrence of racially charged events of this nature are contrary to the close-knit employment and residential communities we desire to have in Minnesota. We are committed to taking steps to eliminate the repeat of events like this in our society and committed to investing in substantive change in our organizations and the communities we serve to address racial inequities and social justice. Change has to start today, and it needs to start with us.” (read the full text here).

This is admirable. But will they make measurable change? What will they do? Today an African American CNN reporter was arrested for doing his job reporting on the riots. His white counterpart was not. Will these respected business leaders change that?

Let me pose this scenario. It is 10:30 at night, and the African American CEO of a company comes home, and his wife asks him to run back out to grab a gallon of milk for the kids’ breakfast. He has a choice to make: can he stay in the workout clothes he wore home from the gym, or should he change into khakis and a polo so he won’t be racially profiled?

When I run errands in my grubbies, I laugh and nervously hope I don’t run into anyone I know looking like that. If I were black, I would be worried I would be arrested or worse.

But, as I sit here, a white woman in my suburban home, I am not afraid to die.

And for that, I am privileged.

Below is a piece done today by my brilliant artist friend, Melissa Moore, another suburban white woman who found herself overcome with emotion today. This was her outlet.

The Mother of All Days

I just wanted to give my fam a shout out for a stellar Mother’s Day.

Typically we brunch at a local restaurant with another family. It’s always fun, but the day can be a bit of a let down other than that. I sometimes finagle a walk out of my crew, who do so grudgingly. Sometimes there is a card from someone and usually flowers from my husband. But this year felt really special.

I was worried about it, as, while I am a mom, I am a daughter first, and we were throwing quarantine caution to the wind by inviting my Mamacita to join us. I sent my husband a takeout suggestion several days in advance. I said that I was willing to help, as i wanted to make sure her day was special. She had been basically alone for months, and I felt she needed a special day more than I did.

Unfortunately, HWSNBN wanted too long and was unable to get a dinner reservation from my fist choice. But he assured me it would be handled, and got frankly irritated when I again voiced my willingness to help. So, I dropped it.

The night before, he started cooking!

I am a sucker for a great breakfast, but I am super challenging at restaurants as I hate eggs. So he did his research and started prepping food on Saturday (and it smelled so good!).

Breakfast was not in bed, as I got up first, but it was served on the couch while I watched Bravo shows without his complaints. He made an amazing sauteed potato and peppers dish and made a croissant mini=cupcake of sorts stuffed with cheddar cheese and Serrano ham. Fresh fruit and a blueberry muffin rounded out the spread! Unfortunately, I polished off the potatoes before I could grab a pic, but I swear they were there!

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For the next several hours, he cleaned the house, while I read, watched Tiger King (again, with no snide comments from the peanut gallery), and blogged. Singer Girl got busy in the kitchen, making an amazing cake from scratch. It featured Earl Gray tea and blackberries — wow!

We all got dressed in real clothes — like buttons on the pants, accessories, and even an underwire bra. Well, for me. I didn’t ask about my husband.

There were two family Zoom calls that day, which was awesome. First up was with his family, and it was so great seeing each other and chatting. I really think we need to continue these after the world goes back to normal. It has been great to laugh!

At some point in the day, a dozen white roses landed on the table for me.

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When Mom came over, she and I logged onto a Zoom call with my brother and his wife. Again: shelter in place has been a great inspiration for family connectedness! We told stories and remembered things and chatted about what we hoped we would do in the week ahead. We try to do a Zoom every Friday evening, and I love it.

HWSNBN had picked up a terrific dinner from Ike’s and he was setting that up while we talked. Meanwhile, he supplied us with fancy cocktails made of raspberry Gelato and champagne!

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After the call we gorged ourselves, then my mom pulled out photo album she’d brought over and she and I sat with Singer Girl and looked at pics from the past 60 years. she also had a few older things — her wedding announcement in the paper, photos of my grandparents from WW2, and even a photo of my Great-Great-Great grandfather who served as a chaplain for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

She knows I love history and genealogy, and it was wonderful sharing these memories with my daughter!

Of course, Sailor Boy is on a ship in an ocean somewhere, so he couldn’t be with us. But he called from the aircraft carrier, and we all were able to say hi to him before he was cut off. He also sent me chocolate covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries (his go-to!), so I knew he was thinking of me. There were no other cards or paper wrapped gifts for me, but somehow I don’t feel like I missed out on anything.

After Mom went home, Singer Girl declared I got to pick the movie that night. I chose wisely — Terms of Endearment. HWSNBN groaned, but I knew there would be no arguing. So the day ended with an ugly cry.

I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I hope you all had wonderful Mother’s Day — whether you were being celebrated, or doing the celebrating! Now I have to work on Father’s Day…

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Staying at Home

So… how you doin’?

I haven’t blogged in a while because, well, it’s not like I’ve been out and about, seeing and being seen. I can’t work, as I am “fur”-loughed (no puppy parties, although I personally consider puppy breath essential). No date nights, unless you call side-by-side weeding quality time. No fancy dinners (but lots of takeout). No travel (and no, the grocery store does not count).

But we are still healthy, and no one in our family has gotten sick, so I don’t want to complain too loudly.

So what HAVE we been up to?

We finished the Marvel Universe Infinity Stone movie saga. While watching it we had family movie night almost every day — which was great (although the wine and popcorn diet was not good for the waistline). Now that it is done, we need to find something else, as we have started drifting to opposite corners of the house again and I miss the time with Singer Girl.

Singer Girl has officially finished her first year as a Michigan Wolverine. Officially, her grades say “Passed — COVID,” but she will petition to have the letter grades appear on her transcript as she killed it. She has been working on arranging songs for her a Capella group as she was chosen to be a co-music director for the organization. She has also been writing music and practicing so she can (hopefully) record and perform later this summer. I am loving all this time. I get to enjoy her singing (although we are supposed to pretend we can’t hear her. Don’t ask. It’s a thing.) We chat all the time about school. When she is away, she never hides things from me. But she has other folks to chat with, so she doesn’t need to share every detail with me.

She is getting antsy now, and it doesn’t help that her Macbook crashed. I allowed her to have a girlfriend over to hang out the other night. I felt like such a bad person, as that is still verboten in our neck of the woods. I guess slowly but surely we will have to start dipping our toes into the pool of society. Today we are being risky again. I invited my mom over for dinner for Mother’s Day. I just couldn’t stand the idea of her being alone for yet another event. I’m torn: is that selfish, selfless, or a combo of the two? I gave her the choice — but really I knew she’d come over. She was so sweet to promise she hadn’t been anywhere. I reminded her that I am more concerned about us getting her sick than the opposite. Hopefully, I won’t regret this!

I haven’t signed up for any new fosters since Secondhand Hounds has so many new fosters we can’t keep up with dog demand. But I miss being around new dogs, so I reached out to a fellow foster and borrowed her three German Shepherd puppies for a 24-hour playdate.

This was both a good and bad idea. Good, because I got a fix. Bad, because, like all junkies, I am craving another hit. So I have told other whelping fosters that I am available for more one night stands if they need a break or if their dogs need a little extra socializing. This could be habit-forming.

As mentioned in a previous post, I am obsessed with books. So many have been read, my husband has had whiplash. The other night I sat on the couch, closed a book, and declared it done. About an hour later, he saw me propped up in bed. Reading.

“Didn’t you just FINISH a book?”

“Yes. So I had to start another one.”

He looked at me like I had a sickness. Maybe I do.

Apparently, I have a couple of them.

I also get great satisfaction from purging and organizing. COVID has made this both easier and harder. Easier, because I have the time. Harder, because my garage is packed with giveaways that I can’t get rid of. Which means my projects are logjammed. I rearranged all my costumes into bins and want to put them in the attic.

But I can’t get them into the attic because the attic access is in the garage and there is no room in the garage because of all the giveaways I can’t give away.  And I need to move stuff out of the attic to make room for new attic stuff, but, well, no room in the garage. It’s a circle of hell Dante forgot to write about.

My garage is also crammed with plants awaiting new homes in the yard. I had a Scarlet O’Hara moment sanding in my weed-plagued yard, surrounded by creeping charlie and garlic mustard and declared that, as God is my witness, I will never have a yard this overgrown again. COVID gave us lots of extra time, and spring has been mercifully dry and mild, so I am logging untold hours hacking at weeds. I know the only way to successfully control the weed invasion is not only to eradicate but to build a fortress against future insurrections by planting new stuff. So I asked on Nextdoor for extra plants folks were getting rid of or splitting, and I have battalions of hostas, ferns, Achillea, lilies, and more just waiting to be called into action. Unfortunately, the weather has taken a frigid turn. It looks like we will have several days of near-freezing items at night, so planting is on hold. I am hoping to get back out tomorrow to do more weeding, even if I can’t plant.

We will win this war! (If I wear jodhpurs and carry a riding crop while warring against the weeds, will my neighbors find me wacko?)

We remain committed to getting takeout from local restaurants. Every day I check the paper to see if we have lost any more great establishments! Easter dinner came courtesy of 6Smith in Wayzata.

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Food was amazing — but they were unprepared for the demand. HWSNBN had to wait more than an hour for our order! We have encountered this a couple of times — like when we did Cinco de Mayo takeout from Baja Haus in Wayzata. Again: food was good (especially the margarita mix!), but waiting more than an hour is maddening. These poor restaurants!

Want something cool? Order from Travail Kitchen in Robbinsdale. Their takeout comes with instructions on how to put t all together so it is fresh and hot and ready to eat (and the accompanying videos are delightful).

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Another huge win: biscuits from Betty and Earl’s. I have been wanting to try this place since local media master Jason Matheson opened it up, but have been too lazy to go try it. So when they announced they would do satellite delivery stations, I leapt at the chance. And now I am addicted. Damnit.

 

Not to worry — we’ve been cooking as well! Chinese food, Mexican, grilling, Italian, etc. And yes: there have been wine and popcorn nights, as previously mentioned. Don’t judge.

You know you’ve been home a lot when there is nothing left in your DVR. I know television and movie studios are panicking as they can’t make new content. But know I have o excuse not to watch things I’ve meant to, whether old movies or a new series. Singer Girl has actually decided to try to see all the best movies of each decade as proclaimed by her fave youtube channel, WatchMojo. I want to watch with her, but she has admitted that I am not the best movie companion, as I like to guess what is going t happen. I promised to do better — and pay her for every time I interrupt film, kind of like a swear job. I guess we all need to use our stay at home time to better ourselves!

One way I am now slacking on the “bettering me” front? I have stopped working out daily. Mainly, it’s because the yard work is kicking my butt! But I gave myself a firm talking to about the snacking and extraneous alcohol consumption, and I feel that is compensating. My goal now is to re-enter society one pound lighter than I went into isolation. Not a lofty goal, but again: lots of takeout, wine, and popcorn have made me a bit squishy.

According to the last announcement, Minnesota may get a few restrictions lifted on May 18th. I am not expecting full freedoms, but I am excited for a little bit more. Scared, though, as numbers everywhere are going up, not down. I know the goal isn’t to NEVER get COVID, but to make sure we don’t all get it at once. Like everyone else, I am ready to start planning again  — travel, dinners out, hugs. In the meantime, I think I’ll go get something done.

Or not.

 

 

Sleeping Around Seattle

Hey now! I didn’t say sleeping around IN Seattle. Get your mind out of the gutter!

No, this is about our last trip before the world melted. It was a mini vaca of sorts to Seattle and a few surrounding areas, taken to witness and celebrate Sailor Boy’s re-enlistment in the US Navy.

He could pick any time, really, to do this, as long as it was done a certain amount of time before his contract was up. We chose the last weekend in February, because it was the beginning of Singer Girl’s spring break, and she was able to escape and meet us cross country. She’d never been to Washington, so we decided to add some touristing to the schedule.

Sailor Boy picked us up at SEA-TAC, and we took the long, meandering way around Puget Sound to get to Bremerton, where his aircraft barrier is docked. We had a lot planned for the next three days, and, as we were eager to get to sleep — but we were hungry. Thought a drive-through would be a good quick option, but evidently, Taco Bell is the place to be after 9pm in a Navy town. An hour later, our border run complete, we stuffed tacos u our faces and fell asleep.

The next day we had to meet Sailor Boy and his fellow sailors for the swearing-in. It’s always interesting being a civilian at these things, as you really don’t get all the procedures and, frankly, they speak another language.

First, he was honorably discharged from the Navy, which took me by surprise. I didn’t expect that step, and for a moment I thought “he is free — maybe he should walk away?” Evidently, I wasn’t the only one thinking that because a sailor piped up “Run!” But everyone laughed, and his lieutenant shifted gears to swear him back in. Last time I saw him sworn in he was freshly out of high school, and we were all a little terrified about what was coming next. It was easier this time, even if it meant not having him home for an even longer period.

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But we had him now — for the next 48 hours!

All were invited to a celebratory lunch at his favorite restaurant in town, The Curry. It was fun breaking bread with the sailors who were able to join us! Next, it was off to the ship. Singer Girl had never been on the aircraft carrier before, so a tour was a must-see.

 

The next stop on our agenda was checking into a new hotel, in a different town. My brother and sister in law live in Olympia, so we were meeting them for dinner. As always, we were fashionably late on our drive to the new digs. But we cleaned up quicky then feasted at one of their favorite places, Basilico Ristorante.

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After dinner we hung at their house, celebrating and going through my brother’s record collection. He let Singer Girl pick 10 of them as a birthday gift, and it was so fun listening to them — especially since so many of them had been our parents’. It was bittersweet in retrospect, as my parents had been huge Kenny Rogers fans back in the day, and he passed away so shortly after this. Gotta love The Gambler!

The next morning we checked out and hustled back to Bremerton to have brunch at Sailor Boy’s fave diner, the Big Apple Diner. I love this place, too! Super kitschy and great food (the potato pancakes are to die for!). After eating it was time to get on the ferry to Seattle.

 

I loved that someone had left a puzzle on one of the tables. Singer Girl and I tucked in and got to work. Who knew that would be the first in a series of puzzles in the coming months?

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Once in Seattle, we checked into our VRBO. I picked a place right downtown, minutes from the ferry and walking distance to everything. If you are looking for a place, check it out.

Before we left, I borrowed a date night trick and booked a scavenger hunt via Groupon. I love these as a way to get to know a city and to give you an idea of what you want to come back to. We started up by the Space Needle, wandered around by the museums and gardens there, then headed back down towards Pike’s Market and other downtown sites. Halfway through we met up with our niece/cousin Alyssa who lives and works in Seattle.

As always, whenever I get near a market, I am camera happy. The colors are always too tempting for me!

Scavenger hunt completed, we went back to the condo to chill and get ready to go out to dinner. Dinner was at an awesome place — in all ways.  The ambiance was terrific, the food was delicious, service outstanding! If you happen to be in Seattle, check out Toulouse Petit! 

HWSNBN had to fly back on Sunday, so it was just the three of us left to pal around.  At Sailor By’s suggestions, we breakfasted at a Seattle landmark, Biscuit Bitch.

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I had an orange latte, and the Cheesy Pork n’ Bitch,(middle picture), which was biscuits and gravy with bacon and cheddar cheese. Sailor Boy had the Smokin’ Hot Bitch — biscuits, gravy, andouille sausage, and jalapenos. Singer Girl had some sort of breakfast sandwich which looked awesome — until a hunk fell on the ground. Sadness.

We had some calories to burn so we headed north to where we started our scavenger hunt the day before. Our intended destination was MoPOP, the Museum of Popular Culture. This place is a must-see! It highlights everything from music to TV, Movies, books, art and more.

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Some of my fave exhibits:

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Next, it was off to the Chihuly Museum, another fantastic place. Yeah, it sounds kind of boring: a bunch of glass sculptures. But seriously amazing.

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Singer Girl is not a fan of museums, so she had grumbled at our itinerary when I revealed it that morning. But she loved both!

We did a bit more wandering (and a lot more photography for Singer Girl’s Insta page). The next day it was back home for us and back to the ship for the Boy. During the two days there we heard rumblings about the Coronavirus outbreak in Seattle and joked that we probably all had it. Thankfully, almost a month later, I can say we most likely did not. But unbeknownst to all of us, this was the last trip for a while.

I am glad we had the time together!

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Silver Linings in your COVID Mask?

We are lucky so far.

We don’t know anyone who is sick (yet). My husband is still employed. I really haven’t found any shortages on the shelves that has made my life difficult. But our lives are a wee bit different, just like everyone else’s — and sometimes, for the better.

This past weekend I was supposed to be sad, as I would not be attending mom’s weekend at my daughter’s sorority at the University of Michigan. Her a Capella group was set to travel to Boston for a workshop and competition. But obviously that all changed. Instead, on Saturday she attended the event online, and I get to hear her sing. A lot.

She has also convinced us to commit to a movie marathon of sorts: we are going to watch all 20-plus movies in the Marvel Universe series (except the Hulk, which she doesn’t like, or Deadpool, because it’s rated R and this not technically part of the saga. but I digress). I’ve never been one to go out of my way for superhero flicks, but it is fun to be committed to this much family time.

We have never had this much time with her since, well, probably since she started preschool, honestly. Day in, day out, we are together. We have learned to respectfully give each other space. I was getting overwhelmed and feeling like I didn’t have any me time, so I created a  schedule. Everyone writes down when they have to be online for a class or conference call, and we all try to stay quiet and out of the way for each other.  I am forced to be more productive at certain times when I know she will be hopping onto my laptop and I will have to get off.

I am working out more. We know when each other will or won’t be in the home gym, so I am scheduling my time better. On a normal day I would say to myself “at some point today I need to hop onto the treadmill.” Now, because others want to hop on, I schedule it and it gets done.

There are more walks, too, and not only by us. Our neighbors are out more, and we are talking with ten (at a distance, of course) more than perhaps we ever had. Everyone is friendlier. Everyone has the time to chat — and we crave it.

With the workouts, I realized I need new shoes. I can’t go to a mall, so I reached out on the socials and was flooded with suggestions of local businesses that are making it possible to shop.

I am adamant that we use local businesses when possible. Yesterday, the rules changed and they want us to wear masks. Amazon is, of course, sold out for a month, so I went back on Facebook and asked, “who is making masks?” I had five options within 15 minutes.

I am overtipping like crazy, and paying people for services I ma not receiving, simply because I can and I want to help directly, not just in am anonymous “donate here” kind of way. For example, we are still paying our housekeeper. I also reached out to her and asked if she had a family member who could use the clothes we had purged from closets. yes, I could give to Goodwill. But if I can give it directly to someone I know, I feel less helpless.

Speaking of helping however we can, HWSNBN and I gave blood yesterday. You should do that as well.

HWSNBN, as I mentioned, is still working. However, his commute is much shorter — just a walk down the hall to his office. In the first few days of this, I learned a lot about what was coming by overhearing his conference calls. I’ve also learned a lot more about what he does on a daily basis, which has been interesting.

Relationships are weird when you are housebound. I can tell when he is procrastinating: he cleans, does laundry, putters around — usually in my arena. Don’t get me wrong: I love him helping out. But it has been harder for me to know my place with the lines so blurry.

I’ve also learned a lot more about my daughter and her academics. I have proofread a few papers for her, and in some ways, I feel as lost as I did when the kids hot about 5th grade in math. Out of my depth for sure! I have always been impressed by her scholastic work ethic, and now is no different. I am grateful that she has school work to help keep her busy.  I do hope the restrictions ease up when her academics end, or we could we in trouble. In the meantime, she is growing her own kombucha for a botany class, speaking Spanish at a level that would be acceptable on a Madrid street, and watching all the pandemic ramifications from the POV of a student who hasn’t decide whether to major in psychology or sociology.

She has been so respectful of social distancing! Yesterday marked the end of her 14-day quarantine since coming back from school. So today, I grudgingly allowed her to visit a friend in a distant way: they kicked a soccer ball around in a park. No close contact, just back and forth passing. I worried she’d get dirty looks (some folks are calling the cops on kids), but thankfully that didn’t happen.

Tonight I was going to order takeout, as we are trying to support local restaurants a few times a week. But HWSNBN wanted to cook, so I let him. Tomorrow someone from The Lakes Running Store will drop off shoes for me to try (I could get used to this), and I will see if my mask supplier needs provisions.

And I will try not to dwell on the latest losses, or that my son is serving on a probably COVID infested aircraft carrier, and that my dad lives in a nursing home, the front line of this wretched viral war.

I will enjoy the fact that my husband and daughter are messing up the house and eating all the food.

It could be worse.

 

Would it Help if I Worried?

So there’s this bug going around…

No, I don’t have it — yet.

Am I the only one out there not freaked out, but still get that it is a real thing? I mean, I know I will likely get it, or at least be exposed to it if I haven’t been already. I also assume that, sadly, I will know someone who dies. That’s an awful thought, but the odds are likely.

In the meantime, I am not sitting around wringing my hands and obsessively watching press conferences or reading charts or graphs or statistics.

My life has changed, sure. Date nights are gone. So is any personal space. My activities at home have to be curtailed to accommodate our home being turned into an office and school space.

The first time it started feeling real for our family was on our trip to Seattle Feb 27-March 2nd. That was about the time it started breaking open in Washington. As we wandered through museums and tourist attractions, rode planes and Ubers and ferries and monorails, ate samples at food markets and didn’t wash our hands enough, the bug was out there, closing in.

On Wednesday the 10th, HWSNBN was sent home from work to self-quarantine. He hasn’t been back to work since. That was the first way the pandemic has affected the family. We are lucky that he is still working — but keeping puppies quiet during his conference calls has been challenging.

At my weekly marketing meeting for Secondhand Hounds, the animal rescue I work for, we discussed possibly changing our upcoming events. I reached out the next day, Thursday, to my upcoming puppy parties (that’s what I do: I run our puppy party division), assured them that animals can’t spread the virus, but if they wanted to reschedule, that’s fine. No one took me up on the offer.

The next day we sent another letter, informing that all events were canceled, whether we liked it or not.

About that time my daughter and son were starting to feel the ripple effects where they are.

Singer Girl goes to school in Michigan (Go Blue!). She loves it there. I told her to prepare for things to change. I told her that her A Cappella group’s trip to Boston would likely be canceled. She said no way (it was canceled). I told her folks would soon be leaving. She said no way. The local kids started heading home temporarily. The school canceled classes for two days to decide how to handle the situation. They went to online classes. She wanted to see what would happen with all the social stuff. When St Patrick’s Day and Aca prom and here sorority’s charity event were all canceled, she was stunned.

I told her she would be coming home soon. She said no. She was still working; in fact, she was working more than she ever had, to cover the shifts of all those who had left already.  She also worried about exposing us to anything she had come in contact with.

I told her she would be coming home. She said she didn’t want to leave her friends. I said just start emotionally planning for it. She rolled her eyes, and we hung up.

Two hours later she called and said, “Ok: come get me.”

So last Thursday I drove 10 hours to Michigan. We packed her up the next day and drove back on Saturday.

Now, we all have to juggle wifi and quiet time so she can do her studies, HWSNBN can do his work, and I can stay sane while they step all over my routine.

Sailor Boy is supposed to change duty stations this summer — to Italy. Not sure if that’s going to happen now. The military is taking some major steps to deal with the virus, and his day to day life has drastically changed. He calls every day, and we discuss the latest development. Will he go to Italy? Will he stay with his current ship? Will he deploy? Will the navy help him move? Will I have to go to Washington and help?

Weirdly it’s like wartime. It’s what he signed up for, I tell him. In a lot of ways, this whole gig reminds me of what I imagined WW2 was like. Folks are sacrificing and stockpiling. We are being told to use supplies wisely. Many common items are hard to come by. People are churning out homemade masks and hospital gowns to protect health care workers. Neighbors are checking in on one another. Again, we all are waiting for that shoe to drop: who will we know that will pay the ultimate price?

Rescue is all weird now too. We have been told to stop doing spay and neuter surgeries. We’ve already cut our office staff to a skeleton crew. On the plus side, more people than ever before want to foster.  Sadly, we are unable to take in as many animals as we usually do, as we have cut down on transports to minimize potential volunteer exposure. So we have fosters just waiting to help, and we can’t get needy animals to their waiting homes.

On a day to day level, my life isn’t radically different. I am not worried. My philosophy for most of my life has been to plan for the worst, hope for the best.

In 2015, I saw a movie that pretty much changed my life: Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks stars as an attorney on cold war America, called upon to defend an accused Russian spy. He funds the situation distasteful, to say the least, but does his civic duty Upon meeting the spy in jail, Hanks’s character explains the gravity of the situation, while the accused spy calmly listens. hanks, exasperated, asks why he is so calm. Isn’t he worried?”

“Would it help?” the Russian replies.

Would it help? Does worrying help? No, of course not. It just stresses you out. So from that moment on, whenever I get that nagging feeling, I pause and take a breath. Rather than waste energy worrying, I take action. Do what I can to take control of the situation, then let it go.

That’s where I am now: I have done what I can to prepare. Now I breathe. And wait.

Stay safe.

Holding On to the Date Nights

So what did we do on date nights in February?

We did things on our own, as well as with groups. I do enjoy having “date nights” with other couples, as we find we are inspiring others to branch out and do new things. Any time we can encourage others to step outside of their box, it doubles the fun!

The first weekend we went to Vegas, so no one-on-one date nights, but lots of fun with two of our fave couples! We do Vegas every year with these guys and always have a blast.

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Highlights included seeing Santana at the House of Blues — I love a concert, and especially when I have room to dance!

We visited  Lisa Van derPump’s new place at Caesar’s for lunch beforehand, As expected: drinks were delish, ambiance was OTT, and the food yummy (of course we had the goat cheese balls!).

We happened to be in town for Super Bowl (never again), and we rented a cabana where our group got to enjoy drinks, food, and sun while watching the wrong team win.

img_1309That night was a great dinner at a new-for-us restaurant, Catch at Aria.

 

The next weekend was my turn to plan, and HWSNBN was left in the dark as long as possible That was a long time indeed, as we had to pack a suitcase and drive more than 2 hours into the frozen tundra. He could not figure out where we were going, which was really fun for me.

Can I just give you a suggestion?

If you ever get a chance to attend a concert by the guy who wrote the soundtrack to your early love life as a couple, do it!

Richard Marx was playing at a casino and we hoofed it up north to see. he was so fantastic! I knew he had a huge catalog of songs and had written and collaborated with many, many famous performers. Hearing him tell the stories and sing the songs was so cool! He is a very funny guy. After the show, we hit the casino floor. ‘Twas a mite bit different than the Vegas casinos of the previous weekend, but it was fun feeling like a high roller, lol! Chicken strips and fries for dinner were also a far cry from the Haute cuisine of seven days prior, but that’s ok. This was our date, and it even reminded me of when we would run away for a night in college to Lake Tahoe, stay up all night then drive back.

 

This was one of those dates that never would’ve happened if we had planned it together. HWSNBN hates car trips — 30 minutes to St Paul makes him lose his mind. And he would’ve rolled his eyes at the idea of this concert. But he was wowed, and we really had a blast.

We had another sort of date that weekend. I mean, not really, but it was such a fun thing to do I wanted to share it. That Sunday, there was a huge dog-sled race called the Klondike Dog Derby on frozen Lake Minnetonka. we didn’t make all the pre-game festivities, of the days before, but we grabbed our dog, piled on the clothing layers, and trudged through the snow out onto the lake. I am excited to see that they will be doing this race again next year, because it was a very fun experience. I hope it is as sunny and gorgeous as it was this year. I would love to make it a “block party” event!

The following weekend was a double-date night with our friends’ Beth and Cory. Beth had reached out to me a couple of months prior, having found a Groupon she wanted to try. The outing had been on my date-night list already, so I agreed, and we surprised the guys with an evening of glass blowing at Foci! We each made colorful paperweights, and the whole process was super interesting. I’d love to try it again!

Afterward, we went out to dinner, and I have to say it was an epic fail. I was in charge of the dinner reservations, and I picked a place I would NEVER go to again. That stinks. Beth and Cory were polite, but it was embarrassing on my end.

The next week we had a double date and a single date planned. I have learned that when you miss someone and want to hang out, you should do so. So often we run into people places and say “we should get together!” Then, you never do? So now I try to reach out the next day and schedule something. Like, hey, what are you guys free on these dates?” I never regret it — there is a reason you say that whole “let’s get together sometime” thing. You like those people!

So earlier in the week, I had reached out a couple we enjoy, Matt and Kristy, whom we hadn’t hung out with in a while. We were miraculously both free, so Friday night we met for dinner and an activity. First up was a fantastic meal at Borough (we had tried to go to Parlour, but it was a madhouse. Another time!). Dinner was great and inventive, and the cocktails were the same.

We hung out a really long time chatting, then hopped into the car and went to the next locale: Modist brewery. they were having an indoor golf event, which sounded like something new and fun to try. But I read it wrong: it wasn’t the whole putting green deal. It was frisbee golf from TC Putts and Pints!

We had a ball — even if we did suck. I mean, I definitely sucked more than the others. But none of us was gonna be in the Masters.

Our last date night of February was planned by HWSNBN. It was on the calendar as “awesome date night,” and he was very excited to share it with me. This was a Tuesday night, date, showing that fun can be had on even the most basic of days!

Off we went to Badger Hill Brewing Company in Shakopee, where we participated in a Paint Your Pet Night by Gray Duck Art. HWSNBN had sent pics of our dog Stevie Nicks and our foster pup, Weeble, and we had a fancy paint by numbers kit waiting for us! Throw in a great beer and a Heggie’s frozen pizza and we had a ball!

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The March date report will be abbreviated, I fear — and April’s will likely be so as well. Social distancing is tough on our adventures, but we get it. It just gives me time to map out new things in a healthier future!

Turning the Pages

I have a book addiction.

I read ALL THE TIME. My nightstand usually has a couple books waiting patiently for me. I journal about the books I read (I am on the second volume of said journal). It contains all the books I have read for about a decade, plus it is crammed with lists and slips of paper and articles of books waiting to be devoured.

Why journal about this, besides my compulsion to make lists? I have this weird self-important idea that someday a kid or grandkid of mine will want to see what I read and pick a few books out themselves., just to be closer to me. But honestly, the journaling is also about keeping track; I read so much that sometimes I forget I read something until several pages in. Time waste!

Besides the journal, the website Goodreads has made me even more obsessed with chronicling my reading habits. Now I write my reviews there, then print them out and paste in my journal.

Mind you, I don’t buy most of the books I read. I am a frequent flyer at the library (when I do need a book that I can’t get from the library, I visit my local independent bookseller, Excelsior Bay Books. They are awesome).

Recently I started looking for books about an upcoming trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Got on the library website, and looked for everything I could find about the area — essays, travel books, fiction, etc.

At the same time, Amazon started sending me book suggestions “based on my history/interest.” I frankly don’t remember ordering any books from them. So somehow the internet Gremlins cyber stalked me and realized I am a sucker for historical fiction, especially about British royalty.

Amazon’s suggestions sent me down a rabbit hole back on the library website, and I added a bunch of books to my reserve list from that realm.

I am not sure how many books I reserved, but I do know that at some point they told me I had to stop, having exceeded the number allowed to reserve.

And then I got the call: I had books waiting.

A lot of books.

My first trip home netted about 25 books.

A few days later: a dozen more.

I was in trouble. I quickly organized them in order of size, knowing that I would never get through all of thee in 3 weeks, but that I needed to get through as many as possible in that time. The library has a fantastic new auto-renewal system, but I needed to get these books going on my own.

So far this year I have returned 37 books (love that the library now tracks this!).

This is my current pile:

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Books, of course, allow you access to amazing stories. True ones, fictional ones, and everything in between.

In the piles of books I recently brought home, there were some quite old ones — published in the 1920s, 30s, etc.

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Frankly, I didn’t get through them, but just holding them made me feel something. When you open them up, they still have the cool old handwritten check-out slips in them, and I couldn’t help but wonder: who read these books back then? Why? Were these hot new publications back in the day, or did they just hear about them from friends? Did they stumble across them, fall in love, or hate them and not finish them.

These books made me feel a little better about my weird book journal because I am leaving a document of what I read, when, why and what I thought about it. Maybe no one cares, and that’s ok. But maybe someone will. Or maybe, 80 years from now, someone else will check out a book I read, and it will have the patina of age, with butter-soft pages worn silky from years of love. And the reader will go — man, this book is old!

I wonder who read it?

I did.

Follow me on Goodreads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Loving Myself Today

I went to bed last night with a bad taste in my mouth, and it’s all my own fault.

I realized that I have been kind of a bitch lately, and have not been holding myself to a very high standard. I have been talking about someone behind their back (no it’s probably not you), and that’s not okay.

I have always thought of myself as a very open-minded person, but maybe I have been wrong. In the fall I took an intellectual Humility test, and I retook it a couple of weeks ago.  I was appalled by my results.2020-02-142020-02-14 (1)

Not only was I worse than others on average, but I was headed in the wrong direction.

Clearly, I need to reassess how I think and behave. How many times have I hurt people and not even realized it? How many times have I judged someone unknowingly? What have I closed my mind to inadvertently?

What have I missed out on? I mean, who wants to talk with me when I talk with them negatively about other people?

So yesterday I reached out to the person I felt I had wronged. I apologized, and she laughed it off with grace. Said she’s not unused to being talked at behind her back, and snarked at to her face.

And that brought up a whole new problem.

As women, should we be okay with this? Do women in positions of authority laugh it off, and say they are used to being treated so meanly? That it’s ok? That they have gotten over the hurt?

Do men tear each other down like women do (and when did I become one of those women I loathed so much?). Do men accept the rudeness and the hurt? Or do they not even notice.

Do women take everything personally?

Is that good?

Do we care more? Do we work harder because of that? Are women motivated by the desire to rise above it, or to get approval? Or do we just swallow the hurt (to what emotional, mental and physical effect?) and become more focussed on accomplishing our goals?

Why do I do the things I do?

I will be the first to admit I am a personality and emotional contradiction. On one hand, I don’t give a shit what people think about me — but I am simultaneously desperate to be everyone’s friend.

On the one hand, I am proud of my directness. I hate the idea of pussy-footing around something. If someone asks my opinion, I tell them. (and clearly, as I discussed above, I’m not always great at my delivery). I dye my hair bright colors. I like to have loud ringtones with rock music. I wear shoes that light up and post pictures of my crazy manicures. I am an over-sharer — social media was MADE for me.

And yet I am always wondering: do they like me? Why don’t they ask me to hang out? Are they having fun without me? One of my biggest social hurdles has always been that I assume I am not included unless I am explicitly asked to participate. I have had folks be absolutely baffled that I am hurt that something occurred and I didn’t get to participate. “You know you were invited!” they say. No, I don’t. Unless I am specifically asked, I don’t know. And I get jealous when I see people I know doing things without me. Mind you: we are insanely busy most of the time, so it’s not like we are hurting for things to do. But I have an insatiable, almost debilitating desire to be included.

Well. This blog took a turn into self-analysis.

But maybe that’s where it started as well.

So: back to the beginning: I need to be a better person. I need to shut my mouth when my when I don’t have something positive to contribute. If I have a problem, snarking about it to someone else will not solve it. Go to the source and see if there is a solution. Don’t let other people get to me.

Scroll past that post.

If I don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.

And listen more than I speak. Man, THAT one is hard. I am not sure exactly how I am going to correct half a century’s worth of experience that has led me to this point. But I do know that I don’t like feeling guilty, and I like it even less knowing that I may have hurt someone.

They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.

Step one taken.

 

 

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