Monday, October 14, 2013


Fact: Of the 313 million people in the United States, only one thousand and three of those American citizens are U.S. Figure Skating Judges. That's just 0.0003% of the entire population.

Because we're a small group, there is a sense of family among figure skating officials due to the hours and hours we spend together, our shared experiences in the officials' room (what happens in the officials' room, stays in the officials' room), and our love of the sport. I've been a judge since 1996 and in those 17 years, I have made many, many friends from all over the country. 

I was only a few years into my judging career when, as I looked around an officials' room and saw the span of generations, I began to wonder what it was going to be like when the senior generation started to pass away. You don't want to think about that stuff, but I am Irish and thoughts like that are part of my genetic make-up.  

If I consider all U.S. officials family, I think of the Minnesota officials as my immediate family. We have watched as some of our officials have battled cancer and others fade away because of Alzheimer's disease and old age. We had time to say goodbye and many of them had the opportunity to say goodbye to us. 

But my Minnesota family recently suffered a loss that we weren't prepared for when Marlys Larson passed away.  I had just been at a competition in Madison, Wis., with Marlys three weeks earlier and she was healthy. There is nothing that stands out from that day that would have made me think her days were numbered.  Since I knew that her mom had lived past the age of 100, I was pretty sure Marlys would outlive me. 

But one week later, Marlys suffered aortic dissection while in Iowa for a dog show (more on that topic later). She had surgery and seemed to have come out of the surgery fine. I was thinking, 'well, she'll rally back from this.' Then five days after the surgery, she started having strokes and I went from thinking that 'she'll rally back from this' to 'it might take her a bit longer to rally back from this.' The next day, I learned that they had found bleeding in her brain and all they could do was to make her comfortable until the end. I, as well as many others in our family, were not ready to accept that she wouldn't survive this. She passed away early morning on October 5th. 

Since I hadn't grown up in the Twin Cities, I didn't know of Marlys before I started judging except that she was the mother of one of the coaches at my club. In getting to know Marlys, I discovered she was a dog lover and showed dogs. My immediate assumption was prejudiced by painting Marlys as an 'Edina housewife' and I figured she showed poodles or some fancy breed. I was floored when I learned that Marlys' dog of choice was the slobbery Saint Bernard. It was her passion outside of figure skating and I always enjoyed hearing stories of Axel and Linus. 

As we said goodbye to her this past Saturday at the Lakewood Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis. we were surrounded by beautiful mosaics of four strong women (Love, Hope, Memory (in the photo) and Faith) and it seemed very appropriate for a celebration of Marlys' life. If there was one word that describes Marlys, it is strength. 

Now, just like in blood families, Marlys and I argued about a lot of topics and there were many times that we drove each other crazy. We shared the "blunt talking gene." But we also had many times when worked very well together. During her first term as President of Twin City Figure Skating Association, I served as the secretary. During those four years, I spent more time with Marlys than I did with my own mother. 

And as much as we argued, I never lost respect for her as a judge. She knew the rulebook inside and out and she was the one person you wanted to be around when the judges' exam was out. (it was open book, so we weren't cheating) Marlys was also a monitor for new judges and she was always generous with her time. Equally so, Marlys provided skaters and coaches with great feedback and many sought out her opinion. These judges and skaters will be part of her legacy to the skating community. She is going to be missed.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happiness is
The Charlie Brown musical has a song called, "Happiness is..." that tells us that Happiness is two kinds of ice cream and so on. 


I had a new one yesterday when exchanging views with someone. 

Happiness is 
the smile that comes across your face 
and the sense of satisfaction you get 
when you realize that you made the right decision thirty-some years ago, 
after consuming too much alcohol, 
standing a frat house porch, 
when you said no.

So maybe not the Charlie Brown musical as much as the Lion King and the "Circle of Life."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Who's responsible for these kids?

I think if I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’ve been going to a lot of high school sporting events in the last few years – even more since I moved to Albert Lea.  But of all the sporting events at different Big Nine schools, I haven’t seen anything near to the type of poor sportsmanship I saw last night at the Faribault (MN) High School during the Albert Lea vs. Faribault volleyball game. And the only other time I’d seen anything like it, was at a basketball game in Faribault last season.

And it wasn’t the parents or the coaches or the players. It was the high school fans at the game. It was a prime example of mob mentality with hint of Lord of the Flies. I suppose I could blame their parents or the school administrators, but mostly, it’s the kids. Some might blame culture or society, but if that was the case, we would see this at more high school events, but I haven't.

The poor behavior started right away. The high school kids in the stands, sitting tightly in one section, were standing up with their backs turned away from the court as the Albert Lea players were being introduced. That was rude and disrespectful.

Then it got weird. For some reason, Faribault takes an athletic event and makes it into a theatrical performance. When it was time to introduce the Faribault players, the lights in the gym turn off and spotlights and laser lights turn on – I kid you not! Maybe the Athletic Director (AD) used to work for the World Wrestling Federation (or wants to). The only things missing were Jock Jams and “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

The Faribault High School band was there and did a respectable job, but could have gone with about ½ the number of drums. We’re in an enclosed gym, not out on the football field. Think indoor voice.

At first, I thought it was great for the Faribault team to have lots of fans in the stands, but later the mob behavior started kicking in. By the third game, I later learned, they weren’t just cheering and making noise (which is perfectly fine), they had taken to shouting insults and derogatory statements at the individual Albert Lea players. The AL coach had enough and asked the referees to do something about it.

The gym, because of the way it is built, is a very loud space, but the DJ, I mean announcer, must have been a former disco DJ and partially deaf – because he cranks up the tunes to around 90 decibels (Yes, I have a decibel meter on my phone) and I don’t think I heard any song recorded after 1983. During the time that the coaches, referees and the AD were huddling to discuss what to do about the students’ behavior, the DJ, I mean announcer, played music – he played The Pink Panther – no seriously, he played The Pink Panther. The conversation went on for a while, so the DJ, I mean announcer, had to play a second piece of music (still at 90+ dBs) – his choice – The Charlie Brown Theme music.

Finally the huddle broke up and the Faribault AD walked over to the students to talk to them about their behavior and poor sportsmanship. I don’t know how they heard him over the lilting strains of the Charlie Brown Theme. They acted contrite in front of the AD, but resumed the noise soon after. Couldn't tell if they resumed the harassment as it was difficult to hear over the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. 

The kids' behavior reminded me of a drunk in the cheap seats at Yankee Stadium, yelling at the opposing team’s outfielder hoping to distract him or psych him out. The drunk usually isn’t successful because (a) the outfielder is yards away, (b) is a grown man being paid millions and (c) could care less about what some drunk is yelling. All the guy (or gal) in the stand does is embarrass him/herself and annoy the people around him/her. Only in Faribault last night, the behavior was coming from high school kids and being directed at high school athletes. And perhaps worse, it was mostly young men doing this to young women.

I was proud of the AL girls because they didn’t let the noise or the distractions get to them and played great. The Faribault volleyball players also played very well and, even though they lost 3 games to 1, their behavior was respectful and appropriate.

I have a couple of friends with young children who live in Faribault. I hope for their kids’ sake that by the time they’re in high school, the school district will have stopped tolerating the type of behavior I saw last night.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Inquiring minds want to know 
Since I started teleworking in March, and especially after my move to Albert Lea three rent checks ago, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about telework. Primarily, if I like it and "isn’t it lonely?".

My answer to the former is I love it – I have three days a week when I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to wear, I don’t have to put on make-up or fix my hair (unless there’s a video call). I can work wearing sweats and t-shirt and all of my meetings take place at my desk, so I’m never late.

I do tend to laugh when they ask if it’s lonely. “Well, you live alone. Don’t you feel isolated?” 

Sorry, no, I actually kinda like it. I know people think because I’m outgoing and social and all that that I crave being physically around others. Honestly, not so much. Oh, sure, people are mostly okay, but a few of them can get annoying (and they know who they are).

When I was a little kid, my mom would put me in my playpen alone and I kept myself entertained for hours. The playpen was next to a big picture window and when it was dark outside, the legend goes, I would start to play with the cutest little girl in the window (early onset of narcissism) 

Then there’s my track record as a roommate. While no one has told me directly, I know I suck at it. And you can't ask any of my former roommates because none have kept in touch.

Except my sisters - they have to keep in touch with me. My sister Sue, who was my roommate for the first 12 years of my life, would tell you that I was a bit of a slob and that she refused to make my side of the bed. ('I’m getting back in there later, why make the bed?') My sister Chris was my roomie for a few months in late 2004 and she would just tell you that I was never home.

Isolated? Maybe when I lived in Rochester because I didn’t know as many people to socialize with after spending the day teleworking, but Albert Lea is the exact opposite. (Thank you Circle of Friends!)

Sadly, this week has not been a good telework week. Mostly because I haven’t been able to telework! I’ve had to go into the office FOUR DAYS IN ROW. I’ve been working on a video project and it’s tough to shoot video when you’re not physically there. 

You can’t imagine how exhausting this has been. I’ve had to figure out what to wear each day and I think I’m almost out of outfits. And don't forget having to do my hair and make-up. My cohort who has been on camera has the advantage of getting to wear the same outfit three days in a row for continuity. Lucky duck.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How I spent my summer vacation (2013 edition)

With Labor Day right around the corner and the start of school the next day, I figured it was time to look back on my summer. Although, with the current heat wave, it sure doesn't feel like summer is almost over. I'm not a big fan of hot weather, so I'm currently channeling my "future-old-woman-who-complains-about-everything-without-caring-who-is-listening" personality.

Last we chatted, I was finishing up cleaning and packing for my move to Albert Lea. Since I'm quickly approaching the third rent check, I guess I should fill you in on how it's been going.

First of all, I have a love-hate relationship with the apartment. It's a great apartment, but the kitchen is smaller than any place I've lived in, so I'm struggling to figure out how to best organize it. And I might be lucky that IKEA isn't right in town or I would be there with each new idea, and thus, busting my budget. 

And I have interesting neighbors. Nuff said. 

There's no way I can say that the apartment was move-in ready when I was ready to move-in. I spent quite a few days cleaning up the place to my low standards. I insisted the management company give me a cleaning credit for the number of hours I spent cleaning - and they did.

My apartment faces the ambulance bay for Mayo Clinic Health System (MCHS) in Albert Lea. (For native Albert Leans, translation: Naeve Hospital) The Gold Cross ambulances have a policy to not start the sirens until they are off Park Avenue and on to Fountain Street. That's a nice thing for them to do because the rare times that they have turned the sirens on early, I nearly jumped out my skin.

Even though the apartment was built in 1906 (or there about), the place has garages attached. But they're not very wide and I go into minor stress mode whenever I have to park in the garage. Thus I'm mostly parking on the street.

One weekend in July, I was walking out to my car (parked in front of the apartment) and I noticed it had a parking ticket, but it wasn't from the city. It was a MCHS parking ticket. Because I have a Mayo tag on my car, they thought I was an employee illegally parked. I stopped by the hospital's security office, explained the situation (hey, I live there) and the guy apologized and tore up the ticket. Only it happened again the following weekend. The time on the second ticket was 4 a.m., so I'm surmised that it was a very bored security guy looking for anything to do. This time I called the Director of Security at the hospital and informed him of the facts. I guess I'm now in their 'database.' (should I be worried?)

Hopefully they registered my license plate (SK8 4ME) and not the description (a sorry-looking, beat-up 2001 PT Cruiser), because I finally broke down and purchased a new car. I don't think of it as much as having a new car, rather I think of it as having a car payment.

I held off buying a new car for as long as possible, but when I reached the point where driving over 60 mph caused me to pray the rosary out loud, I knew I could wait no longer. 

It was that and 
  • the fact that the brake light would come on if I accelerated too quickly,
  • that my left rear blinker would only work if I slammed the trunk just right,
  • that the driver's side rear door handle had rusted off,
  • and perhaps because the check-engine-light had been on for the last 20K miles.
My new car payment is a 2009 Pontiac Vibe.

Earlier I mentioned that my garage is narrow, so as I was car shopping, I carried a tape measure with me. Many vehicle were ruled out because they were too big. Yes, the sales guy thought it was bit strange, but I'll be glad that I did it once the snow arrives. Which can't be soon enough for me.

The question that I'm most frequently asked is if I'm happy being back home. The answer is yes, but it's more than that. There is a level of comfort that I feel being back here. It's still feeling like I'm just here for a visit, but that becomes less and less each day. 

To be continued...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Moving Weekend

Have you ever been in the process of preparing for something that has a specific timeline (such as moving), only to reach a moment when you realize that you are way ahead of the timeline and might be done before zero hour? 

What if I reach the point where everything is ready for the movers and I have hours and hours of waiting with nothing to do? And the fear of having time where I'm just waiting and not doing anything slows me down? 

So I stop.

And then I start to feel guilty because what if I've miscalculated the amount of time to get everything done and this "downtime" will actually hurt me in the end?

Welcome to my world of mixing best case scenarios with worst case scenarios and creating mud - yucky, sticky mud that makes my brain hurt. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The squirrel hasn't lost any weight

Two years, I wrote a blog post entitled, "The 800-pound squirrel in the room," that explained why packing/unpacking for an ADDer is a comedy for others to enjoy and the afflicted to endure. Here's a sample of that post: 

Unpacking a box with clothing, I decide to sort them into two piles: stuff I can wear and stuff I wish I could still wear (wink, wink). 'Oh, I should put these into another tub to put back into storage...'

I remember there is empty tub in the bedroom and wander in there to get it. I spot a box with stuff for the bathroom and pick it up and take it into the bathroom, where I unpack it.

Then I go back into the bedroom where I found the box and start to sort the socks before I put them into the dresser. As I'm doing that, I notice that I haven't found the pillows for my bed yet and go back out into the living room to find the pillows, only to notice that I never got the tub for the "non-fitting" clothes.  

Packing for this move is following a similar pathway. I was doing great at the start, but now that I'm down to random odds and ends and the stuff I need to keep unpacked for day-to-day life, I'm kinda sucking at it. 

It's been one of my goals with this project to throw things away and not move something for a third time that I haven't touched or needed. Strangely enough, spices fell in this category. As I was cleaning out the cupboards and got to my so-called spice shelf, I seriously looked at the labels on the spices. If I had to guess the average age of my stash, I would go with 8 to 10 years old. 

Unlike last time where I had stuff in three different places, I have simplified my life to two two and 1/2 different places. The storage unit in Albert Lea (200 sq ft) is about 75% full; my garage has been coverted in to a staging area where I'm putting all the boxes and bins that are full and then the rest is in the apartment - some in half-full boxes, some sitting on a table waiting for its fate to be determined and the rest that have to remain unpacked until the last moment. 

I pray that no emergencies happen that would require a clear pathway in or out of my apartment. If so, I'm doomed. 

Monday, June 17, 2013


It's been a crazy couple of months since I made the decision to move back to Albert Lea. The toughest and most important decision was where was I going to live. Smaller communities don't have many strong options for renting. And I'm kinda picky.

In the middle of it, I was presented with the possibility of owning a home. It was something I hadn't even considered, but the possibility was a bit intoxicating. So, it was a bit of downer when the option was taken off the table.

Soon after true reality sunk in, I spent an evening in Albert Lea looking for a place. First I went to the apartment complex that I had always thought I would like, to meet up with the rental agent. I waited and I waited and I called and didn't get a call back. While waiting, I started to cross the apartment off my list, thinking I had built it up in my head as something that it wasn't. After waiting 25 minutes, it was off to see three more places to rent. 

The first one was a house in a great neighborhood and when I pulled up, I couldn't believe how big it was for what I would be paying. Wrong! I wouldn't be renting the house, I would be renting a tiny two-bedroom mother-in-law's suite on top of the garage. No thanks.

The next was a townhouse that was on the opposite side of town, but it was roomy, had a detached garage and a washer & dryer.  The third one was even more out of the way, but had a nice layout, a washer & dryer hook-up (not the actual appliances) and an attached garage. It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I didn't think I had many more options. I told the rental agent that I would take the application home and send it to him that weekend. 

As I was driving out of town to head back to Rochester, my phone rang and it was the rental agent from the apartments I had given up on. He had spaced the meeting and would be happy to show me the place right now if I was still around. I agreed and headed back to meet him.

Even though I had sort of written it off, I still remained hopeful. It was the best decision of the evening.

Robert, the agent, apologized for forgetting the appointment. He had been helping to move one of the current tenant out of the apartment he was about to show me. The DON apartments were built in 1927 and have that quality of 1920s style. DON stood for the Dormitory of Nursing as it was built about a block away from Naeve Hospital. It's now Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea and it's no longer one block away - it's across the street. 

Floor plan
There were so many reasons why I shouldn't have liked it. No air conditioning, but if I buy A/C units, Robert and the caretaker will install them. (!) No dishwasher or microwave in the kitchen. No washer/dryer in the unit, not even the hook-ups, but the coin operated washers/dryers were just below my unit. It's got an attached garage. 

I fell in love with it and wrote out the deposit check before I left. 

Why? In a word - location, location, location. 

It's right by the lake and I'm excited that I'll be able to get up each morning and take a walk around the lake (about five miles). It's within walking distance of downtown Albert Lea with a great little coffee shop, a fun/casual locally-owned bar, the community theater and the weekly Farmer's Market. It's also across the street from Mayo. So, if I ever have wi-fi or VPN connection problems, I can just cross the street and solve my problem. They might not have an office space I can use, but I'll just hang out in the cafeteria that overlooks the lake.

So, next Monday, the moving van is packing me up and moving me home. 

Next blog post - The joys of packing with ADD. Or I could just repost this one from my last move "The 800-pound Squirrel In the Room"- the situations are pretty much the same.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Going home

I'm ready to challenge Thomas Wolfe and prove him wrong. "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood." Just watch me.

Back in March, I wrote a post about the six week telework pilot that allowed me to work from home half time. It's been a great experience and while I haven't yet met with my boss to confirm that we're going to continue this arrangement, she also hasn't given me any sign that this experiment didn't work.

At the end of that blog post, I mentioned that the ability to telework half time would allow me to live anywhere I want. As the month of April started, I received a letter from the landlord that told me that the rent was going up and I had to let them know by May 1st if I was renewing my lease for another year.

Time to make a decision.

Time to stop telling friends that I'm thinking about it and take the step forward. I haven't been thinking about this in a vacuum; I've heard opinions from lots of different people.

I know there are some, possibly related to me, that may think it's slightly nuts of me to do this.  (and they wouldn't use the term 'slightly' to describe how nuts they think I am) I listened to my brother-in-law Paul and his thoughts about making the move. The practicality of winter driving and the fact that my car is nearing the end of the forcibly extended life and that I was going to need something dependable sooner rather than later.

There was  an article in the March 2013 issue of Real Simple magazine entitled "back where I belong" by Rod Dreher, that brought home the decision I had ahead of me.

The author shares the story of how he ended up moving from big town Philadelphia back to his hometown after being away for years. The sad twist to the story is that he only realized the value of small town life when his sister, who had always lived in their hometown, passed away from cancer. He saw, during the months leading up to her death, how the community showered love and compassion on her.

But, it was the conversation with my friend Jessie that helped me get right with myself for this decision and realize it's a no-brainer. Jessie and I don't get to see each other a lot, but when we do, we often act as sounding boards to each other.  We met Sunday night at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis for dinner and a play.

Her one simple question, "what is your circle of friends like in Rochester," showed the reality of my life. Socially, besides my family here, it's very limited. I have friends here, but not 'hanging-out-friends.'

"And," she continued, "it's not like your family is going to stop inviting you to hang out if you move to Albert Lea." I hope not, Sunday dinners at the Knutson's is one of my favorite parts of the week. Being closer to family here in Rochester than I have in the past 20 years has been outstanding. It's the best part of living here.

Then Jessie followed up with, "what is your circle of friends like in Albert Lea?" I smiled, then smirked. When thinking of my Albert Lea friends, the phrase 'circle of friends' is usually capitalized to "Circle of Friends." In the 22+ years since I've been gone, those friendships have remained strong and have even grown.

Way back in 1988, Jessie and I met and became friends in Albert Lea during a community theater production of "Anything Goes."  When I mentioned to her how I knew it wouldn't be long before I was back at the theater and singing at church, she smiled and said, "you're going back to Albert Lea. It's a no-brainer."

"I'm going back to Albert Lea," I said calmly. Then it became, "Oh my God, I'm moving back to Albert Lea."

But I'm not thinking of it as moving to Albert Lea as much I think of it as I'm going home.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My Blue Coat

Bell ringing for the Salvation Army wearing
my blue coat. The red spring Santa cap
is optional.
It's time to put away my winter coats and it got me thinking about my blue coat ... 

The first World Synchronized Skating Championship was held in Minneapolis in 2000 and I was one of the volunteers. There are always vendors at skating competitions, usually companies selling skating dresses, skating jewelry, and skating knick-knacks.

One of the vendors at the competition was a Canadian company called Blue Skies <no longer in business> and they sold team uniforms (dresses, warm-ups, outerwear). I might not have taken a second look at them except for the cobalt blue coat that they were selling. It's the one color that always draws my eyes.

It was a beautiful long coat made of fleece with black trim on the collar, cuffs and at the bottom edge of the bodice. It had a hood with black fur and a matching scarf.

I had to have that coat. But Blue Skies wasn't the type of retailer that lets you buy off the rack. Every coat was custom-made for the individual. They measured the length of my arms, not just for the sleeves, but to determine the best location for the pockets. (So, when I put my hands in my pockets, the finger tips touched the bottom of the pocket.)

When they told me the cost, I almost said no. I can't remember the exact cost, but it was more that I had paid for any piece of clothing. The sales person told me that I should think of the coat as an investment and that I would most likely wear it for several years.

If they would have told me that I would still be wearing this coat 13 years later, I'm sure I would have laughed. Who wears a coat for 13 years? But I certainly have gotten my money's worth.

This coat seems to be indestructible. Since it's made from fleece fabric (which is recycled material), it's washable and I usually wash it once or twice a winter. Color has never faded. Since the coat isn't bulky, it packs well for those summer months when I travel for skating competitions. (What? You put your winter coats away for the season?)

I sometimes wonder if my skating peeps roll their eyes when they see me wearing my blue coat each season. If the fabric was worn away anywhere on it - like the cuffs or the collar - maybe I would replace it, but it looks the same as it did on that first day.

I was at a skating competition a few weekends back, but not as a judge. I was on the other side of the rink as the aunt of one of the competitors. Of course, I knew most of the officials there and stopped to chat with them later. One of them told me that she had spotted me across the rink - "I'd recognize that blue coat anywhere."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shortest Commute I've Ever Had

Couple of weeks back I wrote about my "experiment" of dumping cable TV and only having Apple TV. After six weeks, it's going okay. Not sure I'm cut out for doing this permanently, but worth giving it a try. 

My next experiment starts tomorrow when I start a six week pilot of part-time telework. I guess Mayo Clinic has decided not to add any more office space in downtown Rochester. Some department are making it optional, while other areas are downsizing their work space footprint and having only drop-down space for when staff has to be on campus. 

Public Affairs is just starting to get into telework with a handful of people opting in. When it became an option, a very large and very bright light bulb went on in my head. If I were to telework, I could live anywhere I wanted. And where I've been wanting to live, for let's say the last 20 years, is Albert Lea. 

When I moved to the Twin Cities in 1991, it was supposed to have been temporary, at least it was in my mind. I'm pretty sure that I went home every weekend I could. By the time I purchased my condo in '97, I had come to the realization that I might never be moving back to home, so I should find a more permanent home. I just couldn't imagine an scenario where I could live in Albert Lea and still work in my chosen career (nonprofit management) and be able to pay my bills. 

Back to the whole telework pilot...

My ideal set-up is what we're going to be piloting - I'll work Monday, Tuesday and every other Wednesday "in office" and then Thursday, Friday and the other Wednesdays from home. So much of what I do can be done at home, in the comfort of my sweats. When I've worked from home before, those days turn out to be highly productive because I'm not racing off to a meeting or getting distracted by other conversations, etc. I know that I'll never be a 100 percent work-from-home person as I need the human interaction, but I think I'll like doing this on a regular schedule. 

After the six weeks are up, my manager and I will evaluate the pilot and make the decision if telework becomes a permanent plan or not. If it does, then I'll have to make the decision of where I will live come this July 1 - Rochester or Albert Lea or ???

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Physical Manifestation of Friendship

If you've read my blog before, you might have heard me talk about my life-long best friend, Mary. (Click here to read our story) We've been best friends since third grade and until college, it was rare that you saw one without the other. 

Best friends often do activities or sports together. Mary and I joined the figure skating club about the same time, but other things interested her more. 

She went into gymnastics - the girl was super flexible. (I have memories of her putting her foot behind her head <from the front of the body> and me telling her to stop that!) So while Mary was in gymnastics, I was at the ice arena. 

Mary studied ballet. I took ballet, too (to help with my skating), but while I was learning the five positions, Mary was on pointe. 

Mary was in band. I was in choir. 

I've always wondered what it would have been like if we would have had interest in the same sport and trained together. 

Recently, I saw what that looked like. I saw the physical manifestation of friendship. 

Two young women, friends since they were toddlers, Syd and Bryn have played basketball together for about as long as they've been able to dribble a ball. When they are on the court together, there's a certain amount of synchronicity to their play that isn't as dominant with the other players. 

Maybe I see it this way because I don't know as much about basketball as others (didn't play it - hard to dribble a ball on ice skates), but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. I would guess that their coaches, and maybe their parents (who are sometimes both), would say it's from years of practice and playing together. 

Nope, not buying it. It's not just about practicing. There are plenty of people who practice, practice, practice and never master this. 

  • In their playing, I see trust. Trust that the other person will be there when they need them.
  • I see knowledge. Knowledge of what the other person is capable of and how to help them succeed. 
  • I see confidence. Confidence that their friend pushes them to be the best they can be. 

I see the physical manifestation of friendship. And it's pretty cool. And I could sit and watch it for hours. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Don't bother unpacking that box

My current apartment lease ends this summer and all the signs are pointing to me moving. Where? Don't know yet, but the current landlords have been dropping hints that they might be going in a different direction soon. (I think back in the 1980s it was called "going condo.")

The complex I live in is comprised of five buildings and some of the units are owned by individuals and the rest are rented as apartments. It was built as condos, but the market tanked about the same time and only a few were actually sold. So instead, the unsold units were handed over to a property management company to be rented. 

This past November, I found a notice attached to my door from DJ Properties, the group that owns the building (not quite as dramatically done as Martin Luther, but effective nevertheless). The flyer was an offer to current residents to buy their apartment via contract for deed. It didn't provide much details as to terms or interest rates, but I didn't care because I'm not interested in buying my apartment. Too small, no dining room and not enough storage. 

The rent is near the top end of my budget and I'd like to build up some savings for a down payment, so I can rejoin the wacky world of home ownership. It's a couple of years off, but if I don't save money, it could be much further off (or never).

If the November notice made me a tad bit suspicious, the last two days have sealed the deal. Yesterday, another flyer appeared on the door with news of a photo contest. All you have to do is send in the best picture of your apartment to the property manager and you could win $100. While it's optional, if you do submit photos, the photos MAY be used for marketing purposes. (I guess marketing could mean the same thing as listing.)

Today, another flyer was stuck on the door advising residents that a "representative of the owner will be in town on February 19 and would like to inspect all rental units." And, it bluntly states, please make sure your condo is clean. Seriously? Has my landlord morphed into my mother? 

The whole thing reminds me of medieval times when the landlords terrorized the serfs who worked their lands. Granted, my vision of medieval times have been severely warped by Monty Python and The Life of Brian, but still applies.

All this means that I have another adventure to look forward to and another opportunity to learn how to back-up a trailer. Which is why my lease end date is so generic as I don't want to give advance notice to my relatives that they "get" to help me move again. It'll be a special move - Number 25 since I graduated from high school in 1979. (Special award to my sister Sue, who has participated in at least 1/2 of the moves - Way to go!)  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dang! When did I get old?

I've been worried about looking old for about going on 32 years and I have seriously been working to prevent it in every imaginable way. 

I can distinctly remember, at age 21, standing at the bathroom sink and pushing my face closer to the mirror to check out my eyes. I wanted to be sure that there weren't any crows-feet starting to show. I was twenty-one frickin' years old. I had bought into the Mary Kay fantasy and had sworn on the pink jar of youthfulness that I would be ever vigilant. 

Inside my often shallow heart, I would feel vindicated any time a high school classmate would tell me how I hadn't aged since high school. It just fed into my fantasy. 

Last month, while looking for an old document, I came across a photo of me taken in 1990 - at the ripe old age of 29. I just stared at the aged newsprint photo and the walls of my "I'm-not-aging" fantasy world started to tumble down. (And I realized, I sort of like my hair longer...)

Tonight, as I got ready for bed, I realized that nothing I can do will stop the aging process. There are no magic creams that will keep the wrinkles away forever. (Although, I've heard there are surgeries) 

I guess it is some relief that others are aging, too, but not much. (Remember this is all about me)

I looked in the mirror and accepted myself for who I am. At least for now. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Experiment

I grew up in front of a television. I knew the jingles for every commercial (better than my multiplication tables) and I was a media junkie soon after being potty trained. 

I remain a media junkie to this day. It's this reality of who I am that makes last month's decision so surprising. 

Like everyone, I'm trying to watch my spending and each month, there were two bills that really, really irked me; the cable bill and my cell phone bill. Something had to give.  In the battle between television and the phone, the phone won. I called Charter last month and told them to discontinue my cable TV. Everything was unplugged on January 20th. 

I'm sure you're wondering how I've managed to make it through the media withdrawal. How have I survived without my connection to the outside world? 

It's called Apple TV. It's not the be all and the end all, but it's darn close. 

There were only a handful of shows that I watched on a regular basis and through iTunes, Hulu Plus and video podcasts, I think there is only one that I haven't been able to watch. I get Law & Order: SVU, The Daily Show and Glee through Hulu Plus ($8.00/month). I can watch NBC Nightly News, Morning Joe and the Rachel Maddow show via video podcasts (free) and the only one I have to pay for is NCIS via iTunes (at a whopping $2.99 per episode for HD)

Anything I can watch on my iPad, can be fed onto my Apple TV. All of my iTunes music can be played on the TV. 

It's not perfect, I can't watch live TV shows like the Super Bowl or the Grammys, but via Twitter and Facebook, I know if it's good or not and I'll be able to see the highlights on YouTube the next day. 

I'm also getting more work down around the house. I don't spend all night in front of the television. Ideally, I'm hoping to spend more of that non-TV-watching time at the gym, but one step at a time. 

And this is an experiment with potential end date of July 1st. That's when my lease is up where I'm currently living and when I move into a new place (location TBD), I can make the call if I'm going to sign-up for cable tv again or not. 

As for now, I'm not as much fun around the water cooler because I don't know what happened on Gray's Anatomy last night, but then again, I have never watched Gray's Anatomy anyway. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The misadventures of iGor the iPad

iGor was a happy, if not slightly battered, iPad who traveled frequently with his friend, ME. He got to go to exciting destinations like Alpharetta, Ga., Hershey, Penn., Ann Arbor, Mich, Chicago, Ill., and Cleveland, Ohio. Granted most of the trips involved long hours in cold ice rinks, but iGor passed his time playing Angry Birds, Words with Friends and posting witty status updates on Facebook.

And iGor had a bitchin' red leather jacket that made him look good.

But, alas, due to an owner with an exceedingly short attention span, in August 2012, iGor the iPad was mistakenly left in the seatback pocket of an airplane. ME left him behind when making a connection in Atlanta and didn't realize it until she was aboard the next flight.

A Delta flight attendant calmed the slightly hysterical ME, who was already experiencing the DTs from iPad withdrawal and gave her the 800# to call. ME got on the phone and called the Delta Lost and Found, gave them her flight number, gate number, seat number, a full description of iGor the iPad, specifically mentioning the bitchin' red leather jacket. She gave them her cell phone number, office number, email address, mother's maiden name, the name of the street she grew up on and the name of her first pet. 

She was told that they would contact her if they recovered her iPad. Standing nearby, the flight attendants rolled her eyes, wished ME luck and quietly whispered, "that iPad is gone for good."

Being a person of little faith, no patience, no ability to delay gratification and a borderline psychotic iPad withdrawal, ME waited one whole week (and payday) before venturing into Best Buy to buy a replacement for iGor. Determined to stay on budget, ME vowed that she didn't need a iPad 3, and would replace the lost one with a iPad 2 (exactly like iGor). However, ME also lacked impulse control at Best Buy. When she learned they had an open box iPad 3 that was only $50 more than the iPad 2, she gave in to temptation. iRene the iPad went home with ME.

Months went by and iGor was given up for forever lost. Then, in the early days of 2013, Shanna, the lone part-time employee who works in the Delta Lost and Found office, contacted ME to let her know that they believe they have her lost iPad. Shocked and feeling like she had been caught like a cheating spouse, ME carefully answered Shanna's questions.

"Was your iPad in a case?"
"Yes, a bitchin' red leather one."
"Was there anything else about the case?"
Being bitchin' red leather isn't enough?

"Does it have a white stripe on the case?"
"Yes," ME replied excitedly. "And a magnetic latch."

Shanna continued, "Now I need you to tell me what's on the iPad."
"Well, you'll first have to enter a six digit code."
"Oh, no. Your iPad is dead and needs to be recharged."
(Shocking that the battery didn't last five months.)

Shanna informs ME that she'll have to call her back when it's charged. As ME hangs up the phone, she is slightly stressed as she tries to remember what she was using for a code five months ago.

About an hour later, Shanna calls back with iGor the iPad fully charged. "Now, Miss Harty, I can see the pictures you have on the iPad, can you tell me what pictures are on here?"
Inside her head - "you're high Shanna - you can't see the pictures, you're just looking at the home screen."
Verbally, "Can't remember - but it should be asking you for a passcode."

"What is the code?"
"Um, I think it is 111111" (a hacker's dream)
"It worked! And it says it's Elizabeth's iPad." (And there was much rejoicing in the land.) 

"We'll ship it back to you. Do you have a UPS or Fed Ex account?"
Seriously? I'm a normal person. I don't have my own UPS or Fed Ex account.

"You'll have to set one up before I can ship it back to you." She gives ME an phone number to call to set up a Fed Ex account and tells that she would be calling her back in 15 minutes.

By the end of the night, ME had her own personal Fed Ex account and owned two iPads.

Hello? eBay?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad