Sunday, October 3, 2010

Out with a Bang

Well, it's here.  Today is the day I turn 50 years old.  After all is said and done, it feels great.

My wonderful husband completely surprised me last night with a fabulous birthday party.  It was so much fun - a terrific dinner at my favorite restaurant with a great group of friends and family.  We ate, laughed, talked and danced the night away in very un 50-like style - proving that you are never too old for a good party!

It was truly a night to remember.  I am blessed to have such fabulous friends who came out to help me celebrate this milestone.  As an introvert, I'm the one who doesn't want the party and usually prefers the quiet dinner, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of last night - Thank you Bill for arranging such a lovely evening.

Thank you all too for following this blog over the last year. It has been an enlightening journey for me.  I've realized that I really am a writer, and will continue to write as I move onto the next phase of my life.  I love that I have this journal of my 50th year, and am looking forward what the next 50 years has in store for me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Big 2 0

20 years ago today, Bill and I got married.  It was a great fall day in Upstate New York. We danced the night away and ate pie ala mode in fabulous company.

20 years seems like a long time - doesn't it?  Mostly it has flown by, two great kids, career ups & downs as well as many moves and changes along the way.  

I'm proud that we've made it to this milestone and have done the work to still be going strong into our next 20 years. We've certainly had our share of arguments and differences of opinion (Why he just doesn't agree with me - it would be so much faster!).  We've had countless happy times as well as the tough losses of siblings, parents and other loved ones while always being there for each other.

Now, you all know that this is about as mushy as I ever get. It has been fun today, though, to think back on the years feeling so good about being half of this couple.  I am also looking forward to the future - more laughter and tears to come, but great anticipation and excitement as partners and parents.


Monday, September 27, 2010

T minus 6

Well, it's almost here.  Less than a week from today, I will be 50 years old.  I've done a lot of thinking about this blog over the last couple of weeks.  I've enjoyed writing it and realized along the way that, like many things, it was easier said than done to keep up with it. 

I fancied myself writing everyday when I first started and quickly realized I didn't have that much to talk about.  Truth be told, there was a little laziness in there too.  

It has been a good journey for me though.  I've learned a few things about myself I didn't realize along the way - I'll share these throughout this last week.

The first is that I really love to write - I will keep up the writing, and in fact, am working on another blog to start next week that will incorporate my love for food, and my new found enjoyment of writing - stay tuned, I'm working on the title.

One goal for next year is to work on both my cooking and my writing.  I love to have something to go to "school" for, so I know I will enjoy finding some classes or workshops to help me learn.

I'll share more learnings this week and, as always, am happy for any thoughts or feedback too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Closing In

It is surely closing in on that time.  A little over two weeks from now, I will be 50. It seems like a long year in some ways and in others it feels like it flown by.

I will take some time over the next couple of weeks to reflect on what I've done this year and what I still want to do going forward.

As the new school year has started for the boys, I am amazed at how old they are.  College is closing in for Jack and Charlie will be in High School before I know it.  Exciting and challenging times ahead, I'm sure

I'll try to write some on each of the areas and goals I mentioned earlier in the year and update you (and me) on how I'm doing on this journey.

More to come soon

Friday, September 3, 2010

One Month and Counting

OMG - The countdown has begun.  How can it only be one month away?  I'd better get moving if I'm going to accomplish all those things I've talked about over the last year!

Or... I could just relax and know that my 50's are going to be great.  I think I will spend this month on the blog reflecting a bit on my 40's.  What I've learned and what I hope to learn as I move to the next half of my life.

One lesson I've learned from my 40's is that it's OK to slow down sometimes.  I am really good a rushing - for kids, for work, for life.  I've gotten better at thinking with the end in mind (as Covey would say) and gaining a little perspective on the journey and realizing that it's easy to miss some of the fun and value by being so concerned about getting to the end in one piece.

Now, that's not to say my family would describe me as patient - I'm hoping for that to come in my 50's, but there is something to be said for wisdom coming with age.

More tomorrow - with 29 days left.....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hop to It

Bill and I had a fabulous dining experience in North Minneapolis.  We had been to a meeting near DeLaSalle and decided to stop for a late dinner at a relatively new restaurant on Hennepin Avenue called Ginger Hop.  It's described as "East meets N.E." and has a wonderful menu of asian delights.

We met one of the owners, John, who recommended the Green Curry with Shrimp and the Almond Chicken Stir Fry.  Both were great.  The curry was spicy, rich and full of tender shrimp and fresh seasonal vegetables.  The stir fry was a nice compliment with a rich garlic sauce and toasty almonds.  All this with 2 glasses of a John suggested wine, Alexander Valley Temptation Zinfandel, for $43.00 - worth every penny, and then some.

We had a nice chat with John and learned that the restaurant has been there about a year.  They also own a nightclub downstairs called Honey where they serve up food, drinks and excellent jazz

I love to find a new spot and we are looking forward to going back soon with friends and neighbors. 

Please join us or stop by if you are in the mood for a terrific asian meal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can't "Beet" my moment of fame

I had a small (really small), yet fun, brush with fame today.  One of the cool features of my new Jetta is a free 3-month subscription to satellite radio.  I am enjoying many new music stations, especially as I drive to southern and western MN where the stations are few and far between - and let me just say not necessarily my political peference.

I am also, perhaps surprisingly, enjoying the Martha Stewart station.  It has good environmental, home and especially cooking guests and tips.  So this morning as I'm pulling into the Midway Target parking lot, the guest, Matt Jennings, executive chef from the Farmstead Restaurant in Providence, RI was speaking about farmer's market finds and recipes.  The host asked people to call in with great ideas or recipes using local farmer's market produce.  

So, in an extremely un-Maggie like moment, I called.  I have a wonderful recipe for a roasted beet and goat cheese salad that I make all the time.  I figured I would get a busy signal or be on hold forever, but in about 30 seconds I was on the air!  I shared my tip for roasting beets (see below) and using them in this terrific salad.  Matt also gave me a wonderful way to use the beet greens, which I've never done, so all in all a nifty (as my father would say) experience.

This "food" aura continues to swirl around me and I am pretty sure that in my second 50 years, I will need to incorporate it into my life in a different way.  I have no idea what that is, and I certainly have no plans to quit my day job - but the pull is getting stronger - stay tuned.

OK - now the fabulous roasted beet salad

Take a bunch or two of beets - ideally red & golden, preferably purchased at your local farmer's market. Cut the greens off and wash the beets.  Wrap them whole, separating the colors, in aluminum foil packets and roast in an oven @ 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Let them cool, and the peel them; the skin will come right off. (Remember the color is very bright, so you may want to use gloves).

Cut or slice the beets to the size you like.  Add them to your favorite greens with feta or other sharp, creamy goat cheese or blue cheese, if you'd rather.  Add a chopped handful of toasted pecans or walnuts and top with your favorite vinaigrette - I like 2/3 olive oil to 1/3 red wine vinegar or champagne vinegar, 1 tsp dijon mustard, a clove of garlic (smashed, whole) to sit in for a couple of hours, salt & pepper.

It's super easy, looks great, and everyone loves it - even the beet haters!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ice Cubes & Toilet Paper

Is there some kind of "guy" class I missed in high school or college?  I'm thinking in my house full of men that there is a genetic connection to the inability of anyone of them to replace water in the ice cube trays or a roll of toilet paper.

Now, of course, because it drives me crazy, I do it.  I wonder how long they would be willing to go without ice or toilet paper - probably much longer than I'd like to think about.

I am the one who needs the TP, so I do the replacing, but I complain about it every time.

I guess I could just "man up" and stop whining about it, but somehow it seems like a duty that could be shared.  I'm usually caught up in who does what in terms of chores, but I might just go on a temporary strike on this one and actually see how long they can go - I'll let you know what I find out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

That Prince Song...

OK, so it's not really a "Little Red Covette" as the song goes, but it's my fabulous "Little Red Jetta"  I went all out in my own fiscally responsible way and bought a new car  (of course, Bill and I made the decision together as with any big purchase, but it's really mine) And I love it.

I truly enjoy driving, as I've mentioned on this blog before, so I wanted to get back to a car from my Highlander SUV.  I also returned to the manual transmission I was used to driving for the first 30 years of my driving experience.  I bought a wagon to fit the needs of this almost 50 mom, and I think the red probably represents some kind of mid-life stage, so it seems like the perfect compromise.

It's sporty, fun to drive, better for the environment (clean diesel) and gets incredible gas mileage - 49.9 Average mpg on our recent trip to Chicago.  I do realize that just writing about this makes me a little bit of a car nut, but I am really thrilled with it so far.  I'm also doing a lot of driving for work now, and am I enjoy my new "ride".  

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Home Stretch

Wow - it's August 1st today.  I can't believe how fast the summer has been flying by.  I know I've been delinquent on this blog and today it hit me that I only have two months left before the big 50.  I am going to try to post regularly, dare I say daily?, over the next two months.  I'd like to finish this project in strong fashion and prepare myself for what my 50's will bring.

So check back occasionally over the next couple of months, I promise to be among the bloggers once again

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rite of Passage

I'm sitting here working in my home office without a car in my driveway feeling a little odd.  Jack took, and passed his driver's test today and is out running those made-up errands he can now do by himself for the first time.

I'm sitting here full of emotions (unusual for me - right?).  I remember well that incredible sense of independence that came with getting a license.  I still feel it sometimes as I drive somewhere by myself, enjoying my own company and the ability to get where I want to go without help.

It is, of course, a little nerve wracking too.  I'm yelling out the door as he left those last minute instructions - "be careful" "watch the speed limit" "I mean it about the phone"  etc... and I know somehow, we've crossed a boundary on the path to adulthood.

I am happy he passed, it felt good to practice, go for a goal and achieve it.  I will be pleased to take the help with Charlie, and will not miss all that driving to school etc..

I do, though, feel my age a bit more today.  Time goes so fast, and I can't believe I'm old enough to have a teenage driver living in my house.  It's a good day to stop and think a little about this journey - 

And now the arm wrestling for the car begins in earnest - one more practice in negotiation, and I suppose one more way to ground him - always looking on the bright side!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Back from the Back

OK, It's officially been a long time since I posted on this blog.  This pinched nerve has pinched my life.  I think I'm finally on the mend thanks, mostly I think, to time and a resourceful pursuit of medical alternatives.

If nothing else, this experience has taught me how important a new healthcare system is for this country.  I have visited a primary care doc, spine doc, two chiropractors using different techniques, physical therapist, had a nerve block by a radiologist (I think) and as a last resort I hit the pool for water aerobics yesterday.  (I might add, that is was a lovely group of women and I brought down the average age by about 30 years, proving it's never too late to be active).

I'm sick to death of trying to figure out the right avenue to get better and I believe to my core that the healthcare system screams for a more logical way to help a patient make informed, cost effective choices .  We are lucky to have good health insurance, but I can't imagine what I've cost the system in the last three months even though it has been a reasonable expense to us.

So what's the upshot?  I'm feeling better, but really have no idea why.  I'm an impatient patient, so I've used lots of connections to find a variety of unrelated treatments.  It's a good thing to have family in the healthcare world (sister who's a doc, husband in hospital administration).  It is critical in our system to take matters into one's own hands to find the right treatment.

My issue is obviously tiny compared to the many people out there who have serious illnesses and/or don't have health insurance.  This experience will make me a much more informed voter when it comes to healthcare reform.  I am motivated to understand what can be done to make it better in small and big ways.

I'm also less crabby (my family is happy about that) and relieved to be feeling better and able to get back to my life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Since my bike accident, we have become well acquainted.  I find that I wake up at about 4:30 AM and am unable to fall back to sleep.  I have to admit that I kind of like being up at this hour.  The house is quiet, the world is just beginning to get started.  I can hear some traffic on the roads and river, but it's still kind of sleepy.  The spring birds are active and chatty, all in all not a bad way to greet the day.

I also like it from a work standpoint.  I use the early hours to review my thinking from the night before.  There is something infinitely clearer in the light of day, so when I am working on a project, like I have been this week, I know that I can put it aside at the end of the day, and take another look in the morning - I always see something new.

Maybe this is a result of my injury or maybe it's a result of getting older, but for now, I'm going with it and taking advantage of the "Wee Small Hours"

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Need to Get Back

In more ways than one.  I need to "get back" meaning I need to get my back fixed!  It was a month ago today that I gracefully fell off my bike and pinched a nerve in my back - ouch!!  I have been a patient, patient - going to the Chiropractor, spine doctor and doing exercises, etc.. in an attempt to have it heal itself.  My patience has run out - I am going to call the doctor tomorrow and have the steriod injection in the hope that it will calm the pain enough for me to "get back" to my life.

I've been crabby, short tempered and generally no fun, and that has to stop. I know this may not be a magic cure, but I frankly don't have another month of not being able to move in me.  I miss being myself and want to enjoy exercising again (hopefully training for the triathlon, or at least getting back to a regular routine), and just feel more like myself

I also need to "get back" to this blog - I have had numerous ideas and topics running around in my head, but like everything else this month, I've not had the energy to pursue it - so as of today - I'm back in the game.

I'll let you know how I'm progressing, but more importantly, I'll "get back" to writing about my journey,  now that it's 2/3 the way over - I want to finish strong!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No Good Deed....

Goes unpunished, I think is how the saying goes.  Well that seems to be the case for my tri-ing to get back into shape. As I mentioned, I fell off my bike last week on my first real bike ride of the season.  I got a pretty nice bruise, but also apparently a pinched nerve in my lower back - UUG.  I must have twisted in my elegance as I tried to stand back up and am dealing with an incredibly painful left cheek, and numb left leg.

This week has been full of doctor's appointments, serious pain drugs, anti-inflamatory medication, and lots of pain. Who knew a pinched nerve could hurt so much?  I take back every less than empathetic thought I've every had about someone dealing with back pain.

I have to go to the spine doctor on Tuesday to figure out what to do next and am open to trying any and all non-invasive options to heal it. Chiropractor, acupuncture, herbs, I don't care - I just don't want to have stuff injected into my back if I can help it.

I've also realized how much for granted I take my healthy body.  I spend too much time being tough on myself for not being the perfect weight, and not enough time appreciating how lucky I am to be strong and healthy.  I am gaining a new perspective.

I am also a pretty crabby patient (just ask my family).  I need to get better fast so I can get back to training for this triathlon, and just doing my job.  I had to change a meeting tomorrow in Western MN because I can't drive or sit for more than a half-hour at a time.  I hate having to reschedule work - It is a part of my core to be on time and reliable.

Honestly, what I think I'm learning here is patience - Something I've never been particularly good at, so I'm sure this a lesson for me - I might have been able to learn it less painfully though!

I'll keep you posted, and hope to look back soon at this lesson with a more balanced perspective on strength and health - soon!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tri - ing Again

So today it began.  I officially started training for the YWCA Triathlon I'm registered for in August, 2010.  I met up with a couple other women that I connected with on the Google site set up for the YWCA Tri and we did a 12 mile bike ride.  

I was pleased to do 12 miles on my first time out this year.  I got to ride my groovy new bike that Bill bought for me earlier this year, and I loved it.  I also had my first fall on the bike.  This bike has great bike shoes with clips, so it helps me go faster and bike more efficiently, but also doesn't let go as easily.  I have a nice scrape & bruise to show off this week - I think that makes me a real biker, right?

The kicker is that I was standing still when I fell.  Apparently, you can't take the klutz out of a person, even with a fancy new bike.  

I think the most important note for me today, is how much energy I feel by doing this.  I enjoyed the company this morning, and am still enjoying the bump I got from fitting in the exercise.  If only I could remember this every day!

So, I'll keep you up to date on the training, but it feels great to get started - I know I'll be ready when it comes time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Pretty in Polka Dots

You know how sometimes when you have an event and you  think I have nothing to wear?  Well, I had that feeling last week.  Now don't get me wrong, I have plenty of lovely clothes, but as a seasoned dieter, I don't like to buy expensive clothes always sure I'll lose those pesky pounds before I need to spend the money.

So, I decided to try a new store in St. Paul called Second Debut.  It is a lovely, boutique store on University Avenue that sells used clothes.  There is also one in St. Louis Park that I have been to occasionally, so when one came to St. Paul, I headed over there.

The fabulous twist to Second Debut, is that it is owned by Goodwill and all the clothes are actually donated items.  Some smart person (probably a clothes savvy woman!) decided that it made sense to pick out the lovely, in many cases designer, clothes that people donate and bring them to this boutique venue for sale.  It's the perfect place for women (and men in St. Louis Park) to find that "something to wear" without spending a fortune.  The proceeds go back to Goodwill, so you are supporting that great organization as well.

In 15 minutes with the help of a great saleswoman, I found this beautiful polka dot dress that fit me perfectly for $22.00.  I wore it to the party and felt wonderful.

I love the idea of being able to find inexpensive good looking clothes, even if I'm not at the perfect weight yet - it always feels better to love what I'm wearing.

So check it out if you have time

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fishing Opener

It is officially spring in my book.  This weekend in Wisconsin, it was the fishing opener.  Now, I don't take fishing terribly seriously, but I know many people who do.  For us this weekend, Charlie and his friend Yale bought the first tub of night crawlers and fished off the dock at the cabin.

The normal fishing stuff happened over the course of two days:  They realized rubber worms don't really work,  no actual fish were caught, but hooks & fishing line ended up in trees and everyone practiced casting and talking - the age old fishing routine.

The boys had a great time and I remembered fondly all those mornings in Maine fishing with my father.  We did catch fish most of the time and I am proud to say I can still put a worm on a hook and pick out a pretty good lure when the need arises.  

Hopefully as the summer goes on we'll have a few fish to fry up and I'm sure many hours of quiet contemplation on the lake will take place.

I'm happy that Spring has Sprung.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Laughing Stalk

I went to one of my favorite Co-op's yesterday.  The Seward Coop in Minneapolis.  They happened to be having a CSA fair showcasing the multitude of Community Supported Agriculture farms in and around the Twin Cities.  A CSA is a local farm that typically grows and sells, in shares, produce to people like me on a weekly basis.  I have often thought about doing a CSA, I love the idea of supporting local farms and produce, but I've been intimidated a bit prior to now.

Usually, with a CSA, you sign up for a summer's worth of vegies, and it comes delivered in a box once a week.  I have taken shares for friends when they were on vacation - it's great, except that often the box is full of greens I'm not sure what to do with and the pressure is on to get them cooked before they go bad.  So I've opted for the farmer's market.

Yesterday, though, I was introduced to a CSA in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin that has a build your own box program.  I enjoyed talking to the farmers and signed us up for the summer.  The way it works, is I paid for a share - there are three choices, and I chose the least expensive to start, and I can choose my produce each week from a list they will email me and pick it up at the Midtown or Uptown farmer's markets in Minneapolis.  I'm in love.  I can support this new, small farm and choose vegetables I know I can cook each week.  

The CSA is called The Laughing Stalk Farmstead and I'm looking forward to a summer full of great produce.  I'll pass along some of my recipes as the summer progresses.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Keep Those Plates Spinning

I know I've been a bit absent from this blog of late, but I am glad for a few minutes to be back this morning.  As I mentioned, we had a marvelous trip to Europe and I truly enjoyed being away and exploring new cities with my family.

As it always happens, though, coming home has been a bit crazy.  Work is great, but I've not really caught up yet, so I'm burning the midnight oil to do that.  I went to an excellent weekend conference on the Enneagram last weekend, which I enjoyed, but felt like I had no time for anything else.  The kids are off and running with spring sports and the end of the school year, so I'm feeling a little panicky about summer plans.  In short, I empathize with the character above - I'm just trying to keep all those plates in the air.

I'm working today on breathing myself back down and putting it all in perspective - It will all get done, but I want to be sure I enjoy it along the way.

A little rant this morning, I think all of us at this certain age are experience some form of the plate spinning, so if you have suggestions or ideas to share on how to keep them up or just let some break, let me know.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh What a Trip

We arrived home on Saturday night from an incredible trip.  We took the boys to Paris and London for spring break.  It was truly a once in a lifetime trip.  We saw the sights, ate great food, walked our feet off and generally had a marvelous time.

In Paris, as Charlie said, it was all about the sauce.  The food was great and we tried a number of good cafes and a couple of real restaurants.  I marveled at the skill of the chef at a tiny restaurant near our hotel called Le Petit Tournneau - she cooked incredibly fresh, tasty fare in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp - an amazing feat.

We took the a bike tour in each city - the Fat Tire Bike Tours - an wonderful way to see the city, especially with two teenage boys - we rode, learned great history and had a ball.

In London, we went to see two terrific shows - Oliver and Sister Act.  We all enjoyed every minute.

The icing on the cake was having breakfast with Rick Steves.  We were enjoying our last breakfast at our B&B (The Aster House, a lovely place in South Kensington) and low and behold Rick Steves sat down next to us.  He was staying there and we enjoyed a lively conversation about both Paris & London.  The boys are hoping a couple of their suggestions make it into the 2011 London book - we'll have to see.

I'll post more pictures later this week, when we get the camera hooked up.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Paris in the Springtime

I can't believe it, but we are leaving in a few hours for Paris.  Bill and I are taking the boys for a wonderful trip to Paris and London.  

I've just hit the excitement point.  We've been planning the trip for months and are all grateful for the opportunity to take this fabulous journey.

I have been in work like crazy to get ready mode and just sent my last email prior to the trip.  I am proud of myself for not committing to being available while gone or bringing a bunch of work with me - this is new for me, and I must say it lowers the anxiety level of the time away.

I do, however, have some shoe anxiety I need to resolve in the next two hours, so I'm off to my favorite shop to see if I can find a great, comfortable, inexpensive pair of black flats - how likely is that?

Anyway, I'll blog and try to post pictures of our trip and look forward to sharing the details when we get home.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ahhhh Spring

Today I saw my first real sign of spring.  The beautiful purple flowers that pop up after a couple of days of warm sunshine.  I love this time of the year.  The days are longer, and the light truly is renewal.  

The long winter is over, and it feels like a do-over to some degree.  Maybe it's just the beginning of a new season, but I think spring might be the best. All those new year's resolutions have resurfaced and they seem doable again.  

Triathlon training here I come - I am excited to get on my fabulous new bike tomorrow and see if I can ride at least a few miles without falling off - I'll let you know.

For now, enjoy your first sign of spring and take a minute to smell the flowers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where does the Time Go?

I just realized that it's been over a week since I blogged.  I think it's amazing at this age that the time truly does slip by sometimes without notice.  We've been home and at the cabin, living the normal life of the almost 50 - driving kids places, supervising homework, working and planning a vacation.  All good, but I realize that I need to carve out space for me during all that stuff.

My exercise and writing seem to take the back burner first - and my goal for April is to put them back on the front burner, even in small ways.  I am beginning to train for my summer triathlons, and the good news is I know where to focus, the stark reality, is that I need to get my butt in gear.  

My blogging/writing also needs to be revitalized, and I'll try to take time each day to think about it and ideally write 3-4 times a week - I sometimes get caught up in not having a significant topic to write about so I wait - I will have  gardens and a great vacation to fill those spots in the next weeks, so that will help.

I will also plan to do a 6-month check in the first week of April - how am I doing against my goals, how is the year going, what am I looking forward to in the second 6-months?

More later this week - it is true that every journey starts with the first step - even if you are doing the first step again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

We are Family

I had a lovely visit with my mother this weekend.  She was able to come to St. Paul from upstate New York and spend a few days with us.  We kept her hopping with book club, a basketball tournament for Charlie and a visit to Red Wing for a class I taught.  We all enjoyed it and, as always, it was fun to spend time together since we don't get to do it very often.

I am struck, sometimes, by what little things in each day remind me that I am part of a family.  One of my favorite is that crazy morning routine that happens every day, come rain or come shine.  It starts at our house with the early risers - Bill and me (and my mom this weekend), reading the headlines of the paper or paying bills in those pre-dawn hours.  It then goes something like this:  

Jack - are you taking the train to school or getting a ride?

Charlie - it's time to wake up, honey.

What kind of sandwich do you want for lunch?

Bill - what time are you coming home?

Charlie - please get up.

Chips or cookies?

Am I taking the train home or are you picking me up?

Who do you think will make the final 4?

Charlie - get up now - I have a meeting and it's a long walk to school.

And on, and on it goes......Almost the same every day, but somehow comforting in it's familiarity and routine.  I'm sure I'll have to build in new family routines as the boys grow up and move out, but for now, I'll enjoy these.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I learned something in an Enneagram training last fall that came blowing back to me this week.  I had been working on, and struggling with a work project.  One of those that is challenging, and gives you headache because you have to think so hard, you know?

I was also up against the deadline (have I mentioned I'm sometimes a procrastinator?).  I was working on it over the weekend, then, as it always happens, Charlie's basketball team won their game (does it make me a bad mother that I was hoping they'd lose?) - so the tournament an hour away went from a couple of hours on Sunday to almost the whole day.

My anxiety went up and I realize now (My family, I'm sure realized on Sunday) that I was whipping myself into a bit of a frenzy worrying about getting it all done on time, but in particular, doing it well.  I can sometimes get into a spiral of being sure I'm not doing my best work which, surprise, surprise, keeps me from doing my best work.  It's  tough one for me because producing quality work is at my core and I hate the idea of submitting something less that what I'm capable of - it doesn't have to be perfect, but I do need to feel good about it.

So, what came back to me that helped as I was up way too late on Sunday night finishing up, was an idea of "breathing myself back down".  Dr. David Daniels who was the facilitator of the Enneagram class I took at Loyola in November, talked about this concept as a tool to help de-escalate any conflict situation.  I know it's not rocket science, but I have to say I've found it to be an incredibly helpful.  It's easy to practice - stop, take 5 really big breaths and bring your anxiety into your conscience.  Then take a moment to quiet yourself and re-group. You can also do it as many times as you need - take it from me, you might have to do it more than once!

It works for me, and helped me get back into a productive mode to finish my project - which I did.  It has also worked well as a tool with my coaching clients.  

I know it may just be another form of meditation, but for me the words and physical act of stopping and doing it, is powerful.

That's my bit of wisdom for the day - so next time you are feeling a bit anxious - try it.  Just Breathe yourself back down.  Hmmmm.  Now, I wonder if it works with teenagers?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Check it Out

I am a huge library fan.  I love to read and for years growing up, I had access to free reads because my parents owned a bookstore. But alas, when they sold it, many years ago, I realized that my book habit was becoming expensive.

Since then, I have loved the ritual of going to the library, getting my card and checking out whatever I please.  I check out books, often knowing I won't read them all or only want one recipe, knitting pattern etc.., I check out books on tape for car rides, I check out movies and CD's too.  Now I can even download books to my computer!

I have lived in many places since those high school days, and going to the library as a card holder has been the sure sign that I was home - even if I wasn't going to be there for long.  

In recent years, I've become an avid user of the online offerings at the library.  I go through the new bestseller lists and identify which books I want and then go online at the library and get on the list - and lo and behold, they send me an email saying the books are ready to be checked out for three weeks.  I also love the databases that are available online - when Jack forgot his passwords from school the other day, he just jumped online at the public library site and had all the information he needed at his fingertips.

I am sorry to see the hours of the libraries being reduced due to budget cuts, I think it's such a great place to study for kids and adults alike, I am happy to have my taxes go to support the on-going health of the nation's libraries and will continue to let my legislators know that.

So, if you aren't a regular, check it out - you'll be glad you did

Sunday, February 28, 2010

All Systems Not So Go

In the be careful what you ask for category, work has been wonderful so far this year.  I'm busy with new clients and new projects and thoroughly enjoying the challenge.  Particularly with last year being pretty slow, I am grateful for what I hope is a new trend.

I am also realizing in this time, that I don't have all my systems working well, and that is causing me stress.  When I worked full time out of the house, I had things humming - childcare, the house fairly well organized, cooking and meals in pretty good shape and it all seemed to work well - most of the time.

I'm somewhere in the middle now and seem to have lost control of the flow.  The laundry is taking over - clean socks are truly a requirement for teenage boys, in case you are wondering! The meals are less than planned - is there a limit to the number of nights you can feed a family peanut butter & jelly sandwiches? Charlie, in particular, is in flux with rides to and from school when I'm out of town and certainly racing back and forth to school, practice etc..   It has just felt like a crazy few weeks.

So - it's time to rally the troops and get the systems back working.  My family is ready, sometimes willing, and certainly able to help.  My goal this week is to plan better and enlist their help.  Part of my problem is that I a bit of a control issue when it comes to household stuff - like laundry.  I need to let it go and know that it's more important for the clothes to be clean than folded perfectly - right?

As is often the case, just writing about this helps me realize that I can do this.  Tonight we'll look at the weekly calendar with an better eye toward the balance. I'll ask for the help I need and know that it's OK if it doesn't all go perfectly.

Easier said than done for us control gals - but I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making a Difference

I love to see successful small organizations thriving, especially when they are truly making a difference in people's lives.  One such organization is owned by my fabulous friend, Marnita Schroedl and her husband Carl Goldstein.  The organization is called Marnita's Table and it is focused on building cross cultural communication through intentional social interaction.

I first met Marnita in the fall of 2002.  I had decided to leave General Mills and go out on my own as an HR Consultant.  I spoke to skads people in the process of figuring out how I wanted to enter the world of consulting and heard even more opinions about what I should do.  The process left me fairly confused and a little disheartened.  

Enter Marnita (I believe her title at that time was "Lightening in a Bottle").  To say Marnita and I have different styles in an understatement - I think we represent the opposing ends of the introvert/extrovert scale nicely - you can guess who is who!  Her expertise in Marketing Communications and the energy she brought to helping me find the right combination of work and passion for me was invaluable.  She also generously came to the HR class I teach at Hamline to take my students through and one of a kind diversity session - and never failed to touch their lives each time.

Marnita and I worked together as coach and client for a year or so, and she helped my craft a business model that still works for me today.  Through that time we became wonderful friends and I am thrilled to see her organization doing wonderful things in the world.

There was a great article about her in the Star Tribune on Saturday, check it out when you have a chance, and know that if you are with an organization that needs help igniting cross-cultural communication on almost any topic, in an incredibly effective way - Marnita is the one to call.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

For Every Little Bit of Beauty.....

There is a little bit of pain.  I don't know why, but I will always remember my mother saying this to me when I was growing up.  As I approach the big 50, I realize that this is true.

I had my eyebrows done on Friday.  Now I don't spend too much time or money on "self care" but I am all about beautiful eyebrows.  I have fairly serious eyebrows and always feel better about myself when I have them done.  I typically have them waxed, and went to a new person on Friday who waxed and threaded them.  The threading was cool - apparently an old Indian tradition that involves fast moving thread - the results are great.  It's a small expenditure of time and money, and does a great deal for the self esteem.

It does, though, involve a little bit of pain, but really worth it in my book.  I know this may be a silly little post, but I like the idea of us each doing small things that make us feel good about ourselves and we travel on this journey of growing older.  

I will try to remember to do those small things throughout this year that increase the beauty - even if they involve a little pain.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

It's Ash Wednesday.  Now, you know, I'm not too versed in the religious significance of all of these Catholic days, but I have to say I like the idea of Lent.

I know it is a time of prayer, denial and reflection that leads up to the Christian holiday of Easter.  I remember it most clearly from my childhood with the no meat on Friday rule that we followed for many years.  We used to have eggs on Fridays, because, as my mother pointed out "Lent is not a time to have something special on Friday like shrimp, it's a time to sacrifice" 

I'm not so worried about following the no meat rule anymore, but I do connect with the idea of reflection.  Rather than give up something silly, I will commit to taking time to pray and reflect every day and to do something each day, however small, to impact someone else's life in a positive way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A little Rest

I'm back.  I've been in kind of a writing dead zone this last week.  It seemed like I didn't have any ideas floating around in my head - or at least none I could articulate.  As I was thinking about it today, I'm guessing it's just another of the detours on this journey to 50.

None of us are inspired everyday right?  I think of the number of days I go through, happy, fairly focused on the work and/or family, but not necessarily thinking about anything worth sharing with the world.  I wonder if you all go through those phases too?

So I'm inclined to think the writing rest is OK, and part of the process as a woman of a certain age.  I decided that writing about this is as good a place as any to re-enter the blog.

I'll be back tomorrow, with a more interesting topic - Like a child, I enjoyed the rest, and am recharged....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do a Little Damage

I have a new TV Obsession. Actually it's a Netflix obsession, but close enough.

I love the series Damages starring Glenn Close.  I think it's on the FX network, and I'm not even sure what night it's on, but someone told me about it and I ordered the first season at Netflix.

It is a terrific series - great actors like Glenn Close, Ted Danson and some actors I am not familiar with, but who are fantastic.

The series is smart, well written, suspenseful and just plain fun. It took me in right away.  In fact, I am going to have to watch the first season again with Bill because I made the mistake of watching one while he was out of town and by the end of the weekend it was all over.

Bill and I found the 40 minute, DVD version of a good series to be a sweet spot for us.  We can fit it in on a weeknight sometimes and it's over before we can fall asleep in our chairs.  

So give it a try if you have a minute - It's a great escape from the snow and long cold winter.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chapel of Spin

Back today after a bit of a break this week.  Bill was out of town and work (thankfully) was really busy, so somehow the blog got lost in the shuffle.  

I let the boys sleep in this morning instead of going to church - a little treat with Bill away.  We don't go to church every week, but we often do because we love the place, and we always get something out of it.  Today, though seemed like a great day to sleep in and enjoy a quiet morning.  We all got up early yesterday to get places, so it was nice not to set an alarm.

What I did do this morning was feed my soul in a different way.  I went to a spin (cycling) class at the Y.  As I was sweating on my bike, I remembered how good it feels for the soul, to move the body.  (It is especially good when the class is over!)

I tend to get into my head sometimes worrying about work, kids, world events and life in general. This was one of those weeks for a variety of reasons.  I have to remember that when those times find me, it really helps to move my body.  Somehow it all seems better after a good workout.  At the very least, I have taken a breath and am able to think about an issue more clearly.

Today, it was the chapel of spin.  I'm sure there will be plenty of things to worry about tomorrow, but I'll keep my chapel options open and tackle the tasks.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tri it With Me

I am excited.  I just signed up for the YWCA Women's Triathlon for this summer.  Registration is now open at The YWCA Women's Triathlon site - it will be held on Sunday, August 15th at Lake Nokomis. 

I did this event last year - it was my first triathlon and I had a great experience  it is all women (sorry guys) and the perfect event for a first timer. They have a training program, a google group and all kinds of support before and during the event.  You don't need any fancy equipment, I did it with my regular running shoes and old bike and it worked fine.

I encourage you to join me - sign up it will be the most fun you've had in years. I'm always looking for swim, bike and/or run partners, so jump on in - the water's fine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do Pass Go - Remit $200

Well what goes around comes around I think. We did successfully apply for the boy's passports today. We went to the Hennepin County Midtown office and had a great experience.  

The woman that helped us couldn't have been nicer or more helpful - she even noticed that I had used white out on the application as I was rushing out the door on Sunday.  (Here's a heads up -  white out is taboo on any US Government forms, I was just trying to save paper, but I suppose it makes sense).

So now the applications are hopefully on their way to that big Government office in the sky and will show back up here in 4 weeks or so.

It is a good reminder to me to:

A.  Always read the instructions on the form thoroughly

B.  People really are inclined to help and patience and a little humor will always get you through the line.

C.  Take a breath when things are not going right and figure out the next step.  (a good lesson in general, I think)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do Not Pass Go

Today we tried, in vain, to renew the boys passports.  They expired a year or so ago and we are planning to take a trip this spring.  So, like the good techno mom that I am, I went online and researched how to renew a passport.  Fairly straightforward, or so I thought.  

Click one - renew (pretty easy), oh they are under 16, so click two - we have to go in person (both parents, and both kids).  OK not too bad where do we go?  Click three - the post offices listed that take applications - pretty convenient locations.  Click four - what hours are they open? - 8:00 to 12:00 or 9:00 to 3:00 weekdays - really?, We both need to leave work and get the kids out of school for this? Oh well, keep looking - click five, the airport post office is open for passports on Sundays until 3:00.  Yipee

Click six Download, print and fill out the pages of paperwork, search out social security numbers and old passports, hit the road.  Wait in line, only to find out they need original or certified copies of the birth certificates - who has those?  So we click off until Tuesday when we can get all those pieces together.  I'm all in favor of security, but couldn't they take a regular copy?

Now you know I am a complete bleeding heart liberal and hardly ever complain about hard working US agencies, but this is ridiculous - This is a Government agency in serious need of a reality check.  I have to believe it would be more efficient and cost effective to figure out a way to make these services a little more accessible to the average citizen. After all if we are to have a true global economy, we need to get out of country and for that we need passports.

Enough of the rant - It is certainly not the end of the world, but it kind of put me over the edge today.  We have done a little more digging and found a location we can visit on Tuesday to get it all done, but sometimes it just feels good to sound off a little.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kindle Cure

Who knew that my IPhone would be my Kindle cure?  As I posted a few days ago, I have been considering the purchase of a Kindle reader from Amazon.  I love to read and tend to be drawn to new technology, so the Kindle seemed like a perfect fit.  I got some good feedback from my readers - some for and some against, and when I weighed the $250 price tag, I decided against it for now.

Then, like magic, in my email came the link to the free Kindle App for my IPhone.  So with this App, I can download Kindle books from Amazon.  I found 5 interesting, FREE books that I downloaded today - double bonus.

I don't think the IPhone will ever take the place of my real-live books, and the print is pretty small to read for a long time.  It is pretty cool, though, to be able to whip out a book at a moment's notice when I'm waiting in line or sitting in the car between appointments - a quick, easy cure for now - in a word - SWEET.

And, of course, there is that new IPad coming out this spring I might need to take a look at.  After all, I'm $250 ahead right?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coffee Shop Culture

I'm sitting in my local Caribou Coffee waiting for my boys to finish basketball practice and doing some work.  I know this is not a new observation, but somehow today it connected with me that I have completely changed my work/life model.

The coffee shop office, for those of us who work at home, has become a lovely field trip.  It's an opportunity to get out of the basement office, away from the laundry and fridge calling my name and work for awhile.  

I actually get a good amount of work done, and I really appreciate the change of scenery - especially when I'm stuck.  I think it helps with the procrastination too - I give myself a couple of hours to get something done and with less distractions than my house, it seems to work.

What a change this is even for someone of my young age.  As a young woman working in NYC, I bought a "regular" coffee from the guy at Zabar's every morning and went to my office in the Citicorp Center from 9:00 to about 6:00 and then headed for the train station home.  A coffee shop was a diner, and I would never consider sitting in the shop for any length of time.  And, of course there were no computers, never mind the lightweight laptop I bring with me now.

I am happy to be a part of this "coffee shop culture" and am interested to see what happens down the road - what kind of "culture" will our kids be a part of as they make their way in the work world of the future, I wonder?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family Favorite Dinner - Thai Chicken

Tonight was one of those rare occasions that everyone loved the dinner.  Those of us who make the meal night after night know that the magic doesn't happen very often.  My friend Carol mentioned that she had made a coconut chicken that her family loved and I remembered seeing one in a cookbook I had, so I dug it out.

Now don't get me wrong - my family eats pretty much everything that is put in front of them with little complaint.  Everyone gets to have a food or two they really don't like - Charlie doesn't like Chili, Jack hates eggs and Bill doesn't really like potatoes (which by the way I think is against some kind of Irish code - who doesn't love a good spud?).  Other than those considerations, I cook to my heart's content; pretty confident the meal will at least get eaten, and usually enjoyed.

But still, the unanimous "I Love This" and the complete plate and pan cleaning is rare - so, of course, I thought I'd share the recipe.

This is my adaptation of a Weight Watcher's recipe entitled "Thai Coconut Chicken" God forbid I should just follow the recipe right?


2 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, thinly sliced
A little salt & pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
A hunk of fresh ginger, grated
A spoonful of light brown sugar
1/2 Teaspoon red curry paste (available in most grocery stores, asian section) - or to taste - this is fairly spicy so you may want to start with less and add
1 Teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup green beans - frozen work fine
1/2 can coconut milk - use the regular, unsweetened, not the light - Add more if necessary to get the consistency of sauce you want
1 Teaspoon fish sauce (also available in asian section  - or just skip is fine)
1/4 cup fresh basil (or use a Tablespoon of dried)
Rice - brown (which my kids won't touch) or white

Heat oil in a large skillet, add chicken, sprinkle with salt & pepper, cook until done - about 5 minutes, transfer to plate

Heat second Tablespoon of oil, add onion and saute until softened - about 5 minutes, add garlic & ginger, saute for 1 minute

Stir in sugar, curry paste and cumin cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. 

Add green beans, coconut mile and fish sauce, bring to boil. 

Reduce the heat, and cook until beans are tender - about 3 minutes

Add the chicken & basil, heat through, serve with rice.


Monday, January 25, 2010 Making Me Wait

OK, so I admit it.  I'm a seasoned procrastinator.  I always have been and I'm not sure if I work better when I add a little pressure in the mix (at least that's what I tell myself), or if it's some other issue.

Today is a great example.  I have a project due next week and continued work to do to complete it.  So am I working hard on it right now before I have to head to a meeting today?  No, I'm writing this blog, and then I have to switch the laundry and then...I'll get to work.  I know I will get the project done, I always do. But I do resist the idea of getting it started really early in the process for some reason.  I also have time, it is after all due next week, not tomorrow.

So why is it so hard to get started?  In my normal procrastination mode, I would start in earnest on Wednesday, but feel pressure and angst all week - so why not just start today?

I'm guessing it's more complicated than simple laziness, but maybe not. I know I work well under pressure and I've always been successful creating a bit of competition between me and the deadline.

I wonder is it too late at almost 50 to break this kind of habit? Can I just focus and chunk out the work and get started?  It is what I tell my kids to do - so in my quest of starting habits, maybe I can break one too.

So I will start today - I'll get the project outlined and put steps in writing that I will complete each day, and even though I may end up with a similar product, I'll see how it feels to do it differently - It does seem like life creates enough pressure without adding to it myself - who knows, I may enter my 50's with a whole new attitude.