Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New year, now what?

The fam and I had a great Christmas in Hawaii. (And we were glad to miss out on the snowstorm here at home.) I'm relaxed and refreshed. Plus, I still have summer clothes in my laundry basket and blisters from my sandals to remind me for a few more days that I really did go on vacation, despite the return to reality.

Once the holiday celebrations die down, the start of a new year tends to drag on for me. It's bitterly cold and there are no holidays that qualify for "official" days off work until Memorial Day. Sure, there's that natural anticipation a new year brings...kind of...but I don't really make resolutions and I'm mostly just anticipating a year like every other lately. Nothing extraordinary or exciting. This is not a bad thing--I don't mind sticking to the routine.

But with no more vacations to look forward to and no new episodes of So You Think You Can Dance or GLEE planned for several months, I find myself this week needing to think of reasons to be excited for January. Besides, sometimes it's the little things from day-to-day that make me the happiest. So with that, I bring you the top five things I'm excited about these next several weeks:
  1. Reading: Five. That's the number of books I read in 2009. As someone who loves to read (usually more than double that amount in a year), I desperately need to do more of it. I'm hoping my work life will slow a bit these next couple of months to allow me to get reading with a little more gusto in 2010. Send your book recommendations my way!
  2. Winter Olympics: I LOVE the Olympics and will be glued to my TV set during the winter games watching sports I would never otherwise watch like bobsledding and curling. There's just something about watching them on the world's stage, seeing the smiles of the athletes standing on the medal podium and hearing the stories about what they've overcome to get where they are today.
  3. A new season of The Bachelor: Why do I still watch this show after 14 seasons of train wreck romances, cheesy group dates and fame-hungry participants? It just sucks me in and I can't not watch it! Bachelor Jake may seem a little dull, but I'm sure he and the bachelorettes will provide some good drama among the helicopter rides, hot tubs, hometown dates and rose ceremonies. Can I get another crying over the balcony scene please? And if not, at least Jake is not bad to look at.
  4. More daylight: We've gained two whole minutes of daylight since the first day of winter. I look forward to the day when the sun is again shining in my eyes during my morning and evening commute and I no longer drive in darkness every day.
  5. Pampering: The first thing I put on my to-do list when I returned from vacation was to make an appointment to get my hair highlighted. I just love sitting in that salon chair while I catch up on the latest gossip via People magazine. And after my hair highlights, I'm getting a massage. Ahhh, luxury!

Hopefully I'll keep adding to my list. I'm also counting on the fact that many of you have extraordinary or exciting things you're anticipating for the new year. What are they? Let me know so I can share in your excitement. No matter what, I wish you a blessed and happy New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Have yourself a Mele Kalikimaka

Are your gifts wrapped? Bags packed? Carols sung? Wreaths hung? Then it’s time to sit back and enjoy Christmas in whatever ways (traditional and new) you’ve chosen to celebrate with family and friends. As for me, my suitcase is almost packed for my family Christmas in Hawaii (sadly, this isn’t likely to become a tradition, but even once is pretty cool). Given that my fellow blogger and I will be making the most of our sans-snow holiday, Off-key Duets will be on hiatus for the next week. But, we leave you with a message about the reason for the season recited by a Christmas character who I enjoy even more than Santa (and all about the real “character” of Christmas).



So there you have it, Charlie Brown. That’s what Christmas is all about.

And since I’ve failed for yet another year at sending out Christmas cards, I’d truly like to wish everyone reading this a merry and blessed Christmas celebration. Mele Kalikimaka!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Joe to the trash!

For a few weeks each December, I look forward to opening my mailbox. The bills and advertisements, while ever-present, get some competition from the Christmas cards and photos from dear friends. But the Christmas card I most look forward to receiving each year doesn’t come in my mailbox—it comes in my trash can. Seriously.

On garbage day this week, I pulled into my driveway after work to find a red envelope sticking out of the trash bin. I was so excited to open my card from Joe the garbage man. Every year he rewrites the lyrics to a popular Christmas carol with lyrics about garbage. And it’s clear from his little ditties that he loves his job.

One year it was “Joe to the trash” sung to the tune of Joy to the World. This year, the tune was O Christmas Tree. It goes like this:

O Garbage Can, O Garbage Can, Thy smells are ever changing
O Garbage Can, O Garbage Can, Thy smells are ever changing
Not only reek when summer’s here, but also when tis’ cold and drear
O Garbage Can, O Garbage Can, Thy smells are ever changing

There are two more verses and choruses that follow, mentioning foul treasure and unsightly insides. This is my fourth Christmas with Joe. And even though I’ve never met him, every year I’m struck by how much joy he has in serving his customers. So what if he’s trying to get a good tip? He’s earned it!

I can think of hundreds of jobs I would rather do than pick up other people’s trash. That’s why his simple gesture of a clever Christmas carol always makes me stop during the hurried Christmas season and think about my attitude about work, life and the occasional “trash” I have to deal with.

I’ll confess that griping and complaining come far too easily to me. But I’m thankful for the little reminders this time of year—a “Merry Christmas” from the bundled up Salvation Army bell ringer, a cheesy, made-for-TV holiday movie, and a Christmas carol from Joe the garbage man—to be filled with joy no matter what my circumstances.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don’t trust the guy in the elf suit

Since I’m about to embark on three straight days of airport lines and sleepless hotels (and on the bright side, warmer temps in San Antonio and Houston), I’m keeping it short and simply sharing with you some “off-key” seasonal news. Enjoy!

'Elf' Jailed Over Alleged Dynamite Hoax: The photo of this guy is especially freaky.

Health dept. sickened by own Christmas party: Why is irony always amusing (as long as you’re not part of the story)?

Jesus Christ Dumped From Jury Pool: Best line of the article, “Efforts to reach Christ for comment were unsuccessful.”

Have a blessed pre-Christmas week!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter...I'm over it

As I write this, I’m listening to the sound of a neighbor shoveling. I’ve never noticed before how nails-on-a-chalkboard-like that sound is when you’re scraping ice and snow off the pavement. I much prefer the sound of a lawnmower outside and the smell of fresh cut grass. Of course, we Minnesotans won’t see green grass outside our living room windows now until April.

At least the first winter storm commute of the season is now behind us rush-hour drivers. Although, my winter commute last Wednesday didn’t take me very far.

I decided to delay my morning drive until the worst of the commute was over. After working from home for a few hours, I finally decided to venture out. But…where were my keys? Friends, I am organized. I NEVER misplace my keys. I may lose socks in the dryer but I do NOT lose keys! Panic began to set in. My home is tiny; there are not many places to look. I retraced my steps from the time I got home from work the night before, which brought me to…the front door. Yes indeed, there they were—house keys and car keys—just hanging out of the lock where they had been for the past 16 hours. Stupid moment #1 of the day.

With keys in hand, I finally made my way to the garage. My association had not yet plowed my driveway or street. As I examined the large snow drifts in my driveway I thought for sure my little Corolla could take them on. (Never mind that I had watched my neighbors getting stuck all morning.) Naturally, I just gunned it out of my garage. Stupid moment #2 of the day.

After 40 minutes (yes, 40) of digging my car out of the snow in below-zero windchills, I drove my car right back into the garage and gave up. I actually got more work done at home that day than I ever would’ve accomplished at the office. I should take snow days more often! After all of that, at least my wintery day ended on a high note with the fall finale of GLEE. (Oh how I will miss Mr. Schuester and the gang until the show comes back next spring! Something else to look forward to when the snow melts!)

Anyway, welcome to winter. And get off my tail if you’re driving behind me!

Monday, December 7, 2009

My night 'In The Heights'

In the midst of seasonal busyness, I snuck in a night at the theatre last week to see the 2008 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical: In The Heights. Since I don’t get to travel to the real Broadway too often, I always anticipate the annual announcements of the Twin Cities’ Broadway theatre season. When I heard In The Heights was making a stop, I knew it would be the year’s must-see for me. So, after holding on to my tickets for months, I finally saw the show and understood its award-winning appeal.

I would describe In The Heights as RENT meets West Side Story, with some poetic rap for good measure. Here’s the real summary: In the Heights tells the universal story of a vibrant community in Manhattan's Washington Heights – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It's a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

Since you probably didn’t see it, I’ll quit rambling about it and just leave you with a clip:

If you happen to be in NYC soon or lucky enough to be on an upcoming tour stop…check out this show!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stuck in an elevator

I’m always interested in people with odd jobs. You know, balloon artists, breath mint testers, port-a-potty servicers, etc. Last week I was personally confronted with another odd job…answering phone calls from people stuck in elevators. This occurred, of course, while I was stuck in an elevator.

The scene went this way: After the doors didn’t open on the 5th floor of my office building, another woman on the elevator with me picked up the phone that you hope you never have to use (while I rang the little alarm bell for the whole building to hear). We were connected to what I assume was the elevator company call center, where we were promptly put on hold (apparently it was a busy day to be stuck in an elevator). A nice woman eventually answered and called us some local help. We were freed about 15 min. later when the doors opened enough for us to squeeze through.

I tried to quickly move on, but I couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to have a job where people call you all day long to tell you they are stuck in one of your company’s elevators. I imagine the lady we spoke with has some interesting stories of panic-stricken callers. Even though we all appeared calm, I admit I started to feel very uncomfortable as the temperature seemed to instantly rise about 15 degrees and we all shed our coats while we waited in this small, dim cube.

Anyway, I hope all your elevator rides are safe and uneventful, but if not, I hope you get to talk to the calm lady at the elevator call center.

But now let's free ourselves from elevator woes for a moment and end on a fun note. There are a lot of funny things to do in an elevator. Allow me to share a few:

  1. Drop a pen and wait until someone goes to pick it up, then scream, "That's mine!"
  2. Leave a box in the corner, and when someone gets on, ask them if they can hear ticking.
  3. When the doors close, announce to the others, "It's okay, don't panic, they open again!"
  4. Crack open your briefcase or purse, and while peering inside, ask, "Got enough air in there?"
  5. Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.
Go ahead and try one on your next day of office boredom.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm thankful for...

1. Puffs tissues
2. Sudafed
3. Chicken noodle soup
4. Cold-Eeze throat lozenges
5. Comfy pjs and fleece blankets
6. Ben and Jerry's chocolate fudge ice cream
7. Back-to-back episodes of Say Yes to the Dress
8. Ten hours of sleep

Yep, that was my Friday night. (Ok, if I'm being honest, that's a lot of my Friday nights…only without all the drugs.). It just may be my Saturday too. The first cold of the season is upon me. I knew my time was coming. So far I've at least managed to keep away the H1N1 (or HINI) flu that has hit a few of my co-workers.

I'm resting up this weekend before I burst onto the Christmas scene with a plethora of holiday concerts and celebrations. The tree is sparkling, I’m singing along with my Christmas playlist and now it's time for another dose of Sudafed and a nap. I’m livin' it up!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

I’m soon to board a plane on the busiest travel day of the year to visit my in-laws where I’ll have two days of Thanksgiving celebrations and one early Christmas on Saturday. I think I need to exercise my stomach muscles now to prepare for three consecutive days of holiday eating! But the best news of all? My Christmas shopping is done, people! Still, I can’t quite believe it’s already Thanksgiving and the holiday season.

Anyway, I decided this week to be short and festive (so you have plenty of time to get that turkey or side dish ready). I leave you with this turkey day video clip...

Now, share one thing you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving! What am I thankful for? The people who read this little blog (and much, MUCH more)!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tune in

Occasionally I find something hilarious, but when I explain what was so funny to someone else they don't really get what all my laughter is about. Sometimes it's those "you had to be there moments," and other times I think I'm just far too easily amused. I'm a little worried that's about to happen as I explain this most recent discovery of mine...but I digress.

Have you heard about the Auto Tune app for the iPhone? I first learned about this interesting feature a few weeks ago when I came across this auto-tuned Obama interview. Then this past week, I heard another auto-tuned video that really made me stop and take note of this technology.

You have to watch this original video first. If you've ever been to You Tube, you've probably already seen it, but it's just too cute to see only once. Love the British accent, and love the smile on the baby's face that says to me: "Of course I bit your finger, idiot. You shoved it in my mouth! Why don't you go stick it in an electrical socket now. Mum and dad must be so proud!"

Now check out the auto-tuned version:

I admit, I cried with laughter the first time I heard it. Then I started thinking about what I'd like to auto tune if I had the time. The person taking my order at the drive-thru window. The pastor at my church. An episode of The Office. Yes, there are now no limits to the ways we can waste our valuable time. But at least we can have a good laugh while we’re at it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

There's no place like home

Lately I’m frantically clicking my sparkly red shoes (or my boring black flats) together, hoping to find my way home for more than just a few days at a time. In November I will have spent 13 nights away from home. December already has 10 nights scheduled away. The cliché is that home is where the heart is, but for me, home is also where my sanity lives. So, being in the midst of business travel, house/kid sitting, and family/holiday travel, there is no telling what the world may see from me during these drifter days. Even kids can tell I’m not my usual self… On Monday night, the eight-year-old in the family I was caring for looked at me and said, “You look like you’re ready to go home.” Oops, was it that obvious?

It’s not as if I want to be a hermit who never leaves the house. I enjoy having places to go and people to see. However, just as extroverts get energized by being around others, my introverted self re-energizes with time at home, doing my own thing, having somewhat of a routine. I guess being a frequent traveler just takes a different personality than my own.

Anyway, tonight—for the hour or so that I will be home (and awake)—my suburban townhome will have never looked so good!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Christmastiiiiiiime is here

One holiday at a time. That's my general rule. Time goes by too fast already; why rush things? It's always been tradition for me and my family to bring out the Christmas décor and music the day after Thanksgiving.

But this year is different. Last week when I saw the first Christmas commercial on TV, I found myself doing a little happy dance in my living room. And yesterday, I spent a good hour or more downloading new Christmas music from iTunes. Next weekend, the tree is going up.

Why this eagerness for Christmas? Because this year, Christmas is synonymous with vacation…beaches…palm trees…HAWAII. The fam and I are bucking tradition and spending Christmas in paradise. I can’t believe it, but I think this will actually be my first week-long vacation since my 13th birthday! Can you see why I'm in a hurry for Christmas to get here?! And spending money on vacation means no gifts, so my Christmas shopping is finished too! (But in case you were wondering, there are 40 shopping days left.)

So yeah, I guess you could say I'm ready for it. I suppose it doesn't help that I've been singing Christmas music since September in rehearsals for a Christmas concert at my church. If you're not quite in the Christmas spirit yet, here's a favorite Christmas music performance to get you fired up for this wonderful season of caroling, halls decked with boughs of holly, red-nosed reindeer and…dreidels.

Merry Christmas to all! Or, as they say on the island: Mele Kalikimaka!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Phil & Jen plus Four

“Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.” -Phyllis Diller

I used to like watching Jon and Kate plus Eight (before they became tabloid fodder), and would wonder how I would handle life with that many kids. (For the record, I decided that I probably wouldn’t handle it well at all. No wonder Kate often seems stressed out and bossy.) Yeah, my future family plans hopefully include a much smaller family. Nevertheless, this week I get a parenting trial run of sorts as the hubs and I house sit and kid sit for several kids ranging from third grade to a sophomore in high school.

Truthfully, these are great kids – well-behaved, respectful, and fun. So aside from helping with homework and keeping them fed, it’s not too bad. Granted, I’m only on day three…and I am definitely more tired than normal.

This week also brings back long buried memories of when I was a school-aged kid. I remember not getting to decide what I wanted for dinner and having to eat whatever mom cooked that night. I remember asking my parents for rides to places all over the city. I remember complaining about chores. I remember the homework. I remember how my dad would intentionally do silly stuff in public that would embarrass me. Yes, the years were generally fun and care free, even though I may not have seen it that way at the time. Let me know what you remember most or loved most about being a kid. We could all stand to relive a little of our childhood, right?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ahhh...relaxation

It's a Monday afternoon and I’m still in my pajamas, listening to some new music on my iPod and blogging. Not a typical Monday for me. I'm not frantically writing e-mails, sitting through meeting after meeting (while checking my Blackberry under the table), or picking up my phone to hear the latest communications emergency. Finally friends, the time has come for me to take a DAY OFF (insert musical fanfare here)! Make that TWO days off actually.

So here I sit, in a state of long-weekend bliss, asking myself, "who decided the weekend should be only two days in the first place?!"

While my two days off work have been rather unexciting (laundry, cleaning, errands and the world’s worst chore ever: ironing), I did spend Saturday and Sunday enjoying a spa in Central Minnesota with a great friend. The fall weather was perfect, the pampering was exactly what I needed, and, despite James—the creepy, troll-like fitness instructor whose Tai Chi moves were less-than-inspirational—we met some wonderful people and had a nearly perfect weekend away.

I truly believe life is about simple pleasures. Time goes by so fast and there are too many "big" things we could spend all of our time worrying about, but not today. In my final hours of vacation before I head back to work tomorrow, I'm sharing my top five list of simple pleasures I was blessed with this weekend:
  1. The crunch of leaves under my feet on a fall hike
  2. Going to bed before 10 p.m. (and not waking up to an alarm)
  3. Leaving my Blackberry buried in my suitcase for 48 hours, replacing it with books and, of course, People magazine
  4. Laughing so hard I cried
  5. Friends—to talk to, share a bag of popcorn with or simply enjoy the peace and quiet together
As we head into this season of Thanksgiving, what simple pleasures are you most grateful for? Let's not wait for a holiday—or a day off—to remember them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When the saints go marching in

On the heels of Halloween is another holiday that doesn’t get quite as much attention: All Saints Day. This week I was surprised to learn about some of the more unique patron saints that have existed over the course of history (this off-the-wall knowledge comes from Jason Boyett’s book, The Pocket Guide to Sainthood). For those of us non-Catholics who need some background about patron saints, check out Jason’s blog. Now, to name a few of my favorites (and no, this is not a joke):

  • St. Ambrose, Patron Saint of Beekeepers
  • St. Martin of Tours, Patron Saint of Geese
  • St. Vitus, Patron Saint of Oversleeping
  • St. Caedwalla of Wessex, Patron Saint of Serial Killers
  • St. Drogo, Patron Saint of Ugly People
Apparently the idea is that if you are dealing with any of these topics/issues in life you may benefit from praying to the related patron saint, because they have an in with God on these areas of expertise. (Lucky for me, I have an in with God on everything because he’s my personal Savior and all.) So finally, there is hope for chronic oversleepers and ugly people! But anyway, check out this article for details on the patron saints above, as well as a few others you won’t soon forget. I promise it will make you smile.

But wait, there’s more. You can also sign up for Relevant’s Great Saint Off and name a celebrity saint (assuming one of today’s celebrities was given such an honor). My favorite so far is, “Saint T. He pities all fools.” Or, I invite you to name your own fictional saint on this blog – be it yourself, a celebrity, or someone else you know (without offending, of course). Get your saint on, people!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monster Mash

I admit; Halloween is not a favorite holiday of mine. I just don’t really get it. I could blame my dad for terrifying his toddler daughters when he dressed up as Gene Simmons (KISS). I don’t think I ever fully recovered from that scare.

Plus, I don’t like scary movies and, after a couple rolls of Smarties, I’m done with the candy too. Living in a condo, I don’t even get trick-or-treaters stopping by to show off their cute little costumes.

But as long as we’re turning the clocks back tonight, I might as well celebrate. I’m embracing Halloween this year by going to a costume party. I’ll be appropriately dressed as an angel. It’s easy and doesn’t require me to squirt blood on my clothes or paint my face.

I hope you all have a safe and fun Halloween! To help get in the holiday spirit, tell me your favorite—or strangest—Halloween costume. I know there is a lot of creativity out there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What’s on your bumper?

Today’s post is totally random, but just stay with me for the heck of it. A few days ago I found myself driving through a parking ramp behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “I Love Baton Twirlers.” It made me chuckle that someone would choose to declare something so unusual to everyone with whom they share the road. Then, not even 10 seconds later, I drove by a parked car with a sticker declaring three powerfully vivid words, “I Eat Poop.” Now, there are a lot of bumper stickers I’ve seen over the years that I haven’t really understood, but this one might just take the cake (or, the…never mind). Don’t you wonder what stories are behind those people and their crazy motivation for promoting such things on the rear-ends of their vehicles?

Personally, I have never understood why people choose to lower the value of their automobiles with these odd declarations. I’m not even a fan of the political and cause-related stickers that actually have a campaigning purpose. Regardless of whether I agree with the person or not, I don’t like the distracting propaganda at every stoplight. And then there are the proud parents of the honor roll students. Can’t they brag to some family members, friends, or neighbors? Why must they brag to me, a stranger who couldn’t care less and is just trying to get myself home?

Anyway, I know there are lots of crazy and unique things to share on bumpers, and I for one could use a good laugh or roll of the eyes from reading some good ones (from my computer…not on the road). So, I’m asking (even begging) for your participation in sharing the most interesting bumper sticker you have ever seen. Let me hear ‘em!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You know who you are...

Last week, a colleague and I were chuckling about yet another laminated note left by the kitchen sink in our office building. It said something like “Put your dishes in the dishwasher. Your mother doesn’t work here.” This is not the first such note. And we laugh because we all know who’s posting them (someone with way too much time on her hands) and truthfully, the notes just give us an even stronger urge to leave our dishes in the sink. Passive aggressive behavior at its best.

Another co-worker recently shared with me what has become one of my new favorite websites: passiveagressivenotes.com. Let’s talk about a few of my favorites, starting with this one:
Is Jesus winking at me in this photo? I love the thumbs up, which doesn’t exactly portray disappointment for the stealing behavior. If I made the sign, I would’ve at least used a photo of Jesus with a tear in his eye. That Bible verse response is brilliant though. There’s nothing like twisting the Word of God to justify any and all behavior. Cracks me up!

Other favorites include:

  1. Hot Pocket thieves. Really? Hot Pockets? When I bring a Hot Pocket to work, everyone knows Heather is reaching into the back of her freezer and desperately needs to go grocery shopping. You wanna steal my Hot Pocket? Fine. No love lost there.
  2. Talking office objects. If there’s anything more obnoxious than a note from a co-worker, it’s got to be a note from the toilet!
  3. Cheesy clip art. I have a passionate LOATHING for all things clip art. I even have a crazy clip art file where I’ve accumulated real flyers from work that promote everything from getting your immunizations (a smiley face with measles, coughing up germs) to injury prevention (a stick figure with a broken leg, crutch and a bunch of question marks swirling around his head…I think he’s dizzy.)

Oh, I’ve had many such opportunities for these kinds of notes or actions over the years with roommates, neighbors, colleagues, and the obnoxious lady in front of me at the grocery store check out. I’m not going to admit any of it here, but let’s face it. Sometimes we need to have the last word!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Flying the unfriendly skies

Travel used to be such a fun word for me. It meant vacation, fun, different, new. Then, eight years ago I started working for a business travel agency (which is very different from a leisure agency) and began some business travel myself. The result is that travel has lost much of its luster for me. I still appreciate a good vacation, but it’s the getting from point A to point B that I could do without. With the poor economy, I’ve alluded most travel this year due to budget cuts. But over the past month, I’ve had a fair amount of travel, and I’ve been reminded why it’s such a pain.

This is me on a typical business trip: I get stuck in security behind someone who doesn’t know they have to remove their shoes. (Really? After all this time you’ve never heard that before?) At the gate, someone next to me is talking loudly on his Bluetooth headset. (“Um, excuse me loud cell phone man…we’re not all looking at you ‘cuz we think you must be important, we’re looking at you because we’re really, really annoyed and want you to shut up.”) While boarding, I am pushed around and nearly smothered by people trying to fit their too large suitcase into the overhead bin (I’ve seen—and almost been a part of—arguments surrounding the overhead bins). Upon settling into my seat, a sick person is coughing behind me and I’m trying to avoid breathing the same air. I can barely hear my iPod because I end up sitting right by the engine, but for some reason I have no problem overhearing the loud conversation in front of me. In addition, air travel for me almost always involves either an early morning or a late night. All that in itself is enough, so I won’t even bother getting into the joys of sleeping in hotels.

Honestly though, despite all this, sometimes I walk through an airport and think to myself that air travel is a pretty neat thing. Those stuffy planes have taken me to some unique and interesting places, and have helped me to earn a living for my entire adult career. And, if nothing else, it makes for some entertaining travel tales…like the last minute dash to catch a flight, or the lost luggage (or, in my case, the lost photo ID), or the airport celebrity sighting, etc. What’s your best travel tale?

While traveling, you also learn to appreciate the small things in life…a hot meal, familiar faces, and the fact that tonight I get to sleep in my own bed!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Punching my card

Sometimes I just want to go back to working at the Gap. Right now is one of those times. I’m burnt out and crabby at work. Last week one of my co-workers even said to me “I miss hearing you laugh.” Now that’s just sad. But I know; this too shall pass. Things are just unusually crazy right now. I’m still happy to be putting my college degree to good use and doing something I generally love. And I mustn’t forget the most obvious blessing of my job these days—I HAVE one!

But the Gap wasn’t so bad either. In fact, I thought it was heaven compared to my first job as a Target cashier. I’m not sure why I disliked that job so much. Maybe because that’s where I realized I’d have to do this working thing for the rest of my life. It was a reality check. (What?! I’m going to have to talk to people I don’t like?! Get only a 15-minute break? And give the government a huge chunk of my hard-earned dough?! What a joke!) If only my mom had let me go to that Old Dutch potato chip commercial call back in second grade…my career might’ve taken a completely different turn.

Unfortunately, when I get stressed out, I also tend to spend money on things I don’t really need. Let’s just say that Gap discount would come in handy right now.

Your turn. What was your first job? And what did you learn from it?

Whatever your job situation—past or present, I think we could all take a lesson in office fun from these co-workers. You can bet that if I worked with them, I would join right in (but naturally, I would’ve picked an N*Sync song instead).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

High school humiliation

It’s High School Humiliation Week! Well, at least it is according to a Anne and May in honor of the release of their book, A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS. Now that I’m 30 and no longer embarrassed by youthful moments of dorkiness, I’m here to humble myself by posting a photo from the awkward years and my most embarrassing adolescent moment (which is actually from junior high, but lucky for you…I looked more awkward then compared to high school anyway).

Check out this girl, who is dying to be popular, but clearly not there yet…

Ugh..ok, picture her on a blue school bus headed to a youth group retreat at a camp a few hours away. She notices almost immediately upon the bus leaving the church parking lot that she has to use the bathroom. By the time we’re driving on a two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere, she is very concerned. Her friends think this is hilarious and start singing songs about water. A couple hours into the trip (after hearing there are no pit stops planned, and no gas station in sight), she starts crying (yes, crying) and tells the bus driver that he needs to pull over…right NOW! The bus pulls over and she runs into the woods. Two full busloads of kids wait…and word quickly gets out that Jenny is peeing in the woods. (I hope I ran far enough in to avoid spectators. It was humiliating, but the relief I felt was worth it.)

Anyway, I was reminded of that episode by retreat-goers for the entire weekend that followed. But looking back on it, I realized that no one really cared about it but me. So, it’s a good lesson and reminder to not take myself so seriously and just laugh at myself. I wish more high school kids realized that, but I think it’s just something you discover with age.

Don’t think you’re getting off easy…now that I’ve shared, I want to hear your humiliating moments from your younger years. Don’t hold back! I have other awesomely bad moments I could share, but not unless you add your two cents.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Behind the Bell

Before there was 90210 or The O.C., there was that fun bunch of teenagers from Bayside High School who I knew and loved. Saved By The Bell was the TV show that motivated me through my awkward junior high years and made me look forward to high school. I wanted to hang out at The Max with my friends. I wanted to see Bayside beat Valley in the big game. I wanted to be as smart as Jessie, as fashionable as Lisa and as popular as Kelly.

It’s hard to believe that this show actually premiered 20 years ago! Since then, I’ve seen every episode several times. And what would a 20th anniversary of a hit TV show be without a tell-all book? That’s right folks. Our very own Screech (a.k.a. unemployed Dustin Diamond) has just released his book, Behind the Bell.

Truthfully, I don’t really care what went on behind the scenes. I still like the show. Perhaps if the book came out 10 or 15 years ago, the revelations of drug use and womanizing might’ve been groundbreaking. But sadly, I think I’ve become desensitized to young Hollywood stars stirring up trouble. They live in a different reality. It’s great to see some stars rise above it, but it’s almost “expected” these days that they won’t.

Dustin’s interviews on his book tour make him sound sort of bitter and jealous of his SBTB cast mates. Apparently he was the geek on screen and off.

Needless to say, I won’t be running out to buy this book. I’m still holding out for a SBTB reunion though. Bring back Zack Attack and play some volleyball at the Malibu Sands Beach Club. Oooo, I’d be so excited…kind of like Jessie:

Best. Episode. EVER.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fair weather fan fun

I’m not a big sports fan during most of the year. Wild hockey is about the only thing I pay attention to all season long. However, if you’re from Minnesota, you couldn’t miss a short string of recent days in which the Wild opened their NHL season, the Vikings (with Brett Favre) beat the rival Packers, and the Twins fought hard for 12 innings (plus a few games before that) to clinch the division title and head to the MLB playoffs. It’s one of those rare good times to be a Minnesota sports fan—when the stakes are high and the teams are strong (at least for the moment).

For me, this is the time when I hop on the bandwagon and pretend like I’ve been following this stuff all year long. Yes, I am a fair weather fan and proud of it. I like to think it’s fans like me who help to add a sense of heightened excitement to these times. So, suddenly I’m following the Twins and the Vikings and sharing water cooler conversations about the previous night’s scores. I feel so… athletic. I mean, what’s more athletic than sitting on your couch watching other people be active, right?

What great sporting event is next, you ask? Well, for those of you who agree with me that dance is a sport, then I’ll be enjoying another great night tonight as I head to the So You Think You Can Dance tour! It’s more exhibition than competition at this point, but after following these athletes on TV all summer long, I’m excited to see them do their thing. Here’s video of my favorite dance of last season, which I'm looking forward to seeing live tonight (explanation: the male dancer represents an addiction and the female is the addict…such a powerfully illustrated story). It’s art; it’s sport; it’s two minutes of enjoyment for moi!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sew...a needle pulling thread

Back in junior high, I got an ‘A’ on my home economics sewing project. That nylon duffle bag might’ve just been the start of something big. Had I continued to refine my skills, you might find me creating designer handbags, or dressing Hollywood stars for the big awards shows.

But the truth is, I haven’t touched a sewing machine since that class. While I do own a sewing kit, if a seamstress were to examine my attempt at sewing a button on my coat, she would be appalled.

I have also been known to "repair" a ripped hem on my pants with Scotch tape. (Another dear friend and OKD reader once used a stapler—which makes me feel a little better about the tape!) Usually, when the hem rips on a pair of pants, I just consider it an excuse to go shopping and buy a new pair.

But today friends, I’m pleased to share that my lack of sewing skills will never again be a problem. Let me introduce you to one of my new favorite things:
When my Mighty Mendit showed up in the mail, I pulled four pairs of neglected pants out of my closet and—after a few seconds of careful handiwork—they are now as good as new. No needles, thread or scissors and no more feelings of insecurity about my lack of domestic skills. And what a relief to know that my hem will stay put even through storm force winds (according to the late Billy Mays)!

Now if they would just create a Mighty Mendit-type solution to fix leaky pipes, electronics and automobiles, I could conquer the world!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I learned from 'I do'

This weekend, Phil and I will celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. My how time flies. Actually, it really feels like we’ve been married for longer (in a good way). But it is funny to look back at the humorous stuff we’ve learned about each other in the past year. Like how Phil eats mac ‘n cheese with a spoon while I use a fork and other less obvious preferences regarding food, chores, entertainment, etc.

I asked Phil what was one thing he learned in the past year. He said he’s learned not to use the word “sure.” I admit this is because, when I ask him a yes or no question and he answers with “sure” I want to know if that really means "yes" or "I'd rather say 'no' but think yes is the right answer."

We’ve also had to teach each other a thing or two. I had to teach Phil how to fold a pair of women’s underwear. (I’m laughing just thinking about that moment.) On the other hand, Phil patiently taught me how to operate the TV remote and DVR (before I got married, I didn’t even have cable), not to mention basically every other piece of technology in our home.

Anyway, not to rattle off a cliché, but the biggest thing I’ve learned about marriage is probably the fact that I still have a lot more to learn. That’s why I’m looking forward to many more years with the hubs! So, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in the past year?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Remember my name

Ever since movie makers announced they were re-making FAME I have been looking forward to this weekend. Luckily the bad reviews convinced me to go in with low expectations. If you prefer good acting and a compelling plot, I’d recommend you skip this particular movie. But the performances sprinkled throughout were still fun.

It’s movies like this—and TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, and of course, GLEE—that send me into daydream heaven. Despite my bad knees and 30-year-old body that hasn’t done a double pirouette or split leap since high school, I still aspire to be a performer.

Nothing puts a bigger smile on my face than a flashy song and dance routine. Put me in the audience of any Broadway show and I’ve got happy tears in my eyes the moment the curtain goes up.

Why can’t life be more like a musical? We all randomly break out into song and a perfectly choreographed dance routine at random times—at the grocery store, during meetings at work, going to check the mail. I’d like to think heaven will be one eternal Tony Award-winning musical. But for today, I guess singing at my church and dancing at weddings (and occasionally in my living room) will have to suffice.

So, what’s your favorite Broadway or movie musical? I know. There are too many to choose from. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you with my pick later.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To text or not to text

I love text messaging! Now, many (mostly younger) people made this declaration a couple years ago. For a long time though, I didn’t really get the point. Now, however, I do find value in using (but not overusing) this technology. For me, it started with a couple messages a month. Then, about a year ago, I got a new phone with a full "QWERTY" keypad. Suddenly, texting was faster and seemed more efficient. I started to use it more, and a couple months ago even managed to exceed the alloted texts in my phone plan. So, I upgraded my plan to go even more text crazy.

Mostly, I like texting because it’s quick and not intrusive. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t want them to call me, ‘cuz that’s not true at all. But, I admit that I’ve never been good at calling people, and it’s mostly because I have this constant worry that I’ll be interrupting something or catching the callee at a bad time and they’ll feel stuck talking to me. In addition, let’s face it, sometimes you just want a quick answer and not a full conversation. Texting is great for quick Q&A.

I do think some people misuse it though. It sounds like most students today communicate almost solely through text messages. I know a couple teenagers who send more than 1,000 texts every month. From what I hear, that’s not uncommon. Another thing I don’t like is that it promotes bad grammar and writing habits. Since I write for a living, this really bugs me. I can’t stand the text abbreviations (TTYL, BBIAM, YGTBKM) . Say what?! I rarely abbreviate anything when I text, which is probably a waste of time, but hey, I like the look of complete sentences, okay?

Also, I have learned to be careful about sending texts. Just this week I sent my husband a text (or so I thought), but it actually went to my sister. I’m sure Heather wondered why I wanted her to tell me when she would be home and hear what I was making for dinner. I’m sure she was also extremely grateful that was all the message was and it didn’t have any mushy stuff meant only for the hubs.

Any other happy texters out there? Or anti-texters? TAFN (translation: that’s all for now)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cover your cough

Work has been crazy lately. While this is normally my busiest time of year, I get an extra dose of busy this fall because of H1N1 (swine flu). No, I don’t have it (yet), but I sure have learned a lot about it over the past five months—having been tossed into the realm of pandemic planning and communication for the large health care system where I work.

So what have I learned exactly? Well, more than I ever wanted to know about N95 masks, antiviral prophylaxis and nasopharyngeal swabs. I’ve also learned that crisis communications is not really my forte. Sure, it’s an exciting adrenaline rush for the first 14-hour day, but after several weeks of never knowing what the day’s emergency will be—not so exciting anymore.

But most importantly, I’ve learned that we probably don’t have a whole lot to worry about when it comes to this latest outbreak. Even so, our hospitals and clinics have to plan for the worst-case scenario, which is very overwhelming.

I leave you with some sound advice for protecting yourself from the flu this fall. I think Dr. Clarke says it best. Don’t you agree?

(No, Dr. Clarke doesn’t work for my employer, but if he did, I’m pretty sure we’d be good friends.) I’m off to go recruit my own rapping doctor now. Talk about a homerun for my communications plan!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

12 steps for everyone

Those who know me know that my involvement with music at my church is a big part of my life. This year that commitment involved the addition of co-leading the large group music/worship time at a weekly ministry called Celebrate Recovery (CR). (And by “co-leading” I mean I just show up and sing while my husband does the other 90% of the work.) CR is a nationally recognized, Christian-based recovery ministry for people struggling with all kinds of life issues—from various addictions, codependency, depression, family members of people with these issues, etc. Incidentally, the CR meetings at my church were featured in this month’s issue of the Minnesota Christian Chronicle if you care to check it out in detail.

Here’s the interesting thing I have learned through my weekly attendance during a portion of these meetings… the 12 steps that everyone associates with AA and other programs aimed at addictions are totally applicable to every person on the planet. Suggestions like turning our lives/will over to God, asking God to remove our character defects, admitting wrongs, making amends, etc. amount to guidance we could all use to enjoy more freedom from the heavy stuff of life that we all deal with in varying degrees during our lives. I guess that realization has been somewhat of an aha moment for me. I’m no different than the other fantastic people at CR who are trying to gain some victory over their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups.” I don’t know if that knowledge makes me feel more or less “normal,” but it has definitely given me more awareness of some valuable steps. And getting those weekly reminders of biblically based recovery principles has actually been good for me, so I just thought I’d pass it on!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One of those days

Well friends, it’s been an exhausting week for me. It started with a very unpleasant, middle-of-the-night encounter with a large insect in my home (seriously, if I would’ve been awake enough, I would’ve taken a picture and sent it to the Guinness Book of World Records). That was followed by a series of long, dreadful days at work. Granted, I’ve accepted the fact that September and October are never going to be “fun” at my job, but I’ll get through it.

And to end my week, I hit a wall. Literally. Yesterday I ran into a wall. In my own house. (And I used to be a dancer!) My arm is so painfully bruised right now that I have to keep looking at it to confirm that it really isn’t a gunshot wound.

When life has me frustrated, it always helps to turn up some music really loud and just scream along, er, I mean, sing along. I have a few favorites to turn up that really help me let off steam: Plumb’s Solace is one of them. With a chorus that says “Grab it. Kick it. Smash it. Love it. Loathe it” how can you not feel a little relief after that? And Linkin Park’s One Step Closer works well too. Of course, on the other end of the music spectrum, I get to go to church tonight and sing some great worship music, which also helps to keep things in perspective and remember Who is in control.

What about you? Any other music recommendations for those frustrating days?

While music helps, shopping does too. I bought a new butt-kicking power suit today to wear for some meetings this week. Tomorrow, I am a new woman!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm a gleek

I was a pretty busy high school student between academics, the dance team, church youth group activities, etc. But, my absolute best memories of high school involved being in our school’s show choir. Sure, it sounds cheesy that we would sing and dance in flashy outfits in national competitions (and even on a cruise ship). It may not have been the coolest activity at school, but the group did include a few football and basketball players who could sing and dance with the best of them. It was, at a minimum, a socially acceptable activity at Bloomington Jefferson Senior High. Lucky for you, we didn’t have You Tube in 1997, so I’ll spare you my “Jefferson Connection” performances on video. You’ll just have to trust me that we were pretty darn good and brought home a few trophies back in the day. And, don't we all look fabulous in fuchsia?

Anyway, given my enthusiasm for show choir, you can probably understand my excitement and sheer elation over the latest show to debut this fall season: Glee. I’m not kidding you when I say I have never been this excited about a new TV show. (Ask my husband who can’t hold in his laughter when I literally jump up and down talking about this show. ) The show is about a high school teacher who tries to reinvent the high school glee club starting with a quirky group of outcasts and the high school quarterback who have failed to see their true potential. Some of the humor is definitely more adult, but the music is great, and the memories it inspires for a choir gal like me are enough to make this my most anticipated show of the fall season. You can pretty much bet this isn’t the last you’ve heard about Glee on this blog.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I miss recess

All the TV ads and store displays are telling me it's back-to-school time. And it reminds me…I miss going back to school (and yes, recess too)! The new outfits, the new teachers, the return of Italian Dunkers to my lunch menu. Those were the days. Growing up, I loved having a clean slate and feeling that nervous excitement that goes along with this official transition to fall.

While children everywhere are trying new locker combinations and hoping for at least one easy 'A,' we adults of the world mostly just stick to our routines. I generally like having my routine, but there's something about this time of year that makes me want to shake it all up and start fresh. And for some reason, anticipating the new seasons of Grey's Anatomy and So You Think You Can Dance just isn’t quite cutting it.

Any advice for reinventing the routine? Perhaps I need to go shopping for a new back-to-school outfit this weekend (just for old time's sake, of course). Or maybe I should start rockin' my CPK lunch box again. Now that would make me the envy of all my co-workers for sure!

In honor of all those going back to school this week, I have to post this clip from one of the best TV shows of my younger years. It's long, but worth watching. I particularly love the conversation with Theo that starts just after the five-minute mark—oh the drama of high school! We thought we had it so tough.



Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The end of the Rainbow

Last week marked the end of an era. After 26 years on television, the final episode of Reading Rainbow aired on PBS. Now truthfully, I didn't even know this show was still on the air. Nevertheless, hearing this news mad me a little sad and very nostalgic. And when I heard the show’s theme song, childhood memories flooded back. If you're in my generation, you'll know what I mean when you watch this:

I don't know why books were so much cooler when they were read on TV, but I used to love going to the library in search of the books that were featured on RR. And obviously, LeVar Burton rocked (but more so on this show than he did on Star Trek with the visor thing that I always thought looked like the banana clips we wore in our hair back then).

I guess RR is not being funded any longer because it doesn’t focus on teaching kids HOW to read. But, I think there’s something to be said about a show that teaches kids WHY reading is fun. Although it has been a long time since I've read a children's book, I still love to read, and I'll go ahead and give RR a little credit.

Anyway, someday I may end up with RR DVDs and force them on my children, who will think the show is completely old fashioned. In the meantime...what do you think was the best children’s book ever? “Take a look, it’s in a book…”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not your average sing-a-long

When it comes to music, I'll listen to—and appreciate—just about anything. But recently, I heard something a little disturbing. This Kidz Bop commercial is in frequent rotation on an online radio station I listen to. And I’m telling ya…the sound of it nearly makes my ears bleed.

Kidz Bop involves a bunch of kids recording a compilation of today’s pop music hits: "Sung by kids, for kids."

Now, I'm all for singing kids. How can you not smile at the little singers belting out Disney show tunes at their school concert (while simultaneously mastering the "step touch" and other complex choreography)? And my heart melts when I hear the children's choir at church singing (or sometimes screaming) about how Jesus love them. In fact, my big claim to fame is that you can hear my young singing voice on the Christmas edition of G.T. and the Halo Express…stocking stuffer anyone?

But Kidz Bop is different. Basically, here's the concept… take the most obnoxiously overplayed songs on the radio, sung by role models like Britney Spears and the Black-Eyed Peas, toss in a few borderline inappropriate lyrics and market this to children. Brilliant. It obviously works if they’re now promoting the 16th edition of this album.

I’m not trying to sound like a prude. I'm certainly known to turn up some Britney in my car during my rush hour drive home. And I know there isn’t a whole lot of choice when it comes to kids' music, but I'm just sayin…

Am I the only one who finds this album a little cringe worthy?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The B-word

Call it a “spending plan” if that makes you feel better, but today I am talking about the dreaded personal BUDGET. After college, I remember my dad arming me with a sophisticated budget spreadsheet that I could use to manage my new salary and grown up expenses. To his dismay, a couple months later, he asked me how the spreadsheet was working, and I confessed that I hadn't really used it. You see, for the last eight years I’ve lived off the simple principle of spend less than you make. Fortunately, this has served me very well during that time.

Lately, however, my financial picture is starting to get a bit more complicated. First, I got married last year and now there are two of us spending from and contributing to the same accounts. The duel income no kids (DINK) situation is nice, but we also want to make sure that we don’t raise our standard of living to a level that we can’t maintain in the future. You see, in a couple years, the hubs will have earned his Christian Ministry degree and likely trade in his corporate job for a job that pays notably less (we both agree it’s worth it to be able to do what you love). Add to that the likelihood that kids will enter the picture, and our expenses will rise. That’s leading us to realize that right now is the time to be smart and proactive with our money and save, save, save. Time for a real budget.

We’ve been tracking our spending since we got married, but we’ve not really sat down and decided how much we WANT to spend (or not spend) on certain things. Instead, it’s been more like, “whoops, we probably shouldn’t have gone out to eat so much…better luck next month.” So to help us be a bit more proactive I signed us up to use this cool Mvelopes online budgeting system. It’s going to require some planning and effort to get it set up to work for us and provide some flexibility from month-to-month, but I'm optimistic and committed.

I'm curious if anyone has other tips for setting and managing a budget? What financial goals to you recommend be set in our DINK household? I’m looking for tried and true, practical stuff. But not too practical. I will not reduce myself to the following:
  • Buying two-ply toilet paper and pulling the sheets apart or hanging used paper towels to dry so they can be reused
  • Wrapping gifts in aluminum foil
  • Cruising the neighborhood before community clean-up day (ok, I may have grabbed some unwanted furniture from the end of someone's driveway once in college, but c'mon, that was college)
  • Giving up Post-it notes
Here’s hoping that this non-financial, non-numbers person can claim victory with the b-word!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I survived!

I have this vivid memory from when I was little of the TV meteorologist talking about tornados and warning us to take cover if we were in the path of the storm. Unfortunately, I was a little confused about this weather phenomenon. When the weather guy said "tornado," I heard "tomato." I was terrified of these tomatoes that threatened to destroy my safe, comfortable home. In my little imagination, I honestly thought a giant red tomato would roll down the street and right on top of my house. Apparently I am not the only person who thought this.

So why am I telling you this story? Well, I could've died two days ago. Seriously. Lucky for you, I lived to tell about it. Strong storms hit Minneapolis mid-day while I was innocently working at my office. Lots of wind, lots of rain and then…tomato, er, I mean…tornado sirens. At this point, you'd think I’d take cover somewhere away from the wall of windows by which I sat. But instead, I thought "Meh. It's the middle of the day and tornados never hit the city. I have better things to do than heed these silly severe weather warnings."

So while other colleagues took cover, I kept right on working, only to find out later that there really was a tornado touch down--just one mile from my office! Uh, thanks God, for protecting me despite my stupidity!

I guess I can't ever argue that I have better things to do than saving my own life. I'm happy to report no damage to my office or car; but I will never again doubt the power of the tomato.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My totally hip hop abs

Let's talk about working out for a minute. I’ve never been a health club person, because I’d rather not work out in front of other people. However, then I find myself not knowing what to do from home (running is not really an option I’m willing to consider yet; I’m about one step up from Phoebe on Friends). I’ve tried a few workout videos/DVDs over the years, and I’m happy to report that I actually found some workouts that I really like, and have stuck to for a while. Enter Hip Hop Abs. You’ve probably caught pieces of this infommercial on TV. The first time I saw it, the product started to suck me in with all its hip hoppness. It even includes bonus features where you can learn several dance routines (which I have yet to learn, but someday will, right before my audition for So You Think You Can Dance where I will make judge Mary Murphy scream and cry and put me on the hot tamale train…)

Anyway, I never would have guessed that my first try at this workout series would come from DVDs loaned to me by…my father-in-law (hereafter known as FIL). Yup, during an exercise conversation with my in-laws, I mentioned I was intrigued by the Hip Hop Abs commercials, and my FIL proceeded to leave the room and walk back with those very DVDs, sharing that he really enjoys the workouts. My jaw dropped. I’m just trying to picture FIL working out with Shaun T. (the instructor). Below are photos of my FIL and my faithful fitness instructor, Shaun T. Trust me, FIL is not the target audience.


Anyway, I think this was the first thing I’ve ever ordered from an infommercial, and so far it has been a good investment. As for other home workouts, I also recently tried Wii Fit and think I might like it, but am not sold on whether or not it would be worth the investment. Let me know if you know of any other good workouts I should try in the privacy of my home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ready for bed


Did you see this in the news yesterday? Researchers have discovered a genetic mutation that results in people needing far less sleep than average. Oh to have this mutation! Might have been the greatest gift ever received from my parents.

But, I know for a fact that I am not one of the lucky three percent who have this “problem.” Others may boast about needing (or pretending to need) only five or six hours of sleep each night, but I’m not ashamed to admit I need the full eight. Sure, I survive most days on less, but I stand by the researchers’ recommendations that I need more. I love sleep. I truly look forward to my head hitting my pillow each night.

For the past few weeks though, a good night’s sleep has been hard to come by. I have no problem falling asleep, but I keep waking up a few hours later, suffering anywhere from 1-3 hours of tossing and turning. I find myself panicking about any number of things, usually work-related. Despite my complete exhaustion, I can’t seem to shut my mind off. By mid-day, if I happen to wander past the entrance of the sleep clinic at the hospital where I work, I am desperate to step inside—if only for a nap in their calming lobby! If you have any tips to think/worry less at night and sleep more, please let me know!

My insomnia research did lead me to this interesting product—Sleep Safe Tape. Can we say creepy?! If you find me resorting to this during my work day, please get me professional help!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Golf madness hits home…sort of

Things in my neighborhood look a little different this week. You see, just a short walk from my home is the site of this year’s PGA Championship tournament. I’m not a golfer (only a mini-golfer), but it has been kind of exciting watching the big signs, tents, etc. go up gradually over the last few weeks and know that the national sports spotlight (at least for golfers) will be on my neighborhood this weekend. What’s more, I just learned (too late, of course) that I probably could have rented out my house for the week for $6,000 to people traveling here for this major tournament!

Now, I actually think I might enjoy playing golf if I were to try it. But, here’s the thing…I don’t understand the draw of watching other people golf. I’ve tried watching it on TV with my golf-loving dad, and I almost always end up taking a good nap (no offense, dad). I’ve seen the die-hards watch it intensely at the country club restaurant I worked at during college, and I don’t know if I can ever get as excited about a birdie as they do.

Nevertheless, I am planning to try watching at least part of the tournament on TV. I’ll let you know how it goes. And for the golfers out there…please explain to me the proper way to watch golf and enjoy it. Do I need to study up on the players and terminology ahead of time? Is knowing Tiger Woods good enough? Should I dress in a polo shirt and visor just to look the part? Or do I just need to start playing it myself to truly understand? Help me become a fan!

Now here’s some entertaining golf…

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Who am I?

When I log on to Facebook and scroll through the news feed, I’m always amazed by the number of random quizzes people take. From what Sex and the City character are you to what your favorite animal says about you, and literally hundreds more. Of course it’s just for fun, but it got me thinking. On some level, aren’t we all looking for validation of who we are, why we behave the way we do and, ultimately, what this means for our lives, our careers and the people we care about?

I just think of all the personality assessments and career inventories I’ve done over the years. Myers-Briggs tells me I’m an INFJ. Insights tells me my color energy is green. StrengthsFinder tells me my top five themes are learner, harmony, empathy, connectedness and input. And I could keep going…

So what do we do with all of this information? Last year, I took a class through my church called Lifekeys. We did a lot of these inventories and other activities to identify our talents, spiritual gifts, passions and values—all for the purpose of discovering where we fit best and how to live more effectively. The class was fascinating, but in the end I learned that I’m probably already in the right career, serving in the right ministries, etc. Great news! It should have seemed so satisfying, right? But instead, it was kind of a let down. I think it was because others in the class seemed to be having these breakthrough moments that were changing their lives. And everything was just status quo for me. I guess I’m thankful I figured these things out about myself so early in life. Not that they won’t change someday.

Well, since I’ve apparently got all the big stuff in my life figured out already, let’s really get to the heart of who I am. Remember in high school when you took those teen magazine quizzes like “does your crush know you’re alive?” or “what’s your party personality?” O yeah, now those were defining moments for the course of my life. Indulge me for a moment while I share some of those lesser known traits and fun facts about Heather, brought to you by quizzes from Seventeen magazine.
  • What should my ring tone be? Show tunes (Obviously!)
  • Which Jonas Brother is my perfect match? Nick Jonas (Surprising. I thought for sure it would be the engaged one, because that’s my luck!)
  • Could I be America’s Next Top Model? Maybe. (I’m a “Diva Model,” and I don’t think that’s a good thing.)
  • What’s the perfect celeb hairstyle for me? Taylor Swift’s long, flowy curls
  • What’s my High School Musical theme song? You are the Music in Me

Don’t you feel like you know me so much better now? So what do your personality profiles (funny or formal) say about you? Do you find the assessments to be accurate? Helpful? A waste of time? (C'mon, you can't tell me that knowing what my accessories say about me is a waste of time!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Things you won't see in Minnesota

Last week I was fortunate enough to take a vacation to Niagara Falls (my husband’s hometown) and New York City to visit my fabulous in-laws. Personally, I love the Twin Cities, but the great thing about venturing away from home is that you see what makes other cities unique. So today I bring you a list of a few things you won’t see in lovely Minnesota…and to keep this from being a boring slide show of tourist attractions, I’m opting for some lesser known rarities that caused me to take a second look.

The Bit-O-Paris Motel in Niagara Falls has obviously seen better days, because I couldn’t find anything resembling a romantic, European city in this run down ghetto of a place. (Mind you, I actually never went inside…I’m not that daring). The main drag in the Falls is lined with little motels like this that were apparently quite a draw back when this town was the honeymoon capital of the world. My husband informed me that the “Bit-O” was also the high school party location. My sister-in-law mentioned that someone was murdered there recently. The sign says there is vacancy. Shocking.

Also in Niagara Falls, I spotted a black squirrel. Odd, no? I have nothing else to say about that.



Of course, in NYC, you see all kinds of different types. I was particularly intrigued by the wizardish man in Central Park carrying a sign that said “Blackwolf the Dragonmaster.” Huh? According to a Google search, it turns out this character has his own website and is trying to get donations to make a movie about his adventures. I see a blockbuster in the making.



And, while not a peculiar sighting, I’ll wrap up with photo of a Broadway sign. Granted, there are probably hundreds of Broadways in Minnesota, but there is only one Broadway that I love, and seeing a couple musicals was the highlight of my week away.

Other noteworthy observations of my trip (sans photos)… the visitor at St. Patrick’s Cathedral who decided to break with tradition and cool her face/neck off with the holy water; the JFK employee who yelled at a passenger in front of hundreds of bystanders, throwing a suitcase and making a little boy cry; a little girl getting sea sick and throwing up all over herself; and numerous tourist attractions that were actually quite fun to visit. Ah, the joys of travel. Let me know if you’ve seen anything particularly crazy or fun on your vacations!

At the end of the day though, there’s no place like home. I was happy to return to my busy but blessed life in the land of deep fried cheese curds, pond hockey, oversized shopping malls, and Prince.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer (Un)lovin'

Where has the summer gone? The back-to-school ads are on TV, yet I haven’t endured a single sunburn or mosquito bite on my fair Norwegian skin. (There’s still time!) I confess though, I love the cool weather we’ve been having in Minnesota.

It recently occurred to me that heat and humidity aren’t the only things that have been eluding me this summer. It’s wedding season right? But I haven’t had any weddings or bridal showers to attend in months. How can that be?! In fact, I haven’t been to a wedding all year. And I must say…I could totally get used to this!

Don’t get me wrong, I love almost everything about weddings. (Almost. This article nicely sums up the bouquet toss. Ugh!) I feel very blessed to have been witness to so many dear friends taking the plunge. But after eight or nine years of diamond engagement rings blinding me at most social gatherings, could it be I’m now reaching a turning point? Maybe these dancing feet of mine are finally catching a break—having already seen their majority of reception hokey pokeys and electric slides.

I don’t know exactly how I feel about this, or how long it will last. But for today, I’m enjoying the respite from Target’s Club Wedd kiosks (Do I go with the waffle maker or the pillow cases?) and the closet full of dresses (Has anyone at this wedding seen me wear this one before?). Ahhhh, summer.

Speaking of weddings, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our beloved Bachelorette Jillian, who last night in front of thousands of television viewers accepted a hideous ($60,000!) engagement ring from the guy with the green shorty shorts. Good luck Jilly. And Reid…call me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When did I become so lame?


I sure hope I’m not the only 30-year-old who suddenly feels the effects of aging. The latest evidence of this is when I try to go to concerts on “school nights” and I wake up early the next morning for work and feel like lead trying to pick myself up out of bed. Last night I saw The Fray in concert, and although it was a great concert, I just don’t think I can stay out late anymore when I have to work the next day. Lame. On top of that, thank God I wasn’t on the main floor, which was standing room only. I learned at a concert earlier this year that I can no longer enjoy myself if I have to stand shoulder to shoulder with enthusiastic concert goers for three different acts. Lame. And even when the main act is pumped up and yells "EVERYBODY ON YOUR FEET," I just...sit there...with the old people. I paid for this SEAT, I'm going to use it!

Besides my early bedtime needs and the wanting to sit down, I definitely helped to bring up the average age at this concert (which surprised me, ‘cuz it wasn’t like I was seeing the Jonas Brothers). Then, there were the girls sitting behind my husband who talked loudly during the entire opening act, and Phil had to turn around and tell them to be quiet. C’mon, people, we paid good money for these tickets to hear music – not your conversation. Crotchety. Old. Lame.

And these are just the examples in one night. Besides all that, suddenly I have to find face products that tackle both acne and “fine lines.” And I’m anticipating my first gray hair (thank God for highlights). And I actually have to watch what I eat (I know, some of you are thrilled that the skinny girl finally worries about the size of her thighs) and visit the doctor more than once a year. Lame.

How about you? No matter your age, what’s the weirdest or most uncomfortable thing you’ve noticed about getting older (physically, mentally, etc.)? Is it all downhill from here, or will I enjoy my adult years once I better embrace them? Okay, I’m getting sleepy…I guess it is already 8: 25 p.m. Time to start thinking about my comfy bed!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Welcome to our blog debut

Hi friends! During the course of many a conversation, people have said to us “you need to write about that.” I guess we like trying to make our boring lives and interests sound remotely interesting and relatable. So due to popular demand (if fewer than 10 people counts as “popular”) we’re finally entering the blogosphere together. To start, let’s set a few expectations…

Things you will see on this blog:

  1. Our take on pop culture
  2. Posts about music—from secular to sacred
  3. Things that deal with faith and life—two things we’re constantly trying to keep stuck together
  4. Stuff that makes us laugh (or may cause you to laugh at us)
  5. Snapshots of our random, daily lives to which we think you might relate
Things you won’t see on this blog:

  1. Girls gone wild (we’re pretty PG rated)
  2. Political debates (we’ll respect you if you respect us)
  3. Excessive personal bragging (if we do this, we’ll slap a warning label at the top)
  4. The latest trends in dairy farming (we’re city girls at heart, although we do love cheese and ice cream)
  5. Creepy stuff like this:

How does that sound? Worth reading? Let us know if there is something you want us to write about, and look for updates every week. Thanks for visiting; we look forward to your return.

~Jenny and Heather