childhood, Uncategorized

Purple Indians, Red Cow, Golden Friends

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Despite truly meaning it, when we say “we should get together” somehow life gets in the way and the weeks turn into years and the years turn to decades and it just doesn’t happen naturally to fall into place. There has to be some effort. Social media has been both a blessing and a curse to relationships. Some feel there isn’t really a need to gather physically because they “know” what is going on with someone based on occasional posts and photographs. Others feeling that perhaps when their own life somehow measures up to the vacations, grandchildren and celebrations of others, then the time will be right and they will feel worthy. Perhaps when they drop some weight, have a better hairstyle or update their wardrobe, that will be a good time to get together. If we wait until our lives are perfect, it simply will never occur.

Facebook has allowed my generation to locate people from our past in addition to seeing what our own kids, family members and social circle did over the weekend or are having for dinner tonight. One can get lost looking at friend lists of other friends and trying to decipher if that thin red-head was once the chubby brunet cheerleader who was hilarious in your English class; same first name, married, living on the west coast. Could be her, maybe not. It’s like winning the lottery when you locate someone from your past and reconnect, catch up and find yourselves much the same. There are the other scenarios when Facebook suggests that you “might know” someone and “Yes, you do” and you have been avoiding them at all costs because they are toxic and don’t need to know you “might” meet at Bunny’s for Wing Night next week.

 

Facebook has replaced Hallmark as the way to send a birthday greeting and makes a better source than a local paper for birth announcements, engagements and marriages, as well as obituaries. The arc of life, all happening in real-time and available via phone or computer. Though one is never truly alone anymore, the constant connectivity seemingly causes people to interact less with those around them. Lack of eye contact when checking out with a cashier, tapping on a desired menu item while simultaneously talking on the phone with someone not present or being part of an entire table updating their statuses but not really “experiencing” the company of those present or engaging in the event they are attending.

Yesterday I experienced what is the best of what social media can do, gather people for real social interaction. The only thing that could have made the gathering more like the childhoods we’d all shared would have been convening in the rocket at Linden Hills Park or all arriving by bike and leaving them pedals down on their sides on a grassy spot outside the restaurant (Red Cow) we chose to meet at. My use of technology was having this single picture taken before we ordered, others used their phones as photo albums and one table-mate ignored an incoming call but showed her phone because she was filling someone in on her brother and it happened to be him calling. The two-year age gap meant a couple of the older girls couldn’t place the youngest one, so she pulled up a picture from thirty years ago and got “Oh, I know that girl.” to which she responded “That’s me.” Beyond that, everyone present was truly present!

An initial Facebook invitation to neighborhood girls swelled into an unmanageable number of invitees and then settled back into a table-sized gathering that allowed for multiple simultaneous conversations but conveniently allowed for shared laughter as well. To an outsider (or our waitress for that matter) I imagine we looked like a group of ladies who meet monthly for lunch. The reality being that with six of the eight having been 1980 graduates from nearby Minneapolis Southwest (Purple Indians) we had not all been under the same roof since the Carter administration. We used to bike over to each others house and ring the doorbell to see if someone could play or call their house and hope the line wasn’t busy when we wanted to extend an invitation. With a Facebook invite our friend who has lived in Hawaii for three decades received the same information in real time.

As I pulled up, I saw Laurie arriving. I parked down the street and walked up, giving her time to put our name in for a table. The weather being nice we stood outside as the remaining five arrived and a sixth slid in once we were seated. Laurie and I had played on the badminton team together and she had played volleyball in high school as well as in college. Badminton was a spring sport and we often found ourselves walking home together in weather thirty degrees warmer than the temps of our morning walk. Wet sidewalks and muddy ally-ways, our route included a couple of blocks that had formerly been the path of the streetcar line, a mode of transportation abandoned before our births and replaced with MTC buses that shuttled us to Southdale, our suburban mall or downtown which was a grittier urban destination for us to find everything from magazines at Shinders to department stores, restaurants and where all sorts of options for teenage girls to make bad choices were available. Laurie stood in her overalls and dreadlocks and lamented the fact that she had not seen me since she’d graduated and then she simply said it “We’re old!” and we laughed about it, me realizing only later that I had only been sixteen the last time we had seen each other. When a neighbor girl arrived that I had more recently encountered at funerals over the last several years she hugged me, commented that I’d lost weight and looked great and I glanced over at Laurie and laughed again, “Lost weight, gained weight. All depends when you saw me last.” and the two of them laughed harder having seen each other a few years earlier and a few pounds lighter. Same struggles, different decade.

The majority of us had attended Lake Harriet Elementary school, most starting kindergarten in 1967, I started in 1968 and Doreen, the youngest attendee being a 1969 kindergartner who looked exactly like the little girl Buffy from the show Family Affair (with ringlet pigtails) when she started school. Though the school was physically gone by the time we entered high school, one of our lunch friends currently resides in the home she was raised in, located across the street from the massive brick structure my own grandmother had attended. Her renovated childhood home located diagonally from my block, the other two corners being where responsible sixth-graders stood as school safety patrols and lowered their flags to grant me safe passage on a daily basis.

There we were; infants of the sixties, school kids of the seventies and all having graduated on the cusp of the eighties. High school graduates before most of us had heard the word “aerobic” and at a time when Ayds was a dietary candy to be taken with a hot beverage, a half hour before meals and AIDS was not yet coined as the name for a sexually transmitted plague. We were a new generation of women with Title IX rights. In addition to Typing (later useful for keyboarding), Clothing (sewing) and Foods (cooking) classes we could take Metals, Woods and Electricity classes, once considered the trades classes for boys. Thirty-five years later all of these basic skills classes that provided one with the capacity to sew on a button and press a shirt before a job interview or prepare a nutritional meal on a budget, even classes that taught one how to simply follow directions to complete a basic task in an office or factory setting are gone. A multi-million-dollar renovation and addition to our 75 year-old Alma mater has added dance studios, put a greater emphasis on the arts and offers computer coding, now considered the skill that one might learn while a high school student that could lead to employment beyond graduation. Most of us did not touch a computer before we graduated, ditto for the majority of our teachers.

Teachers; we reminisced about the ones we loved, the ones we feared and the ones that reminded us that we were in fact skipping class when they encountered us in the hallway. There were the ones whose children were our classmates, the ones who coached us, the ones that encouraged us, the ones who prepared us for college, believed in us and were well suited to their careers. There were the ones who seemed miserable, hated their jobs, likely hated us and took pleasure in tormenting our classmates who really didn’t want to be there in the first place. My childhood neighbor shared an amusing anecdote about being a server at a country club and being invited to a coworkers home for drinks after work, only to realize that her coworkers “boyfriend” was actually a despised teacher.

We were a  mixed-bag of women, many of us the youngest (read “least supervised”) of our families. Some of us were involved in student activities, while others cut class frequently, hung out with older kids, pushed the envelope and took part in risky behavior. None of it mattered, then or now to us, we were kids with friendships forged in youth that treated each other kindly. One girl mentioned that she quit ordering yearbooks because of the unkind remarks other classmates wrote in them. When another asked for an example she tossed out “Titless Wonder” as one of the more repeatable torments, when asked who said that I realized he was the same guy that thought it appropriate to opine on my breast size (too big apparently) like some perverse male Goldilocks looking for “just right”. Neither of us realizing his Napoleon complex, his insecurity that he lost four inches whenever  he took off his Hockey Skates. I’m sad to say that he likely continues to take out his “shortcomings” as a Minneapolis Police Officer.

We discussed relationships; long marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, grandchildren, even Godchildren. We discussed death; former classmates, siblings, parents and God forbid those who had endured the loss of children. We inquired about our friends siblings and learned that not only relationships of choice sometimes end but even those of blood are sometimes severed when maintaining the bond is no longer healthy and amputation of a limb  of the family tree is the best option.  We talked about work, travel, moving, pets, concerts, camping and the ache that comes when children grow up, gain their independence, lead their own exciting lives and leave us with an empty space that we might lack the collagen to have close quickly and naturally and the choices we have about how to manually fill those open spaces. Nothing we said was shocking or judged or remotely evaluated. It simply was. We learned of those battling illness, those who we lost due to lifestyle choices, those who regained their footing after epic challenges, the wild youth who embraced sobriety as adults. We championed the triumphs of our peers and used each other to connect the dots and locate where some of our other lost childhood friends had landed. We confused names, described physical attributes and referenced addresses based on the family names of others who lived nearby. When I mentioned Kennesaw Drug and then said “It became Butler Drug” one of the women nodded “Where I got caught shoplifting.” I laughed recalling that my own dalmatian had entered the store one hot summer day and exited with an 8-pak of Snickers that had been on display in baskets along the lower shelves in the candy aisle. Kids and canines of the neighborhood all had some experience linked to the store. I remember my brother’s friend getting caught for stealing Hot Wheels it’s where shampoos and cosmetics we learned about from Teen magazine could be procured or you could sample perfumes. There was a pharmacy in the back and their delivery car was a Volkswagen beetle with a cartoon image of pharmacist “Herbie” on the side, it was across from the Tom Thumb “superette” where you could purchase milk in returnable jugs or purchase cigarettes with a note from your parents. Hell, it was an era where you pretty much could do anything with a note from your parents. One of the attendees took her little sister to Canada (while in high school) on a Greyhound bus and was reminded to “bring a note from your parents next time.” Hell, we could do nearly anything, including leave the country without a note from our parents.

Long before a TV show made a zip code synonymous with Beverly Hills, we were the women of Minneapolis 55410, we walked the same lake paths that Mary Tyler Moore immortalized during the opening credits of her TV show. We attended Story Hour in the iconic Carnegie-era Linden Hills Library, resplendent with leaded glass windows, built-in  benches and story-book tiled fireplace. We played SWAC sports at Linden Hills or Pershing Park and went to the Tastee Treet for cones afterwards  or the DQ (which we could see from our table) which closed in just the past couple of months, close enough to the high school to grab lunch at during the allotted half an hour, IF you were willing to eat while walking.

For over two hours, there was no lull in conversation, not even when the food came. We were noisy! We spoke loudly, we interrupted, interjected but mostly we laughed. We misheard, asked for clarifications, jumped conversations. We heard about wedding plans, impending grandchildren and retirement ideas. We agreed to not wait so long to get together again.

We were girls of the transistor radio era, we had listened to American Top 40 together while swatting mosquitoes. Later we tanned at Lake Harriet or skated to those same songs at the Roller Gardens in St. Louis Park, a suburb which provided many of my friends with their boyfriends. Sometimes they were older boys whose tastes in alcohol, music and muscle cars made them an appealing option.

We started our school careers as girls who wore dresses and being Minnesotans we wore pants under them to and from school during the coldest months. Our teachers were the edgy women  who marshaled in the revolutionary pantsuit which in the 1970’s did not consist of a jacket and pants at all but rather a dress that came with coordinating pants of the same fabric. Basically, these fashion monstrosities were the grown women rebelling by wearing pants under their dresses, just like the girls did on the the playground. We were exposed to lots of rebellion during our youth, with older siblings returning from Vietnam; boys grew their hair out, marijuana smoke wafted in public venues, music lyrics grew more graphic and the girls of Linden Hills mimicked the culture of our youth. Some of us followed the rules and some of us rebelled against rules, teachers, parents and laws.

We sat and talked about nearly everything but politics. A refreshing change of pace from a year of divisiveness. Some joked about their therapy. One is a full-time seminary student, having raised her kids and having finally found time for herself. While talking about the pro’s and cons of getting another dog, another joked that she hated to be cliche but she (a lesbian) owns two cats. While a divorcee with two adult children talked about her and her partner of three years going out for a birthday celebration another woman inquired “did you know in high school?” and before she could respond I jumped in “I don’t think that was really considered an option then.” to which she agreed. They talked about the other girls we grew up with whom they thought were likely lesbians as well. I marveled a bit that the last time I’d encountered these women the word “partner” had the singular connotation of being the person you were paired with for badminton or tennis.

We are no longer the little girls who went to school together, were antagonized by the same boys, who hung out at the same parks and venues.  We are all grown up and became the women we wanted to become. Not the ones that others had supposed us to be or shamed us into pretending we were. We’re the women who not only don’t wear pants under our dresses, we’re the women who don’t have to wear dresses if we don’t choose to, the women who could choose not to comb our hair if we don’t want to. We grew into the best versions of those sassy, silly, sneaky and snarky little girls and regardless of how different we are, we all have each others backs and appreciate each other for our shared beginnings. We have moved, we have traveled but we have in our DNA the water of Lake Harriet, the appreciation of the Indians who settled on the shores of Lake Calhoun and whom the original students of Southwest selected as their mascot and an abiding thankfulness that our parents opted to raise us in Minneapolis 55410. Hope to see you ladies all again soon (Golden Friends)!

 

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childhood, Uncategorized

The Letters

Recently I came upon some letters while looking for the right sized box to mail a package to my son at college in. The letters were not written to me, most of them were addressed to my mother. Quite a few of them were “Aerogrammes” received from Ireland in the early ’70s after my grandparents had suddenly passed away within hours of each other. There are also some from South Africa where her cousin has lived for most of his life. I must have tucked it in the basement cabinet after my mother died, with the intention of looking at them “some day”. My mother passed when my eldest was in her first week of middle-school and my senior in college was still an elementary student. “Some day” ended up being last week.

The box not only contained letters to my mother from friends, there was a copy of my father’s autopsy and a thank you letter regarding him being an organ and tissue donor. There was a letter on camp Ihduhapi letterhead postmarked from the summer of ’43 that my father had written to his parents. A letter that pretty much was a template for “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. Here I am at Camp Granada.”  a song that was not released until twenty years later. There was a very formal letter from my grandfather, clearly in grief over the death of his own father that thanked my mother for her kind words to him in a previous letter. There was also a telegram telling her that her grandmother had passed and instructing her to share the news with family. I discovered a war bond book with carefully placed stamps from my mother’s youth.

The biggest gem in the box was physically the smallest. A tiny leather bound journal, a calendar from 1924, with space for a couple of lines to be recorded each day. A Belfast Ireland address is in the front cover, and also a Minneapolis address. I passed the treasure along to my daughter, who intends to write out the contents of it. It appears to chronicle the year my Grandfather immigrated, with details of dancing and “police raids” and a notation that reads “lost this book for a while – Found on road”. My grandfather lived in over thirty homes in his less than 70-year lifespan. How this small book survived the multiple moves around the US and back and forth across the ocean is somewhat miraculous.

Taking the time to look at these items caused me to do some reflection. How will a great grand-child “know” their deceased family members from this era some day, down the road? So little it actually recorded in a manner that will be preserved. Social media has taken on the role of a journal to document the highlights of life and Tweets, posts, text messages and rare emails are the efficient method of sharing our thoughts with others.

I feel like there is something different and introspective that occurs when a person takes the time to write a letter or compose a journal entry. There is a sense of permanence and thoughtfulness that is used when choosing the words or attempting to convey a sentiment. A person is required to stop, think and actually feel the emotions that a situation, event or person evokes in them. Without that catalyst, are people unintentionally less thoughtful as the result of those muscles not being flexed?

In my garage is a box that contains correspondence from friends and letters written on graph paper by my brother, that closed with stick figure drawings and “fill in the blank” lines for me to solve with a phrase reminiscent of our childhood. There are also letters from my husband chronicling our seven-month courtship. Reading them takes me back to that time where it seemed positively illogical that we get married but also captured the struggle it was for us to be apart. Receiving mail once meant more than bills and advertisements and the occasional greeting card.

I’m thankful for this box of insights from the past and I also appreciate that my children learned to read and write cursive. If the letters I have written and received last another generation or two, I wonder if they will simply look like scraps of paper with scribbles on them or if anyone will be able to decipher the messages we had taken the time to share.

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childhood, Politics, Uncategorized

When Your Waste Management is Garbage

Bloomington Minnesota, the city that I call home took over managing the coordination of residential trash and recycling collection last year. For some in the community there was passion over who got to take away their empty yogurt containers and used tissues. There were the folks who hated to give any more power to their government and those who were concerned over the wear and tear on our roads caused by multiple providers covering the same routes and the inherent risk that goes with increased traffic. I was in a third group. I’m the fiscal conservative who had used three different services during our fifteen years in the community. I had most recently selected the newest and most affordable option, that allowed me to downsize my trash container after my kids had moved out and was the first service that could accommodate my desire to have recycling picked up on a weekly basis (my previous providers were on a biweekly cycle).

As a household that entertains often, we frequently called upon our guests to take a bag of recycling when they departed or utilized our neighbor’s bin when possible. I also had arranged with my last two providers to drop off waste and recycling bins for our annual block party and pick them up the following morning, free of charge. I enjoyed negotiating the deals and knew that the hauler’s incentive to provide good service resulted from the very real possibility that I could change services to a competitor were their performance not satisfactory. When local politicians insisted that “nothing would change” and offered reassurances that the price would be what I’d been paying and the service available equal as well, it sounded like an empty promise that someone makes when trying to sell you on something inferior.

As with most political offerings, some were pleased with the decision to standardize collection, while others were frustrated and angry that their service provider was being dictated to them. I took more of a “wait and see” approach, hopeful that the plan would work, yet skeptical that the promises made would be promises kept.

As a little kid I remember loving to see the Garbage Man come. At that time Minneapolis permitted residents to contract with haulers of their own choosing. My family had the Wellers. You knew a Weller truck because they could hardly stand to watch a stuffed animal go to a landfill, they were prominently displayed on their trucks, my earliest exposure to animal rescue. Their trucks looked like the cross between a gypsy caravan and a carnival game-of-chance booth. The Wellers were our haulers because at least one of the Weller men was a veteran my father knew through his membership at James Ballantine VFW post 246. A man fit to serve our country was certainly worthy of collecting our refuse.

My childhood was an era where  garbage haulers typically had a driver and two collectors who appeared choreographed like circus performers, swinging onto and off of the stuck, swooping up cans and gracefully dumping their contents into the rear of the truck. There were no automated arms that lifted and dumped the bins under the direction of a driver in a climate-controlled cab. These men worked. It was a physical labor. Cans were not uniform, though most were  galvanized steel, with lids kids often used as a shield during snowball fights or play military maneuvers. Those cans were noisy and easily dented. Ours were plain, my best friend’s family had cans that had been painted with various Peanuts cartoon characters by one of her sisters. Sometime during the 1970’s plastic cans became the vogue. The plastic barrels were much larger, not as heavy, more durable and less noisy, though lacking in charm.

Garbage was different back in the day. My brothers were in elementary school when they took charge of the “burner”. Most homes had a can that was allocated as a burn barrel, perforated to allow air in, often perched on a pair of cinder blocks. The burner was where cereal boxes, paper plates and Dixie cups were disposed of. Eventually the ashes from the burn barrel had to be disposed of and the Wellers would pull off a work glove and let the ashes fall through their fingers, feeling for any embers before dumping it into the truck. Their thick-skinned, nearly leather hands being somewhat immune to the heat, occasionally you’d see a Weller truck or one of their competitors with the back end smoldering. I don’t recall exactly when burn barrels went away or when giving kids matches was deemed a bad idea but perhaps it coincided with when trash cans grew larger.

Recycling for me as a child was carrying an 8-pack of soda bottles back to the store or returning a milk jug to get a deposit back. Newspapers were bundled and tied with twine and saved for youth events called “paper drives” or “paper sales” that schools or organizations sponsored to raise money. I was in college before I heard of people saving aluminum cans and recycling them for money. That whole process changed to a system where we now are required to collect the newspaper, plastic, glass and aluminum. Then we pay a service to take it from us, so they may be compensated for what we bought, collected, stored and wheeled out to the curb. It’s sort of like if we paid Goodwill, ARC or DAV to take our donations of clothing and household goods which they later sell. Difficult to determine which is more environmentally friendly; having trucks roll up and down the streets and transport the goods to facilities that had to be built and process the waste or letting a kid take it out back and incinerate it.

Our new trash collection for the city of Bloomington began on October 3rd. As predicted, the rate that I currently pay is substantially more than the rate I had negotiated with my last provider. I am sad to acknowledge that my service is in fact not the same quality that I previously had. My recycling is full on a weekly basis and in theory they pick it up biweekly, just like the plan I had dropped last go-round. I say “in theory” because in addition to paying more, I also do more work with our new provider. Today I had to call them (yet again) to tell them they had not picked up my recycling yesterday morning and they assured me it would be picked up by the end of the day tomorrow (they did manage to get it this afternoon). I have no real recourse, as they know they have my business whether they do a good job or not. My leverage and freedom to choose has been eliminated, as apparently so has their incentive to take pride in their work.

While I’m all in favor of measures that improve the environment, increase recycling and reduce what goes into landfills, there are times I grow a little nostalgic. I miss workers in a family business who don’t take my business for granted. I long for the simplicity of reuse efforts like attaching a giant purple bear to the grill of a garbage truck. Finally, there is a little piece of me that admired the bravery of men hanging onto the back of a slightly smoldering truck.

Despite the many changes in the industry over the years since my own childhood, there seems to be one thing that remains the same. Kids are fascinated and enamored with the big trucks that take our trash away and the men (and women too) who work on them.

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Blogging, childhood, sports, Uncategorized

Super Bowl – You Betcha

I hate to say it but were it not for living in a cold climate, I might not even follow pro-football. Yet, as someone who has lived the majority of my life in Minnesota (and a couple of years in Wisconsin) it’s a pastime whose bulk of the season takes place during our coldest, darkest, snow-covered weekends. While I most enjoy watching players doing their jobs in locales where they can see their breath, it does feel like a mini-vacation when a game is played somewhere sunny and warm and tailgating doesn’t require snow-pants and I imagine the fans smell of sunscreen.

Attached you will see the picture of my Superbowl. That’s right, that’s the vessel that typically holds the Tostitos, yesterday it was the bite-sized, sometimes it’s Scoops. If I plan in advance, occasionally it holds ripple chips, a sturdy transport for my homemade onion dip that is best made a day prior to consumption.

I have been a lifelong Vikings’ fan but with one peculiarity among most of my peers. I have a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers, as I love the loyalty of their fans and have many friends who bleed green and gold. I also admire them for playing outside, the way the Vikings did when I first started watching them.

I’ll be honest, that I remember football being confusing as a kid, I recall watching games on black and white televisions where it was necessary to know if you were cheering for the light jerseys or the dark jerseys. Yet, I began watching football in an era when many fell in love with the Vikings!

The year I started kindergarten is the year the Vikings won their first division title. The following year, they won the title and their first ever play-off game and went on to their first ever Superbowl game which they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23 – 7. By the time I was in third grade the Vikings had won four consecutive division championships, meaning they’d held the title for half of my lifetime! What’s not to love?

The Vikings went on to lose two more Superbowls while I was attending elementary school. Followed by their fourth loss while I was in the eighth grade. It was an era of winters where I proudly wore my purple winter hat with the gold and white pom-pom on it and the Vikings logo patch sewn on up front. I wore it on my walk to school, I wore it when shoveling snow and I wore it while ice skating with friends at Linden Hills Park and on the rink at Lake Harriet. I even wore it in Wisconsin when I snowmobiled. I came to realize over the years that no amount of Vikings-apparel-wearing impacted the outcome of their seasons. My purchase of the Wild Card sweatshirt while working at Winona State during the ’87 season (probably the result of some euphoric pro-sports high after the Twins World Series victory) did not garner a victorious outcome. My most recent sweatshirt purchase for a party when the Vikings played the Saints for a 2009 NFC championship loss didn’t create good karma either. You may recall that last game mentioned as the era where the Saints did not behave like Saints but were incentivized to injure players with a bounty. Some thought it was wonderful they beat the Vikings because New Orleans was still recovering from hurricane Katrina and others thought that rewarding cheating and being poor role models blemished their eventual Superbowl Victory. Choosing to be an optimist, I look at each Vikings apparel purchase not as a means to ensure a win but rather as a wardrobe item that makes getting dressed for several Sundays each year an effortless task.

The Vikings have been having a bit of a dry patch, a spell only four years shy of the length of the Cold War. I’ve looked forward to having a couple of beers and watching the Viking’s play in a Superbowl game. I was thirteen the last they made a Superbowl appearance. Gerald Ford was packing up and preparing to move out of the White House. Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his second reign as the team quarterback and was less than a decade from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

This season began as another hopeful one, undefeated in the first five games it seemed like this was “our year” but any true Vikings’ fan knows that it is when a season appears to be going our way, heck even when a game seems to be going our way, the Vikings are able to lose a great lead in the waning minutes like no other. This is especially true when the stakes are high! If there is an opportunity to clutch defeat from what appears to be an obvious victory, the Vikings are notorious for it. Perhaps it builds character, puts the whole thing in perspective of “it’s only a game.”. The Vikings have allowed us to raise our children humble and learn not to take things for granted. The Vikings have taught us how to love family, even when the members disappoint us and we’d like to give up on them. Sometimes in life, if you want to bathe yourself in Gatorade you are going to need to pour it on yourself because even though you gave your best, you simply were outplayed, outsmarted or outscored.

With my own children in their twenties, they see pro-football as a tradition of Dad napping on the couch, Mom yelling at the TV and our family dog looking for a handout. As young kids they went along with the annual ritual of the season, lured in by Velveeta-based concoctions and midday pizzas. Once my son became a pescatarian the Hormel Chili-based temptation no longer worked. Instead of viewing regular season games, they would watch the Superbowl for the food, the commercials and halftime show, tolerating the intermittent interruptions of football game. Teams to cheer for were selected by jersey color, a disliked team member to cheer against or varied pop culture reasons such as being married to a hot super model. What do you expect? It’s been four decades since their “home team” has even been in a Superbowl.

Crockpot.jpg

Yesterday my daughter and her roommate came by after work to participate in the American tradition of the Superbowl. The disappointments did not come (for us) from the plays on the field but rather from a lack of Clydesdales and puppies and too many previously seen commercials. The bright spots included both the Justin Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy ads, the Honda CRV celebrities yearbook commercial and the series of amusingly awkward T-Mobile promotions.

The main attraction was actually gathering around the crockpots, a midwestern custom akin to gathering around a campfire. This act is less about warmth and survival and more about salty and savory concoctions that could be made any day of the year but cardiologists recommend against it. Totino’s pizza rolls in the oven at halftime and even the most cynical sports fan has something to celebrate!

The halftime show did not disappoint. It was an energetic spectacular. As a Minnesotan I am keenly aware of our most recent Superbowl legacy. In 1992 we hosted and the halftime show remains an epic embarassment. If you have time and don’t recall the winter wonderland themed showcase that seemed better suited to a 1970’s variety show than a major sporting event, I encourage you to look it up. The opportunity to regain our dignity is upon us, as we are on deck to host the 2018 Superbowl. While it seems inevitable that we will have some sort of tribute to Prince, I’ll be anxious to see who is selected to perform. How amazing might it be to have the Vikings compete with home field advantage? Shoot, I hope that didn’t jinx them.

While the game yesterday was unlike any former Superbowl with a huge comeback and firstever brief overtime, I’m going to say that the final outcome was that my daughter and her roommate were the winners. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the Lombardi trophy they took but they did not leave empty handed. The crockpots were emptied and we sent them home with Rotel-dip, Hormel dip, Italian meatballs in marinara, an unopened bag of Scoops. We Vikings fans may not have a Superbowl title but we have our traditions none the less!

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Blogging, childhood, Politics, Uncategorized

That Added a Whole New Meaning to “Lip Service”

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Merriam – Webster                                                                                                                    Definition of Lip Service: an avowal or advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words but not backed by deeds – usually used with pay

Our country inaugurated a new president a week ago today. The following day there were Women’s Marches from Washington DC to communities and campuses around the United States and in different locations all over the globe. The following are some of my thoughts and observations.

I found the Pussyhat Project to be a well orchestrated and unifying gesture for the women who chose to attend marches or supported the concept of showing solidarity around the topic of women’s rights, through the creation and wearing of pink hats. I was in no way inspired by the numerous march attendees who opted to individually or in groups dress as enormous vaginas, appearing to be birthing full-grown adults. Though I imagine Hobby Lobby appreciated the high sales of varying shades of pink and lavender fabrics. If you’re feeling like being crafty for a cause I have a friend who’s looking for 300 baby blankets to take with her to Africa this spring and I also have a neighbor who can hook you up with a pillowcase pattern to make fun pillowcases for critically ill hospitalized children. Your local high school theater or show choir could also benefit from your handiwork.

In terms of not wanting to objectify women, I’m unclear as to how dressing like genitalia somehow takes the focus off of that. I will say that it was easy to divide the age of the costumed women by those who opted to crown their costumes with yarn and those who opted for a clean V. Though my own children are now adults, my personal litmus for politics is “will this be awkward to explain to a child?”. Before I had children, I gave little thought to such things but I have in a previous blog told the story of my son questioning why the show he was watching was interrupted and me needing to explain that the President was apologizing to the nation. His questions led to me having to further explain that he had previously lied to the country during a similar appearance. That was followed up by my “white lie” of “he kissed someone who wasn’t his wife”. My son was three in 1998 and I have never regretted not getting into the oral sex infidelities of the Commander in Chief at that time.We did discuss that childhood memory during a conversation from college earlier this week.

While pink hats convey a message which might be easily explained as  simply as “they are part of the same team”. The tawdry costumes sort of defy explanation. Most parents have taught their children to some degree that there are private parts of their body. Having grown adults parade around publicly dressed cartoon-like as those private parts seems to have no real benefit. Clearly these were not the marchers who were there because they were concerned about the environment, as I’m envisioning most of those are headed for landfills. Perhaps some will be sold on eBay “One slightly used Cooter. Best offer.” why not just use the same description from their online dating profile? Then there are also the proud women who think that these marches have the same significance as the marching of the suffragettes and will hang onto it for future generations. Fast-forward to 2110 “Mom, what is this?” and then the thoughtful explanation “That’s your great-grandmothers vagina that she packed in moth balls. She fondly talked about the importance of her work with fellow women at the time.” then the poor kid will be looking around for great-grandfather’s penis costume, because after all if the entire objective is equality, that only makes sense.

I have on occasion while writing my blog posted a bold prediction. My crystal ball is telling me that a college student or group of college students, perhaps even those participating in a Greek Life organization (fraternity/sorority) will be kicked out of school, placed on probation or summoned to the Dean’s Office after wearing the very same costume(s) on Halloween next year. It will be deemed as vulgar, inappropriate, objectifying. They will come back with the explanation that they were supporting women’s rights and likely they will be ridiculed and ostracized by various groups on campus. My crystal ball is getting foggy but some people after seeing fellow students in those costumes may need to seek out a safe place. If anything, the costumes struck me as a distraction from what many sincerely wanted to communicate. If all I have in common with you is shared anatomy, that’s not much to base a movement upon. Especially knowing that people of all genders, orientations, melanin content, faiths, abilities and education don’t necessarily share the same political views. When you are encouraging participation by people wearing hijabs for modesty, it seems downright intentionally offensive.

My political activism began as a 17-year-old high school student who was trained by the Minnesota Secretary of State to register voters. The first campaign I worked on was while in college during a fellow students failed attempt to win a seat on the City Council. During caucuses I typically am either the convener or the secretary for my precinct. I serve as an Assistant Head Election Judge in the county where I live. I get one vote, just like everyone else.

I’ll be the first to admit that this most recent presidential election was unlike any other I have witnessed in my lifetime. While the Bush vs Gore election left us wondering who our president would be for an extended period of time, I think the most shocking election result while I’ve been politically active was the Minnesota Governor’s race where former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey’s son Skip ran against the party switching St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman and they were both defeated by former Navy Seal and All-Star Wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Minnesota is politically fickle, consistently liberal and is the only state who garnered electoral college votes for favorite son, former Vice President Walter Mondale who was soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan.

Something that I think has changed within my lifetime is how voters respond to a loss by their candidate. I feel that perhaps we are reaping the results of a generation raised to not compete (not keeping score during childhood games) and unable to graciously concede. There is an art to losing gracefully, it has to be developed.  West St. Paul native Harold Stassen serves as a fine example of a Minnesotan who recognized that one does not have to quit simply because they don’t achieve what they desire. Politically successful as the Governor of Minnesota and the only person to ever hold the title Director of the US Foreign Operations Administration (a post that existed during a portion of the Eisenhower administration) his efforts to win his party’s endorsement as a Presidential candidate failed nine times. From 1944 when my father was in junior high and my mother was in elementary school and every four years all the way up until 1992 when I was a parent myself, he threw his hat in the ring.

As I’ve blogged about before, I am a political junky. I watch the conventions of both major parties. I enjoy the debates. I watch news programs and enjoy reading the paper. I love discussions and will call into question a social media post of a friend if I’m unclear on what their point is. I made a discovery only recently when taking a CareerCode Inventory (a job-focused version of the Holland Code) that identified me with a trait most do not have. A skill of my type is the capacity to “See every side of a story”.  Seeing this in my detailed code description, I realized that my friends aren’t intentionally being obtuse, they actually don’t possess the ability necessary to easily see something from a perspective other than the one they identify with. While fiscally conservative and socially more centrist in a liberal state, I am accustomed to having my opinions vilified. Minnesota prides itself on high voter turnout, I have often said that it’s more important for informed voters to vote. As my own children began voting, I recommended they select a few offices and learn about those candidates and choose based on their values who to support and if they didn’t want to learn about the judges, or school board or council members that was okay. Other than when casting a straw vote during caucuses, or during a primary to determine who is on the ticket, I have never felt an obligation to vote a straight party ticket.

Over the years I have had many friends tell me that they “aren’t interested in politics” as though they are picking an interest like sports or theater. One can live without attending a play or following an athletic franchise. Politics are more like oxygen, they impact your quality of life. While this most recent presidential election pulled some people into political activism, it seems that the aftermath is what has really mobilized people who had perhaps not engaged in politics much before. So an election which most Americans were looking forward to getting over and done with has polarized citizens in the aftermath more than during the campaign itself. If that can be done in a respectful way, that strikes me as a win. Having citizens engage may be something that had been set aside with the increase of more couples both working, a greater number of single parents and perhaps a more mobile citizenry. Perhaps it’s the result of taking Civics classes out of schools and people not fully grasping the concept of a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people…”.

Many of my friends participated in the Women’s March the day following the Trump inauguration. Friends from elementary school showed up in my Facebook feed, some marching with their husbands, others marching with their daughters. Due to the turnouts, most weren’t actually marching at all but were gathered with others, some in the pink hats, others holding signs. There were friends I attended high school and college with. Still more proudly sharing where their college-aged students were marching. A former supervisor of mine posted locations across the country where various members of her family were peacefully participating. My favorite was a college friend who posted a picture of his daughter, a high school senior who organized the “Girl Up Women’s Walk” before school at the American School of Doha that drew 250 participants. I watched portions of the DC event via CNN.

In nearly every post that I saw and every video that I watched the participants appeared to be having a great time. They looked happy, much like people look when attending a music festival or large sporting event. The two exceptions were the arrest of a moronic counter-protester in St. Paul and a video of a Trump supporter having her hair lit on fire at one of the rally locations. Both appeared to be isolated incidents that did not reflect the congenial attitudes of most of the participants.

The messages and reason for participation seemed as varied as the participants. Some stated they were there because they were anti-Trump. Others expressed concern for the environment. Some were asking who the Democrats would have running in 2020, having me hope that EITHER party put forth legislation with some limitation on campaign length, as financially and emotionally these two-year campaigns are not helping the country! There were people concerned about health care, others about LGBTQ issues. Scarlett Johansson and others spoke about Planned Parenthood.

I chose not to go, because despite the name Women’s March there were clearly opinions and values held by many women that were not welcome. I have never thought that an aspect of my anatomy informs my opinions on topics. While I am much more in favor of being “for” something than “anti” something I didn’t feel any real compelling reason to engage on that particular day, in that format. I am someone who has always volunteered, financially supported and contributed to causes and ideals that I believe in. I was pleased to see the freedoms of Americans being exercised, as they are protected. There are many things that I personally oppose, that I have no issue with others being in favor of, that’s what makes America a great country and unlike many others. I think the benefit of such large-scale gathering is that a percentage of those participating may follow-through and engage in supporting causes in their communities. Others admittedly were there simply to get a look at it, or feared they would be missing out on what might be an historic event if they did not attend, or succumbed to the peer pressure of others. Some felt angry and scared and wanted to be enveloped by a group of like-minded individuals. The reasons people chose to participate are as legitimate as the reasons other chose not to.

Many of my friends who participated are educators, nonprofit workers, attorneys and others in positions that are committed to the care of people of all ages and capabilities. Whether through their work, religious activities or simply in their own homes I would estimate that everyone that I personally know who participated or supported the efforts of the Marches is a compassionate person who has legitimate concerns. I would also describe the people I know who avoided the events in the same way.

I found most of the signs to be sincere, clever (“I’m with Her” with arrows pointing in all directions was a popular one) and legible. I will admit the ones that caught my eyes were the ones that can best be described as vulgar, distasteful and some that were just outright confusing. Seriously, if your “menstrual blood is going to flow through the streets” for any cause, you need to see a physician. To put little girls in Hello Kitty costumes and put signs on their backs about not touching their pussies, is about as appropriate as having the same girls dress as pole dancers for Halloween. I’m never in favor of using ones children to further a cause. It’s like putting a tattoo on a child, that’s a personal choice that they should be mature enough to make an informed decision about. One should never make assumptions about their child’s sexuality or political affiliation being the same as their own.

Those are my thoughts. I could have put them on a sign and met up with my friends to share some of them. With social media, there are much easier methods of conveying our messages to people throughout the country and around the world. A luxury the women who fought for our right to vote did not have. One of the great parts of being an American is that we don’t have to agree, with each other, with the president, with our neighbor. We’re not a homogeneous nation. We never have been and it’s doubtful we ever will be. I am mindful that many don’t agree with me and I respect and defend the right of others to peacefully share their message as well. In regards to “Lip Service”, time will be the measure as to if the words are backed by deeds.

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Blogging, childhood, Uncategorized

Spoiler Alert! The Behind the Scenes of My Blog

desk

It’s the first week of a new year and though it may not look like it, I cleaned my desk. Gone are the little scraps with notes on them, some even I could not decipher the significance of. I’ve discussed before both my disdain and obsession with numbers. Here I am on the 4th day of a new year, it is 0 (yep, not a typo, ZERO) degrees here in Bloomington Minnesota and you are reading my 100th blog post.

I started my blog as part of an online class in Social Media Strategy in January of 2014. I’d been out of work for a year and was looking for something to freshen up my resume and supplement my degrees in Communications. My first post was an assignment that involved creating a blog for a fictional business, the Big Round Tomato Company. After creating the page it made sense to me to maintain it on a somewhat sporadic basis. If this is your first visit, I’d love to know how you found me and if you have read my work before I appreciate you returning for more of my musings. I’ve enjoyed the process of blogging, unlike cooking you can’t burn it and dissimilar to gardening I can’t kill it even if I ignore it or give it too much of something.

While a great deal of my writing has been documenting memorable episodes from childhood and my experiences growing up in South Minneapolis, I have also delved into current issues, politics, parenting and relationships. I’m inspired to write by things that annoy and amuse me. I like to document the rituals of celebrations and holiday traditions. I’ve written about the anecdotes of marriage and reminisced about the deceased. Much of my work ties together things that to most people might seem unrelated but I find some sort of connection between. I also enjoy contrasting my parents lives with my own and those of my children. In my most recent New Year’s post I even predicted the future. https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/another-perspective-on-new-years

As an extrovert it might seem that blogging is too solitary of an activity for me to spend much time on. I have always been a storyteller and over the years people have encouraged me to retell favorite stories. Once at a wedding reception I met a bar tender who told me he’d made great tips over the years by retelling a particularly amusing story about my black lab and that though funny, until meeting me he had assumed it was an urban legend. A college friend used to request that I tell stories as she fell asleep after a night out. I would ask her what she wanted me to tell her about. A story about “when you were little” or “about your brothers” would be all of the prompting I required and we would lay awake and laugh over the escapades. I don’t think that my life was necessarily any funnier, tragic or entertaining than anyone else, I just oddly remember it in greater detail. My cousin will listen to stories from our teen years together and shake his head, acknowledging that he has no recollection of the events but also with the wisdom gained with age, he is thankful that we lived through it! With comments, “likes” and feedback, I have found the interaction with some of my readers fascinating. More on that later.

My writing space may not look that inspiring but I could likely write a blog about nearly any item pictured. There is my college diploma, a tile under my pen cup that I made in junior high art, a Mother’s Day project from my college senior that he made in kindergarten. My mouse-pad holds a picture of my kids with their cousins during a long ago visit at their grandparents. The photograph behind my laptop is of the door to my freshman dorm room, covered with inappropriate messages pieced together like a ransom note from magazine clippings. That frame traveled with me as I worked for over twenty years with college students on five campuses in three states. My permit to carry certification from 2007 hangs beneath my kids art from days gone by. Pins that once festooned my jean jacket a lifetime ago and Winnie the Pooh and Wizard of Oz memorabilia are all part of my life experience. Then there is the tape, scissors, pens and markers of a typical desk and organized folders of job search related  materials.

While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter garner more immediate social interaction, I have had some peculiar and rewarding contacts as a result of my WordPress account. After a rant on old country music and some childhood recollections about the juke box at Indian Creek Tavern (in a tiny unincorporated community in Wisconsin) I received a spelling correction on the name of a bartender from over forty years ago. Months after a posting about my parent’s best friends (after their passing) I got a message from their daughter’s long ago boyfriend who I’d last seen in the early 1970’s, when I was in elementary school and he was in his early twenties. I’ve had childhood friends who have told me that I brought them back to a simpler time and place. Strangers have told me that while they don’t agree with me on a topic, they like the approach I have taken. My favorite comments are when readers tell me that my observations have made them laugh.

As a little girl who grew up across the street from Linden Hills Library and devoured the contents of the children’s room before moving upstairs to biographies, autobiographies and paperbacks I kept hidden from my parents, I could not have imagined that people would someday have access to my writings. At the time my biggest fear was that someone would actually see what I had written in my diary that documented my unrequited crushes and  my suspicion that a nuclear holocaust would have me departing this planet a virgin. Good news, that didn’t happen. At least not the virgin part, those diaries got sold by an estate sale company when my mother moved out of my childhood home in the early nineties. I was busy with a one-year old and took what I could of my youth to our two bedroom apartment. Oddly, I guess that means if I had remained a virgin then my elementary school journal and high school diary wouldn’t be in the public domain.

As someone who obtained a college degree with only a manual typewriter, the idea I would ever master the use of a computer was inconceivable. Computers were the realm of the brainiac kids I went to Lake Harriet elementary and Southwest High School with, the ones I’d assumed would end up at NASA, which as a child of my era was the coolest employer for the brightest minds. I was fairly certain I’d get by fine with my Smith Corona and wasn’t cut out for computers. This can be verified by Martin Fritz who in 1988 was given the task of teaching Stevens Point grad Kim Moistner and I how to use our office computers as Hall Directors at UW-Stout. That might actually be decent material for a future blog!

The fact that my words are being seen by people I do not know and many of them in places I will never go is exciting. That I can share about what a Minnesota childhood was like with people who will never visit here is almost overwhelming. I’m sharing the picture of my space so you know I’m not in a snow bank on the frozen tundra but using my 2017 technology from my very 1950’s basement. While this is my one-hundredth post, there are also 27 “drafts”.  Some drafts were ideas that were fleeting, others are thoughts I’ll get to someday and nearly all of them are incomplete because I got distracted by life.

100 blog posts. Thirty of them generated in one month as part of a writing exercise. On Facebook I often respond to Six Word Short Story, an assignment that requires telling an entire story about a typically vague or unusual photograph using exactly six words. Sometimes that is more challenging than an entire blog because of the need to be succinct. I write like I talk, a lot. Growing up my brothers often teased me that I was a “veritable font of useless information” but now they actually encourage my writing and appreciate the little details I weave into my remembrances that are as familiar to them as they are to me. Last year for Christmas my brother gave me a subscription to Writer’s Digest and this year his wife gave me two books which they enjoyed that they hope will inspire me. I feel a bit like Justitia, blindfolded while holding the scales, one with reading to do and the other with writing to do. Both tasks difficult while wearing a blindfold but you get the picture. Just hoping to maintain some balance.

I will close this 100th post by acknowledging the countries where people have read my blog. As a child of the Cold War the fact that someone in Russia has read my writing is a mind blower.  I’ve had readers from places that did not exist on the globe I daydreamed about in my school classroom. Regardless of where you call home, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and encourage you to repost the link, share my words, follow me and I’d love it if you would comment about how you found me. I welcome the opportunity to share my ideas and bring laughter to even more locations throughout the world.

Thanks!

WordPress shows over 2000 readers from the following locations have read this blog: United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Australia, Canada, Mexico, India, Malaysia, UK, Russia, Qatar, Singapore, Czech Republic, Norway, Brazil, New Zealand, Belarus, Antigua Barbuda, Hong Kong SAR China, Ireland, Austria, Netherlands, South Korea, Philippines, South Africa, Panama, France, Columbia, Jordan, Spain, Turkey and Romania

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