Sunday, August 21, 2016

Spending time with the kids

It's been awhile since I've written here and that's because I've been having a wonderful fun-filled few weeks and just haven't taken the time to blog.  The highlight has been all the time I've gotten to spend with my kids and grandkids, both in Minnesota and in Colorado.

The first weekend in August, Matt, Stella, and Scotty flew into Minneapolis and stayed with me at the house I'm renting in Eden Prairie. We toured all over the place - First I went to Valley Fair amusement park with Scotty, who'd arrived Friday night. We rode the teacup ride with our makeshift "costumes" (me as a teabag and he was a spoon) since it was one of the challenges and the final day if GISHWHES.




Then we picked Matt and Stella up at the airport and enjoyed the Uptown Art FairComo Park Conservatory and Zoo and ended the evening at the Horse Races at Canterbury Park, giving Scotty his first legal-aged gambling experience.


The next couple of days we enjoyed more sights, including Lake Harriet and the Rose Garden, the Guthrie Theater, Anthony Falls Bridge, and Betty Danger's Restaurant where we drank margaritas and ate tacos on a 20-minute ferris wheel  ride with a view of the Minneapolis skyline!

 The kids introduced me to "Pokeman Go," apparently the most downloaded app EVER. (Scotty told me this at least 3 times, wanting to be sure I recognized the significance of him making me aware of something so prevalent in today's world culture.) Surprisingly, though I enjoyed finding the pokeman creatures that were in all the spots we were walking, I wasn't nearly as enamored with the "game" as they all seemed to be. I put "game" in quotes, because there really didn't seem to be much strategy involved other than capturing pokemen, but I did have fun getting Pokemen in the photos with the augmented reality feature.

The following weekend I flew back to Colorado and had another week of visiting with Scotty before he flew out to finish his final semester at Purdue and also had a fun visit with Meg, Chris, Diego, and Reneya. Diego's 7th birthday was July 28 and Reneya's 5th will be August 29. Since I was visiting right in between, I had a joint little family birthday party for them both at my house. They are so full of energy and giggles and just seeing them play brings so much joy to my heart.

I'm so proud of my children and feel lucky that they've grown into such thoughtful and independent young adults. But I admit to feeling a little melancholy that they're all grown up and don't really need me any more. I know there are a lot of parents who can't wait to be in the place I'm in now and I don't take it for granted. It's every parent's dream to see their children happily independent, so I'm going to savor that my biggest goal... to raise my kids.. has been accomplished. Now I just get to sit back and enjoy them and their growing families!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

GISHWHES on the Great Northern Island

This is my entry for GISHWHES Item #117:
Gishwhes has conquered the Great Wall, South American waterfalls, the Champs-Élysées, and even SPACE! Help gishwhes conquer new territory— take gishwhes somewhere epic that it’s never been before:

This is my first year of being part of this week-long international scavenger hunt and I have been stoked about playing, but had no idea what to expect! The outrageous list of challenges was to be announced on July 30th and, as it turns out, that was the same day that I was to be on an EPIC Island Adventure at the Great Northern Island by Alexandria, MN! This isn't just any island... it's privately owned with some beautifully decorated cabins - the theme being "The Great Northern Railway" with Rocky the mountain goat as the island's mascot.

I was extremely lucky to have met the generous owner of this island, Chris, a few weeks ago when playing tennis, and he invited me to join him and several of his friends on an island retreat for the weekend of July 30-31. Knowing there would be no Internet service, I warned my GISHWHES team-mates that I might not be able to participate until Monday.

Still, being curious about what items would be on the list, I called my son, also on our team, to get the low-down. As Scotty started rattling off the list which was even more outrageous than expected, he came across this one:

Green Eggs and Ham. Sam does not like green eggs and ham. Not on a boat, not with a goat. Show us yourself enjoying green eggs and ham (sunny-side up) on a boat with a goat.



A boat? A goat? Would I could I eat green eggs and ham with a boat and with a goat? Absolutely!

*  I can't share the video or photos until after the hunt is over!

Let me tell you, it wasn't easy to get that goat on that boat. It took four big guys to get him there, but... how often are you able to really be on a boat with a goat and eat green (with salsa verde) eggs and ham? I bet not even Sam I Am ever got around to actually doing it!

And that's not all! The group of people on this island were even able to help me accomplish two other difficult challenges:

 Celebrate the Olympic Summer games by running a 40-meter, 30-legged dash.



*  I can't share the video or photos until after the hunt is over!

This one, we even used Brooke, Chris' adorable dog to get us to 30 legs. You can't really see from this video, but Nancy, one of my new friends, had marked all of our legs 1 through 30!

Couch surfing. Really. Real couch, real surf in ocean water. Make it happen.


I'm sharing this video because after I got home, I discovered that they took this off the list! Oh dear! I'm glad we didn't really sacrifice the couch to the "ocean"! But we had so much fun doing this that I'm really glad it was on the list to start with and that I can freely share it! That's Lisa, Susan, and me singing, and I loved their spirit! We're ready for this video to go viral!

I'm back home from this fabulous weekend adventure, checking the very, very long GISHWHES list for what else I can help accomplish this week. Seeing as we signed up to be on a non-competitive team, I'm pretty sure we won't win this competition, but I'm having lots of fun trying.


I was SO impressed and happy at how willing the other people on the island were to help organize and participate in these challenges. Usually, I have to twist arms, beg, and cajole to get my friends to do this kind of stuff with me. These were people who hardly knew me and they were willing to play! I just love that! And they were ALL IN! In fact, Chris even said that next year he'd host another island retreat for GISHWHES 2017!

And, as I scanned the list and found #117: take gishwhes somewhere epic that it’s never been before... I thought: YES! GISHWHES made it someplace very rare and special indeed: To the Great Northern Island!


Sunday, July 24, 2016

You know it's a good summer when...

.. you're in Minneapolis for the Aquatennial fireworks!
Last night I saw the most spectacular display of fireworks ever. Touted as one of the five best in the nation (I'll have to find out where the other four are!), it's an annual event in Minneapolis, sponsored by Target which is headquartered out here. I felt particularly lucky to have experienced this with new friends and with perfect weather! This event hadn't even been on my radar until my new friend, Lisa, invited me to join her and a group of her friends. Having been caught earlier in the day in a downpour with more rain predicted throughout the evening and feeling a little tired, I almost said, 'no', but remembering my "Carpe Diem" mantra, I figured the worst that could happen would be we'd get rained on and the fireworks would be cancelled.  And, as it turns out, it couldn't have been more gorgeous. I also felt so lucky to have had the opportunity to not be going alone (worst) or tagging along with a meetup group (better), but to be invited to go by Lisa and to be introduced to her friends. Sipping Pinot Grigio, munching on a variety of shared finger foods, and taking in the city scenery added to making it a blissful evening!

I missed doing my weekly blog post last weekend and I have so many pictures and "happy" experiences I'd like to add.  Even though I'm too busy to write blog posts daily, I've been doing this exercise with my Colorado friend: We've been exchanging texts with different endings to the sentence.. "You know it's a good summer when..." so I'll put a few of my favorites on the end of this post. It won't capture all the great experiences I've been having because you can't always take pictures of things like.. ".. when someone pours water down your back after an extremely hot tennis game." Not only is it hard to capture that with a camera, but I refuse to have pictures posted of me with my sweaty face.  And then, of course, there's the issue that my photography skills leave something to be desired. (That fireworks photograph is from this Minneapolis Happenings site.)

I've been wondering how long it would take me to feel "at home" here. Today is my 3 month Anniversary... the half-way point of my contract.. and I do feel more at home. I love my job and I'm more comfortable with all the tools and processes and people. I'm making friends and next weekend I even got invited to go with a group to a cabin on an island! I even feel like I know the Minneapolis area more and getting around without constant need of consulting my GPS. I wouldn't want to move here because of the brutal cold winters.. and, of course, because I miss all I have in Colorado, but..

You know it's a good summer (in Minnesota!) when...

..  you teach the class you've been developing for the past two months and you nail it!

... you enjoy a dinner cruise on the St. Croix river with new friends serenaded by dixie-land jazz musicians

... you sip mimosas and sample braised pork huevos rancheros at brunch with a girlfriend on the patio of a Kenwood restaurant

... you see the bright kayaks and canoes on sparkling Lake of the Isles, one of the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis

...  you finish an invigorating set of tennis, look out at Round Lake to see the sunset and then see the huge full moon coming up on your way home, with the sky still pink in your rear view mirror.. and it's 9pm!

...  a Beatles Tribute band is playing for free at Staring Park, 10 minutes from where you live in Eden Prairie, with the audience singing, little kids dancing, and the summer night cooling as the sun sets


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Making Friends


When I moved out here to Minnesota, one of the questions I pondered was: How long will it take for me to make friends? I had these grand plans to make "a friend a day" which quickly turned into "a friend a week" which eventually turned into "at least one friend."  Well, that's a little bit of an exaggeration. I actually found the people here very friendly but it's hard to go beyond the small talk and make a deeper connection.

This weekend I was feeling particularly lonely since the 5-day visit from my friend from Colorado was over and I realized that I had no weekend plans. However, it ended up being the most social weekend since I've been out here and I met three people who I had long conversations with -- three new friends.

1) Paula

The picture in this post is of Paula sitting on a park swing observing the wildlife, taken before I met her. I was geocaching in this park (by the way, I didn't find the geocache, but I did find a deer in exactly the spot of the geocache). Anyway, as I saw Paula (whose name I didn't know yet) sitting there, I thought, as I've thought on several other occasions, "Maybe I should go talk to her." Usually, I just smile and say 'hi,' and go on my merry way, but this time when I said, 'hi,' Paula invited me to sit down and chat.

Before long, Paula and I were chatting as though we'd been old friends. We found we had a common interest in psychology and relationships. I lost track of the time, but we must have talked for over two hours, and at the end of our conversation, we exchanged numbers and became Facebook friends.

2) Jim

Jim is someone I met swing dancing Friday night. I'd actually met him the first time I went dancing here in Minnesota. He's an excellent dancer and we had a lot of fun. He invited me to go out to Excelsior on Saturday night to listen to some live music. As it turned out, we roamed around the quaint city by foot, ending up watching the sunset and boats on Lake Minnetonka, sipping on margaritas and hearing rock'n'roll in the background. It was a beautiful summer night, and again, we found we had common interest in psychology and coaching.

3) Scott + a bunch of other people

Saturday morning I went out to St. Paul to play tennis at a Recreational Tennis meetup event. The people were so friendly, and once we were finished playing, I chatted enough with Scott to realize we had a similar work history and that we both started our careers with IBM internships.

Scott told me that some other people were going to be playing tennis on Sunday and asked me if I wanted to join for that and then go on to his house for Happy Hour with his wife and other friends. I was so impressed that he would invite someone he just met to his home! Even though it was a bit of a drive, I showed up at the appointed time of 1:00, played tennis, and then after a quick Cub Foods run, headed to Scott's house.

There was plenty of wine and Happy Hour fixings (including cute little drink umbrellas). Even though I don't think Scott intended all of us to stay so late, we ended up feasting on home-made lasagna and key lime pie. DELICIOUS!

Through Scott, I met about 5 other people who I'm making other plans with. I may have even found my roommate for my cruise!

I'm not sure why I had such success this weekend with my friend-making challenges when I wasn't having much luck before. Maybe I was trying a little hard to "put myself out there." Or maybe I was just lucky in meeting people who I seemed to click with.

In all cases -- Paula, Jim, Scott (as well as Scott's wife and friends), were just so inviting and generous in opening their hearts. They made me feel welcomed to do the same. Though it will take more than one conversation to become deep friends, I at least have made some connections that I feel could grow into lasting friendships.

In any case, I think my lonely days are over, and I'm feeling re-energized about my stay here!






Sunday, June 19, 2016

Exploring Brooklyn Park

This weekend has been another one of exploring the many parks and lakes and beautiful Minnesota scenery. The highlight of my week, however, was meeting Scott Marble from Brooklyn Park. I'd been introduced to Scott through another friend, Steph Courdin. Both Scott and Steph are working hard to find ways to put an end to ALS -- a disease they both have.

Steph has created the ALS Never Surrender foundation - a non-profit organization aimed at creating the first ALS BioMetric and Telemetry Patient Application by collecting real time data that will help in better understanding the disease. Scott, along with his husband and care-giver, Shaun, are advocates for those with ALS, attending events such as their recent trip to Washington DC last month to lobby for legislature that will help ALS patients.

All my friends will undoubtedly be hearing more from me as we begin what I think of as "Carpe Diem Season" and I start my fund-raising efforts. For now, I just wanted to meet Scott and Shaun and get myself invited onto their Minneapolis walk team, Marble's Marvels!

As is my weekly tradition, I'll keep this short and sweet and just end with some of my photos from the week.
Wearing quilled earrings I'd bought from the Edina Art Fair.

Hanging out with a "Tater" at the Brooklyn Park Tater Days Festival

Checking out the Mississippi River!

Meeting Scott Marble

Dancing to Music by Boogie Wonderland

Lake Bryant

Riley Lake - Also played tennis at the park here!





Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Happy Solo Weekend

One of my resolutions for 2016 was to write a weekly blog post about what makes me happy, and though I haven't had 100% success, I've been pretty good with my happy blog posts. Honestly, all these happiness activities and projects really have made a big difference in helping me realize what a wonderful life I have. In fact, I think this is the most stress-free my life has ever been...  I'm healthy, the kids are grown up and all doing well, I love the work I do.. When I was back in Colorado over Memorial Day sitting in my beautiful back yard, drinking a margarita with a friend, I said: "I feel like this is the happiest I've ever been. I have everything I ever wanted."

But they say happiness is the journey not the destination and that you need to have some stress because part of the happiness comes from meeting challenges or overcoming sad stuff.

What do I have to be unhappy about? Actually, nothing..  I don't want to whine or complain, because I do have everything I ever wanted.  But, the one not-perfect thing that I'm pretty sure I'll experience off and on for the rest of my life is that I still get lonely. I used to attribute that to being single, but now I don't think it has anything to do with my relationship status...  These days, it's more about not really being "home."

I've been surprised at how easy it has been to meet people here in Minnesota. There are a lot of Meetups and everyone I meet is so friendly. During the week I met up with a new friend for tennis and dinner and another evening I went to a Meetup and music at Lake Harriet.

But when Friday rolled around and I had absolutely nothing on my calendar for the weekend, I was missing my friends from Colorado. Even though I could have gone to Meetups or found someone to go explore with me, I spent the weekend alone..  I just didn't feel in the mood to socialize with people I didn't know very well.

As it turns out, I had fun on my solo weekend. I did a lot of girly stuff like go to another art fair, got a facial, and I even went to a movie on my own! (First time for that!)  It even looked like I was going to be the only one in the whole theater which was actually very cool... I was pretending like I was rich and getting a private showing of You Before Me. But then two other women came in, so it sort of ruined my fantasy..

I had a big ice cream cone and walked around 3 more lakes (making a dent in seeing Minnesota's 10,000+ lakes) and enjoyed a shopping spree at Dollar Tree  (what great deals!!)

So I overcame the "challenge" (if you can call it that) of feeling lonely and ended up having another excellent weekend! Man, I am getting SO good at this happiness stuff!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Beautiful June Weekend

I really can't express how much I love the beautiful weekends I've been enjoying, both last weekend in Colorado and this weekend, back in Minnesota. Instead, I'll just post some of the pictures with some captions.

One thing I'll note, though, is that when I was home in Colorado, sitting in the stands of Folsom Field at the Bolder Boulder and looking out at the beautiful mountains, I thought how much I take that beauty for granted. I didn't want to leave.

I arrived back in Minnesota at 1:30am, having to go to work bright and early with a bad cold and in rainy weather. However, my cold and the weather cleared up and this weekend, as I was enjoying the beautiful lakes and green parks I thought how lucky I was to be getting to spend the summer in a new lovely place! How awesome that I get to experience this most gorgeous time of year here!

Gal Pal Brunch at my house in Colorado, complete with mimosas!

My 18th consecutive Bolder Boulder - Perfect weather and wonderful Memorial Day Celebration, remembering Chris, Uncle Neal and other veterans who lost their lives for our country.
Surprise gift from Matt and Stella waiting for me back in Minnesota!

 Went to dinner and to a fun comedy show in downtown Minneapolis.


Edina Art Fair had so many fun and colorful creations on display. I bought a few gifts and things for myself!

This was new! Chicken Salad in a bread cone!

Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare in the Park. Fun performance!

Lake Nokomis - Yet another of Minnesota's scenic lakes

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Smile and Remember Those Who Lived Fully


My friend, Linda, died last week after a 5 year battle with cancer. I didn't write a blog post last week because it seemed inappropriate to write about trivial little things that make me happy as though this major sad thing didn't just happen.

The 19th Anniversary of my brother's death is coming up as well. He actually died on May 30th, Memorial Day, in a car accident . Chris was a runner, so I've been running in the Bolder Boulder every year on Memorial Day weekend in his honor. Even though he didn't die in the war, Chris was an Air Force pilot, so when people honor the veterans on Memorial Day, I can kind of feel like everyone is stopping for a minute and remembering, if not him, someone... someone they loved and lost.  And I feel comforted in sharing that moment of remembrance.

When someone you know dies, it feels strange for life to just go on. People still get upset about the littlest things and you want to say: It doesn't matter! You're alive and healthy. Don't waste a minute being upset about something stupid.

At Linda's funeral, her daughter gave a wonderful eulogy, reminding us of how much spunk and vigor Linda had and how fully she lived.  She told us that Linda didn't want us to cry because she'd died, but smile because she'd lived.

Though facing mortality is tough, it does force you to remember and savor the joys in life.  I feel so grateful and lucky for all the sweet moments I enjoy daily.

A few of my recent sweet moments?

* Beating a new Minnesota friend (and a big, athletic guy!) at tennis. Though this may not seem like much, I've never been very athletic (always the last picked for the team in High School) so winning at any kind of sport is a big deal! Plus it was just fun to be playing with a big, athletic (and handsome!) guy.

* Coming home to Colorado for the week and being able to work out of the local Broomfield office. I'm so lucky that the office is less than 3 miles from my house and everyone was very friendly there.

* Seeing Reneya perform in her first big ballet performance. And today, I attended a beginner's ballet class for adults with Megan while Reneya had her 4-year-old class.

* Being home to see my irises and lilacs in bloom. My yard is so beautiful and I'm so lucky to have a housemate who lives here and takes such good care of it.

* Being in town for the celebrations both of Linda's life at her funeral, and the marriage of my friends Brad and Allison. Linda and Brad were both members of the Rebuilding Divorce Recovery group I was in over 10 years ago. That group of friends has been like extended family over the years.

* Celebrating my friend, Sue's, birthday at her gorgeous, newly redecorated home. Even though it was her birthday, Sue created such a beautiful table setting with a candelabra bouquet and fine china.  And I made two of my traditional strawberry-rhubarb pies!



 These are just a few of the things that have brought me happiness in the last couple of weeks.

It can be hard to find happiness in the little moments in times of grief..  it almost seems disrespectful or insensitive. But actually, I think those are the times we need most to find those simple joys and to smile. It doesn't mean we've forgotten the people we grieve. It means their death has reminded us to live fully.

So for Linda, Chris, Dad, and my friend, Craig... Thank you for setting the example of lives well-lived.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Smells, sights, and sounds of Minnesota May

I've been using this blog as a way to record my little experiments in happiness. It's been especially interesting for me to be aware of what makes me happy during these months in Minnesota, away from my home in Colorado.

The first two weeks here I had a cold, so I wasn't exercising much, but both last weekend and this weekend, I've been able to get outside and enjoy some long runs through beautiful scenery. I wish it were possible to record smells. The perfume of lilacs in bloom is something I look forward to every year at home. I was happily surprised to find the streets in this neighborhood are full of beautiful fragrant trees and lilac bushes. Just a mile away, the houses are like mansions with yards so big they look like parks! The house I'm living in is comparably small, and, I'm just renting a little room, but I'm surprised by how much I enjoy my morning commute each day, driving through this gorgeous area.

Today for my run, I decided to check out Normandale Lake one of Minnesota's many beautiful lakes. The trail around the lake was 2 miles, and I ran it 3 times, in preparation for upcoming Bolder Boulder.  Yesterday, (even though the weather was way too cold for May!) I was out with a group of Optum employees participating in a 5K Walk for Be the Match around Lake Harriet. So now I've seen two of the 10,000 lakes. Only 9998 to go! Both Normandale Lake and Lake Harriet had bandshells, and it sounds like there will be no shortage of summer music events... another thing I was feeling bad that I was missing in Colorado, but looks like I will get to experience here!

One more happy experience this week: Big Band music! Yes, I went to a Meetup Swing Dance event on Friday night! They announced 3 birthdays at the event of people who were 97, 94, and 93! Wow! I hope I'm still dancing in my 90's!
So am I missing home? I'm loving that I can Skype with my kids, and grand-kids and I've been keeping in touch with friends via email, text, phone calls, and social media. I'll be in Colorado from May 20-30, and will see a lot of people then. It actually may end up that I see some friends more than I usually see them, just because I'm making more of an effort.

But, I admit there are times when I feel a little lonely out here. Even though everyone is friendly and there is plenty to do, it takes time to make good friends. Honestly, I really enjoy exploring on my own -- I'm having fun finding all the shops and new little haunts. I suppose knowing that I'll only be here for 6 months also keeps me both from worrying about or trying to make deep connections. For now, I'm happy just enjoying each day and exploring all the smells, sights and sounds that the area has to offer.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Happy in Minnesota

This week, my "earth angel" - a relative stranger who was kind and generous to me - was Connie Carrino, the sister of my friend, Chris. She met me for Happy Hour and presented me with a thoughtful "Welcome to Minnesota" gift bag full of locally-made goodies such as 3-M notes (we Agilists love sticky notes!), wild rice, nuts, scotch tape, and (though not made in Minnesota, a must have) mosquito repellent. What a wonderful gift! And she invited me to the Kentucky Derby Party she and her husband, Jeff. hosted today.


This picture was taken during my lunch hour. I love my new job at Optum. The people are all nice and the work is interesting and there are walking paths right out the door with ponds and trails and these geese with their gosslings. The office building is really cool and modern, too..  The building uses an "open space" concept and people can sit in new spaces every day. I didn't take pictures in the building because I'm always cautious about confidentiality, but it's a beautiful campus.


This morning I toured the Minnesota Arboretum with a Meetup group and the flowers were absolutely gorgeous! I'd been feeling sad that I'd missed the tulips on Pearl Street in Boulder and then today I saw this! The trees were all flowering and as you can see the bulbs were all out in full color. May is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year! I love the colors and fragrances and the perfect weather. Though everyone says that Fall at the Arboretum is even better, so I'm going to be back!

Here I am at Connie and Jeff's fun Kentucky Derby party! Connie had invited me to the party even before we met, so I was able to get my pink hat (which, of course, doubled as my "girl's road trip hat") from a thrift store before leaving Colorado. I just love theme parties and Connie and Jeff went all out. We had mint juleps (I even got to play bartender for awhile) and a very classy Derby menu. There was betting and games and many friendly people.
Yup... I've already figured out that I like it here!