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!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Big House on the Eden Prairie

When I arrived in Eden Prairie last week, I was happily surprised at how beautiful the home was of the airbnb that I was staying at. A young couple, Jeannie and Javen, and Jeannie's brother, Seth, were also living in the finished basement of the house, but the upstairs rooms were vacant. The house turned out to be wonderful - about a 10-minute commute to my new job at Optum, and an absolutely gorgeous neighborhood. Knowing a good thing when I saw it, I immediately asked if I might rent for the whole 6 months, but the owner, who was working on a long-term contract himself and wasn't quite sure when he'd be home, didn't feel comfortable with having long-term renters.

No problem! I had plenty of great options! My first choice was to find a room in a house rather than live alone in an apartment. I have two housemates at my house in Colorado and I love that arrangement. It's cheaper and so much less lonely when there are other people around. I figured I'd just be the tenant rather than the landlord.

I found a few possibilities that I was excited about, with the best one being perfect -- it was 5 minutes from Optum and was the whole finished basement with a private entrance, complete with a furnished kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom.  However, just when I was ready to sign on the dotted line, the owner's current tenant decided to renew for a year.  The owner of my second choice option decided he really wanted to hold out for a year lease as well.

I spent all day Saturday touring apartments, sublet situations, and possibilities from Craigslist, but I came to realize that no one wants to rent to someone who's going to leave right when the weather gets cold.  Almost everyone wanted a year lease and those who would take a 6 month lease, weren't available until June at the earliest. Just when I was at my most discouraged, I got a call from Jeannie, who said that knowing I was having trouble finding a short-term rental, the owner had decided to let me rent a room in the house month-to-month after all. The only caveat was that if his contract were to end early, I would need to move out with very little notice.  Apparently, the chances of that are quite unlikely since the contract is scheduled to go until March, 2017.

I think Jeannie, Javen, and Seth had to convince the owner to let me stay, and I'm so grateful to them all. They've been so hospitable and friendly and their generosity is one of the reasons I'm glad to be staying in a home instead of an impersonal hotel room for 6 months.

I read a book once about "earth angels"--- people who you don't know well, but who do something kind and generous for you out of the goodness of their hearts. Last week, it was Kim who drove all the way to Minnesota with me. This week, it's Jeannie, Javen, and Seth, who helped convince the owner of this house to let me live here!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Goodbye Colorado, Hello Minnesota

What a week - Quite full of gratitude, and happiness for me!

Saying goodbye
Even though I'm only leaving for 6 months (and I'll even be coming back periodically during those 6 months), the last couple of weeks have reminded me how much I love my life, home, friends, and family in Colorado. I got a few more "Happy Clips" for a 3rd video, and I said several more goodbyes to friends who were camera-shy.

My daughter and her husband, at my urging, took a last-minute trip to Cancun, giving me the opportunity to get a full four days and nights of grand-parenting in before my trip.

And my house-mates, in their usual thoughtful way, made me a delicious going-away dinner and surprised me with a box full of snacks and goodies for the road.

ALS Never Surrender
Anyone who knows me, knows that my "Carpe Diem" way of living was influenced by my friend Craig Dunham, who lost his life to ALS in 2010. For the last couple of years, I've led Team Carpe Diem in the Walk to Defeat ALS. Last year, I met Steph Courdin at the Walk, who started the ALS Never Surrender Foundation. I'd been meaning to ask Steph how I could help, and last week we talked and it looks like I'll be able to do some blogging that will help the foundation.

Like Craig, Steph is not letting ALS stop him from continuing to live fully. Not only does he continue to live a full and productive life enjoying his family and photography, his foundation is actively working on an application that will help towards understanding the disease. I'm inspired and excited to be involved!

Road Trip
And finally, there's my move to Minnesota! A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post asking if anyone wanted to be my road trip buddy... and believe it or not, I got a taker! Kim and I worked together at Sun several years ago, and even though we've run into each other occasionally at an Agile event, we really were mostly "Facebook friends."

It was super-generous of Kim to offer to drive with me... in fact, she offered to drive the whole way! And that she did! We planned the trip using Agile techniques, with a "backlog" on Trello, and even though we were quite prepared to be entertained with music, audio books, games, and snacks, we spent the entire trip talking! Kim is both fun and funny -- what a great sense of humor -- and she was so open and authentic - she felt like another sister to me! The trip warrants a blog post all on its own, or maybe a private journal entry..  But I did want to publicly say that I so appreciate her willingness to give up her weekend to take this journey with me. I just love her attitude, spunk, and spontaneity and feel grateful to have shared this weekend with such a special person and earth angel!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Makes My Colorado Friends Happy?

Today I created the second in my "What Makes You Happy?" video series. I've been asking friends all week to contribute and, though there were some who were video-shy, I ended up with ten little clips (well above my goal of 7 per week.. I'm such an over achiever!)

I really enjoy these little video clips because I'm reminded of the many wonderful things that make us happy. Though many people talk about the happiness they get from family, friends, and loved ones, I like that many people also mention the little moments of every day life.

This week in the videos, a few people mentioned how beautiful it was to live here in Colorado, and I have to agree. I especially love Colorado from April to October... the exact months I'll be in Minnesota... but, those are also the months that it will be milder in Minnesota and I hear it's beautiful there, too. Besides, I hope to come back to Colorado every month or so, and so it's actually a little silly for me to be making such a big deal of leaving.

On the other hand, leaving Colorado has given me more reason to take a serious look at all the people and places that I love here and recognize how lucky I am. What a beautiful state and what a diverse and talented group of friends I have.

I have one more week of saying my goodbyes and then on Friday, I leave for Minnesota!

Monday, April 11, 2016

What Makes You Happy?

I tried a little experiment last week by asking people what made them happy, with a goal of getting a short video clip from a new person each day. I actually averaged more than one a day (I got 9 in 5 days) but there was one day when I didn't get any.

Why did I do this?

1) I love seeing the natural smiles and body language from people when they're talking about something that makes them happy. I think it's a contagious feeling, so I feel happier when I watch this.
2) Part of "social connection" with people is talking to them about something that matters to them. What better way to find out what matters than to hear about what makes them happy?
3) I thought this would be a good way to practice getting out of my comfort zone and talking to new people since I'll be doing that a lot when I go to Minnesota. (More about this below)
4) I wanted to get diverse perspectives. I love that I was able to get a range of ages who participated.
5) I felt a little closer to everyone who participated... not just because I found out what made them happy, but because they were willing to be vulnerable enough and trust me to let me film them.
6) I'm very interested in how we form bonds. Do we need to be face-to-face or can we bond to someone by seeing them on a video? I have a particular interest in this for my work since I write and speak a lot about "virtual teaming." Though I think face-to-face is the best and a video won't allow for 2-way conversation, I feel like you can feel a bond when you see someone talking about something they're truly passionate about, especially if you're passionate about that thing, too.

Is it a good way to get to know someone new?

Every person who agreed to do the video was someone I knew personally. I taught a class last week in Philadelphia, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how this would work when I was in a new place.  The only person who did it in Philadelphia was my Aunt (and it was really cool that I got to visit her since I hadn't seen her in 27 years!)

I asked the people in the class if they'd be willing to do a clip, but didn't get any takers. I asked the man next to me on the plane if he might do it, and though we ended up talking for 4 hours about life and happiness, in the end, he didn't want to do it because he said he was not in a happy place in his life right now. He took my card and said that he would connect and send me a video clip when he had overcome the challenges in his life.

It will be interesting to try this maybe on the road trip or when I meet people in Minnesota, but it might be kind of intrusive for people who I don't know at all. I guess you have to build up a trust level with someone before you ask them to be on video...  On the other hand, it certainly worked at opening up a conversation with the man on the plane, and I feel like we did have a great conversation during that flight, even if we never see each other again.

How did people feel about doing the video?

A lot of people weren't comfortable being video'ed because they are self-conscious about how they will look or how they'll sound. I think some also may have worried that they needed to figure out the biggest thing that makes them happy or say something profound. And, of course, they may have been worried about what I'd do with the video. Many people don't mind talking about what makes them happy, but don't like being on Facebook or social media.

So...  even though I think these people are so beautiful and I'd love to publicly thank them and acknowledge my admiration for each of them, I'll resist the urge to mention any names to protect their privacy.  I'm very grateful to them for being my guinea pigs in this first video.

Will I keep doing this?

Yeah, I kind of would like to do a video every week. It may not always be the "What Makes You Happy?" question, but that is a good question for now. I also hope I'll get participation from remote people who could send me a video.  A couple of people told me about "vine" so I'm going to have to experiment with that.

Want to participate?

Send me a short video clip (I've been trying to keep them to 10 seconds) of what makes YOU happy!