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!