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!