Thursday, April 28, 2016

five for Friday: songs I'm listening to now.

It’s almost time for the spring member drive on Minnesota Public Radio, and you know what that means.

I forgo the radio for a week and listen to music and podcasts.

Seriously, the member drive is the worst – especially if, like me, you are already a member. MPR successfully guilted me into sustaining membership years ago, and I realize that they’d like to guilt me into giving even more, but come on. I feel like there should be a secret alternative non-member-driving MPR station that members can tune into during the member drive.

I mean, come on. I just want to know what’s going on in the world, but I can’t do so without hearing twenty minutes of fundraising every hour. (Seriously, I looked it up: they have four five-minute breaks every hour to beg for members.) Over NINE DAYS. BAHHHHHH.

So here we are, on the cusp of the member drive, and I’ve been finding myself listening gearing up to go radio-less by listening to the same few songs over and over. My commute is about 40 minutes each way, so that means I can listen to these songs a whole lot. And I want to share them with you – especially if you are also in desperate need of entertainment to stave off the torturous MPR member drive.

Mumford and Sons
James and I went to see a Mumford and Sons concert in Omaha on my birthday, and it was amazing. We just don’t go to see huge concerts like that – not just because we don’t have the time, but because there just aren’t too many bands performing today we’d pay that kind of money to see. Mumford and Sons, though? YES. It’s important to note that James and I were listening to Mumford and Sons before they were cool. I can practically hear you rolling your eyes, but we were. Their first album was released in the US in February 2010, by which time I had moved to Minneapolis and was already a dedicated listener of the Current (MPR’s hipster music station). The Current played Mumford and Sons for months on end, and I was immediately smitten. This, my friends, was at the very beginning of their commercial success – way back when they were still playing at venues like First Avenue. (I wanted desperately to see them there, but I was an unpaid intern with four part-time jobs and could definitely not afford a ticket.) Anyway, here we are, six years later, and Mumford and Sons are HUGE. The show we saw at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha was sold out – a 19,000 seat venue. The concert was great, to be sure, but James and I were much more interested in material from their first two albums than that from their third and most recent. "I Will Wait" off their second album spoke to my freaking SOUL - James and I had been doing the long-distance relationship thing for two-plus years when the song was released, and that song was about US. Anyway, reminisce-y ranting aside, I think we can all agree that Mumford and Sons’ third album is not their best – it’s a departure from the folky banjo-y sound that we all know and love. The lyrics and melodies of the new album are still solidly Mumford and Sons, but the rest is over-produced: too much electric guitar meets 90s rock meets Kings of Leon. “Ditmas” is a song off that album: it’s not one of my top Mumford and Sons songs, and it’s not even my favorite song from that third album. The reason I’ve been listening to it so much is because during the concert, Marcus Mumford took off running and did a lap around the entire venue (up and down the stairs and everything) while singing this song. There were video screens showing him as went, and he had this giant goofy grin on his face and it was so darn adorable that I couldn't even handle it. So I’m listening to this song and thinking of that concert and feeling like a smug hipster because I knew them way back when.

Obviously, I’ve been listening to a lot of Prince in the last week. “7” is my all-time favorite Prince song, and I feel like more people should know it. I have had an appreciation of Prince for years – not just because of his music, but because of who he was. He was unapologetically Prince, and I respect that. Apparently the rest of the world did, too, because the entire planet turned purple last week. I even heard a blurb on MPR about how there’s a movement at the state capitol to make purple the official color of Minnesota. Meanwhile, I have been doing my small part to appreciate Prince – I should’ve been doing it all along, but you know how it goes. I wore purple last week, I ordered Purple Rain on vinyl, and I put a special Prince playlist on my phone. “7” gets played more than anything else.

Twenty One Pilots
James introduced me to Twenty One Pilot, and they’ve been slowly growing on me for months now. He’s been doing it one song at a time, and he started with “Stressed Out,” which is the story of my life. And the life of every other adult, probably. ("Wake up, you need to make money.") James has moved through a number of their other songs that have become staples on my car music playlist, like “Guns For Hands” and “The Judge” 
(which James totally just learned to play on the ukulele). But my current favorite is “Migraine.” As someone who does indeed get migraines from time to time, this song sums them up beautifully (“am I the only one I know/waging my wars behind my face and above my throat”), as well as my distaste for Sundays (“I don’t know why they always seem so dismal/thunderstorms, clouds, snow, and a slight drizzle”).

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
I loved pretty much everything on The Heist, so I have to say that I was SO VERY EXCITED for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s sophomore album. When I finally listened to it, I was disappointed. The songs seemed more or less the same to me, and they all seemed to be about being rich and famous. Meh. “Downtown” took a couple of tries, but I found myself really liking it. I hadn’t heard it before I listened to the album, which made me several loops behind everyone else, but whatever. It cemented itself as a current favorite when I listened to it over and over and over to keep myself awake on a looooong drive home from Morris a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know what I would’ve done without “Downtown.” Bonus: I work at the downtown library, so every time someone says "downtown," I get to think of the chorus for this song. (Side note: this is most definitely the only song in my iTunes where "scrotum" is one of the lyrics. Thanks for that, Macklemore.)

Uma Thurman
Fall Out Boy
You know those days when you’re driving home from work and it’s been a long day and the weather is all dreary and you just want something SUPER LOUD? “Uma Thurman” is that song. I was also way behind the curve with this song – I had never heard it until James arranged it for pep band. (I love MPR, but it definitely impedes my knowledge of Top 40 songs.) Contrary to my Mumford and Sons “I heard them first” snootery (that should be a word, don't you think?), it’s really not that often that I am on the front lines of popular music any more – especially since it's been five years since I could get the Current in my car. So I know “Uma Thurman” thanks to the Ellsworth Pep Band. Ridiculous.

That’s it: those are my top five songs of the moment, and you can bet I’ll be playing them on a continuous loop until the MPR member drive is over. Wish me luck getting through that dark time in the public radio calendar.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

on this day in 2005: excerpts from a journal, part III.

19 April 2005

I had the best birthday in the world.

(editor's note: I would occasionally tape little things into the journal, and this time, I taped a little piece of star-patterned tissue paper to the page. The note by it reads: "Mom put A Separate Peace by my Instant Breakfast, and it was wrapped in star paper!")

So many people wished me a happy birthday... Rachel was the first one, followed by Bob and Meagan, and many others (including all of my teachers).

Tiff gave me my present in Spanish, and it's a picture frame, three bracelets, a penguin notebook, and socks. Too cool. In psych, we started Rain Man, which is the best.

In choir, Rachel and I were talking (as usual), so Mrs Gilbert told us to be quiet (as usual). Bob leaned over and whispered something to her. Sure enough, Mrs Gilbert had the entire choir sing "happy birthday" to me! 

After lunch, Nick gave me two birthday pennies (which can be found at the top of this page). 

We tested in bio, and afterwards, Bob told me to scoot my desk over so we could play MASH. I'm marrying Michael Jackson, 92 children, honeymoon in London, I travel by foot and he hitchhikes, I make $100,000 pear year, I'm a waitress and he's a male prostitute, my wedding dress was hot pink and his tux was metallic, and we live in an apartment in Boston.

At the end of English, Tiff came in with three balloons and a basket full of Blow-Pops for me. They were from Mitch and Darrah! I was so excited! Everyone was jealous that I have siblings that like me enough to send me candy on my birthday.

After school, Bob and I went to the city building so he could get his job at the pool again, and then we went to the school. We arrived at the same time as Sarah, Dez, Teresa, and Rachel. So we piled in the minivan and took off.

Bob and I told everyone about the twins thing (editor's note: a few days before my birthday, Bob and I had decided that it would be BRILLIANT if we pretended to be twins on my birthday so we could scam Applebee's out of a second free dessert), and they thought it was a good idea. I had told Rachel about the twins thing in choir, and she said to Allison, "If you were a waitress in Applebee's, would you believe that Bob and Calla were twins?" Without hesitation, she said, "Definitely."

We went to the dollar store first to get hats. Bob, Dez, and I picked them out. Mine was a pink tiara-thing that said 'happy birthday' on it, and Bob's was a silver and blue crown that said 'birthday prince.' We also got glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs and pointy birthday hats for everyone else.

We entered Applebee's wearing our hats, and we were seated right away. At the end of the meal, the waitress asked about dessert. "And I see we have a couple of birthdays!" she said. Bob and I smiled and nodded. A few minutes later, a whole string of waitresses came out, clapping and singing and carrying two plates with brownies on them. 

Our next stop was Walmart. Teresa climbed into a shopping cart, and Bob pushed her around. I dropped off some film, and Mom found me. "I'm glad you're not in the shopping cart," she said. "Oh, but I'm next!" I replied. Rachel pushed me around and looked at shoes (one lady - a total stranger - asked Rachel if I was a good baby) and housewares. None of the Walmart people cared; they just laughed.

We went to see The Amityville Horror, and that damn movie was so scary. Rachel and I would cling to each other and scream. That's the first time I've ever screamed in a movie theatre. When we weren't screaming, we were laughing because it was so scary.

Back in Arlington, Sarah and Dez dropped us off in the parking lot and left. As soon as I got out, I saw that someone had written all over Susie (editor's note: the name of my little blue coupe) with glass chalk. It said "happy 18th" on the side window and "happy b-day The Boss" on the back. Oh, Tiff.

Bob, Teresa, and I were all pretty scared (especially after Rachel said, "Remember those urban legends where serial killers hide under cars and slit people's ankles?"). We made a plan: we'd walk in groups to our cars. Teresa was first, and Bob, Rachel, and I all screamed when she turned her windshield wipers on. Bob walked me to my car. He checked underneath and in the backseat and said, "Looks like you're not going to die tonight." 

As soon as I walked in the door, Mom handed me the phone. It was Rita, and I talked to her for a while. She reminded me that I now can get married without permission from my parents (what a weird thought).

But seriously... best birthday ever.

Current music: "Chopsticks" by Liberace

Thursday, April 14, 2016

it's not easy: life as an adult millennial.

It’s not easy…
So many conversations happen through email, text, or Facebook that making an actual phone call has become borderline terrifying for some millennials. While I wouldn’t consider myself terrified, calling strangers is certainly not one of my favorite things. For example, when we have a question about adult things like our mortgage or taxes or insurance or whatever, I far and above prefer James (who enjoys phone calls with strangers) to do it. When I was attempting to plan a wedding, the number of phone calls I had to make was intimidating... to me, anyway. Work is different – it’s part of my job to talk to strangers all day long, and that is no big deal. Calling friends and family does not fall into my millennial phone call fear zone, either – just calling strangers about things involving my life. It’s weird and stupid, I know, but so is millennials’ irrational fear of phone calls. Seriously, it’s a THING: on the whole, my generation HATES making/answering phone calls. Real life example: I have a friend who will text me questions. No big deal, except when these questions involve multi-part answers, or perhaps asking another question before actually being able to answer. I don’t want to text all that, so I will then call. Said friend will NOT answer the call, even though they sent me a text mere minutes before. Instead, they will listen to my voicemail and then text me a response. Sure, I might do the same thing if I’m in a spot where I can text but not call (ie, the dentist’s waiting room), but I know for a FACT that this friend was just sitting at home, completely able to answer a phone call. I know I’m bad about phone calls, but I’m not THAT bad.

It’s not easy…
“Wanderlust” has become a favorite descriptor of millennials everywhere. They put the word on swirly watercolor art, hand-stamped jewelry, and forearm tattoos like it’s going out of style. While I kind of hate the word because of all of these things (when you can buy “wanderlust” embroidered pillows at Walmart, you know it’s gone too far), I do appreciate the sentiment – because that’s exactly how I feel ALL THE TIME. There’s so much of the world to see and experience, so many great foods to eat and lakes to swim and places to explore, and here I am… in Luverne, Minnesota. James and I do our best to see what the Midwest has to offer, but with a limited amount of free time and funding, we can only get so far. I want to see something new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Luverne is not the place for that, nor do I think it ever will be. But then again, where is this mythical place I seek? I have a list of places a mile long that I’d like to live, but would any of them live up to my lofty expectations? And let’s not forget that moving isn’t easy, either – especially when you’re a.) a homeowner, and b.) married. Renting made it so much easier to move – I simply waited for my lease to run out, and then I found a new and fresh place to go. As a homeowner, you can’t really do that. You would have to sell your house, pack up your legions of things, and find a new place to put them. Marriage means that you have this whole other person to consider, and catering to your every “I am going to move to a different time zone RIGHT NOW” whim is not plausible. Marriage is great, don’t get me wrong: but it means that you can’t be as selfish as you once were (which millennials tend to be great at).

It’s not easy…
This is directly related to settling down (see above). While I would like to move, I mentioned all sorts of things to accomplish before getting there. Realistically, it would be a lot of work. James and I both love our jobs, and moving somewhere interesting would mean finding not one, but two fulfilling jobs where we would be starting from scratch. Even if we simply moved to Sioux Falls and could keep our jobs, we would somehow have to sell our house in Luverne… and NO ONE wants to move to Luverne. There are so many things that I would love to do… but the pressure of real life makes them so much harder to accomplish.
WISH: a dog!
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: James and I both commute and are gone a minimum of eleven hours each day, which would be pretty awful if you were a dog trapped inside that entire time.
WISH: to fix my two poorly done ten-year-old tattoos.
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: To get a good tattoo to cover up the two shitty ones would be expensive, and we have a million other financial priorities. Boring adult stuff like new tires and dental bills.
WISH: to join the military and make a difference in the world.
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: If I could do it all over again, I would join the military right out of college. I could have done something good instead of dicking around at unpaid internships and shitty part-time jobs. But I didn’t, and here we are. (Caveat: I got a lot of good experience and met a lot of great people while doing those internships and working eight million part-time jobs, so it wasn't all for naught.) Joining the military now would mean being stationed somewhere away from James, and even if he did come with me, we would be right back to the moving dilemma. Even if I joined the Guards part-time, I would most likely have to quit my current job to do so, and then where would we be? Bills don’t pay themselves, after all. And let’s not ignore the fact that I will be 29 in just DAYS… more than a decade older than most of the people with which I would go through basic training. Everything about this is scary.
WISH: to get my master's degree.
REALISTIC DREAM KILLER: When I was an undergrad, student loans were these mythical things you just magically got, and POOF! You could worry about paying for college later (which was quite abstract to my teenage self). Speaking as someone who is now paying off said magic loans, they don't seem as magic any more. And what's LESS magic is imagining adding even more loans on top of these loans. 

Don’t get me wrong: I do believe that it’s never too late to accomplish your dreams. I’m just saying that it’s gotten a lot harder.

It’s not easy…
THEN: You could just take an adventure at the drop of the hat. No matter if you had no money and no plan – you just did it.
NOW: There are a million things stopping me from doing anything like that. No money is a much bigger deal now than it was then, and I rarely go places any more without a maximum efficiency plan.
THEN: You call up your friend in the afternoon and get together that same night.
NOW: You have to make plans weeks, if not months, in advance. Free time is a scarce and precious commodity, and you must allocate it wisely.
THEN: You would drink pretty much anything that was handed to you, as long as it was free.
NOW: If a bar doesn’t have my preferred brand of gin, I’d rather go without.
THEN: Your most exciting purchases were treasures from Goodwill.
NOW: You love buying throw pillows and succulents.
THEN: You could gorge yourself on greasy state fair food all day and never feel a thing.
NOW: Half a serving of cheese curds is enough to make you regret everything you’ve ever done. Now, you're supposed to eat shit like quinoa.
THEN: Constant broke-ness was an accepted state of being. All of your friends were broke. It was not a big deal.
NOW: Being broke is a HUGE deal. Your friends are no longer broke, so you'd damn well better not be either.
THEN: You could stay up until 3 in the morning talking to your friends about life’s greatest questions, or maybe nothing important at all, and it was absolutely thrilling

NOW: You talk to your friends about home improvement and your jobs (which, contrary to what your younger self would believe, you actually find fascinating), and you’re in bed by 10.

It’s not easy…
Adults are supposed to know and understand SO MANY THINGS, and I feel like I’m not even close. As an adult, you’re supposed to know how to choose the right insurance, and how to properly invest your money. I barely even know the proper way to cook eggs. I feel like I should have my adult card revoked. Or do you suddenly learn these things when you turn 30? Maybe I have not actually graduated into adulthood yet, and I’ll be struck with all this great adulty knowledge on the day I turn 30. Like a lightning bolt, except with IRAs and deductions.

It’s not easy…
There are so many things that real adults do that I do not WANT to do. Adults exercise every day – which I try to do, but the real adults get up super early to exercise and claim they enjoy it. Meanwhile, I curse every second and don’t do it until late at night when I realize I should go to bed. Real adults eat kale salads for the entirety of their lunch, which would only tide me over until mid-afternoon. I am one of very few people in the staff lounge who drinks soda with lunch and sometimes eats Cheetos, which real adults do not do. Real adults probably don’t buy swimming suits with dinosaurs printed all over them, which I recently did. Real adults are good at small talk, while I am certifiably terrible. Real adults blow dry their hair, know how to buy the right watermelon, never forget to get an oil change, and don’t play Plants v Zombies on their smartphones. Real adults don’t go home after work and binge-watch Bob’s Burgers when they should be cleaning or doing yoga or crafting or anything productive. I am not a real adult.

It’s not easy…
When you are a teenager, you feel like you have the whole world in front of you. You’re young, and you have a clean slate: you can do ANYTHING. Nothing is holding you back, so go out there and CHASE YOUR F-ING DREAMS! The older you get, the faster this idea fades. I am in my late 20s, and the burden of realism is so very real. My time to be young and worry-free is behind me – I’m pretty sure that ended the day I signed the mortgage. Not only that, but as a married woman of a certain age, the pressure to have children is very real. It’s what society expects of you, and to a certain extent, it's what you expect of yourself. I am reminded by my doctor on a yearly basis that I'm not getting any younger ("don't let your eggs rot" is a direct quote), so if I want to provide the world with teeny James/Calla hybrids, I'd better get on it lest I die of old age before they reach high school. And that means that my freedom has an expiration date. (I realize this is not the best way to envision potential motherhood, but that's where I am right now.) That would mean the end of road-trip filled summers and nights out with friends. That would mean I would really have to be an adult. 

It's not easy...
This is an adult problem not limited to millennials, but I'm including it because of the incredible impact Facebook has had on the formative years of my generation. Like many of my friends, I signed up for Facebook when I was 18 and a freshman in college... and I've been on it ever since. Ten years of ups and downs... but on Facebook, you only see the ups. There have been legitimate studies that say the more time you spend on Facebook, the more depressed you are likely to be. That's because Facebook users don't post the realities of their lives - they need a new refrigerator, or their kid has just been suspended. They post the highlights: vacations, new cars, happy times. All of the bad is filtered out, and the rest of us see nothing but 100% sunshine and roses and wonder why our lives aren't like that. Facebook is responsible for inferiority complexes all over the world. I experience said complex, and yet am driven to perpetuate it. You won't know from Facebook about my not-so-great days, but a cursory glance will show you my recent trip to Kansas City or that I was a guest speaker at UMM. The very minute something good happens, we are quick to post a photo. For most of us, only the wonderful stuff makes it to social media - and it would do us all good to remember that next time we see a picture of one of our friends on a white sandy beach drinking out of a coconut. 

It's not easy...
When I was at UMM for my aforementioned talk, I strolled on campus fully (and delusionally) expecting nothing to have changed. A lot of it hadn't, true, but the student population sure as shit had. They are all BABIES. Most of them were born in the mid-90s, and they all had smartphones. I didn't have a smartphone when I was in college, and neither did ANYONE I KNEW. I graduated seven years ago, but it might as well have been a lifetime. With the self-centeredness typical of millennials, I found it extraordinary that Morris could be there before me and remain after I was gone. To me, Morris existed only during my four years there - to hear stories from people who came to UMM before I did or graduated after I did is almost baffling. But how could UMM function without me? Easily, that's how. It seemed so odd that things I once claimed as mine - a certain spot in my oft-attended art history classroom, a section of the university newspaper - have since been adopted by others. LONG AGO adopted by others. And no one on campus (save for a few professors, who are awesome) knows your name any more. (I feel as though this paragraph has morphed from "it's not easy being old" to "it's not easy coming to the realization that you are irrelevant in a place where you once were at least moderately relevant." Sigh.)

It’s not easy…
I'll let you know when I get around to it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

on this day in 2005: excerpts from a journal, part II.

I have to tell you: I'm getting a big kick out of re-reading these old journals. Some are excruciatingly embarrassing, but that's the nature of the beast. I had also forgotten so many of these little details, and it is pretty delightful to spark my memory with something ridiculous that I had totally forgotten about.

A little background: this entry takes place during spring of my senior year, and my family had gone to Disney World with our neighbors. And... ACTION!

27 March 2005

On Friday the 25th, we got up early and caught our plane to Chicago. We had a creepy flight attendant named Armando, who sported slicked-back hair and a single rubber glove. In Chicago, we got on our plane to Orlando. I ended up sitting next to a crazy woman and her son. They were both very irritating, but the lady gave me some gum. On the plane, I listened to Newsboys' Shine: The Hits. Unfortunately, I enjoyed it; I hate it when Bob's right (for the longest time, he's been saying, "I know you'll like Newsboys"). I especially liked "Shine" and "Breakfast."

When we got above Orlando, we couldn't land because of an electrical storm. The pilot told us that we may have to go to Tampa and get fuel, but luckily, we could land. We got our rental cars, checked into our condos, and went to bed.

We got up early on the 26th and went to the Animal Kingdom. We went to a Lion King show (we waited in line for an hour, and I was the poker champion - eight out of twelve games won), and that was really cool.

After the show, it started to rain. Darrah, Mitch, Dad, and I went on a roller coaster, and we got absolutely soaked. It was like the State Fair all over again. (Editor's note: I had gone to the SD state fair with friends over Labor Day 2004, and we got rained on THE ENTIRE TIME.) All of us went on a different ride (for which we stood in line for over an hour), and then we went to the Epcot Center.

The Epcot Center rocked; seriously. We visited all those little countries. Mexico was first, then Norway. We went to the Norwegian bakery and got all sorts of confections. (Editor's note: yes, I really used the word "confections.") We then went into a little shop, where I bought a silver ring. There was a really good-looking guy in a Norwegian outfit, and I told Mom to tell him that she liked his socks. So she did! Except she mentioned that I liked them. I walked by him a couple of minutes later, and he said, "I like your socks, too." So sexy!

At the Chinese place, I bought an orange bird puppet for Meagan's birthday, a blue handbag for me, and a chicken for Mom's birthday. We visited Japan, Morocco, France, England, and Canada. By this time, it was about 830, and Mom and I went back to Norway to see if I could get a picture with the sexy guy and his socks. He wasn't there, but I took a picture with someone else.
We went back through a gift shop, and I found Bob some mouse ears. The cashier said I could get them embroidered for free at MGM studios. Then, Mom and I made it back in time for the fireworks, which were really amazing.

Before we came back to the condo, we went to Walmart for supplies of the food variety. The line to pay was an hour long, but we stood by some really nice (but odd) people from Cincinnati who let us share their cart. We didn't get to bed until nearly 1.

And today: Easter. We drove to Clearwater Beach, which was four hours away. Upon arriving, it was cold and windy, so I didn't swim. We were at the Gulf of Mexico, so I picked up some shells for my friends (I also got them airplane peanut and am working on other fun stuff). We didn't eat lunch until 5, and when we got back, I ate frozen grapes for supper.

Our condo is nice; it's got two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. I'm on the hide-a-bed, and it's fine. It is, however, located in Ghetto Florida. Everything is so trashy around here. On Thursday night, we all went to a little shop to get a few foodstuffs, and Taylor and I found personalized condoms... one of them even read "Grandpa"... yikes. One said "Mom," and Taylor said, "Why would you buy condoms for your mom?!"

We're going outlet-malling tomorrow; yay!

Current music: "Pay You Back with Interest" by the Hollies

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

the story of the coupon.

Let it be known that I am a saver of things. Toys from childhood, books that belonged to my grandma, every card or letter that anyone has ever sent to me... I save things.

Let it also be known that I don't save nearly as many things as I used to. As a child, I kept things with a tendency akin to hoarding. (Not that I was ever crushed by towers of old newspapers or found myself surrounded by rotting food.) The things I kept were my "collections." Among the stuffed animals and Barbie dolls were little plastic boxes (usually empty baby wipe containers) filled with seashell fragments, neat-looking rocks, colorful erasers, and even crayfish claws (and you can imagine the smell when you opened up THAT box).

It was my collection of paper artifacts, though, that have proved most interesting. I retained all the drawings that my brother and sister made for me, even though - at the time - I wasn't particularly fond of my brother and sister. My elementary school artwork is stored in paper boxes at my parents' house, as are some of my old papers and projects from high school.

Since I am a grown-ass adult with my own house, I have (slowly, slowly) been working on cleaning out some of the junk that I still have at my parents' house. Thankfully, they are quite patient with me - I haven't officially lived there for more than ten years, and yet, my old room looks pretty much the same as when I left it.

It's tough to clean out all that old stuff for myriad reasons. Allow me to lay them out for you so I seem like less of a deadbeat. 1.) I don't live that close, so when I come to my parents' house, I am usually there for a reason that does not include cleaning. And I sure as hell am not going to miss out on a day at Lake Poinsett in lieu of sorting out my old toys. 2.) My house in Luverne is tiny, which means I cannot house all of my old stuff. That in turn means that I need to get rid of TONS of things, which is time-consuming and has the potential to be emotionally draining. 3.) I suck at being an adult.

In spite of my roadblocks, I have spent a few days going through my old things - and I have discarded garbage bags full. Go me. But as I mentioned in the above paragraph, it takes FOREVER. I saved EVERYTHING, and of course, I have to look at each and every thing and reminisce. That's just how it goes.

During one of said cleaning sessions, I came across a veritable treasure: a small orange piece of paper that I had socked away for who knows how long. Written on this small orange piece of paper was a note from my brother.

When we were growing up, my siblings and I would often give each other coupons for things, as they were great gifts for children low on cash. I was a prolific pop-drinker back then, and Mitch undoubtedly gave me this coupon assuming that I'd use it up on huge bottles of Mountain Dew.

Mitch was wrong.

I wish there had been a date on this note, as I have no idea when he wrote it. I left for college at age 18, and Mitch was 12 then - so he could not have been any older than 12. If I had to guess, though, I would say that he was younger still. In any case, Mitch gave me this coupon, and I put it away and forgot about it for YEARS.

I rediscovered my little orange coupon several years ago. I showed it to my family, who could not believe that I had not only kept this coupon for so long, but somehow managed to find it again. When I dug up this coupon, Mitch was not yet 21 - I think he was 19 or 20. I made the decision then and there to hold off on this coupon for a couple more years... until Mitch turned 21.

You'll recall that the size limit on these drinks is 24 ounces. 24 OUNCES. This coupon was going to prove to be quite valuable.

Sure enough, I hung onto my precious coupon until Mitch turned 21. It was January 25, 2014, and I spent my first drink on Mitch’s and my very first time in a bar together – seems appropriate, right? We were in Wooden Legs in Brookings, and I had some sort of hard apple cider. The drink was less than thrilling, but the fact that my freshly-21-year-old brother was buying it for me was truly delightful.

Since that first cider, I have been carefully rationing my remaining drinks. The second drink I crossed off my coupon wasn’t until May 8, 2014. Mom, Mitch, and I had gone to Arizona to visit Darrah, and we were having lunch out at Joe’s Crab Shack. I cashed in on a peach honey smash (some kind of whiskey peachy minty concoction in a jar), and let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS: vacation drinks that someone else buys for you always are.

It took me nearly two years to choose my third drink, and I chose one very special occasion. Six of us Bjorklund cousins had miraculously lined up our schedules/lives and had met for a long weekend in Boston. I (the planner among us) had read up on Boston in my handy Lonely Planet book, and they suggested a bar in Charlestown called Pier 6. It was relatively unknown, so it wouldn’t be crowded, and it offered a view of the sun setting behind the Boston skyline – and it was RIGHT on the harbor. I was sold.

Our evening on the balcony of Pier 6 was indeed chilly, but we ordered our drinks and sipped them over good conversation and with one hell of a view. 

My drink was called the peach pit: homemade vodka, peach puree, mint, and tea. Despite the cold breeze coming off the harbor, my refreshing fruity drink made it feel like summer. (Sort of.)

I have two drinks left on my coupon, and I am going to use them wisely. It’s a goal of mine to make sure at least one of those drinks is actually 24 ounces (the maximum size as dictated by the coupon). Las Vegas, here I come?

Whatever happens with my last two drinks, it’s downright amazing that I’ve been able to use it as such. Who knew that a little lost-and-found orange scrap of paper could bring me so much joy? I guess good things really do come to those who wait… or accidentally hoard a coupon for a decade and then miraculously find it. Whichever.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

baseball stuff!

Like basically everyone ever, I look forward to summer with rabid anticipation. Winters in the Midwest drag on and ON, and the promise of summer is the only thing that keeps us going. All it takes is one day above zero degrees for us to ditch our winter coats and staunchly declare that spring is here.

It’s only early March, and the possibility of more blizzards is all too real. We’ve had snow in MAY before, for crying out loud. However, this first week or so of March has been downright glorious. Our snow has all but melted, and I have given up on wearing a coat altogether – and I’m weaning myself off socks. I was at HyVee the other day to pick up some food to grill, and I waited in line for FIFTEEN MINUTES at the grill case. Everyone had the exact same idea as me, it seemed. We Midwesterners start our summers as early as possible.

I love everything about summer – the lake time, the road trips, the beer… EVERYTHING. Summer makes me feel like a person again after a long winter of just existing. And today I want to talk about one of my new favorite summer pastimes.


It should be noted that my interest in organized sports is quite recent. (Or, organized sport, to be more accurate: baseball is the only thing I care about.) And maybe “interest” is too strong a word. I don’t play baseball, as my hand-eye coordination is a tad pitiful. I’m not dedicated enough to listen to baseball on the radio or watch it on TV or learn stats and the like. But I love watching baseball in a stadium.

South Dakota doesn’t have a baseball team, so most everyone in my home state roots for the Minnesota Twins. When I was younger, my family would make the occasional summer trip to see the Twins play in the Metrodome. I went once or twice, but was never that interested. I was also a grumpy teenager and not interested in much of anything, so there’s that. Even by the time I was done being a grumpy teenager (at age 17), when offered the chance to see a Minnesota Twins spring training game in Fort Myers, Florida, I chose to go shopping at the outlet mall instead.

I did, however, love baseball movies. Baseball movies are clearly the cream of the sports movie genre crop: A League of Their Own and The Sandlot come immediately to mind. Rookie of the Year wasn’t bad, and I have vague memories of Angels in the Outfield being an ok way to pass an afternoon. But those first two? A League of Their Own and The Sandlot? LIFE CHANGERS.

Movies alone weren’t enough to make me want to watch a baseball game. A regular old baseball game didn’t have the heart-stirring stories and life lessons that my favorite baseball movies did. So what was it that changed my mind about baseball games? I can tell you EXACTLY what it was. And by what, I mean who.

Joe Mauer.
 When I was a sophomore in college, I took an absolutely useless speech class. I was toying with the idea of becoming an English teacher, and my friend Sara was thinking about a major in speech communication. We both signed up for a 3000-level speech class during the spring semester, and we quickly realized how ridiculous it was. I had taken a harder speech class in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. I think we only gave two speeches during the  course of that class, and I have no memory of what they were supposed to be about. I do, however, remember that one girl did her speech on Joe Mauer. I don't recall anything about that speech except for one thing: Joe Mauer and I have the same birthday.

I know it's a tad childish, but you can't deny that you automatically like someone better if you find out that they have the same birthday as you. It's just a fact of life. I had a couple of pretty great birthday buddies - Dudley Moore, Tim Curry - but Joe Mauer? He was a hometown hero.

That is the one and only thing I gained from that speech class in 2007: Joe Mauer and I have the same birthday. And that was enough to pique my interest in the Minnesota Twins.

Still, it was quite a long while before I actually went to a baseball game. One needs money to do these things, after all, and I had none. I didn't go to a Twins game until 2010. They were in their new home at Target Field - and it was AMAZING. My dad, brother, and aunt came for a game while I was living in Minneapolis, and they invited me along.
I had to buy this Twins shirt ON THE WAY TO THE GAME. The first of a whole drawerful of Twins apparel.
It was an evening game in early spring, and I loved the fresh air and the palpable excitement emanating from the crowd. It was intoxicating, and I finally began to understand what the big deal was about baseball.

The first time I went to a Twins game of my own accord was... wait for it... my honeymoon. YES REALLY. Of all the people to go to a sporting event on her honeymoon, no one would've guessed that it would be me. While planning James's and my Winnipeg road trip honeymoon, I got a wild hair to swing home through Minneapolis and catch a Twins game. James - who cares even less about sporting events than I do - wasn't so sure. But he was easy to convince: all I had to do was ply him with ballpark hot dogs and beer, and he was on board.

We picked a day in early August, and the weather was downright glorious. Minnesota summers can get stiflingly hot and humid, but our wedding and the week or so following it hovered at a beautiful 75 degrees. James and I had purchased nosebleed seats, but no matter. I had my first ballpark beer, and let me tell you, it was the most delicious beer I'd ever had in my life.
On that day, I decided that Twins games were an essential part of my summers. Granted, living nearly four hours away from Target Field makes that more difficult to accomplish than I'd like,  but I still wanted it. Oh, how I wanted it!

2015 was a fabulous year for Twins games. In April, I traveled with my parents and James to Kansas City, where we met my sister and went to a Twins vs Royals game. But that's not all: we went with Dad's crop insurance underwriter WHOM HE'D NEVER MET BEFORE! She knew Dad was a Twins fan, and Dad knew she was a Royals fan. They'd sprinkle their crop insurance emails with comments about how either team was doing, and Dad decided that - should schedules align - we needed to go to a Twins v Royals game in Kansas City. So we did.
Kansas City was one of the most wonderful places on earth - the people were delightful, and the food was phenomenal. And so was the baseball! It was a close game, but the Twins lost. If you recall, though, the Royals ended up being the 2015 World Series champions, so it makes sense. It was there that we learned the rally cry for Mike Moustakas ("Moooooooooooooose!") and that people in Kansas City will feel absolutely terrible if you get barfed on. (Yes. That happened to us.) Barfing aside, we all loved Kansas City so much that we're going back for another Twins game this April. 2016 is your year, Twins!

James and I went to a wedding in Duluth in May, and we went to a Twins game with James's brothers the next day. Our seats were way WAY up there, but honestly, I don't think there's a bad spot in Target field. We were so far up there that we had a little cement ledge to put our drinks on. It worked out beautifully. 
At that game, the Twins gave out embroidered pillows! That was my first game with freebies, and those smushy blue pillows are all over our house.

The last Twins game I attended in summer 2015 was in July, and it somehow worked out that my parents, brother, sister, James, and I could ALL GO. A minor miracle, indeed. We had great seats, great weather, great everything. The Twins won – and they’ve won every home game at which I have been present. It must be me.
Bonus: we got a picture for the Christmas card.
 Now that I have a few Twins games under my belt, I’m thirsty for more. I still don’t know anything about baseball stats, nor can I name all of the players (but I know Brian Dozier now, and he’s important!). But I understand the fundamentals of baseball, and I understand what’s so great about it. And I want to experience that as much as possible.

Besides, it's on my bucket list to be circled by Bert. I can’t do that without being physically present at a Twins game, so there’s another reason for you.

Take me out to the ball game.

Friday, February 26, 2016

five for Friday: five photos from UMM freshman year.

I don't know what's gotten into me, but lately, I've been awfully nostalgic for college. Maybe it's this time of year: February is notoriously dreary, and I find that the best way to get through the blah factor is to get out and do stuff. Even though James and I live way the hell out in Luverne, we have friends and family that brave the drive to see us - and we, in turn, brave the drive in the opposite direction to see them. And that's awesome.


Adult life means you can't hang out with your friends all day, every day. College meant exactly that - your friends were your roommates, your classmates, and your coworkers - sometimes all three at once. It's a lot easier to muddle through a long winter when you are up to your eyeballs in great people with whom to commiserate. All day. Every day. Winters in college just didn't seem as long as they do now. (I'd venture a guess that my 40-minute-one-way commute is mostly to blame for that.)

I am also nostalgic for college at this particular moment because adult life is WEIRD. In college, my number one stress was always homework and exams. What am I most stressed out about at this particular moment in my life? TAXES. LIKE A BORING ADULT. In college, freaking EVERYTHING was exciting - and a lot of it was stupid shit that was totally awesome but nothing you'd ever do now. My friends and I went on midnight bike rides to the mysterious west side of town. We hosted theme parties that involved the attendees decorating shirts in honor of Heath Ledger. We wrote newspaper articles about Crocs. We adopted dogs on a whim. (His name is Buddy, and he's the best.)

I don't do anything that ridiculous any more. My life is unquestionably full of good stuff, but my excitement bar has been far lowered. The other day, I was super psyched because the picture frames I ordered came in the mail. Read that last sentence again and just try to tell me that I'm not a boring adult.

As someone who is closing in on 30, I realize that it's not necessarily a bad thing that I do adult things like order picture frames online and wait anxiously for them to arrive. There comes a time when one must outgrow college behaviors: mostly, acting like the complete lunatic. And let's be honest: we are all lunatics, but after college, you're just supposed to hide it better.

I really shouldn't compare college life and adult life: it's apples and oranges for sure. But college was awesome: I had the best time, and I met the greatest people there (including my husband). UMM was straight-up amazing.

So here's what's happening after that rambling introduction. We've established that I love to take pictures, and I have a shit ton from college. I have chosen my five favorite photos from my freshman year, and I'm going to do the same for my sophomore, junior, and senior years. (I'm already concerned about how to narrow down the pictures from senior year... that was the BEST.) 

Travel back with me, then, if you will, to those glorious by-gone days... way back in 2005, when no one had a smart phone and my freshman friends and I excitedly signed up for accounts on this new thing for college kids called Facebook.

This, friends, is where it all began. This was move-in day: August 2005. My entire family brought me to Morris - including my siblings, who TOOK A DAY OFF FROM SCHOOL DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL. I was beyond excited, but just as beyond terrified. This picture was taken after we had hauled in all my college belongings, set up my loft bed, and unpacked. (If you look closely, you can see my red retainer case on the little stand by the bed.) My family was mere minutes away from heading home, and they all appear more-or-less gleeful to leave me in a different state. I also seem to be fairly confident, but years later, my mom informed me that as they left me in my dorm room, I looked "like a deer in headlights." Thankfully, I got over the deer in headlights thing.

As you well know, college band was a big part of my UMM life. From day one, I was involved in concert band, jazz band, or both. I was not a music major (fun fact: at the time, I was a psychology major. like every freshman ever.), but I was welcome to play my clarinet to my little heart's desire. It was because of band that I met the most wonderful people - nearly all of my UMM friends were in the bands, and one of them was even the guy I married. My family was pretty pumped that I had joined the band, and they came nearly every concert band and jazz band concert. This picture is from my first concert. It was October, and my family trekked to Morris for the homecoming concert. I was so excited: not only did I get to play with this fantastic ensemble, but my family would be there to hear me! I was (and still am) moved that they would give up their Sunday and make the five-hour-round-trip journey to hear me perform in a long concert - and by "hear" I mean "see me there holding my clarinet and assume that I was playing as it was basically impossible to pick my sound out from the din." I had also been in school for nearly two months and had found my footing, so I was thrilled to be able to introduce my family to my new band friends. Freshman year was a time of miracle and wonder, and that is the truth.

Every time I look at this picture, I have to smile. This is the very first picture of James and me together. It would be nearly two years before we started dating, but by this point (December 2005), we had been great friends for months. James was the very first UMM friend I made - it was move-in day, and we were both signing up for concert band. We became fast friends, and I loved hanging out with him. James was not like any guy I had ever met before - there was just something about him that I really liked. I could count on him to make me laugh or to lend an ear when I'd had a tough day. I absolutely love this picture - first of all, look at how YOUNG we are! And our so-very-middle-2000s clothes! But more importantly, look at how happy we are just to be sitting on a shitty couch next to each other. Of course, neither of us had any idea that we were sitting next to the person we would eventually marry. But goshdarnit, we sure are cute.

James and I bonded over many things: bad jokes, late-night chats, a love of Mountain Dew... but the thing that brought us closest together was swing dancing. UMM had a Swing Club that one could attend every Thursday night, and it was there that we learned how to swing dance. But wait - let me clarify. That is where JAMES learned to swing dance with (gasp!) another girl, and he would then come to my dorm room and teach me what he had learned. (Sophomore year, James ditched his swing partner and took me on instead.) I never knew how to dance - probably because the only dances I attended were full of high schoolers who were either grinding up on each other or doing the middle-school slow dance. But James taught me how to swing dance, and that has opened up so many doors for me. I found out that I actually really loved to dance, and James and I would swing dance at the thrice-yearly UMM jazz dances. As we got older, we would swing dance at other people's weddings, and then at our own. And now, we teach swing dancing classes at the library. And it all began at UMM! This picture was taken the night we performed as swing dancers in this bizarre UMM Jazz/Morris Community Theatre holiday show. A weird experience, yes, but we sure had a good time practicing in the parking lot.

Remember the UMM jazz dances? They were held in December, February, and April. The December dance was a holiday dance (obviously), and the February dance was Valentine themed (obviously), and the April dance was... uhh... whatever. There was a tropical theme once, and this picture was from one of two toga-themed dances. I had been a failure and had not gotten a toga, and God only knows what I'm wearing instead. (WHY SO SHINY??) But the reason I love this picture is not because of the togas (or lack thereof). The person in the picture with me is my dear friend Sara, who would become my partner in UMM crime for the next three years. She was integral in getting James and me together, and she encouraged me through long nights of English and art history paper writing. Sara and I moved into a house our junior year and stayed there through graduation, and I cannot WAIT to show you those pictures in the next installments.


The five freshman year photos are pretty heavy on a "new beginnings" theme. Move-in day, my first concert, my first picture with James, James and I learning how to swing dance, and my first picture with Sara. SO MANY NEW THINGS, and they all have turned out wonderfully. Stay tuned for part II: sophomore year! (Hopefully, the sophomore year and on pictures won't be quite so grainy, as I acquire a digital camera at some point during that year. No promises, though.)