Monday, May 23, 2016

a tale of two kayaks.

Have you ever been kayaking? It's my new favorite thing.

Well, new as of last summer, anyway.

One lovely spring day in Minneapolis, James and I rented kayaks. It was something we'd always meant to do while living in Minneapolis, but never got around to it (like so many things). We finally got our chance and took a two-person kayak out on Lake Calhoun. And... it was awesome. Having only ever been canoeing before, we estimated that kayaking would be similar - not too speedy, a little awkward and hard to steer, but a Minnesota necessity.

Turns out that kayaking is ten billion times easier than canoeing - even when you're in a two-person kayak. It took James and I a bit of time to hit our paddling stride, and even then, we ended up soaked. But we could cruise through the water and actually make turns, unlike any canoeing experience we'd ever had.

We tried kayaking one more time at a little man-made lake in Sioux Falls. The kayaking club was having an event in which you could test out their kayaks. Once again, we went for the two-person kayak, having not yet realized that one-person kayaks are absolutely the way to go. And once again, we got soaked. But we were sold on kayaks.
Dorky life jackets and all.
James and I bought our own kayaks on kind of a whim. We were strolling through Dick's Sporting Goods one afternoon in June and noticed that kayaks weren't nearly as expensive as we assumed they would be. And they were on sale! We did some mathing and realized that - thanks to Christmas money from my grandma - we could indeed afford two purchase two kayaks and two paddles. So... we did!

Unfortunately, there was only one of the kayaks we wanted left in the store, so we had to have one sent in from a different store... which took A MONTH. But we were able to take home one bright yellow kayak: James's kayak. We hauled that beautiful kayak to Lake Poinsett by basically tying it to the roof of  my car. It was absolutely terrifying.

The kayak took its maiden voyage in Lake Poinsett with James at the helm, and it was freaking glorious. A single-person kayak allows you to slice through the water like a fish, and it was downright amazing how fast you can travel along the shoreline of Lake Poinsett. Our friends and family all took the kayak out, and before we knew it, our friends (at whose lake cabin we were temporarily storing our kayak) purchased a kayak of their own.
That's my mom in the kayak!
When my kayak - a beautiful cobalt blue - finally arrived, James went to pick it up (and managed to put the first dent in his brand-new car while doing so). By this time, we had acquired a kayak rack, which was really not much better than our tied-with-bungee-cords-and-rope method. The rack wasn't bent the way it should've been, and the kayak holders didn't stay on the way they should've. But we weren't about to pay upwards of $300 (more than we paid for BOTH kayaks) to get a rack specially made for James's car (which is what all the kayak blogs - yes, there are kayak blogs, and yes, we read them - said we NEEDED). We thought we'd be fine.

Ha ha.

One of the great misfortunes (and there are many) of living in Luverne is that we live in the ONLY COUNTY in Minnesota without any natural lakes. Land of ten thousand freaking lakes, and we don't even have one. There was a man-made lake in Blue Mounds State Park until two years ago, when the whole place flooded. Luverne does have a small man-made pond on the edge of town: Creamery Pond. 
It's no Lake Poinsett, but it is a good kayaking place in a pinch. James and I also went kayaking in this slough-like body of water on highway 75, but it smelled like death, and we were pretty sure the toxic-looking pond scum would eat through our kayaks.

No pond scum here.
In August, James and I embarked on a week-long road trip to Colorado... and we brought our kayaks. Because we are idiots. We still had our questionable kayak rack, but we thought it would be fine.

We were totally wrong. And of course we were - this would be a terribly boring story if we had been right.

We took off during late Friday afternoon after I got off work, fully intending to make it to Rapid City that same night. Almost as soon as we got onto the interstate, the kayaks began to wiggle and sway - unsettling, to be sure. James pulled over on the side of the road more times than I could count, and each time, I was sure that he was going to be smushed by a passing semi truck. When it began to get dark, we decided to call it quits. Between the multiple stops and the low speeds, we had been on the road for about five hours and had only made it to Chamberlain - less than halfway to Rapid City. Bahh.

The next morning, James tied down the kayaks extra tight, and we ventured out once more. But guess what? It was super windy. And of course it was, because South Dakota is ALWAYS windy. It was on the interstate shortly after one of the kayaks had come almost completely loose and began sliding sideways that we seriously considered turning around and dumping the kayaks at home.

But we didn't - we soldiered on, having had some success bending the kayak rack in Rapid City (with tools borrowed from the nice guy working at the Dinosaur Park gift shop). We arrived at our first destination - Fort Collins - a full half-day after we planned.

After all that pain and suffering to get them there. James and I would be damned if we didn't use those kayaks. We decided to kayak in Clear Creek in Golden - it was a beautiful day, and there were tons of people in tubes and little bitty river kayaks out and about.
So naive!
What we didn't consider is that our kayaks are not really meant for rivers - they're touring kayaks - and that we are not skilled river kayakers. And the water is super fast.
Check out the rushing water around my ankles. That should
give you some idea of how fast the water was moving.
So what happened? James and I set off on our Clear Creek adventure, and the current quickly took us. The water was fairly shallow, so we had to do our best not to get caught on the rocks. We successfully navigated through some small rapids, which was really quite awesome – until James got stuck in some rocks. I was up ahead, and I heard him yell what I thought was “Wait for me!” Turns out he, in fact, yelled “DON’T wait for me,” but I wouldn’t find that out until it was too late.

I tried to stop myself in the rushing water, but my efforts were quickly thwarted. The water was stronger than I was, and I was almost immediately turned sideways while heading for another set of rapids. And then? The kayak flipped over. Of course it did. I ALMOST lost the kayak completely, but I managed to hook my foot in it before it rushed down the creek. The current was powerful and dragged me along the bottom for a minute or so until I was able to drag myself and the kayak to the bank. I was fine, but SOAKED. James made it over to me and hauled the kayak to shore.
Still alive!
So river kayaking? Maybe not.

James and I were planning on spending the last full day of our trip driving through Rocky Mountain National Park and kayaking along the way. We had read that Lake Granby on our way into the park was a perfect kayak spot. And it sure looked like it as we drove in – with the mountains and the clear water, it looked like we were in the damn Alps. 
But guess what happened by the time we arrived at the launch site? Yes, it was storming. Lightning and all. James and I are not historically wise when it comes to, well, life, but we did decide that it probably wasn’t the best idea to go kayaking in a lightning storm. We did continue through the park, though – and even without kayaking, we loved every single majestic bit. And we totally saw a moose.
On our way home, we stayed overnight in Rapid City and made one last effort to use these dumb kayaks that we’d hauled for a billion miles. We only had an hour or so in the morning before we had to leave, so we brought them to Canyon Lake. It was BEAUTIFUL. There was no one there, and the weather was gorgeous. We had a nice, leisurely kayak trip around the lake, which was exactly what we needed.

We managed to get a couple more kayaking adventures in before the end of the season. We took the kayaks to Palisades State Park and paddled through Split Rock Creek – a short trip, considering we kept getting trapped in rock patches. It was so beautiful, though – looking up at the huge pink quartzite formations. 
(According to Wikipedia, the rock formations are 1.2 billion years old. There’s your amazing fact for the day.)

James and I also enjoyed one unseasonably warm day at the very end of September, so we put on our adventure hats and decided to kayak the Rock River – Luverne’s very own. 
James had scouted the river earlier in the week, so he had our route all planned out. It was absolutely glorious. We packed beer and Cheetos and picnicked on a branch in the middle of the river. 
We paused to explore the banks and enjoy these last few drops of beautiful weather before the onset of fall. Sounds like perfection, am I right?

Well, almost.

The Rock River is 144 miles long (again, thank you Wikipedia), so it cuts through all sorts of land – including pastures. James and I almost got clotheslined not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR TIMES by electric fences. So yeah, that was absolutely terrifying. Oh, and did I mention that the wind was blowing about a billion miles an hour... and it was blowing in the opposite direction of the current? Electric fences and feats of magnificent paddling aside, though, it was a damn good river trip.

We are chomping at the bit to take our kayaks out again. We missed out on a lot of good kayaking last summer because we didn’t have both of them until July, but we’re reading and raring now. And… WE HAVE A PICKUP THIS YEAR. A lot of what stopped us from taking our kayaks out was the horrorshow of getting them secured to a car roof. It took a good half-hour at the beginning and the end, so we needed plenty of time if we were going to go kayaking anywhere. Now? We’ll just throw them in the pickup and go. Just THINK of the possibilities!

Summer 2016 will be the summer of the kayaks. I am determined to make it so. And I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

top ten Tuesday: ten books from Ellsworth story time.

It’s a known fact that I am a lover of books. (You can’t really work in a library and NOT love books, after all.)

Not only am I fortunate enough to work around books all day, I am also fortunate enough to have scored the best volunteer job ever: as a volunteer librarian in the Ellsworth elementary school library.
Seriously, it’s the best. I make displays, alphabetize and arrange books, and (my favorite) read to classes.

Tomorrow is my last story time for the 2015-2016 school year. Since I started doing these story times in fall 2014, I have found some truly amazing picture books. Since I began doing story time, I have spent an awful lot of time sifting through picture book after picture book in order to find just the right ones. (I’m not going to waste the kids’ time on something boring, after all.) And I NEVER would’ve done this had I not started volunteering. As a childless individual who spends most of her work day dealing with books for adults, picture books wouldn’t have crossed my radar without the Ellsworth kids.

And it turns out that some of the picture books I found are about a million times funnier than the adult books I’ve read lately. (On the whole, I stick to funny books for story time. I tend to measure my success by the volume of laughter.)

I present to you, after two years of Ellsworth story-timing, my top ten picture books. All of these are books that I had not, in fact, read before I stumbled across them for story time.

I Don’t Like Koala
Sean Ferrell
I Don't Like Koala is about a little boy who has a stuffed koala that (you guessed it) he doesn’t like. 
The illustrations in this book are hilarious – there’s one in particular where the little boy tries to lose Koala in the woods, but Koala always ends up back in his bed… “closer than close.” 
That is EXACTLY how I feel when James wants hugs and I don’t, or when our cat sleeps on our faces. Closer than close.

Zombie in Love
Kelly DiPucchio
I came across Zombie in Love when I was looking for a Halloween book that was neither too scary nor too corny. Kids love zombies (right?), and the Ellsworth kids loved this book. It’s about a zombie named Mortimer who is looking for love, but he can’t figure out why he scares off all the ladies. 
Poor guy.

The Story of Ferdinand
Munro Leaf
In September, I talk to the kids about Banned Books week, and I read them a book that has been banned at one time or another. I love the banned books lesson, because the kids are always mortified at the thought of anyone trying to keep books away from them. I had not actually read The Story of Ferdinand before last year’s banned books lesson, and I thought it was just lovely. It’s the story of Ferdinand the bull – he would rather smell flowers than bullfight. The book is from 1936, and it was banned in several countries (including Spain) because it was seen as promoting pacifism. The illustrations are in simple black and white, and it truly is a beautiful book.

Jenny Offill
Everyone loves sloths – don’t ask me why, but they do. Sparky! is a story about a girl who wants a pet, but the only pet her mother will let her have is a sloth named Sparky. She then tries to impress her friends with all the tricks Sparky can (supposedly) do, and I bet you can guess how well that goes.

The Day the Crayons Quit
Drew Daywalt
This book was HUGE with the elementary-agers these last couple of years. It’s written in the form of letters from crayons to their kid, and they all have complaints. Red feels overworked, yellow and orange can’t agree which is the color of the sun, black is bored with just being used for outlines, and so on. It’s kind of totally hilarious.

Interrupting Chicken
David Ezra Stein
Interrupting Chicken was part of my lesson on Caldecott medal books – titles that have been recognized as outstanding picture books. Interrupting Chicken is one such book, and it’s about a little chicken who keeps interrupting the bedtime stories her father is reading to her. 
I read this book too all the grades, but the kindergarten and first graders especially loved it. You should’ve heard them laugh.

Meet the Dullards
Sara Pennypacker
Whenever I’m getting ready for story time, I inevitably wind up on the couch with a huge stack of picture books beside me. I read each one, looking for the one that strikes my fancy. When I first read Meet the Dullards, I could not stop laughing. James came to see what on earth was going on, so I read him the book – and HE couldn’t stop laughing. It’s about parents who want to keep their children as dull as possible (no playing, no reading, no color, no nothing). 
The line in the book that had me laughing so hard came from a scene in which the Dullards meet their new neighbor. She says something excitedly, and they respond with, “Please do not use explanation points in front of our children.” HILARIOUS.

Bob Hartman
Grumblebunny is about a super-grumpy bunny who is spending the day with his three syrupy-sweet cousins when they are caught by a wolf. The wolf intends to make them into a stew, and the three sweet bunnies are delighted to be making a new friend and sitting in the nice warm water. Grumblebunny has to use his bad attitude to save the day. As someone who has been known to exhibit Grumblebunny-like tendencies from time to time, it’s kind of refreshing to read a book in which the cranky character is the hero!

Kelly DiPucchio
Yes, Kelly DiPucchio shows up twice on my list. Gaston is about a little bulldog who lives with a family of poodles. It turns out that he was accidentally switched at birth – his family runs into a family of bulldogs with one small poodle sister. They try to switch back, and it doesn’t go well. 
Bonus points for cute pictures of small dogs.

The Princess and the Pony
Kate Beaton
When I announced the title of this book to the kindergartners and first graders, all of the boys in the class were audibly disappointed. They did NOT want to hear about princesses and ponies. They came around after the first page or so. The book is about a princess who desperately wants to be a warrior like everyone else, so she asks for a war horse for her birthday… but receives this:

She does her best to make the pony into a fighter, but things don’t go that well. The princess takes the pony into battle anyway, and the pony totally saves the day. But HOW does a roly-poly pony save the day? You’ll have to read the book and find out.


There we have it: my ten favorite books from the last two years of story times. Honestly, I’m a little worried for story time next year: how am I going to beat this delightful crop of books? Stay tuned… here’s hoping I’ll have another great list for you next May.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

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

12 May 2005

Tuesday the 10th was my last official day of high school... ever. I ran into Bob on the way in, and he was SOAKED. (It was raining.)

In choir, Mrs Gilbert had the senior girls rehearse their song, and Bob stood behind me for a while. "I'm here to make sure you're singing." he said. "Is she singing?" he asked Rachel and Tiff.

During study time, I checked out of my locker. Mrs Parry wouldn't sign the sheet until I climbed inside for her. 

We ate pizza and watched Full House in government, and Mr Sampson gave a speech about how we'll all go far. I'll miss Sampsonite. Then, we joined the other class for strawberry cheesecake, and Mrs VanBockern handed out photo albums she'd made for all of us. 

We took a bunch of pictures in bio. After all, it was our last advanced biology class... and I will miss it.

We got cake in English, and we made posters in calc. Amber and I also spent some time running through the hallways: we're seniors, so we can.

Mom, Dad, and I went in for awards night, and I sat between Tiff and Bob. I got medals for psych and soc, which Bob wore around his neck. I got best new actress for the school play, and Bob clapped like a seal for me. During the oral interp awards, Mrs Gross called me "Borklund" three times... which caused Bob to yell "go Borky!" for each subsequent award I received. 

My parents and I ate at Schmidty's afterward, and Dad told me I was "a cut above the rest." Dad rocks.

Mr Lund bought us breakfast at the City Cafe on Wednesday the 11th. Meagan and I got there at 745, and our food didn't come until 9 (we were supposed to be back at school by 830). When we finally got back, we had graduation practice, and then decorating. 

I ran to the Dairy Mart with Meagan to pick up some food, and when we got back, we watched the senior slideshow. Then, Meagan, Tiff, and I went to the band room to get our instruments. We talked to Mr Groon for a bit, and he said, "I'll miss you guys!" We talked about how there's going to be a shortage of band geeks next year, and he said, "Ahh, Darrah and Mitch can follow in your footsteps." And when we left, he saluted us.

I went home and opened my mail from Metabank. Looking at my account statement, I noticed that they'd taken out $15 for checks. First of all, they never told me they were going to do that. Second, I only had $10 in my account... before I knew that money had been taken out. Therefore, I was overdrawn. I quick called the bank, and it turns out the checks from Saturday hadn't come yet. So I was in time... I transferred money from Dad's account to mine. My ass was saved.

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.