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Three Strikes

The housing and rental markets have gotten really tight in Minneapolis. Not much is available and what is for sale or for rent is more expensive than ever. So I recently renewed our lease for another two years. The duplex I’ve been renting for the past four years has been relatively comfortable for my son and I, except for when it’s not. Like now. For the third summer in a row there has been a water damage event where my bedroom carpet has gotten soaked. The carpet has never been replaced and this time it’s much worse than the others. My duplex neighbors’ hot water heater was leaking FOR DAYS. The property management company confirmed this last Friday but allowed it to leak all weekend long. When they finally replaced it Monday my bedroom had already morphed into the mouth of an Exogorth (giant Star Wars space slug). I’ve been sleeping on a couch for days now. To make matters worse, there’s another leak in my downstairs bathroom ceiling, which maintenance has started pulling apart. And the stench of mold in our lower level is overpowering. I keep asking about mold remediation but I’m being blown off. When I’m not home I’m afraid I smell of mold. It may be time to file a complaint with the city but I’ve never gone that route. I don’t relish this but something needs to be done. This is a health hazard. We weren’t planning to leave town for the long holiday weekend but I’m tempted to now, considering the musty state of our home.

Life has been a mixed bag, as usual. There have been long walks while listening to podcasts, live comedy shows, happy hours, cosplaying (one of my son’s favorite things) and backyard BBQs. I am trying to accentuate the positive. So how about Five Good Things:

  • Last weekend was a particularly busy one. I spent much of Saturday freezing my ass off trying to sell my wares (unsuccessfully) at a booth at Art-A-Whirl but it gave me time to go into problem-solving mode and come up with possible solutions. It was a satisfying exercise.
  • My son has five days left of high school. Ever. That is surreal.
  • Our friends’ band, Rabbit Holes, are almost famous. Their band appeared in the movie The House of Tomorrow and a group of us are going to see it tomorrow night. Been looking forward to that for a while.
  • This growing season our office building will be a drop off site for a Community Supported Agriculture program. I am grateful that one of my colleagues did the legwork to pull this together for us. It has been too long since I’ve been part of a CSA, and this is a great organization: “Open Arms of Minnesota is a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities.”
  • We’re probably taking my Dad to see Solo: A Star Wars Story this weekend. And this is a fun interview with the new Chewbacca actor. And we’ve just learned that my son’s uncle will be working on visual effects for Star Wars Episode IX. Star Wars is an intergenerational family affair for us.
Nicole at the Minneapolis Passport Program launch party
Tiptoeing through the tulips

Accessibility = Inclusion

At this time last year I was in Denmark. I was there with work for several wonderful days before taking the train to Berlin (a train that loaded on to a giant ferry to cross the Baltic Sea before popping back out onto train tracks), then I flew to Edinburgh and took a train to Glasgow before returning home. Every other year my employer pulls together a Global Meetup, for all branches of the company, and plans it to coincide with Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Yesterday we stayed local but I was able to join my colleagues, including Keith Bundy, as he taught a class of aspiring web developers about assistive technologies and why web accessibility matters and how they should bring those ideas with them into their future careers. I like to emphasize that accessibility isn’t about disabilities, it’s about inclusion. Ensuring that everyone is able to access the same information and services online. Oh and our event even made the nightly news.

Five More Good Things for GAAD:

  • Mashable posted a decent roundup. What you need to know about Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
  • Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with disabilities
  • I just learned about Able Gamers: We give people with disabilities custom gaming setups including modified controllers and special assistive technology, like devices that let you play with your eyes, so they can have fun with their friends and family. We’re using the power of video games to bring people together, improving quality of life with recreation and rehabilitation.
  • Last night I visited my former employer, Clockwork, for their GAAD event co-hosted by WeCo. They had a great panel for people who use, design, build, or sell technology and a Device Expo afterward.
  • I’d like to include this in a non-cheesy way, but I appreciate these quotes about accessibility.

A few photos below from GAAD 2018, and the full album can be found here.

Keith Bundy being interviewed by local reporter for GAAD 2018
Working with students on GAAD 2018
Interviewing students for GAAD 2018

Hitting the Homestretch

Hard to believe my son’s senior year is coming to a close so soon. He is reaching one of those endings that will be a big beginning. Adulthood. Technically he reached the age of majority last Fall, when he turned 18. But the boy has got a lot to learn. This afternoon we met with staff who will help him over next school year. He’s eligible to attend a fantastic transition program until he’s 21, to work on college and life prep, before moving on to community college. This year of prep will help him better take advantage of the free freshman year of college he qualifies for, when he’s ready for it. I am so thankful to have these supports in our school district.

Five Good Things for Tuesday:

Another highlight of the day? Finding something precious that I had misplaced, months later. It was one of the dreams my wonderfully weird Dad writes down for me. So I’ve started transcribing them again. This latest one features a surprise guest and weaponry. You can really tell we’re related.


Galaxy of Women

Growing up I was terrified of women. So much so that I didn’t want to become one. My role models were lousy. The women in my immediate family belittled one another, ganged up on each other, tore each other apart. They taught me to be afraid of everything and to trust no one. I walked on eggshells around them. They only pulled together to viciously judge others before turning on each other, again and again and again. They were cruel and petty and manipulative and lacked any shred of empathy. I was relieved to be labeled a tomboy, especially since my brother’s name was Tom and I was mainly dressed in his hand-me-down clothes (that made extra sense to my young brain). This was the 70s and 80s, long before the rise of nerd culture. Then it was less accepted for an androgynous little girl to be obsessed with fandom that fell into the more stereotypically male-dominated camp. Star Wars, Legos, robots, Evel Knievel, sci-fi, space opera, fantasy, comics, Muppets, Weird Al, Dr. Demento, wrestling and video games were my jam. And I preferred to have my nose in a book than to play or watch sports. Nothing has changed.

Growing up my brother and father were more consistent. Consistently reserved but more rational, calmer, easier to be around. I wasn’t on high alert all the time with them. All of these factors caused me to internalize misogyny more than most probably, because the women around me were so toxic and I wanted nothing to do with that. My attempted relationships with other young women were doomed to fail or at least feel strained. I projected my misinformation and insecurities on to our interactions and misinterpreted their intentions. Likewise I trusted young men too easily which led to confusing and unpleasant situations.

It took a lot of time, distance, and effort. The punk rock/hardcore scene was my oasis but often only reinforced misogyny, unfortunately. In the 90s the riot grrrl movement helped. Figuring out what feminism means to me has been a process but eventually I grew to appreciate and trust other women. And I love being a woman, though I identify as somewhat gender queer. All of this is on my mind as it is Mother’s Day, again, and I have a complicated relationship with motherhood. I’ve been estranged from the woman who gave birth to me for years, by necessity, and in therapy largely because of her. My own motherhood has brought me incredible joy and extreme sadness. My living son has been a delight. My efforts to give him a sibling ended in horror-show pregnancies. And raising him mostly on my own has been a struggle financially more than anything else. A few examples:

Moms, Beware: The Gender Pay Gap Hits You Hardest
Is This How You Treat Mom? Mothers Earn 28.4% Less Than Fathers in the United States - Nearly three-quarters of American households with children include a working mother, and one-fifth are headed by a single mother.
Working dads make more money than working moms in every state

How about Five Good Things for Mother’s Day?

The Fallen

Chasing the Clouds Away

Twenty nine years is a long time. But these particular memories are incredibly vivid and visceral. I feel them, stored in my body. On this day - May 9th - in 1989 my brother Tom died. 1986 It has been a dozen years since I wrote this piece about him. It all still holds true but there’s an added dimension. My son is 18 and has now been alive longer than my brother ever lived. Tom was terminally ill with leukemia his senior year and died just before he would have graduated from high school. He missed out on the excitement surrounding that, along with so many other milestones. This has been on my mind even more since my own teenager attended his senior prom last weekend. And my amazing son will walk in his graduation ceremony in just a few weeks. We’re planning a graduation party featuring many of his favorite foods, activities and people. I can’t help thinking about my brother and wishing he could have lived to experience such milestones himself. I always wish he could be here, to have grown up with me and watch my son grow up. The two of them would have gotten along so well. I daydream about an alternate world where he survived and regularly enjoys brunch with us, and comic con, and going to movies, and sharing cat videos, and embarrassing each other on social media the way only siblings can, and traveling together and just hanging out at each other’s houses, spending time together. If only.

Incidentally this post title was inspired by my son. When he came home from prom I asked about his favorite moments in the evening. After dinner he and his date and their friends went to Gold Medal Park to take more photos, along with dozens (possibly hundreds) of other prom-goers that night. At the dance itself there was a red carpet, for more photos. The prom was Hollywood-themed after all. And my boy did dance. He admits to actually dancing at the last several school events he has attended, which pleases me. He is so much less self-conscious than many of the teens I grew up with. But the thing that amused/surprised me was when he asked “do you know the song September by Earth, Wind and Fire?” Yes, my child, yes I do. It’s actually slightly older than I am having been released in 1971. But my brother had been born just before that, in 1970. And it seems like it was always on the radio when we were growing up.

Prom group shot

Full of Splendor

Parenting is a strange business. Since day one my heart has regularly felt full to bursting. Sometimes more than others. This week it’s been about to leap out of my chest. Thursday we had another transition-to-adulthood IEP meeting at the school. Multiple teachers emphasized how well liked my kid is by all students, which led to him being voted Homecoming King last Fall. He’s equally friendly to all students and staff. He’s not clique-ish or judgmental. He doesn’t care if someone is seen as cool or not. His Health teacher said she randomly partners kids for projects and my kid is always happy to work with whoever he gets paired with, while some students roll their eyes and groan when they get paired with someone they think is lame. That said, my son is also too trusting and concerns were raised about him potentially being vulnerable/taken advantage of by manipulative jerks. He’s come such a long way since he was a little man that I opted not to apply for legal guardianship after age 18, but I realize we have a lot more to do to support and safeguard him and work on his self-advocacy skills.

In less serious but also important news, tonight the lad is attending his senior prom with a classmate. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve done a lot of prep. Purchasing a nice suit and having it tailored, buying a new pair of Vans, a dress shirt, undershirt, and dress socks and he’s had a haircut and beard trim. I haven’t met his date yet but she had better let me take plenty of photos!

Five Good Things for Saturday:

High school graduation is just weeks’ away. And I’m getting nickel and dimed to death by the school. Suddenly there’s a $35 graduation fee, on top of the senior party fee and the exorbitantly priced prom tickets. Anyhow, I’d had this on my calendar for ages, to figure out a graduation party plan. Then suddenly it was May. I realized I’d rather not host it at our place and managed to get one of the last pavilions at Minnehaha Park on a weekend in June. Phew. Now to figure out the catering.


Caught in My Eye

Life is better in my 40s than it was in my 30s. My 30s were far better than my 20s. And my childhood-to-teen years were pure trauma and terror. But there are aspects of adulthood that are more difficult than in my youth. Particularly fitness and health. I take relatively good care of myself but I’ve put on weight over the last ten years or so that I just can’t shed. And I’ve tried plenty of methods. I even bought a book called Always Hungry that I still haven’t read. I considered taking another crack at the Whole30 for the month of May, just to curb some bad habits. Then I went down the rabbit hole, reading about the combo of carb cycling and High Intensity Interval Training. Considered going that route and then I read this rebuttal that appeared in my inbox, along with this piece about An Unexpectedly Awesome Side Effect of Not Drinking. But I came to the same realization as before. Whatever I do, it needs to be sustainable. I’ll probably stick with what I’ve already been doing. Nutritious meal prep on the weekends to get me through the week, daily long walks, drinking less and less often on week nights and working out at home (more regularly). At this point it’s going to be about maintaining rather than transforming. I’ll have to make my peace with that.

Five Good Things for this Wednesday:

Yesterday I went for my lunch walk, as I do every day. But this time I encountered an ENORMOUS snapping turtle, sunning itself in the middle of a busy street outside of my office building. A crowd gathered and eventually I moved on. But some brave someone either moved the prehistoric looking beastie or it moved itself. On my way back to work I spotted it safely on the other side of a fence in the woods, not far from a creek. I hope she’s all right (I’ve decided to call her Agnes). Today’s lunch walk provided a different, less surprising surprise. The trees have finally all started budding, seemingly overnight. My seasonal allergies make me physically uncomfortable but I do love when everything turns lush and green.


The Clouds Keep Moving

My social anxiety ebbs and flows. Yesterday it was at high tide. Triggered, in part, because I overbooked myself for the evening. I am an extroverted introvert. Sometimes it takes an awful out of me just to leave the house. Once out I usually do all right. Last night I missed the first event I wanted to attend but it was just too intimate a setting, with complete strangers (a writing workshop). But I did fly solo to a comedy show where I laughed a lot, which I needed. Even had a lovely twitter exchange with the comedian afterward. Then I drove by another event but I could tell how crowded it was from the sheer masses of smokers standing around outside. Headed straight to another show that was less packed, with other friends’ bands playing. Managed to stick it out for the first two bands on a four band bill before calling it a night.

Five Good Things for Sunday:

  • My latest five minute crush is on Vancouver-based artist Hiller Goodspeed. The name alone is intriguing but their work really speaks to me.
  • Our bravest ancestors may have hunted giant sloths.
  • Saw something delightful on twitter the other day: A sheep farmer in the Yorkshire Dales is getting help from an unusual workforce during this busy lambing period. These visits are supported by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.
  • Two-for-one on very different microcosms. First, Punkato: How Mankato became a punk paradise in the 90s by my pal Tigger Lunney. That was a scene I was familiar with. Then ‘Behold Death, Darkness, Chaos and the Void’ - D.I.Y. metal music has spawned a tightknit community of headbangers in Queens by Kim Kelly. Not my scene but one I would love to drop in on.
  • I found the podcast I didn’t even know I needed.

    Lust is a feeling. Thirst is the performance of that feeling. Join Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins as they explore the public ways women express their desire, particularly in this moment when we are all asking more pointed questions about Hollywood, representation, and opportunity. Examine why we desire who we desire through conversation, original fanfic, and fantasies that take us by surprise…like a lion would a gazelle.

    Their Thirst Aid Kit podcast tumblr is fun too.

Last weekend I spent too much time on trip planning, for my solo travels in October. This weekend I went down the dieting rabbit hole. I’ve done the Whole 30 a few times, just to break some bad habits. And initially it seems to help but before long I’m backsliding. The latest magic bullet theory involves carb cycling and more HIIT. It seems sensible enough so I’m ready to give it a shot but I’m not getting my hopes up. Testing week one starting tomorrow.

Deleter playing at the Hex

Crazy, Classic, Life

It’s been another weird week, in general. But yesterday I earned my Agile Certificate through the University of Minnesota. This involved five full days of classes spread out over a few months, starting in January. I already had a high level understanding of Agile and had worked on teams that had adopted some Agile practices. It was useful to take a deeper dive with a seasoned instructor, along with other students who work in fields related to mine. We had great discussions and learned nearly as much each other as from the materials we were covering. Now the gears are turning as I consider how to use my new found knowledge and skills. For good, not evil, of course.

Five Good Things for Friday:

Starting to worry about my short term memory. I somehow quadrupled booked myself for tomorrow evening. I’m supposed to attend four different events around town, in St Paul, South and NE Minneapolis. Three of the four events are ticketed and I managed to get myself tickets without adding all the events to my calendar. Now I need to decide which event or events are most critical. If we were still in the dead of winter I’d probably choose not to choose and hunker down at home but I don’t have that excuse anymore.

yelling sea lion

Freeze All Motor Functions

What a weekend. Spring has finally sprung, for real, but I was stuck in self-care/recuperation mode much of Friday night and into Saturday. Lounging in loungewear while reading, writing a short story and travel planning. But also squeezing in some cooking and cleaning. Necessary. I did make it out for a walk around Lake Harriet yesterday. There’s something so quintessentially Minnesotan about joggers in short shorts and tank tops circling a still frozen snow-covered lake.

Then a drone collided with my face and got tangled up in my hair. Not by the lake. I was indoors, shooting a Robot Fashion Show, like you do. A drone racing team was there providing half-time entertainment. That went well enough. My son really got a kick out of it. But after the event one of the drones smacked me full in the face and I got a plastic cut (much worse than a paper cut) on my upper lip.

Five Good Things:

Parker with decapitated GI Joe ring