Skip to content

So May We Start

It is officially Spring in Minnesota. And we had a stretch of weather tolerable enough that I spent hours and hours outdoors, socializing with friends. It felt good. Four consecutive days spent outside of my home, with friends I adore. It was almost too much. But it was a great reprieve from the solo doom scrolling I’d been doing. And it feels like it could be the calm before the storm, again, of a future (Fall?) Covid surge. We also saw Sparks at The Fitzgerald Theater. I’m a longtime fan but this was the first time I experienced them live. It was very theatrical and fun.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve only taken two trips out of state with my son. And both were hit with comically bad weather. First, the heat dome in Seattle last summer. Miserable. Humans aren’t intended to survive in such temperatures. More recently, a road trip to Denver through blizzards where we encountered several multiple car pileups but somehow made it through unscathed. But shaken. Boulder was beautiful. And we made it to the Denver Meow Wolf location, which was magical. I’m uncertain if we’ll take many more trips this year but at least we can start spending more time outside.

Mother and son inside a humid plant-filled building at the Denver Botanic Gardens
My son standing in front of a sunlit Chihuly piece called The Ellipse at Denver Botanic Gardens

The Illusion of Control

The winter weather persists, as it does in this neck of the woods. I miss my daily outdoor walks. Even when the temperatures are warm enough, the sidewalks around here are garbage. Unfortunately, our small condo doesn’t have room for a treadmill. I’ve wondered if it’s time for me to become an early morning mall walker. I desperately need more exercise.

Other things on my mind:

Last summer one of my favorite artists commented on a pic of our chonk, Fred, asking if she could paint him. Of course! I enjoy her art so much I had one of her pieces tattooed on my shoulder. I’d forgotten all about the cat pic until she tagged me the other day. The painting is done and prints are up for sale. Naturally, I bought one.

Pretty ribbon of pink clouds against a blue morning sky

Now Bring Me That Horizon

COVID cases are finally on the decline in Minnesota. But we’re still remaining cautious. Sadly, the case numbers are climbing in Mexico. The CDC has added Mexico to the “Do Not Travel” list. Last Fall, before Omicron emerged, I must have been feeling optimistic because I booked a trip to Playa del Carmen. To a wonderful resort we enjoyed back in 2016. While I would love to lounge on that ocean-facing private porch again, it is just too risky right now. Last week some acquaintances tested positive for COVID while on vacation in Mexico and it has delayed their return to MN. I canceled our trip and will be receiving a full refund, thankfully. And I quickly came up with a backup plan. It won’t be quite so tropical but it will still be fun. We’re driving to Denver, with a pit stop in Omaha. We haven’t been back since 2018. We had a nice time then and now there’s even more to see. Like Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station, which I’ve purchased tickets for. And the botanical gardens that we missed last time. And the AirBnB I reserved will be roomier than our lodging in Mexico was. Honestly, I’m excited. A domestic road trip reduces a lot of the anxiety I was feeling and saves me some money to boot.

A rest stop in Colorado with a view of tree and snow covered mountains

Honoring the Complexity of Life

Last weekend, I removed everything from our refrigerator and freezer. Tossed what needed to go and deep cleaned all the shelves and drawers. Dried everything off then returned the food being kept in an organized manner. I know it won’t last. But every time I’ve opened the fridge since, it’s a reminder that I can still unlock achievement mode. Also on the bright side, literally, the days are very obviously getting longer. The sun hasn’t yet set when I wrap up my workdays now. A welcome change. And speaking of light, my indoor houseplants were looking pretty sorry. I finally bought a grow light. And installed and configured the Planta app (I had very obviously been over-watering the poor things) and the plants are already perking up. I’ll take any wins I can.

Today’s five things:

At the end of last year, I started dating someone. It didn’t take long to determine he wasn’t for me. Oddly, I’m not bummed out. Instead, I’m celebrating all the progress I’ve made. In the past, I’ve been a people-pleaser. Before, I would make myself smaller to accommodate partners. Stifling my own needs to put the other person’s needs first. I sucked at setting boundaries, even though a lack of boundaries invariably made me miserable. Not anymore. I stated my needs, set my boundaries, held my ground, and walked away with no regrets. Feels good. I accept myself with enthusiasm. I am no longer available to the things that do not make me feel good.

The whole family - my human child and our two cats - hanging out in my bedroom / office

Everything is Optional

We’re in the thick of a Wind Chill Advisory until tomorrow. Shut-in mode INTENSIFIES. I’d intended to pick up takeout from our beloved Zen Box tonight, but it’s too damned cold. Though I did manage to stay out on the ice for about an hour last Saturday, for the Lake Harriet Kite Festival. I wore so many layers. And managed to get some decent shots. There were some particularly cool kites this year. But I skipped the “frozen yoga” at the nearby Art Shanty Projects. Today’s five things:

Undiagnosed ADHD is such a delight. All the symptoms without the certainty. This morning, I nearly missed standup because I got hyperfocused when I was in the shower. Started scrubbing the tub and took a magic eraser to the grout lines on the subway tile (so satisfying) and lost track of time. Wondering if I need to bring my pomodoro timer into the bathroom with me.

winter window bokeh

Every Fortress Falls

We’re still hunkering down in our household. Because of omicron, but also…we’re waking up to weather of -11° F with -26° F windchills so who wants to leave the house anyhow? More and more people I know have been impacted by this surge though. Here are some wise words from Dr. Scott Gottlieb on twitter:

Most people will end up getting covid over their lifetime. But the more people can delay their reckoning with this virus, the further along we will get on widespread availability and uptake of oral therapeutics, antibody drugs, and vaccines; to mitigate the risks of infection.

We’ll continue riding it out, because we can. Thankfully, distractions abound. And we’re quite good at keeping ourselves occupied over here.

This Saturday I will leave the house for a bit. The Lake Harriet Kite Festival will be happening on the ice next to the Art Shanty Projects. I haven’t been inspired to use my DSLRs much lately but I’ll be busting my cameras out for this confluence of magically Minnesotan winter events.

New headphones, old me

Existence is Chaos

The news continues to be bleak. The world is in crisis. But I’m trying to focus only on what is in my control. That has been my mantra for a while now. To keep my chin up while also keeping my head down? With that in mind, yesterday was remarkably productive, at work and in my personal life. I’d been putting off a call to my carrier. I had a bit of a hassle with an iPhone trade-in promotion. But after finally calling to sort it out we now have an unlimited data plan and will be paying $52/month less (for two lines). Works for me. I also scheduled my first International Association of Accessibility Professionals exam for next month. I’m starting with the CPACC. After that, I’ll study even more and take the WAS exam a month or two later. Thankfully, there is an option to take these exams from home. It involves giving a third party control of my personal laptop, which isn’t ideal, but I’ll make it work for a two-hour test.

Five things relevant to members of our household:

This afternoon’s breaking news? Minneapolis, St. Paul To Require Restaurant-Goers To Show Proof Of Vaccination Or Negative Test. This doesn’t go into effect until January 19th. Our household will still only be getting takeout and not eating inside restaurants during this surge. I’ve noticed some splintering in my friend group recently. Between those who remain vigilant, like us, and concerned about the ableism of the “everyone is going to get omicron” crowd. But that YOLO/Vax&Chill contingency just wants to get on with their lives, even if it means getting sick (and getting others sick). I hate it here.

Drove for the first time this year and was treated to this remarkable sunset downtown

Tomorrow is a Mystery

Donations are being accepted for the Matt Gray memorial Computer Science scholarship. The goal is to raise $25,000 so the first scholarship can be awarded for Fall 2022. If you would like to donate, please check the box for “Make this gift in honor or memory of someone” and enter Matt Gray’s name. His memorial was yesterday. I had hoped to attend in person but the risk is far too high. Our household has managed to avoid COVID so far and would like to keep it that way. I viewed a livestream of the memory-sharing portion of the service instead and, once again, cried alone at my desk. Grief, the modern way. It’s harder to hang on to much hope or find joy these days but I’m trying. Here are five interesting things:

A friend pointed out a highly relevant piece in the NY Times:

Another Covid Winter, but Our Quarantine Comforts No Longer Work
Americans have spared little expense over the past two years turning their homes into cozy havens. That doesn’t mean they want to spend another winter in them.

While we may not want to, my two-person household has the privilege of staying put and staying safe for our third pandemic winter. And we are committed to doing so. I’ve ordered yet more puzzles (and puzzle storage). I have a new cookbook on the way. And Chris and Andy of The Watch just had an episode about their most anticipated TV Shows of 2022. We’ll make it work.

First 2022 selfie after bleaching and recoloring my hair silver, at home

The Past is Never Where You Think You Left It

The Minneapolis Star Tribune opened up their archives. They were free to search until midnight last night and what a thrill! I had a lot of fun with it and so did a number of other folks I know. We found stories about our homes’ histories, about vaudeville, bandits, and trolleys from 100 years ago. Apparently, one could have a job as a librarian on a trolley. How dreamy. I saw the headline “PONGS GRAB SECOND TILT LEAD” and it took me a while to puzzle that out (baseball related). I found lots of tidbits about the 4-plex our condo is in. In 1941, a 17yo who lived here was saved from drowning by friends. And in 1945, I could have purchased the entire building for just $30k. Dang.

My first Five Things List of the new year:

  • Now that it’s 2022, I’m realizing just how elderly our cats are. We adopted them in 2007. Olive was between one and three at that time. The poor girl now yells at my bed before jumping up to it. I just ordered a pet staircase to help her out.
  • Damon Krukowski, of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi, wrote about The Problem with Live Music. A compelling and unsettling read that takes you from the caves of Wuhan to the corporate culpability of Live Nation and AEG pushing for bigger and bigger shows.
  • Oh, the end of an era. Lowertown’s iconic Black Dog Coffee closed suddenly this week. It really anchored the neighborhood. I had an art show there once. In the 90s, I spent a lot of time in that space when it was still Kuppernicus Coffee. When I was even younger, in grade school, I remember visiting that space when it was an antique store run by my aunt’s friend. Here’s an old Q&A with Black Dog’s owner from 2006. RIP.
  • I listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour nearly every morning, when I’m making coffee and breakfast. For the last decade or so, Linda Holmes has been making a list of “50 wonderful things” from the year. Right up my alley, naturally.
  • From Linda’s list, something I may have missed entirely without it: Mystery Menu with Sohla and Ham, in which Chef Sohla El-Waylly and her husband Ham (also a chef) took a mystery ingredient and made a whole menu out of it. I LOVE IT.

Omicron seems to be doing what we feared. I personally know so many folks who have tested positive with breakthrough cases. Friends, coworkers, etc. It’s going to be a helluva ride. I stopped leaving the house a couple of weeks ago. But my son still went indoor rock climbing on the weekend. Everyone was masked but just how good are those masks against something so transmissible? I don’t want to keep him from climbing, since it’s his main form of exercise. Especially in a Minnesotan winter. But I’m trying to weigh the risks vs the rewards and it is difficult. Though so much less difficult than the choices other folks are facing. People who have to go to work in-person, especially those working in schools. And parents, who are being asked to send their children to those schools. While omicron is causing fewer hospitalizations among the vaccinated, it’s still going to have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities like those who are immunocompromised. It feels like there is no end in sight.

Olive the cat, mid lip-smack

The Past is a Map

Last December I only posted once to this blog, and it was surprisingly hopeful and upbeat. Unfortunately, I feel less optimistic heading into 2022. At this time last year we were on the cusp of rolling out vaccines. This month I know several fully vaccinated people with breakthrough cases of COVID, thanks to the omicron variant. At the start of the pandemic, writer Damian Barr wrote:

We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes, and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whoever you can.

Well said and it still holds true. My little household is certainly not in a yacht, but maybe a small trawler? I fully acknowledge our privilege. 2021 was pretty decent for us, on a personal level, aside from my friend’s death. And unhealthy air quality that kept me indoors at times. Like many American workers, I switched jobs mid-year. And for the first time since 2015. It is higher paying and much more aligned with the work I want to do, and still fully remote, thankfully. Because of the higher pay, I was able to take a break from teaching. Working just one job makes for a much better work/life balance situation. All year I continued to nurture relationships with my most trusted friends / chosen family, even when anxiety and depression had me on the ropes. I am so grateful to have those folks in my life. I’ve built up a wonderful community for the kid and me, and I’d be lost without them. Last month I began my first romantic relationship in ages. That one is a work in progress. We’ll see. But the hard work in therapy is paying off. Now it comes more easily for me to speak up to set my expectations and explain my boundaries. Before therapy I was much more of a people-pleaser and so conflict avoidant. Even if this relationship doesn’t work out, I’m proud of myself for standing firm with what I want and need. I came across this (unattributed) quote:

I want you to know something: I am very good at being single. I have absolutely no problem being single. The only reason I would be in a committed relationship with someone is if that relationship is directly benefitting me and my life. I don’t want our relationship to become complacent or under-appreciated. I will give as much love, time and energy as I can to making sure that our relationship is something that is fulfilling to both of us.

Hot damn! That’s me now. Feels good. Some more closing thoughts for the year:

  • Some solid advice from Teen Vogue about How to Talk About a Chaotic, Traumatic Year
  • I watched the new Matrix movie on my TV, just like I did with the new Dune movie. I would have rather seen both on the big screen but I’m trying to play it safe. Not everyone is loving the new Matrix movie, but I sure enjoyed it. So much nostalgia. I was 25 and pregnant when I saw the first film. Seeing these aged actors play these beloved characters again was very satisfying. And there’s another level to it: ‘This was clearly written by people who feel like I do’: What The Matrix means to transgender and non-binary fans as Resurrections hits cinemas. I am one of those non-binary fans.
  • Years before COVID-19, I enjoyed Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic pandemic novel, Station Eleven. I didn’t think I’d want to watch an adaptation of it now but it is beautifully done. “Both novel and series are less survivalist action-adventure than ruminations on what makes human lives meaningful, what we’d choose to save when losing everything.”
  • My son and I watched the first episode of The Book of Boba Fett last night. And it solved the mystery of how he survived the Sarlacc Pit.
  • Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who will try to profit from misery. Counterfeit masks are being sold that will not protect anyone from COVID-19. This is such reprehensible behavior. Thankfully there are groups carefully vetting such products. It’s probably time to up your mask game. Check out Project N95 or this article from NPR.

Nothing like a little deja vu for New Year’s Eve. Or is it a glitch in the Matrix? In preparation for tomorrow night, I suggested I would make vegan sushi again for NYE, but maybe I would add vegetable tempura this time. And my son was like “uhh, yeah. You did that last NYE too.” Sure enough, I looked back through my photos and there it is. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!” At least I don’t mind repeating this piece of our past. But I’d rather we skip wave after wave of new COVID-19 infections. I no longer make resolutions or predictions so we’ll just wait and see what 2022 has in store for us.

Christmas Eve 2021 vegan cheesecake topped with blackberries and sliced almonds displayed on a red metal cake stand
Homemade vegan sushi feast on a white ceramic serving tray
spooky photo of my son at the age of 6, wearing a red velvet cape trimmed with white and a crown, with only the whites of his eyes visible