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Making Hay When the Sun Shines

Short work weeks often feel like an eternity and this one was no exception. I am spent. I had to chuckle when I came across this “No Spoons Left - Only Knives” cross-stitch. That was me all week long. Last weekend I had my hair braided at RenFest and have been so busy and exhausted that I’ve just left the braids in. I’m afraid to see what a hot mess my hair will be when I finally undo that talented woman’s handiwork. Happy to be home now but already glued to the couch and too tired to cook. My son made himself dinner and managed to set off the spooky talking smoke alarms. Again. Perhaps he doesn’t need to cook his veggie burgers on high until they turn into little briquettes.

Five good things for Friday:

Attempting to rally now so I can feed myself, then hang out with friends tonight. I’ve been spending too much time alone this summer when that sort of behavior is generally more for the dark winter times. Working on balancing self-care and social activities.

sun dappled fronds

The Odd Uneven Time

It’s already the day after Labor Day. School is back in session and there are only a couple of weeks to squeeze in summer fun before the Fall Equinox. This has been one of our most un-fun summers ever, and that was after a particularly brutal winter. We’ve got some catching up to do in the fun department. So last Saturday - on a holiday weekend - my son and I went to the DMV. Oh wait, fun. That wasn’t it. Last week I did spend a paranormal evening with Alice Cooper. I’d never seen him before but he’s still amazing. And changed outfits between each song.

Sunday we made it to the RenFest and lucked out with perfect weather but not very heavy crowds. Labor Day we had a delightful housewarming party at our new place. While prepping for that I managed to drop my phone and crack its screen. Less delightful. The eerie thing? The last time I cracked a phone screen was on another Labor Day, in 2013. What the hecking heck?

With summer winding down there isn’t much time to cram in summery activities, but I have five at the top of my list:

  • The Landscape Arboretum is a favorite spot anyhow but now they’ve got origami sculptures. We haven’t seen yet. Must see.
  • Getting to the drive-in! We haven’t been to Vali-Hi for a few years now. The bonus with going at the end of the season? The sun sets earlier. Yes, I’ve turned into a morning person.
  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever from Australia is the ultimate summer fun band. They’re playing the Turf Club Friday night.
  • Open Streets. We haven’t gotten to any yet this year but there are a few left.
  • Cruising around one of the nearby lakes in a Deuce Coupe or the Surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals. Have always intended to do this with the kiddo but have never gotten around to it. Now is the time.

Speaking of bittersweet endings, this one is a little more permanent than the changing of seasons. Earlier tonight my son and I watched the series finale for our beloved Adventure Time. We started enjoying that together when my son was just ten or eleven and he’s grown up right along with the characters from the show. One special spring we even got to attend Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con and sit in on a panel with Finn’s voice actor, Jeremy Shada, who is only two years older than my kid. And every year we hang an Adventure Time wall calendar in our kitchen. We’ve done that at four houses now. Wild that we’ve moved so much since 2011, especially since we were in the same house the first 12 years of his life.

Stormy Weather
King of RenFest

Stirring Up the Bees

I’ve made peace (mostly) with my life as an unpartnered single parent. Obviously there are times when it is rough, without a reliable co-parent or safety net. All kinds of feelings were felt at our house recently, just before the kid left town to visit his grandparents. On a Friday I’d gotten home from a rough work week only to be met with an exceptionally grumpy teen. Much of what was going on with him had little to do with me. I knew that. Rationally I know I’m the person he feels safe unloading on but it still feels lousy. I’ve been his number one cheerleader his entire life so it feels unfair to be the one he growls at and dumps on. Nor was I pleased to find his purple hair dye had gotten all over multiple surfaces around the house, including my bath towel. We were off to a better start the next morning. Until I took a look at his passport. The kid was flying out to the West Coast to spend time with his paternal grandparents. They had planned to visit Vancouver again. Well, his passport expired last month. Usually I’m a stickler for details. But I was miserably ill May, June and July and focused on our sudden and all encompassing house move so that little detail slipped through the cracks. Thankfully they’ve still had a pleasant visit. He flies home tomorrow night. Hopefully with lower levels of teen angst. He starts his new school program next week.

Five Good Things:

  • I’m not the only one struggling with motherhood. Listened to this podcast episode How to be a bad mom and finally watched the first Bad Mom movie (which I take issue with but still, I was in guilty pleasure mode).
  • Just yesterday the weather shifted to give us our first hint of Fall. I took advantage of that to trek out to Pizza Farm with friends for an utterly perfect evening. And I’m looking forward to trying out our new firepit in our backyard before long.
  • A good friend - with longer arms than mine - came over last weekend with her power drill and put up curtain rods and blackout curtains in my bedroom. Made a HUGE difference. Before I felt like someone was shining giant spotlights into my bedroom at sunrise. I also hung more of my art around the new place so it’s really feeling like home now.
  • Took myself to see Spike Lee’s new joint, BlacKkKlansman. Thoroughly enjoyed it though I understand this hot take on it by Boots Riley.
  • So want to fly out to DC next month for an evening with Roman Mars and Bill Barbot:
    Punk rock was never just about having a mohawk and wearing a Clash button. It was a movement that redefined the design world. At its heart and at its best, it became a model for equality, inclusion, and authenticity in the face of fascism, corporatism, and economic injustice. At the dawn of Reagan’s America and at the vanguard of this fight, DC punk’s fans, followers, and artists created a unique space in DC whose impact ultimately spanned continents and decades.

    But that is my son’s birthday weekend, and the Twin Cities Veg Fest. And I’ll be taking a break in Ireland and Italy in less than two months.

“Wine
Finest Pizza Farm Companions

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows

Grand Shanghai closed. That is the third of our favorite Chinese restaurants to go under. First it was E Noodle in the Rice Street neighborhood and then the beloved Evergreen Chinese on Eat Street last summer. It sounds like Grand Shanghai may possibly reopen in another location (fingers crossed) but in the meantime we need to find a decent alternative. A place with vegan dumplings and tofu and broccoli. We are open to suggestions!

Five Good local food-related Things:

  • This week Candyland celebrated 86 years in business! The original downtown St. Paul location was a fixture of my childhood. I’m trying to eat less sugar (the struggle is real) but I feel the need to stop by there soon.
  • El Burrito is opening a new location, in the former Pepito’s spot next to the Parkway. The theater is still being renovated but will hopefully be re-opening next month. With up-to-code insulation and HVAC. Along with giving the building new life I hope they revive the monthly Kaiju movies. My kid and I love those.
  • The amazing Milkjam Creamery is opening a second location this weekend and it’s even closer to where we live now. Stoked. Too bad they don’t have space for a full World Street Kitchen there as well. My son just discovered their tofu burritos.
  • The Minnesota State Fair kicks off August 23rd. I’m planning to go with co-workers on the 24th, and sample some of the new foods (particularly the “Earth Wings” and Sweet Greek Cheese Puffs). And again on the 29th with my son and friends for one of our favorite annual happenings - the Llama Costume Contest!
  • Next month the annual Twin Cities Veg Fest will be held over my son’s birthday weekend. This year moving to Harriet Island Regional Park. Hopefully they get a handle on how much space they need between food trucks this time. Last year the lines were long and too crowded together.

A bonus food item that is not specifically local but just what I needed! Make a Tiny Batch of Jam with Your Saddest Leftover Fruit - “For the dirtbag Laura Ingalls Wilder in all of us.” Love it.

stuffed gorillaz

Weird Wonders

Today is International Cat Day. My son and I are celebrating the same way since 2012. Attending the Internet Cat Video Festival. Though it will never be quite as magical as that first year. The Walker Art Center had no idea what they were getting themselves into by setting up the initial event in their Open Field. They figured a few cat fans might show up. But there wound up being over 10,000 of us. It has moved around to different venues since. At the State Fair grounds, back at the Walker, and the last few have been at the Saint Paul Saints Stadium. The first catvidfest was held in Minneapolis when we were still living in Saint Paul. Now it’s the reverse. Figures.

Five Good Cat Things:

  • After the first catvidfest we discovered we made it into the BBC’s Weird Wonders of the World, season one episode four, when they featured the catvidfest. That episode is still on Netflix. I’m just sitting on the hill in the background of one shot with some friends, talking with my hands like I do.
  • The first two years we got to hang out with Lil Bub a bit. And I took a photo of Lil Bub and her owner that Buzzfeed wound up posting (#5, without credit because they pulled it from a tumblr who had posted it without attribution)
  • Cat lovers, this is how a feline friend can boost your health
  • There are so many cat cafes in the US that there’s a best of list. The cat’s meow: 14 of the best cat cafes in the US. We’ve been to the Denver Cat Company (purrrfect) but we also visited some great ones in Montreal and Seattle.
  • Now would be a wonderful day to finally watch the Kedi movie.
CatVidFest collage

Tidal Friction

This is the first weekend in months that I’ve been able to relax. We’re still unpacking and settling in but the new place is comfortable and already feeling like home. Bonus? Our new internet service is blazingly fast. I just uploaded 81 hi-res photos in the blink of an eye. Currently catching up on my photo editing but taking a quick break for Five Good Things, all shark-themed:

  • An update about the shark wheeled out of an aquarium in a baby stroller: Man who swiped shark says he’s an ‘activist, not a criminal’ - Anthony Shannon charged with felony theft after horn shark taken from San Antonio Aquarium. Huh.
  • Did Stephen King’s Son Just Solve a 44-Year-Old Murder Mystery? What do Jaws and an infamous cold case have in common? Bestselling author Joe Hill presents a theory linking two events that took place in 1974 Cape Cod.
  • I’d gotten behind on episodes of the Criminal podcast and had missed Phoebe Judge’s duclet tones. I just happened to listen to an episode about - you guessed it - Sharks.
  • Was randomly looking at the menu of the amazing Grand Cafe and realized I haven’t tried their happy hour. Well, check out their snack attack photo. With a shark.
  • And in random shark facts, sharks can go into a trance when flipped upside down. Huh. Being flipped upside down has the opposite effect on me.

Last Thursday my company had our summer party at Bauhaus Brew Labs. In the past we’ve had this party on a boat but we’ve grown too much. A taproom was a good alternative with more space, and with food trucks (savory and sweet), giant Jenga and other games, a bag toss competition, photo booth, a caricature artist and a succulent planting class. The morning started out gloomy but the sun came out in the afternoon and a lovely time was had by all.

Julia playing Yardzee

This Is Me Breathing

Well, that’s behind me. This morning I handed over keys to the duplex we had called home since early 2014. I have mixed feelings about it. Circumstances were quite different when we moved in. I was partnered then and we chose that place for our joint household. I had been hopeful on a number of fronts. Mostly I thought I had found my person. And as a single struggling parent splitting the bills with another adult really took the pressure off me in a way I had never known, and have not known since. Unfortunately there were other pressures at play and the relationship was doomed to fail. He moved out by the end of 2015 and my son and I stayed, despite the rent being more than I could really afford. It was an incredibly comfortable space. Until it wasn’t (the mold saga).

So many significant things happened in our lives while living there. My son’s entire high school career, from the rocky start Freshman year - with an IEP gone MIA and an abusive autism room teacher (we had her removed) - to senior year when he was crowned Homecoming King. This was the first time he was able to walk to and from a school and he relished the independence. He also learned to cook in that kitchen and completely took over seasonal holiday cookie-making. We hosted many delightful gatherings with friends/chosen family. And we thoroughly enjoyed the decadence of having two full bathrooms for just two humans. But there were flaws beyond just the mold and a number of things we won’t miss. Particularly the nearby cross-fit gym that blasts dance music at 6am. And the treacherous crumbling sidewalk on the side of the house that ends abruptly so I had to schlepp across an icy wasteland in the winter to get to the garage.

How about Five Good Things?

  • Enjoying the calm after the storm and being able to unpack and settle in at the new place. And possibly have a social life again. Multiple friends live within walking distance now.
  • We have a gas oven/stove again! For the first time since I sold my old house in 2011. It’s amazing and far superior to electric.
  • Another thing I can focus on? My October trip to Italy. Planning to take a tour of Rome on the back of a Vespa.
  • I wouldn’t call this good, per se, but I’m glad the shark baby is safe.

    Shark called Helen disguised as baby and stolen from aquarium in pushchair

  • Mizna is proud to release its sports and social justice–themed issue Mizna: The Playing Field this Thursday.

Spent my first less stressed evening in our new home making a lovely dinner and revisiting Grosse Pointe Blank. Peak John Cusack right there. What a dreamboat.

The End

No Words/No Thoughts

All week this has been on my mind.

‘The power of nature is ruthless’: Uncle shares story of 13-year-old’s drowning

It would have been awful enough just seeing that story in the news. But we know them. And my heart is breaking for this family. You can help them by donating here.

This week I’ve been listening to excessive amounts of Low (my all-time favorite band) and mostly sad podcasts, some about injustices done and the general unfairness of life. All while busting my ass with this move nonsense. I wasn’t able to take any extra time off so I’ve been working my day job then hustling back and forth from the old place to the new one. I am beat. But I’m so close to the finish line! Tomorrow I’m putting on a a moving sale to liquidate half of my wardrobe and at least half (or more) of our books, along with all sorts of random weird stuff. I’ve hired a cleaner for Sunday to do the move-out cleaning. Tuesday I’m finally turning the keys over and then can wash my hands of that place. Hopefully they don’t screw me over on the damage deposit.

Trying to balance this week’s stress and sadness with more hopeful and amusing stuff. I give you Five Good Things for Friday:

Shaking the Frame

Turns out “cat bags” are a thing but I found out two days too late. We moved on Saturday and were mauled by poor sweet Olive. She flipped out when we attempted to transfer her into a cat carrier. She was so upset we had to leave her behind at the old house while we moved our big boy cat, Freddy. He yowled loudly the whole way to the new house. Thankfully it’s a short drive between the two places. We doubled back and coaxed Olive into the larger soft-sided carrier. She gave us the silent treatment on the drive, unlike her brother, but has settled in pretty well. Mostly surveying her new queendom from the top of the cat tower. While Freddy has grown even clingier and needier. The first night he kept burrowing under the bed covers to be even closer to me. Last night he mostly slept on my head.

Five Good Things (that I collected last week but was too busy to post):

Derpy cat
Olive is not amused
At the old house

Middle of the Road

We’ve made it to Wednesday but I feel like I haven’t gotten enough accomplished this week. Monday night I took a break from busting my ass because I had purchased a ticket, pre-move, for a Pretenders show with friends. And Chrissie Hynde did not disappoint. That woman is AMAZING. Her voice is as incredible as ever and she seemed to be in a terrific mood. Totally worth it. But I am in the final countdown before the move on Saturday. Thankfully I’ve taken the day off Friday. Then I will frantically get everything packed up and staged for the professional movers.

Five Good Things:

  • I’m all about this She-Ra revival! I am not all about this small camp of dudes who are furious that She-Ra, a fictional cartoon hero, is not “sexy” enough for them. This tweet sums it up nicely. And more great tweets. Not everything is for you, gross adult guys. I’m excited for a new generation of kids to have strong female role models. And hopefully the show will be inclusive in other ways. Representation is a wonderful thing.
  • I’ve been enjoying the latest from Protomartyr, Consolation, with Kelley Deal. So dreamy.
  • And here’s a podcast convo between Protomartyr and The Raincoats, at Rough Trade East.
  • A gigantic shirtless Jeff Goldblum statue has suddenly appearing in London. I have…feelings about this. But the best twitter reply to it: You guys were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should!
  • Some day - soon I hope - I’ll be done packing and unpacking and talking about this move. But it’s front of mind for now. And packing involves a certain amount of nostalgia as one handles objects one may or may not have seen for some time. I’ve encountered so many nostalgia bombs this time around. So why not add to it? I finally picked up Brian K. Vaughan’s first volume of Paper Girls which should transport me back to the 80s, once I have time to sit down and read it.
Philadelphia in the Fall