The Toddlermoon

•April 8, 2011 • 4 Comments

We all know about the honeymoon.  In the past couple of years, the new trendy “must-do” escape for parents-to-be has come to be known as the babymoon ( link ,  link or link).  That ‘oh so sweet’ pause in the life of a couple, a last ditch effort to really focus on just each other, either before or while the little one is still practicing it’s limbo dance in utero.  It reminds me of the big trip some cousin’s of mine took (where they must have sunk some nice change) into a trip to Bora Bora, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Tiki hut-lined beaches and all.  The ‘last hurrah’ as they called it before they set out on the path to parenthood.  Some couple friends of mine from Canada went to Huatulco, Mexico, revisiting the resort where they were married, when their little girl was practicing her future mountain bike pedal in utero.  A former colleague (now friend) went with her budding filmmaking husband to Florida where he filmed and produced a touching video to remember their special time.  The last time when they could say it was ‘just the two of us’.

With my husband and I, there was no babymoon, not 14 years ago when we met.  I already had a bundle, more like an barrel full of monkeys kind of bundle of joy, verging on two years of age when we met.  We never did know that blissful period of time when it was ‘just us.’  We’ve always functioned as a group.  It was always ‘us three.’  And you know what, despite not having that time to indulge solely in one another, I feel incredibly enriched by the life experience of growing together as a family, the three of us (mom and son + 1). 

Now that we’ve added another one to the family, I’m going to shake things up a bit and take this babymoon business to a whole ‘nuther level. Folks, I’m bringing you The Toddlermoon.  No, it’s NOT a blissfull little escape for us parents, away from our new lives as we know them, overrun completely by the demands of having a toddler in the house.  This is NOT an attempt to get back to the couple me and my husband used to be pre-baby.  This is the kind of trip, rather, where you get to take a break from everyday monotony in order to find a deeper connection in your relationships with = your toddler.  “You so crazy,” you say.  Yes, maybe a little.  But think of it this way, when, as a parent, are you in the moment, and I mean really in the moment?  I think of all those pauses, when I slow down in my much too busy adult life, down to even the smallest, seemingly insignificant pauses, like when I help my toddler splash through puddles in her new rain boots on the way into the co-op.  This happens a lot – my toddler opens up my world by allowing me to see it through her eyes. 

The first real challenge to an international trip, sans husband, with only the toddler in tow, was to dive right in, right past the voices which kept saying ‘you’re crazy, you can’t do this’ ‘you can’t afford this’ ‘you’ll never survive two weeks on your own with a toddler’ not to mention the ‘you’ll never even survive the plane trip with your toddler’ voice which seemed to be the loudest one of all.

The funny thing is, the more I searched, the more I found people  (also here), just like me, who agree that travelling the globe does not have to end with the arrival of children into our lives.  This is the kind of trip where parents can get over themselves…and get serious about sharing the world with their kids.  Time to really dig the fact that, as parents, we will always function as a unit.  They only left the womb, not our side.

Taking a trip with a toddler in tow is bound to have its own level of personal difficulty for me, but someone important somewhere once said that nothing good comes easy.  I know that I am going to question myself (probably several times on the 9 hour + plane ride over the ocean alone…) about why I was crazy enough to think this could work.  In essence, it is like a microcosm of the long range span of raising children.  Raising children is by no means easy, with the challenges continually morphing and getting progressively more cerebral as they age.  But yet, millions of us do it anyway! 

I think about the way my toddler sees the world.  She isn’t worried about what she has to make for dinner, or how many loads of laundry are piling up in the basement.  What she is worried about has a primacy to it.  An immediacy.  It is whatever is in front of her at this very second.  It is whatever she is feeling this very second.  And when I am 100% there, not distracted by the monotony of the tasks of everyday life, I can see it 100% too.  I am there right with her.  So no, this isn’t the kind of hedonistic vacation where it is just me and ‘the Mr.’ living out an escapist fantasy.  This is the kind of trip where I get to leave all the day to day worries behind -cleaning house, cooking, washing diapers, maintaining the house, yard, etc, etc (hey wait, that is starting to sound a bit hedonistic…at least to the parent of a toddler anyway) – and get down to the real guts of life, living simply, out of a carry-on and a back pack, checking out the globe, just me and my toddler.  To get shoulder deep into the joys of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. 

On the tail end of two severely sleep deprived years I’m emerging into a state of almost sanity.  I say almost, as I’m sure some of you are still thinking “she has got to be cuckoo to do a solo trip with a toddler in tow.”  At the same time, it feels like a monumental accomplishment.  One that calls for more than just a little trip to my favorite massage therapist.  So call it a bonding time, a personal challenge or, if you prefer, a sanity killer, this gal is going to buck up and see how the legos all shake out, Toddlermoon-style.


Destination: Mall of America?

•March 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

About two weeks ago, my toddler and I set out for a loop around the west metro in order to accomplish several errands, which would be capped off by a stop at Fort Snelling State Park  in order to try and catch a glimpse of some airplanes zooming into the airport.  My husband and I had a previous unfruitful attempt to get our toddler a close up view of the massive people movers of the sky in order to prep her for an upcoming international flight I will be undertaking with her.  It was dark out and we had tried to circle the perimeter of the airport on the north and west, looking for a place to situate ourselves, however, there exists an incredibly secure perimeter around the airport, which thwarted all of our attempts.  One possible viewing location would have involved parking our car on the west side of the fenced perimeter, in a rather lucrative location, where we surely would have been pegged as threat by security.  It was hard to see the planes in the darkness anyway, the lights not quite bright enough to define the shapes coming in from the sky, so it wouldn’t  have been worth the inevitable questioning and potential body frisking and we gave up.

On airplane viewing attempt #2, we finished up our errand run by picking up a National Geographic Map of Greece at Latitudes Map and Travel Store in St. Louis Park, and I buckled my toddler into her car seat, snack cup in hand, and headed towards Fort Snelling State Park.  Surely we would be able to see planes from there.  We would just squeeze it in quick before heading home for lunch.  But as we headed east on 494, I looked at the clock – ‘is it really that close to noon already?’- did a check-in with my stomach –‘pilot, we are low on fuel’ – and reality conveyed perhaps the snack cup just wasn’t going to cut it.  Rather than potentially ruining any chance at a happy plane viewing experience, I decided we better get lunch in first.

Many parents know, there are two critical things one must do when you have a toddler:  1.  Never let them get hungry, and 2.  Avoid making them overtired at any costs.  Careful attention to these go a long way in ensuring happiness in the toddler kingdom (and parent sanity-dom!).  We stopped at IKEA for their incredibly cheap lunch special, under the guise that perhaps I could also find a nice frame for my new wall map.  We left, no frame in hand, but with the purchase of one small tent to be opened up on our little adventurer’s Earthday birthday (hmm, perhaps that ‘lunch’ wasn’t so cheap after all…).  As we exited the under-building parking lot, taking a sharp 90 degree turn to the east, I was a bit taken off guard by the sound of a very large plane coming in for a landing right before our very eyes.  I had somehow not quite remembered that incoming planes from the south frequent this path before touchdown at Terminal 2.  We looped back around the huge overflow parking lot in front of the Mall of America and pulled the car in so we could get out and have a closer look.  Fort Snelling would have to wait for another day. 

Feeling dwarfed by the MOA, a gigantic artifact of our modern civilization, I posited our car near the east end of the mostly empty holiday parking overflow lot.  Before you know it, there were planes coming in at least every few minutes.  The detritus of snow stockpiled in a circle in the blocked off area bounded by 24th Avenue South (on the East), American Boulevard East (on the north), and East 81st Street (on the South) formed a haven about 50 feet in diameter for safely padding the pavement.  The sun was baking down on us in the sheltered bowl of snowplow detritus.  And the last fresh coating of snow on the ground had been left pristine for us to make fresh tracks across. 

I’ve always marveled at the story that tracks in the snow tell.  It is like a temporal kind of archeology.  We did our best to leave our own mark on history while running circles before an eventual beeline for the rumpled piles of snow chunks encircling us.  They were perfect for some low key bouldering attempts, my little explorer working her way through ‘crevasses’ between the piles and me helping her scramble up and down the sides of the ‘mountains’.  Every few minutes, pausing to squint in the sun and take in the sight of giant planes approaching lower and lower to the ground, their sound echoing behind their wake with a great WHOOSH that my toddler and I emulated.   

While there was a whole other world of people experiencing the indoor extravaganza at the Mall of America, a purposeful money making venture to create a shopping and entertainment mecca for the midwest, we were a stones throw away, reveling in other artifacts of our civilization.  Snow being shifted around from one place to another, to make room for people to park and lock themselves inside and away from the world.* 

I WANT TO KNOW:  Do you have a destination you like to visit that is temporal in nature, created as a byproduct of everyday life, that you use for purposes otherwise not readily foreseen?  What is your favorite ‘unintended’ playground?  Where do you like to explore?

*In the interest of full disclosure, we repeated this airplane viewing excursion this past week (pictures taken from this outing) before we actually did venture into the MOA for a playdate to see the newly renovated Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium (formerly known as Underwater Adventures Aquarium).  While expensive, I was impressed overall with the new digs, and it left a lasting impression on my toddler, as she has been touting ‘no touch Jelly fish’, ‘starfish’, and ‘sharks’ ever since. 

 The temporal nature of our previous plane seeking experience was underscored as the miniature snow mountains were transforming, losing some of their previous stature, melting into small scale ‘riverine’ environments.  Kind of like being way up in the sky in an airplane and looking down on the world in motion below.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when my toddler makes this connection on her first voyage in the sky!

Confession Time

•February 18, 2011 • 2 Comments

So I have a confession to make.  I cheated.  On winter.

There, I said it.  My secret is out for judgement.  I will proceed to avert my eyes and be shamed. 

Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, I felt like my soul was telling me I should step forward to wash the slate clean.  But really, it wasn’t my fault (isn’t that what cheaters always claim?).  You know how it is, in the midst of the bitter cold, when the 31 days of January feel as if they have stretched into six months.  When even the most hard core winter enthusiasts second guess themselves for a moment as they walk out the door?  And you start to dream of someplace, maybe a touch warmer.  With a nice breeze blowing across your body.  Perhaps there’s an image of a tiki hut in the background.  Letting your dry, cracked, winter beaten skin feel something in the range of 70-80 degrees.  Yep, I finally broke down.  I needed a vacation.  A warm one. 

Where did I go, you ask?  Jamaica?  Cancun?  Costa Rica?  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  I hopped in my friend’s car and she drove us across the river  (drum roll please) to Minneapolis(Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding) – where we proceeded to pull up to, none other than, the Metrodome.  The Metrodome, you ask?  Yep, the Metrodome.  That downtown Minneapolis sports venue with the inflatable roof.  Not a big deal, you’re thinking.  I know.  But every adventure in life is what you make of it.  And it certainly felt like a vacation to me.  The ‘Rollerdome’, as it is called by the inline skating crowd, reopened on January 15th for inline skating.  A few weeks after the infamous blitzkrieg of snow that caved in several panels of the roof structure on December 12th of last year. 

You would think it would be freezing inside, with those gaping holes in the roof and all, but there are actually doors separating the concourses from the inner stadium that effectively seal you off from the elements, creating two levels of inline skating paradise.  The lower level is open to all ages, where any range of abilities and ages of skaters can be found, while the upper level, restricted to those ages 16 and over, is typically frequented by a more experienced crowd.  By experienced, I mean, SUPERCHARGED.  Considering myself somewhat of an intermediate level skater (having trained and participated in the Duluth Inline Marathon last September), even I had to make sure to leave room for the speed train of racers passing on my left, in their organized pace lines consisting of mostly men in pursuit of their inline dreams.  Now if I was a single lady in my late 20’s to 50’s, perhaps I would want to throw my eggs in this basket and start frequenting the Rollerdome.  Not that I could give you any stats on percentages of those who are unmarried vs. married.  I wasn’t exactly able to count rings on fingers as the flew by in a blur.  And for those attached folks, like myself, the Rollerdome also seems to be a great place for a couples hangout.

Oddly enough, the dome concourses are missing the old familiar smells of hotdogs, popcorn, and beer.  But what it does provide is a toasty respite from the cold and plentiful water fountains.  Take note of the latter, and leave your water bottles behind, or the ‘Mayor of the Dome’ (as he introduced himself to me) may just pass you by and let you know of the error of your ways.  The Rollerdome prohibit skaters from carrying water while they cruise the concourses as a matter of a safety issue.  I certainly don’t want to wipe out on someone’s spilled water while blading either.  Thanks, Mayor of the Dome.  The food and drink vending booths are all closed up, but their flair is still evident on the walls.  Use the passing image of the smoothie tiki hut to guide your imagination to another place.  Visualize yourself transported into the throes of the tropics (or a good ol’ steamy Minnesota July or August, if you prefer). 

There is free parking on the southeast side of the Metrodome.  A schedule and more info about rentals, prices, and rules can be found on the Rollerdome’s website , as well as info about the upcoming March 19th Metrodome Inline Marathon.  On my radar is the Minnesota Half Inline Marathon (August 6th), the Northshore Inline Marathon (September 17th), and the first inaugural Rollin’ on the River Inline Marathon (August 27th).  The latter taking place in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the same day as Beerfest.  Now I’ve got you.  Sold and sold!  Be sure to check it out as I’m certain it will be a fantastic event (I do happen to know someone on the planning committee).  After the race, you can venture out on the Greenway for a leg stretcher to limber up before the liquid festivities begin.  And for the real hard core skaters, you can consider the race a warm up for the North of 49th Inline Marathon, put on by our continental neighbors to the north the next day (shout out to Manitoba).

We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave.

•February 13, 2011 • 4 Comments

Our toddler at the number 6 tee box with Grandpa.

Today was a great day to hit the golf course.  Now cue the look on my father-in-law’s face.  I can visualize the shocked expression of disbelief.  He is the guy who puts more mileage in on the golf course than anyone else I know.  He played 954 nine hole rounds total this past 2010 season, NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR!   You heard that correctly.  That number even pales in comparision to his all time high of 1,010 nine hole rounds.  I wonder how the pros on the PGA tour stack up?   Yes, my father-in-law is a regular fixture out on the course, smacking the little white ball and hunting for it in the tall grass. Last year he played 894 of those rounds on the rolling green grass located on the western fringes of his small North Dakota hometown, overlooking Storm Lake and its associated wildlife refuge.

 My father-in-law picked up golf sometime in his 20’s and then passed his love of the game on down to his three sons, who, if they had the money (and the luxury of being retired), would spend almost as much time on the course as he does.  They can have their pipe dreams too.  So why is it that I can’t seem to get my husband out on the golf course in the middle of winter?  Should I mention that Storm Lake is the very same lake I was standing next to, enjoying the creaking of the frozen ice, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve1999, when my husband proposed to me.  On the 7th tee box.

 I’ve been out there with my husband on the course during all kinds of weather and all kinds of situations – yes, that is a photo of me nursing on the golf cart – but I’ll save that digression for another blog post…  I’ve urged him with the, “I go golfing with you, why can’t you at least try cross country skiing once with me?”  Just once, is that so much to ask?  He’s not biting on that hook.  It would seem like a natural transition, don’t you think?  Hit the links in the spring, summer, and fall, and then live out your golf fantasies while cross country skiing on any of the numerous Twin Cities golf courses groomed for the sport, you know, to really develop a feel for the terrain.  I think it could really improve his golf  game.  No dice.  I’ve even tried to convince him to try some snow golfing north of the cities near Bunker Lake Regional Park at Majestic Oaks Golf Club, a place holding their inaugural 2011 ‘Frozen Balls Open’ this Sunday on February 13th.  Yeah, even that isn’t doing it.  Maybe he knows something about frozen balls that I don’t.

Lunch on the go.

 I guess I just gotta keep on keeping on.  It was a lovely twenty-eight degrees today and thankfully I have some compadres who are willing to brave the cold and get out to traverse the local terrain.  What a nice break from the brutal January weather.  Mother nature’s seeming exercise in contrasts for us all – from the face freezing cold to a day like today when I could strip off my outer upper layers down to my tank top, while outside my car, in preparation to put on my skiing gear.  I could have just as well been sitting on the beach in Playa del Carmen.  That’s how good it felt.  I lingered there for a few moments, eventually coming to my senses and threw on a thermal poly shirt and my fleece liner from my winter jacket.  I like these hints of the changes to come.  I even heard birds singing merrily along just outside my living room window in the middle of the day last week.  A little pregame warm up for the big show coming in the spring.  I hear it’s supposed to stay above 30 during the day all next wek.  Maybe even 45 on Wednesday or Thursday.  That’s mother nature, continually mixing it up for us all.  Hope to see you out there soaking up the heat wave…

What the world needs now, are snow shovels, sweet snow shovels (and some love too).

•December 23, 2010 • 6 Comments

In a season in which we have recently been made aware on the news of escalating fears of terrorist plots in England – the recent arrest of 12 individuals who have been closely watched – and for whatever reason deemed by the security forces over the big lake – to pounce in on them and give them a brief hiatus from society – I think people could use some good old fashioned kindness.

Might I suggest the international peace symbol – the snow shovel.  Growing up just a couple hundred yards across the river from the great state of North Dakota, I learned many things, but the one that always stuck with me is that you carry a shovel in your trunk when the snow starts falling.  You are bound to get stuck at some point (perhaps multiple times) in the duration of the long winter, and you don’t want to be stuck out in the cold, waiting for someone to rescue you (mind you this was also in the time where there were no cell phones and you were required to be more self reliant).  So Tuesday on my early morning venture to drop off the high schooler for departure on his 3 day ski trip, in a lack of sleep induced fog (at one point, I even sat there waiting to turn right on a red, when my son reminded me that I could go if I wanted to, ‘oh yeah, you can go right on red’, duh!  Neurons start firing again).  I was presented with a an opportunity, to practice at becoming a better person myself.

The drive was a cautious slow go, as I was newly aware of the coating of ice that formed on the car after only having it out of the garage for about 5 minutes.  On the return trip, visions of sugar plums danced in my head (actually, visions of my warm and comfy bed, were doing an all out congo).  Driving down one of the cleared curb to curb snow emergency routes, I spied a minivan stuck in the concrete berm that the plows leave in their wake blocking the lesser cross streets after nights first pass at the powder.  The vehicle had tried turning off (oh the folly, we’ve all been there) and got snowjammed halfway through the turn.  I slowed down and then realized I DID NOT HAVE A SHOVEL.  Flabbergasting.  And you all thought I learned something up there in North Dakota.  So foot off the brake and back  pressing on the gas, I accelerated realizing I was completely useless to the occupant and hoped someone else passing by would stop to help.  But then my conscience got the better of me.  People just don’t stop very often to help others out in this day and age.  So I did a drive by (not the violent kind).  A short stop in the alley by my house to snag my snow shovel from one of the mountains of snow surrounding our garage and headed back another mile or so from where I had come.  The vehicle was occupantless, I noticed on coming up, but then I saw a small figure looming in the distance heading my direction, snow shovel in hand.  I extended my olive branch, er, shovel, and helped dig the lady out.  Not much was in the way of conversation, I could tell by the timid English spoken briefly that the petite lady was utilizing it as a second language.  But who needs to understand what another is saying when the body language of another helping you out says it all.  Sometimes no words are necessary.

It reminds me of the first huge snowstorm we had this winter when people seemed to actually be driving courteously out on the roads.  Two lanes reduced to one, people would take turns on the road, stopping to let others pass.  You would even encounter some of the snow bandits who apparently just couldn’t let some good powder go.  I even saw one guy in a bright yellow truck, a good two or three days after the storm, near Fleet Farm in Oakdale, that still had a good foot of snow on top of his SUV and only appeared to have swooped out a small patch in front of his viewing area, preserving the rest of the snow around him.

But has this snow started to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths?  Already the novelty has worn off and we just want to get where we are going?  Taking chances swooping around others on the two ways going both directions when the snow has made it so there is really only one lane in each?  Has the lesson been lost?  Are people that caught up in the craziness that accompanies this time of year, stressed out beyond belief trying to find that perfect gift?  In that last mad dash against time to beat the clock that ticks towards December 24th?   

Here’s to hoping that the spirit of the season catches on and people start to find time for other human beings, to love and respect others belonging to our great sea of humanity.  Because if we truly did respect the value of all beings in humankind, I believe we would not be making bombs to blow each other up.  Perhaps cottage industries manufacturing snow shovels, but not bombs.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

•December 11, 2010 • 3 Comments

Snow, glorious snow has finally fallen, blanketing the land in a gleaming coat of sparkling, fluffy, powdery whiteness.  Time to throw your bodies into the snow and rejoice in gladness.  Let the (snow) angels sing!

“Boo hiss!”, comes from the masses.

“You are gagging me with your flowery description of something that can only be described as a gigantic mess – treacherous white stuff.”

” Has she gone off the deep end?  If not, maybe she wants a little push in that direction?” 

“This is the end of fall!  That wonderful time of year where we can wander through the leafy splendor haphazardly dropped in our footpaths. Now it is just this constant mess, and the shoveling, oh the shoveling and blowing of snow.  A big pain in my rear.” 

” Forget that, I’m going to go hibernate like the proverbial bear underneath my layers of ‘blanket simulated’ fat, and veg out on the couch in front of the television.  And when I want exercise, well, I’ll just run down to the gym and work out on…oh yeah, that gross piece of equipment left slimy by the previous cardiofreak who rained sweat all over it.  Whew, the air is a bit ripe in here, too”, pulling at his/her shirt, “I never really noticed that before…”

Ok, ok, I get it, so some of you still think I’m a bit wrong in the head.  But just listen here for a minute, I won’t take but a few moments of your time.   I really do believe that Sir Rannulph Fiennes had it right in saying  that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”  When you look around yourself (and its ok to give your own person some scrutiny), what do you see?  No hat.  Gloves stuffed in a pocket. T-SHIRTS in the  middle of winter.  Even skirts!  With no stockings???  And don’t even get me started on the guy who is still wearing shorts (yes, I am talking about you Billy)!  This is all roses, except for the moment you step out the door and you realize, gasping for air, this is absolutely brutal out here.  Wonder why people don’t love winter?

So now let’s talk a little bit about appropriate clothing choices.  Over the years I have developed my own personal strategy of dealing with the cold.  I’m not saying I’m the most fashionable person out there, but I am certainly among the ranks of the practical (and penny pinching).  My arsenal now includes:

Base layer (moisture wicking):  hanes thermal underwear, replete with powderpuff pink roses – yes, you heard that right ($); polyblend thermal tops – one thin verion, Goodwill ($) and one slightly thicker, REI ($$)

Mid layer options (for insulation):  a saggy maroon poly sweater, picked up at a thrift store at least a decade ago- now in need of some serious stitching along the shoulder ($); two faux cable nit pattern poly shirts (one grey, one green – for when I’m feeling like a tannenbaum) ($); fleece lined snow pants ($$)

Shell layer (to provide protection from the elements):  “Russels” – I’m not sure what else to call these, but for the uninitated midwesterner they are lined nylon pants which have a tieable cinch cord waist and zippers at the ankles (provide semi-protection from the elements + insulate) ($$); a darn good jacket – my most recent is a Columbia given to me by my husband at xmas more than 5 years ago which has a midlayer fleece which can separate from the outer shell ($$$)

Feet:  a large acquisition of smart wool socks gathered over the years ($$), as well as some random brand poly liner socks ($); insulated Salomon winter boots ($$$)

Hands:  big black puffy winter gloves from REI ($$); poly stretchy liner gloves from just about any retail establishment – even grocery stores sell them now ($)

Head/neck:  a  purple Turtle Fur neck/face warmer ($); a Turtle Fur fleece hat or knitted Burton snowboard cap ($ – end of year clearance deals); I can also pull up my jacket hood in the fiercest of winds

Several of these items picked up fairly inexpensively and without special ‘super powers’ (like the pair of Under Armor pants and thermal top recently purchased for my son to keep out the chill on his Nordic Ski team outings -$100!!! Yikes!!!).  I will say though, that nothing beats a good pair of warm boots and gloves – DO NOT HESITATE to sink money into those apparatus.  They are the two things that can make even the most bada*% of us cower and run for the indoors.  And after years of trying out various cheaper brands of wool socks, I now suck it up and sink my money into the more expensive Smartwool brand socks, there is just nothing that stacks up to them (I swear they are not paying me to say this). 

Once you have mastered the art of staying warm, you can then branch out even more and start to discover there are ACTIVITIES (stay tuned for these in future posts) that you can actually endure, and perhaps even enjoy? Just trust me on this one.  Then you might want to branch out for more specialized gear such as the Scott ski goggles I purchased just last year ($$-$$$) for cross country skiing.  When I pull those puppies on over my face, it is like a warm cusion of air buffeting my eye sockets from the icy chill of winter.  “Hellooo Cancun!” exclaim my eyeballs.  And back in the days when we used to swap gifts in my husbands family, I was given a nice pair of waterproof, insulated snow pants from one of his brothers (approx $50).  It can get downright tropical underneath those layers!  Layers, my friend, indeed, are YOUR friend.  Seasoned outdoor enthusiasts rejoice.

 While you could board yourself up inside for the duration, I beckon you to heed the call of the wintry world.  It’s going to hang around for awhile anyway (I hear rumors of a blizzard this weekend), so you might as well get out and try to enjoy it. 

 Stay tuned in the future for:  keeping your children warm outdoors

~urban wanderlust

Usable Space Series, Part 1: Office space

•November 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

No this is not a running commentary on the hilarious movie from 1999 in which ill fated coworkers decide upon the timely demise of one of their electronic work counterparts, but rather, an introspection on the potential for places in the urban realm to have a capacity for more than the use they are specified for. 

Take a city bus for example – people use it to get from place to place – and yes, it takes time to do so, you can’t just hop in a car at the moment you leave your doorstep to whisk yourself away to the office, you have to time it to when the bus will show up – hope it shows up on time – and then let it truck you around town to other various destinations until you finally reach a stop near your destination.  Then get out and walk.  (Walking, by golly, I’ve been wondering what those long things attached to my hips were for.)

Many of us are cognizant that a ride on the bus offers a perfect opportunity to take advantage of some free time to read a book, people watch, or just sit in a sleepy stupor ’til you reach your destination.  But one day, not too long ago, I was riding the bus to my former place of employment and an opportunity unfolded itself right in front of me.  First, it was the realization that I was forced to sit on the bus for half an hour.  Without an opportunity to be distracted by the dishes piling up in the kitchen or the laundry beckoning me from the dungeon (if you want to know where Jimmy Hoffa really is, I suspect he’s buried in the defunct cistern located in the crawl space beneath my kitchen floor).  I didn’t have a toddler tugging at my pant leg or making the milk sign with her fists as if she were yet again making a beverage request from her human dairy bar.  This was ME time –  and I no longer had any excuses not to write.  And my pen started to scrawl relentlessly across the page.

I started to think of the manner in which coffee shops and libraries are used as impromptu workstations or meeting places and the potential of the bus glaring me in the face as I jumped into my new writing life.  A quick consultation online with Metro Transit’s schedule and I would be on my way riding along the mobile workstation,  for the cheap price of $1.75 ($2.25 rush hour).  Way less than the price of a coffee at the local Starbucks where I would have to make important decisions, such as free trade this or shade grown that, impacting the global economy and welfare of people in far off places.  I could cruise around the metro gathering ideas for my work from the world around me.  I wouldn’t have to continue to sit in isolation, stifled inside the four walls of my home.  Just think of the unlimited journey potential in store with the vast network of bus lines connecting me to the greater metro area.  And I could do so for up to 2-1/2 hours on one rider fare!  The coworking rental office spaces popping up around town could only wish to boast such an economical rate. 

Soon I envision that people will hold work meetings on the bus – say, “so and so, I’ll catch the 50 at the corner of Fairview and University at 10:20 on Friday of x day of x month, and when  you join me at your stop at Dale, we can discuss the latest proposal you have for xxx project.”  To avoid confusion with busses running late, each bus would have a conference room number displayed on the electronic display to ensure would be ‘mobile meeters’ they were boarding the correct on-the-go conference room.  The inward facing seats at the front of the bus would be appropriate for multiple person meetings, the long backseat coupled with the inward facing adjacent seats for a larger sized discussion, and the two seaters for a confidential one on one.  You would eliminate late arrivals, because everyone would now have to be on time – lest they risk the dreaded ‘I missed the bus’ loop of child star rapper group ‘Kris Kross’  from the early ’90’s. The opportunity for feedback would depend on the ‘clientele’ surrounding you – whether it be the sleeping beauties who have had a bit too much to drink on a late night outing or perhaps on a journey during the day with someone taking advantage of  the bus as a short term solution to stay warm in the frigid Minnesota winters.  Call it ‘audience participation’.  Heck, you may even hear from that one loud talker in the back who always thinks his business is so important that everyone else on the bus must hear what he has to say  – though don’t expect him to let you get a word in edgewise…

So take the opportunity, grab your favorite gear – be it pencil and paper, or the latest ‘I’-gadget – hop the bus, and see the stories unfold around you. 

~urban wanderlust

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