Well HELLO, Winter!

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Apparently this is true. And apparently this can apply not only to a fondness for an absent person, but for an absent season.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hell has frozen over. Terri is missing winter.”

I never thought I’d see the day either, but here it is. Technically, it is winter here in Minnesota, but it’s not really winter. Winter in Minnesota means snow, and lots of it. In winter, the driveway is supposed to look like a white tunnel leading to the garage. In winter, we fight over who has to spend those extra few minutes outside getting the mail and racing for the warmth of the house. It’s supposed to be cold out there. We’re supposed to have to bundle up in jackets and scarves, mittens and hats and boots. Instead, I see people outdoors in hooded sweatshirts, in flip-flops, and even in shorts. In February. In Minnesota. Something is wrong with this picture.

We Minnesotans aren’t sure what to do with ourselves when winter is supposed to be here but then fails to show up. We pride ourselves on our ability to endure the harsh cold and mountains of snow. And we complain about it! It’s what we do! We laugh about those states that shut down after half an inch of snow falls because they don’t have snow plows or salt to melt the ice on their roads and they don’t know how to drive on ice and snow. We puff up our chests and boast about how we still go to work and school even after several feet of snow have covered the ground.

We Minnesotans have been deprived of several months of complaining and boasting and we are not happy about it! Well, some of us aren’t happy about it. I can’t speak for those people who were still golfing last week.  In February. In Minnesota.

The rest of us? We have conversations that go something like this.

Can you believe how warm it’s been?

I know, right?

And then we walk away, shrugging our shoulders because we don’t know where the conversation goes from there.

Sometimes a person might add:

This can’t last. We can’t be that lucky.

And that person would be right. And when winter finally decides to show up, in February, in Minnesota it doesn’t quite work the same. When a winter storm finally arrives after unseasonably warm weather, it shows up in the form of rain that lasts all night long, freezing to everything it strikes.

The frame for the canopy on my deck, for instance:

And by morning, when the snow is falling on top of all that ice, it begins to look like this.

The weight of the ice and snow is too much for the big pine tree in the back yard and its branches droop to the ground.

Laying in bed at night, there’s the reassuring sound of snow plows scraping their blades over the streets. Waking up in the morning, the sound of rain … or is it sleet … or snow … pelting against the house lulls me back to sleep until the alarm goes off again and it’s time to get up. When I go to leave for work, I have to “gun it” out of the driveway in order to break through the crusty barrier that the plows have left there. One of the boys will clean that mess up later. I have to leave early for work because it’s going to be a long slow drive. The streets are rutted with ice and slush and snow. Traffic crawls down the freeway. Cars that have spun out rest on the shoulder of the road. The flashing lights of the Highway Helper truck alert drivers to vehicles that are stuck. It takes three times as long to get where you’re going as it normally does.

And when I finally make it to the office? When my coworkers finally make it to the office? We compare notes. “How bad was it in your neighborhood? How was your drive? How many accidents did you see? Why do people drive like it’s the first time they’ve ever seen snow when this happens every year?”

And we are happy. Winter feels like winter again and we can breathe easy now.

And tomorrow? We’ll go back to counting the days until spring and longing for warmth and sunshine and green grass. Because right now it’s winter. In February. In Minnesota. And we are sick of it!

Bowling is Fun and Easy

It’s not really easy, but it is always fun! It was bowling night again last night. I love bowling night. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a time or two.

Teresa is our waitress this season. I love her. I swear she watches for me to come in the door. I will have barely made it to my lane and probably not even have my jacket off yet when I’ll sense that someone is standing behind me. When I turn around, there is Teresa, offering me a cold beer.

I hadn’t eaten dinner before bowling last night and I was hungry when I got there. So was Jodi. Last week, we’d seen a guy with a big plate of waffle fries, covered in shredded cheese and bacon. He said he’d special ordered them. Our mouths were watering when we saw those fries last week. We decided to special order some cheesy-bacony-waffle fries of our own. With a side of seasoned sour cream. This is quite possibly the food of the bowling gods. Perfect with a nice cold beer to wash them down. All diets are off when at the bowling alley.

We bowled the kind-of-serious bowling team last night. They were more serious last year, but this year Kim joined their team. Kim is loud and fun and has a screechy laugh. She keeps things lighter among the kind-of-serious ladies. Janet is the leader of the kind-of-serious ladies and last year she rubbed us the wrong way. You see, Janet was the best bowler in our league until Jodi joined my team last year. Janet was not pleased to be ousted from her best-bowler position and actually questioned Jodi’s right to bowl in our fun league. Last year’s president ruled that Jodi was eligible and told Janet to sit down and shut up, (maybe not in so many words). This year Janet seems to have lightened up and she trades jabs with us and even smiles once in a while. And she does this thing when the pins don’t all fall down for her. She flips them a couple of birds behind her back after throwing her ball.

Okay, you might find that funnier if you can imagine that Janet looks rather like a church lady.

Of course, half the fun isn’t just hanging out with the girls. Half of the fun of bowling is bowling well!

I didn’t bowl well in game one. I was under average. :-(  I tried to blame my wrist, which was hurting – it does that once in a while – but I was wearing a wrist brace, so it really maybe wasn’t my wrist’s fault.

And besides, I bowled well in game two! I bowled a 204! TWO – OH – FOUR, oh yeah! I happily accepted lots of congratulations and plotted my strategy to do it again. I was thinking I was hot sh*t!

Then came game three. Under average again! :-( If there’s one thing I can say about the game of bowling is that it knows how to keep you humble.

My disappointment was short-lived though. My attention was drawn to the men’s team just a couple of lanes over from us. Jodi pointed out the fact that they all had pseudo-mullets and matching mustaches and she was certain they were all brothers or cousins or somehow related. We watched them for a while to see if they were in fact of the same family. As their names each came up on the scoreboard, we saw that they were not related. Maybe it’s just true that people who hang around each other long enough begin to look and act alike. They do have great bowling shirts – red and black with a logo on the back that reads Oily Balls.

Which reminds me – I need to come up with a good name for my summer bowling team. Summer league starts in fifty-seven days! Not that I’m counting or anything.

Change of Plans

I was really looking forward to seeing my oldest boy this weekend. He called last week and said he and Heather wanted to come spend a few days with us. We haven’t seen them since Christmas and I was excited! And when Kacey heard that Brad would be coming home, she wanted to come home from school too. She misses her big brother.

Mark took half a day off to go pick up Kacey on Friday afternoon. I contemplated taking a few hours off myself. I thought I might leave work at noon and  go to the grocery store. I wanted to be sure there was plenty of food for a house full of college kids. I thought I might clean the house some and make dinner and have things just so for when the kids arrived that evening.

Things at work have been hectic and when a coworker called in sick on Friday, I became doubtful I’d be able knock off early. Turns out I didn’t need to worry about it. Brad called me at work and said they weren’t coming. There was a big snowstorm predicted for his area this weekend, and he didn’t want to risk having to travel back to Fargo on snowy, icy, dangerous roads.

I was bummed! BUT … Brad promised they would try again in another couple of weeks. And he made a good decision. We talked to him today and he said they’d received about eight inches of snowfall so far, and that it had rained before it snowed. Not a good mix. I’m glad he stayed safe where he was and that I don’t have to worry about him out on the roads.

So it was quieter than it was supposed to be around here this weekend. But Kacey still came home, which meant Connor was around, which meant things were livelier than they might otherwise have been. There were no big family dinners … Everyone’s schedules just seemed to clash. Jake had to work Saturday night. Kacey wanted to spend time with friends. Mark and I had bowling. But today apparently was family day, and that was nice. We had lunch together. Kacey and I baked some sweet breads. Mid-afternoon, Kacey’s friend, Matt came over so we could take him back to school with her. Mark drove. Matt, Kacey and I all promptly fell asleep in the car and before we knew it, we were arriving back at school. Another weekend over too soon.

We’ll try this again in a couple of weeks and hopefully the weather will cooperate then.

Stepped Outside of my Comfort Zone

Exercise-wise, all I ever do is walk, power-walk and try to run (not very well). Once in a while I do some stuff on the Wii Fit, but I don’t recall ever really breaking a sweat there. And I bought a Shake-Weight recently. I DID! You’re laughing, but that sucker works! The arms and shoulders definitely feel it after doing the Shake-Weight routine!

But I’ve been getting bored. And lazy. I’ve been feeling less and less enthusiastic about getting out of bed in the morning to go to the gym and do the treadmill thing. Oh, it’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone – do a little exercise and read my latest book. But it’s getting boring.

Growing up, fitness was not something that was even on my family’s radar. So everything fitness related is rather unfamiliar to me, except for the walking, running and home exercise stuff I’ve done. I’ve never been truly serious about my exercise so I didn’t know which way to turn when I got bored. My gym offers all kinds of group fitness classes, but I’ve never done one. So I’ve been intimidated to go and do one, especially on my own.

My friend and coworker, Lori goes to my gym and does all kinds of fitness classes there and one day she suggested I join her for one. The thought of trying something new seemed a little less intimidating when I thought about doing it with a friend. So today was the day. I’d agreed to go to a morning step aerobics class with her. I wasn’t too worried about it until she started saying things like, “Just promise me you won’t leave before the class is over.”

“Why would I do that,” I asked? “Do people leave in the middle of these classes?”

“Well, sometimes people who are new to it will bail out before it’s over because they’re not getting the steps right and they’re embarrassed or something.”

I wasn’t all that worried about it until Lori shared that bit of information. I’m a very self-conscious kind of person. Suddenly I was worried that I would be a miserable failure at step aerobics. I didn’t realize how worried I was until I dreamed last night about being in fitness class and noticing people pointing at me and whispering about my inability to keep up.

I woke up this morning with the gym dream still lingering and seriously debating whether I wanted to go to the class. The gym is crowded on Saturdays. I don’t like crowds. This is why I like my 5 a.m. visits to the gym. Not many people there at 5 a.m. But there are also no fitness classes at 5 a.m.

Then I berated myself for even letting myself debate whether it was an option to go. I had promised Lori I would meet her there and I was going to go. How bad could it be? But I had to pep-talk myself all the way to the gym. I had to keep reminding myself that I would feel much worse if I gave in to my insecurities than I would if I tried my best and suffered a bit of embarrassment. (And why is it that perceived embarrassment is always so much worse than the real thing?)

Once at the gym, I set myself up in the back of the classroom where I could keep an eye on the more experienced steppers. I followed the instructor and just did the best I could. And the instructor was great about reminding everyone to just do what they could. If we needed to just focus on the steps, we should feel free to skip the coordinating arm stretches. I followed Lori’s advice and when I found myself unable to figure out a pattern of steps, I just marched or did basic steps until I could get back on track. There was one pattern of steps that was very intricate and I could not seem to pick it up no matter how many times I tried. I’ve gotta admit that I contemplated walking out then, but I looked around and saw other newbies looking just as lost as me, and that gave me the boost to stick with it. The longer I stuck with it, the smaller the chance that my insecurities were going to beat me.

And? It was awesome! I did it! I stuck it out right through to the end. I was sweating like crazy by the time we were done and I’d had fun! I knew before it was over that I want to do it again.

Lori, her friend, Lynn and I gathered together when it was all over. Our faces were red and we were all sweating.

“That was fun,” I told Lori!

“That was hard,” she laughed and Lynn agreed. “That wasn’t the usual instructor and this class was way more intense than what we do with the normal instructor.”

“Yeah,” Lynn said. “That probably wasn’t the best class for a beginner to start out with.

“Well, I want to do it again,” I said. “So that must be a good sign!”

We parted ways then. Lori wanted to do some free-weights and I needed to head home. But I am definitely feeling better about trying more of these fitness classes. I’ll bet Lori doesn’t even know what a huge favor she did for me just by being there and encouraging me.

They say that beer is good for the hair…

She joked about it last time I was there and I laughed. I didn’t think she was serious.

I love the salon where I get my hair done. It’s like… It’s like… OH! I know! It’s kind of like that salon in the movie Steel Magnolias where everyone knows everyone and it’s the place to catch up on what’s going on around town. That’s what my place is like, sort of.

It’s fun at this salon. There’s always something entertaining going on. I like going to get my hair done. Patti’s my stylist and I met her several years ago when Pam, the person who had been doing my hair for something like fifteen years? QUIT! I was so devastated that I went about seven months without a haircut. I told people I had made a choice to grow out my hair, but the reality was, I didn’t know what to do without Pam!

Several friends of mine suggested the salon I now patronize. They recommended a particular stylist and I called to make the much-needed appointment. The recommended stylist wasn’t available, but Patti was. And I desperately needed a hair cut. And it was fate. I loved Patti from the first moment she sneezed and announced, “WOO! That one was a leg-crosser!”

And she did exactly with my hair as I had asked. And the rest is history. I’ve been going to Patti ever since. She’s easy-going. She knows her customers well, because she takes the time to ask questions about their lives. And she remembers what they tell her about their families and jobs and hobbies and lives. And some of her customers are people she’s known throughout her life. Patti listens when her customers describe what they want and she always seems to come through with exactly what is asked.

The salon is a welcoming little local place, with bright aqua walls alternated with brown walls and coordinating decor. There are inspirational sayings on the walls in a few places and there are always flyers for local fundraisers and benefits on the glass door. Sometimes there are old ladies having their hair set, but you’re just as likely to see high school girls, middle-aged women, men or children in the chairs at each station.

When I walked in tonight the place was nearly empty. Patti poked her head out from the back room and said, “I haven’t mixed your color yet, so if you want something different, now’s the time to say so.”

“Nah,” I said. “I’ll just go with the usual.”

“Okay,” Patti said. “Just give me a sec. Go ahead and sit in my chair.”

As I plopped down in Patti’s station, she poked her head out again. “Can I do something just a little different with your color this time?”

I didn’t even think about it. “Sure!”

Patti smiled and said, “Cool. I’ll be right out.”

When she came back with my color, I asked, “So what are we doing different with my color?”

“I’m just going to put in some accent color between the chunks of blonde.”

I shrugged. “Okay,” I said. Patti wasn’t very specific, but I’ve learned to trust her like that. And besides, it’s just hair. Even if I hated it, it can be colored or cut or grown again. But I’ve never hated anything Patti has done with my hair.

Another stylist was in the shop when I got there and her two little boys were running around. One of them, Evan was “five and one years old,” he told me. The other looked to be about three years old and they were eating the Dum-Dum suckers from the jar on the front counter like they were going out of style. Evan came over and asked me if I’d ever played paper toss.

“You try to throw a wad of paper in the trash basket and try not to let the fan blow the paper back at you,” he said.

“I’ve never played that, but it sounds really fun,” I told him!

“I played it on my aunt’s phone,” he said.

“Oh, it’s a cell phone game,” I said, realizing it wasn’t a “real” game.

“Yep,” he said, skipping across the laminate floor making thumping noises with the winter boots he was wearing. I was kind of disappointed about the game. Evan was too busy working off his sugar-high to notice.

Evan and his brother explored all of the drawers at the empty hair stations and played with the phone at the front desk. They ate more suckers and Evan told us he had already eaten ten or twelve. His mom finished what she was doing in the back and announced they were leaving. Suddenly it was quiet and Patti and I were the only ones left in the salon. We talked small talk for a while until another customer came in.

“Oh, hey Greg,” Patti said, turning to the man who had just walked in. “Greg, this is Terri. Terri, this is my friend Greg. We went to high school together.”

Greg and I said hi to one another and then Patti said, “Terri and I were thinking we were kind of thirsty.”

I raised my eyebrows, wondering what she meant. Greg said, “You want me to go grab one?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind,” Patti said. “Terri, you like beer, don’t ‘cha?”

Ah! BEER is what she meant! I thought she was kidding the last time she mentioned it. I guess not. “Um… yes,” I said.

“Ok, I’ll go get some,” Greg said and he turned, apparently to walk a couple of doors down to the liquor store. When he returned, he had a twelve-pack of my favorite kind of beer. Greg pulled out a bottle, twisted one open and handed it to me. I smiled, a little hesitant. This was odd, but I wasn’t opposed. He went to hand one to Patti but she said she thought she would wait until she was done coloring my hair.

“Oh, have one now,” I said. “I trust you.”

“I’ll just sip mine, then,” she said while Greg grabbed one more for himself and sat down to talk, sip his beer and wait his turn to have his hair cut while my color set.

So we sipped our beers and Patti foiled my hair and she and Greg talked about their 30-year reunion coming up this summer. When she was done with the foils, she said, “Okay. You just need to set for a while, so I’m going to cut Greg’s hair while we wait.”

And so she did. I picked up my book and relaxed, enjoying being able to read for a while. I turned the pages, reading the story, vaguely aware of Patti and Greg chatting at the next station. And every once in a while, I’d reach over and enjoy another sip of my beer, laughing a little to myself!

I think Patti may be onto something here! Oh, and the something different was something fun – just a little streak of really dark hair, here and there among the blonde. Subtle, but not too subtle. Patti knows I don’t do drastic with my hair. It was just enough to mix it up a bit. I love it!

Really thought she was kidding about that beer though!

~~~~~~~~~~

Update: Pic of new hair color – Pardon the untamed (as of yet) hair:

Footwear Impaired

I notice people’s footwear.

When I’m walking from my parking ramp to the office, I look at feet. If people could hear the thoughts in my head, they’d hear judgments.

I LOVE those boots! Wonder where she got them!

I can’t believe someone would actually spend money on those shoes!

Dude, brown shoes do not go with a gray suit. Black shoes, dude! Black!

By the way, I realized today that I would never refer to someone as dude out loud. For some reason though, dude is a part of the vocabulary used in my internal dialogues.

Everyone has tall boots with low heels this year. Why don’t have tall boots with low heels? I need to shop more.

Those heels are ridiculous! Who would willingly spend eight plus hours in heels that high?

Considering my awareness of footwear, it’s no surprise that I have my fair share of pairs. I was going to go around the house and count them, but I just don’t feel like it. I can tell you, off the top of my head, that I’ve got four pair of fashion boots, three pair of athletic shoes, three pair of slippers, (some of which are actually worn outside of the house. I say if they have a rubber sole, they qualify as shoes.) There are several varieties of slip-on, slide-on type shoes, a few pair of heels and I won’t even try to count the flip-flop and sandal varieties.

You’d also think, considering my awareness of footwear, that I’d not make the mistake of breaking footwear fashion rules, such as wearing brown shoes with black pants or white socks with dark shoes….

…or wearing two different shoes to work. All day long. Without noticing. Without anyone noticing, or at least admitting to noticing, thank goodness. I’d have obsessed and died of embarrassment a thousand times over if I thought anyone had caught on to my blunder. I got all the way home and took them off, picked them up to put them in the front closet, and then… Hey, something’s not quite right here.

Yeah. I really did.

The one on the left is brown, though it’s such a dark brown it’s sometimes hard to tell it’s not black. Which is dangerous when someone is leaving the house in a hurry on a Monday morning and not paying real close attention to the subtle differences between brown boots and black boots. And yes, my pants are long and would have covered up the fact that the buckles are placed differently on the boots. But there’s a decorative seam on the front of the brown one that doesn’t exist on the black one. Good thing my feet sit under a desk for most of the day!

Seventy-One

We celebrated my mom’s birthday here yesterday. I’m happy to say that it was a very nice party with a complete lack of family drama. (Okay, maybe one twelve-year old nephew now considers me Mean Old Auntie Terri because I wouldn’t let him catapult off my love seat, torment the dog or eat his dinner in front of a Rob Schneider movie instead of at the table with the rest of the family. But other than that, it was a great party!)

My youngest brother smoked a huge beef roast in his smoker. I made the potatoes and gravy and put together a veggie platter. My sister made glazed carrots and dinner rolls. It was all delicious!

My sister also proved to be an artist in the birthday cake department.

It's a bouquet of flowers! It's a cake! It's the best of both worlds!

And there was picture-taking for posterity’s sake.

Mom and her "baby" and some of the grandkids too

Mom and her favorite (and only) daughters

It was such a successful party, I’m tempted to do it again! But maybe I’ll wait another year! ;-)