Wednesday, May 28, 2008

a spontaneous ride

On the Memorial Day holiday, Ryan and I went bike riding on the trail that runs through town. It was a glorious warm day, and we were enjoying feeling the wind in our faces. In a moment of spontaneity, we (meaning I) decided to seize the opportunity for a mini-adventure. So, we veered off our usual trail route and decided to zip downhill into the back-entrance trail to Governor Dodge state park. This would also give me the opportunity to finally attempt a personal challenge to me from two years ago and make the dreaded Governor Dodge uphill climb that I kept saying I wasn't ready for.

The day was perfect and the ride was exhilarating. The trail into the park was mostly downhill. It led straight into the spillover of Cox Hollow Lake, right in the middle of the state park. The trail spit us out into the wide open space around the lake, and we stopped and de-biked for a couple of minutes to just enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Caught up in the thrill of the moment, we promptly made plans to bring our bathing suits the next time we decided to bike to the lake, and then got back on our bikes to make our way out of the park. The plan was to exit through the park's main entrance and take highway 23 south back to Dodgeville.

Of course, the only way to get out of the park was to go up. And, I had not anticipated the brutal climb uphill. A wretched ten minutes later and not even a quarter of the way up, muscles on fire, we stopped to rehydrate. Another thirty minutes later we were finally done with the torturous climb and back on level ground...out of the park and onto the highway.

It was a lovely trip, in all. I'm not sure if it was the trip I enjoyed more, or the fact that I finally conquered the route I had been pushing off for two years. Yay!

Monday, May 26, 2008

encouragement to my younger self

Lately, I seem to want to go back in time with all the lessons I have learned and tell my younger self that some of the mistakes I made were okay, and some of the mistakes I made were not okay, and why. Perhaps it is because I’m getting older. And perhaps it is because I see people around me repeating some of the mistakes that I made and have since learned from.

It is okay to see beauty and hope in things. It is not okay to suck all the energy out of the room with your negativity.
It is okay to learn, and absorb. It is not okay to spend time learning things that have no value.
It is okay to want people to understand you. It is not okay to refuse to learn how to communicate better so that they will.
It is okay to teach, and guide. It is not okay to bring people down, as if they are unworthy bugs to be crushed.
It is okay to correct someone else’s mistake. It is not okay to ignore it.
It is okay to want to be a world away when people are being shallow and selfish. It is not okay to let them propagate their philosophy as if it should belong to everyone.
It is okay to desire comforts. It is not okay to believe we deserve them.
It is okay to think highly of yourself. It is not okay (and very stupid) to assume that others think the same of you.
It is okay to have a few short-lived pleasures. It is not okay to put stock in them and expect them to have a longer shelf-life.
It is okay to want boys to be attracted to you. It is not okay to base your self-worth on whether or not they are.
It is okay to want to see the world. It is not okay to make that an excuse not to put down roots and trust someone.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The whole point is that, more often than not, we lose sight of what is best for us. We forget to breathe, to smell spring in the air. We forget that life is not all about to-do lists and dehydrated noodles for a 5 minute lunch.

Sometimes there is just too much to cram into one day. Sometimes we don’t feel healthy and well. Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night from a deep sleep, and reach for the notepad so we won’t forget to do something at work.

We forget that – if we would only choose to – we can glimpse the image of God in our own smiles as we watch our naughty puppy make muddy paw prints all over our beautiful hardwood kitchen floor. Or by watching toddlers fall on their cute little butts while attempting to throw a basketball twice their size across a court. Or holding hands and taking a walk with your favorite person. We forget that those are the happy moments that should be cherished. Those are the moments we should cling to for dear life, and bring to memory when our day is filled with negativity, and when cranky people lecture us on all the things that went wrong.

I read yet another article today on oil prices reaching an all-time high.

I read yet another article today on government making bad decisions.

I read yet another article today on stress-related disease.

If it is true that we are morally, financially, physically, and emotionally bankrupt, as people who have Hope, shouldn’t we be the first to shout out that it doesn’t need to be this way?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

a waste of 75 cents

I made the mistake of getting a coke today. Not even diet coke, but the real, sugary kind. I don’t even like coke. When I do drink it, it’s usually diet coke. Not because I like the taste of diet coke better, but simply because it’s marginally healthier than the sugary regular one.

I know exactly why I got the coke too. I was sitting in a meeting at work, and there was a guy right in front of me with a glass bottle coca-cola. The real thing, made with real cane sugar and not high-fructose corn syrup, the kind that was all the rage half a century ago. (Apparently, you can still get these glass bottle beauties at Sam’s Club now and they are made with real cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup – yuck).

That glass bottle coke looked so good.

I continue to underestimate the power of advertising, and my own will-power. No doubt it was the combination of the those very things, and the stress of the afternoon meeting, that made me go straight to the awful vending machine and push the damn button to get a stupid coke in a can, only to be rewarded by the consequences of my rash behavior – a stomach ache, a caffeine headache, and the grim reality that I will never get my 75 cents back.

I make myself sick.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

“we grow the best snacks on earth”

I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures, and top five favorite snack-foods of all time, is Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. It makes up a gigantic portion of my yearly snack-food consumption. My entire mouth salivates at the mere thought of them. I take joy in seeing my fingertips turn red (from the yummy artificial food coloring), whenever I eat them. And, I keep a stash in my desk drawer at work for emergency afternoon cravings.

This afternoon, I was helping myself to a napkin-full when I saw something very curious on the back side of the package.

“We grow the best snacks on earth”

closely followed by

“Made with All Natural Oil”

Having appreciated these tasty treats (in moderation) for years and years, I happen to know that there is nothing remotely food-like, or natural, about these…and that is one of the things that makes it taste exactly the way it does. How does it go, “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”…or something like that? I pity those who justify buying this product because of the above claims.

Thank you Frito-Lay.

Five Beers, Five Italian sausages, Four Brats, Two strong coffees, Three Popsicles, Two large Pizzas, and a brisk Eight to Nine hours later…

We did it. We put up the six-foot wooden privacy fence surrounding our backyard. And, Oh, what a beautiful fence it is! We started at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and we finished by 6 p.m. that evening. This guy we know, Eric, came and helped us…which was nice, because he and Ryan did all the manly lifting. And it didn’t rain until Sunday! It started sprinkling a little bit on Saturday afternoon….but we kept working because it was only drizzling and it stopped after a few minutes anyway.

So, this one-day project brings us several benefits:

1) It cost us less than one monthly mortgage payment (since we only bought the materials, and did ALL THE WORK ourselves, saving on the labor costs), and the return on investment will be very high.

2) The fence is gorgeous and catches the eye of practically everyone who walks by, or drives past. We have, in fact, already received several compliments.

3) It makes our backyard look much bigger (adding a nice chunk to the property resale value!)

4) We can leave Lola out in the yard all day or all evening-long, and not have her bothering us. Let her tear around the yard and drive herself to exhaustion. And, she can dig up or eat whatever the heck she wants without scrutiny from me or Ryan.

5) The darn dog will not run into the neighbor yards. Or go bother the neighbor dogs.

I’m sure there will be many more over the months and (maybe) years to come. It is such an incredible feeling…knowing that I had a hand in building something so fantastic. I – who have never built anything in my entire life – helped build this beautiful fence!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

it is fixed

That's it then. We have the perfect solution. No more worries about being ousted from the upstairs because it is overflowing with books. Here's the story behind this sudden euphoria...
Last Saturday, Ryan had a stroke of genius and we moved the ginormous ugly black bookshelves from the study into the bedroom. The curious thing is, not only have we created a lot of "new" space in the study, the ginormous bookshelves don't look ugly at all in the bedroom. Amazingly enough. The futon also fits perfectly in the study now and has turned into an upstairs haven to snuggle, read books, or simply get away from one Miss hyper-active Lola.
So not only did we solve the problem of the overcrowded study, and finding the space to put the futon in the study, but we also figured out a system for book buying. You see, we have a perfectly reasonable monthly budget for books (which we both enthusiastically agreed upon), and we will just get a few more (non-ugly) bookshelves to line the other wall of the bedroom and that's where we'll put all the new books!! Genius.
We had a post-bookshelf-futon-moving celebratory dinner at Cafe Four (at the Chesterfield) in Mineral Point. There was an older gentleman playing songs (I've got you under my skin...and that type) on his accordion. That was nice. The food was delicious. But we will not get the four cheese pizza again. Instead, we will get one of those scrumptious-looking salads, and perhaps the prosciutto pizza. And maybe next time they will have a person there who can make creme brulee. Not some sixteen year old chippy who has that permanent deer-in-the-headlights expression about her.

a whole new meaning to breakfast bars

Here in Wisconsin, where the bar to church ratio is 3:1, you can always find bars with really great “bar food”. A few days ago, we treated ourselves to our favorite dinner from a local bar – the dinner was fish sandwiches and seasoned wedge fries – and it was great! I asked Ryan if he had to wait long to pick up the order, and he said that he didn’t because the bar was dotted with old men just sitting around with their beers. And I said it was no wonder that the place also served breakfast, due to the fact that most of their customers were over sixty and, no doubt, gave the place enough business during the “early bird special” hours. That led to a conversation about the dual life of small-town Wisconsin bars - they start out as wholesome family “restaurants” where four and five-year old kids can go eat with their parents and grandparents from sunrise to sundown and then, when happy hour kicks in, they turn into thriving downtown hubs where people come from near and far for the cheap beer on tap, $1 well drinks, and to hear the country-rock bands. That led to a conversation about under-age drinking and no wonder how easy it is for high school kids to get alcohol at bars. I guess they have been going to these “family restaurants” their entire lives! Hmmmm.