Today was so freaking full of wonderful moments...big and small...sweet and bizarre. I feel the need to honor all of them...so bear with me:
The material I prepared for the consent agenda at the Regents meeting was approved without question or comment. Which is EXACTLY what we're going for with mundane consent agenda items. HOORAY! IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS!
One of the awesomest people I know--who saw my Facebook posts about wanting a malt AND about the disappointment with our Little Free Library--showed up in my office today with a strawberry malt...figuring I might need a little pick-me-up. I snarfed down a delightfully obnoxious volume of ice cream and we had a fantastic conversation about community and ethics and expectations and prejudice. A nice end to a long day...and a series of long weeks.
Speaking of the Library...Jay had emailed the LFL headquarters to see if anyone else had ever reported having similar troubles and to ask if they had any suggestions for encouraging ethical book borrowing. He got a nice email back from them the very next day. And TODAY he got a personal phone call from Todd Bol...Mr. Little Free Library, himself! Mr. Bol is custom designing a sign to add to our library...something to remind folks that it's take-a-book, leave-a-book...that the books are gifts to the community. Jay said Mr. Bol was so warm and encouraging...and conveyed much dedication to getting things at our LFL back to how they should be. It's hard to feel cranky at the world when there are so many wonderful people in it, don't you think?
Speaking (some more) of the Library, tonight, around 6:30, we were hanging out in the living room--waiting for a former student to stop by--and the people who cleaned out our library the other night showed up again...and donated about 6-8 books back to us. Not the ones they borrowed (nor NEAR as many as they took)...but still...a donation was made. I don't know if it was guilt...or if they really didn't know it's not exactly cool to take 20-30 books at a time from a little book borrowing box. Regardless of their motivations, it was a nice gesture...a gesture that restored some of the faith that I'd lost on Tuesday. And--most importantly--it makes me feel like we'll reopen the Library of Justice sooner, rather than later. One of our favorite neighbors saw this whole event transpire, and he came out to chat with us about the situation. We (too) talked about community and ethics and expectations and prejudice. There's a lot to be said on those particular fronts...it's nice to have so many people in my life who like to think about these things.
Then my former student (S.) stopped by...to take pictures of Sammy for a final project in her photography class. So we headed off to the park with our angel dog...who is not normally allowed off his leash in unfenced areas. Jay tossed tennis balls to Sam, and he frolicked and ran and jumped and played, all while S. took photos. Sammy was so focused on his play, that it never occurred to him to leave our sides. He stuck right with us, didn't run off, and was suchagoodboyyyyyyyy! We had a lovely time...and it was wonderful to connect with S. as she is finishing up her college career (in 4 years, I might add!). I'm so excited for her future...and excited to know her as a friend as life moves forward.
Isn't that just a whole bunch of loveliness all in one day? So many great moments today...I appreciated them all so very much.
While I certainly didn't go away on purpose, I honestly had no idea if I intended to come back.
But here I am. So there you go.
Although I'm sure many of these topics will get more "ink" at a later date, let me give you a quick rundown of updates that may or may not relate to things I used to blog about...6-7 months ago:
Minnesota defeated the marriage amendment at the polls in November. Today the MN House of Representatives passed legislation to make same-sex marriage legal in our state. The Senate will vote on Monday. Governor Dayton has promised to sign the legislation into law. Exciting times here...so proud of my adopted home state...so proud to be a Minnesotan!
We've now been in our house a year. Even though we have yet to hang much of anything on the walls (GAH. What is wrong with us?!?! Oh, we're scared of the plaster walls...that's what's wrong with us), we couldn't love it here more. And if the house itself wasn't everything we ever dreamed of, the neighborhood in which it exists is even better. We have the best neighbors. Seriously. THE BEST. I'm sure you're thinking, "Aren't nice neighbors great, Em? I love my neighbors too!" Whatever, dude. Your neighbors got nothin' on the good people of Desnoyer Park. It is awesome here. So many wonderful families who have welcomed us and embraced us. We can't imagine living anywhere else.
Our dear little puppy is now a grown-up (at least in size) dog. Sammy is a wonderful companion and suchagoodboyyyyyyy! We don't remember life before him, and we cannot overstate the joy he brings to our lives on a daily basis. Dear heavens, do we love him!
(This is totally reading like a bad Christmas letter, isn't it? Oh well. On we go!)
What else? Hmmmm....
I love my job...I love my coworkers and colleagues. It's been such a long time since I've worked this hard or learned this much on a regular basis. And it's been a long time since I was surrounded by such an incredible cadre of people. I wish I could bottle this moment of my professional career and have it be like this forever. I am so, so fortunate. And I remind myself of that fact every single day.
Austin Hartley-Leonard is gonna come do a concert in my backyard. I'm not even kidding. It's a long story. I'll tell you about it some other time. As you might imagine, I'm over the moon about that. I said to Jay, "You're lucky I'm pregnant, or I'd totally be that drunk girl throwing her bra at the stage," to which he dead-panned, "I am lucky."
Oh...and I'm pregnant. Did I forget to mention it? 30 weeks along, as of yesterday. I've got plenty to say about that, as you might imagine. But that's for another time too.
Okay, so that's it for now. I'm back. I'm happy to be back. I don't know how much I'll stick to my previous "world-warming" themes...but I'll try.
Remember how when you were in grade school, you'd often come home with some sort of indication of how you'd done that day? Maybe you got 10 of 10 on your spelling test...maybe you got a certificate of recognition for helping a classmate...maybe your construction paper/cotton ball/glitter Santa Claus was one of the best of the holiday season.
After a day like that, the evidence of your kiddie accomplishment often ended up on the fridge...proudly displayed and held in place by a garish magnet from some summer trip or the local pizza place.
I had that kind of day today. The kind of day where I wish I could have brought home a record of my accomplishments--listed in bullets on a piece of loose-leaf paper with a big red A+ glowing at the top of the page--and put it on the fridge. I DID GOOD TODAY!
Unfortunately, the stuff I "did good" about isn't really anything I can share. I didn't ace a presentation or host a successful event. I didn't write a winning report or come up with a great idea to implement in the future. Mostly, I just listened really well and responded to a problem. I connected folks who needed to know about the situation. I dropped everything. I didn't over- or under-react. I used good judgement. I stayed late to take phone calls. I made sure people felt heard. I kept people informed. I know what needs to happen next.
All I did was exactly what any person should do at work. And I'm not envisioning kudos for doing what would normally be expected. But it was one of those things that even though I just basically did the right thing, it still feels like I really nailed it. You know?
It took a really long time to explain the situation to my parents and Jay. And the problem I was addressing was more captivating than the "and then I called so-and-so and we talked about thus-and-such" play-by-play I gave them to explain why I felt so proud of my actions.
But still. It was a good day. I wish someone would have sent home a progress report that I could have proudly posted on the fridge...complete with a smiley face and a gold star.
I guess when you're a grown-up, sometimes quiet pride has to be enough. Or a vaguely braggy and nonspecific blog post. Quiet pride and a blog post. Yeah. That's it.
Newton's third law of motion is all about how forces exist in pairs. That whole "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction," thing.
I know precious little about physics, but this law sorta sums up how I feel about college vs. professional football.
I love college football. I love it. LOVE. IT. I watch it and talk about it and welcome it back in the fall and miss it when it's over in the winter. A good Badger game can cheer me up...and a bad one can seriously bum me out. The current crap-tastic Badger season leaves me feeling a little hollow...I miss the excitement of a strong season.
I love college football.
And yet, to the extent that I am invested in NCAA football...to that very same extent, I am uninvested in the NFL. See? Equal and opposite forces.
I mean I'm sorta into the Seattle Seahawks right now...but only because former-Badger Russell Wilson is currently the starting quarterback. I was excited to watch him in the "Monday Night Replacement Referee Debacle"...but I completely forgot to check and see how he did the following Sunday (he lost...I discovered that the following Tuesday).
And I do try to love my home-state Packers...but I don't have any genuine emotional connection to them. I'm glad if they do well...but I don't really care if they don't.
Whatevs. I'm usually not even paying attention.
This ad for the NFL and Tide, however, totally caught my attention, got me fired up, and made my day:
Of the 10 photos, 4 are of women...ONLY women. Not obviously-hetero women clinging to their boyfriends or husbands...not women hosting a party, offering bowls of chips and fistfuls of beer to guests...not women scowling at a group of obnoxious, messy men, while wielding a roll of paper towels and a bottle of carpet cleaner. Not accessories to football...but women who are passionate about football in their own right.
The other thing I love about this ad? None of the women are all tarted up and wearing those heinous pink jerseys. The jerseys that scream (in the words of one of my favorite articles on the topic), "I put flair in front of team spirit. My style will not be trumped by distasteful team colors." These women are in obnoxious jerseys and bangly beads and knit-hats...screaming their fool heads off. These women are fans...not female fans.
Amid the usual inanity of sports advertising (BEER! Big trucks! BEER! Nacho cheeziness! BEER!), it was awesome to see such an inclusive ad. The interesting part was that the novelty of the ad didn't come from being witty or clever...it was novel because it was actually honest...portraying women as we are when we watch football...instead of the fictional way we're often depicted.
So...way to go NFL! Way to go, Tide! My allegiance still lies with Saturday football, but I'm impressed with the respect you've demonstrated toward your female fans.
I've been volunteering at Minnesotans United since January 5th. Although a lot has changed in the last 35 weeks--more offices, different types of opportunities for involvement in the campaign, and an endless stream of new staff members--one thing remains the same: every single training session, we go around and ask all the volunteers (both new and returning) why they've come in...why they're participating.
This is why: "I'm here because Minnesota is better than this."
"I'm here because this is against my religion."
"I'm here because what if one of my children is gay? What about their rights?"
"I'm here because the legislature is playing politics with peoples' relationships."
"I'm here because this amendment is a waste of money and a waste of time."
"I'm here because I'm really, really gay and some day I'm really, really gonna want to get married."
"I'm here because I care about this, and I ran out of excuses not to volunteer."
"I'm here because my partner and I have been together for [insert any number here] years and we would like our relationship to be honored just like the relationships of straight Minnesotans.
This is why.
Although recruiting volunteers, having meaningful conversations with undecided voters, and raising money are all important parts of what we do, I think the part where we share our motivations for participating is truly the most meaningful part of my weekly experience. It's the part where my mind finally unplugs from the rest of my life...where my heart feels less heavy about depressingpoll numbers...where my spirit soars from spending time with such dedicated and compassionate Minnesotans.
The point is, every single week, my dedication to this critical cause is reinvigorated and reinforced by the dedication of everyone else. I think we keep each other going. I think we give each other hope.
And while the rationale and the motivation of all the other volunteers is always moving, some weeks the "This is why..." is a little more poignant than others.
Tonight was one of those nights. And this is why...
The front desk phone rang around 8:30...a woman was coming in to buy yard signs and wanted directions. "I know you're on University Avenue," she said, "but where are you located exactly?"
"Which direction are you coming from?" I asked.
"I'm at Arby's right now," she replied.
"Okay, well we're just across the street...so be sure to bring me some Curly Fries, and I'll be sure to sell you some lawn signs," I joked.
A few minutes later, she walked through the door. We talked about the campaign. She told me about her volunteer experience a few days back. I fumbled around, trying to figure out how to take money for merchandise sales, as I am but a mere volunteer. She asked if she could buy 10 (TEN!) signs...she was picking them up for pretty much the whole block.
"AWESOME! What a great block you live on!" I exclaimed.
"It's actually a really touching story," she said.
She went on to tell me the story of 8-year-old T. who lives on her block with his two moms. She told me how T. is just old enough to understand what all the "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" signs are about. She told me how hurt T. felt when he realized that there were people out there who didn't like his family...how it affected his sense of self and his confidence. She told me about T's moms talking about how challenging it is to talk to an 8-year-old about a topic like this. She told me how devastated T. was when the very first lawn sign that showed up on his block was a "Vote Yes" sign...just a few doors down from his house. That right there, in his very own neighborhood, was someone who didn't approve of his family.
And then she told me that the rest of the neighbors talked about the effect this one "Vote Yes" yard sign was having on T. ...and how they decided they would all put up "Vote No" signs to show T. how much love and support he and his family had in the neighborhood.
By the time she finished her story, I was absolutely crying. Her eyes weren't particularly dry either. "That was an amazing story," I said. "Thank you for sharing it with me." I asked her if she thought T. and his moms would want to come in and volunteer...so he could see all the people fighting for him and his family. She promised she'd extend the invitation.
This is why.
As she left, I told her how nice it was to meet her...how I appreciated that she'd shared T's story...that I hoped we'd see her again...and that I was sort of mad that she didn't bring any Curly Fries. We both laughed.
I went back to supporting volunteers and checking in on how the phone banking was going. I shared the story she'd shared with me with 2 of the volunteers that I know best. We all got misty-eyed about it.
Suddenly, one of the staff members yelled from the front desk, "Emily! Curly Fries!" The woman had come back...with 2 large orders of fries. I was incredulous (and a little embarrassed). We laughed and hugged. She went on her way. The other trainer and I wrapped up the phone bank and passed around some deep-fried goodness. As you might imagine, after a long night of phone banking, there was great enthusiasm for Curly Fries.
After we did the debrief--where we ask the volunteers about how the evening went--and after we shared the totals for the evening (something like 565 dials, 110 conversations, and 56 volunteers recruited), I said, "You know those Curly Fries? Here's what that was all about..." I shared the story of T. and his neighborhood.
I have a contemptuous relationship with Sundays. I always have. Instead of viewing it as the last day of the weekend, I've always felt like it's more the beginning of the work week. I don't like being out on Sundays...I need to be home feeling like I'm getting prepared for the week...even if I'm "preparing" by laying around and recharging every ounce of my batteries.
The stupid part is if I spend too much time engaged in preparations for the upcoming week, I feel resentful about not having any downtime. And if I spend too much time resting, I feel guilty for not getting more done. It's my own, self-inflicted catch-22. Where does this particular psychology come from? I wish I knew.
But today--TODAY--today I beat the Sunday blues.
New best friends!
Thanks to a sleepy puppy (trips to the dog park Thursday and Friday and rough-housing with Uncle Buster all day Saturday), we were able to sleep until almost 9am, save Sammy's 6am potty break. I got up at 9 and let Jay sleep...Sammy and I went on a pretty big walk. Upon our return, I had grand plans to start the day. I even made a pot of coffee and got out the banana muffin recipe. I went upstairs to wake Jay up...Sammy as my assistant.
And then this crazy thing happened...suddenly we all fell back to sleep. Is it a nap when everyone is back to bed at 10am? Or is that just going back to sleep? Who knows!? But we stayed there until 12:30. TWELVE-THIRTY.
I am not even kidding. And I am not even ashamed.
With a silent neighborhood and cool breezes blowing in through the windows, it was like Desnoyer Park and Mother Nature were goading us into indulgent laziness. We rose to the challenge. And then some.
Speaking of blurs...
But let me tell you, when we did finally get up, we were a blur of pro- ductivity. I finally made those banana muffins... and a small pot of pasta sauce with tomatoes from the garden...which went into a pan of lasagna...that baked while I made Jay a batch of root vegetable soup for lunches this week. Speaking of Jay, he vacuumed and made solid progress on the organization of his nerd-workshop. We did laundry and sorted through the mail and magazines that seem to pile up, in spite of our best efforts. We took Sammy to the dog park. We meal-planned and made to-do lists for the week.
We even blogged a bit.
Today was so perfectly balanced between pause and progress, and I feel absolutely prepared for whatever this week may hold. I don't know if today was an anomaly, or if this sort of thing could be replicated from time to time. I hope for the latter but won't hold my breath. Today was one to be cherished.
(Huge projects and late nights at work) + (preparations for sisterly visit) + (jury duty) + (sisterly visit*State Fair) = one bitch of a cold
Dear heavens, I've been a complete wreck all week.
I felt it all starting on Sunday night...that feeling of insatiable exhaustion. Monday it was the tickly throat and an inability to feel fully awake. Tuesday it was the beginning of congestion and a full-on sore throat. Wednesday after work, I broke down and took Severe Tylenol Cold and Flu...I slept from 7:00 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. And then I woke up today, Thursday, feeling worse...if you can imagine such a thing. Like the thing where you can feel the contents of your sinuses sloshing around in your skull...where you're certain your brain is going to explode out your ears...where you're equally impressed and revolted by the amount of olive green phlegm your body is producing. (P.S. "You're welcome" for that phlegm description.)
I survived at work for half the day today. Just enough time to feel like I contributed to the final once-over of the big report we've all been working on. And then at 12:30 p.m. ...with much encouragement from my colleagues...I called it a day. I came home, cuddled up on the couch with perfectly arranged pillows and quilts, queued up DVDs of Chuck, and rested. And rested. And rested. I dozed off and on...scratched at Sunday's crossword puzzle...checked my email to make sure I wasn't missing anything important...dozed some more. Jay worked late...so I made the most of a quiet house (and a sleepy puppy).
Sick days generally suck...because you're sick. Because you're not contributing at work. Because you're not contributing anywhere, actually.
But this one was a good one. I got a few things done at work. I helped finish the report. I came home and didn't feel so annihilated that I couldn't function. I enjoyed that yummy sensation of drifting in and out of consciousness to one of my favorite shows. All the drugs and sleep finally caught up and made a difference...I'm starting to feel like myself again.
Just in time for what should prove to be a crazy-busy weekend.