Category Archives: Life

Learning

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Learn stuff doodle

One of many goals right now: learn things.

Why? It's interesting, fun, and good for you (me)!

Also, I work by a tv that plays the news all day, and I feel like my brain needs this as a result. Let's call it comfort food for my brain. Good, nourishing comfort food. Like Brussels sprouts.

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September 24, 2014 · 11:32 am

The words of an insightful friend

This post offers an insight into why Julie Gilbert is one of my favorite people:

A brief meditation on death, writing and gratitude

Recommended action: click and read.

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Tumblr breakfast always makes me hungry

A few weeks ago I was searching for a friend’s Tumblr and (mistakenly) thought it had the word “breakfast” in the title. So I entered “breakfast” into the search bar. This is what came up:

(Warning, photo might make you want to eat ALL THE FOOD)

4-30-14 Breakfast on Tumblr

Not only did I instantly want to eat most of the food depicted, every time the photo pops up in my picture gallery, I crave breakfast food all over again.

Nutritionists often cite the benefits of a healthy breakfast. There are more uncertainties in my life right now than I would like, so maybe this picture subconsciously prompts a desire to constantly eat breakfast in hopes it will give me extra energy to tackle everything.

Or I really like looking at pictures of breakfast food.

 

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Learning from life

A year ago my friend, choreographer, and fellow dancer John Munger passed away. I wrote about it last year, which you can read here, or watch the memorial video created by James Peitzman here.

Mosquito dance ARDC

John and I dancing “Mosquito” with the American Russian Dance Company at the Festival of Nations

I’ve thought about John a lot this past year. Moments of missing him. Thoughts about his embracing life with joy, excitement, and frustration. Thinking about his perspective on life and the zeal with which he always ensured dance was part of that life. And thinking about the fact that life comes to an end for all of us, and there will be a moment when we are the ones that others are reflecting on. Thinking about what we said we wanted, what we did, and whether we were happy.

Odd as this may be, today feels like a good day for me to say thank you to the people in my life who have passed away in the past few years. To the ones I knew well enough that I feel like I can have the above thoughts without being a superficial jerk, but instead learning from them – their joy of life, their dreams both realized and unfulfilled, and for sharing their lives with other people. With me.

I always selfishly want everyone I care about to be around forever, but even when they are gone, I am grateful. I am grateful for the remnants of them in my heart, my soul, and my mind as I make decisions about my life. And I know that they continue in similar and different ways for other people.

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes learning from life is even harder. And I’m grateful that others have shared their lives with me so I can try to learn from them, too.

 

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Chipotle is in my head

I read this Quartz article yesterday about Chipotle and their company culture, and it’s been lurking in my brain ever since.

(The short version: Chipotle changed their company culture in 2005 to cultivate talent from within the organization and it’s working really well for the overall company and the employees. It’s not a long article, full reading is recommended!)

Company culture and the effect it can have is one of the side topics my brain visits. It was important to me as a manager, as an employee, and I (like many people) think it can make a big difference. So I like to think about it. Now that my husband and I have relocated and I’m looking for a job, I find it’s on my mind in a new way. As I look at position postings and think about what I want to do next, I find one of the biggest concerns for me is being in a culture of respect. I don’t mean we all sit in a sharing circle to start each day – I might run from that – but I want to be treated with respect as a person. I want everyone to be treated with respect. We’re all individuals with something to offer, and that something will nearly always be better if it comes from a place where we are valued.

Honestly, I’m not sure why this has been such a concern for me. I’ve worked (nearly) always in places where this is true, a given. Although I’ve worked in nonprofits and/or museums for a long time, I’m not sure I’ll stay there now, so maybe that’s part of it.  I’m happy to put in my time in a new industry, but I’m still a person with knowledge and skills, and like all people (I assume?), life is better when we are respected.

Burrito!

Sadly this is an old photo

One other thought from the article. To me the even more interesting part is the commitment to training and developing staff. It inspires me, makes me just a teensy bit jealous, and makes me want a burrito. But it also reinforces my own experience that hiring based on characteristics can be a better indicator of future success than specific knowledge, at least in certain jobs. For the purposes of today’s musings, I was happy to see “respectful” on Chipotle’s list of desired characteristics.

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View of the Pond

We’re having an open house to sell our home right now. Getting ready for it has provided a good opportunity to reflect on living there, so I thought I’d share. Here’s one of my favorite spots:
Nook

I’ve spent time reading in this nook and working in this nook, but I’ve spent the most time looking out the window and enjoying the view.
Snowy pond

One of our favorite things about this house, even before it was our house, was the fact that there aren’t houses across the street–there’s a small pond. I look out this window and see an old-fashioned style streetlamp, perfectly framed by two trees. Cross the sidewalk and there’s a little bench, where Joseph and I first talked about the possibility of purchasing this house. ViewBeyond the bench is the pond. It’s just the right size for feeling like you have an oasis in the middle of the city. There’s a sidewalk that goes around it, perfect for a quick breath of fresh air. Ducks make the pond their home every summer. I’ve had the thrill of seeing blue herons and egrets stop by on their way somewhere else. DucksAnd I love that it’s not a big lake—neighbors walk their dogs around it, kids play by it, but nobody drives here to visit the pond. We’re lucky to live near other parks, lakes, and waterways that are wonderful destinations–but this pond quietly remains a neighborhood pond.
Kids playing

Now our house is for sale, and it’s time for someone else to enjoy the pond. But for now, while our house is cleaner and emptier than it ever has been, amidst the stress of having other people constantly in your house, judging it (and you), I’m grateful for the little moments of peace when I can enjoy the extra-clean nooks in our home.  The calm moments when I can sit (inside, because it’s cold in MN) and enjoy the view of the pond.

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Release of the Flaws

Remember the 24-hour countdown? As you may know, the Kickstarter succeeded in June, the comedy album was recorded live at the Bryant Lake Bowl in September, the musicians sent us all of their awesome songs, and all the pieces were bundled off to become an album in October. Last week, the Kickstarter backers received their rewards. Today, November 5, the album is released to the public:

FlawFestBandcamp

I’m still super proud of Joseph Scrimshaw, for having the guts to attempt this and the skills to pull it off. I’m proud of my part, too, from researching digital music rights/distribution to working the live shows to organizing Kickstarter reward level parties and including baby tomatoes as one of the snacks (well, I ate them, even if nobody else did). And the joy of listening to the music, knowing that we (along with the enormous help of the wonderful amazing Kickstarter backers) helped to make it exist, is a wonderful feeling.

Kickstarter reward party

Reward party in action. I’m taking pictures and eating baby tomatoes.

Listen along with me today, while you’re standing in line waiting to vote, on your drive home from work, or late at night as you enjoy a cup of tea or a sip of whiskey. You can stream the full album (comedy and music) at Bandcamp. Better yet, just buy the album. Buy another copy for a friend while you’re there.

Flaw Fest live show

Before the Flaws: the live show at the Bryant Lake Bowl

I have so many favorite lines from the show and the songs. But if a little scavenger hunt of find-the-line helps, here are two of my favorites this morning:

“I thought eggs were a restaurant only food!”

“The ultimate element of surprise is crouching down on your thighs.”

Enjoy, and thank you.

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A morning walk

This morning the bus dropped me off in St. Paul a little early, and while I was walking toward work I decided to go a few extra blocks to get coffee at Nina’s Cafe. It sounded nice to have a little longer walk and I had a coupon that was about to expire.

As I  left and started walking toward work, drinking my coffee and looking forward to the bagel I bought, (I was in a hurry to catch the bus this morning and forgot to grab something to eat for breakfast. Don’t judge. Also, supporting small local businesses, right?) I thought about Nina’s Cafe – I enjoy it and frequently recommend it to others, but rarely go there myself anymore. I decided I should have taken a photo (cool architecture, free-hanging stained glass, etc.). I’m trying to take more pictures of day-to-day life, so instead I decided to take a few quick snaps (often with my random filter on) along my short walk to work.

Virginia Avenue, St. Paul

Cathedral Hill neighborhood, St. Paul

 I snapped a picture of the house and garden in front of me.

House and garden, Cathedral Hill neighborhood, St. Paul

As I turned the corner, thinking about the Summit Avenue walking tours I used to lead along these streets, I was startled by a deer in someone’s back yard. See him?

Deer in backyardI took the next picture right as the Cathedral bells rang, informing me that I was no longer early for work and would be a few minutes late. Luckily, I was standing in front of one of the many places F. Scott Fitzgerald lived, and by this point thoroughly on the Summit Avenue walking tour route, so (bonus!) my photos were all work-related.

Fitzgerald home, Laurel Terrace

As a boy, F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in two different row houses here with his grandmother.

Speaking of Fitzgerald and work, I recommend the F. Scott Fitzgerald walking tours – you get to explore the environment of his early life and walk through a gem of a St. Paul neighborhood.

Summit Avenue, filtered

Summit Avenue, random filter

Now I was back on Summit Avenue, so I crossed the street and went to work.

Gate house

James J. Hill House (filtered)

Walking up the Hill House steps

Reminders (for me, for you, or for somebody else!):

  • Go to Nina’s Cafe (Selby & Western)
  • Enjoy a walk in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood
  • Sign up for the Fitzgerald walking tour. Also, there’s a new edition of Fitzgerald’s boyhood journal coming out in September. And a new Fitzgerald in St. Paul organization. They’re having a birthday party/book event at the Hill House on Fitzgerald’s 117th birthday.
  • Take pictures of daily life.

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For my late friend, John Munger

A friend and colleague of mine passed away this spring. I kept meaning to write something, but the right thing never came together. As I commented in one of many drafts, “John was one of those people who touched my life in more ways than I realized until it became clear that he wasn’t going to be around much longer. From the responses of many others, I think his life affected a lot of people that way.” There was so much to say, and yet anything seemed like not enough.

But now the Minnesota Fringe Festival is underway, and yesterday would have been his 68th birthday, and it seems like it’s time.

John Munger performing at the Minnesota Fringe Festival

John Munger. Photo courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival

 

I met John Munger when we were both dancing with a group that changed names a few times but was most frequently called the American-Russian Dance Company. Soon after, he hired me to dance in his company, the Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble, and thanks to John, for a few months I was able to pay my rent by being a modern dancer (granted, I lived with 3 other people in a small apartment, but still – dancing was paying for the roof over my head).

Skip forward.

John loved the Fringe Festival. He was a passionate dance advocate and loved to create shows that might entice people to give dance a try. For six years, he hosted a version of a Dance-Shows-That-Got-Into-The-Fringe preview night at his ongoing dance series at a local theater/restaurant/bowling alley. He had already booked this year’s show before he passed away, so this July April Sellers and I continued the tradition.  I took his place and emceed the show, filling in between the dance pieces with excerpts of his dance-at-the-Fringe-focused blog.

One of the things I love so dearly about The Fringe is that it reflects real life on so many levels. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the fabulous. That’s how art should be. It should be real. (Fringe Fried, 8-11-2009)

Last night I was sitting backstage at The Lab Theatre waiting for my next cue…It occurred to me that I was privileged. Audiences who are not themselves performers as well don’t sit where I was sitting, seeing what I was seeing, experiencing what I was experiencing. I don’t own the backstage. Only divas of either gender think they do. But I know that as a performer in this show, and as a long-standing performer in many shows, I know my way around in the dark back there. I’m allowed.

I became very grateful. I realized that this is exactly where I want to be. I know this backstage world, and I know the onstage world as well. I am very, very comfortable in these worlds. At my age and in my declining physical condition (I’m 66) I am grateful that I am still welcome here. (Alone In The Dark, 8-10-2011)

John also loved to talk about dance. He liked to deconstruct the mystery of show production and would frequently call his shows from a microphone onstage. He loved picking music for new pieces, and I have many fond memories of rehearsals when he was about to start choreographing a new solo on me. I would arrive at the studio and he would be sitting happily on the floor, piles of cds surrounding him. He would always have a few top choices, but for solos he wanted to know what felt right at that moment for both him and the dancer.

John, myself, and Alissa Karges in a Third Rabbit performance 2004

John, myself, and Alissa Karges

The last solo John choreographed on me was in 2007. We listened to a few pieces, and eventually settled on a fado piece. A lover of musical genres from all over the world, John quickly gave me a detailed history of the Portuguese music as we listened to the different options. Over the next few weeks, he choreographed, I danced, and eventually I performed the piece in our spring show and his show at the Fringe Festival that year. The development of each piece was different with John. This time, although we knew the basic persona of the character, we didn’t discuss the details. At one point a ways into the rehearsal process, it came out that both John and I had come to the same conclusion without talking about it – that she had just buried someone she loved and was both grieving and trying to show strength for those around her. When I heard John was in the hospital this April and didn’t have much time left, this was the piece that haunted my brain. (Here’s the piece, with introduction by John)

 

This year I’m performing in the Fringe Festival in a show by DRP Dance. It’s a collection of dances by different choreographers. I made two short little pieces that I like to think of as “amuse-bouches” between longer pieces. I’m also dancing a duet choreographed by Danielle Robinson-Prater, the DRP of DRP Dance, and my frequent dance partner. Extra appropriate to this post, Danielle and I first danced together in my first Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble show in 2000. We opened our show yesterday, on what would have been John’s 68th birthday. A random date in the Fringe lottery of performance schedules, but unmistakably appropriate.

I think part of the reason I never knew quite what to say in a blog post about John was that I had already seen the following video, created by James Peitzman for John’s memorial celebration. It’s a wonderful tribute, and if you have a few minutes, please watch it. Whether or not you knew John, whether or not you like dance.

In the words of John Munger, “Fringe On!”

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Happy Marriage Equality, Minnesota!

Hooray! It’s August 1, and same sex marriage is legal in Minnesota!

I think this is the perfect day to share one of my favorite photos I’ve taken all year:

Same sex marriage law about to be signed by Governor Dayton - thumbs up by Craig Johnson!

Same sex marriage law about to be signed by Governor Dayton – Craig says thumbs up!

This was taken back on May 14, right before Governor Dayton signed into law the bill that brought marriage equality to Minnesota. My friend (and boss) Craig and I walked down to the public signing after work. As we walked toward the gathering crowd, I quickly snapped a picture of Craig in front of the crowd.

As we listened to the speeches, I realized how happy I was to be standing there with Craig. When Joseph and I got married, Craig was one of the readers at our wedding. (Fun detail: our first date had been to see our mutual friend Craig in a play. What play? “The Triumph of Love.” Win.) There was no question about wanting him to be part of the event, but I was also very aware that we were asking him to be part of a ceremony recognizing our relationship when the same option wasn’t available to him. So this spring, the fact that I was standing next to Craig gave me one more reason to cry tears of joy and happiness.

Happy marriage equality, Minnesota.

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