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:

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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on view: hill house rulz

As one of the instigators behind the video I’m obviously biased, but I’m thrilled by the response so far to it. Museums can be fun–even with a few basic rules–even historic house museums!

Cabinet of Curiosities

The first video of 2014 On View is “Hill House Rulz” from St. Paul, Minnesota’s James J. Hill House, a historic site managed by the Minnesota Historical Society. Home of the founder of the Great Northern Railway, the “ginormous” mansion and grounds are open to visitors year-round. All praises be to the staff for introducing us to the site while presenting a lot of normally snooze-inducing facts (operating hours, history, etiquette, etc.) in a fun, irreverent way.

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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:


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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24-hour countdown

First: I’m biased.

Obvious disclaimer out of the way, I continue.

Joseph Scrimshaw is a driven man who loves comedy.

I am a fan of his Kickstarter campaign because I think the existence of these songs would be AWESOME.

The fans who have pushed this campaign, increased their pledges, and done whatever they can this week to move this forward are AMAZING. These are people that everyone should want on their side. Many of them I am lucky to call friends, but I am thankful to all of them.

As I write this, the Kickstarter has 24 hours left. It’s just under $12,000 away from its goal. That means $500 every hour and this awesome project can become a reality. Heck, $1000 for the next 12 hours and maybe Mr. Scrimshaw will actually sleep tonight.

It’s a campaign that’s reaching high. Joseph knows that. The reasons it’s expensive are outlined pretty clearly on the project page. One way or another, the comedy show will still get recorded someday. But this collection of songs will be gone.

Ultimately, it’s not about the money.* It’s about the belief in something cool. It’s about dreaming big and the willingness to reach. It’s about collaboration and sharing the process of creating. It’s about admitting that creating new work can be hard.

I’d like this project to get funded. I’d like to think that enough people are interested in the idea, want to help encourage the musicians to write new songs, or just want a ticket to the live performance, that it can happen. I used to listen to pledge drives for fun (I got over that). I’ll be refreshing my browsers a lot tonight and tomorrow.

But whether it funds or not, I’ll be damn proud of Joseph Scrimshaw and his willingness to chase and share his dreams.

FlawFest: A Comedy and Music Album.

*Obvious point number 2: whether this project happens IS about the money. I’m posting today because of the money. But I think the deeper core of this project (and many projects, Kickstarters or not), goes way beyond the pure financial aspect.

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Distracted Monday

I had good intentions of finally writing up a post about Museums & the Web today (coming soon??), but I’m distracted by the debate going on in the MN Senate about the marriage equality bill up for vote. (My favorite outrageous reason for not allowing same-sex marriage so far: that marriage has been between a man and a woman in this state SINCE CREATION. Good to know that the state of Minnesota was created by the Bible.)

BUT! Good and fun news: Joseph Scrimshaw (a.k.a. my husband) will be performing in Los Angeles on June 5. James Urbaniak, Mike Phirman, and Josh Cagan will all be joining him onstage at the M Bar. I’ll be joining him in the audience – and I encourage you to join me there!

Joseph Scrimshaw M Bar show


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the little positives

It’s been a long, tough day and it’s not even 11:00 in the morning as I start writing this. Less than an hour ago I was sitting at my desk at work, trying to fight back the tears that wanted release from my eyes, uncertain whether I was willing to admit via FB post, tweet, or email to a few who would understand, the question that was in my mind:  

What do you do to get yourself going when you are so overwhelmed and exhausted that you don’t even remember which foot moves next?

The past few days have been tough. I’ve worked far too many hours at my regular job (but don’t feel at all on top of my work), neglected things that need doing for Joking Envelope, and a dear friend passed away yesterday. Of course other people have larger problems, but I can tell I am feeling the effects of mental, physical, and emotional stress. 

I decided to push through, to raise my sit/stand desk to standing, to attempt to just do something easy like scheduling while my mental self healed a little.

Then somebody gave me good news. It wasn’t anything major, but it was good.

And with that news, continuing to work productively felt possible. There’s still a lot to do, and later I plan to write about John Munger: dancer, choreographer, and friend. But for now, I have an answer to my question and a reminder not to hesitate in sharing small good things, because you never know who you just helped ever so slightly


Full disclosure: The good news partially affected my upcoming workload, so it was specific to my current stress. But I don’t think I was even registering that at the time.


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Before the show

Tonight Joseph opens his new show, “How to Swear Like a Minnesotan”.


Joseph rehearsing

Tech rehearsal was pretty smooth, so I had a little time to work on one of my current knitting projects. It’s a secret project (shhh), but it has owls it it. Yay! Years ago I saw a toddler sweater a friend made with knit owls, and I’ve been wanting to do something with them ever since, but this is my first time. Check out all these cute green owls:


That’s it for today – time for the doors to open!


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