Cleaning Sprees!

Last Saturday we rented a truck and our friends helped us move all our furniture to our new place. (How did we acquire so much furniture?!) On Wednesday we had a mad cleaning frenzy at our townhouse to get rid of 4 years of stains and grime in the hopes of regaining some of our security deposit. And today we had a mad cleaning frenzy to get ready for our golden retriever rescue home visit.

This is what our kitchen looked like this morning:


And this is what it looked like right before our home visit:


Chris did a great job!! Our house is starting to look like a home. Well the upstairs living area does, every other room is full of boxes.

We’ll get there!


Attitude and Gratitude

Have you ever had an “attitude attack?” I sure have. Those mornings when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just feel negative all day. When everything sets me  off. When  nobody can do anything right. When the world just seems bound and determined to upset me. I think I’m a pretty easy going person, but some days I’m just downright irritable. I try not to snap at people – my behavior should be within my control even if my emotions aren’t – but I’m not always successful. My emotions are like the weather, somewhat predictable but not entirely controllable. Circumstances, hormones, cloudy skies… everything contributes to a bad attitude.

But today I’m having a “gratitude attack.” Everything is making me feel grateful. And believe me it’s not the beautiful weather we’re having because… it’s not beautiful. It’s drippy and rainy and gray. OK, so I’m not grateful for the weather, but here are some things I’m grateful for:

1) My amazing husband who in addition to all the other wonderful things he does, like buying me cute clothes and cooking delicious lemon meringue pies, CLEANED the toilets. Yes, you read that right, he took the chore I most dislike (tied with ironing which I never do… but that’s another post) and he volunteered to do it and did it! To paraphrase Proverbs “a good and capable spouse who can find? He is more valuable than rubies!”

2) My family, as previously mentioned, is awesome and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in the next week (and then again in May and June!) I am thankful for them and for their kindness to us and their willingness to visit. And our family of friends, who hang out with us at all hours and are loving and involved and help us become better people.

3) Rochester. Yes, as I ran my errands today in what has become a dear and familiar town, I thought about what a great place this is. (See? God made me grateful for something I was questioning earlier!) Rochester is a wonderful place and deserves its own blog post.

4)  My car (which just got a clean bill of health from the dealer). I must confess I’ve never named my white soft-top Toyota RAV4 – no offense but I just don’t get the naming of inanimate objects. I don’t think my parents feel the need either, after all they debated nicknaming their white Toyota Previa “the beluga” or “the jelly bean!”  But my RAV nonetheless has a personality for me. It’s a bare bones, hard working, tough, reliable, scrappy (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) little thing. Despite being rear ended a couple times and having the hood fly up on the highway, we’ve done pretty good. I’ve had this car for 3/7 of my life and I’m thankful to have such a good car. It’s not the prettiest thing on the lot, but it’s solid.

5) My job. I really like where I work, and the different people I work with, and the job I do. I even enjoy the (occasionally crazy) pace.

Well those are a few of the things I am feeling blessed by, and next time I have an “attitude attack” hopefully I will have the sense to look at this list.

Houses Across the Country

I’ve already talked about how different areas of the United States respond to snow. Recently, through discussions with family members, I have been thinking about how dramatically different houses (and labels for houses) are in different parts of the country.

This is mostly related to geography, of course. Is the land swampy or dry? Can you have a basement without it flooding immediately? Do things rot so fast that houses have to be made of brick to last more than ten years? The different kinds of houses in the place you grow up affects your own expectations of a house. Adjusting to the selection in a new place can be extremely difficult.

From five months to eight years, I grew up in a ranch-style house in California. It was a great house as I can see now – close to a park, lots of amazing plants, pretty good neighbors (except they did light the dog on fire by accident)… But when we went to visit my grandparents, I was always enchanted by their multiple story house and basement. What was a basement?! What was a second story?! I wanted stairs. They seemed so glamorous.

I got stairs when we moved to Houston. The three houses we lived in over the 11 years of our “Texidency” were all two-story brick buildings. A basement? In swampy, floody Houston? Ha! An attic? Is that what you call the little space above the ceiling that’s carpeted in fiberglass and soars to 400 degrees in the summer? Yeah, we have one of those.

I only ever lived in dorms and apartments in North Carolina, so I can’t really speak to the style of houses. But in Minnesota, there are a lot of basements. In fact, the most popular style in Rochester appears to be “split foyer” or “bi-level split.” (Apparently this saves money in the building – less building above the ground.)

My husband grew up in Virginia and has had to adjust to the difference Minnesota housing. To him, a ranch style house was always a “long, one-story” house. He’s accustomed to two story houses and only saw basements in older houses in Virginia.  What’s a bi-level split and why is it so popular?

In fact, when we talked with a realtor in another city, she mentioned that Rochester is known for its split foyers. This is probably related to the continuous presence of residents looking for affordable housing.

The type of house you are accustomed to affects your experience. Are you used to coming in, taking off your shoes, then trotting up the stairs to deposit your coat? Are you ready to move between the kitchen upstairs and the hang-out room downstairs? Are you willing to have your bedroom in the basement?

We have just begun the house-looking process, and I’m sure I will have more notes on this issue as our search progresses. For now, let’s just say this: every place is different. Adjusting to the different houses in different areas isn’t just a matter of environment or real estate or comfort. It’s a matter of culture.



5 Reasons Cross Country Skiing Is Great

1. Cross country skiing is a fantastic way to get outside in the cold snowy winter. Sure, it would be easy to curl up in the warmth of your house and play on the Internet. But it is much less depressing to go outside!!

This is a shadow image of me doing my favorite winter activity.


2. Everyone gives you credit for getting great exercise! “Wow cross country skiing. That’s tough. It burns so many calories.” Etc. It’s awesome! For a short season you can bask in a reputation as an athlete.

What they don’t realize is…

3. Cross country skiing is good exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise! Its so cold that you don’t mind the sweat, and you’re working arms AND legs.

And you can admire pretty scenery like this idyllic frozen pond:


4. I’m not one of those people who gets a rush out of exercise. Running? PUKE (that’s what I feel like doing when I run). I admire you hardcore people… Mom, Rachel, Mic… But I was not designed to run.

But cross country skiing makes me so happy! I think it must produce an unusual concentration of endorphins relative to the amount of apparent effort because I always feel so elated after a ski.

5. You see zany things while you’re skiing, like dogs with booties. Or these hardy Minnesota geese. Poor cold goose feet…


So get out and ski while you still can!

Cultural Attitudes Towards Snow

I have lived in many places in my life – California, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, and Minnesota. Even though they are all in the continental US, they are very different places, and one of the main differences is weather. And one of the main differences in the cultures of these places is attitudes towards weather.

I was much younger when we lived in California, but we lived down the San Joaquin Valley and didn’t get snow that I remember. The only times I saw snow were when we visited the mountains and on our frequent trips to Colorado.

Coloradoans value their snow, as well they should. It is the lifeblood the ski and tourism industry! However I would have to say it is a love-hate relationship as a good blizzard can paralyze travel through the mountains. No matter how many plows you have, you can’t keep those steep-sided passages clear. In addition there’s always the danger of avalanches. Many times as you drive through the mountains you can see sleek tree-bare corridors where avalanches are prone to going, a reminder of the deadliness of snow combined with altitude.

For Texans, at least those in the south of the state, snow is a novelty. People do travel hundreds of miles – to Colorado, in fact – in order to enjoy the snow. Down in Houston, we got a sprinkling perhaps once in five years. (More commonly we had ice storms, beautiful, destructive episodes that killed trees and prevented school). In Texas, we greeted snow with wonder and delight (and a bit of confusion). It was a gift, a transient visitor. I’m sure if it stayed for more than a day, we would have found it tiresome.

It was somewhat similar in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Snow is rare enough that they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it but common enough that you have maybe one or two good snowfalls a winter, with the consequent driver craziness and cancellation of events. I fondly remember sledding on cafeteria trays at Davidson College after a particularly good snowfall. I think that only happened once unfortunately.

But in Minnesota… snow is a fact of life! The only question is how much, and whether it is enough to ski on. This has been a weird year in that regard; the ground was dry and bare in January and has been covered more or less continuously since. In fact we just had a good snowfall the last couple days. People whine about the snow, of course, having to shovel it and scrape it and get through it to work, but probably no more than people complain about the intolerable heat anywhere else.

Humans are remarkable adapters and in Minnesota people have adapted to more extreme winters than are seen in many other parts of the United States. But I don’t feel that Minnesotans complain as much as might be warranted… instead, they prize stoicism, endurance, and cold-weather tolerance. They are even proud of their  winters. 

I think that’s because Minnesotans are mentally and physically equipped for the winter. The whole apparatus has been designed to deal with the huge amounts of snow and the constant presence of cold. So long coats, snow shovels, four wheel drive vehicles, snow plows, skiing equipment… these are universal in the Gopher State.

Some people make the dubious claim that Eskimos a multitude of words for snow. Even though we Americans don’t have so many words, we do have a variety of attitudes and coping mechanisms for dealing with the “unpredictable white mess.”  Because that’s the heart of the matter; the unpredictability of Snow and the need to be prepared. So enjoy the clear sunny days but have your snow shovel ready!