Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back

I know that I said at the beginning of 2009 that the new year is really no different than the year before. New Years Eve is any other night to me. But it does give us a way to separate periods in our lives. I am happy with my accomplishments and always will be. If I die now, I won't be disappointed with what I have done. I have a good life.

What I learned in 2009:

1) Americans love to blame people. It is classless and unsophisticated. Madison people are pretty good about not doing that. Here is an example:

"You gave him the wrong directions and he got lost!" - not classy (And very typical of the American culture)


"He got lost" (We aren't blaming anyone here. See the difference?)

2) Family is so valuable.

It took me a while to get here. After years of living geographically close to my folks, I never took advantage of it. I didn't see them that often. At least I don't think I did. I didn't always talk to them that much, either. Living 500 miles away from them, I am now declaring "family time" with the local family and convincing my boyfriend to do the same. We are always having family time. And I am proud to say that my sisters are my best friends.

3) You don't always need to be near all forms of communication.

My boyfriend taught me to travel without my cell phone and without checking e-mail. I highly recommend it. I am now working on leaving my phone at home when I go out. I do not need to be reached all of the time. That's how it used to be, right?

4) Madison - Simply the Best

The best choice I ever made. Moving here.

Best books I read in 2009:

"The Help"

"The Girls from Aims"

"My Sister's Keeper"


"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime"

"Olive Kitteridge"

My next posting will feature my favorite blog postings from 2009.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solo Travels to Montreal

My trip to Montreal was a great experience. While looking forward to six days and five nights of vacation, some were doubtful that I would enjoy a vacation alone, but I did.

While staying down town, across the street from McGill University, my hotel was in a great location. I chose it based on the following: Good ratings on tripadvisor, I wanted a boutique hotel, I had a certain budget and I needed a workout room. (I didn't think outdoor running was going to work there).

After learning that the Bodies Exhibit was a few blocks from my hotel, I was excited to go. Somehow I missed it while it was in Cleveland but jumped at the chance to see it on vacation. Explore the interior and exterior of real preserved human bodies. Everything is exposed, including a room of unborn babies throughout the pregnancy. If you have the chance, I recommend the exhibition. These are real bodies. (beware)

The irony of that scientific exhibit had me thinking after I walked around McGill University and wandered into the Redpath Museum. Marine Vertebrates are on display as you enter the building. After looking at them, I thought how common it is for us to look at the skeletal systems of other mammals but not humans. Take the Field Museum, for example. There is an entire area dedicated to mammals that all look like (maybe they are) taxidermy. Walk into the bodies exhibit and you think how odd and eerie it is to look at a preserved, mortal human being.

I explored Old Montreal on my second day. Architecturally, this was my favorite area. It definitely has more of a "European" feel to it, although the french Canadians will tell you that Montreal does not look like Europe. The narrow, brick streets, cathedrals and tiny stores make it a cozy part of the area. I visited Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours, one of the oldest churches in Montreal. Because the cathedral became a pilgrimage site for sailors, wooden ships are still hanging from the ceiling today.

I was late getting to the Beaux-Arts Museum. I didn't have as much time in there as I would have liked. Not until I moved to Madison have I enjoyed looking at furniture at art museums. (I am surrounded by a ton of furniture stores and live across the street from the Modern Art Museum). They had some fantastic modern furniture through the century. They also had a 1984 IBM computer on display!

St. Denis and Mt. Royal were my favorite streets to wander. There are a ton of fun local stores to browse around. I was able to find suitable gifts for my beloved sisters (my best friends).

Yes, Montreal is freezing this time of the year. My heart (which is no longer heavy) has been set on going there since 2006. My family visited there in 1985. I was ready to go back as an adult. I chose to move to a cold state from a cold state. And I can tolerate the cold weather. Finding a flight for under $500 from Wisconsin was another story.

Racing against the sunset at 4:10 every day, I would try to get as much of my outdoor walking out of the way as possible.

My favorite restaurants:
Le Cafe Vert (I believe that is the name)
Aux Printemps - Vegan, casual and pretty tasty.
Olive and Gourmando - Everything about this place was awesome. I went there for lunch and was seated at a community table. The food was fantastic, as was the decor.
Le Cagibi - A very, very casual place. Vegetarian. I went there for dinner, not knowing how casual it is. There are old couches, an old tin ceiling and hipsters all over their Macs. The food was delicious.

The above three places are all vegetarian friendly (if not exclusive). You know what you are eating and you can pronounce all of the words.

As a solo traveler, I would talk to the people around me, if I was in the mood. I did make friends with a Greek man who has lived in Montreal for seven years. He is trilingual. We went out for drinks one night. I found him to be very interesting and we spoke about our travels and he attempted to force me into speaking french. (They all told me that I have a cute french accent - that is credited to two authentic french teachers at Hathaway Brown School).

If you like to travel I do recommend you try a trip alone. I would do it again. But next time, I probably wouldn't go for as long.

A Bientot!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Heavy Heart

Sitting at the Memorial Union last Friday, eleven days ago, I looked around the cafeteria and thought about all of the students who will soon be leaving for vacation for a month, give or take. A lot of them looked international. "They must really miss each other, but somehow, they get by" I thought to myself. They make it through long periods of time without seeing each other. I can do it, too, I think. My boyfriend, sitting across from me says, "People are going to think we broke up!" I am sitting there crying. Today is the day he is leaving for sixteen days for his trip to India. And I am dreading the "good-bye."

How my feelings have changed as much as they have, I can't explain. If you look back to my rules, you will see that I think it is so important to avoid putting your friends on the back burner when you start dating. I cannot emphasize this enough. As I call myself a "serial dater," I was so very cautious about this relationship in the beginning because I wanted to create a life for myself in Madison that did not require a man at all times. I made a life outside of him. This means that I have a lot of friends. I have a lot of my own hobbies. I do not rely on him all of the time. But I have grown to really value us. And with all of these people in my life and things to do, I crave my alone time.

Three years ago, I decided that I wanted to go to India. When I met my boyfriend and mentioned that to him, he said he wanted to go there, too. He posts his annual goals on his blog. Something that I should do. His India trip was included on that list. (One of his 2008 goals was to, "Find a great girl to date" which he said he accomplished - he must be two timing). I was excited that I met someone who was interested in going there. But I am not ready. And I am glad I am not there, to be quite frank.

And the worst part of him going was saying "good-bye." Because I have my own life that occupies so much of my time. And although I miss him, I am so not dependent on him, that I am too busy to think about it a lot of the time. And you know what they say - "absence makes the heart grow fonder." This has been good for us.

Tomorrow, I am taking my own separate vacation to Montreal. This is my first solo trip and I am very excited. I am thrilled on the weekends when I can decide exactly what I am doing, without having to beg people to be flexible. This will be very enjoyable for me.

So, the lesson learned is to make sure you have established a life without your partner. It makes you more independent and happier in general. Studies have shown the importance and significance of having good friends.

Until then, have a great week. I am sure I will write about my trip upon my return.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Madison; Population What?

How can it be that in a town of 225,000 people, everywhere I go is packed with people? I first pointed this out the first weekend of November. When we went to the last outdoor farmers market, the Environmental Film Festival and a pizza place all in one day - and every place was crowded. It was a beautiful day. And even though it was gorgeous weather ad everyone was outside, I couldn't believe how many people (like us) decided to spend an hour and a half indoors at a movie. The Festival was free - so that does explain a lot. (Everyone is happy to take advantage of free entertainment these days).

Since then - everywhere I go, I observe crowds of people. Plan B. Warren G. State Street. Barriques. The Coop (also known as the Willy Street Co-op). Breakfast places. Movies. Parks. My God, I went to the dog park, out in the country, and people were parking on the lawn, due to lack of parking. I went into Marigold for their Sunday breakfast (they recently started serving brunch on Sundays) and the line was out the door!

You would think that this wouldn't be the case in a gloomy recession.

Let me tell you about Plan B - not the birth control - Madison's latest night club. An LGSBT friendly dance club recently opened up on Willy Street. Positive reviews are circulating the neighborhood. It is one of the few "dance clubs" in town. After a lovely Christmas party, we ventured over there last night. We were an eclectic group, ourselves: Myself (a young, self proclaimed "agnostic" and the reason I do not blog about that is because it would upset one of my parents. Not my Dad) wearing the legging/mini skirt/ugg look, (picture little Jewish girl. Or coastie) My overachiever/workaholic/highly hilarious girlfriend (Think Miranda) Her boss - a wildly intelligent/fun loving/divorcee and our other girlfriend - a very Catholic/extremely conservative/red wine drinker. Here we are - age range is probably 47-29 and we had a BLAST. We danced the night away and the place, well it was packed.

The commerce is something to be desired by many other cities. I could imagine many other places are itching for the business that is done in this small town. You do have to figure that some of these populated areas include college students, post docs and the like, not counting as residents.

And why haven't I been blogging more? I am getting stuck in crowds of people attempting to do my holiday shopping. Which isn't working at all. So I decided to take it to cyber space. Which takes as much time. Because you have to read all of the reviews.

Goal for 2010: Take the blog to the next level!

Next Posting: A sad good-bye I had on Friday December, 4th.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scout and Me

This post is way overdue. In an attempt to blog more frequently, I think it is time to discuss my dog. If I was a columnist, I would probably write about my dog as much as John Grogan did with Marley. It isn't always easy to think of something to write about all of the time. To avoid becoming one of those "dog freaks" who obsesses over talking about their precious pooch, I have tried to stay away from the discussion of her in general. I know I mention from time to time that she exists, but that is the extent of it.

I got Scout when she was eight weeks old. I picked her out when she was four weeks. She is a golden retriever from Ohio. Her first year started in a "sorority house" in Wooster, Ohio, where I attended school. I was a senior. She became very popular on campus. Most students knew her. Some students knew her name, but not mine. It was fun. And it was very fun for Scout.

We moved to Boston before Scout's first birthday. She used to run with me in the mornings. Her first injury was a running injury when she stepped on some glass and had to have her paw bandaged.

I met my Boston boyfriend shortly after moving to Boston through Scout. She took to his dog at the park. We got together for a play date. (For the dogs, people).

On another note, I will tell you that since I have had Scout, I have never been in better shape. You know what they say about the statistics of dog owners. We are healthier.

Scout has eaten everything in sight, including the following items: (I am debating how inappropriate to get here)

-Christmas ornaments
-the wall
-the tile floor
-a wood chair
-bags and bags of chocolate
-some forms of birth control
-a contact lens case
-most of the pockets out of my fleeces
-the treat pocket out of my Patagonia hiking bag
-all trash that is available to her
-lollipops with the sticks on
-any snacks in a Ziploc, including the Ziploc, itself
-a bag of flour
-a frozen, dead muskrat
-a frozen, dead rabbit
-a blue jay that couldn't fly away
-many, many, many dead deer
(Ok, enough of the dead animals - you get the hint).
this list could go on and on, but then I would never finish this blog.

Most people tell me that my golden retriever is the hungriest golden they have ever seen. Which could be true. A few years ago, she gained some weight and I put her on a diet of 1/2 green beans, 1/2 food. She slimmed down and then some. By the time we moved to Madison and her exercise level increased, the vet told me, "I rarely tell people this, but she needs to gain weight!" I doubled her food. Yesterday, at Scout's annual physical, she is overweight, once again. I cut back her food back to her old diet. Oh well.

Scout and I lived in Boston for two years. There was a park she and I really enjoyed there. In 2004, we moved to Cleveland for four years. I never found a good park for her there. But there were places to take her, no doubt. During that time, she developed a "Bel's palsy." One day, her face looked crooked. I was shaken up and I thought she had had a stroke. The vet took her immediately and said that they have seen this before. Ever since, she has a slight facial paralysis in the left side of her face. They told me it was probably viral. She was so beautiful. Such a stunning dog. She is still pretty. But it's not the same. It doesn't seem to bother her, though. It's sad for me to write this part.

In 2008, we moved to Madison. Scout was then seven. Shortly after we moved here, she was running through some backyards, where she liked to invade all of the composts and she broke her tooth on something. It cost me over $700.00 to have her diagnosed and have the tooth pulled. After she woke up from her surgery, she was the most tired I have ever seen her. The staff who worked on her just loved her. Every vet (all six!) has told me that she is such a sweet dog.

Scout had her annual physical yesterday. My vet evaluated her on a form. With her distemper, they added an "other" box and wrote "super sweet." I am proud that she is sweet, but she will never be the best behaved dog. She likes to eat way too much. She is now a senior. I have noticed some arthritis in her hind legs. She still goes to the park about four days a week. Sometimes, she just sits down and waits for someone to pet her. My park mates love her when it is cold because she is a "feet warmer." She has a slight heart murmur, a gray & crooked face and an "old lady" small wort on her face. Other than that, she is doing well. Oh yeah - she drinks a ton of water. It's so strange. She slurps quite loudly and drips all over the place. It drives my boyfriend (he is very clean) nuts.

I can't imagine life without my girl, Scout. I just try not to think about it. Ever. Because when that day comes, I will probably require lots of sympathy and a week off to grieve. But the vet tells me that it's a long time from now.

And if you are sad reading this, then don't see or read "Marley and Me." And if you are sad reading this, then you probably have a dog (or pet). Otherwise, it's hard to relate to this.

Scout has given me so much. I have a ton of friends I have met through our dog park trips. There is a great community of dog people here. I have become a real "outdoors woman" because of her.

She's a goofy dog. That is for sure. But, when it really comes down to it - it's just the two of us.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Another night of laziness. I'm afraid I have become quite delinquent in posting. And yet again am not in the mood for a Madison endorsement. A year ago, I was getting myself into a "not so serious" relationship, planning to keep it as casual as possible. In fact, one year ago, November 2008, I was trying to figure out how to end it. Coincidentally, we were in Chicago for the Festival of Lights (we did not know that event was taking place that weekend) and we enjoyed it. After doing it twice, it's a tradition, correct?

In 2008, en route from Chicago back to Madison, (I was reminded by some friends and my boyfriend, himself), that I was hoping to wrap things up with him. Come 2009, and we are making this trip an annual occurrence. Obviously, I didn't end it.

My fearfulness and skepticism of relationships stems from a variety of things. The main being statistics. And I think if you do not have an agenda involving children, then you can put the brakes on.

I met with my financial advisor today. He asked me about my goals, of course. For the first time, I felt that I admitted out loud where I see myself in three years. If you know me, then you wouldn't be surprised with what I said. But this got me thinking quite a bit. And I am sure that I will be there in three years.

But for those who delve into the "seal the deal" game of mating, I just can't relate. Still not afraid of turning thirty without a ring or a baby is perfectly fine with me. What I will have is my pride. And all of this damn gray hair.

And I have grown so much since a year ago, when I was trying so hard to not like my boyfriend. Because I obviously like him a lot. And so do all of my female cousins. Which probably makes me like him even more.

En route from Chicago back to Madison after our "new tradition," I wasn't contemplating the end of us. I was looking forward to spending the rest of the day with him.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

I can't do it tonight. I cannot blog about something where I have to link sites and data. And I don't always do that. Sometimes I feel the necessity to continue to endorse Madison, but I am feeling too lazy to repeat everything I have said starting seven days ago about how Madison seems so highly populated, even though it isn't. I will save that for my next post.

Most of my postings require a lot of my thoughts as they come to me. On average, none of them take more than one hour. And I enjoy writing very much. I think it is funny when people send me e-mails regarding the posts and tell me to "publish it on my blog" - I guess they don't realize that is what the comments section is for. There is so much more I could do here to market it. Some day I will.

Some of my endorsements have been published in other sites. But, I know my friends love the more personal stories. So it's a real balance at this point.

So why don't I just tell you how I got here and where I am now. At this moment in my twenty nine years.

In 1998, at my private, prestigious, nationally recognized high school (no linking, remember, too lazy), we were asked to fill out a questionnaire that would be read to us at our 25th. I am guessing I am the only one who remembers that we did that. Or what I wrote on it. For example, I remember that I said I would have four kids, married to a much older man, be a real estate agent and an aerobics instructor. How lame is that? And how unsophisticated of a lifestyle, perhaps?

Anyways - I was already a real estate agent, so I can check that off of my list. I have taken aerobics. I dated a much older man. And I don't know what I was thinking regarding the four kids. I would consider four dogs, maybe.

At my twenty-fifth reunion, I can't really guarantee anything, can I? Except that I will remember everything that I wrote on that questionnaire. And I am guessing I will still live here, although who the hell really knows the answer to anything?

I feel like I have had nine lives. Each one of them gets better. On the weekends, I always think that I have a good life. I have a cozy little home. My family is totally normal. Even if we are divorced. I think my boyfriend is hot. Even if we may divorce. I have great friends. I have learned so much. I am dedicated to running. And my work. And my dog. And I have an easy lifestyle that I chose.

And I can't believe what I did. My boyfriend and I were going to our first "gourmet cooking club" dinner the other night, and this thought came through my head of "I have this whole social life and I just up and moved here sixteen months ago. How crazy was I???!! What was I thinking?!" I can tell you this: I don't think I could ever do it again. And when everyone told me how brave I was, I would think they were the crazy ones. I am just realizing how crazy I was. That sounds like a very scary thing. Breaking up/moving 500 miles/leaving your job - alone - all at the same time.

I am proud of myself. And I am aware of this now. I hope to go to my 25th reunion. But who knows where I will be then?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

End of Fall (?) in Madison

For all of the critics who complain about the long winter in Madison, I will say this: As someone who prefers running outside versus inside, I have been doing outdoor running for the past eight months (since March 9, to be exact). So, I ask you how is it possible that we have "winter for six months" when I have been running, for eight months, outside? With no snow. I think in the past eight months, I may have run on a treadmill five times. Two of those times were in hotels. The other three were probably due to inclement weather. I can easily track our weather, since I know my morning routine, as it applies to the state of the Madison atmosphere.

I have said to many people that I am excited for the first big snowfall. It is still exciting. Even as an adult.

And although I experienced the last "outdoor" farmers market of the season, (sad), I am excited for the winter. Yesterday, as we walked around the final outdoor market, I would estimate that most people were not wearing jackets. The sky was cloudless and the temperature was probably already 60 degrees. It was beautiful. Tables were outside at my favorite brunch place.

Being accused of a "delinquent blogger," by one of my sisters (I only have two), I am overdue for this. I hate the "I am so busy" excuse. Always have. Since labor day weekend, I have been booked, up until this current weekend - November 6th through the 8th.

What is going on? Three weekends, I had work related events. Two weekends, I had weddings out of town. Two weekends, I had family visiting here from out of state. And in the next two weekends, I have a large work event, then a weekend trip, then most of my family is coming here for Thanksgiving, then I leave for my vacation. So, if you want to try to make some plans with me on the weekend, we are looking at the weekend after Christmas. Which is why I STILL have not been back to Cleveland, Ohio since I moved here.

Having nothing on my agenda this weekend has felt incredibly strange. I certainly don't want to take any spontaneous day trips. My boyfriend and I took advantage of the free film festival on campus and saw "Ghost Bird." (Some of my friends were distributing materials at the farmer's market, marketing the free film festival. One, in a carrot suit.)

Although I am not a birder, I must admit that the movie was very interesting. I hesitated to go with him, but thought it would be a good experience. In 2005, the "thought to be extinct" Ivory Billed Woodpecker was spotted in a very small town in Arkansas. What it did for this town, alone, economically enhanced it. Think "the middle of nowhere." Suddenly, all of these people are flocking there, with the hopes of a sighting.

The usual happens: Freaking politics, every time. Yes, you guessed it - the government got involved. They make the formal announcement that they have validated the sighting. And the most frustrating thing happens. The search team gets federal funding to continue this highly expensive and potentially useless exploration!

Why is it useless? You may have guessed it again. Ornithologists start to think that this discovery may have not been the "possibly extinct" ivory bill, but its look alike, the pileated woodpecker.

The story tells the controversy of the "who spotted Elvis" tail (that was a pun) on the ivory bill woodpecker, government, and the scientists (mainly ornithologists) who support the sighting and the skeptics who don't.

I wish I could feel so much passion towards birding. I can't relate to it at all. Like I can't relate to looking forward to a Packers game. And one Ornithologist, when describing his hopes of spotting one of these birds, admitted, somewhat modestly, that he has "wept" when listening to other people's sightings of this rare bird. I just can't relate. As much as I would love to have that enormous sense of emotion about such a small piece of life.

In other doings around town, as the fall carries on - I highly recommend the Coen brother's latest, "A Serious Man." They are so incredibly creative. They did it again. A movie that makes you think and discuss a lot afterwards. So many loose ends.

I was introduced to another hiking trail in Middleton. Pheasant Branch is a family friendly preservation that I am pretty sure is featured in a picture in "Money Magazine." The article is in their annual "best places to live" issue from this past summer. As Madison's famous blogger, Penelope Trunk tweeted, regarding Middleton's rating: (It is rated four out of one hundred!)

"Untold truth: No foreign cars, no foreign films, and lox is a foreign word."

As I said, I am staying in Madison proper. But as my boyfriend says (and doesn't follow), "live and let live."

My state pass was well used this season. I finally selected my favorite bars down town. Dined at the new Porta Alba location. Known for their stone oven pizza, (the oven was built from lava stone,) my boyfriend thinks they have one of the best pizzas in town. I had the Gorgonzola gnocchi, which was pretty good. Although, the portion was small. I didn't finish it, but it is unusual that I ever finish anything I order from a restaurant. And I think the price is right. Attended a couple of concerts. The music scene is pretty good in this small town.

And when the snow falls, I can finally convince myself that is ok to stay inside for a few hours. Until then - I am heading out.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Demotion (In the Familial status)

Just recently, I somehow went from being at the adult table for ten plus years to the "kids table" in a matter of months. Which is fine by me. You know, you wait all of those years to sit with the older kids. The "cool" kids, And then you finally get there. And you hang out with them at every funeral, wedding and holiday. And then suddenly, I am looking around the little table. And I am sitting across from a twelve year old. A seventh grader. "How did I get here?" I ask myself.

I'll tell you how I got there. I went from dating a guy nearly twenty years my senior to dating someone my age. That's all that happened. It's plain and simple, you see. And it works because I can act like a young twenty-something year old if I have to. Like while the speech was being given, I pretended to eat the Indian Corn centerpiece - typewriter style. You really can't do that with a man in his forties and three other couples all mid-forties surrounding you.

And then texting friends and pretending to take photos of all of the tables so you can really get a current picture of your friend's ex boyfriend with assistance from your table mates probably wouldn't work with a bunch of forty somethings either. So this hanging out with the kids table business worked out pretty well.

At the last wedding, while hanging out with the kids table, I continued to rub it in their face. How I remember when they were born. And when they learned how to talk. Until they all reminded me that I tell them that every time. Then proceeded to tell me how they never got to go out with me before. Until my family demotion.

And if you're thinking about being demoted, I highly recommend it. My old table mates are now exhausted with diapers and rug rats with runny noses. And they don't know the words to the songs we are dancing to. They don't know about the Hotel Motel Holiday Inn. And my new table mates - we are planning where we are going next while the old table mates are already in dreamland.

I am loving my demotion. I am looking forward to sitting at the kids table at our next event.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Dreary Suburbs

The other day, I was reading an article in "The New Yorker" - (it was the fiction one. And no, I am not that smart - someone left it at my house....) and it brought something to my attention that I often think about but rarely address: the suburbs. Obviously, every city is different, but in my agnostic/hipster/liberal surroundings, this movement thinks of the suburbs as dreary and uncool. As stated in the article, these anti-suburban folks decided that the 'burbs are a place to joke about and not a place to aspire to."

Clearly, I live down town. So do all of my closest friends. If I choose to "settle down" I wouldn't stay down town. I don't want to have to take an elevator to lug everything, including a stroller. And the trend here does seem to be to choose a neighborhood when it's "time."

But, there is something so very different about the "burbs" in Madison. The area just east of me is a melting pot along the lake. Known for being "diverse," it is not diverse in the sense that you are thinking of. It is diverse such as there are gays/straights/young/old/grad students/professors. As far as I can see, the only ethnicity over there are the adopted children by single sex parents. Maybe it is a suburb, but it is still Madison proper and there is nothing about it that appears to be like Wisteria Lane.

Now, where my cousins were raised and where my sister and brother-in-law live - that is also Madison proper. Although it has sidewalks and friendly neighbors, it still doesn't remind me of "Desperate Housewives" in any way. You can walk to bars/restaurants/coffee shops, as you pretty much can in any of the Madison proper "suburbs." So, in my mind, there is nothing nerdy or uncool about a suburb here.

I think my problem would be which one to choose. As I have run through a considerable amount of the suburbs in Madison, they are all beautiful and seem to be holding their value, as far as real estate is concerned. With everything so accessible, I suppose you would have to boil it down to the school systems which I know very little about.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thank You for Not Smoking (Winston)

I was briefly reunited with my college friends this past weekend. We always do the same thing when we are together: reminisce, drink (probably too much), and share hotel rooms that inevitably look trashed by the next morning with pizza boxes, newly opened bottles of wine/beer and cigarette packs.

Because I had arisen at the crack of 5:00 AM the first evening together, I was informed that good gossip and serious boozing was five feet away from me as I dozed. This doesn't mean that I wasn't any fun. Because prior to hitting the hotel suite, we were at a bar on the water. And when I hear good dance music, I dance. Even if nobody else is out there on the floor yet. So, in my mind, I got the floor going. (Maybe if I was alone for a little, while my friends cracked up, watching through the window).

And after the rehearsal dinner, while friends had a puff of a cigarette, I finally caved and bummed one. "Why are you smoking, with all that running you do?" my friend asked me. (We had already agreed to go for a nice long run in the morning). Now here is a long distance runner/ex smoker asking another long distance runner/ex smoker. "I don't know. It's something to do, I guess," I told her. Of course in college, we all smoked. And I swore I would quit when I graduated. And I did.

Here is the story. Graduation day came along, and by noon, I was dying. I always needed a smoke in the morning. "Forget it," I said to my friend/co-quitter. We were driving twelve hours the next day to move out to Boston. If you smoke, then you know that long drives consist of a ton of puffing out the window. The plan was postponed. "When we get there, we'll quit," we agreed.

I went maybe one more week before I got sick. I felt exhausted. Completely beat. Then I found an itchy rash on my side. "Shingles," the doctor said. I went home and lounged on the couch, watching "20/20." Barbara Walters was interviewing Carol Burnett, whose daughter, Carrie, had just passed away from lung cancer. Burnett told Walters that before Carrie died, she said she was sorry to Carol. She apologized that she had smoked. That night, I had a dream about my lung. That it had a black hole in it. And I was done. For good.

Not even a year later, I went to see my Grandma, four hours away in New York. Her lung had "gook" on it and she was in the hospital. She was almost 90 years old. "Nana, how many years did you smoke?," I asked her. She thought about it and then said something incredulous like sixty years. I assumed she had lung cancer, but nobody seemed concerned. My dad called me the next day to tell me she had lung cancer. "I knew it," I said.

Then I was really done. The few times I smoked after that, I found it gross. I hated it. And then I moved to Madison and met my boyfriend. He had a similar story - smoked a lot in college and quit after. Then I discovered he would occasionally smoke socially here and there. Don't all hipsters? Next thing you know, I am bumming here and there.

Then we are back to this weekend, where my long distance runner/ex smoking friend is asking her long distance runner/ex smoking friend (me) why she is smoking. And I tell her "it's something to do." Bad answer.

After a nice run together the next morning, I ask her what her take is on smoking. She is getting her Masters in Public Health. She says, "You take a piece of paper. You put leaves in it. Then you smoke poison." Ok - enough said. I am done. And when everyone is smoking that night at the wedding, I refuse. Remembering, "Smoking poison."

And years ago, I went through an entire carton in one week. Sick. It's time to stop the smoking, kids.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mornings in Madison

Madison tends to start work early and leave early. Everyone seems to wrap-up their day around 4:30 or 5:00. After-work happy hours tend to go from 5-7:00 PM. And everyone seems to be a morning person.

If I told you a year ago what I now do in a morning, I wouldn't believe myself. You can have a whole morning before you even go to work. As one of the healthier cities in the United States, I can understand why there is quite a morning crowd. A ton of people are out exercising (myself included) prior to work. I see a lot of the same characters in the morning. The older man who jogs in his Wisconsin hoodie. The guy who always says "hi" on his roller blades. The 50+ lady in her professional looking running clothes who has the body of an eighteen year old. One morning, I even passed up my good friend as I was running along Lake Monona. And we were probably both out the night before, tossing back a few beers. But this is a dedicated group.

Move on to what happens upon my return. I cannot believe that I tend to throw in a load of laundry before work, as well. So that it can go in the dryer post-work, while my dog and I are at the dog park. (I don't EVER leave my dryer on when my dog is home alone). Some mornings, I also vacuum. (There's a ton of shedding going on here).

And then, of course - the dog has to go for a quick walk before I leave. Sometimes, I run into friendly neighbors and we get into a little chat. And before I know it, I am really late for my next part of the morning routine: coffee shop.

The brewing at home didn't last long. I missed Barriques, so we have been completely reunited. Because it is a familiar stomping ground, I can safely say that all of the regulars know each other's names. It is quite friendly. And if I have a lot of time, I will walk over there with my dog and hang out outside for five or ten minutes. One time, I even left the dog with a very nice coffee companion, who watched her while I ran in to get something to eat. She hung out with a group of regulars and relaxed under the table.

So here I am, now. This morning person. Who would have thought? And by 8:15, I am always happy I have so much done already. And I wonder why I am so tired right now?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gen Y and Phone Etiquette.

Still unsure if I am Y. A while ago, I did write a post on texting. It is the thing to do. But I must say, there are certainly other rules that come with Gen Y that are so clear to me.

As I suppose I am on the cusp of Gen Y, I know for sure that my little cousins are Gen Yers. And I know their routines. I do not take it personally when I call them and leave them a message and I never hear back from them. Ever. And I also don't care if they tell me they never listened to my message. Because I stopped leaving messages.

Once I started hanging out with massive amounts of people who are my age and younger (this happened when I moved here), I saw the real deal. For those parents who are still upset when the little niece doesn't call you back, let me jot down their protocol:

-They don't like talking on the phone - they prefer a text.
-They will not listen to your message. They see you called and they will call you back.
-They expect you to do the same.

How many times have I called someone back and said "I never listened to your message. What what was it?" Then I listen to it three weeks later when my phone alerts me that they will delete the message and it is some random message from a family member, telling me about some long boring thing that I don't care about. Notice that I haven't mentioned anything about my friends. Because they don't leave me messages. And in one a year, my boyfriend has left me his first voicemail two weeks ago. To notify me that he saw my dog was on the news. (She was not arrested for shop lifting at the pet store. I actually pay for everything she eats as she devours everything she passes).

I must admit that I am quite the hypocrite. Because I used to have this strict rule that if you called me and you didn't leave me a message, I refused to call you back. This stemmed from dialing a wrong number where the recipient called me back. I called about a car for sale. I dialed the wrong number. I realized it immediately, so I did not leave a message. The guy calls me back. He wants to know why I called him. The conversation went like this:

Wrong Number Guy: "Someone from this number just called me."

Me: "Did they leave you a message?"

Wrong Number Guy: "No, but I am calling back."

Me: "Well, I realized I dialed the wrong number after it was ringing, so I didn't leave a message. Don't you think if the person wanted you to call them back, they would have left a message?"

Wrong Number Guy: "Yeah, probably."

Me: "Ok. Bye."

And I am thinking to myself - this guy is a moron. But he was probably just being curious, right? This has happened about three times to me. So I used to say if you didn't leave me a message, I would not call you back. Now, if I see you have called me, that is the message enough. What is the message going to be, anyway? "Call me back?" The missed call says it all. If you want to notify me of anything more than that, text me.

The rules are simple and I changed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Favorite Recipe

In the spirit of my favorite season, I love to make my famous "Soup in a Pumpkin." We are coming into my absolute favorite time of year. As soon as I see the pumpkins are out, I make my soup. It is a lot of work, but really fun for everyone. I only make it twice in the fall. And since I already made it once, you will have to fight for your chance to taste it in 2009....

A farmer on Saturday was selling all of his pumpkins for $1.00! Well, being that it was not even mid September when I saw that bargain, I told him I would take a few. I told him:

"I make a soup in the pumpkin,"
The farmer said, "I have heard of people doing it."
I said, "It's a lot of work."
The Farmer said "I heard that, too!"

Then I took a photo of his truck as he was loading it up.

Here is the recipe:

(I buy small individual ones, depending on how many people I am making it for) 6 pounds Pumpkin
1 1/2 cups Bread crumbs, fresh dried- I usually take fresh bread and break into pieces, bake at 350 for 15 mins. Then you have homemade bread crumbs!
2 cups Onions; chopped
1/2 cup Butter
1 1/2 cup Cheese,
mozzarella or Swiss, grated
2 quarts Vegetable stock
Salt & pepper1/2 teaspoon Sage (or more)
1 cup Cream, heavy OR1 cup Half and Half - (I leave this out a lot!)

Crush bread crumbs. Saute onions in butter until soft but not browned. Stir crumbs into the hot onion mixture and cook slowly for 3 minutes. Cut a top off pumpkin, scoop out seeds, rub inside with soft butter. Turn the crumb mix into the pumpkin. Stir in grated mozzarella or Swiss cheese and fill to within 2 inches of top with hot vegetable stock (about 2 qt). Season with salt, pepper and sage. Bake on a pizza pan in preheated 400 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until pumpkin flesh can be flaked off with large cooking fork. Do not overcook as pumpkin will collapse. Keep warm until ready to serve. Just before serving, gently stir in hot cream or half and half, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley (optional). Serve everyone their individual pumpkin. Scrape the flesh into your soup and enjoy!

Great with red wine and a salad. This is all you need. It is VERY filling! This is a wonderful fall meal.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Top Five Summer Madison Activties

For such a small city, (Madison has under 225,000 residents), I was completely overwhelmed this summer with activities, festivals, concerts and other venues that were offered on a daily basis in Madison, Wisconsin. This is by no means a complaint, yet reassures me that I have made a good decision in choosing this place.

After work, with energy still looming, I would have to decide whether I should do the laundry and household work that needed to be tended to or skip it all together for a trip to a hiking trail or a weekday farmer's market or a seat at the Union, overlooking Lake Mendota. And the list goes on. I am practically thankful that the sun is setting earlier because it is an excuse to sit on the couch and read.

I cannot even allow myself to sit on the couch when the sun is out. I have to enjoy nature. And with the infinite options around town, I have made every excuse (art show - friend wants to meet for a drink outside - dog needs to exercise on park trail - the swimming pool is open) to avoid doing anything that is taxing, like finishing my taxes, for example.

Where to start? Of all of the things you can do, I will rate my top five memories of "All things offered in Madison....."

1) The Farmer's Market

Well, it is quite obvious that I love the farmer's market. I never buy a whole lot, but I am only one person. Besides the main market which is the biggest "producer only" market in the entire country, there are smaller sized markets all week in outlying neighborhoods. For example, Central Park, aka the "Eastside Market," takes place on Tuesday afternoons. I can tell you that since I went to the Saturday market, almost every dinner has come from something purchased there.

2. Venetian Night

An inaugural event in town. After the annual "Taste of Madison," (I went. Only because it is literally my back yard. One loop around the square and it was not that impressive), the first ever boat parade on Lake Mendota. Boats were illuminated with fun lights and paraded from one end of the lake in Maple Bluff, ending by the UW Union. There were so many incredible places to take a seat and wait for this event to start. There were a number of parks along the lake. (Whoever plotted the area surrounding the lakes did a fantastic job). It was a gorgeous night and the event was a success.

3) Restaurant Week

A bi-annual occurrence. Many local restaurants participate in this. Two for $50 enables you to a three course meal. This summer, I chose Fresco, on top of the Overture Center. With a lovely view of State Street and the city, it's fun to dine on the roof. Our meals were tasty and consisted of mostly local ingredients. (Surprise!!)

4) Orton Park Festival

On the near east side of town, there are several festivals throughout the summer. Orton Park features Cycropia Aerial Dance Troupe. The festival is in a square of grass in a neighborhood that I often run through in the mornings. The Cycropia dancers are a troupe of "circque du soleil" artists, who performed by hanging on the branches of this one tree. It was very cool. A lot of the pieces involved swinging on what appeared to be large scarves and dainty swings. And I kept on thinking to myself, "I run by this tree in the mornings. I wonder if God intended for this tree to be utilized this way....?" Awesome show!

5) Marquette Waterfront Festival

Also a near east side festival, what I enjoyed about this one was the melting pot. I went there in the afternoon to hear a reggae type of band. They were very talented and as I danced up by the stage, little kids were dancing. So were old hippies who probably went to UW with my parents. And hippies younger than me. Gays. Straights. Biracial families. Old. Young. Mentally handicapped. You name it. We were all blending together, dancing to that reggae in the June summer sun. All in the name of Saturday afternoon.

I also loved Maxwell Street Days - State Street's sidewalk sale, Jazz off the square, Concerts on the Square, the Art Fair on the Square, and many many more.... There is just so much.

What I have learned this summer in Madison is that I would never take a vacation from it. I would miss way too much.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Put Yourself Out There

This week, I have been asked by three or four different people how I met my current boyfriend. Have you ever noticed that people get very giddy telling that story? Ask someone today. They will have this big smile on their face as they relive the tale. I can tell you a ton of people I know still smile cheek-to-cheek when asked to retell the moment they met their significant other. (Unless they have been married for 25 years. In which case, there is no grinning at all).

And I realized that I have always had a good story to share when asked this question. It was never a dull, "We met at a bar" or.... "we met on" Not that there is anything wrong with these things. Because there isn't. I have a knack for putting myself out there and I think it has something to do with my ability to talk to absolutely anyone.

Take my first long relationship after I graduated college. We met at the dog park. We continued to run into each other there on the weekends and finally exchanged information. I wasn't going to the dog park to find a man. But I was putting myself out there, regardless. As I would wherever I went (including the grocery or running path - no joke). I just always kept my eyes open.

My current situation is similar. Sort of. After meeting on King Street, we ran into each other two more times that week. After exchanging numbers, we got together a few days later. Was I putting myself out there on King Street? No, actually. But I wasn't acting like I was unavailable, either. Or that I was committed to someone else. Or that I was not interested in men. I don't know what vibe I gave off. Because truthfully, he told me that we danced and I got "real low on the dance floor" with him and he tried to talk to me and I was "a mute." I have absolutely no recollection of either a) dancing with him OR b) him trying to talk with me. He is the "mute" and I never stop flapping my gums. I remember that the night was wild and I was newly single and free - not interested in anyone, really. Just letting whoever came my way know that I was, in fact, single.

So - this vibe of being "available" comes off. And he said he wasn't interested in me. And I wasn't interested in him. But somehow, I was letting him know I was putting myself out there. This is easy.

None of this came easy to me before. I have progressed a lot in this category. And a year ago, I started writing this book on how to date an ass hole. And then I stopped taking my own advice and ended up in this relationship after swearing off committed relationships.

I have even taken friends out, saying, "let me get you a man..." or, "I'll take care of your dry spell for you."

I have never had to get fixed up because I am always fixing myself up. Or, I am fixing up everyone around me. I love to match make. So, put yourself out there and let people know you are on the "hunt." Wherever you go, seek out a person. Find out their history. Are they single? If so, why? (This is very, very important. I have recently had to do my own personal investigation because my boyfriend was being too private for my liking. He is not very happy that my "new" friend, who lives with his ex girlfriend, invited me to his birthday dinner last week.........) On another note, always look and feel good about yourself. You can't feel good if you feel like you don't look good. Even when I go across the street for a bottle of wine, I try to dress nicely so I can carry myself with dignity.

After all, you never know where that special someone is. Whether they are in the line at the movies or a hiking trail, your future relationship may be right in front of you tomorrow. Always be prepared and let them know you are available. And don't give up. They are out there.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Wooster Camaraderie

Well, I moved. And now I don't have wireless for a while. Which has been really nice. Mainly because I can't do anything that requires the internet, so I have enjoyed it, as I am a little addicted to the internet. And because of the move and lack of wireless, I have not blogged. And I won't have it for a few more days. It's strange because I only moved up two floors and I was always able to access other wireless connections. Oh well. I have been doing other things to pass the time. Like going out to dinner with a stranger I met.

Well, not really a stranger. Outside of my office the other day, a car was parked with a "College of Wooster Alumni" sticker, which I also happen to have on my car. For those not familiar with Wooster, (not pronounced like "Rooster"), it is a small, liberal arts college in a town called Wooster, Ohio. Most people I know haven't heard of it. When I attended, it had a college attendance of 1700. Well known for it's Independent Study program, mainly a year-long thesis that is then defended to a team of professors and also famous for its' bagpipers, Wooster was recently featured in a cover story in a "New York Times" article about colleges that are creatively cutting costs. And boy, was I proud of my alma mater!

Besides my graduate school pals and such, most people I know did not spend Sundays in a cubicle in the college library, madly doing research for their senior thesis. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. And yes, my little thesis title is still on the bottom of my resume.

Now, this car in front of my office. I ran out to put a note on the windshield with my contact information. As I ran back outside, the driver was getting in. After exchanging some information about where we are from and why we are in Madison, I told this young woman I would help her find a job and gave her my e-mail address.

We had dinner the other night. She is engaged to her College of Wooster sweetheart. Did I think for maybe one minute to invite my sweetheart? No. Not really. After learning the hard way that you do not include people who are not affiliated with the College of Wooster, I was not about to bring along my boyfriend who I hadn't seen in days.

Wooster has something about it that non-attendees just don't get. There is that "Wooster Camaraderie" thing going on. Completely segregated from the "townies," it's A "bubble" of its' own. And if you didn't experience it, you won't get it. And you will feel completely left out.

Eight years out and I still have a special place for Wooster in my heart. Meeting with this Wooster couple, two recent grads, we spent an hour and a half discussing dorms, the dining hall, parents weekend, building myths and structures, Stan Hales and more.

What is it about this college that makes it so special? I don't know. It's just special. I wish I could explain it to you. We all experienced the beauty of the campus, the distinguished buildings, the "there's nothing to do" binge drinking, the random restaurant selections, the drive-through liquor stores, the UG, Georgia at Lowry, Short order, Mom's Truckstop, Java Hut, naked runs through the snow, filling Kauke Arch, "The Voice," and more. A real bond.

And it's mine. It is my connection. They are my memories. And it reminds me a lot of my life now. The memories I am making with my friends in this small, compact city. Except this time, I am not the student in the bubble. I went to a bar for one beer last night, and it was filling up with the returning college students. "Are we townies," I asked my friend. "Yes, we are." he said....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bittersweet Move

When I moved into my own place at the end of last summer, I knew I probably would only stay in it one year. This is the first time I have lived alone in so long, and while I love it, I wanted something cheaper and it was hard to find something quickly with a dog. So now Scout and I are moving into something a lot cheaper in the same "fancy" building, 2 floors up.

And when I talked about minimizing things, I am so thankful that I took my own advice! After being a junk collector as a kid (my mom said our cleaning lady found a sandwich under my bed), I have nothing but the bare minimum and I love it. Especially while moving.

When you have the basics, you hardly have anything that you need to throw out. So far, I have gotten rid of a pot holder and a pie pan. I use everything else on a regular basis, which really tells you how little I have.

But it is sad to move out of my "first" place. I have truly lost count of how many times Scout and I have moved. She's all I have. And she's been through everything with me. And I do feel bad for her because she knows the drill now. Mom starts clearing the bookshelf and emptying out the closet - where are we going now? But she has always adjusted well. She's a very sweet dog.

And even though I am only moving two floors up, I am walking away from a memory. Nostalgic I am. This is where I made my first farmer's market meal for my new friends. Where we sat in front of the fireplace, drinking red wine, watching a snow storm. Where we people watched one Saturday afternoon with the binoculars. Where my boyfriend and I grew to know each other. Where my family came over for a meal.

So now we will make some more memories on the fourth floor of the same building.

If you aren't familiar, August 15th is an infamous date in Madison, Wisconsin. It's all over the news - moving day. Students are back. The funny part of the infamy is that many people must be out at a certain time, and are "homeless" for a night. It's going to be crazy. But fun.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The State of the Economy

I am in my sweats and sneakers. And a tank top. Sitting in the back of a bar. Where two of my friends are convinced that their places of employment are cutting funds resulting in the loss of their jobs. In the meantime, I am blogging and they are on my laptop, working on my social media stuff.

I have had a long day. I was at work a long time. I woke up at six. I have to run in the morning. My poor dog has hardly had me around in the past twenty four hours, which is the only reason I left work. She got to the park, but then I left immediately to help my friends who think they are victims of the economy. But the economy is ok here.

Compared to many other places in the United States, we are semi-protected. We have the state jobs and there are plenty of corporations surviving this hardship. So I guess I was disgusted when people asked me why I was moving here in the first place. Besides the obvious, the suffering is not as sad. There are jobs.

And I wasn't around when anyone could consult. That was when I was in high school and the early years of my college life. You could learn how to write HTML and charge a ridiculous rate. I never knew this feeling.

So here we are, at the back of this bar. And those two are still flipping out about their job stability while working on my crap. And I am here doing this. And the other two girls nearby are playing pool, talking about how they are going to grad school.

Did you hear about the 27 year old girl who is suing her college because she graduated with a degree in information technology and she cannot find a job? Driving to work this morning, listening to NPR, I heard about this gal. So, she wants them to reimburse her for her tuition? What has our country come to? Face reality, girl. It's not 1999! Why do we always have to blame someone else?

Or maybe she can move to Madison, Wisconsin which seems a ok - compared to the rest. Or maybe, because she studied Information Systems, her job is oversees - I dunno.

Are we at the bottom? Who knows. Since I graduated from college, I have heard that we are "bottoming out" for a while. And I graduated college in '02. Automobiles and houses are so flat right now that they won't be steering us out of the recession at a rapid pace.

But again, I would have to say that something happened in Madison that I was not used to: I came to visit in June of 2008 to determine if I wanted to move here. In the three days I was here, a house went on the market while I was visiting and when I moved here one week later, it was contingent with two offers on it...... and it closed two weeks later.

It will only get better from here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Madison's Ridiculous Alcohol Sales

"Should I run out before 9:00 to get some wine?" I thought to myself between 7:33 and 8:15 PM this evening. Knowing I was going to have to do a little work on the laptop, I thought a glass of wine may be relaxing. So I put a sweatshirt on over my braless tank top and went across the street before the registers no longer allow you to purchase alcohol.

The first time I learned about this ridiculous law, (after all, this is Wisconsin... where I am pretty sure I am always in a conversation about who is a better drunk driver - don't worry - I don't drink and drive because I walk everywhere...) I learned the hard way. Having just moved down town, I invited my now boyfriend over. Well, actually, my girlfriend texted him the invitation. "Do you have beer?" he asked? "Of course!" I texted him back. I dashed into the shower, threw on some clothes and ran across the street, passing him on his bike along the way, as he was locking it up outside my lobby door. "Where are you going?" "Oh - I have to grab something at the store! Watch my dog!" I hand him my dog, and off I go running through the grocery across the street. "Where is your beer?!" I bark at the cashier. She says, "We don't sell beer after 9:00 PM." I am shocked. I had no idea. Distraught, I yell, "Where is your wine, then???!!!" She says, "Lady, we don't sell alcohol after 9 PM!" Crap - I told him I had beer....

I ran back out and he was standing, across the street, dog in hand, looking very confused. "What are you doing?" he asked me. " I just needed something, I told him. We go into my place and I tell him I must have run out and I offered him whatever alcohol I must have had at that moment. Maybe it was rubbing - I don't really remember.

Of all places, I cannot believe that there is this stupid law in Madison, where patients may very well have cheese curds and beer on an IV drip at the local hospital while watching a game of football.

So I figured tonight that I should just stock up in the event that I decide after 9:00 that I want a drink before bed time.

And if you do want a drink before bedtime and don't have anything, there is a lovely option: The neighborhood bar. My boyfriend and I live about a mile apart. Sometimes around 9:30, we decide to have a beer. He has his joint near his house and I have mine. They are cash only, regulars look like their asses have been on the bar stools since we left for work in the morning, and it is cheap. We are talking PBRs for $1.50. Sort of reminds me of those shady bars in Wooster.

Am I an alcoholic? No, sir. But I do like an occasional beverage like the person next to me. So when the stores don't sell after a rather early hour, I don't like that one bit. And if I am alone in my jammies, I don't feel like walking the one block to sit at the local pub with the inebriated regulars who are going to want to talk to me.

Maybe I should bite the bullet and buy a case of wine. That will do the trick. I also got cable back and started brewing my own coffee..... Is the cable worth it? Yes. But still no tv in the bedroom.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is Everyone too Busy?

I moved 500 miles away and it seems that every time I turn around, I am with family of some sort. Sitting on the love seat at the end of my aunt and uncle's bed the other night, my aunt in her nightgown, I said "I received a phone call from so and so in Cleveland. All that time I lived there, and I probably saw them six times a year...." It's odd, isn't it?

As an adult, I feel that the relationship with family changes. I know for some people, they have the tie to their parent, grandparent or sibling. The text/phone/e-mail all of the time type of connection. I guess I never got that before.

But when you all live within about four miles of each other, it is easy to "drop in." And in Madison, people still do drop in on each other.

I recently had a conversation with someone about overbooked children. I said, "What kid just sits on the grass and looks at the sky these days?" They are busy, busy, busy. But then, I pictured the neighborhood kids in Madison. In their bare feet, stopping by the neighbor boy's house to see if he can come out and play with squirt guns. It reminded me very much of how I grew up in the mid eighties - fond, fond memories.

And then I started to think about how often I see my family here. Or how I can't get a moment to myself when I want to at times, because someone is at my door unexpectedly (part of the reason I try to always keep everything clean).... These are things of the past that still go on in Madison.

If I am in the neighborhood, I am stopping by. And you can, too. Sometimes I have the door open to my "french balcony," and I just hear familiar voices. That's all you need to hear and you have evening plans.

None of the excuse of "I have eight million things going on." Yes, we do. We are busy people. But it is too easy to not see each other in this condensed city with a million different activites to choose from - most of them walking or running distance.

The 1950s, "open door" policy still exists in Madison, Wisconsin. In fact, my neighbor just asked me to let their dog out, as they left their door unlocked and to "help yourself to any beer" - as I sit here drinking a beer and having squeaky cheese curds from the Coop. Ahhh.. Wisconsin....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Putting Things into Perspective

I had a horrible week. I spoke too soon in my last post. And how do I deal with a horrible week? I talk about it with anyone who will listen. This has always been the way for me to cope with my problems.

Yesterday, my nephew started to cry. He was holding his toy in one hand and had his milk, and he was a disaster. (I took him out of the crib too soon....) I looked at him and thought, "He thinks he has problems?" He is probably sad because he wants his favorite toy or he knows his parents are going to go out without him or something stupid like that! And his parents - they have it bad. A two year old and a four month old and full time jobs and no sleep and constant crying simultaneously and non-stop diaper changes and thirty minutes just to get in the car. So now I don't feel so bad about my problems....

And then I went to talk to someone about my problems and they were upset about a major family issue involving insane false accusations and then I realized that I was happy because at least I don't have family drama remotely close to that.

There are four aspects of life at this point: Work, Relationship, Family & Friends/Hobbies. And I want them all to align all of the time...

But when they are not all aligned properly, the best thing to do is to put things into perspective. This is so hard - much easier said than done. Someone can tell you to focus on the positives which can be difficult. Talk to your friends. Talk through your problems. It amazes me how many people bury their issues. I am not capable of this.

As I have talked with each person about my crappy week, I have really, really tried to take the time to ask them about them and how they are doing. And knowing that nobody's stars are aligning all of the time can really make you feel like you are simply living life. And you are not alone.... Everyone goes through difficult weeks.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The "Real" Desperate Housewife

I don't know what it's like to be a mother or a father. I can only tell you what I know from a weekend of babysitting. Or a full day of childcare, for that matter. My boyfriend completely devalued my responsibilities one morning, when I told him I had to run out the door to spend the day looking after my one year old nephew. Now that he always accompanies me to do things like that, I think he appreciates and understands how much work it is.

So when I met his sister and her husband, I told them that if they ever wanted to go away for a weekend, we would watch the two and four year old. For those of you who know me, you know I detest diaper changes and ignore babies, for the most part. But I am growing. And when we were taken up on our offer, we went from being "two teens in love" to becoming a family of four.

At the zoo, I was even mistaken for being the toddler's mom, while the zoo lady said, "Would you like it if your mom put the stamp on you instead?" "I'm not his mom!" I snapped. And because they are his nephews, I felt they were slightly more his responsibility. And when I went to the bathroom and told him where to meet me, he was freaking out about having two kids and the childless stroller. And then they woke us up at 6:30 AM. No matter how hard we tried to tell them to close their eyes and that it was still the middle of the night. And the final diaper change was a two person job. And neither of us really "do" diapers.

He was exhausted afterwards. He said to me, "How do single parents do it?" He finally got how hard the job is. And I only can vouch from my babysitting experience. But I feel bad for parents when I can leave. I try not to tell them I am tired. Because that's the last thing they would want to hear from a single 29 year old woman who lives on her own with a dog.

And last night, after the children were put to bed (they actually requested to go to sleep, as we were trying to keep them up so they would sleep in a little), I may have requested a vasectomy several times. And then I decided maybe one child when I am forty. And today, I mentioned the vasectomy again.

But now that we got a 24 hour period of being parents, I think we both have a new found appreciation for the hard work that parents do. And mine always made it look easy.
Is this always going to be an issue? Feeling that you can't compromise? If both work and one makes more, it will be a problem. In fact, the a man just told me that his wife makes a lot less, so he makes the mortgage payments. Therefore, it is his house. Does marriage have equality? I ain't seeing it.

And it's no surprise that in this liberal city, my other two families have two husbands/dads who comfort each other in knowing that they have been the victims of reverse sexism.

And after experiencing this weekend and knowing how hard a stay at home parent's job is, I hope every person who makes money and accuses their partner of living in their house or driving a car they bought knows that these stay at home parents deserve an award. Because I would rather go to an office during the week than do what I did this weekend.

Bravo, Housewives & Househusbands!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Night in the Life

I know I haven't posted in a while. I guess it's most likely because I haven't done anything new and my family, work, friend and relationship issues are all just fine. Which is really nice. And I try not to ever talk about work on here because I think it is important to keep work separate.

I suppose I could be blogging about the Western part of the state that I am learning through my work. It is really nice to get to know these areas. I also have the benefit of meeting people from each place I visit.

The newest cities I have been to are Eau Claire and La Crosse. I couldn't get a real feel for Eau Claire - although it was hilly and pretty. One stop I made - to a VFW bar (not to drink), overlooked a lake. As I parked the car, I took a moment to walk over to take in the view. When I walked into the bar, I saw they have a scenic window of the water. I must admit, I stuck out like a sore thumb. As I was clearly the only non-regular there. And I was in business attire.

La Crosse has a great little down town area. I am really looking forward to going back there. It is also known for having great hiking and I was able to squeeze in a delicious lunch at Hackberry's Bistro, above the Coop. I was also excited to see that the La Crosse Coop has my favorite wine. (Which I happen to be sipping on now).

I was sort of mad when I scheduled a meeting during the concert on the square, for tonight, but it ended up being a fantastic meeting. And when I returned, the concert was just ending. So, I took my dog around the square. I think of the square as my back yard. Here is my stream of consciousness from out my door, around and back:

-A homeless man.... or was he a hippie from the 60s? Unclear....
-A group of french speaking people taking money out at the ATM.
-My dog started to eat a trail of popcorn.
-A couple stopped to pet my dog. Told me they have a 15 year old golden at home.
-I started to look at all of the people who hadn't cleared from the square yet. Still drinking their wine and beer. I wondered if my friends went?
-I saw a couple photographing each other in front of the capitol.
-I saw some musicians walking home (or to their cars).
-One guy had a cart of all of his lawn chairs. Like he moved onto the square for the afternoon.
-I picked up after my dog and saw a couple embracing in a car, unaware that I could see them kissing. I wondered how often people see me doing that?
-I walked by a little girl named "Emma" who was itching to pet my dog. "Do you want to pet her?" I asked... She nodded bashfully and started petting her. My dog obeyed pretty well. (Unusual, might I add?) "C'mon, Emma" the kids yelled - not noticing that Emma had fallen for a dog.
-Then, I passed 2 girls having a dramatic discussion about how "He didn't mean it! How did he say it?"
-I moved on, and a group of guys were saying, "You should know better than to joke about that. She didn't think it was funny."
-I heard a girl scream just then. I looked over and a raccoon was running by.
-I walked up to my condo and saw a rabbit in the dog run.
-I brushed my dog for about five minutes, while 2 girls about my age stopped outside my building and one asked the other if she wanted to come in. They talked out there for a while and I went inside to "de hair" my condo. (The dog sheds)
-I went out to my "french balcony" to beat a blanket free of hair, and they were still out there, talking.
-About twenty minutes after that, I went out to my "french balcony" to beat some pillows free of dog hair, after vacuuming, and they were still out there talking.
-Then I thought to myself

"Why didn't the girl take up the other girl's offer to go inside? They have been out there for 45 minutes."
Then I thought

"If they were paying attention to all of my activities, they would notice that I have been de hairing golden retriever hair for 45 minutes. And I do this about three times a week. Why do I want another golden again?"

And that is a night in the life.............

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Utilizing the City and the Sorrounding Areas

This weekend, I camped out at Nelson Dewey State Park and now I know why few people around here seem familiar with it. As I mentioned before, for $25, I can use any of the state parks for a year. You do still have to rent the camp site. I am happy that I have now surpassed breaking even and the $25 is so worth it.

Why don't more people know about Nelson Dewey in Cassville? My guess is because it is the tiniest state park I have ever been in. The longest trail is only .6 miles! But do I recommend it? Yes. Mainly because our campsite was gorgeous. Overlooking the Mississippi and bluff tops, birds migrate here, allowing you to see various kinds flying over the tree tops. I wish I had taken a photo to show you. Too bad.

Because I thought we would be doing some two-three hour hike, I dressed appropriately, and thank God I did because it was very hot and humid upon our arrival. After setting up the site, it was dinner time and the evening consisted of beers and veggie dogs. It was pretty quiet minus the trains passing by, which you can certainly hear but you can't see them. I wonder if you can see it in the fall/winter? I slept really well for camping and only suffered from a few bug bites. I wore deet and made sure the tent was sealed tightly.

My dog was on the loose most of the time, but naturally, stayed very close. She is soooo sleepy now. Upon arriving back at home, she went to sleep immediately.

The ride out there was pleasant (besides the arguing to slow down because my car doesn't handle well on the 90 degree turns). You take windy, country roads and we drove through this town called Potosi, where we stopped for lunch on the way back to Madison. Potosi Brewing Company is a restaurant and brewery with a pretty patio overlooking the country road. I was able to bring my tired dog to the patio while we ate. I can't say the food was anything spectacular, but I did order a Belgian lager that was pretty good. And, the view was worth it. It was a very relaxing afternoon. You are pretty much in the middle of nowhere (the sign says "Population 711").

I also had the pleasure of experiencing my first concert on the square and I loved it. I have been forewarned that attendees start saving their spots on the lawn around lunch time. Because there were rumors of it being cancelled due to thunderstorms, the call was not made until 3 PM, allowing me to reserve a spot after work. It was so simple! I got home, walked my dog the two blocks to the square, put our blanket down, went to get some groceries, made a spread, and got there with some time to veg and relax. The opening song was the William Tell Overture by Rossini. (You all know it -the horse racing song). They also played some other pieces I knew including Rodgers & Hammerstein. Alcohol is allowed at these concerts (after all, it is Wisconsin), and you better believe every person there had wine or beer.

There is something so fabulous about being able to walk two blocks after work, lying on a blanket, having dinner & drinks, while listening to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I am definitely plan on going again this Wednesday for the "Celebrate America" venue.

So let's see - now there's farmer's market Saturdays and concert Wednesdays. And as for the camping, perhaps again in July. But this time, a new place.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I was the Victim of a Crime; Funky Week

In Boston, my tires were slashed twice in about two weeks. I was devastated. And pissed. And very, very hurt. And completely pissed at the person (whoever they were) who did it. I am pretty sure I wished them some horrible things.

And this week, I stopped home after I had been in my office for a few hours to run my dog out because I was leaving for Eau Claire for a work trip. I had just picked up the rental car. For whatever reason, I decided to walk through my garage back into the condo, instead of walking through the lobby. And that is when I discovered shattered glass next to the front passenger window. And I knew. My valuables were gone. I couldn't look.

And the more I thought about everything that the thief took, the more I didn't want to think about it. By the way, I saw the thief. And I live in a secure garage which requires a key card and is equipped with cameras. Gone - my purse, my work laptop, an expense report, a Tiffany ring, wallet, cash, GPS, and more.

Am I pissed? Not really. I cried. It was a very unfortunate situation. I feel horrible about the work items, specifically the laptop. I am not happy that someone has my identity. Yes, I have to buy a new GPS. I have to buy a new cell phone charger. I can't replace the cash. I have to go to the DMV. My key to my car is gone. And it is chipped. So I have to have it towed. My day consisted from that moment on of calling the banks, walking to my branch, getting my stolen pills from the doctor, calling my insurance agent, talking to my boss, calling a tow place, calling a volunteer from work whose credit card number was written in a notebook that is gone, talking to the car rental place, talking to my national office, canceling cards, changing passwords. But I'm not mad. I am not even mad at the thief, who I looked at in the eye as he was looking over a convertible in our secure garage. Maybe he's the victim of this recession.

And the police reassured me that these people typically take the items and pawn them. He said that my identity is not something to worry about. Even the GPS, which has all of the places I have driven to - he said not to worry. The bank seemed to agree.

This week has been so bizarre. I try not to think about the impact this guy has had on me. Like how I had to leave in the middle of work to do a car swap since I am unable to drive my car. Since he took my car key. And I was in the middle of a timely project. Or how I spent about six hours on the phone with the computer helpdesk, trying to get the programs working. Because I have to use an old desk top. And I have to go to my least favorite place - the DMV. Again. And there's more. But I'm not going to complain.

Although this happened - there are too many positives. Specifically the fact that it was just valuables that were taken and that nobody was hurt. The barista gave me a free drink. My bank assisted me immediately. So did my property manager. And the doctor's office. No lines. No waiting. That is what you get in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Visiting the Wisconsin State Parks

Why didn't I move here sooner? I keep asking myself this question since the weather broke. We are now outside 95% of the time.

Explaining the lifestyle to a co-worker before I moved here, I said, "People eat breakfast outside. They just do everything outdoors." I figured that was a good way to describe it - it sort of sums up the whole package. She couldn't believe it. And yesterday, when I was hiking in one of the typically busy state parks, I said to my hiking partner, "This reminds me of this one place I took my dog to in Ohio. And I never saw another person." "Yeah, right!", my partner said to me in disbelief.

So I bought the state pass for the parks and recreation areas in April. For $25, you attach it to your windshield and you can go to any of the parks throughout the state for free. Otherwise, I think it's about $7.00 a day for an in-state license. You figure if you go more than four times, it is worth it. Well, I have already gone three times and I am camping next weekend, so I will break even.

Don't forget in Wisconsin, you do use these year round. I like to cross country ski. And I spent money at the parks this winter to do that. I think there are around 60 park and recreation areas you can frequent around the state.

In one of my first postings, I mentioned Devils Lake - a very popular hiking and camping destination in Wisconsin. Since I wrote that post last September, I can't tell you how many times I have been there. A lot. Yesterday, I went to Governor Dodge in Dodgeville. That was my first time there. I would say the main difference between Devils Lake and Governor Dodge is that GD has rolling hills and looks much more rural when you drive in. Devils Lake feels like it will swallow you. Maybe this is my personal opinion. I think Devil's Door has something to do with that feeling. The hike in Governor Dodge consisted of waterfalls, a spring, a marshy area, a very steep muddy path, and tons and tons of nature. We saw a snake, turtles, frogs and more. The best part of all of my hikes is when I see that I have exhausted my dog.

I have always loved reading a lot in the summer, specifically outside, ever since I learned how to read. In Madison, there is so much more to do than just read outside. You just do everything out here. In fact, I am currently sitting outside of my favorite coffee shop with my canine. And next week, I will be sleeping outside.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Madison Is a Little Too Friendly

I'm coming up on my one year anniversary, Madison. It's bittersweet. And it happened so fast.

Now, obviously I enjoy the company of people. But, I have always valued a little bit of alone time. Perhaps that is why I like living alone so much. And I have mentioned that you are not alone much in Madison. Especially if you are outgoing and will talk to anyone.

And so, I am actually starting to get slightly irritated by the amount of friendliness that is going on. You know, some days, I just want to have an hour to myself. Owning a dog, this seems to be difficult. If I have an hour at home, it gets interrupted a lot. Which is totally fine. Except like this past weekend, when I spent all weekend with people and decided I just really wanted to have the night to myself on Sunday. I was left alone around 5:00. (Hence, the last blog post). My dog hadn't been out since the morning. My friend texted me to come to the terrace. As much as I wanted to be there and see my friends, I turned the invitation down. I took the dog out. I made it about three blocks when I was approached by someone who recognized me and we walked and talked for about 20 minutes. I am sort of at a point where I feel that if I need some "me" time, I have to hibernate in my apartment.

The next day, I take a walk after work. I tell myself, "Just look down!" The first group of homeless hippies look at me and one shouts, "Hey there's my ex wife. Nice leash!" As I take my own advice and look down, a woman comes by and says "beautiful dog!" I didn't even make eye contact with her. It's like everyone has to talk to each other around here. Which is fine and dandy, except when you aren't in the mood.

Then there was the woman by the library last week who asked me, all of the people walking by, to help her put her DVDs in the book drop. And she was scared of my dog. Who wanted to sniff her out. Why me?

If you are looking for a friendly town, this is it. There is no way out of friendly conversation with strangers. Out with friends, we often befriend neighboring tables. We have invited people who we don't know to sit with us. By the end of a night out, you may have a whole new group of friends. I am not trying to criticize. I just think it's sort of funny that even I feel a little annoyed with the niceness.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eating & Grocery Shopping For One

I know it's hard to grocery shop for one. When I was in college, we used to fill two grocery carts. One time the cashier ran out of tape while our receipt was printing. And the food would last us only five or six days. Then we were scraping by. Now my life is a different story.

I try to keep my refrigerator as full as I can, but it never seems very full. Today, it is as full as I can get it. So I decided to take a photo for you to get a peek of what a bachelorette's refrigerator looks like. This is one day after the farmer's market and a day after doing some cooking (which isn't that common).

I think it's very hard to grocery shop as a single person. If I buy too much, the food goes bad. If I buy too little, I end up going out to eat a lot and spending money. On the other hand, if I do have a lot of food in the house, being single, I still end up going out to eat a lot. So it's a no win.

My other issue is that I do prefer fresh foods. So I finally decided to just buy things as I need them and this has worked the best. Although I like eggplant, I won't buy it unless I plan on making something with it right away. Otherwise, I buy it and it rots. My other thing is that I have to have company to eat it. I don't see any point in making a whole dish unless someone is going to help me out a bit.

The best places to grocery shop here are the Farmer's Market , Willy Street Coop, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I also like the Jennifer Street Market. Just keep in mind that they are cash only. If you appreciate food, these are all super fun places to go to.

Now because there are so many things I can be sharing with you that I am not - (People, I know which posts you like the most - and they aren't about my boring grocery tales....) I will share a funny story. The Willy Street Coop requires a membership. Being a coop, you obviously are a part owner. Well, when I moved closer to the coop, I always intended on joining. My first time there, I decided to just use my sister's member number. I didn't feel like joining. I was probably feeling cheap that day. Unfortunately, seven months later and I am still using it. And I go there more than her and her family. And she is now fearful that if she goes to use it, they will call her an imposture.

The other funny Willy Street Coop story is the day after I met my boyfriend. I was always hesitant to hold, push, carry, or be near my nephew, in the event that someone (specifically a man), might think that he was my child. The day after I met my now boyfriend, I was at the checkout, holding my nephew. I was tired and hungover. My now boyfriend, a group of all now- very-good friends, and I, had been out until about 3 AM. Upon seeing him at checkout, he claims that after saying "Hello," I said to him:

"This is NOT my son. This is my nephew, Sebastian. I am completely single!" (Now, I have a totally different version of this story.) And here is mine:

"Do I know you from somewhere? Oh, we hung out last night, right? What's your name again? This is my nephew, Sebastian."

And he followed up with:

"Sebastian. That's a cute name. His cheeks are adorable."

Back to my cooking and baking tales. As far as my baking goes, I go through phases where I like to bake a lot. (I consider myself a pretty lousy cook.) This weekend, I made a rhubarb crisp (courtesy of my aunt and uncle's rhubarb from the back yard). I also made a key lime pie. My favorite time to bake is when people are over, making themselves comfortable on my couch or at my peninsula and we can chat a little bit while I am baking. I prefer not to cook for people who have certain expectations - such as needing my full attention or trying to tell me a long, personal story. I have to focus a bit.

As I am deciding what to do about my living situation, my friend and I were looking on craigslist at places the other night. When I pointed out that I didn't like the photos of a kitchen in one of the places, my friend said to me, "How much time do you spend in your kitchen?" I need a nice kitchen, though. It makes me look forward to baking. I also like it to look nice and clean, as if nothing happened when I am done. Enough people don't appreciate those kitchens that are spotless when someone has been cooking all day. And I am one of those people who likes to have a spotless kitchen after baking and cooking.

I will share one last tip with you. I find that my cooking, although not great, has improved tremendously. A lot of it has to do with buying the right things. I think it's important to buy the freshest and more expensive ingredients. Don't buy the cheap stuff if you want it to taste good. I will spend a little more to have a good tomato. Remember, folks, I got rid of my cable and unplugged everything. By the way, I got my electric bill down to $29.00!

Best to all of you on your grocery shopping excursions in Madison, Wisconsin. Or wherever you may be.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How to Be an Assertive Woman

I am so disappointed in women and their lack of assertiveness. I am constantly hearing the same conversation: You tell a man he's an ass hole and he tells you you're an ass hole too. Then you go grab a beer together. You tell a woman she's an ass hole and she doesn't talk to you for three weeks. And she tells all of her friends what a bitch you are. And what nerve you have!

So I was at the dog park after work, having this very conversation with a dog owner. Do I know her? No. But, she wanted to vent about work. And how she was in a very important meeting this week and she spoke her mind and since then, she has felt humiliated. And I told her that no woman is going to make a difference if she doesn't speak her mind. That is the truth. And then I thought about that awesome bumper sticker. You know the one that says, "Well-behaved women rarely make history". Ain't that the truth? This woman happens to be an attorney and she has so much pride in the fact that she is a semi-public figure and she loathes her job but refuses to give up. There are a lot of politics involved in what she does. But if she smiles and nods her head, changes will never be made.

Do you think Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Condi, Sandra Day O'Connor or the latest trailblazer, Sotomayor made a difference without being assertive? Do you think that they went behind their friends' backs to complain about petty garbage that was bothering them? You cannot succeed in many aspects of life working that way. I can assure you that if Sotomayor is not happy about a situation, she lets you know. And how dare you call her a bitch. What is this all about? Is Bush an ass hole for declaring war on Iraq? No. But I bet Hillary is a bitch for her foreign policy. Give me a break, people!

So how do you become more assertive? The best advice I can give you is that you must be comfortable with it. And there is a difference between being dramatic and being assertive. And men can me dramatic, too. Here is an example of being assertive:

"You are going to have to stop calling me all weekend. I have a life, and I prefer to not be called throughout my weekend."

Here is an example of not being assertive:

"No! Feel free to call me on a Saturday! It's no problem!" (Then you hang up and start complaining to whoever listens about how your weekend is ruined).

And finally, an example of a dramatic person:

"You have to stop calling me every weekend. This is ridiculous. I have a life!" (Dramatic people tend to use large adjectives. Specifically people from Long Island).

If you feel like you aren't "saying it like it is," then you probably are not assertive.

When my boyfriend's family pointed out that we both come from divorced families and suggested the research on couples with that type of background, I was assertive. I looked them straight in the eye and blurted out, "Yeah, there is research on that.... He doesn't..... think!" Oh my God - I just said it. I had never even met some of them before. But I wasn't going to sugar coat it. And it felt right. And we all had a good laugh. Even the two year old nephew. He started cracking up because we were all laughing. It wasn't a nice thing to say at all, though. But I thought they should know that their son/brother is a little bit of a disaster. Do I care if they hate me for saying it? Ummm... not really.

Because you have to remember that well behaved women rarely make a difference...