Friday, December 23, 2011

How I Started Running [and Loving it]

When I was fourteen, my friend put on her running shoes and told me to go jogging with her. I had tried to run around a track at the local gym but wasn’t doing it right. When you run in gym class, you tend to sprint and that’s what I was doing. I would go one time around and think “no way can I do this!” Going jogging with my friend, I could easily keep up and we continued around the block a few times.

I had accompanied my dad to a number of Cleveland Revco Marathons when I was really young. [I wish I could say it was to watch him which would be way cool, but it was to sit with him in a slow-moving van that assisted with communications via ham radio.] Anyways, I was introduced to this long competitive challenge long ago.

When we got a treadmill after that jog at fourteen, I could run slowly. By the summer, I was doing three miles in thirty minutes which seemed fine with me. It wasn’t until the winter of 1996 that I went outside and went for a long run. And I just kept on going. I had no idea that I was capable of doing that.

I tried to get into running and had a little bit of a routine. By college, I was running about three days a week. That was first semester. Second semester, I failed miserably and came home after freshmen year at 144 pounds. That’s the biggest I have ever been. [I now weigh around 110 – have for almost ten years. And even though my ex boyfriend saw my weight on my license and made some obnoxiously rude comment, the last time I went to the doctor, I was 110. Thank you very much! Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I was heavy for a second. But I am really tiny. Not gonna lie. So it surprises some.]

The weight came off and by senior year of college, I was about 120 pounds and wore a size two. I moved to Boston and ran most mornings before work with Scout. This was more for Scout than me. She was only one and was home alone all day. I thought it was very important that she get the run before she was alone all day. By the spring of 2003, I was inspired to train for a marathon after watching the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day.

Let me tell you about the Boston Marathon. It is one of the ultimate marathons because unlike most marathons, you have to qualify for it [unless you do one of those “Team in Training” type of fundraisers.] For example, if I wanted to participate in it, I would have to run a previous marathon at about an 8.40 pace. [Dad – you would need to complete one at a 10.8 minute pace, so you should really consider it. Just saying]. So, I watched the marathon and said, “I can do this” and then I signed up for one and started training.

I chose the Columbus [Capital of Ohio] marathon because my sister lived there, the slogan was “fast, flat and fun” [that’s a total lie, by the way], and I knew it would be an easy drive for my parents to come and watch. The weather was supposed to be decent at that time of the year [October] and it gave me enough time to train. And train I did. With absolutely no support from anyone, including my place of employment, [who asked me if I was running a marathon both days because they wanted me to work on Saturday – “Um, hello?”]

I trained alone. In fact, for my final long run, I ended up posting an ad on craigslist to find people who would run with me because I didn’t want to run that entire distance alone [too boring]. I didn’t care about my time at all. I just wanted to do a marathon. I met two strangers and we did the run and never saw each other again. After that final run, I had sprained my foot and injured my knee and couldn’t put any weight on it. Three weeks out from the marathon, the doctor told me to lay off the running and I should be ok.

I flew to Columbus and did my very first [and perhaps only] marathon and I hated it. I hated the training and I hated that nobody from Boston seemed to understand it. But whatever. Different times. Different situations. My parents were there and they were proud and my favorite sister [just kidding!] was there for me. And I slept incredibly well that night. I forgot to put my chip in – oh well. I just wanted to complete a marathon.

After that awful experience, I didn’t like running. I ran one more small race in Boston that March. Last minute, three sisters asked me to run with them so we could form a team. And we actually came in third place and won some money.

I took up running again in 2005. I was then living back in my hometown in Cleveland, Ohio. And that is when I started running six days a week. I got fast. I liked it. And that’s when I began to wonder why more people do not do aerobic exercise. And that is when it began to baffle me.

I mostly ran at the gym but when the weather broke, I started running outside. Cars failed to go around me and I ended up giving that finger in the middle to a lot of large SUVs. I was also alone on the roads. I would try to run places – like to people’s houses, coffee shops, etc. But where I was living didn’t seem conducive to this. And I found it really annoying. I don’t like driving somewhere to go for a run. It seems sort of pointless.

I decided to do another race without caring about the time or training. I had raced in a few of those Komen races – but those don’t count. [At least not to me]. In 2008, I did a five miler in forty minutes. I didn’t train or anything. I mean, I ran almost thirty miles a week – I didn’t care if I won it. Then I realized I was improving. And I really liked it.

I had recently visited my sister and brother-in-law in Madison, Wisconsin. And all I could notice while visiting them was how many people I saw when I was out running. And how the city was laid out so well that there were running paths absolutely everywhere. And they were incredibly utilized. Running in Madison was way more fun than in Cleveland.

And this was one of the key reasons I moved. [Besides a few others]. So I moved to Madison right around the time I started this blog and got my route figured out. I changed it up a few times. I am down to one I have been doing for about two years. And I still really enjoy running alone because it is my time for introspection. It keeps me thin and feeling great.

And that one day in May of this year, when I was out running and saw signs for the Madison half and asked myself why I wasn’t doing it and went and signed up and ran it the next day without training for it under two hours –[ thank you very much] is completely credited to my obsession with running six days a week.

So when I met my current boyfriend [can you keep up?] we talked about running on our first date and I discovered that while I thought I was extremely regimented with my running, he is even moreso. And he is extremely competitive. So I started running faster.

I signed up for the Berbee Derby and wanted to break my PR. Now, for those of you who are into running, you know that the night before a race, you don’t sleep well. I have those dreams – you know the ones where when you get to the race and it already started? They are actually nightmares. So I slept horribly and when the race started, I didn’t feel it. I told myself, “F it and just do what you need to do.” I came in ninth in my age group which I was happy about at a 7.44 pace, but not at all breaking a PR. Boo Just not a great race for me. But there will be more.

I can now run a mile in under seven minutes and it just makes me feel more competitive. I enjoy a good, fast run and nothing compares to the fabulous feeling when you are done. I have absolutely no pain [joint problems, aches, etc] from running. I highly recommend it. Especially if you are trying to lose a little weight.

I had four other close girlfriends run in the Berbee Derby, along with my cousin’s boyfriend, my 69 year old uncle and my boyfriend [who came in fifth out of 1,543 runners] and it is so nice to have a group of people who get running and appreciate it as much as I do. There will be more races to come.

I'm just getting started.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Take My Advice

Occasionally, I like to point out what facebook was created for. The commencement of facebook and what it has become are very different.

And I am sure I am being completely insensitive when I say that the child updates/profile pictures are - well..... not what Zuckerberg had intended facebook to entail when it was created. I know, I know, I have photos of my dog on there.

Here's the thing. I am a child of the 1980s. If I knew that my parents had blasted photos of me and funny quotes that are currently sitting out there in cyber world, I think I would be weirded out by it.

So this is why I have decided to stop putting up photos on facebook of the children. Not mine. I have none. But of other people's children. Because I feel like I am exploiting them.

And on a totally separate note, I want to say that last year for work, we were asked to give our new year's resolutions I succeeded in mine. Yes - I vowed to stop carrying three bags and a coffee cup to work and it worked all year! Yes!!

Also - since I like to give unsolicited advice out here and never get much feedback, have any of you stopped using so much water? Started exercising? Ended a relationship? or simply started some therapy?

It completely baffles me why more people don't take better care of themselves. How can people continue to do nothing for exercise and eat garbage while watching reality television all day long? The perks of exercise are so AMAZINGLY incredible which INCLUDE:

1) Better mood
2) More energy


Oh! Did I mention looking good? Skinny waist!And you will skip an avocado because it is fattening and eat fried cheese curds?? What is that all about?

And what's the deal with marrying your first true love? Do you really think thirty years down the road, you aren't going to have changed and wondered what it would be like to live alone? Or date someone else? What is that all about?

Oh - and see that photo I have here with the non-exploited child? Yeah, with the Christmassy background? Yeah, that's right. Because I am agnostic, I guess.

I would also like to admit that I complain a lot that Madison is not diverse but don't do anything about it [Like a typical American]. I was thrilled to have attended a dinner party the other night that included four foreigners. And they were not all caucasian. I am making progress.

Lastly, I will share with you that my greatest fears are losing my dog and falling on the ice and not being able to run. Any suggestions?

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Rules, 2011

Well 2011 is coming to a close. We are almost in the twelfth month. And with this close, I would like to blog about what I have learned in relationships - AKA - "The Rules." I have blogged about them in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

A lot has changed for me. And a lot has stayed the same. For example, I am wearing glasses I have had since 2006. And a sweatshirt I have had since 2003. Ok, enough joking around.

I feel like I have become more of the person I was since I graduated. For example, running was very important to me in 2003. But it's even more of who I am now. And I was interested in cooking back then, too. But these days, I would say I am known as a pretty great cook. Even more so in the past few months. As we get older, we grow more into ourselves. A grumpy thirty year old is going to be a NASTY fifty year old. Just remember that.

And so, we move onto..... My rules:

1) I believe this was about not living in the same state as your parents or your partner's parents. Here is what I learned about this that makes a VERY large impact on your entire relationship. I love not feeling like we have to check in with our folks. However, if I had to change rule number one, I would definitely change it to: He must get along with his parents and enjoy them. He must have no conflicts with his parents. This is first and foremost. If he enjoys his parents, his ENTIRE baggage is very, very tidy - if at all existent. And so, I enjoy that our parents are far away. And I love that we both appreciate and love them dearly.

2) No Marriages. I still agree that a starter marriage is totally cool. As long as he doesn't have some ex who he doesn't get along with or has access baggage with, I am totally down with a starter marriage. It's practice for the real thing.

3) I am stuck on no kids. First of all, I don't know if I want them. I don't want a man who has them. I made the mistake of waiting until the end of the date to ask Tattoo Boy if he had any. [he doesn't]. It is something you need to ask at my age. Kids are cute. So are puppies and I don't even miss those. No kids. Thank you.

4) Friends are first.... Hmmmm.... I have a lot of them. I have really great friends. I have to say, I am so lucky. I hope they will tell you I put them first, but I would have to ask them. Ladies, please comment here!

5) Don't Allow Men to do Manly Things for You... You know how I was single for one month and one day? It's not because I am "dependent." In fact, I would think I am the opposite. I do a lot on my own. And as of late, I really can't think of any handy work I had my man friend do. I hang my own pictures, I move my furniture, I fix things. I am woman!

6) I fully believe a workaholic is no good. Still. I will always stick to this rule. Anything with the word "holic" at the end is bad news.

7) Same Age. I still believe..... Yes - date someone in your generation. The energy/vibes/aging process remains consistent with yours. I can't relate to someone who still gets drunk at 9 AM, as they wouldn't be able to relate to someone who wants to listen to hours of NPR.

8) Yes - your ideal day needs to match. If you don't have the same interest in how you would spend a day together, you do not have the same interests. I am very active and do not like sitting around. Fortunately for me, my man is one of the top runners in town. He has motivated me to become faster. We love exercise, take work seriously and love to blog/social media. We also love "working the room" together, meeting new people, cooking/eating, being outdoors, etc. So important!

9) I added the one about being attractive. You really need to be attracted to your partner. This is so true. Forget a fat slob. He's gotta care for himself. And you need to find him cute.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fit & Fabulous

Call me crazy, but I want to know what it feels like to get into the shower without being sore. Or sweaty. Or physically challenged for that matter. Actually, I wouldn't want to know. I would be slightly disgusted with myself. I am not Joan Benoit. But I like to workout. I am a runner. And I can't imagine getting into the shower, day after day, without a workout. How do you do it? Doesn't it feel gross? Imagine how much more you could do. The energy you would have. The food you could energize with.

Now that I have lived in Madison for over three years, I am no longer impressed with the amount of outdoor activity. I want to know why more people aren't involved. I can't relate to just waking up and getting in the shower and getting dressed. That sounds gross to me. How do you do it?

I recently read an article in the "Times" about begginer runners. They wanted to know what podcast was motivating people to run. And I realize that it's not normal - this need to run every morning [well, six days a week, anyway]. Most people need an accountability partner. Or they sleep in their running clothes. Or they attend a "weigh in." There is something that makes them get up and go running. For me, it's just part of who I am. One day at work, someone asked me, "Did you go running this morning?" And I was appalled. "Did you brush your teeth this morning?" I wanted to ask them. If you see me at work, I have gone running. If I have the stomach flu, I have not gone running. Otherwise, I run. I have become even more strict as I have gotten older. And I have become faster. "I don't have enough time." is a completely unexucusable truth - you are telling me "It's not a priority." And you know what? It's not for a lot of people.

So besides doing it for yourself, be healthy for your kids. I notice a ton of people who are obese. NPR just published an article stating that the american population is becoming more and more obese. And I have a real problem with people who aren't eating real food. I am currently finishing my dinner of all natural-local-tortellini, organic kale and organic mushroom sauteed in garlic. Does your meal have color? I am not better than you. I may be healthier, that's all. You're probably cooler than me.

I am not saying I am superior. But the next person who tells me while they are eating their "Wonder bread" [which isn't even real bread, mind you] that my sauteed, locally grown onions "look gross" can suck it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2001 Versus 2011 - Halloween

I love Halloween. Besides my famous soup in a pumpkin, I love all fall dishes and desserts. And I sense from facebook that I share this passion with a lot of my 198 friends.

I finally had that infamous Halloween party I have been wanting to host for the past nine years. While we held one my senior year in college with the football frat, this one differed slightly and here is how:

1) I didn't have to have anyone "work" the door, turning away unwanted party-goers. Although there were two other parties going on on my floor, there were no mystery guests. The only non-invited guest was a miniature pincher dressed as a lobster, but Scout didn't mind [and neither did I].

2) I baked all day long and served homemade cupcakes, cookies, dips, snacks and my famous soup. Meanwhile, back at the Zeta House in 2001, We spent twenty-five minutes hiding all of our food so drunk guests wouldn't eat our groceries.

3) I had a little wine/beer table. Flashback to 2001: We had five kegs of Milwaukee's Best Light - AKA "The Beast".... and the kegs were kicked by 2 AM. Oh - and we had to get up at the crack of dawn [you know - like 10 AM] to drive to Canton, Ohio to get the kegs by closing time at noon.

4) My mini pumpkins/gourd decorations are still in tact today. Back in the Zeta house, the mini pumpkins were dumped in the washing machine, unbeknownst to us and my roommate ended up washing [and drying, mind you!] a mini pumpkin - only discovering it while she was folding all of her laundry. At least we had a laundered pumpkin.

5) There is no evidence of a party in my condo this morning. In the olden days, those new rushes were forced to come to our house before noon with hangovers to scrub our house clean like unpaid maids. Besides a pumpkin gone missing - I think I saw it smashed outside today, my peers are pretty mature - having helped clean up my place before I passed out at 1 AM.......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Boom

Wow! Long time, no talk, people.

I feel so lucky because I had the best summer ever. I just took Madison in and didn't take it for granted.

One Saturday, I was about to go boating and I had a little baby on my hip. "My sister is due any day," I told the proud parents. And just then, I received a text that my sister was in labor.

So, I went to meet the baby. And we talked a lot. Not the baby and me. We didn't talk at all. In fact, he just did a whole lot of baby things that I am sure I did, too. And Janie [that's me] thought more and more about the kid thing. I am not a natural with these newborns. I like the toddler age. That looks fun. But what happens to a couple during this time scares me terribly. I talked with my brother-in-law and sister. A lot.

And here is what we talked about: Vasectomy? Tubal Ligation? Which? So - something needs to happen to prevent the procreation when a couple is done reproducing. Correct? What is more invasive? One of them needs to do something. A woman cannot take birth control hormones forever. It's not healthy. The rhythm method results in more kids. So does the "pull-out" method. And my understanding is that most couples who have several children end up with abstinence anyway. So - why the heck have kids if you don't feel like that was a goal in life? [They did not tell me this, I have just read a ton on the topic]. No exploitation, here!

I still feel like at forty, if I can manage to have one, I would. But I am not going to lie here. I hate liars, anyway. I am not afraid to die. I am not afraid of a lot of things. I am terrified of child birth. I am perfectly happy and proud to show off my ten year old golden retriever. I have raised her. Yeah - she's wild and all. But, I have had her since she was a pup. I don't need to "squeeze something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon."

Besides, how would I give up my pinot grigio for nine months? Life is too good without kids. Besides, we have a horrible overpopulation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Eulogy of Sorts

While running this morning, I was thinking about all of the people I would like to thank for where I am today. And by today, I mean literally today. Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Here in Madison, Wisconsin.

I would like to thank the following people:

Melissa, Gretchen, and Emily. Oh - and Pitbull. Oh and Tattoo Boy, too.

Melissa got me in touch with Tattoo Boy. Actually, she pushed this a while back. So for that, I say "Thank you, Melissa!" You are the bomb. Not only have you encouraged me to pursue this, but you have helped me to get here - with work/life/sanity - I owe you.

Gretchen because as I say, I was already happy and she showed me that I could be even happier. She introduced me to boating and tailgating. She showed me how much more fun life can be [not even materially].

Emily helped me prep for some dates. I was a bit of a wreck and boy did she help. And when I texted her from the bathroom on my first date with Tattoo boy, she reminded me that you only live once.....

Which brings me to Pitbull. One of the songs of our summer. "You might not have tomorrow...." So - thank you, Pitbull. And if ever I have room on a boat for one more person, I will bring you, Pitbull. [And not T-Pain].

And then Tattoo Boy - I am not ready to reveal his identity because - well - if you have seen me out with a boy with tattoos, then you know. But thank you to you, too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Goodman Pool Dog Dip

Naughty Dog!

I don't know what happened but in the past few months, my dog has turned into a very crazy and energetic "geriatric" dog.

She is currently on her side, kicking her paws around, rolling around like a puppy.

She is ten years old. And according to most people, she weighs almost as much as me. Truthfully, she is stronger than me. Way stronger.

For whatever reason, I always take her to all dog excursions. And yesterday was no exception.

"Hey Scout! Wanna go to the Goodman Pool Dog Dip?!?!"

"I just ate a hot dog out of a toddler's hand and while Janie bought the screaming and crying three-year-old a brand new hot dog, I checked out the men's room while she had to wait outside as I trotted around....."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yeah Sconnie!

My friend who got me hooked on boating has now turned me on to [don't faint].... tailgating.

If there is one thing I never understood when I moved here, it was the amount of hype leading up to a Badger game. So when my friend was holding her birthday party at the Stadium bar during the Badger opener, I experienced the "hype." There is certainly no lack of team spirit in this town. And I get why people enjoy it so much.

Tailgating is an excuse to drink. Do you think I can even tell you who we played? No. I can't. I don't care. I could care less. I don't know anything about sports. I don't know what "tackle" means. Or what constitutes a "touch down." But I am glad when I hear that we won. And while I stood outside the stadium and saw that the game was over, I had to approach passersby to ask who won and how it went. And tattoo boy had a ticket to the game but never even made it into the stadium. Because clearly, tailgating is more important.

So here is how my conversation with said friend went on Tuesday evening:

JGW: [That's me] Is there a Badger game on Saturday?
SF: [That stands for "said friend" to keep her completely anonymous besides this photo I have of us tailgating] Let me look at my phone. Yes. Oregon State at 11 AM.
JW: There goes our Saturday. Where are we tailgating.

Now, flash forward to yesterday [Saturday, September 10, 2011]

I am up and out at 6 AM. I go running, eat breakfast, shower, get the dog out and make it to Ironman volunteer training by 8 AM. I know, I know - you're all thinking I am a renaissance woman. Which I am, of course. Walk around the farmer's market and by 9:30ish, said friend and I are having a bloody mary on State Street. We then proceed to walk towards the stadium where we drink beers all day and visit with friends. By 7 PM, I am exhausted, have a massive headache and it occurs to me that I still have a dog that is probably starving. Oh wait a minute - she is always starving.

And I was such a huge fan yesterday, that I do know we won 35 to nothing. Take that, Oregon State! I was such a huge fan that here is what I texted my dad [a UW grad student]:

2:10 PM: Yeah Sconnie! [whatever that means....] Did you see the game?
2:29 PM: [Bob Winston, aka "Dad"] No. Details.
2:36 PM: [I would have responded sooner but this was the third out of about 85 times that I dropped my phone on the floor of the bathroom] ME - We won. 35 to nothing. Oregon State.
2:37: I am grandfathered in thanks to you.
2:39: [Dad] Tres
3:00: JGW - Where is ur name on Union South? [He made a donation towards the new Union bldg. But it wasn't like one million dollars or anything like that]

So, as you can see - I am now a huge Badger fan. Oh - and I am sort of into the Packers too. And I love cheese curds. So I am a real Wisconsinite now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

'Tis the Night Before the Weekend

This week was not as exciting as last week. Besides inhaling a piece of granola for the second time and "choking" [Ok - It really wasn't choking], I didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

This "Spacer Dog Guy Owner" from the dog park was texting me to get together. Here is how it went:

SDG: [That's for Spacer Dog Guy]"Hey Janie! What are you up to this weekend?"

JGW: [That's for Janie G Winston] "Oh - I think a bunch of us are going to Plan B." [Then thinking to myself, "Is this dude wanting to hang out one-on-one or what? I said I had a group...."]

SDG: [A few days later] Hey Janie! How was your weekend?

JGW: [24 hours later] Good. You?

SDG: Great. I visited family, etc, etc. Play by play. [I don't know you but I am going to tell you all about my wknd] You want to meet for lunch one day this week?

[JGW is thinking - "This is so random! I met him like one time! Do I have some sign on me that says I am looking for lots of dates or what?" I mean, he is cute and all]

So, I am having a drink with my friend and I am telling her about this. How innocent are you people? The advice that I didn't take that was offered to me was:

"He's probably looking to meet new people since he is relatively new in Madison." And I am like, "He wants to go on a date with me."

So, here was my response to him:

"You mean like a date? Because I sorta got a man...."

And forty-eight hours later, realizing I am going to see SDG again really soon [afterall, this is Madison and we go to the same dog park], it occurs to me that I better make sure I didn't offend him.

JGW: Sorry if that was rude.... I just didn't want to lead you on and I am very blunt.

SDG: It wasn't rude. It was just letting me know.

Aha! I knew it! So, the moral of the story is to be forward, people and also I would have to say that the dog park is a good place to meet people. So, make sure you look hot at the park.

And here is my dad several days after I broke up with my former "Mr. Right Now:"

Dad: [That stands for Dad] So, are you making any friends?

JGW: [Thinking to myself, I have a zillion friends. Why is he asking me this?] Oh! You mean like am I dating?

Dad: Yes.

JGW: C'mon just say it! I am having fun. I don't think I really need more friends, per se.

And then came Tattoo Boy....

Here is me in therapy:

JGW: So, I am already talking to this new guy. And you know, I worry because I don't believe in marriage. And it makes me a little nervous.

Therapist: Well, do you get really intense in the beginning?

JGW: Yes.

Therapist: Ok. Well since you are aware of that, you need to be cautious of that.

JGW: Ok. I am fine with that.

And so, I am going home with him this weekend.... [Afterall, it's been at least - what - a few weeks since we started hanging out?]

Other than that, boating was a success this past weekend. We spent the day on Lake Mendota, through the locks to Monona. Very fun times. I think the mad dash from the hair color appointment to prevent aging to the Union to hop on the boat was a success. [I had about 20 minutes notice]. But I packed my bikini to my hair appointment. Just in case.

Sadly, summer will be over in about one month. I am ok with this. Soon, I will be cross country skiing over the lake. And the Halloween party I have been talking about will have taken place. I even had a dream the other night that I was picking out my costume.

Stay tuned for more fun summer adventures.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Past Week

This summer has been far from dull. After I got all into boating, and losing a flip flop and my keys in the elevator shaft, I have now seen a dead body and had a small (but not serious) injury.

Here's the run down. I befriended a Forensic Pathologist who mentioned he was on his way to an autopsy. I wanted to watch. So, I got to see a body being autopsied. But I feel really bad for the situation so I am not going to say anything else about it. Except that it was more than I imagined. That and if you decide to have a cup of coffee at EVP in the VA hospital, just know you're feet away from dead bodies in a cooler.

I then had an ultimate weekend of partying it up in Mad-town with my first visitor! My cousin stayed with me and we had a ton of fun including running into my ex-boyfriend at a bar ["Hello!" if you are reading this!] and an old "wayward fling" at the same time ["Hello if you are reading this!] who approached me as I was having a "laughing attack" from all the hype at 1:30 in the morning. My boat captain who was out for the fun decided to bail on us and aborted our boating plans on Sunday which was disheartening.

I have now been hanging out with tattoo boy [because, you know, I was completely single for one month and one day - entirely too long], who agrees to randomly hang out with all my "new friends" who I meet when I am out and about.

Do you ever notice in Madison how friendly everyone is? I have this facebook policy that I have to stay under 200 friends at all times, but I keep on expanding my social circle here, so I am constantly at 199 friends. [By the way, if you try to find me on facebook, I am really hidden].

And while we were out boating a few weekends ago, everyone asked me how I knew the captain and I told them "We met at a Starbucks on State Street two years ago." And then I realized how weird that sounds. And today I had lunch with someone I met on the Barriques patio. And when you are out drinking, you tend to become friendly with people on the patio and then the next thing you know, there are four of you, two guys and two girls and you look like two couples [even though none of you know each other], and that's just how I roll. And tattoo boy totally goes along with this. I think in the last two weeks, we have sat with random strangers at bar tables 50% of the time like we are on some double date. Do you know what I am talking about? It's a Madison thing.

Take last night, for example. Well - let's start with my injury. Walking the old dog around the square, she smelled something and took off and took me down to the ground with a hard hitting of the head. Mortified and in pain, a cute man offered to help me in which my friend said I should have invited him to come over because she was with me and she thought he was cute. My clothes were dirty [she pulled me down by a tree on a small tree lawn], my ass hurt and I was worried about a concussion, so I decided that I should go to Graze and have five glasses of pinot grigio.

Meanwhile, tattoo boy was texting me, so I told him he should probably wake me up every two hours during the night to make sure I didn't have a concussion - doctor's orders.

So, hanging out at Graze, Mr.Divorcee comes over to tell me his problems [I think I may have asked him a question or two] and found out that he had a vasectomy and his ex has a personality disorder. Since my new hairdresser likes Graze [after all, I met her there - sort of], I invited her to meet me there and the next thing I know, we are seated at a table with Tattoo boy, hairdresser and vasectomied/divorcee - like we are all good friends.

I would like to announce that I finally bought a new camera which was so ridiculously overdue. Thanks to the several glasses of pinot grigio I had last Monday night, I spent over $300 on silent auction items that I won. I also have a $200 to Williams Sonoma so I can go shopping for the Halloween party I am throwing this year that I haven't stopped talking about on a daily basis.

On that note - time to go get walked by the D-O-G!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm on a Boat

This summer I was introduced to the boat culture. I was never exposed to the lifestyle of boating until now. And when I like something, I want to do it a lot. It's like once you start you just can't stop. Since going out on the water, I have been out three more weekends and I am going again this upcoming weekend.

Besides being surrounded by the beauty of Madison, it's total serenity. There are very few things I have experienced in my state of happiness that take me to this extreme.

Now that I am getting the hang of it, I know the drill. You pack a lot of snacks/alcohol and put on a bikini. So, as we bounced across Mendota, I actually enjoyed the rough waters as our "captain" purposely chased and hit up every rough wave, tossing me into the air. We docked over by the mental institution (somewhere off Northport, I think). That's where all the boaters anchor. Then you swim in the water, have drinks and mingle with the other boats anchored around you. You may even exchange numbers, beverages, suntan lotion, etc. And if you are really friendly, you will tie your boats up together.

What's not to like about this? It's a really social hobby. And while I have absolutely no interest in having my own boat, it's nice to have friends who do.

Have you heard the song by "Lonely Island?" They really describe the heavenly journey. And also I have this secret crush on Andy Samberg. He seems like he would be a super fun guy to go out with to a bar. Or bring to a wedding. So Andy, if you are reading this, and you win another free boat ride for three, feel bring me and T Pain. (Because I am sure he is reading this).

The 2011 summer will go down in history. I'm on a Boat!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Origination of this Blog

Here's what I really want to blog about. I am single. I have been single for almost one month. I am sure that all my ex boyfriends are reading this. As well as any man I have gone out with on a date and will be going out with. Not because I am arrogant. But because they will tell me. Or they have told me. I have not been single in a really long time. And it's time to be single.

I am non-committal. No. I take that back, but I am not deleting it. I am anti-marriage. And while I have been asked if I am working on that in therapy, I don't see a point. I am happy with it. When I first started this blog in 2008, I wrote about getting out of a relationship. And the main thing I point out is that if you are unsure, then it is time to get out which most people do not do. And I do what I want because life is just too short to do it any other way.

Now, I know someone is going to verbalize that I am being way too open here and this posting is not to be intentionally specific or anything like that, but I need to get this out there in the open.

When asked this week why I started the blog, I realized that I had never even told the story. Three years ago, I was thinking about starting one when my sister e-mailed me a blog on the progress of her friend's house project. I looked at their blogspot site and saw that I could create my own. And I did. Right then and there. I wanted to journal about my move to Madison, Wisconsin. And then I e-mailed some people and told them I had started my blog about my new life.

And the fresh journey still feels extremely refreshing. And this was never a site to bash ex boyfriends and it never will be. I like to talk about my personal experiences. And now that I am single and I have pointed out how easy it is to put yourself out there. I am going to repeat my earlier posts.

And while my aunt just said that people meet either at a bar or online, I completely disagree. I have never met anyone online and I never will. I have nothing against it. It's just not my thing. I have also never dated anyone I met at a bar. Everyone is fair game, so the opportune time can happen - well - at any moment. Always be prepared for that.

And that's all I am going to say for now. Especially since I just scheduled a date with someone who is probably reading this......

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Shaft & the Flip Flop Blow-Out

The funniest thing happened the other day. My friend and I were walking down State Street, while my dog dragged me along as she always does, when all of a sudden, I blew out my flip flop. (I did not step on a pop-top. Not sure what that is, either).

I had to cruise into the shoe store. Fortunately for me, the shoe store is about two store fronts down from the "blow-out" incident. As I hobbled down the sidewalk, the dog pulling my arm out of the socket, I entered the shoe store with one shoe on/one shoe off. I was forced to buy a new pair of shoes, even though I didn't really see any that I liked. And that is why I now own a pair of moccasins.

Running late for a "man appointment," if you will, my friend had to come over and assist me after the flip-flop incident, so I wasn't late.

Move onto Tuesday. I am at work. I walk onto the elevator with a co-worker. My arms are full of stuff. I am leaving for an appointment. As I enter the elevator, I drop my collection of keys. As I look down, it's like slow motion. All of a sudden, they have disappeared down the elevator shaft. What do I do? Those are my only set of keys. My car key is worth about $300 (it has a chip in it), my condo key is $50 to replace, etc. I laugh. Completely hysterical. Uncontrollable laughter.

Well, the building engineer goes down to the basement and about thirty minutes later I am reunited with the bent-up, busted looking keys. And I was very, very happy to see my keys. So now I know that if you drop something down an elevator shaft, you can recover the item.

If you blow out your shoes, you may end up with a pair that you don't necessarily want. But at least I have a cute pair of moccasins and some funny stories.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Real Kind of Touristy Day

After reading "Water for Elephants," I suggested that a few of my friends hit up the Baraboo Circus World Museum with me. I enjoy seeing what inspires an author to write a story and I thought we would be able to envision more details from the book. No trip to the Circus Museum can be accomplished without a trip to Wollersheim Winery. So, it was a big day for us city gals!

Upon arrival, I discovered that I was very hot and sweaty. We opted to sit in the big top and watch a circus performance. After looking around at a few things such as a train that originally stored some horses, original photographs and replicas of what would be referred to as "freak show circus people," we sat under the big top for the "greatest show on earth."

Sitting in the uncomfortable chairs, I was tired, hot and sweaty when some man around my parents age came out to do an intro. As he blabbed about the history of something, my friend on the left looked at me and said, "What the hell is he talking about?" I admitted that I wasn't listening and asked the friend on the right. Certain that she always listens and pays attention to every instructional detail, she confessed that she was not paying attention, either. So I am afraid I can't tell you what the intro entailed. Besides, we were all distraught because we had all checked our phones while waiting for this show to start and found out that Amy Winehouse had died.

Once the show got started, a man who is probably not much older than me took the microphone and started singing some song about the circus. He was wearing a cheesy costume and I was slightly embarrassed for him. And that's when I lost it. I laughed so hard I was crying. It was too funny. Here we were, these city girls, after a week of wining and dining and dating and what have you, and we were amidst a bunch of white Wisconsin people, watching a circus performance.

I must say, though - once the performers got going, it was an excellent show. It's an intimate area - not a lot of space. They were very, very talented. There were dogs, a monkey, a horse, a pony and an elephant. Our main question after walking out of the show was "How much money could they possibly make?"

We then moved on to Wollersheim for some wine tasting and snacking. I actually like their Prairie Fume so we opted for that and a cheese spread. I must say, I think Wollersheim could be a nice romantic excursion if you are trying to think of a nice date place. The grounds are really pretty.

After a long heated day of exploring some of Wisconsin's finer things, I am headed out to Spring Green for another warm and exhausting day of summer. Did I mention I love it here?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Emotional Movies

Three years ago, I went to see the "Sex and the City" movie with my loving sisters and one (of two) brother-in-law.

I love movies. I love seeing them and I love talking about them with friends. I feel like you can have some really great movie conversations. Mainly, I like to discuss feelings which comes out in these discussions. I will ask questions such as:

"Did you cry?"
"Did you watch it alone? Did it make you lonely for someone?"
"Was it depressing?"
"You need to see "X" because it will make you laugh out loud."

So when it really comes down to it, I am all about setting my emotions up for something when I see a movie. I have to be in the right mood or place to see something sad/heartfelt/funny/cheesy, etc.

The other thing about movies is that I have to be comfortable letting myself cry. And sometimes I am really in the mood for crying and other times I refuse to let myself do it. And crying can feel really, really good. And really therapeutic a lot of the time. So once the tears are allowed, they usually don't stop.

I have not let myself cry during a movie in a really long time.

But back when I went to see "Sex and the City," I got really teary eyed in that last scene. There is nothing significant about it to the average person. At the time, I was living in Cleveland, thinking about moving to Madison. Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte all walk down the street together. And they look so happy. So happy to be united. And here I was, watching it with two of my closest friends (even if they are my sisters) and it felt so good to be with them. But I was really, really missing my girlfriend time with all of my girlfriends. And it made me cry a little. I'll never forget that feeling because of my extraordinary memory.

So now that I am in Madison and have made a lot of good girlfriends, it has felt so good to be able to walk down the street like the gals from the movie. And know that I have a nice community here of friends. Where I can wake up in the early morning and have text messages awaiting to meet for breakfast or dog parking or whatever. It just feels so good.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Week in Review (Or Something Like that...)

For the “glass is half-empty” folks, I will remind you that we are entering our third week of summer. (No, the summer is not “almost over.” It ends in September,) We need to focus on the positive, people.

Madison has had a very exciting summer which has hardly yet begun. While protesters are still yelling to “Recall Walker,” emergency vehicles were speeding by me on my morning run ten mornings ago. Knowing something was wrong, I walked over to see a building in flames before I left for work. My poor friend had lost everything in that building, as did everyone else who lived there and two business owners are without a business.

While the Concourse Hotel graciously gave rooms to the displaced residents for a week, it saddened me to run into one of the displaced victims wearing what looked like some “St.Vinny’s giveaway” as she walked to work. I gathered some of my favorite clothes and dropped them to my friend. She needs to remain looking fashionable. No sense in dumping a bag of tee shirts to these people. It’s sad.

A week before this fire, a woman who was walking to her campus job was hit by a metro bus that was off duty, driving back to the station. The poor woman died as she crossed the walk (and had the right of way), as she did every day, to walk to her job. The city was shook up by this event. I feel horrible for her family. And I feel horrible for the bus driver who must have had some sort of blind spot.

I have always said that Madison drivers are much more courteous with pedestrians and bikers and we just never hear about this. It was another sad day.

And speaking of bikers, Trek’s new program has distributed bike racks surrounding the capitol square, around the city, including on the hospital grounds. You can rent them with a credit card and have a bike for a day. Their goal is something like “20 in 2020” – I believe they want 20% of the city to commute by bike by 2020. The bikes are being utilized a lot – I notice them riding by me when I run in the mornings. It’s a great initiative for this healthy city.

Personally, my summer has started out nicely. I continue to meet a lot of great people and hang out at all of my favorite walkable places. The night scene is really fun and as much as I love to stay in after work in the winter, it is too hard come summertime.

My favorite spot is Graze, right on the square. I also like drinks at Natt Spil and I still prefer any night of dancing at Plan B. Enjoy the summer and if you have a boat, feel free to take me out on it. (No Pressure).

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Extraordinary Memory

I have an exceptional memory. I have always been told that I "scare" people with this unusual trait. If you want to call it one.

I have read about people who have these types of memories. It's a blessing and a curse. There are a handful of people out there who "remember every day of their life." While I can't say my memory is that good - it is very good.

I can pretty much tell you what I was wearing or what year or what day of the week an event occured. It's a blessing because it is extremely helpful in the business world. It is a curse because imagine all of the sadness in life. And how crystal clear it remains in your mind.

I think about terrible events that happened on a daily basis. Not a day goes by when I don't think about deceased relatives/friends and reflecting on that news. Where I was - what day of the week it occured, who I was with, what I was wearing. I am not exaggerating when I say that. Supposedly humans have 2,000 - 3,000 thoughts a day. I would be curious to participate in a study for this and see how this is measured. While this may be the case, I would say 20 - 30 of my thoughts are of sad memories.

As I have grown, I feel that there is a lot of joy in life. I work in a health care setting. I see sorrow. I have plenty of friends who only have one parent who is alive. I feel lucky in that sense. Sometimes, I feel lucky that we have little children in my family, too. After walking out of the Children's hospital. It's a blessing that way.

While this memory may be haunting and hard, it helps me to stay happy about the joy in life.

I dare you to challenge me about what you were wearing when we met or what year a movie came out or what day of the week something happened. Because I can tell you that. It's a phenomenon. One that I am not always comfortable sharing with people. And if you think I don't often look back and think about when I heard the news that your parent was diagnosed with cancer, or that your friend was in a horrible accident, think again. Because I am thinking of you each day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Madison Summer - Why Leave?

What's going on in Madison, Wisconsin?

This is the second summer where I have decided not to go anywhere. I know some people think I like to travel a lot, but I am scaling back. And the main reason for this is that it is too hard to leave this great city in the summer.

The weekend before last, I wanted to do the following:

-Sundance movie (one of two in the country)
-Farmers' Market (the largest in the U.S.)
-Maple Bluff garage sales
-Dog Park (we have so many)
-Friend's birthday party
-Fruitfest at Plan B
-And of course, my daily run (million of paths)

And I did it all. The summers here are just fabulous. While talking with friends about going to New England or Canada over the summer, I just knew I would miss it here too much. I am staying put.

So I took a week off in July and decided to take a staycation. And I think a week isn't even enough to do all the great summer things I plan to do. Like go hiking at Devil's Lake, spend a day at the Goodman Pool and finally learn how to golf at one of our many courses.

Now flash forward to this past weekend and as usual, there were a million activities going on. I think I died and went to heaven when I received a text from a friend of mine who asked me to "drop everything and join her on her friend's boat." After a nice trip to the dog park with some friends, I walked a few blocks from my place, down a dock and stepped on the boat.

I have never experienced this boating scene before. And it was heavenly. The views were amazing, my friend was a blast and the day was perfect. I hope to god we do it again real soon. How many places can you live where you can walk out your door and have someone pick you up lakeside to be whisked away onto the water?

Monday, June 13, 2011

When I Retire

It was almost ten years ago that I sat on the porch of my (dumpy) college house and talked to every normal student who walked by. My dog was a puppy on my lap. Beer in hand and fluffy golden retriever puppy in my lap, I loved chatting with the neighbors and inviting them to join my housemates on the porch.

I do feel like this helped improve the size and quality of our sorority, but maybe it's all in my head.

At the time, I had recently returned from a visit from my aunt and uncle's condominium on Long Island and saw how their kitchen faced their cul-de-sac. Retired, my aunt would interrupt my dad who was reading the Times to tell him that "Tony was receiving a floral delivery" and she wondered who it was from. While my dad seemed annoyed by this interruption, me being the nosy person that I am, realized how nice it is to have a view of everything from the front of your house.

And while I returned for my senior year of college, I announced to my friends that while I was scared of getting old and being bored, I discovered that if I just bought a condo where everyone knows everyone and the kitchen faces the front, I would be very happy. And so retiring became something to look forward to.

Ten years later, I am on my balcony. Here in Madison, Wisconsin. I have a nice city view. My "puppy" will be ten on Saturday. I color my gray hair once a month. The dog snoozes while I sit on my Adirondack chair and read a novel, quietly. Occasionally, we look up to see a person and their dog walking by. Other than that, I am entrenched in the book and a glass of wine and she dozes and looks up and barks here and now, at some dog below. I don't really care about watching all the people I know receiving "floral deliveries" but I do like the peacefulness on a summer night. And although I am not religious, I feel blessed to have my furry companion. Every day is a blessing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Running on Madison

I don't know if I buy the whole "addiction doesn't exist" theory. As a coffee drinker and runner, there is no way I could really go long without those two things. I also used to smoke. And it was hard to quit. Most people are shocked to hear that I smoked because I appear to be a health nut.

The thing about my addiction to running is that it really is an addiction. When I was having stomach woes and was told to skip coffee, for some reason, I thought I would be just fine. By the afternoon, I had a horrible headache. By the time I left work, I was in agony. I sat on the couch, crying with a washcloth on my head and called the doctor (already took too much aspirin). We were reunited the next morning. I had no idea how much my body needed it.

As for running, I make no excuses. Raining - I won't melt. Snowing - there's a treadmill. Early flight? What's wrong with waking up at 4 AM? 16 hour work day? How am I supposed to get my energy the next morning? Sick? It will make me feel better. There is something so great about how I feel when I am done that it's not worth skipping. Forget it.

I do run 6 days a week. I take Sundays off for several reasons. 1 - my right knee could use it. 2 - I could use a day to sleep in (which is rare). 3 - I can dance late into the night and not worry about anything.

So last Saturday, as I ran my usual routine, I saw all of the "no parking" signs for the following day's Madison Marathon. As I ran, I said to myself, "I am going to do the 1/2 tomorrow. I did a marathon. I run about 25 miles a week. I can do it. No problem." I am an adult who does what she says, once the announcement is made.

I texted my sister and asked if she could come watch me run. She said "sure!" I announced to my boyfriend "Hey Chris! Guess what? I am going to do the half marathon tomorrow." He said, "You haven't trained." I said, "I will be fine!" I made sure he could watch me. He said it was no problem. I walked over to the terrace and registered.

I was very excited. So for someone who doesn't do a regular 10 mile run but still runs 6 days a week, it was no problem. I ran about 9 minute miles and I ran the majority of it with my neighbor who I happened to run into at mile 2 or 3. She is 58 and training for the Ironman. I had no goals. I just wanted to have fun. And fun it was.

For those of you who haven't raced a lengthy race, I have the following recommendation:

Line family and or friends up along various miles on the route because it gives you something to look forward to. I had the family at mile 10 and the boyfriend/dog at mile 8. It's very helpful.

I was hosting a Memorial Day BBQ that evening. I even managed to go dancing until bar time that night. So for those people who "feel old"," I hate to say it, but sorry - I don't. Running is an addiction. And I guess I have it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Cultural Impact on Anti-Feminism

I was taught the importance of being your own independent woman. Take my mom's four female first cousins, for example. Three of them kept their maiden name. And they aren't young. This slow moving progressive process has a lot of hiccups.

While we try very hard to teach our children that gender has no specific identity, they learn it through books, television, neighbors and tons of media sources.

I was watching my two and four year old niece and nephew the other day. Where some parents are splitting the responsibilities unevenely, their parents are pretty equal. They witness both parents cooking, cleaning, working, etc.

So when I took them to pick out cupcakes, I was literally shocked that my nephew requested a cupcake with a soccer ball. Where did he even hear the word "soccer ball?" This is not in his household vocabulary. My niece chose a cupcake with a kitty cat! I thought she was going to pick the alligator. I was disappointed. Not in them. But in what they are exposed to. Even in Madison. And I was so thrown off that he knew what the ball was - and was even able to indentify what type of ball - that I gasped and told the cashier I had no idea where he learned this. It was as if he had said a swear word.

Upon my sister's return home, I told her about this situation. She was slightly annoyed. It was clear that as hard as you try, even in Madison, Wisconsin, there are still old-fashioned people who think a ball is for a boy and a doll is for a girl.

When I was in the fifth grade, I listened over and over to my parent's record, "Free to be You and Me." I repeatedly sang the song, "William wants a Doll." Listen to the lyrics sometime. At the age of ten, I was taught that if a boy wants a doll, give him one!

While American Girl is a huge phenomenan, especially here in Madison - why not try buying one for your little boy? Kids may be genetically engineered. But if your little guy wants a doll, so be it.

Teach children to embrace anything. And don't code things as pink/blue. Remember, when I have a child, their name will be "Sam" and you will not know the gender....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Social Media Flaws

I am pretty sure that when Zuckerberg started facebook, he never thought it would become an obnoxious, announcement driven online media tool to congratulate your two year old for having a birthday today. Here are a few sample updates:

1) I can't believe my baby is two today
2) Happy birthday to Aiden/Jaden/Heyden/Cayden! My baby is two!
3) Two years ago today was the best day of my life! Happy birthday little guy!

These updates were never intended to be on facebook. I joined facebook way back when you had to have a college e-mail. Now everyone uses it. And I get that it has resulted in some really wonderful things. My father reuniting with a high school friend or keeping in touch with my family in New York is a great tool.

I am not so sure that a two year old can read that his mother is wishing him a happy birthday on the world wide web. I know I am being insensitive because clearly, I am not a parent. But if I was, I wouldn't be blogging or probably on facebook much. (I am guessing).

And my sister who is on facebook (one is, one isn't) has children who have absolutely no internet presence. You wouldn't know from looking at her facebook profile that she has kids.

I am just wondering if any parents have considered starting a social media site for the kid sharing thing. A lot of people find it highly annoying to see a profile photo of a sonogram.

And on another note, the reason I started writing this entry is because facebook has become a lot of things. And one of them is the ability to "friend" people who you don't really keep in touch with. And you are "friends" but you still don't write to each other or acknowledge much. I don't see the point in this.

If you are going to be "friends," then at least keep in touch. Write on each other's walls. Acknowledge their statuses. Tell them you want to get together. So when I find myself snooping through a high school friend's photos, I will let them know on facebook that I am paying attention to them. If we aren't talking via FB, then I am unfriending them.

Since I joined facebook, I have unfriended about 100 people. I still have too many friends. I just don't see a point on being friends if we aren't talking. At all.

And maybe if you want to wish your little one a happy birthday, just do it in person.

Just a few thoughts about facebook.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Parents, My Fans

My parents are my biggest fans. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have moved to Madison. And this is for many reasons. One being that they took us here a lot growing up. And two because they were incredibly supportive of my decision to move here on a whim.

And that's how they have always been. Supportive. I am lucky.

When I talk with my current closest group of friends and we discuss our the marriages of our parents, two of them say their parents don't sleep in the same room anymore, several have divorced parents who don't get along. And this week, I asked a newer friend if her parents are still together and she responded with "They are but they shouldn't be." And might I add that we are in a generation where you have to ask each other if your parents are still married?

So while my parents are not together any more, they get along which is really nice. And you know, they are happy. And now that I am older, I can accept that and appreciate that they seem like they have really nice separate lives.

When we were in New York a few weeks ago, I gave a little toast to my parents. (I love giving toasts. Especially with an intimate group of friends after a glass of wine). And I said that we should toast my mom and dad. Because they did a really nice job (I think) of raising three daughters who turned into successful professionals.

And my parents have always had a lot of faith in me. They gave me the confidence that I have.

While a lot of my friends complain that their parents are crazy, or fight all the time, or whatever the issues are with them, I do really consider myself quite lucky. And I see a lot of value in their lives as a divorced couple.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Twenty Hours in Spring Green

I have mentioned Spring Green several times during my blogging career. The farm house on 60 acres that my aunt and uncle have there is a delight.

Fortunately for me, I was asked to see a play at American Player's Theatre on Friday night, which is in Spring Green. The show was in their indoor theatre. Just being in that space is a treat. The play, Wisconsin Story Project's "Stories of Cancer" was fabulous. I have seen a lot of theatre in my years and this show was excellent. All of the actors were professional and not one of them was just mediocre. It was a heavy and hard show to watch at times. You see, this project was done in Madison, interviewing cancer patients who shared their stories. The words that they hate to hear, the research they did, the overwhelming amount of people who reached out to them, their fear of death and much, much more were shared in this staged reading. And it was very moving. It was also great to finally go to APT.

The evening was spent at the farmhouse and Chris and I booked a tour of Taliesin for the next morning. For the amount of times we have driven past it (like every time we drive to the farm,) it is crazy that we never went there before. I am so glad we did this, too.

A two hour guided tour was really fun and interesting. We saw the grounds where Frank Lloyd Wright was buried, his school, his sister's house and of course, Taliesin. If you listen to WPR a lot, you are probably used to hearing a lot about the murders there but this is hardly highlighted on the tour. What is so fascinating (where do I start?) is that he liked low ceilings, bringing the outdoors in, the house is 32,000 (yes, that is correct) square feet, there is no angle where you can take a picture of the entire house and people do live there now. The views are amazing. We were only allowed inside his studio. The majority of the tour is outside on the property. This was such a spectacular tour. If you live in Madison and haven't done it, make sure to do it.

We also stopped at the very tasty General Store afterwards for a yummy lunch where I asked them for their recipe of the vanilla chocolate ginger craisin bar. If I make it, I will post the recipe.

I love Madison and it's so special that we have such a famous little town so close by.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American Stores Designed for Lazy Americans

I had a little trouble when I was bringing my 40 pound bag of dog food to my car on Sunday. A lot of you know I hate the Target in Madison. It completely depresses me. Target is where I buy my dog's food. I like to keep the money in my local community, but show me a local store that sells a 40 pound bag of lamb & rice dog food and I will be there.

Sunday was a gorgeous day. I parked about a tenth of a mile away from the Target and walked, as it was so nice outside and I wanted to savor it. Which brings me to this:

How come, when gas is almost $4.00 a gallon are you people driving up and down the aisles closest to the entrance of a store until you find a really close spot? My bf and I often talk about how we will park in the parking lot over from the business to walk into a store and see the same people we were stuck behind still driving around. It's called LAZY.

So I parked behind the Macy's. And walked to Target. I don't give a darn about being close to an entrance. As I left Target with the 40 pound bag, my cart "locked" at a stop sign and I was literally stuck. All the other carts surrounding me were also "locked" as I transported the hefty items from my locked cart to another locked cart. (My back still hurts. I had to run on the treadmill this morning instead of outside because it still hurts so much).

And I asked myself, "How on earth are people who actually walk (like myself) supposed to get all of this stuff to their cars?"

It didn't make sense. Whoever designed this chain didn't take into account that some people park far away and need some assistance to get all of their items to their car.

I finally dragged the cart (with locked wheels) as far as I could. I then approached an employee who told me that the staff inside should have told me that the carts lock. What? Did they just hire some person in a red polo with a sign stating,

"For people who enjoy walking a little more, please be aware that you will not be able to cart your heavy items to your vehicle. This store was designed for fat, lazy people who can cart their things to their car. Because most people prefer to drive around for 20minutes until they find a spot that's close."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why we stick out when we are traveling in Paris, France.

I was annoyed, to say the least.

Please, if you can find me a nice shop where I can walk to from my condo to buy the food, let me know. I will then bring a strong person with me who can just carry it back. Who needs a car, anyway? Cars are overrated.

Walk somewhere and do your heart some good.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival

The initial run-down of options for the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival sparked my usual interest and I chose to view three this year (as opposed to five my first year here and two last year). Three is a perfect amount. More than one a day is too much for me.

Here are the films I chose:


“Made in India”

Shorts: “Mary & Bill,” “The Optima Hat Company” and “Style & Grace”

I recommend all of them.


As a Francophile, I always enjoy a nice French film. A lot of the movies featured in Wisconsin’s film festival are documentaries and this was one of the few “cutesy” lighter film options. Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu star in this comedy that takes place in 1977 (filmed in 2010). While Deneuve’s husband’s umbrella company is striking, she has to take over after being a housewife her entire life. This is an entertaining film - something that doesn’t pull your heartstrings. Lots of funny scenes.

"Made in India"

Couples who cannot afford surrogacy in the states are now paying Indian women to house their babies in their womb. It is much cheaper. And you wonder why. Lisa and Brian, a stereo-typical “American” couple from Texas find a company who will pay Aasia, an Indian mother of three to be their surrogate. This feature length documentary makes the audience feel the human emotions for both the barren couple and Aasia and her family. To see the exploitation and politics that go on give you a glimpse of the desperation that people have for both money and to have a child. This was a very interesting film. And just when you think it is over after all of the challenges that they succumb to, you learn something more that makes you feel even differently walking away from the film.

“Mary & Bill"

As if you didn’t already know, I enjoy exercise. In this documentary, Mary Stoebe is a ninety year old Madison resident. And she is a triathlete. Bill Wamach is an eighty-three year old local who is a high jumper, competing in the National Senior Olympic Games. The two are portrayed doing their routinely disciplined work outs. Mary started doing triathlons at seventy-seven, so what is keeping you? They are in excellent physical shape. While they have suffered from some injuries (Mary is an avid down-hill ski instructor who was injured on the slopes and told not to do her last triathlon, while Bill survived a heart attack), the film was funny and inspiring. They were present for a question & answer session after the film. It’s amazing how healthy they appear. They look better than some people I know in their forties.

“The Optimo Hat Company”

A ten minute documentary on luxury hat making on the South Side of Chicago. It felt like watching an infomercial for the owner’s business. Nothing too exciting.

“Style & Grace”

A black barber shop that has existed in Madison for close to sixty years where Smitty has been cutting hair. Nothing happens and the quality of the film is low budget. As I often say, Madison is not the most diverse city and I felt the depiction of African Americans in this film was unfortunate. But Smitty has a nice community in his shop. While he soothes screaming toddlers who are getting their first haircut, two men are playing checkers at a table in the corner, just hanging out. It’s a nice, forty minute short.

Wisconsin Film Festival, you did it again!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hold Onto Your Youth

As a lot of you know, I loved college and miss it dearly. Would I go back and do the four years again? Maybe. A year ago, I would have said, "in a heart beat." But I am really comfortable with my life. And that college drama is so unnecessary.

You know how a lot of people wonder how old they look? I mean, I know that when I am out with my niece and nephew, people just assume that I am their mom. I look old enough to have toddlers. But I want to look like a college student sometimes. So, I was very excited to have a "college night out" last night.

Working and living on a large university campus, you are surrounded by youth. For me, it feels good. The kids continue to look younger as you get older. That's a fact.

So, last night, my girlfriends decided to go out with some university students and experience a night out as a UW student. I must say that I realized when we got home that because the undergrads we were with are of drinking age, we went to college bars that probably wouldn't take fakes, so the crowd in there didn't seem or "feel" particularly young.

First, we went to the Vintage on University. It was full of people - but the average age was probably thirty, so it wasn't bad. After a drink, my friend, MKA and I were ready to dance.

I guess I should tell you that I wore these brand new Hipster glasses (very BIG in Paris!), my American Apparel dress and a scarf. Hair in a pony tail, big earrings, knee high brown boots. Feeling good.

Anyways, we moved on to Wandos - notorious for their fish bowl drinks. For $20, you get a large fishbowl with a bunch of straws and you can share the H1N1 virus with all of your friends. The place was packed. En route, we passed hundreds of drunks, one who chose to canvas in a drunken stupor, piping, "Vote for Joan Kloppenburg on Tuesday!" Look - I am glad these drunks are still doing some good. The line was long and some kids let us right in the front (I told them I was Mrs. Wando....)

Once inside, we shared our bowl of viruses and it was actually really tasty. (We had a blue one). Lots and lots of people commented on my glasses. Mainly, that they liked them. One dude asked me my name and I told him it was "Harriet Potter." (See, the lady who sold me the glasses at H&M called them "Harry Potter glasses" so I felt compelled to tell this guy my name was Harriet Potter).

Another guy at the bar asked me if I went to UW and I told him I was a freshman. (I am actually the most honest person in the world, keep reading. I asked him, "Do you believe me?" He said, "You seem a little too comfortable with yourself to be a freshman." Great point! Well taken.

Next, we went to the Churchkey, where the undergrads PROMISED there is always dancing, but there was really hardly any. One of our chaperons put money in the jukebox and got some good tunes on, but I was working everyone, trying to get them out and not succeeding.

As I sang out, "Wave your hands in the air and wave 'em just like you just don't care," one of the coeds warned me that I was "really dating myself" with that lingo. Oops! (Snoop did it at his concert, so I thought I was ok).

Evidently, it was some sort of "Moms" weekend and a lot of moms were out with their daughters. I hope I don't look like that when I have college kids.

We got home at bar time and I refused to do the pizza portion of the evening, even though our college guides said any college night out involves a trip to Ians. I just wasn't into eating a greasy piece at 2 AM.

So, I did well and I will do it again. I mean, this wasn't any raging frat party by any means, but let's just say in my book, I was at some pretty cheesy college bars. And I feel great today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Best Cookies I Have Made

So, a few years ago, I was looking for a blueberry crumble bar recipe and I stumbled upon the smitten kitchen blog. This blogger has the best recipes. If you are looking for something wholesame and tasty, she has a great site.

I was looking for a good cookie recipe a few months ago, when I found her most delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. These babies are Divine (with a capital "D").

Here is the recipe:

Makes about 3 dozen cookies (I had to continously bring 6-10 to work on a daily basis, until my co-workers asked if I had poisoned them and was trying to slowly kill them).

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (I only had a clementine - worked fine)
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

(I added craisins which I highly recommend!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat (nonstick baking mat). Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla, and beat until well mixed, about three minutes. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in a separate bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter with the mixer on low speed. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the second half. Stir in the oats, pecans, orange zest, and chocolate chips. Drop the dough, by the tablespoon, onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on a rack.

These make a ton of cookies. You will not be disappointed. I promise.

And this is one of the reasons I got my brand new mixer for my birthday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MIA in Madison, Wisconsin

Sorry I have been missing in action. As an American (and Americans like to blame), I fully blame AT&T for my disappearance on this blog. Enough said.

What have I been doing? Well, the Wisconsin budget bill was strangely passed and now there seem to be some glitches with it. No surprise there. As I walk around the capital on my extremely routine walks, the protestors are still there, but not as many. The rallies still take place every Saturday. The largest one, taking place on the 12th of March.

My parents were here for the big rally and I think it made them nostalgic, bringing back memories of their time in Madison during the Vietnam protests.

If there is one thing I can't reiterate enough about the protests here, it is that these are very peaceful and calm movements. Don't believe everything you see on t.v. Any newstation referring to "dangerous mobs" also shows palm trees in the background. And we do NOT have any palm trees in Madison, Wisconsin. Last time I checked, people associate this state as a frozen tundra filled with blizzardy winters. No palm trees here. So, lay off the station that starts with an "F" and ends with an "X." The only good thing they have going for them is a show called "Glee," so I am told, as I have never watched it.

Which leads me to a topic of my addiction to Bravo T.V. Yes - I am finally going to publicly and very openly admit that I am strangely addicted to all the housewife shows on Bravo. I am slightly embarassed about this and if you ask me why I like them, I cannot tell you. Riding in the car with someone the other day, I secretly confessed to her that I enjoy watching Bethenny Frankel. She asked me, "What do you like about her?"

Me: "What do I like about her? That's a really good question. Hmmm... Her voice is annoying, she is obnoxious and loud. What do I like about her?" Pause "You know, I like her business sense and I love her husband. I think he has a great personality and he is so cute."

And the more I think about it, I think I like that Bethenny really established a brand and then did what I want to do. She got pregnant at forty and then married a great guy. I have said one child at the age of forty sounds nice.

Now, here is the other thing that is going through my head this month. I am turning thirty-one on Friday. Thirty-one sounds old to me. And while I am ok with having a baby at 40, I may not be able to have a baby at forty. So that's a little sad. Friday is really my third twenty-ninth, by the way.

While I started the creams and the hair dying at thirty, I have decided to grow my hair long (even though I think my boyfriend prefers this length) and start saving up for an eye lift, when the crows feet show up. And I am not afraid to admit it.

And every year, my parents ask me what I want for my birthday. Up until I was about 21, I asked for a little sister and a dog. Well, I got the dog for myself, but I am still hoping for the baby sister.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Brief Getaway from Madison

I've decided it is best to keep the political situation that is happening here to myself and not publicize my opinion on my blog.

It is very close to home, physically and literally. For me, there is no way to avoid the news anchors as they film live coverage, the chants and the feeling of what "democracy looks like."

It feels good. Let's put it that way. These are peaceful protests, as I am sure you know by now.

For Christmas in 2009, I gave my boyfriend a bed and breakfast gift certificate. He decided to use it at an Inn near Milwaukee in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

After a charity evening at the Madison Club on Friday night, we packed our bags and left the "biggest rally" down the road from my condo to hightail it towards this quaint town of Cedarburg, not far from Milwaukee.

Supposedly there is a zoning law on the main drag that only permits independent businesses. My two favorite stores were Lillies Goods and their other store, Weeds, owned by the same people. If you are looking for a nice gift, I recommend either place. After walking around the Cedarburg winery & shops, we sampled a few wines (Cedarburg's wine is the "sister" to Wollersheim) and checked in at the Washington Inn.

Walking around the little shops, we were told that our Inn has a 5:00 wine and cheese hour (of course, we had read about it online), and we made sure to be there promptly for our free wine and "spread" hour. But first, we settled into a huge jetted tub that is inside the room and warmed up from a day of non-stop fluffy snow. It was so relaxing. After sweating and trying to cool off from this luxurious tub, we enjoyed the snacks in the dining room. We had unlimited wine and cheese spreads, crackers and grapes. The room was mainly full of other couples besides one older woman. There were just enough tables so that we didn't have to sit with strangers.

We then walked over to Anvil, a former blacksmith shop with neat concrete walls and a two story dining room. It felt cozy and special, though. Even though it is two stories, it had a warm feel to it. We saw about three other couples from our Inn and pretended like we didn't see them (just kidding). As we sat at the bar, waiting for a table, the couple next to us chatted us up and we ended up next to them when we were seated.

A friend, Taylor, recently got me hooked on Old Fashions, so I ordered one while we waited. Old Fashions are very popular in Wisconsin. And tasty.

Our food was pretty good. We had veggie burgers. I thought it was tasty. Nothing incredibly special. We then walked down towards the Inn and I stopped in a chocolate place where I had a delicious milk chocolate turtle that was pretty special.

We then sat in the whirlpool tub and I was asleep by 10 PM. The best part of the stay was when we got breakfast in bed in the morning. I think that is the first time I spent an hour in bed, drinking coffee, eating fruit, enjoying my book. (without a starving golden retriever begging for food by my side).

I was also able to finish my 562 page book this weekend. It was so relaxing. Cedarburg is a special place. We plan to go back.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Democracy in Action on the Capital

I am always hesitant to blog about politics but there is no way out of this one. As I often discuss the square, let me tell you what is looks like today. (See photo) If you aren't a local or haven't noticed us in the "Times," , it is a pretty heavy and stressful time in the land of "Progressive Madison."

A radical move to take away bargaining rights, force public workers to pay more into their benefits, and taking major cuts within schools and governments is just the tip of the iceberg.

And without giving my personal opinion, I will say that I am truly moved every time I walk around the square. On a normal winter day, I look into the windows of eateries and banks.

And now, it is thousands of protesters. A normal walk with my dog is becoming a historical moment. The progressive Madisonians and beyond are chanting various versions of "Walker is evil. He's no Badger." Other variations are "Walker is a weasel. Go home." Weasel or Evil, public employees, teachers, multitudes of union workers, and even toddlers are all over the capital with their signs.

Some people are walking up to the square with pillows and sleeping bags. I am guessing this is a 1960s type of situation. Will it make a difference as this proposed budget bill is aggressively trying to be pushed through legislation? What does this mean to me?

Well - again, I digress and I really don't feel like I can get into it (after all, this blog has my true identity and I am really "Janie Winston").

I will just say that I am moved by all of the people. Madison schools were closed today while all of the teachers were on the square protesting.

And here's another thought - all the local commerce down town is booming right now. Hotels look busy with protesters who want to stay down here, coffee shops are busier than usual and the restaurants and shops around the square are probably doing as well as they do on the Ironman weekend, Badger home games, and the such.

Maybe we need to do this more often. And, if the Egyptians could do it with Mubarak, maybe we can do it with Walker.

I made it without ranting. Let's just say we can agree to disagree.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What Are You Doing to Conserve Energy?

I was in the shower last week when I read the side of my conditioner bottle. It said something like: “Please consider turning off the water while you condition your hair.” So, I thought about this. This is something I never thought to do before. I mentioned it to my boyfriend, Chris. He said he’s heard of it. So I said, “I am going to try it. I am going to turn off my water while I wash my hair and condition it. You don’t really need all that water.”

Today was the third morning in a row where I turned off my shower while lathering, shampooing, conditioning and shaving. And, I feel really good about it.

It’s the little stuff that makes life exciting.

I am conscious of turning off the water while scrubbing my hands, brushing my teeth and now, showering.

Tell me what you are doing to save money and the environment. And also – I challenge all of my readers. Please, please if just one of you tells me that you tried turning off the water in your shower while you washed your hair, you will make my week.