Monday, November 29, 2004

Rocky Mountain High

This is the view from Tim's parents backyard...nice.
The View
Originally uploaded by midwestern.

I have returned from my Thanksgiving holiday in Denver. Being my first time to Colorado, I had high expectations. First, I'd like to say that people who visit Denver try very hard to dress the part. For example, I saw so many women who wore these very faux furry boots and faux furry vests with some jingle-jangle hanging off them. There is no way these women were going skiing in these get-ups. I did not wear any Denver-ware.

Here are the highlights from our trip to visit Tim's parents...

Delicious Thanksgiving dinner cooked by Deb, Tim's mom. She made turkey, chestnut stuffing, salads, and pumpkin squares. Javier and Erin, our college friends, were also invited for dinner and it was great to catch up with them. We played dominoes which was our favorite game back at UND.

On Friday, we went shopping and had a fantastic meal at an Italian restaurant. We shopped and spent the day just checking out the shops in Flatiron. We came home and took a brief rest before we ventured downtown to eat and see a comedy show.

Dinner was at the Capital Grille where I ate the yummiest au gratin potatoes I have ever eaten. The comedy club was just around the corner. The headliner was Rocky LaPorte, but several local comics warmed up the audience (doesn't it sound like I know what I am talking about when I talk about comedians?). He was terrific. The best part, besides it being funny, was that it was smokefree.

Saturday, we went to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature where we went to an ancient Egypt exhibit. Besides being facinating, it made me aware of how much of this world I am unfamiliar with. I know nothing about ancient Egypt. Now, I know a little. It was a long, but fun day.

Finally, our vacation with family came to an end on Sunday when we returned to the airport, home of people dressed in funny little ski outfits. I tried to go on an earlier flight back to the heartland, but it was of no luck. That flight kept getting delayed because of weather, but I was entertained by the crabby men who didn't realize that life goes on even if their flight is delayed. I wanted to shame these men. They kept going up to the ticket agents and yelling and giving them dirty looks. Don't these people realize that they are so lucky to inside a warm place with plenty of food. We were fine. They tried to talk to me and get me wrapped up in their disgust, but I would have none of it.

"Relax. You're fine," the level-headed girl said to the exasperated man.

Finally, I arrived back in Des Moines at 10:00. Luggage here? Check. Toni and Bill here to pick me up? Check. Groceries in my fridge so I have a breakfast tomorrow? Nope, two out of three ain't bad.

It was a terrific time with family.

Friday, November 26, 2004


Hey, my dear blog friends! I developed a quiz to see how well my readers, friends, and family know me. Good luck. I would also love to take a quiz on you! Thanks to Amy for introducing me to this lovely way to waste time.
Take my Quiz on!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Quiz Time

I am sometimes suckered into taking online quizes that only affirm my total self-absorbed nature. Try this one. Here is what I came out as...does it sound like me?

You are a XPIT--Expressive Practical Intellectual Taker. This makes you a Manager.

You are cool, thoughtful and intelligent. Your approach and your sense of humor are under-the-radar, your charm is undeniable. You keep everything under control. You have distinctive vocal mannerisms. You may not have much interest in approaching strangers, but when you do, you are successful.

Your greatest asset is that you tackle conflict as it rises -- you don't ignore it and let it brew. If you have a partner that *does* let it brew, it will make you crazy! You can find yourself fighting for two -- trying to anticipate your partner's needs and draw their feelings out -- which is exhausting and, well, not your job.

You would never cheat. You would make an excellent spouse. When your spouse's friends met you, they would think, "Crap, why couldn't I get that one?"

I would have to say that the part that says I do not let confict brew is very correct. If you ask my friends or family, they would tell you that even though I sometimes make things uncomfortable, I tell it like it is. The part about never cheating is true because it is not in my nature and I have the best husband in the world. He is a gem. He is the rare breed that encourages me to improve myself without being threatened by that. He encourages my independence and creativity without feeling like it is taking away anything from our relationship. I think my vocal and speech mannerisms are strong. My friend, Amanda, says that I instant message the same way I speak. She always says that she can hear me saying it as I write it.

So, take the quiz and tell me what it says about you and if you agree or not.

PS...I am going to Denver for the holiday weekend so you won't be hearing from me for a good four days.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Shelly and Sara

As a little blonde haired girl, I walk down my street just two houses down with my mother. It is time to have coffee and visit with the neighbor lady, Maxine. My excitement is high because I will play with Maxine's daughter, Shelly. This is special because Shelly is older and smarter and plays more fun games than my other friends, like Jason across the street who makes her play Star Wars action figures or Kristi who always cries.

Shelly makes up the best Barbie stories. I dress them and she narrates. She likes to pull the cushions off the couch downstairs and make a fort. She isn't afraid to climb the trees behind our houses or argue with the boys. Where I might not want to join the wiffle ball game in progress in the middle of our street, Shelly jumps right in.

There comes a time when my mother and I go to Maxine's for coffee, but Shelly is not there. I am told that she is at school now and won't be home until 3:00. So I wait. I wait for two whole years until I can go to school with Shelly and ride the bus with Shelly and have after school snacks with Shelly.
Over four years had passed since I saw Shelly this month. Living on the same street, so many of our childhood lives mirrored each other. Our older brothers were partners in crime and made it their quest to torture and commit acts of childhood cruelty upon us and any of our friends. Our mothers coffeed together until we went to school and then, worked at the same business. Our fathers enjoyed the pride they felt standing by their grills most summer evenings outside in our front yards. Shelly is present in most of my vivid childhood memories.

Since Shelly was older, she had a ten-speed bike a few years before I did. Shelly was there the day I finally received by baby-blue Schwinn 10-speed bike. I am sure she was there the day that I got my hot-wheel when I was a pre-schooler. Shelly shared her wisdom with me throughout her life since she was two years older than myself. I recall my first junior high dance where there were so many unwritten rules and so much anxiety. I am not sure if Shelly shared the etiquette of teenage dancing with me, but I am sure that I felt better having her there.

After four years passing and 28 years of knowing each other, we connected with old stories and new laughs.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Pre-Winter Remembrances

Well, I think I will continue my blog. I will try to update it at least every two days. I will not feel pressured to update it everyday since I have been reassured that I do not have to do this. I will try to write interesting and meaningful, yet self-absorbed blog posts.

Today is one of those dreary type November days. The ones that are cold, yet there is not a flake in the air. It is hard to appreciate such chilly weather unless there is the beauty of snow to back it up. Since I was raised in North Dakota, I am no stranger to winter weather. I am not talking about 10 degrees "Oh, man, it's cold" weather. I am talking "the wind chill is 80 below zero and we are calling off school until it warms up to 60 below" weather.

When I was teaching in North Dakota, I did recess duty everyday. I did my best to maintain an attractive winter wardrobe, but it was tough. Most of my colleagues knew me by my large navy blue wool coat, red plaid scarf, and big boots. We HAD to go out to recess unless it was less than 30 below zero. I tell my colleagues this fact and they can't believe it. Thank goodness for multiple sources for information because I would check several weather websites until I found one that said it was less than 30 below. I could bear the cold, but some days, I just didn't want to. We'd stay inside and play boardgames together and that was fun too.

One element to winter that I miss in regards to the recess field is the big, huge pile of snow that is created by snowplows every morning that they plow the parking lot. Students would create slides and steps. They had strict justice to what the rules of the hill were. They were never allowed to play "King of the Hill", but we knew that once the dismissal bell rang, they were pushing each other off left and right. Who wouldn't?

My second year of teaching, we had our first blizzard on October 24. I walked to school so I was stuck walking home when school got let out early with snow up to my waste. I couldn't even walk in the streets because they were not plowed yet. It was great. I loved it. Then, you take your winter clothes off and lay down on the couch and take a big nap.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Quitting Time?

I am thinking about ending my blog.

I just don't have the time to write everyday like a blog requires. I also do not have as much to write about as I did before.

Maybe I am going through a busy phase right now where I need to prioritize how I spend my free time. It could be that the holiday season with travels puts me into this frenzied mood where I have to prioritze, but I need to know what you think? Should I stop?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Favorite Things

I wonder how others look at Christmas? I wonder if others take as much joy in the preparation for the holiday season? I think I learned this from my mother because it is her favorite holiday. The food is important. The giving is essential. The family time is key, but it is not just one element of the Christmas season that makes it special. For as long as I have ideas to share, I will be writing about Christmas. I believe people are very opinionated and passionate about Christmas and the holiday season. Feel free to voice your ideas even when they disagree with mine. I will write about other things too, but everyday I will add a Christmas thought.

One of my favorite things about Christmas...

Finding the Perfect Gift
The effort I put into listening for an entire year is exhausting. I try to listen to subtle hints or conversations that might yield clues to the receiver's hobbies, interests, or decadent desires. I try to choose a gift that is practical if they are a practical person. I try to choose a self-indulgent gift if they need it. I am not a person who is looking all year, but only in the months of November and December are my eyes searching for thoughtful gifts. Now don't be fooled. I don't always succeed. Sometimes people are more difficult to find the perfect gift. The most difficult people to buy for are those who have everything and those who are more particular about what they enjoy in life...that is a nice way to say picky.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sara's Quirks

I live a life of secret quirkiness. Some would agree that it is a secret and others might say that I wear that quirkiness on my sleeve. This blog, for example, when people at work find out that I write a personal blog everyday, they just shake their head and say something like, "Of course you do, Sara." They are not surprised. Yet, I might make a bolder statement regarding my likes and dislikes in our world and they are shocked...sometimes offended.

My Dislikes In This World

  • Clapping-I know. One might say that there is no reason behind it, but I would rather let others do the clapping for me.
  • Cilantro-What an offensive spice or herb...I have no idea either way. America seems to be on a cilantro kick because it is in every kind of salsa and salad.
  • Gold-aesthetically, it does not please me. I prefer silver.
  • Furry Blankets and Flannel Sheets-I cannot tolerate this. I have anxiety everytime I stay at someone's house who doesn't know this about me because I fear that when I pull back the covers, a furry, fuzzy, flannel mess will be awaiting me. Fleece fits into this category as well. My only exception to this rule is velvet.
  • Tardiness-Oh, if you have been around me when people are late...It drives me crazy. In my lifetime, I have collected a few less than punctual friends and they know this about me. They try harder than anything to be on time, but rarely are. In my age, I have mellowed a little and I am trying to be more empathetic to tardiness, but I still struggle with keeping my body language under control with this.
  • Tired Friendships-I have no time for them. Either you call me and I call you, or let's call it quits. Either I try and you try, or let's call it a day. There is nothing wrong in letting a relationship take its natural course even if that means it ends.
  • Saxophone Solos-It is painful to my ears. I might enjoy a song, but if it has a sax solo, it is over.
  • Flip-Flops-The strap between my toes is unacceptable. I have tried several times to embrace this shoe, but it is of no use since I only end up throwing them across some room.
  • Redundancy-There is nothing worse than sitting in a meeting with people who want to have their voice heard even though two other people said the exact same thing as they did. There is something to be said for wise silence.
  • The Fearful TV Media in Iowa-Every story they report makes a person believe that the end is near. Their reports usually start with something like, "Before the next time you eat out at a restaurant, you will want to watch this or you could end up on your deathbed." I am not exaggerating.

Even though I have listed several things that I dislike, I remain a positive person who just has a few quirks. I am sure that some will disagree with me, but thankfully, my dislikes are not items that will divide my readership.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Family Folklore

"You can tell a lot about a man's character by his woodpile." - Grandpa Robert

The woodpile philosophy is one of many in a collection of ideas and notions in my family. One would be hard-pressed to find many people with woodpiles, but where my family is from, this is a tradition that is kept alive no longer by necessity, but rather by ritual. My Uncle Lee's woodpile is exceptional this fall (see picture). These fall traditions are the core to my father's side of the family in a part of the world that many do not have the priviledge to know.

A reverence for the past and the faithful acceptance of the present creates an environment in northern Minnesota where little changes and even fewer people are blessed to experience it. With each year, the logs are cut and placed in a pile. The pile is placed with careful thought and exactness. As the leaves turn orange and brown with a speed that if one blinked they would miss it, men and women prepare to wear their own blaze orange in hopes of catching that year’s big story. A yarn that will be rewoven every following year as family and friends return for the hunt. The patience and calmness that the people of this community exhibit during hunting season impresses the outsiders to the point where they take their two weeks of vacation to be a part of the hunt.

A person has to have this reverence for nature in order to remain in a hunting stand for hours without speaking to the person next to you. To watch an open field, waiting for the deer to cross your path. One might say that it is cruel to hunt deer. However, I have never known people more humane and compassionate to animals than these hunters in my family. They hunt because of the tradition. They hunt because of the way it binds our family together once a year. They hunt because they appreciate the deer and all that it has brought to our family over the years. More than just meat and skin, but an almost family folklore each autumn.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Listening more than Speaking

Today, I flew home to Des Moines. I had a short flight from Grand Forks to Minneapolis. The flight left at 6:30 am so I slept the whole way. That was nice since it was the crack of dawn.

Then, I had a connection flight from Minneapolis to Des Moines. It was one of the small propeller planes that are a bit scary. I sat next to this woman who was returning from a trip to Hawaii. She started a conversation with a young man who was teaching at Iowa State. They started to discuss education type related topics. He taught statistics. The man was a very good listener to this woman who decided it would be a good time to vent her frustrations about elementary teachers and their lack of knowledge in math. She went on and on about how students do not know math when they come out of elementary school and it is because teachers lack a conceptual understanding of what they are teaching.

I had a thought as I couldn't help but listen figuring the small proximity in the prop plane. First, I thought about how you never know who you are sitting by. I mean, this woman was going on and on about the knowledge that elementary teachers are lacking as she sits next to one for one hour. It was a good reminder for me to think before I speak. You never know who is sitting next to you or who someone knows that you are talking about. I remember working out at an athletic club when two women started talking very loudly about a local principal. They had nothing nice to say about this principal. Well, what these women didn't know was that the principals' sister was my friend and was working out right next to them. I felt uncomfortable because it obviously upset my friend, but it was a good reminder about talking about others.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Digital Camera Advice

I am researching digital cameras for my parents. I bought my camera with very little research, but I am very happy about my purchase. I own an Olympus. Does anyone have any advice when I recommend a camera to them or any websites that are helpful in making the decision. I kind of want to tell them to buy the same camera as myself, but I thought I should be a little more thoughtful about this since it is their money.

Also, I apologize for not writing. I am not at home until Sunday night, but I have lots to say when I return home.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I am a 16 year old stuck in a 28 year old's body!

Today, one of my students asked me how old I was. I told her that I was 28 years old. She said that I did not look 28. She thought that I looked younger. Excellent.

I have said for a long time that I feel that I am stuck in a 16 year old's mind. Yes, I hold down a professional job, graduated with two degrees, and have been married for over four years. Yet, I still have elements of my personality that reak of adolescence.

Even though I try to educate myself on a number of diverse topics, I also find myself gravitating toward the embaressingly immature. For example, during the first Presidential debates, no matter how involved I was in the political process this year, I was more interested in the Surreal Life on VH1 than the debates. That doesn't seem very smart or mature to me. My love of costumes (Halloween, bachlorette parties, any other event where I can wear one) seems a tad immature, yet it is so humorous to me. Sometimes I think my toilet humor is also a bit 8 year oldish. I think my occupation has something to do with that...and my husband.

My 16 year old friend, Kelley, once referred to a co-worker at her store as "old". This co-worker was 30. I told her, "Kelley, I am 28. Then, I am old." She said, "No, you are young at heart." Thanks, Kelley. I do not consider myself old, yet I am no longer young and hip either. My love of karaoke has been referred to by my own co-workers as a young thing to do, but don't people of all ages like a good time. Please, never let me get to an age when fun and laughing is too old. I don't think this will happen since I have friends and family of all ages and they are a blast.

I have moments where I ask myself, "Will I ever grow up?" I don't think the fact that I have a job, a car, a husband will determine when this moment will arrive. I still think of myself as that 16 year old who views the world as possibilities rather than destinations at which to arrive. I don't like the idea of time passing and years going by. I like to think that I am ending a decade of change and will begin my 30's (in two years that is) with the same energy that I began my 20s. I think I will begin the 30s with even more hope of possibilities because I have some knowledge under my belt. Even the fact that I have become this self-reflective about my 16/28 year old spirit makes me think I am in my teens...actual grown-ups have better, more important things to think about, right?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Eyes for Lies

Maybe I am naive, but I always think people are telling me the truth. I think it is because I am painfully honest at times and quite unforgiving of when my trust is broken. So, it may be to my benefit that my blogland friend, Fredette, is pursuing a new professional and creative project. At Eyes for Lies, she will parlay her skills as a human lie detector into helping the duped, the deceived, and the swindled.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Craft Redemption

What do beads, crowds, and booth after booth have in common? Yep, you guessed it! I went to a craft show yesterday. Not just any run of the mill, church basement kind of craft show. Oh, no. This was the North Pole craft show in Ankeny, Iowa.

I hear that lovers of crafts come from other states just to experience the North Pole craft show. Usually, I do not get much out of craft shows. I enjoy the apparent effort that was put into each craft, but usually there is not much originality with the crafts. However, I was surprised. Even with the usual crafts, there were some diamonds in the rough. Take Santa (see photo), you can't really tell, but he is sort of paper mache, but much cuter. He didn't look like any other Santa at the craft show. His booth was hidden in a corner with not many visitors, but once I found him, I had to buy him. I know that I could have bought a Santa at Target that looked the same, but someone made him.

The jewelry that was available at the craft show was an additional surprise. It wasn't cheap or ugly. These craftspeople were real artists with their jewelry. Of course, you come across a few duds, but I was impressed with the quality.

Finally, my most treasured item found at the craft show was a bag of MAPLE BUTTER potpouri. Have you ever heard or smelled of such a scent? I had not. I usually endure the scents of vanilla or flowers, but this was like someone was making warm maple caramels in my kitchen. I could not resist.

I think I might have a new appreciation for craft shows. I will venture out to a craft show now searching for that hidden treasure buried among the dried flowers, disturbed looking yarn animals, and hand-painted ornaments.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Karaoke, Again, Sara?

The lure of the microphone was strong last night at the karaoke bar. A group of us gathered from work to enjoy some singing and conversation. The only problem is that only a few of us sang karaoke.

How can people sit there and not want to sing a song. The choices are limitless and the crowd is supportive. The only other person who sang was Jeff, but that was no surprise since he sings with his guitar in his classroom. He belted out "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Love Potion #9". The first is always a crowd pleaser.

There were two young women running karaoke last night. They were cute and excellent singers. They were so good that it almost made people NOT want to sing because they would sound horrible after these two girls. The two girls had great karaoke taste if you ask me since they were singing all my standards..."Midnight Train To Georgia" (which I plan to never sing again after hearing these two girls do it), "9 to 5", and "Son of a Preacher Man". These are my favorites.

Don't worry one sang my favorite karaoke song, "Jeffersons Theme Song". I feel like a bit of a karaoke super hero when I sing that song. Either that or the karaoke gods smile on me because I am always called up to sing "Jeffersons" right when the crowd needs it most. There was a succession of slow, emotional country ballads which brought the crowd a few claps, but then Super Sara swoops in gets the crowd going with the hand-clapping version of "The Jeffersons"!

It was pretty busy last night so I only sang two songs. "These Boots Are Made For Walking" was a goody because there was a Divorce Party (opposite of a bachlorette party, I guess) there last night. When I started singing, these women came up to me and started putting feather boas and leopard print, long gloves on me. I looked the part and could now be a part of their party.

I think I have written more about karaoke than any other topic on my blog. I would like to pose a challenge to all of my readers...find a karaoke bar, sit and have a few, and choose a song and sing it. You might be surprised how fun it can be to be a karaoke star for one night.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I want to throw away the Viking bobble-head doll

Why do I do this?

I have the day off of school and I am wasting it.

It started out quite nice. I slept in and went to work out. I came home and began cleaning my apartment since I had kind of let it go with all of the work on the election and conferences. Anyway...I started cleaning and I can't stop. Cleaning turns into organizing, re-organizing, rearranging, reframing, and on and on.

Right now, I have cleaned and rearranged the living room, cleaned the kitchen, and currently...I am sitting in the study surrounded by piles of books that I need to reshelve or bring to goodwill. One of the reasons that I do this every once in awhile is that I detest clutter. I do not have any collections for this reason. I buy things, but do not become attached to them.

I have no problem throwing or donating items that I feel do not have a place in our little apartment. Let me give you an example...folders. As educators, Tim and I have many used, old folders. Sure, we could reuse them, but right now they are sitting on a useful shelf that I could put a candle or some books. They are out. I have a few things that I should throw, but do not. For example, the broken bobble-head Vikings player. Tim is attached to this, but I would like to throw it out. It stays.

My goal is to be finished by 3:30 so I can go and do something fun. Shame on me. This is my own fault.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Odds and Ends

Don't give up on me...I have been super busy with parent-teacher conferences and of course, the election.

The other day, I was walking in the hall at my school when I saw a line of first graders. One little girl was wearing her tye-died American flag t-shirt since it was election day. The children were actually standing in line to cast their school ballots. I bent down to compliment her and this is how the conversation went...

Ms. Sara: Wow! I really like that tye-died American flag t-shirt.

First Grader: Who? Me? (Big Smile)

Ms. Sara: Yes, you. I like how it looks like a flag.

First Grader: I love you.

It was the best. It made my day all day. She wasn't ashamed or embaressed to ooze with affection or kind words. The kids around her didn't think this was a strange response to my compliment either. Every once in awhile I get the payoffs that come with being a teacher.

On a different note, I thought I had sworn off reality television this fall, but like any junkie, one taste and you are hooked...again. Last night, I tuned into PBS where they had a dating reality show called Regency House Party. The concept is like any other dating show, but the participants must adhere to strict Regency (1811-1820) dating rituals. The participants are also given roles in society which will effect their interaction with certain know, money and priviledge and the working class, nouveau riche. Like all reality shows, some people get into it and some do not. I loved Pioneer Life and Colonial Life, so this is a new twist on the historical reality shows that might actually teach a viewer something.