What Time is it Anyway?

Jet lag sucks.  I’ve never had a huge problem with it on European trips, taking the approach of toughing it out and staying up long enough to sync with local time.  Australia/New Zealand are so far ahead in the time zone that you just sort of shift into the next day without experiencing a lot of issues.  Asia kills me.  The first time we went (in 2005) I kept wanting to fall asleep during dinner.  I never had difficulty falling asleep when we finally did go to bed, rarely before 11 PM, but would consistently wake up around 3 or 4 AM and be unable to get back to sleep.  This lasted for more than half of our 2 week trip, leaving me feeling like a zombie.

When I traveled to India for work in 2007, I resorted to taking sleeping pills.  They didn’t really help me on the flight, I think I managed less than 3 hours on a full dose of Ambien, but they did allow me to fall asleep and stay asleep once I arrived.  I made the mistake of not taking one after about 3 nights, thinking I had to be adjusted to the time zone by then.  Bingo, I woke up at 3 AM the next morning.  At least I’m consistent.  So I went right back to taking sleeping pills for the rest of the trip.

I’ve never been able to sleep on airplanes, even in the relative comfort of a business class seat.  When we took our epic first trip to Australia, spending 46 hours in transit, I only managed a few short cat naps on the plane.  This trip to Japan was no exception.  The coach seats were extraordinarily uncomfortable, with less leg room than a typical domestic Delta flight.  We also experienced a lot of turbulence, which I don’t generally find to be conducive to sleeping.

We stuck with our strategy of toughing it out and staying up until something close to a normal bedtime once we arrived.  We did wake up early (4-5 AM) every day, but since we were able to go to bed by 8 PM it wasn’t bad.  Staying on a super early schedule fit with the buses to the track and seemed to lessen the effect of the jet lag.  At least while we were in Japan.

Our first day home we managed to stay awake until after 8 PM before crashing in what turned out to be an epic (nearly 15 hour) sleeping jag.  Since we had been up for over 30 hours, I assumed this was just catch up sleep.  When we flew to Phoenix the next day, I actually thought it would help us readjust, since the time would be 2 hours earlier.  So we hadn’t really slept until 11 AM, just 9 AM Phoenix time.  No big deal right?

Hah!  We didn’t even try to go to bed until 2 AM, since neither one of us felt tired.  It took at least an hour to fall asleep and by 6 AM we were both awake again.  Now I’m just getting a little annoyed.  We needed to be up early today, so we went to bed at 8 PM last night, hoping for a better night’s sleep.  Now it’s not even noon and I’m tired already.  Maybe I’m getting too old for this.

Jet lag sucks.

Home Away From Home

We flew out of Minneapolis at 10 PM last night and still spent the night in our own bed.  Neat trick, huh?  It’s because we are currently hanging out at our second home in Phoenix.  I don’t think I could have gotten back on a plane 30 hours after returning from Japan to go anywhere else.  Even I have my limits.

One of the reasons we have a home in Phoenix is because I complained to my husband last September that I needed a project.  He was out of town at the time, so we were talking on the phone.  We didn’t have any big trips on the horizon and I was feeling lonely and bored so I started whining about needing a new project.  He suggested looking for a vacation home in Phoenix.  In some respects it seemed like an obvious thing to do.  I’ve been vacationing in Phoenix for well over 20 years.  My dad owns a vacation home here so it was a free place to stay during my early post college years, when I didn’t have a lot of money to spend.  I fell in love with the desert.  The real estate market in Phoenix was one of the hardest hit (along with Vegas) when the economy tanked, so there were plenty of deals to be had.

So we went to Phoenix together at the beginning of October and spent two days looking at condos and townhomes.  We figured out pretty quickly that we wanted someplace new that wasn’t a distressed (short/foreclosed) sale.  One, we wanted to be able to just furnish the house and enjoy it.  Two, we wanted to close quickly, which is impossible with distressed sales.  Of course this meant we wouldn’t get the best possible deal, but that wasn’t the primary driver.

After two full days of seeing just about everything in our price range we narrowed it down to two options.  One was in Scottsdale and one was in Phoenix.  I spent Saturday night agonizing over the decision.  We decided to drive around both of the neighborhoods on Sunday morning, before I needed to fly back to Minneapolis.  The Scottsdale place, while in a unique looking complex, was surrounded by hundreds of cookie-cutter generic Southwestern condos and apartments.  The only retail space within a reasonable walking distance was a strip mall with Starbucks, Chipotle and similar fare.  The Phoenix place was in an urban, mixed neighborhood with small homes, businesses, churches, schools and a number of independent restaurants within a 2 mile radius.

It was sort of a head slapping moment.  There were a number of other factors that we evaluated, but in the end it was the vibrancy of the neighborhood that was the tipping point.  We made an offer on Monday and closed at the end of October on our beautiful new Phoenix home.  Since then we have received nothing but reinforcement on our choice.  Whenever we tell someone familiar with Phoenix where our home is located, their first response is “that’s a great neighborhood!”

They’re right.  It is and we love it.

Just Let Me Do It

Alright, I admit it.  I am a control freak.  I’m sure this confession will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.  It’s probably a large part of the reason I became a project manager.  (A pretty good one, at that)  I think I’ve managed to let go of a lot of my perfectionism over the years and be satisfied with good enough, but I still want to be in control of deciding what good enough is and how to get there.  So I am the one who does all of the travel planning.  I may grumble about it occasionally, but I don’t think I’d be willing to give it up.  In the past, the only exception to this was when we went on family trips.  Since those were always driven by my dad’s schedule, his assistant handled all of the details.  She’s an amazing person and always put together a very detailed itinerary well in advance of our departure, so my inner control freak was appeased.

Now we are leaving for Japan in less than 40 hours and someone else is handling all of the details (I hope) and providing us with minimal information only after some prodding.  To be fair, he’s doing this for about 50 other people, all of whom have made the same trip multiple times and are used to traveling as a group.  The first concrete piece of information we received was exactly 2 weeks ago and consisted of this:

We now have your flight information from Chicago to Japan. Please let me know if you would like me to help you with your connecting flights.


1 NH WE 15SEP  ORDNRT    0945 1240*

2 NH TU 21SEP  NRTORD    1130 0905

I am not kidding.  This told me the airports (which I already knew) and the flight dates and times.  So I booked flights to Chicago and a hotel, since there was no way we were going to be able to get into Chicago early enough to make a 9:45 AM international flight.  I also let him know that my first name was spelled incorrectly, something the TSA really frowns on these days.  A week later I received this message:

You will be going through Terminal 5 in ORD.

Great.  So now we know which terminal to wander around in looking for a charter flight on an unknown airline with an unknown flight number.  Hello, a little help here??  So I finally broke down and sent an email requesting the airline, flight number and (god help me) hotel information.  A day later I received an email with the flight information.  This was followed about 30 minutes later by another email with the hotel information.  I feel SO MUCH BETTER NOW.

Continue breathing deeply.

11 Years and a Day

Yesterday was our 11th anniversary.  For the math challenged, that means we were married on 9/9/99.  No, that wasn’t a happy accident.  After we got engaged (on Christmas Day 1997), we had a lot of discussion about the “right” day to pick for our wedding.  Most people pick a season or month and the actual day depends on availability of the venues for the wedding and reception.  Since we never intended to have more than a handful of people at our wedding, it made more sense to pick a date that would be meaningful.  I knew a couple that had married on 8/8/88 and I always thought that was a cool idea.  So we decided on 9/9/99.  It turned out to be a Thursday.

Finding a place was a little tricky.  I wanted a nice restaurant with a private space that would allow smoking in order to accommodate my dad.  This would not be possible today, but back then there were still smoking areas in restaurants.  Not too many of them were keen on allowing cigars, however.  We selected Nikki’s Cafe and Bar, which sadly closed some years later.  Nikki was a character and I was a little worried when 3 months after first talking to her, she still hadn’t charged the deposit to my credit card.

Total attendance for our wedding was 25, including the priest and his wife.  I had a moment of panic at the start when my mom failed to show up on time.  Turns out she was halfway downtown when she realized that she had left my bouquet and Tim’s boutonniere in her refrigerator.  She did all of the flowers for the wedding, including a spray for the top of the Wuollet’s cake.  I bought the smallest two tier wedding cake they made and it was still way too much.

It really was a beautiful wedding.  I have a secret theory that the happiness and success of a marriage has an inverse relationship to the size and cost of the wedding.  Short of eloping, which I had seriously considered, we had about the most cost effective wedding possible.  Unfortunately, I was so busy making sure we took photos with everyone there, I neglected to get a photo of just Tim and me together.  So our official wedding photo required a bit of Photoshop magic.

So what did we do for our anniversary?  We ordered a pizza, opened one of the nice bottles of wine from our trip to Watkin’s Glen and watched two Blu-ray movies on our new player.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

None of My Business

My business cards arrived while we were in Chicago.  Okay, so technically they’re not business cards since I don’t have a business.  But I could.  So I suppose I should call them personal cards (or calling cards as they used to say in the old days) but after 24 years of having business cards, I still tend to refer to them that way.  At any rate, they are super cool.  I ordered Moo cards (shameless plug – http://us.moo.com/)  based on a recommendation from my photo buddy and number one blog fan, Jane.  Actually I think Jane is my only fan right now but I am hopeful that I might develop a handful of regular readers, in which case she will still be my number one fan.  Of course my mom reads my posts as well, but only because I print them out and give them to her every week because she doesn’t have a computer.  (Bless her for that)

But I digress.

There are two things about the cards I really like.  One, they are printed on very heavy card stock so they feel substantial.  Not like the cheap, flimsy cards you usually get from people.  More importantly, Moo allows you to print up to 50 different images on the back of the cards for one set price.  So I get to hand out 50 cards and each one is unique.  It makes it more fun to distribute them because people have to look through all of the images and decide which one to keep.  It’s sort of like a mini psych test.  Are you attracted to landscapes, flowers or some of my more unique images?  Of course, there is less to choose from as I go through the set.  And I have set a few aside for specific people.

Some of the photos don’t translate well to the tiny size.  The simpler, more graphic images work better than really detailed ones.  And I did too many cute baby ones.  So I will select some new images to replace them.  But overall, I am really happy with them.

So, why do I need cards anyway?  Mostly because I am tired of writing my email address and website on little scraps of paper for people.  It’s just a little cheesy.

Besides, someday I might have a business.

This is the caricature I have on my cards.  It seemed less pretentious than a photo.  Okay, so my husband came up with the idea and I stole it.

Stop Spamming Me!

It has been disheartening to discover that blogs are just as big a target for spammers as email.  When we got to the airport in San Francisco, I eagerly checked my blog for new comments and found there were four – all spam.  So far, the spam seems to fall into one of two categories.  The first is advertising, usually for some blog related application.  MAKE A GUARANTEED $1000/MO ON YOUR BLOG USING PRODUCT X!!!  The wording often borders on insulting, as if I must be a total idiot for not buying/using Product X.  The second category is more insidious.  It consists of a fairly generic comment – “This is really interesting information” – accompanied by a link to some website.  In one case it was an Australian escort company.

Apparently there is a large number of people who make money by autoblogging.  They post fairly generic or re-used content on hundreds of blogsites and make money by generating a high volume of click-throughs to other sites that pay them some small amount for each person they bring in.  I’m probably not explaining it very accurately because I have no interest in understanding how any of it works.  I write these posts for myself and a very small audience of friends and family that have some interest in what I’m writing about.

I value real comments highly.  Right now the spam comments I’ve received actually outnumber the real ones.  I have the site configured so that the first time a reader comments it requires my approval before it shows up on the site.  Any subsequent comments from the same person (using the same screen name) will post immediately.  So the spam will never show up on the site.  If I start getting a large number of spam comments I may need to do something more automated, but right now it’s manageable.  So please, take the time to comment on any post that strikes a chord with you.  I will be happy if my real comments start outnumbering the spam ones.

Here are two more photos from our trip to Sonoma.  I like the contrast between the decay of the dock and the growth represented by the flowers.

Yes, I am Crazy

So, we landed in Minneapolis at 6 AM after our trip to Sonoma.  This gave us slightly over 24 hours to do laundry, go through the mail, catch-up on email, bring Tim’s car in for service and re-pack for our trip to Chicago.  Plus, I squeezed in a massage and a facial.  Which, seriously, is more of a necessity than a luxury at this point.  We talked about powering through and not taking a nap in the morning, but neither one of us had really slept on the plane and let’s face it, we’re not that young anymore.  So we slept for about 3 hours after dropping Indy at the dealership.

Everything got done and I even managed to write two of my Sonoma posts.  For those of you catching up after the fact, you will notice that the dates on the posts match the dates I wrote about.  This is a bit of a cheat.  I got some feedback about my early posts being a little confusing because the dates I wrote about didn’t match the date of the post.  So I am changing the post date to keep the two in alignment.

Yes, going to this many races is sort of exhausting.  And yes, some people (including my mom) think I am crazy for doing it.

It’s totally worth it.

Blue October

My obsession with Blue October started innocently enough.  I heard the song “Hate Me” on XM and it felt like a punch in the stomach.  I can’t say that I related to the meaning of the song in a literal way (not having personal experience with drug addiction) but something about the incredible emotional pain being expressed touched a nerve.  I suppose a psychologist would have a field day with that.  At any rate, it was enough to make me go out and buy the album without hearing any of the other songs on it.  I ended up loving every single song on Foiled, so I went online and purchased  Blue October’s 3 previous studio albums.  Plus a live CD and concert DVD.

I started reading about the band and checking their tour dates online.  On October 13, 2007, my husband and I saw them perform live for the first time at the Myth.  It was amazing.  They are a heavy touring band with a very dedicated fan base and their live performances are mesmerizing.  At the show I ran into Jill’s daughter-in-law Carolyn.  It turned out that her brother was a huge fan and had introduced her and Dan (Jill’s son) to the band.  It was one of those wild coincidences that make you realize how small the world is sometimes.  Every time I mention to someone that Blue October is my favorite band, I get a blank look.  They just aren’t widely known.  And here I was a show, running into a family member.

That show marked a high point just before a very dark time in my family.  Four days later Jill died.

Blue October spent the majority of 2008 working on a new album, so we didn’t get an opportunity to see them that year.  Approaching Normal came out in March 2009 and they went on tour to promote the new album.  From mid May through mid June we saw them at the Rave in Milwaukee, First Avenue and the Hub in Fargo.  The shows were all great but a little “Groundhog Day” since they did every single song from the new album in order and only included a few older songs at the end.  The photo at top is of me with Jeremy Furstenfeld (drummer) after their show at the Rave.  One of the many really cool things about the band is that they will come out and meet fans after the shows, as long as you’re willing to hang out long enough.  So I have photos with each of the band members.  Plus an autographed t-shirt.  Yes, I’m a groupie and no, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I don’t understand it but I embrace it.  We all have our obsessions and this one is fairly harmless.

I started thinking about my history with Blue October recently because I just purchased tickets to see them at the Rave in Milwaukee again.  Wisconsin has banned smoking in bars and the band is doing more of a mix of old and new material, so it should be an even better show than last year.  The date is October 7th.  I’ll be thinking about Jill.

Modern Art (July 30)

I went to the Walker last week with my mom.  I  had promised her a mom/daughter day as a way to thank her for looking after our house while we have been traveling.  And for doing unplanned favors like receiving large boxes of wine from UPS.  The intent was for her to decide what we would do, but she’s not very good at making decisions.  (She will be the first to admit this – I have to help her decide what to order when we go to a restaurant)  I am not a big fan of modern art (that’s an understatement) but I love the sculpture garden and the restaurant gets great reviews.  Plus I haven’t been there since the Walker completed its big expansion 5 years ago.  In fact, the last time I remember going was to a Picasso exhibit when I was in high school.  I figured it was about time to give them another chance.

Bad idea.

First of all, it was raining/drizzling the day we went so we quickly walked through just a small part of the sculpture garden.  Enough for me to be impressed by how much it’s matured but not enough to really enjoy it.  Second, it was FREEZING cold in all of the galleries.  I get that you need to keep the art climate controlled, but refrigerated?  My poor mom had a sweater on and was still miserable.  I felt like I was in a meat locker.  Third, modern art sucks.  Really, really sucks.

I put art into one of three categories:

Stuff I like.  It may or may not be great, but I would hang it on my wall if I could afford it.  Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh in the unaffordable category.  Robert Ransom, Edie Abnet, Barbara Gurwitz in the affordable category.  (I have paintings from all 3 – Google them if you want an inside look at my personal taste)

Stuff I appreciate.  I recognize the talent that created it, but I wouldn’t hang it on my wall.  Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns.  Lots of lesser known artists that I couldn’t name.  Of course this is just personal taste, like music or interior design.  I don’t expect everything in a museum to appeal to me personally, but I can still appreciate the artistry behind the work.

Crap.  The kind of stuff that only seems to be art to galleries and art history majors.  A white canvas with words spelled out in masking tape.  An arrangement of junky clocks in a corner.  A plastic ice cream soda cup.  I don’t think video qualifies as art even when you fill 9 screens with it.  Damien Hirst does a lot of stuff that I don’t think qualifies as art.  Hey, if you want a cow that’s been severed in half and preserved in formaldehyde in your living room, go ahead.  But don’t call it art.

Unfortunately, a large part of the Walker’s collection falls squarely into category three.  So I don’t think I’ll be going there again except to visit the sculpture garden and eat in the restaurant.  Which is awesome.

First Impressions

I really LOVE not having to get up at 5:15 AM anymore.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to set an alarm clock in the last 2 months (mostly travel related) and I’ve never slept past the time it was set to go off.  I usually go to bed between 10:30 and 11 PM and I usually wake up between 7 and 8 AM.  Go ahead and hate me for that.  I think I’m still working off some long term sleep deprivation.

Our travel schedule has been a little intense since I retired.  My husband and I had the privilege of being able to purchase Target Chip Ganassi team credentials for the 2010 racing season and we’re trying to attend as many races as possible this year.  (For more information on the Indy Racing League, check out http://www.indycar.com/ or   http://www.ganassi.com/)  We missed a few at the beginning of the season, but have been to every race since the beginning of June.  I’ll try to do a short post of each of the races as part of my “catch-up” blogging.

I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of real free time so far.  A big part of that is the travel, especially when you consider the amount of planning that goes into it.  I’ve made 14 hotel reservations so far this year.  I’ve also had a fair amount of financial stuff to sort through.  I’m certainly feeling less stressed and doing things at a more leisurely pace, rather than feeling like I have to cram so much into every day.

I made my first ever lasagna.  It wasn’t a total disaster but it certainly wasn’t worth the ridiculous amount of time and effort I put into it.  I think I like the idea of cooking more than the actual cooking.  I’m hoping to get better but I don’t think I will ever be really good at it.  My idea of the perfect recipe is one with 6 ingredients or less that takes no more than 30 minutes to make, has no more than 500 calories per serving and is low in sodium and fat.  Did I mention it needs to taste good too?  I have about 3 recipes that meet all of the criteria, if I can expand it to 30 I will be overjoyed.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on photography yet, although I am getting some things posted on my website.  I am not impressed with the photo album capability on the site but at least I’m getting something out there.  For anyone who missed my retirement slide show, most of the photos will be on the site in one of the folders.

Oops, I think it’s time for bed.