Category Archives: Freshly Pressed

Gambling and Lottery Tickets

The girl was going to make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on Saturday night for the church potluck after church on Sunday.  However, she needed sour cream, so I headed to the nearby “bunny” store to pick up the item.

IMG-20120121-00134As the clerk rang up my purchase, I stared at the numbers on the till.  However, she thought I was staring past the till and at the sign pictured to my left.

She said, “Oh, she wants a powerball!”

I laughed and shook my head – sure that I could not share how I really felt about buying a lottery ticket.  She and the man in the store shooting the breeze asked me why I laughed, so I said, “Well, unless someone sees this as just a fun purchase…and the money comes out of some recreation fund in the budget, I see it – and gambling in general – as a tax on stupidity. I know people who think that this is how they will be able to retire someday, and that is just not reality.”

So – what do readers think?

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National Hobby Month: What’s Your Hobby?

I saw the sign below a few weeks ago when I waited for the girl to wrap up her cake decorating class – her Christmas present from the boy.  How cool is that, huh?  I thought about how fitting it was that he enrolled her in this class during January – National Hobby Month.  I also wrote some future stories in my mind about how much money the boy will save one day when he asks his sister to make his wedding cake.  Not a bad move!


I love that the sign encourages us to “help the kids find a new hobby,” but it made me a think a little bit about my own hobbies and if I even have one.  It also made me think about the way I view the hobbies of others.  In fact, I realized that the idea of something “just for fun” or that purely brings me joy sort of escapes me.

What do I like to do?

I like to write – obviously.  I think at this point in my life it might be a hobby.  When it crosses over into something a bit more lucrative, it will no longer be a hobby.  For now, as it does not have any cash value assigned to it, it is a hobby.

I like to learn.  This is an area that I need to explore a bit more this year.  In the past few years, I have learned for the sake of broadening my understanding of things related to my career and its advancement.  The last time I took a class for the sake of enjoying it and simply learning was 2002…and even then the credits eventually did go toward my master’s degree.  So…that is something to consider this year.  What would I like to learn?

Latin.  Definitely Latin.

I like to walk and listen to music.  I have put these two “hobbies” to good use over the past couple of weeks and have been happy with the results.  I woke up a few days again and realized that I felt pain in places that I did not know could have pain.  This is a good sign.  But is this a hobby?

I am somewhat miffed by this concept.  What do other people think?  What are your hobbies?  Why do you do them?  What is it about them that draws you to them?

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Staging Areas

This blog post has been dinging around in my brain for a few weeks.  I figure it is time to get it out.  In essence, my mind has been a staging area for this post.  Let me explain.

For the past few months, construction has been going on in my office building.  As I write that, I realize that construction always seems to be going on in my office building.  As soon as the peeps who do this work finish one project, they start the next.  They are constantly painting the walls new colors (by the way – if the outside of a building has green accents, why would you paint the interior hallway walls a deep, dusk blue?), changing the carpeting, and even removing the beautiful flooring. Project after project – I hear them washing down the walls next to my office, I step around their equipment in the hallways, and I talk to the workers to find out what is going on next (it was super cool to learn about the windows for walls in the office suite across the hall from mine before anyone else!).

Last week, as I walked out to the parking garage, I saw a bunch of stuff sitting in the empty suite next to ours.  I tried the door to see if I could get a picture, but the door was locked.  The next day, though, on my way in to work, the door was unlocked. I looked around and found that I was alone in the hall, so I quickly stepped into the room and snapped a few photos.

You see, I have been super intrigued by this staging area and the other ones throughout the building.  There is so much stuff that goes into construction and remodeling…paint, carpeting tarps, tools (I do not know what any of them are called, but I do know the category!), and scaffolding.  At the end of the work day, these cannot be left out while at the same time what a pain to have to drag them in and out again.  The staging areas are necessary.

And this, of course, got me thinking about other staging areas that we have – and ones that we do not have but should.  For example, I have a staging area for the doing the tax preparation each year.  It is my dining room table, and you should not come to visit on that day.  I tend to take a day off from work or commit a Saturday to this task.  It takes up the whole table, all eight of the chairs, and often overflows to the couches and piano.  Once I complete the task, I tear down the staging area and move.

Another great example of this is our laundry room which has the same square footage as our kitchen. Imagine what people in other country’s must thing when they read that!  I have dedicated a room – larger than any of bedrooms, I might add – to such a lowly task as washing my clothing!  When we lived in Scotland, our laundry facility included only one machine – a washer/dryer combo.  Let’s be honest, though, it did not truly dry much of anything.  Drying racks took over my bedroom whenever it was laundry day.  I miss Scotland, but the laundry drill is not part of the missing.

But what things should have a staging area but do not?  This is what has kept me from writing the post until today.  I know that I have things in my life that do require staging areas – spots set apart for specific tasks that require my time and attention.  And to be honest, I do not want to admit them to the world by writing them or even saying them out loud.  Having a staging area means that there is a commitment of space and time.  There are plenty of things in my life that should have a staging area but do not.

And today I intend to have a great think about this. If I forget, I will be reminded of it again as I walk past the staging area in my office building.  Perhaps the construction going on inside of the office building will end when I no longer require the construction on the inside of me.

I think the office building might be complete before I am!

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Making a 5k Playlist

IMG-20120124-00139Last night, I “hit the pavement” in a way that I did not realize I could. Yesterday had its fill of phone calls, odd conversations, and – let’s face it – frustrations.  I work with humans, I am human, and it seems that frustration follows wherever humans go.  Poor God.  I wonder if He knew this when He created us.

Of course, He did.  And, again, I digress…

I did this awesome program of 30 minutes – twice.  I was so excited that I completed a 5k in 52 minutes (3.75 miles in 60 minutes)…great fun!  I did pay attention to see if the twenty minute theory that I discussed in a blog post last week; it works. There is no doubt.  Get over the first twenty minutes, and I think I could walk for six miles.

About half-way through the first set, I started paying attention to my music and making my music choices based on the pace that I needed it to support.

And that is when the “ah-ha” happened!

The key to a good workout could be ensuring that the sounds around me support that.  I could watch TV to distract me, but I do not actually like a lot of TV shows.  And just TV alone would sort of bore me.  But – “The Biggest Loser” or some show about pawn shops (yes – both of them…on different TVs) are tolerable as long as I have good playlist.

I thought I would share last night’s playlist.

  1. Viva la Vidaby Coldplay
  2. Bostonby Augustana
  3. I. Love. You
  4. Song from the “August Rush” Soundtrack
  5. Barton Hollowby the Civil Wars
  6. From This Valleyby the Civil Wars
  7. We Didn’t Start the Fireby Billy Joel
  8. Hallelujahby Leonard Cohen
  9. Beautiful Wreckby Shawn Mullins
  10. Alicefrom the Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton) Soundtrack
  11. Almost Loverby A Fine Frenzy
  12. The Little Thingsby Colby Caillat
  13. Downeaster “Alexa” by Billy Joel

And that is how you do a 5k in 52 minutes.

Note: I know that 52 minutes is nearly laughable; however, I figure that it is not too bad for walking.  I also figure that it is pretty good that I am doing any form of exercise and that it does not matter how long it takes to finish a 5k…the point is I finished a 5k!

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Happy 16th Birthday to the Girl!

There is truly no other way that I can post today except to honor the girl that God entrusted me to raise.  She is a compassionate, kind, and brilliant young lady.  I am proud to be her mother, and I know that she will do great things in her future as she does great things every day.  I guarantee that we would be friends even if we were not related.


Sixteen years ago, the girl came along a month too early.  As the (pastor) huz mentioned in his sermon this week, he called a friend and said, “Jim, she just didn’t come at the right time.”  But she did – she came in God’s timing.  The huz and I had not turned 22, had not been married even a year, and had not finished college.  She came in the middle of my final senior semester.  I had to change a few classes because of her early arrival. She went back into the hospital for jaundice and RSV, and the first few months were really hard.  Her timing was just out of whack.

And she has kept us on our toes every since!

But – she is more than an interruption or something to be endured…she is a blessing, and she always has been.  Even in the first few months when we had no idea what we were doing as parents (and had to rely on a lot of advice), she was a blessing. She was beautiful, and she has been beautiful throughout her entire life.

As a girl of sixteen, she blesses us daily.  Oh – she is a teen and has her times of difficulty, but overwhelmingly, she is awesome.  The huz and I will have had a long day, and we come home to find that she has cleaned the kitchen without being asked to do so. She has an empathetic heart and cares about those around her.  She wants to include those who might be left out at the lunch table or in a class.  This past summer, she spent many weeks at camp.  The huz and I had the chance to see her in action, and we were impressed.

I have to admit that I am not ready for her to be sixteen. I am not ready for her to start driving a car alone, for her to have a summer job, or for her to receive emails from three or four colleges each day.  The reality that we are marching more and more quickly to her departure is one that scares me while it excites me for her.

I know that her future is bright and filled with great things that God has planned for her, but I want her to always remember that I am her mom.  I want her to ask my opinion just one more time while I want to prepare her to make decisions on her own.  I want to be important to her, but I need realize that I am no longer the center of her universe.  Maybe I never was.

Regardless of how I feel about today, I want her to know that I am blessed to be her mother, I am proud of her, and even if she does not think she needs it – I will always pray for her.

Happy Birthday, Darlin’!

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Writing the Wrong Story

The title of this post and the content of this post were not how I originally had intended to write this post.  I think it will give a few people a chuckle, and I am guessing that a lot people will relate.

The original story: My school rented a new space for my department and the special education department in the same building (RiverPlace in Minneapolis) where the records, guidance, and administration already were.  When we took over the new space in October, construction was well underway to transform the space across the hall from us. I watched the transformation in a way that only a person who grew up in my parents’ home could … with much interest.  What were they doing?  What company will be there? What is new today? Are they taking what used to be a nearby bathroom?

When the construction ended a while back, I learned from a couple of Code Forty Two  employees about the design of the space.  All outside walls – including those into the hall – were now glass. The walls appeared to have be different shades, but they were not! They were all one color, but – because of the exterior glass walls – the various interior walls appeared to be different shades because of the way that the sun (or lack thereof) came in.  Simple cubicles and standing stations along with a simplistic reception desk were all that one could see inside.  There seemed to be no paper in the entire place.

IMG-20120120-00132On more than one occasion, I observed the company workers in a meeting and have only become more and more interested in the company’s philosophies.  As I went from our suite to the other suite for our school, I saw a few or all of the employees in this glass room – a fish bowl – holding a meeting.  No paper. No pens. No table. No chairs. No laptops.  Just four walls and a bunch of (mostly) guys standing around talking about their great ideas.  At one point, I observed a rather heated exchange that looked as if one was calling the other out about his body language.

It was so fascinating! I suggested the concept to more than one colleague, and none of us thought it would work.  Oh well – maybe at another school or company some day?

The real story: On Friday, as I went from my suite to the other suite, I snapped the above photo.  I finally needed to blog about this concept.  Can it really work?  When I returned later in the day, two employees stood outside the suite with a bunch of items needing to be shipped to a trade show…their freight elevator was out of commission, so they had filled the hall while waiting for the truck.  In true Italian-Stacy fashion, I chatted them up about the company and I got the real deal on the fish bowl conference room.

No lofty philosophy.  The table and chairs were simply on back order.  In fact, they sat in the middle of the office space’s reception area  – in boxes waiting for someone to unpack them and put them together.  Disappointed?  I am.  *sigh*  Oh well.

How often do we write stories before we have the facts?  In this case, it was pretty harmless, but I do this all of the time with what I think are people’s perceptions of me and in myriad of other situations.  Lesson learned: get the real story before I write the story.

Many thanks to Ben and Jillian for setting me straight on the story.  Even though I am devastated at this change in events, I am thrilled to know “the rest of the story.”

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Widman’s Chocolate–YUMMY!


On our trip to Grand Forks last weekend, the girl and I made a quick trip to the candy shop.  The girl claims she has never been there.  I feel like a bad parent somehow. We went because I needed to pick up some “chippers” for my server-friend-almost-relative from Nonna Rossa’s in Robbinsdale.

Well, the girl was in heaven – and so was I.  Just the smell when you walk in the door makes you think that you might have crossed over between here and there.  I think I might actually like the smell of chocolate more than the taste of chocolate.  The other thing that I came to while visiting the shop and tasting some of the yummies is that expensive chocolate really is better.  I do not consume a lot of chocolate because I can mostly only afford poor quality chocolate, and I do not really like it. The good stuff is really, really good!

It is a good thing that it is expensive otherwise I would eat more! Smile

I have very few other thoughts, but I do have some yummy photos!  You can get them to ship to your home no matter where you live, so beware.  And … if you are ever in the area, stop in … they will give you a sample, and you will spend more than you expected when you walked in the door!

East Grand Forks-20120113-00102East Grand Forks-20120113-00103IMG-20120113-00104IMG-20120113-00105IMG-20120113-00106

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How Should I Be Remembered?

Hot tears stung my eyes and blurred the words on the page. How could this have happened? They swelled over my eyelids and rolled down my cheeks. How could I not have known? As the words came in and out of my vision, understanding fell over me.  Could this be true? No one writes about another person in the past tense unless she is no longer with them. But when? And how?

Some background: In December 1998, I interviewed with four people at Shore Country Day School for a position that I felt I had no chance of being offered but desperately wanted.  Those same four people became my “bosses” when, against all odds, they chose me as the Director of After School and Summer Programming.  Of the four, two of them oversaw my position the most – the Head of the Lower School and the Chief Financial Officer. I later discovered that each of the four had reservations about hiring me (as would I…I was only twenty-five years old at the time), but they also each had reasons to choose me.  The Head of the Lower School and the CFO became wonderful, healing mentors over the next three and a half years as I had left a very unhealthy job situation. Who I am as a worker today is due very much in parts to their mentoring.

Back to present day: I sat in my car outside the car wash on Martin Luther King Jr Day and read the Shore Country Day School bulletin. The school continues to mail it to my Grand Forks address. As I had been in Grand Forks that weekend, the bulletin was in my car. I thought the car wash would be a great time to catch up. Boy, was I wrong!  The bulletin was the 75th Anniversary Edition, and there were highlights of various staff people – all written in the present tense…until I came to the loved Head of Lower School.

I recognized right away that there was a shift in the tense of the article: this article was in past tense. As I drove into the car wash, I read and re-read the article…hoping that I was wrong, grasping at any explanation for the article besides the fact that my mentor had passed away without my knowing.  She had given me a passion for younger children, had taught me patience and understanding, and had showered love on my own children who were toddlers when I started to work there.  She believed in a restorative approach to discipline, but she held them accountable for their actions at the same.  How could she be gone?

After pouring over the article several times and coming to grips with the fact that it was definitely written in past tense, I whipped out my phone and sent an email – through tears that would not stop – to my other mentor, the CFO.  The two women had very different approaches to mentoring me.  While the Head of the Lower School was much like a grandmother, the CFO is like a bulldozer.  I learned efficiency and confidence from her in a trial by fire sort of way.  I remember that I had asked her approval for several purchases within the first month of my hire.  After one too many requests for that approval she told me, “Stacy, you are the director of this program.  You are responsible for the budget, not I.”  Wow!  I learned that she would prefer that I make mistakes and learn how to fix them.  What a gift…

In my email, I apologized, knowing that the email asking about her friend would bring back many memories, but I asked her if what I suspected was true.  Within two hours, she responded.  And I had been right.  By then, I was in the parking lot at the music store where the boy takes guitar lessons.  I again sat in the car as tears stung my cheeks as they ran down my face…sadness overwhelming me at both the knowledge that my mentor had passed away but also at the disappointment that I had not been able to know and mourn with others.

The Head of the Lower School had a tremendous faith in God, and – from what the CFO said in the email – she had come to peace with death as it approached.  In the email, my mentor shared my sentiments, “She taught us all.”  What a great way to remember the life and the death someone!

As I thought about this throughout the week, I have often thought, “What would I want others to say about me when I am gone.”  There is so much that one could say, but that phrase – she taught us all – would be quite a tribute.

What do you think?  What would like to have others say about you when you have passed away?  And what are we doing today to make that possible?

Do I live in a way that I would like to be remembered?

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The First 20 Minutes are the Hardest

IMG-20120116-00116On Sunday night, the fam headed to our local Snap Fitness.  Yes – it is part of a resolution for some of us, but others were there for the cable television. When we got rid of our cable in August, I do not think that we realized it would propel us to the gym to catch some of our favorite shows…but whatever gets you to the gym, right? After reading my “true fitness” friends’ posts on Facebook about the resolutioners crowding the gyms, I had decided to take the first few weeks off from the gym.  Haha!  Ok – let’s be honest, I had taken four months off from the gym. Rather than moving when my back hurt, I moved less.  Not a good idea.

Needless to say, the return to the gym is a good idea. I have things I want to accomplish this year. I want to do some 5k walks, and I even want to try a 2k run. I would like to drop a few pounds and tone up some not-so-toned parts of my body, I want to have some good cardio health, and I want to do all that I can to ensure that I am mobile well into my 80s like my grandmothers. I know as well as anyone that these things do not happen overnight.

I just did not expect it to hurt so much to start again.

This past summer, I had put in some good time getting myself whipped into shape physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Oddly (at least to me), exercise played a big role in all three of these areas. The physical side is pretty obvious, but the emotional and spiritual sides of me also do better when I move. Walking (I’m not to the running part yet) is a bilateral movement (using right and left sides) and allows my brain to think more openly. There is actually a psychological therapy that uses this with eye movement. I have found that walking does similar things. My mind makes connections and re-wires when I am walking. I find that I think much more clearly when I am walking, and I should have a recording device along with me as I create new systems for work, consider new ways of seeing a problem at home, and just feel better.  Spiritually, I find that God shows me things when I am walking – even if it is on a treadmill.

On Monday morning, when I headed to the gym, God showed me something about perseverance.  On Sunday evening, I had put in nearly an hour on the treadmill. It was grueling for the first twenty minutes. I was angry and upset that I had waited so long. I had a laundry list of reasons why I hated being at the gym…many of these had to do with how I saw my body and how I assumed that everyone else there saw me too.  In my clear thinking, I know that most people do not really care about how I look – they probably do not even think about me at all.  After I got past the first twenty minutes, I did not even think about any of this either…but I did not realize it.

Monday morning, though, it was so clear to me that the first twenty minutes were the key to my success.  I just had to get through the first twenty minutes…after that, I could have gone for an hour or two hours – if I would not have promised to do some fun things with the girl all day.  Seriously, it was amazing! At ten minutes, I just wanted to get off of the treadmill and leave the gym.  I was angry and upset (again) and came up with a huge laundry list of reasons why this exercise thing was not going to work.  At the 19:02 mark, though, something switched, and I found that I was unhappy that the work out was going to end in the near future.

I am going to apply this twenty minute theory to a few other things in my life and see if makes a difference.  If I get past the twenty minute mark of a craving (when I am not truly hungry), can I go until I am truly hungry?  If I can get past the twenty minute mark on a project, will I suddenly be free to finish the project even if it takes hours?  If I get past the twenty minute mark of cleaning the house, will I want to finish and clean the whole thing?

I will report back in a week or two and let you all know what I find.  What do you think about this theory? Is there some research to support it?

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Social Media Helps with Homework

I realize that the title alone is somewhat controversial. Now that we all spend hours upon hours with our Facebook, Twitter, and blog worlds open on our screens, iPads, iPods, or phones, it is hard to argue that we might have better relationships with our screens than anyone with flesh. However, this past week I had my eyes opened to the amazing advantage that all of this screen time can have for students with the right connections in social media.

Let me explain.

The girl’s English class is currently reading and discussing the famed Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

An aside: I am shocked that they have not read 1984 first as I did.  Mrs. Fischer’s order of reading books is the right way to read books. I can guarantee that all of my high school friends would agree with me on this one. We read 1984 first; all of education world should do so as well.  Sorry…digression!

Back to the girl: over the weekend, she had an assignment to find a non-fiction article with content related to Brave New World.  She had no problem with that thanks to my Twitter relationship with the Fargo Forum. Earlier in the week, because the huz and the boy were out of town leaving us to fend for ourselves, the girl and I had eaten dinner at a restaurant. During that time, I had checked on Twitter and found an article about sex education standards through the Fargo Forum’s feed. I went to the link and read excerpts of it to the girl who shared my outrage by saying, “Mom – it is just like in Brave New World.”  Two days later, she came home with the assignment mentioned above, and she asked me for the link to the entire article.

Regardless of how we feel about students reading Brave New World, how we feel about sex education standards, or how we feel about the overuse of social media, we cannot argue that my Twitter connection saved the girl hours of hunting on the internet for the perfect article for her assignment. We do not need to revisit the horrors and evils of the internet; that is someone else’s article. When used responsibly, Facebook and Twitter can be great connections as evidences by the example shared here. In addition to helping with homework, they can be great ways to find rides to pick up our car at the repair shop, costumes for a musical, and helpers with a volunteer event.  Yes – all of these have been used by yours truly.  Additionally, they can be great ways to promote products or events. What other venue allows me to touch over 700 people who might retweet to their 700 friends?

Before I sound like an internet use extremist, I want to be clear about how I view it.  Do I think that parents should look over their children’s shoulders, put website tracking stuff on the computers, and invade their privacy?  Yes! In fact, I think a “no privacy” rule should be enforced. No one under 18 is allowed to have a cell phone contract; that contract is in their parents’ names – that means that parents are responsible for all texting, etc., that their children do. Invade away! No one under 18 is allowed to purchase internet connections; that connection is in their parents’ names – that means that parents are responsible to know and monitor what is going on through that connection.  Invade away!

As in most issues that we face, the problem is not the technology itself but rather the ways that we have trained ourselves and the younger generation to use it.  Last week, I was reminded again that technology is a valuable tool.  And my Twitter connections are mighty useful!  Thanks, Fargo Forum,  for helping out with my daughter’s homework.

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