The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 30 – Attend a State Fair, County Fair or Renaissance Festival

Woo Hoo! It’s State Fair time. I see the MN State Fair as the great equalizer. Suddenly everyone from that kid who flips burgers at McDonalds to your doctor goes to the fair. It’s when we all hop on public transportation (seriously, if you still drive and try to park, you’re crazier than I am), all eat copious amounts of ridiculous food on a stick, enjoy sculptures made of butter like they were sculpted by Michelangelo, and prize farmers and horticulturists above all other occupations. It IS "the great Minnesota get together".

Overcrowded Fun Day
I enjoyed watching people more than anything else at the fair today. I felt like I was sharing my funday activity with 100,000 Minnesotans (I think that’s the average daily attendance at the fair). To my friends who work at the fair: I saw none of you today, where were you?! 100,000 people and I didn’t see a single person I knew. Actually, it didn’t seem too crowded; possibly because it was Steely Dan night at the Grandstand. The first time I took Chris to the fair I thought he was going to run screaming, but he enjoyed it a good deal and has since submitted pieces of his own art for exhibition in the Fine Arts building. We don’t go every year – only about once every 5 years because I think you can definitely have too much of a good time when it comes to the fair. But the fair still screams MN to me. I bet this opinion exists at other state fairs too.

In fact, here’s Hank Green (Yes, another vlogbrothers video) describing this year’s Western Montana Fair:

See, the great equalizer!

The Path to Fun
For me there is only one way to get through the fair. It is a particular path that includes the French Fry Stand, the Kare11 Barn, the Lumberjacks, the Fine Arts Building, Sweet Martha’s Cookies, the Grandstand, Fried Green Peppers, and the Skyride. Once this is over – anything else is up for grabs. Oh, and the Giant Slide – Yes, the Giant Slide! Do you really need to do anything but go down the slide? Come on, a burlap sack is a magic carpet slide rider! Oh, you crazy place of fun and overindulgence. If you don’t go home with too much sun, too much food and not enough liquids then you obviously haven’t done the fair justice.

Random Thought That’s Only Kind of Fair Related

I use YouTube every day to illustrate my point and for highlighting songs. I’ve embedded more than enough vlogbrother videos in these blog posts. In fact, how many of you Hank & John followers didn’t know they vlogged before I told you? If I can promote people I don’t know on this forum, why to I feel awkward promoting people I do know? That’s stupid.

In other words: I left you with a vlogbrother vlog up there to illustrate the state fair point – when I know there’s another video that does it better. And also – inserting promotional plug here – you should follow chriscopeful on YouTube. Chris & Jenn usually do daily vlog posts from Wales, but Chris recently visited friends and family in MN and – of course – went to the fair:

See. MN State Fair funtimes!

Picture: Your favorite fair ride or exhibit. The most crazily dressed, over the top Renaissance person you can find. There is so much fodder for pictures at any fair – it’s like “Peoples of Wal-Mart” but somehow worse.

Song: Since the MN State Fair marks the end of those endless summer nights each year, I’m going with Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights”. Ah, 1988 – the middle of the mullet craze. Ah, MN State Fair 2011 – the middle of the mullet craze. Also, here is Gaelic Storm’s “The Night I Punched Russell Crowe” because the MN State Fair is the first place I heard Gaelic Storm and this song reminds me of the entire over indulging fair experience. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy!

Tomorrow: Write a Short Story, Song or Poem on Something You See Outside Right Now

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 29 – Go Someplace in Your Town/City You’ve Never Been Before

This was a funday activity originally suggested by my friend Matt. I instantly thought it was a good idea, but since I’ve lived in the same town for most of my life I also thought it might not work for me.

I’ve been everywhere in Bloomington, MN, haven’t I?

We moved to Bloomington at the end of my first grade year of elementary school; I’m guessing May of 1982. I’ve lived in five different locations in Bloomington since then – but always the same city. To be fair, this town isn’t small. It fights with Duluth on a regular basis for bragging rights at the third largest city in MN (after Minneapolis and St. Paul – the Twin Cities) and usually wins (says the girl from Bloomington). It also has a large land area and encompasses MN landmarks like The Mall of America and the Minneapolis / St Paul International Airport (MSP) as well as the only IKEA in the state – all locations I’ve been to more times than I can count.

Maybe I haven’t been to EVERY place; there are a lot of places to go here. I made a list and came up with a number of local businesses I haven’t been too because they are new and quickly planned to go to one of these. I think this might be cheating. It’s not really surprising that I haven’t been to Poor Richard’s Commonhouse or Cowboy Jack’s because they’ve both only been open a year or less. And then I realized I have been to both – at least in the buildings, they were just known as Major’s (Ah, crappy hour: Lots of memories there.) and Steak & Ale then.

I thought about some older locations and pondered the living in the same place for nearly thirty years dilemma one more time. I think I need to move. But then Stacy and Amy and their families are both back in Bloomington now and I can walk to the part-time job-hobby and I like it – Chris and I are quite happy here. Maybe I’ll stay for a little longer then...

In the end I did cheat, but only a little. I went to two places in Bloomington. One I’ve never been to before and the other I’ve been too, but not for at least 25 years.

Where did we go today?

Scoops Ice Cream & More
This place is almost as much a Bloomington icon as the Mall of America and it’s only been open since 1994 – the year I graduated from high school. Granted the Mall of America has only been open since 1992, but who’s counting. What in the world did we do in Bloomington before MOA and Scoops? Wow, I would hate to think that these two institutions put us on the map…that probably didn’t happen until IKEA in 2004. Regardless, ice cream was the chosen venue today.

Scoops is small but homey: A sort of ma & pop location with a candy store type display on one wall and two counters of ice cream from local creameries to choose from. They have a wall (Well, I counted three walls.) of signed photos from celebrities – local and international stars of sports, acting, music and politics all made out to ‘Scoops’ with lots of love and ice cream. I’m guessing about 10 people standing fit into the store front, but there are four tables nonetheless: two more table out in the hallway and two more Adirondack-type chairs outside and across the boulevard with ‘Scoops’ written on them. Chris and I both had waffle cones – I had “Pirates Booty” and Chris had “Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake” – and yes, the ice cream was scrumptious. IT’S ICE CREAM!

What astounded me was how similar the entire experience was to the going-for-ice-cream-funday in Duluth. That Malt Shop – the one in Duluth, a good two hour drive from Scoops – which is possibly 2 miles from my house, give or take a bit. I’ve been to that Malt Shop in Duluth at least 12 times in my life. Why do we constantly look outside of our own home-sphere to find these experiences? Maybe we don’t, maybe it’s just me. I just said I’ve lived in the same place for almost 30 years – but if you add up all of the time I spend traveling, including studying and living in London, you could easily shave two years off of that total – maybe more. Maybe all of you have been everywhere in your towns; in which case this is a ridiculous blog post and you should stop reading it. This IS a ridiculous blog post because I’m wondering these big, huge things after going to get ice cream at a place down the street I’ve never been to before – but there it is.

Also, I really don’t think I’m alone in this. We all get trapped in our paths and routines. I’m all about breaking the routine frequently. You see and experience so much more when you look up every once in a while. I’m nearing the end of this month of fundays which has been a self discovery journey as much as a writing/blogging journey and a having fun journey. In the end I had to come away with something, didn’t I? Otherwise why are you all reading this?

Normandale College’s Japanese Garden
With ice cream in hand Chris and I drove over to Normandale Community College and walked around the Japanese Garden. Yes, of course I’ve been to the Japanese Garden. It’s like 6 blocks from my house. I mean that would be crazy not to go in a place I drive, walk, bike or bus past at least twice everyday. Actually, I haven’t been since like 1984 and Chris – who went to college at Normandale when he moved to this country because he was still too young to go anywhere else – hasn’t been since he graduated in 1995 (The year we started living together). Oh, those Japanese Gardens.

The garden was dedicated in 1976 – so no newness there. My opinion of the garden: Lovely, but much smaller than it seemed when I was six-years-old. There’s huge koi and Japanese maple and mugo pine – some of my favorite things. Seriously, what is wrong with me? Do I have blinders on! A garden and an ice cream shop – neither is a stretch for my lifestyle or anything. I spend many a day writing in, walking around or listening to an outdoor concert in gardens. I could – and would – eat ice cream everyday if it had the same calorie intake as tea. I mean yummy things and sunshiny nature places are all I’ve been blogging about this entire month; and yet here are two places literally in my backyard, both going unnoticed by me.

It does sound like my day was more aggravating than fun, but I promise it was a good day with new experiences in it. Try it. No, really. I would like other people to have as much as fun as I did today while also being annoyed with themselves and their own short sidedness. Please…

Picture: Where did you go today? A picture of yourself at the place you’ve never been before.

Song: R.E.M’s “Stand” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s (because, really when is there not an MCC song for one of my blog posts) “I am a Town”.

Tomorrow: Attend a State Fair, County Fair or Renaissance Festival

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 28 – Wander around a Museum

I realize some people think they are boring, but I’ve always loved a good museum. Art, history, science, tin, Barbie, MoMA…whatever – museums are high up on my list of fun things. Sometimes randomness is fun and it’s amazing what people collect.

Whilst traveling, Chris and I have made a habit of going to museums. I’m not exactly sure when this started – maybe we always have; he is an artist after all. I think my favorite trip was Chicago a couple years ago when we ended up at 5 different museums and spent a good two hours in The Thorne Miniature Room exhibit. Who knew how fun tiny things could be?

Today we went to the Science Museum of Minnesota to see the King Tut exhibit before it ends. The Science Museum was a favorite school field trip when I was little. There’s lots of hands-on for children and I’ve always enjoyed their collection of old-school medical/quackery devices. I think the Science Museum is where I discovered how gullible people can be. And they have musical stairs – musical stairs are cool!

I honestly don’t know if I liked the Tut exhibit or not. I’m guessing most of the antiquities are replicas because they weren’t in cases and I didn’t see a lot of temperature and humidity gauges; but nothing said it was a replica in print anywhere in the plague copy. Well, except for Tutankhamen – he was a replica. On the other hand, the cartouches were cool and the size and amount of stuff was impressive. Not over-stimulating, I’ll-never-be-able-to-see-it-all like the Egyptian collection at The British Museum, which I think was the last museum I was at this summer. Today was still enjoyable and fun.

My favorite part of museum wandering is the scope of imagination just sitting there in a palpable state waiting to be discovered. I started bringing a notebook to write down story ideas because I’m always inspired by something on exhibit. Today’s story idea came from a video about finding King Tut’s sarcophagus. Apparently a local, unnamed water boy helping out at the dig was the first person to come across the steps leading down and into the burial site. I think a mid-grade or picture book version from the boy’s perspective would be good. Naming the Water Boy: See how I already have a title and everything – by ‘everything’ I mean all but the actual writing, plot or characterization.

Museums: Educational, inspirational but mostly FUN.

Picture: The exhibit you are looking at or museum you decided to go to. What’s your favorite item on display?

Song: Barnaked Ladies’ “If I had a Million Dollars” if only for the art comments and a real green dress is cruel. Also Indigo Girls’ “Galileo”, a man who seems very museum-y to me...OK, this song also reminds me of all the artists, musicians and scientists who try to enlighten out human existence through their genius. And those things all end up in museums.

Tomorrow: Go Someplace in Your Town/City You’ve Never Been Before

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 27 – Garden Party or Barbeque

I had visions of making this the last blog post for my fundays and filling it with pictures of a great big garden party in my backyard with lots of homemade Mexican food a la Rick Bayless; including a river of Sangria and a mountain of fresh salsa. All of my friends would be gathered around and we’d talk for hours – but honestly, that was my wedding and this is normal, every day life. Oh, and we had Italian at the wedding.

Then I wrote this post and realized it was the same as the dinner party and the hanging out with friends and also, possibly I have a social eating problem – my really fun, relaxing times tend to deal with food. Because when I’m at home by myself I have things like tea with toast and grapes with cheese as a meal. I deleted that post and will try again.

No fancy garden party – tonight we did a Matt & Mara dinner night – but with BBQ! Actually, that’s not unheard of because Matt makes the best hamburgers on the grill and we ask for them repeatedly. There was quite a crew tonight – Matt & Mara with their baby Xander, and also Chris & I and my mom, and then both Shane and Amy made it as well. Full house of fun times – especially when you toss in the two Labradors – Kayleigh and Riley.

There IS something about eating outside – it makes the food taste better or something. Plus the bunnies and squirrels become much more interested in you when there’s food around. But really, in the end my fun day activity revolves around boring you with how lucky I am some days. I complain about money, and the part-time job-hobby, and the lack of being published and the economy and politics and my country and the world and SO MANY things. I complain a lot, trust me. And then for 31 days I decide to do something fun – not expensive or really that out of the ordinary for me – and discover that I am one lucky girl when I DO stop and think about it. What exactly am I complaining about? Today I got to spend the evening chatting, eating, looking at baby pictures, petting cuddly dogs and playing with a baby and all while spending time with some of my favorite people in the entire world - people whom genuinely care about me. Before I wrote it down I never realized how many of those people I’ve included in my day to day life. SO LUCKY!

The BBQ was fun – a garden party would be cool too – but mostly, tonight, I’m just happy to be me and spend time with those people embracing everything fun I’ve done this month. I’m even lucky to be old, yo – because it takes a while to collect those people into your life and even longer to enjoy having them there.

Picture: What are you serving at the garden party/BBQ? How are you decorating? What music are you playing – yes, that’s not a picture; it’s a question though…feel free to answer.

Song: I’m obvious again: Going with Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party”; and also leaving you with Nelson’s version – which is more like a memorial for their dad, but still quite good. I think I might have underrated Nelson.

Tomorrow: Wander around a Museum

PS – I know the month is over, but I’m still a few days behind so you’ll get blog posts musing for the next few days to finish up. I did the things, I might as well write about them!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 26 – Boating, Tubing, Paddle Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, or a Water Sport

Yes, Minnesota is a land-locked state somewhere near the middle and top of the country; and yet, we are “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, as I’ve mentioned before. So for a place without any seashore, we certainly have a lot of shoreline. All sorts of activities in and around the lakes during the summer are a must for fun – in fact, there are too many to count. There must be something fun for everyone to do today.

That being said: I spent 6 years on my high school synchronized swim team and 1 year student coaching the thing – I know how to swim; and I grew up fishing with my grandpa off of his pontoon attached to the house’s dock; yet I still think canoes and kayaks are too tippy and I’m not a water skier at all. I’m way too klutzy. This leaves me with paddle boating or tubing down the Apple River. I can’t think of a better summertime experience then lazing down a river with a book, some lemonade and nothing but time. The Apple River is a little too crowded and … lover’s lane for my taste, though. Yes, I am old.

Leaving me with the funday activity of paddle boating. No fast speedboats here with the wind in my hair and the music from the boat next to me thrumming through my veins. Nope, lackadaisical is my modus operandi this month and the paddle boat wins hands down.

Picture something like this:

Sorry, once the Disney is uncorked, there’s no telling what may appear on the blog.

Yay, fun with the paddle boats! Again, I couldn’t stop smiling…and laughing. I discovered I’m not very good at steering a paddle boat – but it’s not like I’m going to hit someone, right? Well, possibly the birds around the fountain thing in the middle of Centennial Lakes. And I was worried about the old men with their radio controlled sail boats – they looked expensive and I didn’t want to break one (an old man or a boat). But once you get over the fear of paddle boat hit and run, the happy times are bountiful. Embrace your inner geekiness – I’m sure I looked utterly ridiculous out there. It was AWESOME!

We topped off the paddle boat excursion with a Jamba Juice and a round of mini-golf so not a bad day at all, at all.

If you live near water and you haven’t been out on it this summer, then go, play. Have fun. What are you waiting for?

Picture: So many choices. Make sure your picture includes water.

Song: This was hard today. I ended up with Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” and The Beach Boys’ “Catch a Wave”.

Tomorrow: Garden Party or Barbeque

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 25 – Fly a Kite

The last day at the corporate office job TM in 2009 was peculiar. I was the last one in my department to leave that day as I was trying to get everything sorted out and ready to move on for the takeover company (Yes, I blame my mother for instilling me with this work ethic). Maybe my day was peculiar because I didn’t take the lay-off like most people do. I was kind of relieved to be done with the stress and office hours and take-home work.

By the time I reached my house that night I was a mixed bag of emotions. I had a goodbye happy hour the next night for separation and closure, but that first night I felt a little un-tethered. And yes, no matter how many people are sad to see you go; no matter how many emails, cards and phone messages you get wishing you luck in the future; no matter how much you know it is not your own work performance – it is hard not to feel at least a little rejected. So I was the last one to leave the office that day and my husband had to work that night; I knew I’d have four or five hours to think about my rejection once I got home.

I should really know Chris better than that by now – two years later and I finally do. There were balloons waiting for me when I got home and a card. This is something I would maybe think about doing – not totally surprising or out of the ordinary. The extraordinary: Beside the balloons and card was a basket of stuff.

The stuff in the basket:
- A movie, a puzzle book and a paperback to be lazy with.
- A bag of m&ms and a four pack of Woodpecker cider in case I wanted to indulge in food and drink.
- Some scratch off lottery tickets and a Power Ball for my windfall (I won $5)
- A blank journal, a pen and a jump drive to pursue my writing.
- Finally, there was a cheap, tiny kite with a picture of Snow White on it and a 20 ft tail made of red cellophane.

I know, right?! He’s mine; you can’t have him.

I remember instantly taking a shower and changing into yoga pants and a tank top and going out on our deck to test out the kite. It was kind of like the official end: Washing off the corporate job, taking off the uniform and becoming me – not some girl who writes copy in an office. You can define me as a writer, but I never really wanted to be a writer of copy. I’m sure the kite flying was somehow symbolic of my soul taking flight or something obnoxious but meaningful like that. I just thought it was great fun! I can’t remember the last time I went kite flying. It was brilliant.

It’s hard, getting that kite up in the air. Inevitably I will run it into the only tree for miles or get the tail all twisted up in itself. This diminutive kite was a little simpler to get up in the air – although I’m surprised it didn’t rip apart on the first go. It was a lot too windy out that May day to fly such a tiny thing, but it put a smile on my face quicker than anything else would have. And that’s the thing – as hard as it is to get into the air, once it is up there soaring through the clouds – for a short span of time, the weight of the world is lifted right off your shoulders.

That little kite from Chris’ basket has made a few trips into the air since then, and not just by me. I mail, give or pass that kite out to people when they loose their jobs and if it comes back to me, I send it out again. Only I would create a loosing-your-job tradition, but putting a smile on a friend’s face is totally worth it!

Say it with me now: Let’s go fly a kite.

Picture: The kite you are flying or where you are flying said kite.

Yes, I am that obvious. Come on, how could I not. “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins. Sorry, you just can’t take the Disney out of this girl.

Tomorrow: Boating, Tubing, Paddle Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, or a Water Sport.

A Month of Fundays: Day 24 – Re-watch a Favorite Movie from Your Childhood

Re-watching a childhood movie is fun if you are a writer of YA and mid-grade stuff and your husband is a computer animator who produces TV commercials. It’s probably fun for everyone else too, so you should try it. Movies have always been the great equalizer for Chris and me. Plot is important in both of our day jobs and therefore, movies fill the gap between painting a picture with words and painting a picture with a computer program…or paint…or lighting, scene and set design. He wins again, doesn’t he? I have words!

I had a tough decision today: Annie or The Goonies. The look Chris shot me when I showed him the case for Annie made me put it back in the movie cupboard and pop The Goonies into the blue-ray. But not before I sang my rendition of “It’s a Hard-Knock Life”. It’s been stuck in my head for three hours now, but since I just watched that other movie; the song in my head has become a mash-up of “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Good Enough”. It’s awesome (insert a bucket full of sarcasm here).

Let the fun begin. Who doesn’t like The Goonies? I mean, The Truffle-Shuffle transcends all race, creed and religion.

Questions to Ponder While Watching Your Movie:
Does the movie hold up?
Do you like it as an adult?
What the hell were they wearing?
Who decided that was a good hair style?
Oh wow, is that _________________ (Joey “Pants” Pantoliano/Bill Paxton/Bill Pullman/JT Walsh. One of these four men is in every movie ever made. I checked.)?
What makes the movie hold up?
What do you like/dislike about the dialogue? OK, maybe that is just a me question; I hate writing dialogue so I tend to pick apart dialogue I really like. This may be why I can quote my favorite movies verbatim.

I feel like I just assigned you homework. Don’t answer or think about any of those questions. Just sit down and watch/share a favorite childhood movie today.

I DID answer the questions and many more while watching The Goonies today. Sure, some of it was nostalgic. Like, I’m pretty sure I decided to take Spanish in school because Mouth could speak it and Mouth was cool. Yes, Sean Astin was my first celebrity crush – followed quickly (and still currently) by John Cusack. But also, I noticed more YA language and themes then I did as a kid – go figure. The Goonies is one of those family movies adults won’t be bored with. More importantly, it doesn’t talk down to kids – SO MANY movies and books do that now. It’s like we think the younger generations coming up will be stupider than their predecessors; self-fulfilling prophecy I don’t plan to partake in as a writer, or person. Kids are smart if you let them be dammit.

Moving away from the rant – I really liked today. It wasn’t as nostalgic as I thought it might be. I feel a little bit like I cheated with my funday activity because it made me think about and work on my own writing. Cross-checking with the movie when it came to the group self-discovery concept and young/teenage boy dialogue (which is quite possibly the worst, most stunted dialogue I’ve ever had the pleasure to write. Thank you goon squad for showing me my boy characters don’t have to be obsessed with sports or cookie-cutter like in their emotions to have witty dialogue.

Much like bow-ties, pirates and treasure maps are always going to be cool! The Goonies remains one of my childhood favorites on the re-watch, and also a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon with the British man.

Picture: Um, how about you just tell me what your favorite childhood movie is.

Song: They're both still in my head..."It's a Hard-Knock Life" from Annie and "Goonies 'R' Good Enough" from The Goonies. Although, Annie also has "Let's Go to the Movies" which is fairly spot on for this blog post.

Tomorrow: Fly a Kite

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 23 – Go for a Bike Ride

I promise: going for a bike ride is nothing like going for a walk. Well, maybe a little. I think you have to be more aware while riding a bicycle. Yes, you have to be aware while walking, but even more so on a bike. I don’t listen to music when I go for the bike ride – a bike helmet is a must though. And honestly, no matter how much walking you do riding a bike uses completely different muscles and takes some getting used to.

Biking for Transportation
I could bike to and from the part-time job-hobby and probably be there in 5 minutes, but I like the unwinding quality of a walk. I do bike around my city – Bloomington – on occasion for short shopping excursions or reaching appointments like the dentist. In general, I’m glad to see biking as a mode of transportation resurging in popularity. It used to be for kids and college students only. Minneapolis (and soon St. Paul!) has started the rent-a-bike “Nice Ride” service from April to November every year. I love this! You subscribe for $5 a day (24 hr time if you are visiting the city) or month ($30) or year ($60) and then you take a bike from one of the many (95) locations around town and drop it off at any of the many locations when you are done. Bikes are available 24/7 during the provided months and off you go.

Biking for Fun
I’m fairly certain I didn’t think about bicycles at all for at least a decade between college and 2008. Then, on our honeymoon in the Bahamas, Chris and I rented bikes on Castaway Cay. AWESOME! When I first got back on the bicycle I thought the idiom had it wrong and I HAD forgotten how to ride one. Once I figured it out though the bike ride was one of the highlights of our cruise. The next Christmas we decided to buy bicycles for each other as presents and forgo all other presents. The gift of bike rides together in the spring and summer was present enough. Wow, that is quite possibly the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written. Bleh. I’m really not that sentimental. But yeah, the bike rides are fun. You should try it again if you haven’t in a while. Like today possibly…

This year we added to our bike-riding paraphernalia by attaching a bike rack to the car. Now we can travel with our bicycles and go bike riding anywhere the car can get too. I’m still getting used to this feature. Mostly, we still just ride our bikes from the house over to the Hyland Lake Park Preserve; ride around on their bike paths; and then loop our way back home. There is something very pleasing about having nature within striking distance of your own home, easily accessible everyday there’s sunshine and a little bit of time to ride. I think our circuit ends up being about 6 miles – a decent outing for the day. Hyland lets you rent tandem bikes too – maybe in another 35 years I’ll be ready for that. Apparently I can learn to play bocce ball and rent a bocce ball set there as well. Who knew?

Picture: A scene from your bike ride. Or, a strange place you can rent a bike from. Also, if anyone under the age of 65 DOES go tandem bike riding – no the pedal pub doesn’t count (Dana, I’m talking to you. And I say that because I’m pretty sure you are in one of the pictures on the website) – nothing with alcohol involved counts! Although, a pedal pub crawl totally works as a “go for a bike ride” funday activity; that sounds both awesome and amazing.

Song: I’ve got two today…are you surprised? Neither is from this decade; still not surprised? Neither is “Ticket to Ride”. Surprised yet? I didn’t think so. I’m going with Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” and B-52s’ “Roam”. Oh, those crazy 80s music videos – that’s a fun day all on its own.

Tomorrow: Re-watch a Favorite Movie from Your Childhood

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 22 – Go Play in a Playground

If you want to do something that will make you grin until your face hurts and laugh uncontrollably, then go play in a playground today. Swing on a swing set, climb a jungle gym, teeter on a teeter-totter, or dangle on the monkey-bars – any of these things will make your day. I still can’t stop smiling.

Again, this is one of those nostalgic funday things. I’ve decided I must be taking the month to get into that childlike innocence mindset for my own book writing. There’s one school playground on my walk home from the part-time job-hobby and then another two playgrounds within a 5 minute walk from my house. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to notice just how prolific the playground is in my neighborhood. Is it that way in every neighborhood? How many of you live by run-down playgrounds – which are very sad things but also eerily evocative for some reason.

What else have I noticed?

Well, since it is the summer, I’ve noticed mostly teenagers and adults using the playground equipment. Yes, some of them brought their children or are chaperoning, but I think this is just an excuse to have a swing or a teeter. I did feel a little self conscious without a child and seriously thought about seeing if my niece wanted to come over so we could go play in the playground together. Maybe that sharing the playground experience is part of the nostalgia. When I walk home with school in session, the playground is full of kids at recess and teachers with megaphones watching over them – even then, the teachers seem a little wistful.

Surprisingly, the playground is a good date night with your husband/significant other. We had a blast. And again with the never-ending laughter and goofy grins, we couldn’t stop. However, be careful of the merry-go-round thing. Chris is notorious for fast-spinning until I get nauseous. DO NOT go on the Mad-Hatter Tea Cups at Disney World with anyone in his family. You are asking for trouble and at least two hours of dizziness afterwards.

Picture: Your favorite playground apparatus. Your smile after a little bit of play time. My face still hurts.

Song: I’m going to have to go with a guilty pleasure song; one that makes me smile goofy just like swinging on a swing: Len’s “Steal my Sunshine”. Also, for some reason Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” is stuck in my head - the some reason is the “swing, swing, swing the spinning step” lyric. Oh, and also the “swing me upon its hanging tire” lyric. See, it totally makes sense.

Tomorrow: Go for a Bike Ride

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 21 – Find Shapes in the Clouds

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Clouds are cool.

And that’s my blog post for today. Bye.

OK, fine. I guess it can be longer. I planned on doing the cloud thing with Chris, but he’s all work, work, paint, paint, pull up carpet, pull up carpet today. So after helping for a little while and then just being in the way, I walked outside myself and looked up into the heavens.

I’d like to tell you I had some great spiritual revelation – or at least that I hashed some stuff out; but really, I just stared at some clouds. Yes, I promise I was wearing sunglasses and did not look directly into the sun. The sky is really blue and if you stare at the white puffy things long enough, you can see almost anything.

One cosmic Rorschach test coming your way:
I saw a butterfly, a witch on a broomstick, a bunny, glasses, cotton candy, and a VW beetle looking car. I also saw lots of Simpson’s clouds that looked more animated than actual, real life objects. But mostly I saw clouds. Yep, just clouds. Still, it’s a beautiful day; I can’t complain about sunshine, green grass, blue skies or white, puffy clouds at all.

Is there a cloud deciphering book yet? You know like those unraveling-your-dreams books? I’d write one but I’ve had absolutely no psychology training of any kind – or any mental health classes I can recall…nope. Wait, I did take a domestic abuse class during undergrad work when I was still pre-law. Yeah, that’s probably not going to help me unlock the secrets of the clouds now though. No demystifying-cloud books for me then. I guess I really don’t know clouds at all.

Was cloud watching fun?
Yes. More than fun, it was relaxing and a little detoxifying – which was honestly surprising. I enjoyed the alone time, but then I fell asleep outside. This is only dangerous because I’m pale and easily sunburn-able. At least it wasn’t like high school and the marching band trip where I fell asleep in the sun wearing a swimsuit while laying on top of a metal box. Then I had to wear a 7 lb wool uniform over the second-degree burns. I really am special, good times. I’ve actually blocked that pain and blistering out of my head enough to fall asleep outside again. Great! On the plus side, I didn’t burn at all this time because I was fully clothed and in the shade for the most part. The cicadas woke me up – they are loud and sound like electrical live wire this year.

Go, sunshine and puffy clouds! Boo, red and puffy skin. Don’t have THAT much fun today.

Picture: Your cloud and what you think it looks like. Ask others what they see; I bet it will be different.

Song: I was going to play Enya’s “Caribbean Blue”, but then Sherri suggested Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”. A song I own (unless you meant the Judy Collins rendition – or the Hayley Westenra cover – I don’t have those) and of course, duh. That is the song to play. I will also add Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”, because Enya and Joni Mitchell together in one post seems a little heavy.

Tomorrow: Go Play in a Playground. Yes, [insert fist pump] an excuse to swing on a swing-set, yippee!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 20 – Play a Round of Miniature Golf or Some Other Lawn Sport

I’m not very motivated today. Currently, I’m watching a crow chase a squirrel around the water tower. No, that’s not code or a euphemism – it’s an actual crow chasing an actual squirrel in actual circles around and around the water tower in my back garden. Are there any good birds? Crows are the bullies of the avian world – or more – since one is currently chasing a squirrel – which the last time I checked, is not a bird. The squirrel seems a little bit stupid too; I don’t know if a tree is really where you want to go when being chased by something with wings who nests in that same tree. Yes, that is what’s currently keeping me from writing today’s blog post.

Onto the topic at hand: I don’t want to take away from your croquet, lawn bowling, cricket, badminton and bocce ball experiences – so post in the comments about any of those lawn games if you prefer. I’m sticking with mini-golf. Although, I have no idea how to play bocce ball so it could be the best sport ever and I’m missing out. This also means I must understand croquet, badminton, lawn bowling and cricket on some level. It’s true – all of those things do make sense to me…scary thought.

Again though, I’m wondering what makes mini-golf fun?
I feel like I’m doing a lot of nostalgic things this month and wondering why those are fun – or why I feel the need to do them right now. Before I get too esoteric, let’s just stick with the art of golf. A sport I find boring to watch, difficult to play, but for some reason can’t help liking. Mini-golf is absolutely more my speed when it comes to participating. And no, I don’t think the two have a lot in common – well, except for the course we like to play at Centennial Lakes which is really just 18 holes of putting greens.

Think about it: Have you ever had a bad time playing mini-golf?

I haven’t. It’s like Christmas, the game changes as you grow up; it starts to mean different things. Did I say I wasn’t going to be obscure? Yes, I guess I could say the same thing about cupcakes and red wagons and bicycles even; but you know what I mean. I hope. Do you?

Mini-golf is kind of iconic: The windmill, the clown face, the chemically enhanced blue water. When you’re little, the putt-putt is magical, family fun; like going to Disney World without the airplane flight. Then you go to Disney World and realize that’s not at all true; but, to a 5-year-old imagination, they are similar (Side note: One of my favorite mini-golf courses is Fantasia Gardens at Disney World – that has to pertain somehow, right?).

Then mini-golf is that thing you do in junior high on your “first date” with a boy you like and a group of your friends. The date your parents let you go on because there’s a gaggle of you and a parent around at all times. The date you think you’re on with one boy and then half-way through the course, whilst trying to sink your ball into a hole on the other side of the castle (Yeah, that’s not a euphemism either; although I can see why you’re confused.) you find yourself holding hands with a different boy.

As an adult, you may take your own children to the putt-putt course to teach them hand/eye coordination and good sportsmanship. I haven’t reached this stage yet but some of my friends have. For Chris and me it’s always been something to do in the summer when we don’t want to go for a walk or bike ride. We’re competitive to a point – the point where he’s better at everything than I am so always wins; I feel successful if I get within 10 strokes of his score.

Part of that childhood magic still must exist for me; I’ve used a run-down mini-golf course as the setting for one of my books. A Middle Grade novel where the golf course holes come to life and the three children trapped in the mini-golf world have to figure out how to play through each hole before exiting – as a MG book there are some life lessons about trust and strength and choices. Huh, maybe I have reached that adult stage.

Nostalgia, life lessons or budding romance – whichever it is – enjoy.

Picture: Your favorite hole. Wow, it is hard to take this post seriously; I keep snickering. The hole in my book that was the most fun to write has to be the pirate ship. Now, if someone could tell me where there is a mini-golf course with a pirate ship, I would be grateful.

Song: I’ve got nothing today. When I think of golf type words: green, ball, hole, club, ball rolling - I end up with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. That seems not so very golfy but can you really go wrong with Adele? I will juxtapose Adele with this Whose Line is it Any Way? video of a golf song compilation…just to mess with you. Really, I think the squirrel brings this post full circle.

Tomorrow: Finding Shapes in the Clouds

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 19 – Hanging Out With Good Friends

At this point you’re thinking, Duh, Mariah. Of course it is fun to hang out with friends. You may also be thinking that a lot of the activities I’ve already talked about I did with friends or can be done with friends; and you are not wrong. I think I’m trying to get at the very heart of being human – or enjoying life. Surrounded by people who love you, or at least people who like you a good deal; you know – those people:

It’s habit alone keeps you turning from home, even though your home is right here, where the people who love you are gathered under the wise wishing tree…’Cause the people who love you are waiting and they’ll wait just as long as needs be.
--Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Jubilee”

Yes, those people. The ones who don’t judge you until you’ve delivered all of the facts and even then, they love you just the same. There, that sounds slightly less sappy then whatever it is I wrote up above.

I know the simple act of hanging out with those people is hard for some, due to distance or time or what have you, but try today. Call them up, Skpe, chat on-line, whatever; our world is becoming increasingly smaller – it’s just not that hard to stay in contact anymore. Of course, in person is somehow always more soul-fulfilling and I recommend that if at all possible.

Today was a rough day. No longer shrouded in my little cocoon of mini-break euphoria with only my husband and lots of nature; I had to go back to the part-time job-hobby this morning and then deal with DIY home improvements at the house. Why am I a packrat? What do I think will happen if I don’t have that one thing from that one time lying in a box somewhere in the bowels of my home? We DID get to toss and donate about 70% of the things living in our downstairs area. Which, yes, IS fun at the end of the project but I can’t even make myself believe cleaning, sorting, re-carpeting, painting and minor carpentry is a funday activity.

I was actually beginning to wonder where the funday activity would come in when the phone rang. It was Amy wondering if we were still on for dinner with Stacy. Then 30 minutes of back and forth phoning/laughing began and our plans were set in motion. It is amazing how indecisive best friends for 25 years can be when we try to coordinate a date, time and place to see each other. Many years ago we decided T.G.I Fridays would be our designated place of congregation. Not because it’s so great or anything – simply because it’s centrally located and we can hear ourselves talking. Oh, just to be in the presence of my two best friends for a couple of hours restored my soul and lifted my spirits. I often feel sorry for the wait-staff at Friday’s – they rarely serve us alcohol but I think they still wonder if they should cut us off or kick us out. We are loud and obnoxious whilst together. Amy, you totally need to be cut off from the diet soda – SERIOUSLY! There, try to figure out how to comment on this post now – bwa ha ha ha.

The take away today: My life would be lacking many things, my laughs and smiles would be far less, and my human connections would be stunted if I did not get to hang out with those people now and again.

However you choose to hang out, have fun today.

Picture: Your friends – then or now or both. Or a picture of one of the many inside jokes you share with those people. You know, something only they'd understand. I would, of course, never do that in a blog post. Nope, not at all.

Song: You’d think the song I already quoted earlier in the post, but no, YouTube doesn’t have that song. Instead I leave you with Violent Femmes, “Blister in the Sun” and Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl" (Sue). I don’t really expect this choice to make sense to anyone except Amy and Stacy. Here’s to us, ladies!

Tomorrow: Play a Round of Miniature Golf or Some Other Lawn Sport