Friday, September 28, 2007

Quote of the Week

A friend can tell you things you don't want to tell yourself.

- Frances Ward Weller

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I touch my butt

For anyone who knows me, this quiz is especially funny; Baby got Back is our family theme song and I Touch Myself is a karaoke crowd favorite!
Your Karaoke Theme Song is "Baby Got Back"

You're a total show off who is willing to risk looking like a fool to get a few laughs.
In fact, you'll go for the cheap laugh if you need to... because it's better than no reaction!

Your friends can count on you to get a party started, and you'll party hard until you can't remember their names.
You're charismatic, charming, and a total character. With or without a few drinks in you.

You might also sing: "I Touch Myself," "Oops I Did it Again," or "My Humps"

Stay away from people who sing: "Candle in the Wind"
What's Your Karaoke Theme Song?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Poor Decisions Glamourized

The letter to the editor below was my response to a 'real stories' editorial featured in the October 2007 issue of Glamour magazine.

Dear Editor;

After reading “Student moms, pushed off campus” I could not help but wonder if this editorial missed a prime opportunity to provide a valuable lesson to teens and young adults on the consequences of their decisions. School is not limited to the education provided inside the classroom; the most valuable lessons, especially those around complex decision making, are learned outside the walls of a classroom. Young mothers across the country and the world, including your editorialized Elizabeth Audley, learn the hard way all the difficulties associated with choosing to have a child before you are financially, emotionally and socially ready.

The feminist movement has given women greater equality through increasing our access to a wide variety family planning options, not through supporting and promoting a woman’s right to make bad choices. While it is unfair that the birth father in the editorial and in far too many other stories suffer little repercussion in their role, women must take control of their bodies knowing they are the ones whose lives are most changed by pregnancy. Ms. Audley had many opportunities to make a decision to preserve her access to the on-campus housing covered by her financial aid package; she could have abstained from sex, used protection, exercised her right to an abortion or chosen adoption. All of these options would have maintained her access to on-campus housing and preserved her full financial aid package. Life teaches us that every decision we make comes with associated pros and cons. A con of Ms. Audley’s decision to have a child before finishing school was a loss of access to on-campus housing; it is not the responsibility of a college or university to add housing or change policies in support of her decision to have a child.

Ms. Audley is lucky that the only thing she gained through her decisions was an unplanned pregnancy and lost is part of her financial aid. With the rise of sexually transmitted diseases in college aged students, including HIV, a responsible editorial would remind readers that she could have gained an STD and lost her life instead.

Explosive Bombchelle

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Perfect (Kris)Ten

Stop copying me! Any person with siblings has screamed this at one time or another. My mother insisted that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery but that provided little solace to having one sister who repeated my words and another that repeated my actions. Particularly difficult was growing up with a sister like Krissy who was 3 years younger but consistently excelled beyond her age in her accomplishments. We sang in the choir, competed in the same sports, played the violin, excelled in academics, participated in similar after school activities and shared many friends. The frustrating thing was not really the copying of what I did as much as the surpassing; everything I could do Krissy could do better.

Being the oldest child comes with certain parental and societal expectations including the dreaded burden of setting a good example for younger siblings; being well behaved, achieving academic success, and providing parents a helping hand when in need. Parents unknowingly increase the pressure on the oldest through setting the expectation that their role is to outperform their siblings, creating an instant rivalry and a source of constant competition. Other factors like growing up in a small town and being in a family of all girls, fueled our fire and created the most intense rivalry seen since that between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.
-Margaret Mead

Krissy had her own set of birth-order issues; with only three years difference she was all too often compared to her older sister. Teachers and coaches were quick to pick up on the relationship and point out my past performances to her. Krissy struggled to find her own place in the world, one that allowed her to demonstrate her strengths outside the family circle. Like many middle siblings, she eventually chose different paths then her us just to carve her own destiny, where she did excel and shine. What no one ever told her was even if she continued to drive down a path in direct competition with her sisters she would have eventually shown the world something I have known for years; Krissy is one tough cookie who could beat us at anything she put her mind to.

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers.
- Pam Brown

While Krissy thought it was tough living in my shadow, she did not know it was the shadow she cast with her brilliance, her talent, her beauty and her success that drove me to work harder just to maintain my place in the pack. Krissy’s achievements provided a constant source of pressure and my achievements would be a fraction of what they are today without such a fierce competitor. Even in our adulthood, many years removed from attending the same school and living in the same house, I live in fear of what she will accomplish next and what that will inevitably drive me to do. Will I need to get a masters degree, swim the English Channel or take up the oboe just to feel adequate in her presence? Time will only tell…

Although Krissy is smarter, prettier and more talented then me, she never got the praise, credit and attention she deserved. That has some to do with being the middle child, but it has more to do with the most important lesson I learned from our competitive relationship; the power of self-promotion. As any business student learns, it is not necessarily the best product that gets the biggest sales but often the best marketing plan. Krissy forced me to be more outgoing, to point out my achievements, to refocus the attention on me and to realize that it is not what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you that counts. I learned that there will always be people in the world who are equally if not more gifted and talented and part of success is marketing yourself.

When sisters stand shoulder to shoulder, who stands a chance against us?
- Pam Brown

For 29 years, my sister has kept me on my toes and made me a more successful person. The beauty of sisterhood is while this rivalry could have driven us apart, it instead made us stronger and closer. While we continue to compete with each other I know the moment it is us against the world, our teamwork will give the rest of the planet quite a run for their money. Krissy becomes more amazing and unstoppable with every passing year and I look forward the increased competition as she enters her 29th year. Happy Birthday!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Love. Friendship. Marriage.

Planning a wedding is an exercise in extreme project management, where the bride and groom must try and balance their requirements with that of their family, friends, officiant, caterer, florist, photographer, musicians and others to make the day run smoothly and deliver an end result that is more then just the marriage license, but also a lifetime of memories. Six years ago today, I vowed to spend the rest of my life with my husband. While every moment of that day had our personality weaved into the details, it was the ceremony that was uniquely ours. As I have written before, too many people neglect to focus on the actual reason for the wedding; the marriage. They place all their focus on the reception and forget to put thought into the ceremony. We firmly believe that the wedding ceremony, the reason for the celebration, should be memorable and meaningful to the couple. Music should be moving, readings should be touching, and vows should encompass the love and lifetime commitment the couple is taking on… while laying out a ground rule or two. While we had other events during the ceremony that made it memorable; the loud airplane flying overhead, the driver laying on his horn and screaming FU on the street, and the bird who decided that out of the 120 people in attendance at the ceremony, it was the bride he should poop on; the readings we chose and the vows we wrote will always be special and remind me of the commitment I made. The following readings were delivered by my cousins Nicole and Karen, and my husband’s cousin Julie. The words reflect the path our relationship took; Friendship, Love and Marriage.

Friendship - Anonymous
What is a friend? I will tell you. It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can be naked with them. They seem to ask of you to put on nothing, only to be what you are. They do not want you to be better or worse. When you are with them, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard, you can say what you think, so long as it is genuinely you. They understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With a friend, you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meanness, and absurdities and, in opening them up, they are lost — dissolves on the white ocean of their loyalty. A friend understands. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse them, neglect them, tolerate them. Best of all, you can keep still with them. It makes no matter. They like you. They are like fire that purges to the bone. They understand. You can weep with them, sing with them, laugh with them, pray with them. Through it all — and underneath they see, know, and love you.
Love- Anonymous
Love is a friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weakness. Love is content with the present. It hopes for the future and it doesn't brood over the past. It's the day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don't have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough, so search for it, ask God for it, and share it!
Marriage- Anonymous
Why Marriage?
Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person, with all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body...

Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me, who won't hold them against me, who loves me when I'm unlikable, who sees the small child in me, and who looks for the divine potential of me...

Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night with someone who thanks God for me, with someone I feel blessed to hold...

Because marriage means opportunity to grow in love in friendship...

Because marriage is a discipline to be added to a list of achievements...

Because marriages do not fail, people fail when they enter into marriage expecting another to make them whole...

Because, knowing this, I promise myself to take full responsibility for my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness. I create me, I take half of the responsibility for my marriage. Together we create our marriage...

Because of this understanding the possibilities are limitless.

The Vows
  • Do you promise to be the best yourselves and ask of no more than the same
  • Do you promise to respect eachother as individuals and realize that your spouses desires and needs are no less important than your own…
  • Do you promise to share your time, thoughts and attention to bring joy, strength and imagination to your relationship
  • Do you promise to grow together, to be willing to face changes and challenges in order to keep excitement in your union
You are my best friend, my partner and my soul mate. Today, I vow to you in front of our family and friendsvto love you as my only for a lifetime. I promise to love you in good times and in bad, with all I have to give and with all I feel inside, completely and forever.

Wishing everone the type of happiness that can only come from sharing an equal partnership and marrying your best friend...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Twisted Sisters

One of the most complex relationships on the planet is that between an oldest and a youngest child. The vast range of competing emotions, mutually exclusive in other relationships, defies logic and somehow exists between siblings; admiration and disgust, respect and contempt, acceptance and rejection, arrogance and humility, rage and calmness. Beyond just siblings, sisterhood truly exemplifies the ultimate love hate relationship, and the bond I share with my sister NeeNee is no exception.

If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child.

- Linda Sunshine

It all began with NeeNee’s birth and subsequent entry into our home 27 years ago.Her presence immediately shifted the dynamic of the family; clearly obvious was my disappointment in her not being a puppy or a bike. The request to return her for a more desired object was met with laughter, but little did everyone know I was not kidding. My mother’s reluctance to return her meant there was a new boss in town; the screaming, smelly thing in the crib. Through the years, the disdain associated with having a little sister instead of a puppy ebbed and flowed, which I understand is pretty typical in the relationship between sisters. You always love them, but some days you really do not like them very much, like the time NeeNee decided to give me a haircut in my sleep, or pooped in the tub while we were all taking a bath, or shrunk a favorite sweater, or froze my bras, or the time…

Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring - quite often the hard way.
- Pamela Dugdale

Growing up with siblings adds extra dimensions to our personalities and additional sources of education and growth. We learn something different from each person we come into contact, whether that be a family member, a friend, a colleague or a complete stranger, but having siblings provides constant education on human interaction. Having two sisters, I can pinpoint some of the more important lessons I learned from each one. With my middle sister Kristen, I learned the value of sharing; with NeeNee, I learned how to be giving (“Just give it to her, she’s the baby!"). With Kristen, I learned negotiation and collaboration skills; NeeNee taught me how to deal with inequality and favoritism (“You’re older, you should know better. Just give her what she wants!”)Fights with Kristen were physical and required a full on assault, tactics for sisterly combat with NeeNee relied more on intelligence operations focused on sieging possessions and guerilla warfare (“Leave your baby sister alone. Where did you hide her Tigger doll?"). NeeNee taught me the importance of looks in our society (“you don’t want to kill your sister, she’s too cute”), the need for a good sense of humor (“you’ll laugh about her doing this to you in 20 years”), and understanding the value in picking your battles (“are you really going to stay mad at her for something as stupid as this?”).

Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of long ago - the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider.... It doesn't seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we've traveled.
- Jane Mersky Leder

The most important lesson I learned from NeeNee came after I left for college. Leaving my family to start school 6 hours from home was very difficult. I considered dropping out and going to school locally, not just because I was homesick, but because I was going to miss out on the lives of my sisters; first dates, zits, homecoming, dances, games, concerts, recitals, report cards and birthdays. I was afraid they would hate me for leaving, upset that they might forget me, and wrought with guilt that my desire to go away to school and away from my family was selfish. While I am still upset at the years I missed, and continue to miss living far away, NeeNee taught me the value of a letter to let a person know you are thinking about them, the need to keep the people you love up to date with the details of your life so they feel included, and the importance of photographs so you feel like you are right there sharing life with them. The most important lesson by far is no matter where you live, how often you see each other or what life throws at you, your sister is always there.

NeeNee, thank you for being my little sister and for the valuable lessons you taught me that helped make me who I am today. I eventually got the bike and the puppy I asked for, but 27 years later I can say I'm glad I got you too! Wishing you all the best as you celebrate your 27th birthday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If I were a crayon I would be...

You Are a Red Crayon

Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.

Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.

Monday, September 17, 2007


My fitness routine this summer revolved around my goal to skate the Northshore Inline marathon in under 2 hours, something I was unable to accomplish in my previous 3 races. This goal was set for two major reasons; to lose 10 pounds through focusing on body strength and endurance and to ensure I was not beat by my friend’s 65 year old father. The bad news; none of my goals were accomplished. The good news; I am completely satisfied with the race, the results of my performance and the lessons I learned through the experience.

Basic Biology: In order to lose weight, it is essential to remember the following; your calories burned must be more then your calories used. While it is important to eat enough calories to lose weight at a healthy rate, carbing up like it is race day everyday is counterproductive in achieving any weight loss goal. Using my training schedule as an excuse to eat anything I wanted, I had actually put on 5 pounds by the end of the summer (and muscle weight was really not an excuse). After realizing I was sabotaging myself, I refocused and lost 10 pounds (for a net loss of 5) before race day.

The Joy of Joints: Joints take on a whole new meaning when training in your thirties. Joints are not things that people smoke, or places they hang out, but the areas of the body that suddenly hurt with each and every workout. Advil is no longer used to treat a headache after a late night, but as a survival tool necessary to walk up a flight of stairs or sit for an hour without excruciating pain. The biggest discovery of the summer was how my fluctuating weight effected how my body ached. Being overweight in your teens and twenties is unhealthy, but you never really understand what carrying the extra tonnage is doing to your body. By thirty it becomes increasingly apparent what a few extra pounds does; joints literally protest the extra weight they carry around. Knees are the first thing to go on an athlete, and mine have been going for years, but this summer it was my hip joints that were causing training setbacks. Taking just 5 pounds off my joints helped me through the race.

Be yourself: Not everyone is built to compete in the Iron Man triathlon, run the Boston Marathon, bike in the Tour de France, swim the English Channel, climb the Himalayas or hike the Appalachian Trail, yet we are each guilty of taking on activities that are completely wrong for both our physique and lifestyles. For years I did the fitness equivalent of fitting a square peg in a round hole; running miles and miles and miles, destroying my body both physically and emotionally. Severe pain and the lack of passion for running led to many skipped workouts. Long-term health and wellbeing requires finding a sport or exercise that is both enjoyable and doable. There is no sense in being in tip top shape in your twenties and thirties if you can no longer move in your fifties.

Goals are meant to be modified: A few days before the race I declared that I was ready both physically and emotionally to break the two hour mark… as long as there was not a severe headwind. Up until the day of the race, I thought nothing could be worse then last year’s rainy inline marathon. Mother Nature has a sense of humor, and racers quickly learned what was worse then rain; an unseasonably cold and blustery day. The official temperature at the start of the marathon was 28 degrees with a 10 MPH headwind. The temperature did rise enough to curtail the number of hypothermia cases, but the whitecaps on Lake Superior provided a visual display of what every skater felt happening; the headwind picked up to over 20 MPH. Around the ten mile mark I was no longer able to “race my race,” forced to reassess my 2 hour goal and establish a new goal; just get to the finish line. Angels on wheels were all around; leading drag lines of 30 or more people, helping everyone fight the brutal wind. It was impossible to catch a break, even downhill; everyone who tried to coast immediately learned that the wind would actually push them backwards. People were cramping from the cold temperatures and a few were throwing up on the side of the road from extreme fatigue. By the time I made it to my cheering section at the 23 mile mark, Lemondrop Hill, I was physically spent and had nothing left in the gas tank, almost unable to make it up the famed slope. Somehow I made it up the hill, the site of the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge bringing a tear to my eyes. 3.2 miles later I was crossing the finish line, never so happy to hear my name grossly mispronounced by the announcers.

"There is a beer at the end of this wind tunnel."
- Explosive Bombchelle at mile marker 16

Celebrate your strengths: I am not the best skater with the prettiest stride or the best times, but after completing the 2007 NSIM I can feel perfectly comfortable saying I am a skater. My early days of skating were on city streets and hockey rinks and the strengths I developed then came in handy during the race; bobbing my way through crowds who were unable to handle the conditions, mentally fighting the urge to drop out through my competitive spirit, and overcoming extreme pain and fatigue to finish the race like my previous three; strong and fast over the finish line. Until this year’s race, I always discounted skating, being quick to correct people who thought I ran marathons, declaring I was not “that athletic.” Surviving the rain of the 2006 NSIM and the brutal wind and cold of the 2007 NSIM finally made me realize that I might not run marathons, but I should not be ashamed that I skate them. The race was the hardest thing physical thing I have ever done and challenging my body like that is among the most amazing things I have ever accomplished; better then any size 10 I ever starved myself into. Whether you can complete a marathon, walk the Breast Cancer 3 Day, Bike a 100-miler, climb a Colorado 14er, or complete a workout tape, it is so important to set a physical goal and work hard to achieve it.

I survived the 2007 Northshore Inline Marathon and am already looking forward to racing next year. Although my time this year was slower, the stats below show improvement; I should actually move up a heat with my posted time! I still want to complete the race in under 2 hours and hopefully Mother Nature is kinder next year; but just in case, I will pack my snowsuit.

By the Numbers:
2007 Results:
Number of Finishers: 2559
Average Time: 2:22:54 (slowest average of the 12 year history of the race)
Place Overall: 1587
Division Place (F 30-34): 51/115
Gender Place: 435/1063
Total Time: 2:28:52
Pace: 5:41

2006 results:
Number of Total Finishers: 2275
Average Time: 2:02:38
Place Overall: 1697
Division Place: 69/115
Gender Place: 530/940
Total Time: 2:16:24
Pace: 5:13

Friday, September 14, 2007

Quote of the Week

The following quote dictates my strategy for completing this weekend's Northshore Inline Marathon in Duluth:

"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."
- Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Field of schemes

One of the fundamental lessons we learn growing up from our parents, teachers and coaches is that winners never cheat and cheaters never win. This lesson is foundational in learning the values of honor, hard work, determination, perseverance and respect. Lying and cheating are the cornerstone of more serious crimes and usually among the first offenses children commit against their parents, their peers and their communities. Enforcing a code of honor and teaching the values of fairness early in their development is crucial for children to learn the difference between right and wrong and to grow into strong, law abiding pillars in our society. Unfortunately, families and educators face a myriad of barriers limiting their abilities to grown and shape children into upstanding adults and one major obstruction comes from pro-sports.

We look for athletes to serve as role models, people for children to learn from and emulate as they grow into adulthood. In the past the role of athlete serving as hero and role model to a nation’s youth was a major factor in children learning valuable life lessons such as the importance of teamwork, the need to study and train, the desire to achieve, and how to keep the eye on the ball. Those lessons, and others learned through sports, can be applied into every life situation whether it is in school, at home or in the workplace. Players’ questionable activities and links to horrific crimes in recent decades have made it increasingly difficult for parents and communities to consider them the strong role models they were in the past. When players are caught murdering girlfriends, selling drug and involved in drunk driving accidents the leagues and players argue that athletes remain stellar examples to children through their actions on the field, still demonstrating the valuable lessons available through team sports.

The past few years have brought headlines reporting numerous scandals on the field. What do children learn through the lack of actions against lying baseball players; cheating through steroid use is tolerated, it is acceptable to manipulate a ball for a better pitch and perfectly okay to cork a bat. Colleges far and wide are accused of allowing athletes to cheat on exams to ensure their grade point average allows them to play. The NBA is investigating referees charged with throwing games. We even hear of horses drugged by their trainers for better racing results.

In the most recent news we learn that the best way to become a football franchise of historical proportions, winning three of the past six Super bowls, is to stretch the limits on rules governing the use of technology. The NFL is accusing the New England Patriots of violating league rules when their video crew was caught taping the defensive signals of the New York Jets and potentially broadcasting them immediately to the coaches. For those who do not follow football, this is the equivalent of someone sitting behind a poker player, telling everyone what is in his hand. We must now wait and see how hard the NFL comes down on this storied team, their golden child quarterback and winning coach. If they get nothing more then a slap on the wrist, it is just another message that cheating is perfectly acceptable so long as you win. At least this gives fans of other AFC east teams, like this Buffalo Bills fan, another excuse to why we were unable to win the division in recent memory.

Many argue that cheating has always been present in athletics. While this might be true, the extensive coverage and subsequent lack of disciplinary action is making it impossible to use sports and athletes as methods to teach children that hard work and dedication, above all else, is how they will succeed in life. Children, and adults, are exposed to those who they admire and emulate engaging in deceitful activities in their livelihood and children are fast learning a dangerous lesson; it is okay to cheat so long as you win. It must be very difficult to raise an upstanding child in a culture that accepts cheating as part of the game and makes excuses for player indiscretions.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering September 2001

Discovering news of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 is a defining moment in each of our personal histories, much like the assassination of JFK and the attacks on Pearl Harbor were for previous generations. Everyone old enough to read a paper or watch TV vividly remembers the details of how they found out, where they were, who they called and what they were doing. While I do recall answering the phone call from my fiancée in Minnesota as I was trying to iron out details on a print job I was ordering at a Sir Speedy in Delaware- anxiously getting the last things on my list done before taking two weeks off for our wedding, it is actually all the moments the rest of that month that will always be vividly clear in my memories.

The whole thing did not hit me fully until I made it into the office and was immediately surrounded by colleagues asking me about my family in NY, how my friends in DC were, if everyone was okay and if we were going to move forward with the wedding. Suddenly everything hit me all at once and I was faced with a breakdown or actually doing something. With the help of many of my co-workers, including Heather, Dave, Gregg, Val and Mary Beth, we all went into action like we had a pre-planned disaster recovery plan, quickly discovering that while phones all over the US were locked up in busy we were still able to make calls with great ease. It took several hours, but through the help of my co-workers, we were able to find each member of my family, directing those who were unable to make it off Manhattan to Tobacco Road. My co-workers were impressed that even in times of great tragedy; we could somehow get people assembled at a reputable drinking establishment. There is a certain comfort knowing my family could still find a good bar with the world falling down around them.

Friends in Pennsylvania opened their home to me that night, taking me out to eat at a very empty restaurant and ensuring our table was no where near the television surrounded by the servers and staff. Knowing my immediate family and close friends were all safe and sound, Victor and Diane helped me deal with the next order of business; deciding whether to call off my wedding in NY the next week. There were so many pros and cons to each decision, most of the wedding party, including the Groom, were 1000+ miles away, our guest list spanned over 20 states and 4 countries and it was obvious that my plans to return to Minnesota prior to flying to NY with my fiancée were not going to happen. Yet, as any bride can attest to, the thought of having to plan the wedding all over again was overwhelming and after weeks of wondering if I was “marrying material,” the turmoil in the world made me realize once and for all that I wanted to make wadE an honest man. Our friends and family received word on our decision on an email appropriately subjected as “Love Conquers All.”

Even through the overwhelming hours glued to broadcasts of bad news and sad stories, each day brought us new reasons to celebrate. Bridges in NY were eventually opened to the general public I was able to get to my family on Long Island, never so happy to see my family. My fiancée made it on the first flight from MSP to New York that allowed non-stranded passengers to fly. One bridesmaid, unable to make the wedding as she waited on word whether her husband would be shipped overseas, mailed her dress which arrived on time and fit a long-time friend like a glove. Battling a rough case of bronchitis contracted from the soot in the air from the smoldering twin towers I somehow lost 10 pounds in one week, causing the need for emergency dress alterations in the right direction.

With all these memories and all these moments, there is one evening that stands out above all else; my bachelorette party and youngest sister’s 21st birthday party on the evening of September 19th. We debated whether our pre-9/11 plans of committing multiple acts of debauchery in downtown Manhattan would now be considered in bad taste; drunken women in feather boas parading their wares in the former shadow of the World Trade Center. We were encouraged to move forward with our plans by a cousin who stressed the need for business as establishments in lower Manhattan were suffering. Ten well dressed women ready to have fun descended upon Manhattan in a white stretch limo and were clearly the only women around.

The bars were not empty; instead they were packed with firemen from around the country; with roughly 12 firemen in Red Rocks West for every one of us, we took full advantage of the attention that evening. Around Five O’clock in the morning, our driver informed us that we were going to go over our time which in turn made the firemen to realize they were late for their shifts. Presented with an opportunity to serve our country and perform our civic duty, we piled 10 firemen in our limo and headed to the World Trade Center, passing police barricades and descending upon ground zero as the first rays of morning light rose above Manhattan. Half the crew was due at the Trade Center while the other half needed a lift to the rescue staging grounds at Shea Stadium. Firemen hanging out our sunroof brought us the attention of the NYPD, who soon realized we were carrying special cargo and gave us a full police escort all the way to Shea. Already well over the time in our rental agreement, we were unable to entertain all the men who poured out of a city of tents at the staging grounds to offer us hot dogs and beer (at 6am!). Our driver rewarded us for our good deeds; he did not charge us for the two hours we went over and actually thanked us for an experience he would never forget. We never did get to formally thank the generous heroes from the Oak Brook, Illinois; San Diego, California, Columbus, Ohio and all the other fire departments who made for a very memorable evening ;-)

Every wedding has a set of issues and ours was no exception. The yacht club where our wedding was located asked us if we would be so kind to open the club prior to our photos for a funeral lunch of a friend lost in the towers. We of course said yes to discover it was an Irish funeral with mourners ready to join our wedding celebration. Many of our guests were late, stuck in traffic on bridges as each car required inspection to cross. Even our flowers were a reminder that the wedding was not business as usual; wilted flowers from a florist unable to get a shipment in since the attacks. All that did not matter as we were married under a beautiful blue sky surrounded by the love and support of friends and family, the wedding serving as a joyous celebration of life and love and reminder of what is beautiful about the world (although the world would have been much more beautiful with live purple flowers rather then dead pink ones- oh well).

The day following our wedding, we had dinner reservations at the famed restaurant Windows on the World, atop the World Trade Center. It was very sad to think the person who months before took our request for a romantic table by a window might have perished in the attacks. After a very empty flight, we closed September 2001 on the lovely island of St. Lucia, empty of travelers; we practically had the entire resort all to ourselves.

Six years later I can say the experiences and lessons of 9/11 restored my faith in the greater humanity as people far and wide came together to heal a nation and each other. It reminded me of the kindness of strangers, the goodness of friends, the comfort of family, the power of love, what is truly important in life… and that sexy firemen are the best gift any bachelorette can ask for.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A funny thing happened on my way to the microwave

Microwave popcorn is a survival food at work, something easy to store in a drawer and readily available when endless meetings make it nearly impossible to grab lunch. Popcorn is fast, filling, tasty and more importantly to those following a diet plan, relatively low in calories for a reduced fat mini-bag. The three times a week popcorn habit was met with an occasional comment on the need to make time for a meal, but more often then not went completely unnoticed. That is, until the announcement that a consumer contracted a rare but serious disease that is referred to as Popcorn Workers Lung.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is a condition in which the bronchioles become plugged and individuals affected have severely reduced lung capacity. There is no cure beyond a lung transplant. Around 5 years ago, the Centers for Disease Control announced that a high number of individuals working in the popcorn manufacturing industry were inflicted with the disease, thus the name Popcorn Workers Lung. The recent discovery of a consumer contracting this debilitating disease hit the news last week and my popcorn habit is now a hot topic of conversation in the office.

Complete strangers are popping in my cube to ask if I heard the news, asking if I am worried for my health, or joking that I now need to completely change my diet. For the record, I am not worried for my health nor am I going to change my 2 to 3 time a week trip to the microwave with my mini-bag of smartpop. Out of all the bad habits I could have (and do have), eating a high fiber, low fat snack that might cause lung disease when consumed in excess is not really a big worry. Drinking diet soda, eating red meat and French fries, rollerblading without a helmet, speeding on the highway, forgetting to do breast self exams, carrying an excess thirty pounds and neglecting to put little sticky things in my shower to prevent slipping are probably a bigger cause of concern for my health and well-being then my love of Orville Redenbacher.

The overblown concern over microwave popcorn demonstrates a much bigger issue on the role of the press in creating a culture of fear where people lose perspective and become overly concerned about trivial things. We are constantly bombarded by stories and images of random stuff that could threaten our health, reported in such a way where the threat seems bigger then it actually is. People worry about these stories that hit the news when there are so many other threats all around them; they will throw out all their popcorn to save their family yet forget to buckle their seatbelt on the way to work.

Today marked a comical moment where such a misplacement of concern and energy occurred. Starved, I faced the option of eating a bag of popcorn or a high fat donut; I chose the popcorn. A funny thing happened on my way to the microwave as I received comments that the microwave popcorn would kill me. These comments came from one severely obese man and two women returning from their cigarette break who obviously have bigger health concerns to worry about.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Calcium Suckers

My friends Kira, Julie and I used to joke about the 1,567,601 reasons why we were not having children. While we never officially penned all the reasons, there was one thing that was for certain; pregnancy and all its "wonders" accounted for over 500,000 of those reasons. Not among those who celebrate the miracle of pregnancy and birth, we found the very concept of carrying then bearing a child rather repulsive. Even those who exalt the “beauty” of pregnancy must agree that certain aspects, like weight gain and the pain of childbirth, are not very beautiful. One major reason pregnancy makes the top of my reasons to forgo having children is how I view unborn fetuses. Offensive to some, shocking to others, I see unborn children as nothing more then parasites.

Pronunciation: 'per-&-"sIt
1 : a person who exploits the hospitality of the rich and earns welcome by flattery
2 : an organism living in, with, or on another organism in parasitism
3 : something that resembles a biological parasite in dependence on something else for existence or support without making a useful or adequate return

If given a choice on the type of parasite I wanted living within me, I would choose a tapeworm well before a baby. At least tape worms help you lose weight. I could write more on my fetus = parasite philosophy, but luckily the nation's top satirical publication has already published a piece that brings a level of comedy to an unpopular position on pregnancy. A big thanks to the Onion for the following article article on Uterine Parasites.

Woman Overjoyed By Giant Uterine Parasite

The Onion

Woman Overjoyed By Giant Uterine Parasite

NEW BRIGHTON, MN— "I'm so happy!" Crowley said of the golf ball–sized, nutrient-sapping organism that will eventually require hospitalization in order to be removed.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quote of the Week

Are we ready for some football?

One of the great disappointments of a football game is that the cheerleaders never seem to get injured.
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

American in Paris

Despite the horrible press Paris gets as the rudest city in the world, it remains one of my very favorites. Once you realize the French don’t just hate Americans they hate everyone, it becomes much easier to bear the insults, criticisms and bad customer service. My friend Steve, who is visiting the city of lights, probably has a jam packed itinerary visiting old friends from his time studying in France, but I still wanted to share some of my favorite places:

Where to Stay:
As one of the tourist capitals of the world, Paris has everything from Grand Hotels to modest accommodations. I have a small list of places to stay, having only visited 3 times and would love to hear comments on other places to stay.
  • Intercontinental Paris Le Grand Hotel (9th Arrondissement)
    Traveling on a business budget? This is your place with impeccable service, beautiful location and opulent décor. The hotel is right next to the Opera house and set amongst the city’s most upscale shopping.
  • Paris Marriott Hotel Champs-Elysees (8th Arrondissement)
    The location of this hotel cannot be beat; it is right in the middle of all the great places to see and be seen. The rooms are modest by American standards, but large for Paris. The service at the hotel leaves much to be desired.
  • Hotel France Eiffel (15th Arrondissement)
    This hotel was incredibly modest. It has been nearly 10 years since I stayed there and remember the bathroom being so small that my hips touched the walls on the toilet and the beds were outdoor lounge chairs with mattresses on them. Even with the modesty in decor and furniture, the location is convenient to the metro and in a quieter and more “Parisian” feeling neighborhood.
  • Note to readers: I have never been in the Paris Hilton.

Where to Eat:
Even a 1 star restaurant in Paris is the most amazing culinary experience you can ever have. Stop in a café and take your sweet time grazing on the fine food and people watching. Slip into a charcuterie (butcher shop) and purchase some fresh meat, cheese and bread and take a picnic on the Seine.
  • Cafe Max (7th Arrondissement)
    A small little bistro where Max is the chef, water, bartender and host. The food is excellent but the atmosphere is top notch. The establishment is filled with nothing but locals. Note: Opens at 7 for dinner. 7 avenue de la Motte Picquet Phone: 0147055766
  • Café Runtz: (2nd Arrondissement)
    Next to the noted theater of Salle Favart, this friendly bistro has a cozy but elegant atmosphere, with old brass gas lamps on each table. The Alsatian dishes are both excellent and quite filling. Order a pitcher of Riesling or other Alsatian wine to go along. This meal at Café Runtz had my Mother famously declare that it was the “best pork I ever had.” Métro: Richelieu-Drouot. 16 rue Favart La Bourse Phone: 0142966986
  • Léon de Bruxelles:
    Yes, it is a chain, but it is not a chain that has made it to the United States so it is well worth visiting. Huge Heaped plates of mussels and other Belgian specialties, such as anguilles en vert and fish soup, are continually served, accompanied by arguably the best french fries in town.
    CHAMPS-ELYSEES 63, front of the Fields-Elysées (8th Arrondissement) Phone: 0142259616
    MONTPARNASSE 82 (a), data base of Montparnasse (14th Arrondissement) Phone: 0143216662
    St-GERMAIN 131, data base German St (6th Arrondissement) Phone: 01 43 26 45 95
What to Do:
You cannot do it all in one trip (or two, or ten…) and every person has a different agenda for their trip. Here are my favorite places to visit and things to do.
  • Eiffel Tower (7th Arrondissement)
    Even if you are afraid of heights (like me!) this is a must do. It is still pretty by day, however, the most spectacular views are at night. The city just sparkles below.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral (4th Arrondissement)
    The only thing more impressive then the beauty and architecture of Notre Dame is the view of the city from the top.
  • Disneyland Paris
    It is not a must see for most people, but this Disney kid was trilled to hear Mickey Mouse speak french and learn that the French do not understand the concept of waiting in line for a ride.
  • Museum Pass
    This is a must purchase item. You can get a minimum of 2 days... they are available at most places you can buy a metro ticket and it is so worth the investment. Access to around 60 museums, and the best part is the bypassing of the line (queue for those from England) with the card. With the pass you can visit a few of the smaller museums for an hour or two without feeling like you have to spend the whole day.
  • Musee' Rodin (7th arrondissement)
    We discovered the Musee' Rodin because it was on the Museum Pass list and it quickly became one of our favorites. The Thinker is all that more impressive when you can see it in person. Rodin’s sculptures are breathtaking. This museum is included on the pass.
  • Musee d'Orsay (7th arrondissement)
    A beautiful train station converted into a top notch museum, if you have any love for the impressionist movement, you will spend a whole day here. This museum is included on the pass.
  • The Arc d' Triumph (8th Arrondissement)
    Climb the stair day or night and look down at the most famous traffic circle in the world, where drivers enter at their own risk (insurance does not cover cars in this circle). Cars move like dancers in a ballet to get through safely. The view of the rest of the city is not too bad either. This is included on the museum pass.
  • Musee du Louvre (1st arrondissement)
    Major draws include the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo which draw huge crowds. After seeing the big draws, find an emptier part of the museum far away from tourists and take in the beauty of both the art and the building. Keep your eyes open for Da Vinci Code followers looking for the chalice. This museum is included on the pass.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pack and Prejudice

Minneapolis City and Minnesota State officials responded to recent dog attacks with a proposal that would ban so called “dangerous” dogs from the city limits. These types of laws are becoming increasingly common in the United States as lawmakers attempt to respond to a few high-profile dog attacks. As an animal lover and dog owner I find breed discrimination laws that bar the ownership of certain breeds both offensive and misplaced. The problem of dog attacks is overblown and targeting a breed is not going to solve anything, targeting irresponsible dog owners will.

Legislators in Minneapolis are looking for a ban on any dog, pure or mixed, with the following breeds in their lineage; Rottweiler, Akita, Chow Chow, Wolf and all Pit Bull Terrier types. Different breeds are classified as dangerous in different cities and states with Doberman Pinchers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, German Shepherds, Huskies and Malamutes on other banned lists. The lack of consistency on defining dangerous breeds demonstrates that it is not breed characteristics but individual issues and incidents experienced in an area that cause certain animals to be singled out. Like humans discriminate against certain races and ethnicities due to the actions of a small subset of the population, canines experience their own breed discrimination due to the actions of individual animals. Not every black man is a murderer, not every Middle Eastern man is a terrorist, and not every Rottweiler is dangerous.

Certain breeds are more notorious for being dangerous because of what people are doing with those breeds. “Breeders” are purposely adding aggressive qualities into their lineage for a variety of purposes, including dog-fighting and protection for drug dealers. Banning these animals will just have people looking to tinker with other breeds to create a new class of dog-fighting and attack dogs. It would not be long before these groups would determine how to create mean animals out of a current docile but large breed like a Labrador Retriever or a Great Dane.

The recent incident in Minneapolis involving a 7-year old child who was killed by a male pit bull used for breeding that was chained in the basement was a terrible tragedy but screams family involvement in the dog-fighting industry or other types of crime. The public outcry is to ban the breed yet no one is closely investigating why the father would have such a dangerous dog in the house and a gun available and ready to shoot the animal. Any responsible parent would understand what that animal was capable of and would not have the dog in the home with their children. The dog did not kill the child; the father is responsible for the death of his son and should be investigated on why he was breeding such a dangerous and dominant dog.

Responsible dog owners understand their role within society to raise a well behaved animal that does not hurt or kill small children. Far too many people jump into dog ownership without the acknowledgement of what their responsibility is with the animal. Dogs need vaccinations to protect the humans from dangerous diseases. Dogs need their waste picked up to protect the community from dangerous bacteria in the water supply. Dogs need training and socialization to protect people and animals from dangerous behaviors. Dogs cannot vaccinate themselves or pick up after themselves, and they certainly cannot train themselves to be well-behaved. Owners are solely responsible for the behavior of their pets and having a lager or stronger breed comes with an extra set of responsibilities; not taking the initiative to train a large dog is just as dangerous as purposely training them to kill. My Mother’s Dog Roxie was going to be put to sleep as a puppy because she was a dreaded Rottweiler/Doberman mix. With good, strict parenting Roxie is now a dog you would trust with an infant, but would probably kill any stranger if they tried to hurt my mother; exactly what a guard dog should do.

There are laws currently on the books that put responsibility on breeders to curb aggressiveness and owners to train and control their animals, yet legislators are still targeting the dogs themselves in their efforts to cut down animal attacks for simple reasons; it is easier and cheaper to ban a breed then it is to enforce owner responsibility laws. Banning certain breeds is a temporary cure that does not target the root causes of dog attacks; eventually other breeds will fill in the market for aggressive dogs. If lawmakers want to really do something about dog attacks, they should focus on the following:
  • Enact a nationwide ban on dog-fighting to stop one major reason people breed aggressive animals.
  • Shut down backyard breeding operations put in place to supply fighting and attack dogs.
  • Enforce pet responsibility laws.
Ultimately the issue made over dog attacks is a reaction to a few incidents that have caught media attention. There are roughly 18 deaths each year in the United States resulting from a dog attack. Compare the number of animal attack victims with the 12,000 gun related homicides and 1000 accidental gun related deaths each year and it really appears that legislators have larger issues to combat that could save more lives. Heck, over 300 people die every year drowning in their bathtub, are lawmakers considering a ban on baths?

Breed discrimination laws are proposed frequently across the world. Check your local animal rights groups to see if any proposals are on the table for your city. For those in Minnesota, an online petition is in place to voice concern over the breed ban proposed for the 2008 session.