Category Archives: Minnesota Life

The Ends of Eras

 

My kids, in some combination of children, have played softball or baseball since the 2009 season.  The oldest, now a junior in high school, started the trend, randomly declaring in fourth grade that she wanted to play softball. The others followed suit and started playing in the years following. We were lucky to find baseball and softball leagues that played in the same field complex. So, our son would play “up the hill” at the baseball fields and the girls would play “down the hill” at the softball fields. For the last few years, we had four kids playing bat and ball sports every spring into summer.  It was glorious chaos!

The schedule we maintained was incredible. It was a solid three months of games or practices almost every night of the week. We’d buy a giant piece of foam-backed posterboard and make a color-coded schedule to keep in the living room. Each child would have a color with all their practices and games written in their color. The family would gather at the fields, some days with all the kids in uniforms because some days they’d all have games. We’d scrounge in our bags and in the car for change with which to buy concessions and fill our pockets with Double Bubble to get us through the day. Sometimes we’d work the concession stand or scoreboard. Nights were filled with bright lights and families in lawn chairs and as the kids got older the nights got later and more competitive, but never more competitive than they were fun.

Now, suddenly, the era has ended. Our son aged out of little league last year and is not interested in playing anymore. Our oldest is too busy with choir and working her first job. Our other two daughters are dancing competitively and can’t manage the schedule and so it is over, almost without warning. I sit here wondering, if I’d have known last year that it would be our last year, would I have done anything differently? I don’t think so.  Because it was a favorite season, I always squeezed the marrow out of the experience, savoring every moment of it. Maybe I would’ve taken a few more pictures of all of them in their uniforms. But no, I’m mostly sad, not because of regret, but because I loved it so much and now it is over. I think if you have to be sad, that’s the best kind of sadness to have.

This is the first of many eras that will be ending in the next few years. When they were little and eras ended it wasn’t so painful because there were new and promising stages of childhood on the horizon. Now though, I think the eras that end hurt a little more because they will shortly start aging out of childhood. (The oldest will graduate high school next year with the rest following like dominoes every other year). Each era that ends now feels like one step closer to the end of this amazing journey of parenting children. So, I’m feeling the end of softball and baseball this year a little more than I have felt the end of other periods we have experienced.

Our youngest will finish her last year of elementary school in June and another giant phase of our life will be over. Time just keeps speeding by and it’s all I can do to try to take it all in before they are all grown. The beginning stages, when they were little and it was difficult, seemed to last forever, but now that things are grooving and life is filled with so many of these beautiful moments and much easier times it seems to be slipping away and I can’t make it stop or slow down. All I can do is live it, chasing them, chasing time, and not waste a moment except to catch my breath.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh how I love Not-Winter!

We are currently experiencing a new season in Minnesota. I call it Not-Winter. It isn’t late enough or warm enough to be spring, and yet the grass is showing; the temps have come up; the sounds of dripping water can be heard near and far; hope is in the air!

You must understand that winters in Minnesota are generally brutal. BRUTAL. Even this year, it started snowing in early November. Usually, at this point in the season, we are buried under at least a foot of snowpack and any ventures outdoors require hats and gloves and scarves and as little exposed skin as possible. Not this year! I haven’t worn a hat in at least a week and gloves even longer.

Now, I am not deceived. I know it isn’t really over. I know my beautiful, hopeful, spring-indicating dirt will be covered again by snow, but this extended break has made this winter so much more bearable.

It’s Not-Winter! And it might be my favorite Minnesota season ever!

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Not-Winter, 2015

I am finally free…

I find myself in a curious situation of late. The situation will likely not make sense to those who don’t really know our story. The story, as it were, is long and drawn out so I will offer you the 25 cent version.

Basically, we moved to Minnesota for a job in a friend’s church. Hubs was trained as a pastor but was hired as an administrator at this church. Shortly upon arriving here we realized we were in way over our heads. The church was much more conservative than we had realized and their opinions on gender roles, marriage, etc. were far to the right of where we would ever have placed ourselves, but our friend had gone through a bit of trouble to get us to Minnesota and give Hubs this opportunity, so we felt a little stuck.

Over time and through many unpleasant experiences with the people in the church and the leadership, I realized I couldn’t fake it anymore. I was not, nor will I ever be, a woman who would fit their mold. I am forthright, strong-willed, goal-driven. I don’t submit easily and our marriage is quite egalitarian. These points were all points of contention and it became a constant battle of me trying to make myself look the way they wanted me to look and behave the way women “should” behave. In the end, we decided we needed to leave. I remember a conversation I had with a Deacon at the very end where I gave him a piece of my mind. He said, “You have no right to speak to me so boldly,” and I said, “Well, actually, we are both humans and I most certainly do.” He was speechless.

Upon leaving, we didn’t want to cause any trouble for our friend, so we left quietly. However, I always felt in some way controlled by them. I think, looking back, there was definite psychological damage done, all in the name of Jesus. Ironic. After we left, I blocked everyone I could think of who attended the church from all my social media. Whenever we would see one of them when we were out and about, we’d say, “Alert, alert!,” and go off in another direction. It’s like we were living scared.

However, we recently found out that our friend is no longer the pastor there and suddenly my world has opened up. For whatever reason, I now feel completely free of that place. I think, despite my feelings about the church, I felt some sort of loyalty to our friend. With him no longer working there, I feel free of those people and the power they once had over my life. I have realized, I hate that place. I hate what it does to lives. I hate the teachings and the way it made me view God and people outside of Christianity. And realizing all this, the healing can begin. I don’t need to have hate but pity, as I have realized their theology leaves those who can’t measure up feeling stranded and hopeless. Thank goodness, we are never really stranded or hopeless.

I have unblocked all those people from my social media. I am not afraid of them anymore. I am not afraid to see them out and about. I feel like I can stand up straight knowing I make mistakes and so do they. Their judgment, which will always be there, doesn’t matter to me anymore. It suddenly feels like a distant, unpleasant memory. The only artifact of the whole thing is that we live here in Minnesota, where we moved to for a job in a place that essentially no longer exists as we knew it. I am free, and while I have always been free, now I actually feel it.

Honey, I’m so glad you’re well…AKA: Perseverance

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Well, he did it. The Hubs. He got out. He worked at a coffee shop for fifteen years and now he is OUT! At first he worked there so that we could have health benefits while I stayed home with the babies. Then it was to help pay for seminary. Then it was because people who work for churches don’t get paid much, generally. Then there was the whole Minnesota chapter…too long and gory a story to get into. Then he became a Manager and the schedule and demands of the job were difficult on him and on the whole family unit. And now that chapter is OVER!!

About two years ago he started dabbling with the idea of getting out. However, looking for a job is like a full-time job and so the search was slow and difficult. Finally, at the end of August he was offered a position in the Customer Care department of a large company here in the Twin Cities!

Hubs is like a new man. He is so happy and content again. Our lives have suddenly normalized. It’s extraordinarily pleasant and almost unbelievable.  He says that each day he feels so giddy he wants to pinch himself, and I have to agree. I am not sure I could be happier for him and I tell him everyday how proud I am of him for sticking with his search and persevering in it.

Our kids are ecstatic, too. They feel like they have gotten their dad back from the Big Coffee Monster 🙂 We have explained to them that we are lucky to have the resources to be able to have choices and to make changes. I want them to know that if they have dreams, they should chase them. But, I also want them to understand the complexity of the issue, which doesn’t often get talked about. In order to go after something, you must have resources; not just money, but family support and community resources; opportunities to network. This is a reality we have learned not to take for granted. Everyone can dream, but dreams become more attainable with resources.

Cheers to you, Hubs! To us! To new chapters and to more dreams! And beer! Cheers to beers 🙂 I heart you.

chris

Friends move, then Winter.

friends
Friends back Home

Well, what was a mountaintop experience of graduating has quickly eroded into the summer doldrums. Unenhanced by the excitement and vigor of grad school, my Minnesota life has become clear, yet again. It’s a life mostly characterized by friends moving far away, generally in late August for whatever reason, followed by the quick and relentless pursuit of my least favorite season, Winter. And as the calendar made its tick to August this week, I felt reality close in on me. It’s coming.

Moving to Minnesota is a difficult lot. You’ve heard it said elsewhere, but I will reiterate here, it is nearly impossible to break into circles here. I won’t beat a dead horse by telling you that people here have had their friends for life, that they will meet you anywhere except in their homes, that they might say, “Let’s get together,” but they mostly don’t mean it, etc etc. Suffice it to say that all of those things you may have heard are painfully and regrettably true for many people who have moved here from elsewhere. So, my biggest success in making friends who will actually hang out and get involved with my life and my children has been with transplants. However, transplants move and so here we go again…

Transplants don’t leave Minnesota quietly, either. They generally leave in a blaze of glory, shouting their relief as they go. That they are FINALLY getting out. That it SUCKS to live here. That they are going back to where FRIENDS can be made and the WEATHER doesn’t threaten your life.

Their parting sentiments only reinforce my already well-weathered struggles with living here and exacerbate the late summer blues. This year feels different, though. It’s getting to a point. There are a few reasons I stay: My kids are happy and I have a job. These are things that are really great and I am not making light of them. But those things aside, it is becoming difficult to look at our future in Minnesota and imagine an entire life lived without the security and comfort of a big crew of friends and family and friends-as-family in and amongst my daily life.

Mostly I feel scared. I am sure this is driven in part by my obvious depression of late, but I am scared of living without a network of people to lean on during the hard times and to enjoy during the good times. When we return to NJ for visits I am always struck by the depth of my relationships there and by the genuine quality of people’s affection for us. They love us, they love our kids, they want us in their homes, they want to know us, and the feeling is mutual.

I have not found much of that here, and that’s with much effort. It’s not that I haven’t found it at all, but mostly I have found it with the people who keep moving on. And with the ones who stay, it seems to take so much work because it’s not second nature here to really live life with and invest in people other than family or life-long friends. You can’t make people include you. You can’t make them believe your kids are important or that theirs are important enough to you that sure, you’d go to that hockey game just like a blood relative might. You certainly can’t convince them to call you when they need something because they don’t want to owe you anything. Believe me, I have tried. It was never this hard back home. People back home make you their family without asking, whether you are blood-related or not. That’s just not the way here.

Minnesota is not a bad place. It’s a great place if you are from here. But what I have realized of late, is that I am not from here 🙂 . I will never be from here. It doesn’t matter if I become a Twins fan, go to the State Fair, eat cheese curds and walleye, go to the cabin, graduate from the U or entertain myself in Minneapolis. I will never be FROM here and without that rite of birth, I will never be one of them. As my one friend put it, there is some sort of code to living here and getting “in” and those from the outside just aren’t provided with said code.

The Minnesotans might talk to me, enjoy my company, think I am an interesting and forthright person, but when it comes to holidays or family parties, we are not of the tribe.

Minnesota, you nearly have me beat. My resolve is weakening. And maybe that’s the point. Texas has a saying you see all over billboards there, “You’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.” That is not the case here in MN. It’s more like, “Outsiders, how long before you go home?” Maybe, in the end, the goal is our surrender.

I have often felt as though returning home to NJ would be like coming full circle, and that was in some way admitting defeat. Well, that may be true, but maybe defeat is ok if you are returning to the open arms of the people who know you and want to know you more. I’m not sure, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to not consider giving up. Maybe one day I’d like to wake up and just feel settled like I used to in NJ, where a 1200 mile move wasn’t always something on the horizon  to consider.

 

 

 

Minnesota Nice: “Well, that’s…interesting.”

Minnesota Life: It snows in April.
Minnesota Life: It snows in April.

I’ve met another set of transplants. They moved here from Tennessee. More from-the-south friends! I’ve had several of those…they don’t last very long here on the tundra. 🙂 We got to talking about phraseology. (Is that a word? I may have just made that up.) I should’ve been a linguist because one of my favorite things about any new place or person is their dialect, accent, and colloquial vocabulary. A phrase that came up was, “Bless his/her heart.” In the south, if you say that about someone, it is not a blessing at all. It isn’t even anything nice. It’s an offhanded way to say, “That idiot. I can’t believe what she/he did/said, etc.”

Which brought us to an altruistic Minnesotism, “Well, that’s…interesting.” Another gem. My friends from Tennessee have already experienced this one. When a Minnesotan says, “Well, that’s…interesting,” they don’t mean it’s interesting at all. They may mean, “Holy crap, what is she wearing???” or, “Oh my gosh. Can you believe he said that?” or, “I would never in a million years act that way.” But interesting? No, not so much.

Do you know what we say out east if you are wearing something we don’t prefer? We might say, “Ummm, WHAT are you WEARING?” or if someone says something we don’t understand you might hear us ask, “What the hell are you talking about????” Or if someone has a weird idea we may exclaim, “Well, that’s bizarre!”

Rude? Sometimes. Honest? Always. Why not be honest? And although I am getting used to it, the tendency towards passive-aggressiveness here in my not-so-new-anymore state still troubles me. Niceness to a fault or,  as one of Chris’s (my Hubs) not-from-here professors at the University of Minnesota once said, “a pathological need to be nice,” still strikes me as worse than a tendency towards being too blunt at times. Blunt can always be followed by an apology, but I stand a greater chance of helping you be a better you by being honest with my opinions than by never telling you anything more than, “Well, that’s…interesting.” 🙂

For the love of the game, I gave the Twins a chance…

mitt

As I got off the bus and saw it there, my breath caught in my throat for a moment. I have been near it before, but today was MY day. Today I was getting to be a part of it. We walked towards the stadium and crossed the street, the kind-yet-stoic crossing guard waving us on, whistle in mouth, donning his fluorescent yellow vest.  Stepping onto the sidewalk I looked left to see the championship banners hung proudly against the honey-colored bricks…1965, 1969, 1970…We turned to our right and walked along the sidewalk, my son being drawn in by the megastore with offerings of every kind and color for this, HIS team.  And there, around the corner was this beautiful wall, so simple in its design, yet magical in its effect-a building-sized wall of metal tags that each dangle from a frame.  When the wind is silent, they mean little…but then the breeze…and your eye is captivated by this beautiful effect of mist rolling across the stadium, or of an undisturbed surface of a lake being rippled.

The energy hit us at once as we turned that corner-the excitement, the feeling of all being there for one reason, all robed in varying shades of red and white and blue, with the same TC logo, to support this team. We found our gate and entered, immediately heading for the souvenir stand to buy the coveted foam finger.  I stood there staring at the wall of mist, entranced by its effect and then allowed my eye to wander left towards this tall light tower, with TC traveling up and down in various patterns and effects. I breathed in deeply and thought, I have never been high, but I am sure this is close to what it must feel like.

Foam finger purchased, we climbed the stairs to our level and found the section where our seats were located. The height dizzying at first, but easily adjusted to.  The beautiful Kentucky bluegrass was mowed perfectly into a checker pattern with alternating shades of dark and light green, the diamond neatly raked and sprayed, it was nearly game time. As we waited we were approached by several workers in their bright yellow shirts offering various baseball game favorites, using that voice, you know the one-that circa 1915 New York City newspaper boy voice. “Kettle cawn-getch ya kettle cawn he-ah!”

twins gear
First time in Twins gear. Though I joked in this photo, I felt like a traitor.  🙂

Three years ago I went to my first Twins game. I came home and wrote these thoughts and never published them in my blog. It was so long ago now that I don’t remember why. I suppose life got in the way, as is so often the case. I do remember this day with significance. It was the beginning of my transformation, my acceptance of living here on the tundra, NOT resignation, but acceptance and determination to be happy here in Minnesota, despite the difficulties.

Baseball. I grew up in a household of mild sport fan-dom. I think my parents were Mets fans. We never really talked about it, but I remember Mets paraphernalia around my home. I always enjoyed watching baseball, but my real love started as a young adult when I discovered those magical Yankees 🙂 I became close friends with another woman who had been a lifelong fan and she taught me all I needed to know about the Yanks. I watched every game I could, got to know all the players, their stories, their mannerisms.

Whatever. I hear your shouts and eyerolls. No matter. They were my team. I’ve gotten over justifying to people why I loved them. I loved them for all the reasons anyone else loves a local team. But more than anything, I loved the sport. The sounds of the game, the announcers, the sheer simplicity of the rules. Then I moved here and with all the nonsense of having to buy a special cable channel to watch my Yankees, well, I lost touch with my beloved baseball.

I lived four years without baseball. I was swallowed up here on the tundra, by a lack of friends, a hate for the weather, a non-understanding of the culture, and a resentment that the Twins were now my local team. I lost sight of many of the things that made me who I am, including my baseball love. Until finally, in that life-giving Spring of 2011 (which I have referenced before) when I decided to stop being miserable, where I found beautiful friendships, started to explore this great city, and emerged from my life doldrums,  I decided to give the Twins a chance so I could enjoy baseball again. I did it for my love of the game.

I respected the Twins. They had history and tradition behind them. They weren’t a new, commercially-made team with a lame-ass uniform (think late-nineties Arizona Diamondbacks). They had good stories, some locally-made heroes, some successes. I felt that I could support them without completely turning my back on my Yanks.

The Yanks will always be my first love. They got my passion, my fire, as any first love. But the Twins, well, I’m growing older with them, sharing them with my kids. They let me teach my kids all there is to love about baseball, and since they don’t win as frequently as OTHER teams 😉 the kids will know that love for the game isn’t always about winning. It’s about the crack of the bat and the second of collectively-held breath waiting to see if it goes out of the park. It’s about catching a pop-up and getting on the jumbotron (which happened to us at our first Twins game back in my magical spring). It’s about cheering en masse for your team and hoping for some ninth-inning miracle. It’s about the chance to be free of the day’s worries and feel pure joy for a few hours every now and again because you are reminded that you are part of something bigger than yourself.

 

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Ok, so I still try to pass on my Yankee love :)
Ok, so I still try to pass on my Yankee love 🙂