Sunday, September 7, 2014

September transitions

I love the fall, but the first hint of its approach always makes me think it's coming too soon, that it can't be the end of summer yet. On top of that, this late August-early September period brings other, more personal transitions.

Mom in 1937, athletic and single
For starters, this time of year puts me in mind of my parents, who for many years annually celebrated a raft of early-September birthdays among friends and neighbors with a party that featured lutefisk (that horrendous dish that my mother wouldn't touch) and Swedish meatballs. Happily, one of those friends celebrated her 103rd birthday Friday! Dad would have turned 99 last Thursday, September 4, and Mom would have been 98 today. Their anniversary was August 31, which also turned out to be the day we buried her 34 years ago. My brother Bruce died of a heart attack eight years ago on September 15. Grieving for them is not as sharply painful as it once was, but it seems to drain a lot of energy over a period of a week or two.

Mom, Dad, me, 1946
Then, too, it's always a let-down when Saint Paul Saints minor-league baseball season ends, closing out a big chunk of our social life for the year. But about 10 days ago the team played its last game ever at Midway Stadium, where we've spent 22 memorable seasons. The final game at the old park was surreal and sad.

A new upscale ballpark is being built downtown, in an inconvenient location we fear will not succeed. Worst, there are no provisions for tailgating. The Saints offered a distinctive baseball experience which relied heavily on the camaraderie of sharing food in the parking lot before every game. Current fans overwhelmingly preferred a new park on the existing grounds, but owners and the mayor decided they could find new fans downtown. Time will tell. We are buying season tickets for 2015 and hoping for the best. Last week we were the last to leave the stadium along with Chris and Wendy, who for 22 years have sat two seats away from us. Wendy sobbed the entire night, big tears rolling down her face. 

Dad in 2000, surprised at his own longevity
Meanwhile we are back to our school-year routine, with two adorable grandkids turning up every morning at 6:45 for breakfast and all the fun we can squeeze in before we drop them at school for their 8:30 start. As much as we enjoy them, it will not surprise you if I say I'm having a little trouble adjusting to the early schedule. 

For many months, as we scrambled to finish the book and prepare for the carousel's 100th birthday and do media interviews, we promised ourselves that by mid-August the rush would be over. Certainly, I thought, by early September I'd be rested up and ready to go. I'm not feeling that way, and I'm a little frustrated with that. But this is the start of a new week and I'm promising myself that while naps are still okay (and even decadently wonderful) I need to get moving. There are web sites to update, books to sell, gardens to tend, tap moves to practice, family members with whom to celebrate life.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm back, and starting year six of blogging

Five years ago today, I wrote my first blog post and sent it into the universe. I'd forgotten until my friend Jayne wrote about her own fifth blogiversary.

Not surprisingly, my first post was about my grandkids. Augie was 29 months and Vi 14 months. We'd gone to a Saints game on a Sunday afternoon and they'd run the bases after the game. There were no comments. I had done nothing to promote my blog, or even to let anyone know of its existence. I only planned to record memories, or maybe to share them with family members.

But then I was curious to see what other people were doing, and soon I was following and commenting on lots of blogs--photography, humor, parenting, grandparenting, daily life of all sorts. Some of those people followed me in return, and commented on what I wrote. Before long I was writing not only about adorable grandkids but about my own ideas and experiences. Having spent a career writing in an institutional voice, I enjoyed exploring my own thoughts and writing in my own voice. And I have loved making new online friends.

For the past eight or nine months I've been writing in "our" voice, a book jointly authored with my husband Peter. It's the 100-year history of a wonderful carousel, including the 26 years we've spent rescuing it from being broken apart and then restoring it and operating it for the public. While I was immersed in the book, I couldn't feed the blog. When the book came out in July, we plunged into full-time event planning and media interviews for the carousel's 100th birthday. At the end of each of those days, we'd fall into a daze in front of the TV.

Our giant birthday party August 9 drew about 1,500 people, and we spent the entire day talking with guests including current and former volunteers, staff, board members, avid riders, and people who bought our book and asked us to sign it. Have I mentioned that both of us are strong introverts? We loved every conversation, but by the end of that 11-hour day we were nearly comatose. I spent the next three days sleeping. 

And that is why, when my life really was full and I should have had a lot to share on my blog, I couldn't do it.

I'm becoming functional again. I've managed to balance my checkbook, clean off part of my desk, get to tap class for the first time in a month, mow the lawn, and seriously weed the garden for the first time all summer. And now I've managed to produce a new blog post. It's not fancy, but it's a start. The first post of my sixth year in blogging.

When I was working I focused on work and deadlines, and too often I forgot to feed my personal growth, relationships, etc. Having those work habits helped us finish all the tasks we needed to complete in time for last week's celebration activities. But both Peter and I are making it a priority to get back to being ourselves. For me, that includes blogging. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Toiling in the garden of Life...

I would love to be sitting in the garden, sipping tea and admiring the flowers of summer. Good thing I can see most of them from the window next to my computer! Let's just pretend we're sitting there, you and I, having a leisurely conversation.

video
Our book is finished, but we immediately went into overdrive getting ready for the carousel's 100th birthday events. For those who don't know, my husband and I founded a nonprofit organization 26 years ago and rescued a beloved 74-year-old carousel that was going to be broken up and auctioned to collectors. We led the fund-raising efforts and then we restored the carousel and moved it to a new location. Now we operate it with a volunteer crew in a new pavilion in St. Paul's Como Park.

There's a lovely event tomorrow for which I'm posting a composite I created in Photoshop. Then there's a big public birthday party August 9, for which a whole lot of details need to be coordinated. Media promotion is taking a lot of our time, though I'm not complaining, because the carousel needs the exposure and this is a big chance to generate some.

Peter and I work well together, but for 26 years we've had long periods of time when all our energy has to be applied to some aspect of saving or restoring or operating the carousel. We have promised ourselves that this is our last really big project. Having decided that, we can get through the next couple of weeks. Then we begin the process of handing over the reins, so to speak.

I'll be back to blog again. I especially want to talk about the book. But I have to get it into the places where the we plan to make it available; it's only at the carousel right now.

Hope you are having a great summer! Wish me luck as I take on some public speaking and TV interviews (eeek) and as we plan an outdoor event not knowing what the weather gods may bring. Next summer I really do want to sit and chat with you!

--Nancy aka BLissed-Out Grandma

(Like us on facebook.com/cafcarousel to see pictures and coverage and coming events.)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dancing into Neverland

Okay, I have not carried out my pledge to dance every day in 2014, but I did make it safely through two recitals last weekend, and I smile whenever I think about it.

It's not that everything went smoothly. Backstage, young children went stir-crazy, show-runners were frustrated by the recital's complicated format, and many dancers (including me) panicked their way through ultra-quick costume changes. I won't know how our dances looked to the audience until I see the video, but it was fun and it we seemed to do a good job.

Our adult tap class--three enthusiastic women with mixed skill levels and two high-school students who are avid dancers--never made it through an entire practice without mistakes. But in performance our rule was "Keep smiling and keep your feet moving." In our pirate routine, "keep smiling" was replaced by "stay in character."

We were cast as pirates because the whole recital was a dance version of the Peter Pan story. In a typical recital, you just bring each class onstage, start the music, and let them dance. This year, the show was a continuous production number. Each piece of music flowed right into the next, and getting onstage exactly on cue was often tricky. Tuesday's dress rehearsal was a nightmare, with the director and teachers struggling to have the right people in the right places (and in the right costumes) at the right times. But at Friday and Saturday's performances, there were only a few minor bumpy transitions.

While I care a lot about hitting my cue and doing things well, it surprises me that I experience no stage fright (unlike when I do public speaking). In fact I had great fun adding little flourishes to my pirate character--a snarl here, a menacing gesture there.

As I left Saturday's show, a woman approached me to say she was inspired by my dancing and was considering joining our class. She said she last took lessons when she was about 5 years old. I told her that was my story, too, and I'd started back last year at age 70. It turns out she is 73. I should have gotten her name so that in case she doesn't register I could call to encourage her.

Just after that, a young man about 30 years old approached. "I just have to tell you that I think you are inspirational," he said. His wife seemed almost apologetic. After all, what he was saying was, "You dance pretty well for an old person." But I was happy for the positive reinforcement.

Here's the secret: I dance like nobody's watching, even when I know that they are. And I love it.

Sometimes I wish I'd rediscovered dancing many years ago, but then I remember. I love it now. This is the only moment I have. I need to get up and dance now.


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