A Winter Driving PSA

Minnesota got walloped with its first winter storm of the season Sunday night/Monday morning. Then we got some more snow last night. To be honest, the storm surprised most of us. It seemed to just come from nowhere, especially since our high temp on Sunday was in the 40s.

And yesterday, all the commuters lost their mind. It’s been about 6 months since we had to deal with any winter weather, and the first storm is always painful as everyone tries to remember how to drive in inclement weather again.

I live 5.2 miles from my job. It takes me about 12 minutes to get from door to door. I go through 11 stoplights along my way. Yesterday, I gave my fellow commuters a pass. Many were getting off the gridlocked highways and taking surface streets to their destination, so all the roads were busy. My normal commute time was doubled – it took me 30 minutes to get to work.

Today, the congestion is a lot better. The stupidity, however, still reigns. Not once, but twice, I ended up by cars that were turning left from the incorrect lane. You see, while the streets have largely been cleared, the turn lanes are still slushy. So rather than getting in the turn lanes like they’re supposed to, these drivers decide to make the turn from the next lane to the right.

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The first time it happened, I was behind the turning car. I was nearly rear-ended because the light was green, and I was in a lane that wasn’t supposed to be touching the brakes when the light was green.

The second time, I was in the turn lane pictured above. The car in the middle lane – the straight only lane – had turned its left turn-signal on about 50 ft before the intersection. I, who was turning left, actually moved into the slushy turn lane. When that car saw what I did, they made the wise decision to continue going straight instead of making the illegal left-hand turn from the wrong lane.

Ugh. It’s going to be a long winter, folks.

Misadventures in Minneapolis

I got laid off at the end of June. There was a general downsizing at my office (about 20% of the workforce) and I was one of the lucky (?) ones. Actually, they offered me what they considered a “lateral” move – but on my resume it would’ve been two steps backwards from where I am. So I declined and took a voluntary reduction in force package. When I did the math, I figured it would get me through July. With my skill set, I was hoping I would be able to find something within 30 days, even if it was just a temp job to buy me more time.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t already have my toes in the job pool. I’d already come to the decision that, as much as I liked my job, I couldn’t stay there. You don’t work for a non-profit to get rich, and I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck with no wiggle room.

After applying for a job two weeks ago today (Friday), having them call that afternoon to schedule an interview on the following Monday morning, and going in for a 2nd interview on that Thursday, I got the call that they would like to hire me on Tuesday afternoon. YAY!!!  Right on my timeline! However, they wanted to fast-track my hire date for this coming Monday. I’m going to be working for a job with pretty strict security, so I had to have some pretty intricate background checks and a drug test. I wasn’t worried about any of it, but the timing issue had me a bit concerned. I got all the background information submitted for the check on Wednesday, as I was told that was the piece that took the most time. I took the drug screening yesterday. That’s where my misadventures began.

On most days, I feel like I can pee on command. But yesterday, I wasn’t able to fill the specimen cup to the required level on the first try, even though I had 2 bottles of water in the morning – one when I got up and one in the car on my way over to the testing site. I had to drive across town in rush hour to get there, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.

Instead, I was told that I had 1 hour to be able to fill the cup. I was welcome to drink some of the water in the waiting room. It was suggested that I drink 4 cups. So I did. I slammed those cups of water down. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. After 35 minutes, I still didn’t feel like I needed to go. I sat. I stood. I paced in the waiting room. Nothing. So I drank 4 more cups of water. At 57 minutes, I was able to give them what they wanted.

Mr. Complicated had asked if I wanted to meet him for lunch. It was about 10:00 – a little early to steal him from his job. I had some time to kill. So I started meandering toward his job in downtown Minneapolis. I thought that finding a park or lake or something would be nice for a while. The day was sunny and clear, and the temp was in the upper 70s. I had my Kindle with me. I could go sit in the sunshine and read for a while.

About 20 minutes from the testing place, I realized I would need to find another bathroom. Oh sure. NOW the water was starting to catch up to me! I spied a little strip mall with a Caribou Coffee. I’m a glutton for punishment. An iced chai while reading under a tree sounded really good. So I stopped for a pit stop. After I left the bathroom, I walked down the strip mall to check out two other little shops I spotted on my way in. After browsing for a few minutes, I headed back to Caribou for my drink. But first, another pit stop. Because yeah, I had to go again.

I should’ve just walked back out without the chai. But I didn’t. I got the drink and left. Lake Calhoun was pretty much right across the street from me. I parked my car in some free municipal parking and crossed a baseball field to get to the lake.

I wandered down the walking trail that loops the lake. I found a nice bench with a pretty view and had a seat. Because I’m a brat, I pulled out my cell phone and posted a pic of where I was. I knew that my friends working hard and checking Facebook would appreciate it.

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I had been there for about an hour when that feeling came back again. Okay bladder. I got it. I know I consumed my whole water requirement for the day in less than 3 hours, and now you were going to make me pay. Lake Calhoun is not a small lake, and the public restrooms were clear on the other side from where I was, so I put my Kindle in my purse and headed back for the car. About halfway across the baseball field, I realized that I’d left my cell phone sitting on the bench.

So the next thing I knew, I needed to pee and I was hauling ass (sprinting) back to the bench to hopefully retrieve my phone. Have you ever seen an elephant sprint? It’s not pretty. And I’m sure I didn’t look any better. But my phone was still there.

I didn’t want to risk another sprint (I was already imagining the conversation with Mr. Complicated… “So sorry I can’t meet you for lunch today. I peed my pants.”) so I settled for a power walk. On my way back to the car, I saw a rolled up leaf in the path. It was bright green, and about the size of a cigar. I simutaneously realized that the wind wasn’t blowing and the “leaf” was crawling across the pavement. I stopped my walk long enough to snap a quick pic, because honestly, I have never seen a caterpillar that was this big before.

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I have tentatively identified it as a Pachysphinx occidentalis, or Big Poplar Sphinx. The site I saw said that it’s common from North Dakota and to the west. I’m thinking this one decided to head east a little. (And for the record, I just wasted about 30 minutes flipping through caterpillar images on Google to even attempt this.)

Anyway, I safely made it back to Caribou Coffee (3rd time in less than 2 hours, for those keeping track). As I was getting in my car, thinking I’d call Mr. Complicated to see if it was still too early for lunch, I got a text message. He was asking when I was coming over for lunch already. According to my GPS, I was 15 minutes away from his job, so I let him know I was on my way.

The easiest way to get there was to take I-394 to get downtown. What I didn’t realize was that the Twins were playing a matinee game against the Royals, and I was driving right into the stadium traffic. My 15 minute drive stretched into 30 minutes and, guess what? That’s right. By the time I pulled up outside his office, my eyeballs were floating again. We hit the little bar and grill across the street from his job, I ran into the Ladies’ and then proceeded to fill him in on my day.

He was having a slow day at work and had some errands to run before he headed to his parents’ house this weekend, so after lunch he took the rest of the day and we did some shopping. Thankfully, we stuck with stores that had public restrooms! I even got Mr. Complicated to do a little modeling for me.

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I got the all-clear from my new employer this morning. I will be starting my new job on Monday morning.

 

Camping and Canoeing – June 2013

Huntersville, MN – June 6-8

Canoe Trip from Shell City, MN to Huntersville, MN along Shell River/Crow Wing River

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I was only in a canoe one other time. I was eight. I was at Girl Scout camp. The canoe capsized at the dock (with me in it). We never made it onto the lake.

So when Mr. Complicated suggested a canoe trip in addition to our camping adventure, I was a little ambivalent.

We successfully made it from the Shell City Campground back to our own campground without capsizing. I learned that my “center” is usually about 2 inches to the right of where I think it is. I took some pictures. I enjoyed my day on the river – even if I did nearly die climbing the sand wall for our picnic lunch. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration. I was not in any real physical danger. I am just fat and out of shape.)

 

Heavy Hearted

We lost power at work yesterday. Apparently all of the A/Cs kicking on for the first time this year (high was over 95°F yesterday) caused a neighborhood transformer to explode. I know this first-hand because it happened as I was crossing our parking lot to head to lunch. Since the repairs were going to take several hours at a minimum, and not all of us are lucky enough to have laptops to work from battery power, our executives closed our office for the day.

So it wasn’t until this morning that I saw the email from our CEO. The email announcing that one of the girls in our council had died “in an incident” on a local bridge yesterday. The email went on to say what a valuable member she’d been, that she’d been very involved in our programs, and that our thoughts and prayers were with her friends and family.

A quick perusal of the newspaper explained that she (a sophomore) and her boyfriend (a senior) had jumped off a bridge to their deaths in the wee hours yesterday morning.

And I cried.

I didn’t know this girl. I don’t know what was going on in her life to make her think this was a good idea or the only answer. I have been to that dark, desperate place before. All I can say is, it gets better.

My family has been touched by suicide. I can speak first-hand on the questions that are left behind. And I can tell you about the things you miss when you take your own life. I can also tell you that I’ve yet to meet a person left behind after such an experience who says, “Thank goodness __________ is gone. Good riddance!” Instead, there are the brokenhearted who remain to ask questions that will never have answers, replaying last conversations, wondering if they missed a clue that this was going to happen, wondering what they could have done differently, blaming themselves for not doing X, Y or Z, because that might’ve changed everything.

Suicide is awful. It’s painful, despite what the theme to M*A*S*H might tell you. People who commit suicide typically think it’s “for the best”. If you believe that’s true, then tell the people you think it’s best for before you do it! See what they say.

If life is too hard to go on, it’s okay to take a break. If you need to hide under the covers for a week or more, do it. Tell someone how desperate you feel. Listen to them when they tell you they care.

This beautiful, wonderful 16-year old girl will miss prom, graduation, getting married, maybe having kids of her own, because she was in such a dark place she couldn’t see the light anymore. If you’re in the dark, I promise you, the light is still there. Someday it will creep back in. Just give it more time.

Death of an Alarm Clock

ImageLike many things in my life, my alarm clock has issues. First, the little light in the corner would sometimes be on, or would remain resolutely off, even when the alarm clock was definitely turned on, making me wonder whether it would go off at all the next morning. Then the snooze button stopped working. Well, kind of. At first, I’d have to push it multiple times to make it work. Then I’d have to violently push it multiple times. Finally, I had to turn the clock upside-down, listening to the internal bits shuffling the the process, then flip it back over and push the button down, sometimes repeating the process multiple times before it would finally realize that yes, I did want it to shut up.

But today, I was up before the alarm clock went off. So I turned it off. Only to have it go off anyway. And the only way to turn it off? Turning it back on.

I think it’s time for a new one.