Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fortune Cookie Messages - Collections Pt 2

It's Chinese New Year!  Lining up with this two-week celebration (Feb. 5 to Feb. 19) I'm presenting part 2 of the Slices Collections Series.  You can find part 1 here:

Fortune Cookie Messages - regarding those little slips of paper you find in Chinese Cookies; a bit of wisdom to enjoy along with the sweet cookie as a palate cleanser to the savory stir fry, egg rolls, fried rice or noodle dish.  Ever since I've become gluten free, I don't eat the cookie anymore but still collect many of these little sentiments which I usually tape into my writing journals.

Years ago I ate out at a lot of different Chinese restaurants, and the messages inside the cookies actually sounded like fortunes.

The star of riches is shining upon you.  

I happened to be dating a guy named Rich at the time, so for me it took on a nice little twist.

Another one that I've gotten a number of times:

Why do you worry when happiness is sitting right next to you?

Hopefully you're sitting next to your spouse or significant other as you're reading it.

Here's a more recent one that still qualifies as a fortune:

I gleefully tucked this one into my wallet and by the time I found it again, I couldn't remember the date I got it!

More often than not, I've gotten Statement Cookies:

Which, I guess, speaks to enjoying the journey rather than the final destination.

Ok, but not if you're standing in line at a bank!

And if you're herding cats, you might manage to lead them to water but don't expect them to drink it. (??)

And here's a Compliment Cookie:

Why, thank you!

And the Proverb Cookies:

Sounds like a great sermon starter.

True and empowering, but could also be a bit lonely.

This one wasn't mine, but I should have kept it anyway:

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. 

(That poor first mouse!)

With Advice Cookies, it's tempting to assume a coaching or mentoring relationship has been established:


(Or you may regret it!)

(Keep it Simple Sam!)

Here's an Exclamation or Interjection Cookie:

Meaning:  "Praise ye the Lord."

I think this one appeared right around Easter time.

And this one is my all-time favorite:

Happy 2019 everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Matchbooks - Collections Pt. 1

Welcome to the Collections Series!  The weather has been below zero these past few weeks and I've spent a lot of time indoors surrounded by my "stuff."  I have collections that are not all that unusual and it's been interesting to consider why I hang onto certain things for years on end.

As a kid, I collected stamps, postcards, coins, small trinkets that I found on my way home from school, homemade cards and long letters from friends.  Some of those have gone by the wayside, but for this series I'll look at some of my current collections.

For a very long time I've collected matchbooks.  I keep these on display in one of my mother's glass bubble dishes.

I enjoyed looking at all these again.  I was hoping to find the first one from a trip I took to Chicago with my old Camp Fire group.  We were in 9th grade.  There were six of us and two adults and we went to a formal French restaurant our last night there.  All I remember was that we were nervous about proper table manners.  The 20-something apprentice waiter was trying not to laugh at us as we spilled water, dropped napkins or stabbed something on our plate that went flying across the table.  They gave us all little boxes of matches.  The matchsticks were elegant - black with gold tips.  Sadly, I think I used them all for lighting candles.

This little subset is from some of the more common local restaurants.  Good times!  Perkins was a great light-night spot after ballroom dance events.  Green Mill (deep dish pizza), Olive Garden and Emily's were favorites that I have not tried since my food allergies came along.  At Cherokee (steaks!), Christos and the newer Fogo de Chao we gathered with groups friends for great fun and lots of laughs.  Large appetites required!

And then we have a very special few from our honeymoon trip years ago.  We drove to Mackinac Island, MI and along the way we stayed at several inns and B&Bs.  One of our favorites, The Rosenberry Inn in Wausau, WI, still exists, as does the House of Ludington, a hotel in Escanaba, MI with a restaurant attached.

The Waters Meet was a casual restaurant along the main drag among the ten fudge shops also on that street.  It was too expensive for us to dine at the Grand Hotel (cost was about $150/person at the time), but they said the dancing was free. "Oh, we'll go for the dancing, then!"  So we got all dressed up and walked (in the rain) to dinner at Waters Meet where we were overdressed and then grabbed a cab (horse and carriage because there are no motorized vehicles on the island) and rode to the Grand Hotel.  We danced all night and had a few drinks and then took the horse and carriage back to our B&B at the end of the night.  :-)

And then we have the odd set of matchbooks that don't fit anywhere else.  Craguns - from the resort up North where we attended church conferences or skied with friends.

Shout out to Emma Torzs, reader/writer for the great matchbook PR.  I met her at one of the many writers' conferences I, but I can't remember which one.  Hopefully, Emma, our paths will cross again!

The white with green circle (We appreciate your patronage) - I have no idea where this one is from.

And A Perfect Match was from the wedding reception of Katy and Bo my niece and nephew-in-law.  (They now have four children.)

Oh, yes, and the wonderful books from various places I've traveled.  The small box from Hotel des Jardins du Luxembourg, the hotel I stayed at during a Paris writing residency with Spalding U.  Wooden matchsticks with white tips.

Sleepy Hollow Lodge was in West Yellowstone.  The reviews aren't that great, but we liked it.  It had a kitchen, two rooms and cozy living space.  Didn't spend much time there anyway because we were running around in the park looking at geysers, buffalo and colorful rock formations.

La Rue Marche - ha!  This one should be in the previous set.  It's nowhere near France; it's not a restaurant; it's a women's clothing boutique in Hudson, WI.

The green leafy book on the left is from the San Diego Princess, a resort where my spouse stayed for a work conference.  I joined him over the weekend and we visited an old elementary school friend of mine who had moved when I was in 8th grade.

The Mandarin is a Chinese restaurant in Wausau.  This was not part of our honeymoon trip.

Longley's was a restaurant from one of our first trips to Reedsburg, WI.  (We stayed in Reedsburg so that we could go to the plays at American Players Theatre in Spring Green.)  Longley's was the dinner spot; during the day, the lunch place (same location) was called Shortley's.

Zelda's is a Mexican place in Santa Cruz, CA where we piggy-backed a stay in San Francisco along with another one of my writing conferences at Mount Hermon.

Country Inns & Suites - we've been to many including the ones in Duluth and Kansas.  This is one of our go-to motels because they usually have kitchens where I make my allergy free foods, especially breakfast.

Californos is a restaurant and very cool venue in Kansas City where our friend from ballroom dance had her wedding reception.  (Hey, Karen and John!)

And another cute box from Ray's Boathouse, a wonderful seafood place in the Ballard area of Seattle overlooking Puget Sound where my high school friend's sister lives.  Wooden matches with red tips.

And finally, the last set.  Although all of my matchbooks evoke nostalgic feelings, these ones are especially memorable because these are from local places that no longer exist.

Acropol was a Greek restaurant formerly on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.  Their food was authentic and exquisite, especially their lemon soup.

Almost next-door to Acropol was the White Lily a favorite Vietnamese Restaurant.

The one with Heather Ridge was from Kozlak's.  I only went there a few times, but once was for lunch with the retired ladies of my townhouse complex.  It was a treat.  The food was great, well presented, and the waitresses called everyone "Mum."

I don't remember going to Awada's.  I think my husband picked that one up.

Chez Bananas was a Caribbean/Cajun inspired restaurant located in the Mpls. Warehouse District with vintage toys and games on the tables - Mr. Potatohead, Slinkys, Parcheesi.  I don't remember what I ate there, but it was always unusual and always good.  It was at a time when I was trying new things, exploring the free jazz concerts in the cities, and going to dances 3-4 times a week.  Awk!  I just looked it up, and I think it had a reprise a few years ago before it closed again.  Wish I would have known.

And last, but not least, the matchbook from Favore, the Italian restaurant located in the World Trade Center of downtown St. Paul.  They had a pasta bar with homemade noodles and a variety of sauces.  The timing for this is appropriate because it was where my sweetheart proposed a few days after Valentine's Day almost twenty-five years ago.  I obviously said yes, and the rest is pleasant history.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Have a Nice Day - Inspiration Series Pt 3

Another short piece.  Just in time for Thanksgiving season, this little story was published in 2013 as part of Gratitude Prayers, an anthology compiled by June Cotner.

You can find parts 1 and 2 of the Slices Inspiration Series at the following links:

Saved from the Flames - Inspiration Series Pt 1
Reaching Out, Taking a Risk - Inspiration Series Pt 2

Have a Nice Day

I never knew his name.  In my mind he was "The Parking Lot Man."  Each time I went to my dance class and parked in the pay lot, I saw the attendant, an older man, sitting in the pay booth.  He worked at least eight hours a day doing what, to me, looked like a boring job—collecting fees and raising and lowering the exit bar; however, he seemed to enjoy his work, always giving me a big smile when I drove up, and sending me off with "Have a nice day."

I was taking a lot of classes that year, hoping to improve my technique, but as a person coming to dance later in life, I found the classes harder than I thought.  Most of my classmates were at least ten years younger, and some had been training since they were three years old.  At the time I had a lot of health issues as well as ongoing back problems.  Not a day went by when I didn't leave the studios feeling old, exhausted, discouraged and mediocre.  

But my spirits were always lifted by the Parking Lot Man.  Sometimes when there was street parking available, I'd park in his lot anyway because I looked forward to his smile and greeting.

One morning I came to class early and saw him pushing himself around in the parking lot in a wheelchair.  I guess I'd noticed he used a wheelchair, but usually he was sitting in the booth and I'd only seen him from the waist up.  I drove into the lot and he waved, smiling, and then went back to cheerfully picking up bits of trash.  I marveled at how swiftly he moved around the edges of the lot, turning his chair expertly across the lined asphalt and how much pride he took in his work, even down to the smallest details.

When I got out of my car, I almost dropped my dance shoes.  He had no legs.  

That day I went to class on my own two legs, grateful for my bundle of limitations, and had a very nice day enjoying what I knew I was supposed to do.

Current reflections:  

Two years after this piece was published I had the privilege of performing in Arts Access Chautauqua, a mixed abilities dance concert with fellow choreographer and friend Mike Cohn who uses a walker as well as wheelchair as part of his choreography.  I enjoy seeing the talent of those with physical limitations.  

I still take dance classes and some of my classmates are now about 20-30 years younger.

I will never underestimate the power of a pleasant greeting or a kind word. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reaching Out, Taking a Risk - Inspiration Series Pt 2

Here's part 2 of the Slices Inspiration Series, an experimental set of blogs arranged by topic.  You can find part 1 here:

This story happens during the same time in my life as part 1.  I tried publishing it years ago, but there were very few places for this style of writing.

It's been interesting to re-read what I wrote as my younger self.  I leaned more toward tech writing rather than creative writing, and my temperament was also a bit sweeter.  Read: more innocent, slightly less cynical, less jaded and not as bold.  But in reality, the core of who I am and what I believe has not changed much.

In this story I've changed the names of the people involved, but I believe if I were to talk to them today, I don't think they'd mind if they were recognized.  Please enjoy this slightly updated version.

Reaching Out, Taking a Risk

"How could he do this to me?" a woman's voice yelled from across the driveway.

I looked up from my magazine.  I was sitting out on our deck on a warm spring day.  The cry had come from my neighbor's open window.

Just then a man ran out of the house, jumped into his car and drove off.  The woman yelled again, screamed and began to moan.

I didn't know what to do.  I was newly married, living in a new neighborhood, and rather shy in new situations.  I had seen my neighbor come and go, waved to her a few times, but we really hadn't formally met each other yet, and now was not the best time to introduce myself.  But I just couldn't sit by and let her cry.

After several long minutes I walked over to her house.  I rang the doorbell and an older woman and a boy, about 8 years old, answered the door.

"Excuse me," I said, feeling kinda shaky.  "Um, I live across the way and I heard someone... crying over here.  Is there anything I can do to help?"

"That's very kind of you," said the woman.  "It's my daughter, Sara.  She just ended a relationship that  should have ended a long time ago."

"Yeah, that's for sure," said the boy.

I didn't want to pry, so I gave Sara's mother my phone number.  "If she needs anything or if just wants to talk to someone, have her give me a call."

"Thank you," she said.  "It would be nice if Sara had a friend."

Over the next few days I saw Sara's ex-boyfriend drive up to the house.  He tried the door, but she must have changed the locks because he couldn't get in.  He left, and I never saw him after that.

A few weeks went by and I kept thinking about Sara.  I prayed for her, but she didn't call me.  She was older, a single mom, so I figured she was probably busy working and taking her son to school or Little League.  A few times she asked me to water her geraniums when she was gone for the weekend, and she returned the favor and watered our plants when we were on vacation.

One summer evening when my husband was away, I was eating supper on the deck and decided if Sara came home before I finished eating, I'd call her and ask her if she wanted to go for a walk.  Five minutes later she drove up and I gave her a call.

We walked to the park while her son, Brian, rode his bike along with us.  Among other things, she told me about Brian's father who had left when Brian was only a baby.  Sara also had another college-aged son by different man who had also left her.  Most recently she had been dating, but none of the relationships seemed to last.

"I never seem to meet the good ones," she said.

"Do you belong to a church?"  I asked, surprised because I'm not a person who is usually comfortable talking about my faith.  "Maybe you could meet people there," I said.

"I haven't been to church in a while," she admitted.  "I know I should go.  Especially when Brian keeps asking me questions about God that I don't know how to answer."

We didn't talk much more about personal stuff, but watched a movie together and had a very good time that evening.  I didn't see her much over the next few seasons, but sometime the following spring I was looking out the window and saw another car parked in her driveway.  Soon she came out followed by a nice-looking man.

Maybe it's her brother, I thought.

They kissed.

Ok, maybe not.

They carried a picnic basket and cooler out to the car and drove away.

Of course, over the next couple of weeks, I found myself peeking out the window every time I heard a car outside.

"You're just like one of those little old ladies who spy on their neighbors," my husband said.

Maybe.  Oh, but it was so compelling!  Like watching a silent movie.  It's amazing how much you can learn about a situation, but I was also worried about Sara, hoping she wouldn't get hurt again.   So, they'd come and go, and one day the man brought a boy and a girl with him.  Maybe he's divorced and these are his kids.  He rang the doorbell, and while he waited, he started picking up loose rocks and twigs from the yard.  He seems very conscientious.  Could be a nice guy.  When Sara came out, his son and her son started racing each other across the lawn while they got ready for what looked like another picnic.

About a month later the two boys rang my doorbell.  "This is Adam," said Brian.  "And we're going to be brothers!"

"Really?  That's great!" I said, at the same time thinking, That was fast.  Should I be concerned?

A few weeks later I received an invitation to her wedding.  What?  She's getting married now?

When I called to accept the invitation, Sara told me that she and David had been working at the hospital for three years--she as a nurse and he as an orderly.  David's wife had died of cancer a year earlier.  I listened with amazement as my neighbor who "hadn't been to church in a while," told me that God had brought them together.

Frankly, I had a lot of doubts.  Often, when people find out that I'm a church-goer, they mention God because they think it's something I want to hear.  I had so many questions and concerns, but again, I didn't want to pry.

The wedding was held at a small friendly church that David regularly attended.  At the reception we sat with another couple, David's neighbors, and the pastor who had married them.  They spoke of David's strong faith and what a wonderful man he was.  They also mentioned David's wife who had been only thirty-two years old when she died, how he had grieved so much, how they were all glad when he had found Sara.

After David and Sara raised their glasses in the traditional toast, Sara stood.  She thanked everyone for coming and said that we all represented those who had been special in their lives in one way or another.  I looked around.  Less than seventy-five people sat in that room, and I felt humbled to be among her family and close friends.

"My life has been very difficult," she said, "and now with a blended family it won't be simple, but I'm grateful to God for bringing David into my life.  David is my soul mate."

I wept as I witnessed Sara's changed life, but the biggest change was in me.  I was so afraid that day when I first rang her doorbell, but I'm glad I did.  It gave me a chance to be a friend, share someone else's joy, and see my prayers answered.

Hopefully, it also paved the way for me to take bigger risks in the future.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Saved from the Flames - Inspiration Series Pt 1

Welcome to the Slices Inspiration Series.  Over the next month I'll be experimenting with different topics and themes that I'll post as a set of 3-5 blogs followed by a short break in between.  Other topics may include humor, nostalgia, struggles, day trips, gratitude, food and recipes, writing tips, dance musings, cat tales, public speaking, and coaching observations.

I welcome your suggestions for other topics.  Feel free to post your ideas in the comments section below.  Thank you!

Saved from the Flames was the original title for a short essay aka More Than the Birds published online through a devotional called Web Women Connect.  Although the website is no longer available, you can access some of their older posts through the Facebook page at this link.  Below is my "bloggified" version of the events.

Saved from the Flames

Several (close to 20) years ago at our previous house, a pair of cardinals, gray and red, started making a nest in the light fixture just outside our front door.  We didn't think the nest would be a problem, but one night, we left the light on as usual, and the next morning all that remained was the charred outer frame of the lamp.  Obviously the nest had caught fire.

As I look at the picture now, I wonder if the small dark tuft in the top part was the remains of their nest.  On the ground below (not pictured) was a puddle of melted plastic mixed with pieces of broken glass.  I was happy that I didn't see any dead birds, but birds are smart; they know when to flee even if it means leaving the home that they've worked so hard to build and establish.

But notice the warped siding behind the lamp--buckled, all the way up to the overhanging roof.  It wasn't just a small fire; we had torch burning outside our door during the night!  Needless to say, the birds never came back.

Some would say we were lucky that our house didn't burn down, but I really believe that God was watching over us.  He protected us and saved us from the flames.  As the verse says, "What is the price of five sparrows?  A couple of pennies?  Yet God does not forget a single one of them.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7)

As I reflect on this piece many years later, I realize we live in a different world and there is the larger picture--that not everyone survives a fire, a hurricane, an arsonist's activities or a terrorist attack.  So, this is my prayer:

I thank God that He protected us from that unseen disaster so long ago and that I am here today to talk about it.  I also pray for those who have experienced traumatic and horrific circumstances and have lost their homes or loved ones.  I ask, Lord, that you would restore them both inside and out, give them hope and provide the resources that they need.  Help them to know that they are precious to you, and even though we don't understand your plan or why you allow things to happen, we ask that the survivors are able to go forward knowing that your presence is with them.

In the name of Jesus, amen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Embracing Messiness

Welcome to the relaunch of my blog!  Though the name is the same as it was when I started back in 2012, the new description is slightly different:

Slices of life, glimpses of Truth, insights and creative connections.

Ok, maybe this seems more vague and open-ended than the previous description about finding connections between art, faith, food and other fun things in the Twin Cities, but for the moment, the new one fits.  I've written a lot of entries for public consumption about dance concerts, destinations, restaurants, and events, and I'll probably continue to do that, but my new focus is about my own stuff.

About Embracing Messiness:  Once upon a time I had a single career path—to be a writer.  Along with that came the whole writing and publishing business—editing, revising, critique groups, submitting work, going to conferences, pitching, creating a platform, developing a marketing plan and social media outlets.

Then came dance.  What started out as a hobby and form of exercise turned into a ministry, and then as I stepped out of faith-based environments, I found the lively Twin Cities dance community, lots of technique classes, performances, choreography and more social media.

After I got my graduate degree I started coaching and I loved it a lot.  Grammar, spelling, punctuation for English speakers, and then moving on to teaching English language learners from many different  countries who needed pronunciation, conversation skills and help with a occasional thesis or dissertation.  Also, with a few clients I frequently take on the role of life skills mentor which I have found very rewarding.

Among all of this, life goes on, and though things are good right now, the past few years or so have held many challenges—loved ones dealing with health issues, a sibling's decline and passing, and a few controversies involving some formerly beloved institutions—foundational rugs getting pulled out from under me and many others which left a lot of bruises, skinned knees and trust issues.

On a more positive note, I recently met with an artistic career coach, Laura Holway, who gave me some great advice and insights.  Instead of calling myself a writer, a dancer or a coach, she suggested I call myself a creative person who does many things.  Ultimately my goals are to communicate what I know, create community and help others reach their true potential.

My plan:  Take small steps.  Continue doing what works.  Let go of what doesn't.

I've never been one to have a coordinated dinner table with matching napkin rings, napkins, plates and centerpieces.  And often I find out that my friends and family members who do have lovely dinner sets have other parts of of their lives that are unruly, unwieldy and yes, rather embarrassing.

Eventually I'll be setting up a website that acts as an index or an "umbrella" to the different slices of what I do.  The colors of the website will probably match my blog, my business cards and my LinkedIn site, but will the fonts or the themes be the same?  I don't know.

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there dealing with this sort of thing.  So, for what it's worth, here is my slice of advice:  Embrace your mess, and let God bless it!  God can not be put into a box, and since we are created in God's image, then maybe we don't belong there either.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

New Food Finds, Part 2

More coffee, food and smoothies, coming right up!

Anelace Coffee

Almond milk lattΓ©
I've been enjoying this coffee shop on Central Ave. in NE Mpls. mostly for it's atmosphere and artist presentation of their drinks.  They have a small selection of pastries (no gluten free), but golly, I love the large space with wood floors and high ceilings—a nice place to hang out and write.

Rather quiet this particular day.
Other days can be a rather hopping place.

Lamb Vindaloo, rice, Goan Shrimp Curry (yum!)

Gorkha Palace

This has been a great go-to place.  Savory Nepali, Indian and Tibetan food.  They also have a stand at the farmer's market where I sometimes buy curried vegetable rice or ghee.  There are several allergy-free options on the menu and the staff are very helpful at finding options for those with limited diets.  I've had their soup and biriyani as well as some of their appetizers and curry dishes.

Griddle Cakes and Nutty Espresso
(cashew, banana, espresso, dates, cinnamon, almond milk)

There are very few places in the Cities that have gluten, dairy, egg and soy free pancakes.  My top three:  French Meadow (blueberry corn cakes), Seward CafΓ© (righteous cakes), and Agra-Culture.  We found Agra-Culture while enjoying a staycation a few years ago, and it has become one of our favorites for both breakfast and other meals.  They also have great juices and smoothies!  Four locations now - Edina (50th & France), Uptown, Minneapolis Institute of Arts (limited menu), and the new one in Highland Park, St. Paul.

breakfast bowl (with eggs), The Refresher - watermelon,
pineapple, ginger

Kale side salad

New Grocery Items

Ever since I discovered my soy allergy, it's been a challenge finding alternatives even to some of my gluten and dairy free options.  Breakfasts are probably the most difficult, but I'm always happy to see new products continually becoming available.

Enjoy Life - (soy free chocolate)
Forager cashew yogurt, Kite Hill almond yogurt,
Heidi Ho - dairy free cream cheese
Ian's French toast
Bobo's - oat bars
Great for travel and quick breakfasts!
Created by a mother-daughter team.
Ok, maybe not for breakfast!
Mochi wrapped coconut ice cream

Feel free to post in the comments if you know of any other restaurants or food items that might be helpful for those of us who have limited diets.  Cheers and happy eating!