An Unintentional 10 Miles

One of the many amazing things about living on the farm is that it is 2 miles away from the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area (SRA). That means that David and I have a lot of options for hiking, which is one of our favorite things. But this is not one of my hiking posts. I will do some more of that in the Summer (I totally just capitalized summer without thinking. Because in Minnesota summer is important and precious enough to be a proper noun!).

One of our favorite hikes is a 5-mile loop in the Louisville Swamp unit of the SRA. We had a rare no-plans day off on Saturday, so we headed out despite the balmy 23 degree weather. It’s not a very difficult hike, but I hadn’t done it since October, and my fitness level has plummeted over the winter (possibly the worst plummet in the history of my life, which is saying a lot because I’ve been pretty bad before), so I was damned tired by the end. At mile 4 there is a land bridge across the swamp. A land bridge that had been plowed through to allow for spring melt. What. The. Shit. Why was there nothing posted about this painful reality somewhere along the trail? There was no way around it.

Since we are somewhat experienced hikers who clearly feel that at some point we should be able to trust our instincts, we made the same mistake that we have made many times before. We thought that there must be a shorter way than walking back around on the same trail we had just traveled. Why choose the path of least resistance, right? No. Instead we added at least an additional 2 miles on new trails by trying to read the most non-helpful trail maps in the universe (if the “you are here” marker is so big it covers up the options for turning, that can create quite a problem), and eventually ended up back on the original trail anyway.

I had been in an obnoxiously chipper mood for the first four miles, while my husband had been a bit cranky (he wasn’t feeling the activity that day due to general winter malaise). As soon as we realized that crossing the swamp was not an option for getting back to our car, my mood quickly swung to “do not talk to me. Or look at me, for that matter.” The extra mileage didn’t improve matters. In other words: barely containing my rage. David has a history of choosing moments such as these to suddenly become wildly optimistic and Clark-Griswoldesque:



He literally says things, non-sarcastically, like “look at that! Are ya taking this all in?!,” while flinging out his arms as if to embrace the world. I can never tell in those moments whether he’s actually trying to cheer me up, or if he has a death wish.

Also, of course, the elastic waistband on my yoga pants chose to fail as we were on our trek back to the car, requiring me to tug upward on my pants and underwear every 15 feet or so. Because the tiredness, wind-burn, and Clark Griswold weren’t enough.

Needless to say, we did make it to the end mostly-intact. By the time we reached the parking lot, the dogs were looking at us reproachfully (that says a lot, since usually hiking is the best thing besides tennis balls and bacon), and we were very red-faced, hungry and dehydrated. A 10 mile hike is usually a fun thing when that’s what we plan on.

I suppose in the end it’s a lesson in being prepared and being able to be in the moment without getting all pissy when your plans take a turn. I seem to stumble into endless opportunities to learn that lesson…

Wind burn

Wind burn

We Made It: First Winter in the Country is Finished!

Happy first day of spring everyone! Of course, this is Minnesota, so it could continue to snow for another month.

View from my front steps this morning.

View from my front steps this morning.

Let’s hope not – even the cheeriest people around here are hovering somewhere between dead-eyed apathy and full-on stabbiness. I don’t blame anyone, either. It’s been a bad winter all over the U.S., and in MN it is the worst winter for sub-zero temperatures since 1979. Of course it would be a bad one during our first year of isolation out in the country.

Actually, I think that living  all the way out here in the stix has made this winter a lot more tolerable. We don’t have to deal with other people’s stabbiness so much. Nor do we need to deal with  the terrible on-street parking (and associated rules designed for maximum ticketing and towing. Big fundraiser in this state) that happen in the city. Minimal shoveling. We have a guy that comes and plows our driveway. We have a garage in which one of our cars can live so I haven’t had to do any of the dreaded car-brushing or ice-scraping this year. I work from home on the days when the roads are bad. All of this is a significant improvement from the slogging through snow drifts to dig out a plowed-in car only to move it to the other side of the street so it can get plowed-in again over there.

I did go through a little bit of isolation depression back in December. Or it may have just been the standard holiday season depression…hard to say. Otherwise I have been enjoying how quiet it is out here in the winter. The snow is beautiful instead of dirty and gross. Winter in the country feels like a time to rest and reflect rather than like a time to deal with the bad weather while doing the things that you always do like we did in the city. The main drawback has been that, since most of our friends still live in the city, we have missed a lot of events and happenings with them because of the impact of weather on driving.Well, and the other part is convincing myself to leave the house to attend events. Living here has made it hard for me to choose to venture out, despite knowing that connecting with friends is important and worth it once I get going!

The other drawback has been my commute. The fact that I still spend half of my life either  downtown, or traveling to or from downtown, is leaving me with some personal dissonance right now. I am doing my best to process that, but more on that later! For now, I hope you are enjoying a warm-ish spring day!

Farmhouse Make-over

Finally, here are the before and after pics of our house! A fun fact about this house is that it isn’t really a traditional farmhouse, despite the fact that the rest of the farm is over 100 years old (the barn, for example, is ancient!). The house is 1940′s era, and was actually moved, fully-formed, onto the property in 1942. The original (supercool) old farmhouse was moved into town, and is still there. I kind of wish that we had the original…but the 1940s is turning out pretty well! It’s another “both worlds” thing in my life: the house is really similar to a lot of the houses in Minneapolis, and probably isn’t too far off from what we would have lived in if we stayed there!

We’ll start the tour at the front door! This is the entrance/mudroom before:

Mudroom After 2 Mudroom After 1

This room took longer than it looks in the pictures! We replaced the front door and had to rebuild the threshold. The ceiling was full of cracks and all warped, so it had to be sanded down, filled and repainted. We replaced the lights and painted the walls and woodwork. We went with a dark color for the walls because we have found out that mudrooms are called mudrooms for a reason, and stark white just doesn’t work with mud!  Here it is now:

Mud Room After 2 Mud Room After 1

I kind of forgot to take completely before pictures of the kitchen, but you’ll get the idea. Here it is in process:

Kitchen Before 4 Kitchen Before 3 Kitchen Before 2

The stove and fridge have already been replaced in the pics above, but the stove used to be the same lovely avocado green as the dishwasher. In the kitchen we replaced all the appliances, replaced chipped tiles in the counter-top, ground out all the old grout in the counter tiles and re-grouted, scraped off the wallpaper border, plumbed in a new sink, scraped off the wallpaper base (around the table; not really visible in the pics above), painted the walls, spray-painted the shutters, and installed wainscoting around the base of the wall where the table goes. I really like the wainscoting (my idea!), though I was a little bummed that my original idea was not implemented here: I wanted to use wood from the barn, but my mom (aka, “bossypants” ) said no because of the risk of bringing bugs in. I bowed to her point there.  Oh, we also stripped the ancient nasty wax off the linoleum floor and re-waxed, which was not a small project:

Kitchen After 4 Kitchen After 3 Kitchen After 2 Kitchen After 1

I didn’t actually take before pictures of the living room. I didn’t really have my wits about me at the time of the “before,” I was just too stressed and overwhelmed to think about it. But you can get a general idea of what it looked like on a very good day in these pics from my wedding day (also, what girl doesn’t look for excuses to look at her wedding pics? Even if they are of her lookin’ all classy putting her smokes in her dainty satin purse…heh):

Liss, packing supplies

In the living room we ripped up the carpet, sanded and finished the wood floors, and painted everything but the ceiling. Most of the furniture here is temporary – we threw our old furniture away when we moved out of the apartment and haven’t replaced it yet!

Living Room After 3 Living Room After 2 Living Room After 1

Moving on! Here is probably my favorite room (and the most finished to my specifications!). This is the master bedroom before:

Main Bed Before 1

This is the only room that already had the hardwood floors exposed, but we still had to sand and refinish. Peeled wallpaper, painted everything, and Ta-da!:

Main Bed After 3 Main Bed After 2

Main Bed After 1

I am also a big fan of the bathroom. As you can see, I like the bright colors! I would have gone for something brighter in the kitchen, too, had we not been keeping the linoleum…

Here’s the bathroom before:

Bathroom Before 2 Bathroom Before 3 Bathroom Before 1 Bathroom Before 4

Lovely wallpaper circa 1960-something, rust stained bathtub and tile, mildewy ceiling, crumbly cabinet and medicine cabinet, tilty toilet, 1980′s lights. Awesome. We replaced broken tiles, scrubbed and re-regrouted the all tile, had the tub refinished, installed new faucets, installed a new cabinet (made by my father-in-law), new mirror, new light fixture, sealed and painted ceiling, peeled wallpaper off, leveled (by jacking up from the basement) the sagging floor around the toilet, painted walls and woodwork, and re-caulked the bathtub:

Bathroom After 4 Bathroom After 3 Bathroom After 2 Bathroom After 1

The hallway was a lot more work than it looks like it would be:

Hallway Before

What you don’t see in the photo above is that it used to be wallpapered in this slate blue and dusty rose early 1990′s number:

Hallway Wallpaper

I think that everyone lives in some level of horror of decorating their home in the  style of their childhood. When I was a kid, my mom, who really has very good taste, had my whole childhood home decked out in “touch of country” fashion of the ’90s. That was en vogue at the time, but I have a special hate for it now. That made it extra fun to spend a whole week looking at it while I scraped and chiseled this crap off the wall (the lady that hung it apparently used super glue). When I was done, I ripped up the carpet and crow-barred up a bazillion carpet tack boards and staples. Then I painted the walls, ceiling and woodwork, and Dave and his bro sanded and refinished the floor:

Hallway After

Seeing all the doorknobs in the photo reminds me to note that any hardware you see is hardware that was replaced. To replace all the doorknobs, the doors had to be re-drilled. Fun! And now we’re at the final room on the main level:

Spare Bed Before 1

The photo above was taken post-wallpaper-tear-down, so what you’re seeing is the color of the room as it was when my dad and uncle shared it! So, peeled, ripped, painted, sanded, refinished it looks like this:

Spare Bed After Spare Bed After 2

Kind of bare for now until we decide what to do with it!

That’s it for the time being! This post does not include that the house has been rewired and all of the plumbing has been 100% replaced. Nor does it include the fact that the basement flooded and the entire finished part had to be ripped out AND the foundation got fixed. It also doesn’t include the many outdoor projects. Long story short: it’s been a helluva lot of work, and we’re not done! We just got one level done, which is a big job in and of itself!

Current project: early stages of finishing off basement.

True Ghost Stories

Happy Halloween everyone! I don’t have a costume this year and am not going out for any kind of celebration because I live far away from the city and am  childless and also still feeling kind of  hermity for the moment. So I decided for the sake of some kind of celebration of my former favorite holiday, at full risk of appearing a little “woo-woo,” to share with you some of my own personal brushes with the paranormal! Obviously this implies that I believe in ghosts. As per usual, feel free to think I’m crazy.

First, though I had no personal experiences there , I did go to St. Mary’s University; home of one of the most famous haunts in Minnesota (I give you Wikipedia because it is the fastest and most cohesive version out there. There is a lot more detailed info available on the Google!). I also dated a boy that lived on the third floor of Mary’s hall where a priest spontaneously combusted, and was scared to death every time I had to leave his room to go to the bathroom at night (Which was a lot because he made me nervous and I have a tiny bladder anyhow. I’m still kind of proud that I never actually made him go with me!). Anyhow, I can vouch that St. Mary’s and Heffron Halls both have a distinctly creepy vibe to them at night.

My real college haunting experience happened when I lived off-campus with a couple of girlfriends senior year. I’ll start by saying our college town, Winona, MN, has a very long and colorful  history. A lot of the houses there that college students live in were once stately, and are still historical despite having been split up into oddly-shaped apartments. The house that we lived in was definitely not stately but was very, very old. My experiences there started with hearing voices. It was nothing that I could clearly make out, I would just wake up (or not be able to fall asleep) to an undercurrent of whispers. I started always sleeping with the covers over my head because I didn’t want to actually see whoever those voices belonged to. It freaked me out, but I didn’t mention it to my roommates because I was  a little worried that I was actually losing my mind . I was in treatment for bulimia/anorexia senior year, so I felt a little crazy. But I wasn’t on any drugs or anything, just going to therapy/nutritionist. For the record, I also did not do an recreational drugs by that time.

Unlike most college students I didn’t stay up late to do my homework. Instead, I got up early. So it wasn’t unusual for me to be up at 5:30-6 in the morning, well before my roommates. One morning I was in the shower and the lights went out in the bathroom. There was no window in there, so I was stuck in the shower in the pitch black. When I fumbled my way out of the shower and over t0 the light switch, I discovered that the switch had been flipped down. I also discovered that the bathroom door was still locked, so it couldn’t have been one of my roommates. When I tiptoed over to each of their bedrooms to check in on them, they were both sawing logs.

The shower incident freaked me out enough, and seemed concrete enough, to mention to my roommates. When I did, both of them ended up having their own stories to relay: one could have swore that she saw an apparition in our living room one night. The other felt that she had been pushed while going down the stairs. Verdict: That house was very creepy, and it wasn’t just the redneck guys upstairs  or the overbearing landlord!

The next story was a little more intense for me when I was going through it. My first apartment in Minneapolis was, as many of them are, in an old brownstone building from the 1920s. I lived alone there, but started dating my now-husband not too long after I moved in, so he had plenty of his own experience there. The first thing is that I never quite felt comfortable sleeping alone in that apartment. I almost always slept with a light on there, and frequently had bizarre dreams. When Dave started spending some nights there he began having some night terrors, where he would look awake (eyes open) to me but he would still be in the nightmare. It was super scary for me to see him kind of locked into a terrifying non-reality until I managed to actually wake him up (it is also a testament to how quickly we became extremely close because this was only a few months into our relationship!).

The other thing was that the enormous lamp that I had in the corner of the living room seemed to flicker in response to things that were said in the room.  It happened all the time; almost too much to call it a coincidence. However, thanks to the age of the building, we just wrote it off as old wiring. The event that finally convinced us that the apartment was truly haunted was that one night when we were in bed we heard the stereo turn on in the living room. To make it more eerie, the song that came on was a folk song based on Norwegian cattle calling accompanied by a hardanger fiddle (I know that sounds really bizarre, but it’s actually really beautiful and haunting in a good way!). It was a cassette (I’m voluntarily aging myself) that we had recorded off the radio during the Scandinavian Roots Festival.  The song came on at the very beginning…spooky. Dave went and turned it off. We looked all over for the remote control to make sure something hadn’t fallen on it or something. We found it just sitting on a shelf. Weird.

Anyhow, we went back to bed and a minute later it turned on again! I was too scared at this point to go out to the living room, but I heard the music getting louder. Dave actually saw the volume dial physically turning up. I don’t think I ever slept alone in that apartment again!

So those are my two scary ghost stories…I have a couple of sweeter ones, too, but those are for another time! It is misty and spooky outside in my part of Minnesota right now…perfect Halloween weather. Wherever you are, may you have a delightfully haunted day!

Welcome this is a Farmhouse

Since I’m a sloppy writer, I don’t know the rules about ripping off song lyrics to use as a blog title, so I’ll just say that the title of this post is from a Phish song called Farmhouse. You should listen to it.

As of July I live on a farm. This was my grandmother’s home for 50 years, and my grandfather’s home for the last 26 years of his life.

The driveway goes to the back of the house. So what we call the front is really the back

The driveway goes to the back of the house. So what we call the front is really the back

They moved to the farm from Bloomington when my dad was six. There is so much to say about the story of this place in relation to my family, but I think that’s for another time. This is just an intro to my personal relationship with this place, and my new way of being here.

This is technically the front of the house. But we call it the back.

This is technically the front of the house. But we call it the back.

My dad has been the primary caretaker of the farm for my entire life. My grandpa had a stroke when I was pretty young…maybe six or so? And from there on out, grandma took care of grandpa until his death, and dad took care of everything else. My dad worked nights when I was a kid, and during the summer he was at the farm at least four out of seven  days, which means my brother and I were here, too.

The barn in February. We have since torn the silo down.

The barn in February. We have since torn the silo down.

I was also very close with my grandma growing up, and spent the night out here frequently. So the farm was basically a second home to me. My brother and I ran wild outside here, did a lot of baking with grandma, ate a lot of her amazing pancakes, and hung out and watched TV with grandpa. All family holidays were here. I  had several childhood birthday parties here, including a hayride. And when I grew up, I got married here.


Suffice it to say that the farm has never not been a very special place to me. And now I get to live here.

Despite loving the place, I was worried about whether or not it would be really hard to adjust to living here. I mean, I did live in the most populace neighborhood in Minnesota before moving out to the stix. I was used to constant over-stimulation. I was worried that I would be bored or lonely. I was worried that I would be scared to be there alone, especially at night. I was worried that I would grow to hate the commute to downtown so much that I would just hate my life. I was also really worried that it would never feel like my home; it would always feel like I was a visitor at Grandma’s house. That concern wasn’t so much about my grandma imposing her will, but was more about overcoming my own childhood attachment to the place.



So far all of my worries were for naught. There is so much to do out here in terms of actual physical labor that being bored is practically a sin! Also, I have been spending a lot more time on writing and reading than I did with all the distractions of the big city, and that makes me very happy. Basically I’ve been making up for lost time with all of the introverted things that I like to do and haven’t done enough of while I was busy being hyper-social.  I have been  enjoying the peace. And being a little on the hermity side.  However, it is also very important that I have still been making an effort to get together with my friends. I’m no longer able to go to everything that I once did due to the distance, but I’ve still been trying to get together with people a few times per month.

Crazy jungle-like garden which I intend to tame this spring!

Crazy jungle-like garden which I intend to tame this spring!

The commute is long, but I finally relented a little bit of my Luddite  tendency (and gave up on feeling that I was  somehow cheating on actual books), and got a Kindle. I’m so in love with it I can hardly stand it. I’ve been reading double-time (which is excessive since I already read a lot before!). Anyhow, I actually enjoy the commute at this point because the 20 minute drive to the park and ride is pretty, and then I get an uninterrupted hour of reading or journaling time!

So far I have not been scared of being there alone at night (well, except for a couple of times when I’ve been letting the dog out and my brain dared to think: what if that thing crashing around in the pasture isn’t a deer or a racoon or a coyote, but a human being? It doesn’t take that long then for my brain to go down the path of adding an ax, chainsaw, etc. to that human. *Shutting mind to possibility of human in pasture*). Otherwise there is nothing creepy about the place, and I think my childhood experience there actually helps a lot. It feels very homey and comforting to me.

Despite the childhood memories, I’m actually surprised by how not weird it feels for me to live there. I feel like the extensive interior updating (pics forthcoming. This time I promise I will actually do it. I will post pics!) has made the house feel like my own, but the memories still overlap the facelift in a way that makes it very comfortable for me. In any case, right now I feel very much like I get the best of both worlds in a lot of ways: City for work and fun and country for home and rejuvination. After a full year of more intensive chaos than is even usual for me, I am feeling pretty blessed.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I’m celebrating the 5 year anniversary of my blog by blogging after not blogging for a really long time. When I started this blog in 2008, it was basically meant to chronicle me getting my shit together. Five years later most of what I’ve accomplished along those lines has been completely accidental. Or, I’ve accomplished things and have then, sometimes quietly and sometimes spectacularly, unaccomplished them. Final diagnosis: I am a chaos machine.

In five years I have:

  • Gained 30 lbs.
  • Lost 30 lbs.
  • Gained 30 lbs.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Started smoking.
  • Quit smoking. (for the sake of brevity, multiply the last 3 lines by about 50. Not kidding. This is closely rivaled by the number of times I have quit and restarted drinking).
  • Done approximately one major detox per year (immediately followed each time by a downright overachieving retox).
  • Read approximately 400 books. Many of which were spiritual, health, philosophical, or psychology related. A lot of good those did. Actually, I think I did learn a lot of valuable things. But obviously I didn’t follow any of the prescriptions within.
  • Established a good, almost-daily, yoga practice.
  • Stopped and am now so creaky and stiff that I’m afraid that if I do downward dog I won’t be able to get myself out of it.
  • Started a blog. Quit writing on it. Started writing on it. Quit writing on it. ad nauseum.

If I wasn’t married I would obviously embody Bridget Jones.

O.K., all that aside there are a handful of things that have happened to me (or that I have made happen) that are a little more grown-up:

Maybe I was wrong in assuming that one’s 30s is when one gets one’s shit together? Or maybe I’m just really taking it slow and making sure that I take in all the finer points so that when I get it I, like, really get it. Or maybe the real wrong assumption is that clarity comes from a lack of chaos, when I think I’m learning that clarity, at least for me, can only come from chaos. At least I’m still trying!

They say we’re made of chaos, I say we’re made of love, that’s why our show starts now, our show starts now

- Cloud Cult

Random Meta-musing on Social Media

So, I was, out of absolute mind-numbing boredom (Oh, I am very, very busy, but my whole life consists of nothing but complete tedium right now), bumming around on LinkedIn and happened to note that this guy that I dated a billion years ago happened to post a photo since the last time I browsed through my connections. I was about to click on it, because I’m curious about what he looks like now, when I remembered that LinkedIn shows people who has been looking at their profiles. So I refrained. But later I was thinking, “O.K., this is a person that I knew for less than six months and still managed to completely and utterly mortify myself with. More than once. He knows that I’m a crazy person. And social networking sites mainly exist for the purpose of spying on people, do they not?” Point being, why am I so afraid of getting busted spying on people when:

  • That is the whole point of social media. SPYING! VOYEURISM! Etc
  • Given my long history of self-mortifying behavior, I clearly have no shame. Why, then, should I have an overdeveloped sense of shame when it comes to going and looking where the whole point is to look?

In this case I suppose the fear is that he will think that I’m still carrying a flame, or whatever , when really, I’m just curious. I think that’s probably why a lot of people are afraid of getting busted spying: if a person is no longer part of our real lives, we can’t control what that person will think of us looking. And we fear that they will perceive our curiosity incorrectly. And none of us can deal with not being able to control our “image,” the way in which others perceive us, thanks to the broadened playing field that now exists on which to make asses out of ourselves. We’re all too used to thinking that we have control while simultaneously having less control than ever.

My point is that we don’t really have control over how others perceive us anyhow (the old saying: “what others think of you is none of your business” is so true!). It’s an illusion. You can’t control another person’s filter on the world. And also, we all look. And clearly anyone who puts themselves out there doesn’t mind being looked at (granted, with varying levels of honesty about what we present to the world! ). So, go ahead! Click with impunity, my friends! I plan to.