Archive for December, 2007

Snow!

Friday morning I awoke to find Dad drinking coffee…and Mom scooping the driveway.

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(They later clued me in that Dad had done the first 2/3 — and then Mom shooed him inside to get ready for a visitor.)

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We got about 5 inches of the fluffy stuff.

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White Christmas

We hosted Dad’s side of the family on Christmas day, and sledding through the grass snow was a huge hit with the little ones. Dad fetched the 4-wheeler, and we bundled up the kids for our rendition of a Christmas sleigh ride.

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“Hold on Mikala,” said James.

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“Oops, I think our rope is twisted,” said Dad.

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“Weeeeeee!!!!!!”

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“Stay on the snow, Uncle Jim!”

“Whew, my buns are wet.”

Back inside (and dry), everyone gathered in the living room for our grab bag exchange.

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Mikala was number 10.

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Jim kept waiting and waiting for someone to pick the gift he brought — the “prized” DVD of Showgirls that DIY added to the mix last year. (Uncle Roy was the poor fellow to draw it.)

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After gifts were opened, the aunties put out Grandma’s tea cup collection, which required us to play nicely and take turns in picking what we wanted.

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It took us a good half an hour to get through the collection of nearly 100.

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And I ended up with a pretty little set.

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Season’s Greetings: 2007 Edition

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Friends!

I started writing this post on Christmas Eve, and somehow it proliferated into a novel. I apologize. It’s amazing how much you remember about a year when you have it all written down.

In the case that you don’t want to read War and Peace, here’s the executive summary of my annual report:

Started a blog 
Perfected guitar — wrote two songs
Experienced Las Vegas and wine country
Finally lit a fire in my fireplace
Went on a lot of first dates
Laughed about the hometown paper
Helped sell massive amounts of trucks

But, in the case that you ARE up for the long-winded story, here’s a tour back through my favorite posts of 2007. (Note: I just had a flashback to writing 4-H awards applications. Hopefully this will be more entertaining to read than those were…)

JANUARY

Galloping Nelly was officially born on January 20, the result of two forces:  addiction to The Pioneer Woman, and the realization that if I wanted to fulfill my New Year’s resolution to write more, then I needed an outlet with an audience to motivate me. My very first post was appropriately entitled “My Life As An Online Dater” — both a tribute to the many hours I spent over Christmas vacation surfing Match.com, and the fact that my friend owned UR magazine and needed someone to interview for an article. After a month of first dates, I realized I was Dating the Apostles — which later became the topic for a song. And I fondly recalled a date with The Rabbit King.

The downside of January was that I absent-mindedly let my ATM card be sucked back into an ATM, which left me penniless for a week. (The DRAMA!) This mishap threw a wrench in transportation to and from my client’s office – about 35 miles west of downtown.

FEBRUARY

I kicked off February with a trip to the Big Apple, where I fell in love with Osso Bucco at The Orchard. (However, the next day I didn’t have time to eat before my afternoon-long meeting, during which I fell victim to low-blood-sugar-crabby-pants syndrome.)

By February, our Thursday night volleyball league (team: Hot Irish Dickies) had returned to full-swing, complete with a ref who had found me on Match.com. Uncomfortable. Later in the year he spiked me in the eye while filling in on an opposing team.

February also brought Kim’s wedding shower and bachelorette party — consisting of a bunch of farm girls touring downtown Chicago in a white limo reciting the 4-H pledge.

I closed out the month with a business trip to Dallas, which was MUCH warmer than Chicago. I even got a sunburn before dinner at Southfork.

MARCH

By March I was in the thick of three projects: compiling a book for Jenn about our Italy trip, working on brand positioning for Thodos Dance Chicago (a year-long volunteer project through the Arts & Business Council),  and sewing flower girl dresses for Kim’s wedding.  Early in the month I was back in New York for a business trip, and I ended the month on mullet patrol at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

The big news, however, was that Mom, Dad and DIY came to Chicago to run a gas line and wire an outlet in my place for a washer and dryer. Hooray! (Unfortunately it’s now 9 months later and I still haven’t gotten off my lazy bum to have a dryer vent drilled in my wall…)

APRIL

I was back in Kansas for Easter, and Dad and I went to the Messiah festival in Lindsborg to watch Mom sing in the choir for the fifth year running. Then the frost came — and nuked the wheat crop.

The balance of the month was spent randomly bumping into former dates, but I ended the month with a bang — a girls trip to Vegas. (I plan to wear the dress I got on that trip to the “Eve of the Eve” party this Sunday.)

MAY

It was fun catching up with my cousin Traci when she was visiting Chicago in early May for work — though all we could squeeze in was an hour chatting in her hotel room (musing over her incredible bathroom). And mid-month I finally found an acceptable substitute for #45 at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Wichita.

I closed the month with a delightful weekend in Kansas City at my brother’s house, where we took in a Royals game and ate lots of his home-cooked food.

JUNE

The big accomplishment in June was getting my maps from Rome framed. (I admit, one of them is still sitting on my floor instead of hanging above my bed…) 

Jenn and I spent some time at street fairs over the summer, and the Old Town Art Fair was the event that kicked-off the summer — and reinforced that women in that neighborhood, well, regularly have augmentation. With the city springing to life, I enjoyed heading out with my camera to the lakefront (which was far prettier at that time than in the dead of winter).

I was back in N.Y. for a day at the end of the month, followed immediately by a van trip to Ft. Wayne. Unfortunately my horoscope predicted the travel delays that ultimately came to pass. (I had to write a letter to the psychic.) But the spectacle of the Gay Pride Parade outside my living room window made me forget about my travel woes.

JULY

I spent the first week in July out at the farm, where I wrote some of my favorite posts of the year (despite being completely bogged down with work from my real job). I started off the week with a Sunday Evening Farm Tour, entertained myself my trying on all my old 4-H dresses (note: the prom shot ended up on the fridge at work — eeek!), and watched the storm roll in as we were cutting wheat. DIY and I gave Dad a digital camera for father’s day, and honestly it’s the best little camera ever (Canon PowerShot SD1000) — it even takes excellent video. The video from the wheat field has been viewed over 8,000 times on YouTube. Who knew harvest was such a hot topic?

Once back in Chicago, I enjoyed (or rather endured with profuse sweat) a bike trip up the lakefront to Evanston one Saturday, before heading out later that week to the Truckers’ Jamboree in Walcott, IA. (Woohoo!) Our company ended the month with a fun outing to a White Sox game.

AUGUST

Reading back through early August’s posts, it appears that I was still running into former dates — and whooping it up at a Cubs game. Honestly, August-October is a complete blur; I was buried at work (fortunately I wasn’t literally buried by the tornado that came near my 88-story office building). But I did make time to attend a charity event to support Jenn, who is on the board of the Children’s Advocacy Center.

SEPTEMBER

Over Labor Day, I was back at the farm — making movies of my brother and wild animals, and trying on awful prom dresses with my girlfriends. Once I got back to Chicago, I started taking a songwriting class, which was a struggle to get to (an hour by train in rush hour), but a joy to partake in. The most interesting part was my nerves — I about croaked from stage fright performing the two songs I came up with.

Mid-month I was invited to join my clients for a morning of learning to sail. Sailing was followed by a big afternoon crash in my bed — aftermath of the two margaritas I’d had at lunch.

OCTOBER

The first weekend in October I joined my cousins and their pals for our third annual girls’ weekend in Breckenridge. We were down to only 8 people this year, which made for a much more relaxed situation over the four days we were there. By the time I got back, my addiction to reality TV caused me to get bed sores on my bum. Fortunately I redeemed myself through two different service projects: a Wednesday evening with the kids at Off The Street Club and initiation for the Thodos Dance Chicago board of directors.

NOVEMBER

Since opening day of pheasant season is the biggest holiday of the year in Kansas, I decided to surprise Mom and Dad by showing up at the pancake feed. Mom was already in the field, so Dad helped me surprise her by sneaking up on the tractor with the combine.  We spent Sunday afternoon harvesting milo — which they finished later that week, just in time to come and visit me in Chicago for Thanksgiving.  Jenn had us over for turkey, and we supplied the butterscotch pie.

DECEMBER

By December, I needed a vacation. Jenn and I had planned to go to Vietnam in November, but we decided we were just too tired to take on that sort of adventure. So, we opted for a week in Sonoma, which was just what the doctor ordered. (The hometown paper provided additional entertainment when I got home, as usual.) I made my rounds to several holiday parties before heading to Kansas on the 23rd, where I have spent my entire week writing this recap. (Just kidding — we’ve had plenty of gatherings, food, and failed attempts at working out.)

So, there you have it. My 2007 in a nutshell. For those of you who have sent cards and e-mails, thanks for staying in touch! I’ve enjoyed hearing about you and your families.

Love,
Nelly

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Ode To Lutefisk

Lutefisk, you smelly fish,
Your presence will never be seen on my dish.
For ye have smelled up kitchens of Swedes
Carrying on Christmas traditions, oh please!

Alas, your aroma of dead rats aside
You made us laugh til we clutched our sides
As we made new boyfriends of cousins dig in
To test their wits for becoming our kin.

Hark, how could I possibly forget?
You snagged me dates on the internet.
My bio told of our family tradition
And many inquired for a “boyfriend” audition.

Perhaps you are not as bad as I thought.
For — taste aside — many laughs you’ve brought.
So your legend will live in our Christmas lore
And we’ll remind new boyfriends how lucky the are.

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The Name Says It All

It’s Saturday morning, and I just returned from my Walgreens-laundry-Caribou-laundry-library-laundry run. I spent a good hour perusing the fiction wall at my local library branch (around the corner from me), then it was on to the new books section.

I now have a carefully selected pile of 7 books to fill my holiday vacation.

As I was looking through the section of new non-fiction, a book called “American Heirloom Baby Names” by Charlotte Danforth caught my eye. For those of you who are advocating that I should forget about a husband and begin my role as a parent tomorrow, I’m sorry to report that the “baby” part of this title isn’t what interested me.

I think a name says a lot about a person. And I was interested to see what names were included, as well as the commentary on each one.

To my delight, the book is a collection of biography paragraphs about people who had the featured names. And to my further delight, the names of the three members of my household were all included.

NELLIE: it may be a familiar form of Cornelia, Elanor, or Helena. Variations include Nell, Nella and Nelly.

Rosie Riveter

NELLY BLY (1864-1922) was born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane Seaman. The most famous American journalist of the nineteenth century, Nellie made a name for herself with her expose of the horrific conditions at an insane asylum in New York; she feigned insanity and was committed for ten days to get the inside story. Other subjects she reported on were equally controversial for a “lady” of her time: divorce, slums, and factory conditions. Capitalizing on the popularity of Jules Verne’s book Around the World in 80 Days, Nellie set off on a trip to travel the globe in less time — and she did, in seventy-two days. Her reports from her trek made her a household name, and she became the inspiration for a board game, doll and trading card. She retired from journalism when she married, but was in Europe when World War I erupted, and came out of retirement to cover the war from the eastern front.

NETTIE: it may be a familiar from of Annette, Antoinette, Henrietta, Nanette and Natalie.

Nette

NETTIE MARIA STEVENS (1861-1912) was a brilliant student who didn’t pursue her passion for the sciences until she was in ther thirties. A native of Vermont, she went to Stanford University at age thrity-five and earned a master’s degree in biology, then received a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr. Nettie went on to work with the Nobel Prize winner Thomas Hunt Morgan at the Carnegie Institute, studying sex determination in insects and worms. She found that the X and Y chromosomes were responsible for gender — and announced her findings — before Edmund Wilson did, though he received most of the credit.

SADIE: a familiar form of Sarah, from the Hebrew for princess.

Sadie 

SADIE CREEK ORCHARD (1860-1943) liked to say she was from London, but she was an Iowa girl. She moved to a mining town in New Mexico in 1885, ultimately settling in Kingston. She ran a brothel there, but soon she left “the business” and operated a stagecoach line and a hotel with her husband. Sadie herself drove four and six horses every day over primitive roads, braving bandits and Apaches. When she discovered her husband was running bootleg whiskey she sent him packing — after filling him with buckshot. Sadie also raised fifteen hunded dollars to build the first church in Kingston, and adopted a blind, mentally retarded boy. During a flu epidemic she closed her hotel to tend to the sick and took in orphans, then cut up her silk gowns to line the coffins of children.

So there you have it. Our little family. An undercover-journalist-world-traveler, living with one cat who studies insects and worms and another cat who is a reformed brothel owner.

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What’s the benefit?

It’s 9:13 p.m., and I just walked in the door after a 3-hour planning meeting for a charity benefit/gala/schmoozefest. Fortunately there was champagne. And cheese. And more champagne. And cookies. And did I mention champagne? It was my only hope for not dying of boredom.

And it appears that I may get roped into (gasp) ad sales. I am terrible at sales. Just ask Mom and Dad — they always had to buy me out so I could make my numbers selling pizzas, suntan lotion, raffle tickets and pork. (At least Dad won the TV/VCR one year.)

I am only minorly embarassed that I didn’t recognize the “benefit guest of honor” when she introduced herself to me. She’s the morning news person on the NBC affiliate. Whoops.

All this high falutin stuff is very weird.

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To Tree, Or Not To Tree

It happened. I have officially transitioned from “Chicago newbie” to a veteran of the city. This revelation has slowly occurred to me this week as I’ve made my holiday party rounds. It used to be a game of meeting people and learning about them. Now it’s a fest of “Remember that one year when so and so did whatever?”

Furthermore, the people at these parties have had several life transitions since I met them a few years ago. New jobs, weddings, babies.

In short, people have become old friends.

But, I digress. The point is that last night I went to the annual Christmas bash of a client/friend of mine, where I was surrounded by such a group of folks. And in our comfortable conversation, we started talking about decorating Christmas trees.

First you should know that L’s condo was completely decked out. 9-ft tree, garlands with bows and lights on every window, overflowing drinks and food — you get the picture.

So our conversation circle of three started examining the ornaments on the tree, and it was clear that the tree was telling a story about L and her husband — Chicago ornaments, airplane ornaments, and other ornaments that were completely about their lives.

This led into a conversation about philosophies on decorating trees. The guy in the group said he’s the one in charge (his partner isn’t interested in helping), and his tree is “Target all the way”. He gets packages of decorations and Voila! It’s done. Nevertheless, they wouldn’t ever go without a tree. And they had ventured to the Dollar store for the first time ever yesterday in search of cheap wrapping paper for his nieces’/nephews’ packages.

The gal said she gets much personal satisfaction out of making pretty packages, so she always finds beautiful burgundy/green/gold paper and bows to match her tree and ornaments.  Knowing her, I’m certain it’s a picture of perfection.

Then they asked me about my tree. I said I don’t (and won’t) have a tree. And that our family doesn’t do gifts — we’d rather spend our efforts talking about farming over coffee.

They hyperventilated.

“WHAT??????????????????????” they said.

At my core, I am lazy. Putting up a tree, while quite nice to look at, is (1) a lot of work now, and (2) a lot of work later. I’m sure I’d come home one day to find one of my cats tangled in it. Furthermore, no one ever comes to my house, and I’m going to be gone for a week anyway. So the effort isn’t worth the return.

[15 minutes later…]

OK, I have officially guilted myself into abandoning my Scrooge-like ways. I just spent 10 minutes scouring my closets for the Christmas tree I got 10 years ago at Wal-Mart. Finally I found it smashed in the bottom of my wicker-basket-trunk-coffee-table.  After a couple minutes of dusting and rearranging the branches, I now have my tree on my dining room table, next to my sewing machine.

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And what should also appear? But a stuffed singing reindeer! (Well, technically it’s a moose. Details, details.) Now he’s sitting watch over me on top of my TV.

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So, with these photos as evidence of an changed woman, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good  night.

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