Category Archives: Uncategorized

The comedy—and the underlying drama—of ‘9 to 5’ stands up 40 years later

Begin typing “Is Dabney Coleman …” into Google’s search line, and you’ll be prompted to finish it with “alive?” Google will helpfully turn up 107,000 results that say, yes, he is going strong at 87.

I was among searchers over the weekend on this question. After my Beloved queued up a playlist of “1980s pop” on Spotify and I sang along to Dolly Parton’s hit “9 to 5,” I summoned Hulu to play the movie for my viewing pleasure (my Beloved retired to bed—the 1980s pop music brought him to his limit of cheesy throwbacks).

I marveled at Dabney Coleman’s comedic feats, but also his willingness to make fun of men who are “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigots” in the workplace. “So I have a few faults?” he cracks, as the unlikable boss in the 1980s hit movie that also starred Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

I remember watching the original in the darkened Cozy Theatre, the classic movie venue of my hometown (still playing movies for the viewing public, by the way), but I can’t find evidence of it Dear Diary, which I stashed away and periodically review, lo, these many years later.

The movie stands up to another viewing 40 years after it was made; the American Film Institute lists it as No. 74 on its “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Laughs” list. I laughed out loud more than once, and I appreciated the writing that gave us the classic song, “your women’s lib crap” and images of a boss imprisoned by S&M gear.

Women are still fighting the same fights. The #MeToo movement proves we haven’t come far enough from “the pink collar ghetto.” I’m harassed at my workplace, too, but I’m married to the boss, so it kind of comes with the territory.

Fonda, Parton and Tomlin are rumored to be starring in a sequel that re-examines the “9 to 5” issues of today at Consolidated Companies, the fictional workplace filled with cubicles and corporate cadavers, and after re-enjoying the original, I’m looking forward to it.

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Creative type? No need to apply

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m digging deep into the archive to revive this post, originally offered five years ago for your reading pleasure. The problem tackled back then? Lack of creativity in the insurance world. The unfortunate news is, the names may have changed, but the tedium remains.

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I am constantly amazed at the general lack of creativity in the insurance world.

Some companies get a pass here: AfQuack, CuteLizard, FloInAUniform and Mr. Mayhem are actually clever characters selling the world’s most boring product. Everyone else? Meh.

My day today was filled with ADPD applications. Don’t ask. Knowing what the abbreviation stands for doesn’t make it more interesting.

My Beloved, being an independent agent, has access to all kinds of insurance carriers and sends his clients’ insurance packages out to a lot of companies in order to acquire the best pricing and save clients’ money. But naturally, every ADPD carrier demands the use of their own exclusive application form. Completing one of these applications requires liberal use of a calculator and Advil. No cutting and pasting allowed.

The boring forms flow from boring marketing, me thinks. The lack in creativity in company names does nothing for me. I’m a big fan of firms like Google and Starbucks. What is this, to google? What is a starbuck? They were nothing until Google and Starbucks made them something. They could have called themselves Big Search and Coffee Station, but that’s boring. Instead, they forged new ground.

But insurance companies? Noooooo. Combine any version of “risk,” “guard,” “point,” “core” or “dealer”  and there’s a company with that name offering ADPD coverage. No Shazzam or Whoopsie Insurance Companies here, no sirree.

So that was my day: Insurance application forms. Oh, and other miscellaneous paperwork. The insurance world loves paperwork as much as banks do. You know how it takes half a day to sign all the paperwork to buy a house? That’s banks, exacting their pound of flesh and a penny, too. At least half the paperwork performed in the insurance world is dictated by banks. Ever hear of a certificate of insurance? They are horrible, horrible things, these certificates, and the people who require them are masochists for certain, though I would classify a few of them as tortuous sadists.

But, and here’s the big but: I got a creative blog post out of it.

That’s something.

Christmas card count

You might have heard of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. For 119 years, birders all over North and South America have traveled specific routes between December 14 and January 5 counting every bird they see or hear and reporting their findings.

Well, I’m starting an annual Christmas card count. Birders watch the rise and fall of avian populations, and I’m interested in the demise of paper greetings.

Sending good wishes for Christmas via printed greeting cards has been a tradition since the mid 19th century, if Wikipedia can be believed. I’ve been sending them in some form for most of my adult life; in the past decade, mine have been mini-gifts of good wishes, pictures and stories packaged in beautiful paper, sometimes preprinted envelopes, thoughtfully selected stamps and, if I’m really on top of my game, envelope seals. My Christmas cards are a production, and it’s one Christmas tradition I adore.

Holiday baking? I’m more of a critic than a participant anymore.

Decorating the tree? Meh.

Wrapping gifts? Oh, I wish I had the enthusiasm for Scotch tape that I have for postage stamps.

When it comes to Christmas cards, I enjoy planning them, creating them and sending them, and then I relish in receiving them. I sit down with a cup of coffee and no distractions, reading my pile of cards and letters each day during the season.

But since the advent of Facebook among us Baby Boomers and Generation X, my incoming Christmas cards have noticeably decreased. Few Millennials have ever sent Christmas cards (they don’t even know what a checkbook register is! who has time for mailing paper cards?), but I see Generation Xers now actively abandoning the tradition because they keep in touch through the year with the people they care about via Facebook (and maybe Twitter, Instagram, blogs or some other social media outlet). They don’t need greeting cards and long newsy letters to share the highlights of the year. They already know who had babies, who lost their family pets, who got new jobs and bought new houses and where everyone vacationed.

Even I struggled a bit this year to provide new news. I documented my every move regarding the renovation of my new old house via a blog (and Facebook). What else is there? Well, I found some “news,” but I kept it brief. I think other people who share a lot less information online than I do have found the exercise of Christmas cards to be superfluous (also, probably, expensive and time-consuming, but honestly, I don’t think sending Christmas cards has ever been particularly cheap or easy).

I live in a small town now where the annual community parade this past summer lasted 12 minutes (I timed it). That’s how my incoming Christmas cards are now: Short, sweet and to-the-point. The best cards I received included a personal hand-written note, which I appreciated so much, I know I need to do more of this.

christmas cards

During Christmastime, I display my cards and letters. Here is the pile now for me to savor again.

Here’s my count: I sent 65 personal cards this year (plus 50 for my husband’s business). Two of my cards were returned (“address unknown; no such number, no such zone”). And I received 33 cards.

One of my dear friends wrote in her Christmas letter, “I adore the month of December and all the things leading up to the celebration of Christmas–but nothing more than getting cards in the mailbox. First, a huge thank you to everyone who has not given up on this delightful tradition. Christmas cards are the Joy of the season!”

Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more. If you didn’t send me a Christmas card, that’s OK. I like sending mine to you enough that I don’t require reciprocation. But if you sent me a Christmas card, thank you! I read every one of them, enjoyed hearing from you and I’m still thinking good thoughts about you and your good wishes. Thank you.

A drop in the bucket: Top 10 posts at Minnesota Transplant

a drop in the bucket

This post marks the 1,999th time I’ve posted a story, a rant, a review, a picture or an inspirational quote here on Minnesota Transplant, a drop in the bucket if I may. That’s 10+ years of writing about what’s on my native Minnesota mind.

I posted nearly daily back in 2009-2012, which isn’t all that hard when you have something to say. As my post frequency dropped, so did the hits on my blog, but in total, Minnesota Transplant has had 151,604 views. A lot of them have been views by my mother and other people who are related to me, but since I’m writing a “day in the life” blog designed first and foremost to keep my mother who lives two states away apprised about what’s going on in my life and on my mind, I’m OK with that.

I wrote only four posts here on Minnesota Transplant last year, which is not that astonishing if you know I posted 341 times over at Church Sweet Home, the blog I created about renovating a 126-year-old Methodist church into our home.

If you’re a blogger working on a resolution to blog daily or at least blog more, these may be impressive numbers. I’m pretty proud of it, even though I know I hit it out of the park only about once a week. I think writers improve by writing, so there’s going to be a lot of trash created along the way.

As I reflect on a decade of blogging, here’s a look at my most popular posts by year.

In 2009, the first full year I blogged, I came up with something to say 301 times. The most popular piece was “A virus hangover,” in which I described how I felt after a computer virus took down my computer:

My computer has been scanned, anti-virused, malware-deleted, C cleaned, defragged, hard-disk fixed, In Box repaired and I don’t know what else. … Now, it seems everything is clean, empty, cleared and solid, i.e., working properly. But I’m still a little unsteady on my feet. What program, which file, what website, which download infected me? What should I have avoided, but didn’t? I’m pale and paranoid, looking at my computer screen like a deer in headlights.

In 2010, a bit of cultural consciousness drew hundreds of readers to “In a land where the river runs free, in a land to a shining sea … and you and me are free to … wear polyester.” Maybe because Target was using it in its advertising, searches for the 1972 album “Free To Be You and Me” brought people to my memories of a fourth-grade lyceum program:

I was instantly transported to spring 1977. I was in fourth grade, wearing a pink polyester high-necked dress that my mother had shortened after I was appointed to wear the floor-length version while lighting candles at my uncle and aunt’s wedding. The pink material was broken up by white puffy blossoms. Cut just above the knee, that dress perfectly showed off my white knee-highs with the pink and pastel blue elastic tops.

In 2011 and 2012, it was the now-defunct WordPress blog promotion device Freshly Pressed which propelled a couple of entries to the top of the reading order. “Quiet time on the running trail” was tops in 2011:

Unless you’re Cruella DeVille, telling people you’ve hired and mentored that their contributions are no longer necessary to the company’s continued success is difficult. Unable to sleep, I got up at 5 a.m. and just ran. It helped me cope with the pit in my stomach.

And “My life … in all its banality” was tops in 2012 and perhaps my most commented upon of all time. It included a snippet from one of my junior high diaries, which led to a commenter remarking on its humor, to which I replied, “My diaries are alternately embarrassing and interesting. Usually funny when they’re embarrassing.”

In 2013, 2014 and 2016, posts I wrote related to Creative Memories, where I worked for a decade, achieved tops in readership. “I read the news today, oh boy” (2013) was simply an original editorial cartoon. “The best job I’ve ever had” (2014) described why I once loved working for the company that had gone bankrupt: “Though it was more of a mess than a messiah at the end, the company was great once. It did great things. Things you don’t normally associate with corporations nowadays. Memories were saved. Friends were made. People had meaningful work and meaningful pay. I am a better person because I worked for Creative Memories during that magical time.” And “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” (2016) was about a court trial in which I was among four named plaintiffs who sued over the employee stock ownership plan: “There was blood (imagine the paper cuts inherent so many paper exhibits!), sweat and, yes, tears. Attorneys objected, condescended and sputtered. Indeed, American’s judicial system is adversarial, and I have a new appreciation for the system.” (Spoiler alert: we lost).

It was a review of Costco’s Non-slip Hangers that got the most views in 2015. I don’t think anyone cared all that much about the hangers, but they loved the before-and-after photos of my office. (People just LOVE before-and-after photos).

 

Before                                                 After

In 2017, I announced the creation of the blog about our church renovation, and that got the most interest. “A new project. And as far as projects go this one is a doozy” was mostly a tease but it worked to get readers over at Church Sweet Home:

“You’re wondering about the back story here. You’re trying to figure out how (and why) we decided to buy a church. Maybe you’re worried I’m about the pass a collection plate.”

And last year, when I posted only four times, the most popular post of the year was an obituary about the passing of my miniature schnauzer (“Bearded lady breathes her last”), which still gets me choked up:

“She packed a lot of spunk into her 8 pounds, and even as recently as last summer, strangers who saw us as we walked a neighborhood would ask me if she was a puppy.”

Oddly, the most popular post ever here on Minnesota Transplant is a book review of In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon Jr. Apparently, my post “To disarm a covertly aggressive manipulator, begin by reading this book” struck a chord with people who are have to deal with psychos in their lives. Just in case you’re interested, here’s how Simon differentiates passive-aggression from covert-aggression:

Passive-aggression is, as the term implies, aggressing through passivity. Examples of passive-aggression are playing the game of emotional “get-back” with someone by resisting cooperation with them, giving them the “silent treatment,” pouting or whining, not so accidentally “forgetting” something they want you to do because you’re angry and didn’t really feel like obliging them, etc. In contrast, covert aggression is very active, albeit veiled, aggression. When someone is being covertly aggressive, they’re using calculating, underhanded means to get what they want or manipulate the response of others while keeping their aggressive intentions under cover.

My Top 10 + 1 is a pretty good indicator of the stuff you might find here at Minnesota Transplant. Like the Farmers’ Almanac, this blog contains “bits of logic, formulas for good cookery, weather prognostications, humor, poetry and odds and ends designed for your enjoyment and edification.”

Here’s to another year of interesting ephemera. Thanks for reading.

A jar full of intentions

It’s the first day of a whole new year, a whole new chance to make good on the potential endowed to me by the Creator. I love a clean slate.

Regular readers know I am a resolutions junkie. I make New Year’s Resolutions every year, and some years they even have themes. One year it was “make room.” Another year, I resolved to “let go.” Once, I resolved to “connect.” Last year, my unofficial theme was “build it” and I did—I built a house. Not by myself, mind you, but I helped build an old church into our home.

Like everyone else, I struggle sometimes accomplishing the goals I set for myself, but I believe in the motto, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land on the roof.”

This year, I’m using a visual reminder of the habits I want to cultivate. I’m resolving to blog regularly, sort through all the folders of digital data on my computer, go to yoga class and church services regularly and read more books. In general, I want to be more mindful—of the present and of all my digital and actual stuff.

resolution jars

I cut up and counted the requisite slips of paper, colored-coded by task, and put them in one antique Ball jar. Every time I manage to write a blog post or whatever, I’ll pull out a slip of paper, date it and drop it into the second jar, labeled “2019.” Theoretically, at the end of the year, the first jar will be empty, the second jar will be full, and I will have written and read thousands of words, dumped a few dozens gigabytes, and be more flexible and spiritually aware.

(I’m also resolving to check a few one-time-only items off my list—chief among them to get a colonoscopy and retrieve a dozen bins of photos and albums stashed two years ago at my parents’ house—but I only need a list for those. I dropped the list in the first jar, too, as a visual reminder of my goals.)

So there you have it, a new year, a whole lot of potential and some mindful intentions. Here’s to dropping a white slip of paper—my first blog post of the year—into my 2019 jar. And here’s to wishing you a wonderful, well-lived year, too.

Happy new year!

Travel Tuesday: Beach chronicle

When you can’t enjoy baseball, go to the beach.

My Beloved and I escaped the dark and cold days of pre-Christmas in the northern hinterlands by making a getaway to Fort Myers Beach.

While lolling around with an unobstructed view of endless sand and sea, we counted how many times we had been to Florida over the years. There was the year of the teepee condo. The time we drove the ol’ 1983 Pace Arrow around the Gulf. Three times in the past decade, he won a trip to Florida for selling lots of insurance. The time we mingled with, shall we say, an interesting crowd in South Miami Beach before a cruise. Spent a winter in the Keys and the 10,000 Islands areas in another RV. Other visits, too. We’ve visited so often they tend to run together now.

Florida is a go-to destination for Disney World and Minnesota Twins spring training baseball, mostly, but also we conduct a little business there. If it’s March, we end up in Fort Myers to root for home runs and consume hot dogs, but last week, it was December and there was no baseball to be found. So for the first time in all the years we’ve visited Florida, we stayed in Fort Myers Beach.

In March, Fort Myers Beach is clogged with sun worshipers and spring break revelers. With one primary road running through the island, there is little escape from the traffic and lack of parking. It’s a hot destination—hot as in hoppin’ and hot as in, well, hot—but it’s not relaxing.

In December, Fort Myers Beach is a different place. Sunny but not hot. Not crowded either. Laid back. Kind of a nice break from house reconstruction and, um, snow.

endless sand

Endless sand.

shell booty

Some of my shell booty.

My Beloved found us a VRBO (vacation rental by owner) on the south end of Fort Myers Beach. The beach is extra wide there, and every morning the tide washes in a new crop of sea shells. Across big Carlos Pass, we could see Lovers Key from our deck.

I’ve lamented in the past about the lack of interesting dining options in Fort Myers (Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, where I enjoyed what was quite possibly the best tropical salad with shrimp in my life, is an exception and it turns out it is technically on Fort Myers Beach, not in Fort Myers), but being on the south end of Fort Meyers Beach, we were actually closer to Bonita Springs, where we found crab Eggs Benedict at The Garden Cafe where, soft-shell Pad Thai at Komoon Thai Sushi Ceviche, and loaded Bloody Marys and grouper bites at Coconut Jacks Waterfront Grille. A Midwesterner can appreciate some of the country’s finest sea food, as it should be on the coast.

sunset

Among the most memorable events in Florida are the beginnings and ends of days. On the east coast, it is the sunrises. On the west coast, it’s the sunsets. (In the Keys, you can get both.) On Fort Myers Beach last week, we watched the sun disappear over the horizon with a cocktail in hand most days. One can’t hurry a sunset. Or make it wait. It’s a daily reminder of time passing and you best savor it when you can.

I’m the love that you’ve looked for, write to me and escape

A dozen years ago, I nervously dressed for a coffee date. Not too sexy, not too prim. It was a tall order, given the date was in December at a coffee shop in Central Minnesota when down parkas and boots were de rigueur.

I must have pulled it off though because about three sips into my soy latte and small talk, the man who would become My Beloved leaned over the table and kissed me.

I was smitten at that moment. I fell into a deep crevasse, not icy cold but warm and comforting, from which I still haven’t emerged. My Beloved is a big man with a big heart and big dreams. I disappeared, in the greatest possible way, into the whole package. He persuaded me to move away from my home state of Minnesota, he offered me the opportunity to be a mother to his children in a way I hadn’t even realized I would ever want to, he eventually lured me out of a corporate career that had consumed me and he tempts me every day with earthly pleasures like buttery popcorn, bottles—not measly glasses—of wine and juicy steaks (other earthly pleasures, too, but this is a G-rated blog).

My Beloved is a traveler, too, and together we’ve visited so many places. As an international marketing executive, I thought I was well-traveled before I met him. He took me to South America on a cruise; I’d been to every other civilized continent except Antarctica. We marveled at the beauty of the coasts of Croatia, truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. We drove around the Gulf coast from South Padre Island to Fort Myers, Florida, in a 30-year-old RV, and another winter and in another camper, we made our way north from the Florida Keys to Fort Myers over the course of three months. I never spent so many winter days in 80-degree weather as I have since I met him; cold makes him achy, and I benefit when he finds ways to escape it.

More recently, My Beloved used his lion-like fearlessness and beaver-like busyness to rebuild a 127-year-old former Methodist church into our dream home. Renovation projects might spell the end for some marital relationships, but ours is only stronger for persevering through those long dusty days of living in flux and financial juggling.

Back on that first date 12 years ago, we had planned to meet just for coffee, but we ended up walking around the nearby mall, cuddling at a showing of “Casino Royale” and then sharing a table of Thai food. A half-hour commitment turned into a whole day. That great date just flowered without a whole bunch of nail biting and planning and dancing around each other’s predilections.

Our mantra during those early days of our relationship was “If it ain’t easy, it ain’t meant to be.” By easy, I don’t effortless. I mean finding the path with the least hurdles. An extravagant meal, an epic vacation, a whole-house remodel requires effort, for sure, but together, the path has fewer hurdles because we’re headed in the same direction, we bring individual skills to the project and we have each other’s back.

Twelve years ago, I didn’t know I was about to meet a soul mate but I surely did.

And I’m so grateful.

T and me

Practically glowing.

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Todays’ headline is a line from Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Who needs a designer coffee; I think I’ll celebrate the anniversary today of our meeting with a pina colada.