Margarita Monday: It’s important. Really.

I didn’t know what to expect when I moved in with my best friend, but I never guessed we’d actually see less of each other. It turns out we have sort of opposite schedules/social lives. That’s why what started as a “oh-hey-we-live-by-a-Mexican-restaurant-let’s-go-there” moment one Monday has blossomed into a sacrosanct weekly ritual: Margarita Monday.

There’s actually only about a 50% chance it will involve margaritas, but if it does there’s a 100% chance it will also involve online shopping and regret. Basically, this is our time dedicated to catching up with one another. Despite the fact that we are never actually out of touch. It’s just that text messages like this – although constant – are not enough.

photo 1

She gets me.

photo 2

We are the same, yet different.

photo 3

Honesty.

Margarita Monday roommate time is my favorite thing about living in this new apartment – aptly nicknamed the “Nerd Haven.” If you have the chance, I recommend having an awesome best friend and moving in with her and catching up with her in person at least once a week.

If that’s not possible, have a margarita. You deserve it more than I do.

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Dedicated To My Roommate

A few days ago, I met up with someone I hadn’t talked to since early August. She asked me what was new in my life, and I laughed in her face.

There’s just a lot going on right now, guys.

One of the best things to happen to me recently – and probably in all of 2013 – is acquiring a roommate. This is not usually the top of the list for the almost-thirty crowd, but my roommate is not a stranger I’ve found on Craigslist; she is my best friend hetero-lifemate, Lacy. Who I found on Craigslist.

No, that’s not true, I found her in high school.  A dozen years later, we’ve finally fulfilled our teenage dream to get an apartment together and fill it with books. Nerds in high school, nerds 4 life!

So far, living together has resulted in texts like this:

text

And notes like this:

note

And nights like this:

night

Currently, we’re following up our traditional Margarita Monday (two weeks is a tradition, right?) with some Futurama in our pjs. She doesn’t know I’m writing this. And she just texted me an emoticon of Zoidberg from the other side of our couch.

So far living with my best friend is as amazing as I imagined it would be, but with more cartoons.

I know; it won’t always be this way. Check back in six months, and maybe the “Dedicated To My Roommate” post will be nothing but “It’s YOUR Turn To Re-Alphabetize The Books” or “If You Drank All The Wine I Will Eat Your Babies.” But right now, it’s great. It’s comfortable, and comforting, and more than I could have asked for.

Life is not perfect, but my life has some very good people in it. I’m lucky to be on this adventure with one of the best.

A ridiculous amount of birthday love.

Was it ridiculous to turn my birthday into a month-long event/campaign/fundraiser/whatever? Yes. I am, as they say, pushing thirty. Women of This Certain Age are not supposed to wear Burger King crowns as “tiaras” and demand an ungodly amount of attention and/or ice cream. I should be embarrassed.

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Ahem.

First and foremost, I need to thank everyone who donated to my charity:water campaign and helped me exceed my goal of saving 28 lives. To date, we’ve raised over $600! By far the most successful fundraiser I’ve ever had – even better than the time I offered personalized limericks as an incentive (And what an incentive it was – I rhymed “schadenfreude” with “does it annoy ya?” Poetry.).

I also had a lot of fun and some good response with the social media experiment portion of my birthday project – the 28 for 28 Facebook page. I like sharing things I care about, and I care about my birthday! No, I mean, I care about ways to make the world better. Thanks to those of you who got involved with that, too.

I was determined to spend my actual birthday committing 28 Random And Not So Random Acts Of Kindness. I made lists, I set a budget, I made timetables. But because I was excited, I started two days early. And because the birthday weekend involved several Unscheduled Naps, I finished two days late. That’s me all over.

I got the idea to do this by searching online, so I’m presenting this list in no particular order to maybe inspire another internet stranger one day:

Birthday (Weekend) Acts Of Kindness

1. Bought my boss tulips. They immediately folded in half and looked incredibly pathetic. But luckily I revived them (aka cut the stems) before she saw them

2. Stuck a coffee gift card on the door of a very deserving friend

3. Drew something for a friend who needs a pick-me-up

4. Donated my hair to Locks of Love.  The entire ponytail you see up above is now on its way to Florida. Factoid: the first time I did this, I was 14, and it made the front page of my hometown newspaper. I’m just trying to get to that level of fame again.

5. Tipped the stylist of my new ‘do 28%

6. Helped a stranger move a desk (or helped a stranger rob another stranger – either way, helping!)

7. Bought a friend lunch

8. Bought a different friend a beer

9. Helped yet another friend (I don’t want to brag but I have more than two) set up a blog – check it out, especially if you’re a beer fan! Also, I would like to note I agreed to do this before I knew there was going to be a paragraph of nice things about me in it. That just made me more eager to help.

10. Bought a bunch of children’s books to donate to a program I care about

11. Bought a friend tea (I was going to buy coffee for the person in line behind us, but he turned out to be a very cantankerous man, and my friend is nicer)

12. Bought a thank-you gift for someone who was nice to me recently

13. Helped the same cantankerous old man from #11 exit a “confusing” building at the St. Paul Art Crawl

14. Recycled plastic bags and donated food at a grocery store

15. Left money at a Redbox rental machine, along with a note

16. Left a 110% tip at Caribou Coffee. I did the math so that I, like every pro athlete, can say I “gave 110%”

17. Donated books to a Little Free Library (I love those things!)

18. Left money at Nice Ride MN station. I don’t want to talk about the poorly-worded note I also left there.

19. Dropped about thirty online coupons in a basket at Target

20. Donated clothes to Goodwill

21. Gave my neighbor’s dog a treat

22. Recovered a friend’s lost phone

23. Volunteered for Feed My Starving Children at Summit Brewery  (Worlds colliding!)

24. Picked up Target gift cards for The Bridge For Youth

25. Wrote thank-you notes

26. Left money at a vending machine

27. Bid on silent auction items for local fundraisers at BiddingForGood.com

28. Left quarters in laundry room for my neighbors

*************************************

So there you go. Twenty-eight mostly small, mostly deliberate acts of kindness to celebrate twenty-eight mostly great years. Thank you, everyone, for making them worth celebrating.

28 for 28: A birthday celebration, a social media experiment

Last year, my friend Al gave me a birthday card that said, “I love those people who are like ‘It’s my birthday week’ or ‘It’s my birthday month.’ Even Martin Luther King Jr. only gets a day. Calm down people.

I’ve had it displayed in my apartment for the past year because I enjoy missing the point. And I really enjoy my birthday/week/month.

This one is particularly IMPORTANT, however, as it’s my golden birthday. The one I’ve spent my whole life waiting for. On April 28th, I will be 28.

I think the first time I went to a golden birthday party, I was 8. So was the birthday girl. I remember balloons and a serious amount of envy as I realized I’d have to wait 20 years for my extra-special birthday party. Now that it’s here, what do I want?

Last year I had friends over for mimosas, went out for breakfast, took a bus to the Twins game (which was unfortunately rained out), took a nap, grabbed a beer at my favorite local bar, and celebrated at a bonfire with a bunch of other friends lucky enough to be born at the end of April. I got a crown; I wore a crown. I woke up the next day still wearing said crown. It was pretty great.

That’s not what I want to do this year.

I’m actually giving myself the best birthday present ever – I’m taking my mom to Ireland for 10 days in April. That’s all the gift I need. But I still want to do something more.  To quote Wayne Campbell, “What I’d really like to do is something extraordinary. Something big. Something mega. Something copious. Something capacious. Something cajunga!”

I want to do something GOOD. And I want you to do something good, too.

So taking inspiration from the Birthday Project, the #26Acts of Kindness movement, GOOD.is and the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, I’m starting something. Something fun, short-term, and (hopefully) Good.

28logo

My main undertaking this month will be trying to raise enough money to save 28 lives through Charity:Water. But even if you can’t donate, I hope you’ll join me in the 28 For 28 project.

I’m aiming to do 28 Good Things in April. All I’d really like you to do – is pick one.

Join with me as I celebrate 28 good years over 28 days.

#Winterfest Dos and Don’ts (From Me to Future Me)

I am a lucky girl. I love great beer – and I happen to live in the Twin Cities, where the craft brew culture is booming. I also love great events – and this past weekend, I got to go to one of the year’s best: Winterfest.

This was actually my second year at the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild event, and both years have been great. And, well, learning experiences. I am already hoping to go again next year, so this is basically a list for Future Rachel. Still, you may as well reap the benefits of my beer-tasting wisdom, internet strangers.

So it begins.

So it begins.

Do obsessively hit “page refresh” for ten minutes before the tickets go on sale. The event is capped at 750 people, and sells out in seconds. I’ve managed to get tickets for two years in a row using this highly scientific method, and also dark magic.

Do eat before you go. Yes, they have food at the event, and it’s included in the price. I bet it’s pretty great, too. Last year I think I ate some cheese; this year I completely missed out on all of it. Whatever you do, don’t go to a 3-hour all-you-can-drink craft beer event on an empty stomach. Rookie mistake (that you only make once).

Do gloat about this event taking place in St. Paul, the right side of the river.

Do your research. Look through the program and have a top ten list of brews you do not want to miss, and find those first. Things do run out, plus you want to try the snobbiest stuff (technical term) before your tongue goes numb. Also, if I hadn’t looked over the program, I might have totally missed the Sugar Shack Maple Stout from Third Street Brewhouse. It’s made with Saint John’s Maple Syrup from the Arboretum where I used to work. I really like it, but with a pedigree like that, how could I not?

This has nothing to do with beer, but any time I bring up my time at the Arb I like to remind people I did this once.

Look, I know this has nothing to do with beer, but this is the most badass picture of me in existence and it was taken at the Arboretum, so I’m sharing it again.

Do bring your ID, a pen, and your tallest friend. The ID is obvious. The pen is for taking notes and/or writing your phone number on strangers’ hands. And the tall friend is easy to find in a crowd, and can also find you if/when you wander off.

Do dress appropriately. For some that means warm boots and gloves. For others an outfit you can easily sleep in on your friend’s couch. For me that means both.

Do find the Excelsior Brewing Company booth and take pictures of the staff; when you find them on your camera the next morning, understand that you will be left with more questions than answers:

They just posed like this, without any direction. Naturals.

Probably this was towards the end of the night.

Don’t be embarrassed when you spot someone you met and talked to for half an hour at a past a beer event and you can’t remember her name. She doesn’t remember your name, either.

Don’t force yourself to finish anything you don’t like. Give it to your tall friend who seems to like all the things you don’t (another reason you brought him), and find something you like better.

Don’t be afraid to not love the things everyone else loves. There may be a time and a place for me to drink Barley John’s award-winning Dark Knight Returns; that time was not two hours into the event, after an uncertain number of other pours, when I knew it was a really heavy hitter. Some other night, DKR.

Don’t live-tweet the event.

livetweet

MNBeer.com knows what I’m talking about, or wants me to shut up.

Do make an active effort to find and drink water.

Don’t get upset when one of your brewer friends makes fun of you for drinking water. He’s working and therefore sober, and definitely laughing at your slightly slurry, indignant response.

Do make friends. It’s fine if you don’t pay attention to her last name. You’ll think of something.

Legit beer friends.

The truest form of friendship.

Do have a safe drive lined up. Even if you cancel on your original safe drive to catch a ride with your new friend, Stephanie Beer and her boyfriend, Sober Dan.

Don’t go to the Onion afterwards. Just don’t. You hate that place. It never ends well for you there.

....Best laid plans...

….Best laid plans…

Do expect your best friend to text back: “UGH, RACHEL, you hate that place!” because she knows you.

Don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning and think, “I’ve felt better.” But since you remembered to eat before the event, and drank plenty of water, you’re actually in pretty good shape and will be up as soon as you have some coffee.

So there you have it. That’s how you semi-sensibly enjoy one of the best beer events in the Twin Cities.

(But seriously, don’t go to the Onion next year.)

The Minnesota Vikings, My Pops, and Me

I wrote this last year, but I’m updating and re-posting it in light of yesterday’s huge Vikings win.  I got to experience it in person, at MOA Field, with my pops. It was great – I am still hoarse from cheering, Pops almost clapped once, and the whole day was pretty much everything I love about being a Vikings fan.

I once theorized that my relationship with the Minnesota Vikings is not unlike my relationship with men (why yes, this theory was developed in a bar!): 1) I care very strongly for them; they are basically unaware I exist. 2) I am always looking for a good tight end; they are always looking for a horny blonde.

Vikings Fan

Like that.

3) Eventually I’m going to have to stop pinning all my hopes and dreams on men who wear purple and tight pants and chase each other. 4) And finally, it’s all my father’s fault.

From age 2-6, Bonding With Pops meant watching whatever action movie was on television while falling asleep on the couch. They have fused in my memory into one long action movie I like to call Crocodile Die Hard Jones and the Hunt for the Lethal Weapons Under Siege 2. From ages 7-12, Bonding With Pops meant getting outdoorsy and going camping and fishing. Sadly, this camping tradition ended about when my dad woke up to me burning an entire deck of cards, one at a time. I wish I was kidding; that is super creepy. Ever since, Bonding With Pops has simply involved sports, and it started with the Vikings.

Together, we watched the 1998-1999 season with as much pride (and then overwhelming despair) as the rest of the state, and despite that famous miss, I was hooked. In 2000, Pops took me to the Vikings training camp to watch a scrimmage. The facts say that I was fifteen at the time, but the memories suggest I was closer to seven. I was giddy to be there, with Pops, watching Cris Carter! Robert Smith! JOHN RANDLE! And we were in the front row, somehow; probably because Pops is early for everything (I did not inherit this trait), but at the time I was pretty sure it was because my dad was magic and/or secretly important. I thought this might be the case when he perked up at some announcement and said, “I think that’s my cousin Rod doing the announcing.”

Before I could say, “You have a cousin Rod and why aren’t we using this relationship to get VIP treatment?” The announcer said, “and here comes the quarterback, Cunningham. Uh, I mean Culpepper…” To which the crowd gave a little boo and Pops said, “Yep. That’s Rod alright.” I decided not to follow this lead after all.

Despite needing to be the first person in his seat that day, Pops couldn’t stay in it for long. He got us a bag of popcorn that (again, in my memory) was as big as me, and I was not a small kid. He also ran off and bought me a Cris Carter jersey. Again, I was not a small kid, but Pops overshot it a bit — to this day, we call that my “Cris Carter dress.” I loved it immediately.

After the scrimmage, we went to the autograph line. Pops plopped me next to the gate with my camera and my notebook and disappeared while I gawked, star-struck, as all the pros walked past me and the rookies stopped to sign autographs.

If you’re wondering what kind of father would leave his teenage daughter alone in a crowd like that, so was I. I finally brought this part of the memory up to my dad last week. “Where did you go?” I asked, thinking he ran away from the crowd to smoke. He stared at me. “I was right behind you,” he said. “I had a hand on each of your shoulders! Don’t you remember? You were the same height as Denny Green!” What kind of father would leave his teenage daughter alone in that crowd? Not mine. You’d think I’d remember being held in place by a large man, but no. There is no large man in my memory other than John Randle. I may be a terrible daughter with a foggy memory of one of the best days of my young life but eh! John Randle!

John Randle

Actual picture that I actually took of the actual John Randle. I am that bad of a photographer, and I was that excited. I’m still proud of this.

That was the last time my dad and I went to a scrimmage. Until yesterday, he did not even own any Vikings apparel (I bought him a purple hat – he’s actually lucky I didn’t buy him one of the helmets with horns), whereas I’ve upped the ante with a “cousin” Adrian Peterson jersey, Robert Smith jersey, Vikings sweatshirt, two or three purple pride t-shirts, and one of those sweet blonde-with-horns hats (I will fool you yet, men). I was banned from The Boys’ apartment after Favre threw the last interception of 2010 and I let out a guttural scream that scared the cats. I went to three games at the Dome last year (all losses). And I once picked a fight in New Orleans, with a Priest, because he was wearing a Drew Brees jersey.

To be a Vikings fan is to be stubborn and proud without reason.  I’m a HUGE Vikings fan, and it’s definitely all my father’s fault.

Love you, Pops.

SKOL VIKINGS!

Rachel and Pops

A Life Full of Color

I spent my day in a cloud of color at The Color Run in Minnesota.

Instagrammed photo of the Color Run

If you think I resisted making “Purple Rain” jokes, you are mistaken.

As a social media volunteer for Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, this meant running around with my iPhone, snapping pictures and tweeting and Facebooking and generally doing things that actually don’t look that helpful but hopefully are (awareness, you guys!).

The event itself was pretty overwhelming. About 19,000 runners, starting out all in white and eventually turning into human canvasses, ran or walked the course. A portion of their fee was already given to Open Your Heart, but quite a few made extra donations at our booth. And a few of them apologized for the money being covered in color.

That’s Minnesota nice for you.

In preparation, I spent the past week thinking of color. Favorite colors (mine, obviously, are yellow and purple – SKOL Vikings), color quotes (“When in doubt, wear red.” – Bill Blass), color songs (“Lady in Red” is welcome to leave my head anytime now. Anytime.), and color references in movies (“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”).  But after participating in the event, and knowing the good these donations will do – going towards the people who truly need them – there’s one song lyric I think sums it all up for me.

What good did it do?
Well hopefully for you
A world without war
A life full of color

Now, I recognize The War Was in Color is not about a war on hunger. But today was a day full of color – and a day to fight hunger.

Let’s all enjoy our lives full of color.

Social/Life

A while back, I went to a totally not embarrassing concert and mused about what the experience would have been like if I’d been able to “live-Tweet” during it. Would it take away from the experience, or would it add to it? At the time, I didn’t have a smartphone, so sharing the experience while it was happening was not an option. Well, now I have one, and after figuring out the basics I’ve managed to become a slight oversharer.

Instagrammed photo of bird poop on my car

“I appear to have deeply offended a large bird.”  Okay, a huge oversharer.

I keep making vague promises to myself that I’ll settle down, but the honeymoon phase between me and my new friend Siri has overlapped with the start of summer. Like any true Minnesotan, I’m not about to let this all-too-brief season slip by. What people in less volatile climates do in a year, I’m going to try to do in three months.

That’s not anything new; last summer, you may recall, I did plenty of things. The difference is now I can share my nonsense in real time.

I think we can all agree this might not always be a good thing.

Dog of Censorship

Someone needs to invent a “Dog of Censorship” App ASAP.

Anyway. Last Saturday, I took myself to another totally not embarrassing concert at the Target Center: Aerosmith. And because I love Aerosmith for no and beyond all reason, my guess from last year’s NKOTBSB concert was not far off – once Steven Tyler hit the stage, I basically just went “Squeee!” and forgot about the ability to share/brag beyond one fairly good picture:

Steven Tyler Instagram

Instagram gets the save on this one.  Some of that confetti is still in my purse.

That (amazing) experience over, I thought I’d answered my own question about how I’d use social media at events. I’d managed to do some sharing while staying in the (really amazing) moment. And anyway, I’d blown my summer budget on that (really, REALLY amazing) ticket, so I didn’t expect to get the chance to try it out again for a while.

Less than 24 hours later, I found myself enjoying some Trampled By Turtles from the comfort of the terrace view at Target Field. Since I didn’t know about the bonus concert until I got to the Twins game, and since I was an hour early for the game thanks to my pops, I had to share the news of my good fortune.

All the mascots at the Twins Game

I was too disturbed by the presence of literally all the mascots to take a picture of TBT, however.

This caused a tiny uproar amongst some die-hard TBT fans I call my friends, but more importantly, it made my pops wonder why I kept looking at my phone. As much fun as it would have been to keep spreading the joy/jealousy of a bonus concert (not to mention a 15-inning baseball game), it was more fun to enjoy Father’s Day with my pops. (We actually only made it through 11 innings and I did respond to a few messages, but hey. We tried.)

After determining that “losing your mind to your favorite band” and “hanging out with your father” are not quite the right times to go live-Tweeting, social-sharing crazy, I struck upon a much better opportunity: the River’s Edge Music Festival in St. Paul on Saturday.

I managed to win free tickets* last week and took Lacy, another twenty-something with a smartphone, and we did it all. We admired the lead singer of Coheed and Cambria‘s magical hair. We blew our budgets on outrageously overpriced beer. We held a few inebriated souls upright in the Sublime with Rome crowd. We soaked in some much needed sun rays to the tunes of Blaqstarr. We lost our voices to Tool. We Facebooked, Instagrammed, Tweeted, sang and danced.

We shared a wonderful day with each other, and then we shared jokes about it on the internet. And that, #youguys, is the best balance of social media and social life I’ve found yet.

girls who look like girls

Just your average Tool fans.

*I won 2 single-day tickets through a Twitter contest, which is awesome. However, the publication which ran the contest was non-responsive about how to get my tickets until two days before the concert despite three attempts to contact them, then they told me (twice) to pick up my tickets at will-call at the River Centre (which is a place in St. Paul, but has nothing to do with the River’s Edge Festival). Finally, the tickets, which were not at the regular will-call at the event either but rather at the media tent, were not for “either day” as promised, but for Sunday only. Luckily two very nice Live Nation employees took my declaration that “75 minutes of Tool is infinitely better than 3 hours of Dave Matthews Band” seriously, and switched the tickets for me. Despite this rant, I did get in completely free, so thank you, Live Nation; less of a thank you, publication with really poor communication/customer service skills.

Irish-American Eyes Are Smiling

“If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough.”

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I am celebrating not just being Irish but being an Irish-American, a lucky feat if there ever was one.

One hundred years ago today, my grandfather Patrick was born in Ireland. His birthplace was County Mayo – a part of Ireland hit worst by the famine; my family tells me it was sometimes referred to as “Mayo, God Help Us.” I don’t know how earlier generations of my family fared (yet – my ancestry research continues), but I do know they were already preparing to leave by the time Patrick was born.

In 1913, my great-grandmother Mary and her three sons left County Mayo and traveled to Queenstown, where they boarded a ship bound for America. Mary’s husband was already in the states, so she spent the week’s journey with just her three boys, all under the age of four. I’m trying to imagine a worse experience for her, but they arrived safely and started a life in Massachusetts.

Patrick is my closest tie to Ireland, but his story is also very American.  He fought in WWII as a gunner in the Army Air Corps and later became a fireman. (Is it any wonder he came from the same island as Liam Neeson with an action-star pedigree like that?) He married a girl – not Irish, but what you can do? – and had five children who share a good sense of humor and a recipe for Irish soda bread.

To be an Irish-American is to have an immigrant story like this.  Our ancestors struggled through famine and fate and sought out a better life; we were “the huddled masses yearning to break free.” Luckily, we were welcomed. I exist because of America, and I love this country that can still be welcoming.

My grandfather Patrick died before I was born, but I was raised with a healthy respect for my Irish heritage despite not knowing much about it. I’ve been to Ireland just once: in 2006, while studying in London, I took a weekend trip to Cork to visit other students abroad.  We fit nine people in a six-person hostel, and several pub visits into just a few days. It wasn’t the sort of trip that made time for searching out family history.

On our last day, we had a few hours to spare and wanted to get near the water. The hostel attendant recommended taking a train to Cobh, so that’s what we did.  We wandered around the old buildings, drank Irish coffee at a cute pub, and I took a picture of an old dock.

A dock in Cobh

What I didn’t know at the time was that 94 years earlier, Cobh was called “Queenstown.”

I don’t think this is the same dock my great-grandmother walked down nearly a century ago. It’s possible, since this is the dock used by the passengers of the Titanic, something I (incredibly) did not realize either when I took this picture. But really, how lucky could I be to find the exact dock my ancestors walked across — by accident?

Well, I did find the last town my ancestors were in before they came to America. And since the Titanic made its last stop there in 1912, the town has been preserved to reflect life as it was 100 years ago. I saw the streets, the buildings, the pubs and the docks as they were just a short time later, when Mary took her children off, hoping for a better life in America.  And they found one.

That seems just lucky enough.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my mother, who gave me this pale skin and intense pride.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and 100th birthday to my grandfather Patrick, who died far too young.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my grandmother, who wasn’t Irish but enjoyed pretending she was, and I can respect that.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to my brother, my aunts, my cousins, my great-aunts and distant cousins, including ones just discovered.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone who is Irish and everyone who just wants to be – so really, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone in the world.