Archive for October, 2011

The air we breathe

You can live with out food for weeks, without water for days, without air for seconds. When was the last time you thought about the quality of the air you breathe? Throwing open the windows? Having houseplants?

I know up until yesterday, I really never had. Maybe it was the fact that I grew up in the country of east-central Minnesota – eight miles outside of a city of 2,000 people on a 160-acre farm. Maybe it was the fact that for the past seven years, I’ve lived in the heavily-wooded hills of west-central Wisconsin. I’ve more or less been “spoiled” with high-quality, peaceful air since the day I was born.

A childhood neighbor of mine now lives just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. From her home, you can SEE the smog on the strip. That’s what people are breathing in. Gross, nasty smog. Granted, it is Sin City and all…but shouldn’t the air we breathe be clean air, be smog-free?

For the time being, I’m currently living 30 minutes outside of Phoenix, the United States’ sixth largest city. The air where I live appears to be decent, so last night I threw open my bedroom window and allowed in the night-air. Doing so aired out my room and immediately made the space feel fresher and more alive. Try it! Air-out your home once a day and FEEL the difference it makes!

I’m also really excited to, in the not-too-distant-future, pick up some houseplants for my bedroom. They say that a person should have two plants for every 100 square foot of interior space. Right now I’m leaning towards these fine specimens:

1) The Bonsai Ficus. Sculptural, artistic, and fabulous! I want.


 2) The Dinosaur Plant. This one has been on my list for a few years now. Why? Well, namely because you cannot kill it. If you forget to water the plant, it uses its genius and goes into survival mode. It’s the prehistoric evergreen that just won’t die. It might not be on THE LIST of the best plants for cleaning indoor air, but it has a geeky story. I’m in love.


3) The Chinese Evergreen. Great for low-light areas. This guy is one of the best for cleaning indoor air. And he looks great.


4) Gerbera Daisies. Bright, fun, playful! Perfect for bringing joy into any room! And, this one’s also on top of the best-plants-for-cleaning-the-air-list. Pretty and practical!

Once I pick up my natural air fresheners, I’ll let  you know! You’ll need to wish me luck in keeping these babies growing! While my mother is essentially a master gardener and my father is a farmer, I’m still learning how it’s all done! To date, I’ve managed to kill off nearly every house plant that’s entered my domain, including a cactus. True story.


Looking for more ways to improve the quality of your air and where to find that best-plants-for-cleaning-the-air-list? Check this out. How do you keep your air fresh and clean? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Anyone else as bad with houseplants as I am? Any secrets to share on taking care of plants?


Channeling Fran

It’s hard to believe that it’s been less than two months since Eliza and Bill died, and now Fran as well. Fran was my great-aunt, my Dad’s aunt, my grandfather’s sister. She was a tenacious woman – always said what was on her mind. Good, bad, or shocking. So today, I’m going to channel Fran, her tenacity, and her honesty. Prepare yourselves.

Of course, as with many of my great aunts and uncles, I didn’t know Fran as well as I should have. Her death on the morning of my 30th birthday left me with mixed emotions. Again, I feel like missed out on a bonding experience with my family by not being able to attend the funeral services. On the flip side, the times I’ve gone out of my way – taken days off of work, rearranged my schedule, spent money I really shouldn’t have – to be there for family occasions, it felt like…I’m not really sure how to put this in a non-offensive manner…a waste. Why? Well, mainly because the family would awkwardly attempt small talk and/or simply stare at the T.V. for hours after gorging on a home-cooked meal until it was time to depart.

Every time, and I mean every. single. time., I would put the big family event up on a pedestal of being a memory-making, fun, and joyful time together to reconnect, laugh, and bond. As a kid, family get-togethers were great! Always exciting and filled with adventure. Now, those things are missing. How do you bring it back?

I honestly think it’s a matter of sharing life experiences more often and being real with the fam that would get the fun rolling again. Doing more than simply staying in touch and keeping up to date on what’s going on in each other’s lives. To be there to be supportive of each other on a consistent basis – NOT just the three to six times a year during special occasions. In a lot of ways, it feels like I’m a stranger in my own family. I guess that’ll happen when you’re 2,000 miles away from home. Although, that was still happening when I was in Wisconsin.

That said, a not-so-small part of me embraces the idea of moving back to my home town of Pine City, Minnesota, in a few years. My family is primarily scattered from the Twin Cities to Duluth. Pine City happens to be smack in the middle, along with my parents, cousins, and grade school friends. I like the idea of putting down roots where my ancestors did and continuing to build, remember, and embrace the Carlson name. I like the idea of really KNOWING, ENJOYING, and SHARING LIFE with my family, my cousins, my aunts and uncles. Of driving down the same roads. Of being able to have an impromptu family dinner.

In my forties and fifties I have this vision of myself being matriarch of the family. And I’m talking the whole entire family – each of my grandparents’ families on down the line. I envision ginormous family reunions, joyfully keeping in touch with everyone – cousins, aunts, uncles, EVERYONE and building up the family archives. I’m not saying bigger is better when it comes to family – I’m saying closer is better. No doubt about it, I am absolutely envious of close-knit families – and for those of you who are part of such families, I know that you cherish what you have.

Ah, so much to ponder…

But, between now and then, I’m going to enjoy the Arizona sun, my fabulous husband and our pups, and my work. And Fran…much love. You’re one of a kind and your tenacious spirit brings a smile to my face – every time.

Frances Victoria Olson

April 17, 1915 – October 3, 2011


Frances Victoria Olson of Rush City, Minnesota, age 96, died Monday October 3, 2011 at Cambridge Medical Center.

Frances was born April 17, 1915 to Frank and Emma (Valleen) Carlson in their rural Rush City home.  She attended the Peers School through eighth grade and graduated from Rush City High School in 1932.  She then lived on the home farm, cooking, gardening and housekeeping.

In 1944, she started dating Donald Olson, a family friend who was working on the Carlson farm. Fran and Don were married June 16, 1946 at First Lutheran Church in Rush City.  To this union three daughters were born.

In 1948 Frances and Donald purchased a farm south of Rush City, where they farmed and resided for the rest of their lives.

Fran was a lifelong member of First Lutheran Church of Rush City, where she taught Sunday school and was an active member of the Lutheran Church Women.

She was a longtime member of the Brickyard Women’s Club.  She also served as a 4-H leader for many years.  In her later years she was a founding and active member of the Rush City Garden Club.

Fran and Don enjoyed traveling to visit relatives in other parts of the country.  They also went to London and Hawaii, and made many winter trips to Florida.

Fran loved gardening and spent many evening hours tending her flower and vegetable gardens.  She especially loved growing roses and she maintained an extensive collection of African violets.

Frances was preceded in death by her husband, Donald; her parents, Frank and Emma Carlson; sister, Irma Nelson; and brother, Amos Carlson.

She is survived by her daughters:  Karen (Leonard) Bennett of LaCrescent, Minnesota; Barbara Olson of Rockford, Illinois; and Marlys Olson of Rush City, Minnesota; grandchildren Erica Bennett of Minneapolis; Kristin (Trevor) Boettcher of Houston, Minnesota; and Mark  (fiancée Amanda Myhre) Bennett of Caledonia, Minnesota; and great-granddaughter Madelyn Victoria Boettcher; nephews John (Linda) Carlson of Stanchfield, Minnesota, Mark (Jane) Carlson of Pine City, Minnesota, and Bruce (Barb) Carlson of Rush City, Minnesota.

A funeral service was held on Friday, October 7, at the First Lutheran Church of Rush City with the Rev Laurie O’Shea officiating.  Music was provided by Mary Kay O’Neill, organist; Del Rae Head, soloist; Erica Bennett and Kristin Boettcher, flute.

Casket bearers were Mark Bennett, John Carlson, Mark Carlson, Bruce Carlson, Trevor Boettcher and John McShannock.  Interment was in the First Lutheran Cemetery in Rush City with the Rev. Beverly Robinson providing a graveside committal service.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Funeral and Cremation Service-Olson Chapel of Rush City.

The mind’s eye; a tricksy little devil!

The mind is a powerful thing. And what’s most amazing is that when I was obese I did not see myself as obese. Sure, I saw myself as needing to lose anywhere from 40 to 105 pounds, but I could not see just how much weight I was actually carrying on my body. And the fact that I could not pinpoint a goal weight SHOULD have been a clue that I didn’t recognize, didn’t see, how heavy – how obese – I’d become.

On my wedding day (July 28, 2007), I weighed 222 pounds – five pounds shy of my heaviest weight of 227. But I didn’t SEE 222. I didn’t SEE obese. I denied my weight, my obesity. I wouldn’t face it. Even now, until I put this picture next to my sidebar’s “Welcome” picture, I couldn’t actually see how much weight I was carrying in my face. And now, I can’t not see the difference.

And the day I left Wisconsin and headed to Arizona (May 5, 2011), I weighed 207. But I still didn’t SEE obese. I didn’t see how tired, stressed out, and lost I’d become. Sure, this picture was taken shortly after I had massively cried so of course I have ginormous bags under my bloodshot eyes. But I could not see the weight; I couldn’t feel how heavy I’d become.

Then, I moved to Arizona. And in the beginning of summer in Arizona, one cannot unknowingly hide behind layers and layers of clothing because it. is. HOT. And it took awhile, but my mind’s eye started letting me see my weight. I started noticing – FOR THEE FIRST TIME – I was carrying a large amount of fat on my body. I could SEE it. And I wanted it to keep going away.

But the crazy thing is this: I couldn’t see my own obesity, my own fat, until AFTER I had lost the first 20 pounds. THEN I started SEEING my body. I could tell I had lost a few inches because my jeans were beginning to fit better. I started wearing shorts and tank tops around the house. THAT was a wake-up call. I saw what my thighs and upper arms looked like outside of jeans and hoodies, and was shocked with how thick I was in those areas. I knew my mid-section was thick, but before my shorts and tank top days, I couldn’t see the thickness throughout the rest of my body.

Fast forward to today where I am 161.7 pounds, 63 pounds under my highest weight of 227, and just 1.7 pounds away from being in the healthy weight range for my height (according to BMI standards).

I can definitely SEE the weight loss! And, just as important, I can see and feel that soon I’ll be transitioning my focus from weight loss to tightening/toning. I can see that I am still carrying some excess fat throughout my body. So my plan here is to take it five pounds at a time. I’ll get to 155.0, see what I look like and how I feel and then make the call on whether or not I want to move to 150.0. As for tightening and toning, I’m thinking of getting into yoga, dance, and tennis. I want to do things that I love – and busting my arse at the gym is NOT one of them. I’ve gone down that road in the past, and it was merely a temporary solution. What I’m looking for is lifestyle changes. I love the longevity of yoga, dance, and tennis. And I love and appreciate the ancient wisdom of yoga, the beauty and wonder of dance, and the class and independence of tennis.

Keep a watch on your mind’s eye. Don’t let it be devilish and trick you into denial. It is such a powerful thing.

How do you see yourself today?

My Big 3-0!

My 30th birthday was amazing! Ab-so-lute-ly fabulous. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. And man alive, do I miss my husband! It was so awesome to SEE him, go out on DATES with him, and just to be able to do the everyday day-to-day things that couples do – hug, hold hands, share life together. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than to be with him for five memory-filled days.

DAY ONE: Friday, September 30, 2011

Ridiculously excited, I headed out to the airport – GPS/iPhone loaded and ready to go. Ten minutes out, I get a text from Brian letting me know that he’s landed. I pull into the airport, easily find his terminal and pull up to the sidewalk hoping to wait for a few minutes. No go! A security guard pops over and tells me that I can’t park and wait. So, I have two options. Park in the cell phone lot or circle around the terminal a few times. Ha! Odd. But, alright. After getting permission to text a quick message to my recently-landed hubby, I pull around and start driving in circles. Three laps later, I find my love!

Unable to do anything more than smile from ear-to-ear, I pull up curbside while Brian tosses his suitcase in the back seat. FINALLY! He’s here – in Arizona! I couldn’t be happier! And quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it. The whole car ride back to Gilbert, I kept slapping his arm, “You’re here! You’re really here!” Love. It makes you do crazy things. 😉

We got Brian settled in for his visit, and then headed out to check out Joe’s Farm Grill for supper. It was the first time we’d ever visited a restaurant after seeing it featured on the Food Network’s Diners & Drive-Ins. Friday night – it. was. busy!!! But oh-so-tasty!

After waiting in life for 45 minutes, we ordered. A lot. As in two milk shakes, a BBQ pizza, two hot dogs (one Rueben-style, one with an EGG on it), pulled BBQ pork, garlic fries, onion rings, and coleslaw. What makes Joe’s so special? Well, all of the food is locally sourced and most of the produce comes right out of the garden just back of the restaurant. In fact, the restaurant used to be the family’s home. True story! We found a picnic table outside and went to work! BEYOND full, we headed over to Red Robin to help celebrate a co-worker’s birthday where we were treated to our first TASTY gelato experience. And, I finally tried some of our menu drinks and introduced Brian to the crew I work with on a daily basis. Great start to the vacay!

DAY TWO: Saturday, October 1, 2011

It’s pool time! Crazy enough, on a Saturday early afternoon, we have the place to ourselves! Nice!

On the walk over to the pool, I’m easily entertained by the gaggle of white geese that lives in the gated community. FANCY. Clearly, they are not nearly as entertained with me.

After living-it-up poolside, we headed to what’s become our favorite tavern in Tempe – Boulders on Broadway – to watch the Badger game and enjoy a Chuck Norris pizza, craft brews, and a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie before hitting up our first ASU game at Sun Devil Stadium. The Chuck Norris pizza is DELISH.

We arrived at the stadium half-way through the first quarter, and unlike many-a-ASU-fan, we stayed for the WHOLE game. We could not believe how many people left before the game was over! Madness!!! One possible reason given for the early exodus – Sun Devil Stadium is a dry stadium. Who knew?

And here’s the view of downtown Tempe after the ASU game from our spot in the parking garage. We figured we’d let the garage clear out a bit before making a run for the exit. It was soooooo nice to just have that time with Brian and be able to visit one-on-one.

DAY THREE: Sunday, October 2, 2011

A day I’d been looking to for quite some time – PACKER SUNDAY!!! We got ready and headed over to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game – with apparently everyone else in Gilbert! The place was PACKED! Thankfully, we scored a table in the bar where a couple of Packers fans joined us. Yay for everyone being on the same team! It was our first game together of the season and I LOVED IT!!! Plus, we won. Whoo hoo!!!

After the game we headed back over to the house, played in the pool, hit up Barnes & Noble where Brian bought me a new leather-bound journal. LOVE. Then, we headed over to the movie theatre to watch Contagion thanks to a free pair of movie tickets I scored while serving.

DAY FOUR: Monday, October 3, 2011

My big day!!! Hello Johnny Rockets, Lion King in 3D, pool time, shopping, fish bowl, and movies with my love. It was my first 3D movie ever, so I pretty much geeked out like nobody’s business – ESPECIALLY since it was Lion King. Life is good!

DAY FIVE: Tuesday, October 5, 2011

Before dropping Brian off at the airport, we hit up the pool one last time and lunched at Paradise Bakery. Bittersweet! Great memories all around – and Brian experienced his first Arizona sandstorm as we drove from Gilbert to Phoenix. Nothing major – no flight delays or anything like that – but definitely something to be witnessed.

So, there you have it! My 30th birthday in a nutshell. Loads of new experiences, places, and memories with the one I love most in this world! As for turning 30, I’m stoked!!! I’m so beyond excited for the next 12 months and can’t wait to see where I am on my 31st birthday! Here’s to a year of great adventure, excitement, and growth!

P.S. Brian and I absolutely throw caution to the wind when it comes to our we’re-on-vacation food choices. Our train of thought? We’re only going to be here once, we might as well experience all we can! Our food on vacation is more than fuel for our bodies – it’s part of our entertainment and overall vacationing experience.

P.P.S. Unlike previous vacations, I did not throw caution to the wind when it came to my budget! This is HUGE for me! I only spent money I had – nothing went on my credit cards. Completely different than my first trip to Vegas where everything from sitting front row at “O” to dolphin training and sky diving was put on a credit card. Not that I would change those experiences – they were AMAZING! But this time around, I made an effort to really consider what I wanted out of this vacation and went for it. We talked about heading out to see the Grand Canyon, but after discovering it would be a 10-hour road trip we opted to postpone that site-seeing excursion for another time. (Like perhaps this late winter/early spring! We’re talking about meeting up in Vegas and doing a helicopter ride over the canyon. From Vegas, the Grand Canyon is a two-hour drive…much more reasonable! Plus, it’ll give me time to save up some money to properly explore this wonder of the world.) We’ll see where things land because at this moment I don’t know how I’d pull it off! For now, I’m in attack-debt mode and have started looking for a Monday through Friday job to aid in the endeavor. Wish me luck!