Road Trip: New Jersey

We have a number of weddings to attend this fall, and the first is Stephanie’s cousin Alex’s, which is taking place in New Jersey. This road trip we’ll be seeing the other half of Stephanie’s family; we saw most of her mom’s family last fall.

Lance ready to road trip
Lance is ready to roadtrip.

First Road Stop - new shades
The ear pieces from my shades were making my head hurt, so I got this new pair.

Lance gets new shades, too.
Lance took my old sunglasses.

My Orange Crush
Stephanie Driving

Monkey demands shades too
Hector needed shades, too.

POTUS roadtrip entourage
The rest of the entourage poses for picks.

Pennsylvania Turnpike
Pennsylvania Turnpike Memoribilia

Supreme Court Justice Supreme
Ruth Bader Ginsburg enjoys her notoriety.

Continue ReadingRoad Trip: New Jersey

The importance of solitude

I linked yesterday to an article in the Boston Globe about studies on the importance of solitude. I read that article and re-read it and wanted to say some things about my reaction to it, because I’m still thinking about solitude, social interactions and how I relate to loved ones and friends. And I’m thinking about how much alone time (or lack thereof, actually) I have in my life regularly.
For the first 18 years of my life, I was never alone at all. I grew up with four brothers and a sister, a mom and a dad and a cat and a dog. There was never alone time in our house, or in our lives. There was always discussion, always noise, always activity, always engagement with other people. We were at home, we were at school, there was little opportunity to be by ourselves for any of us, and I think that affected everyone in the family to some degree as we developed.

An interesting point from the article:

That study, led by graduate student Bethany Burum, started with a simple experiment: Burum placed two individuals in a room and had them spend a few minutes getting to know each other. They then sat back to back, each facing a computer screen the other could not see. In some cases they were told they’d both be doing the same task, in other cases they were told they’d be doing different things. The computer screen scrolled through a set of drawings of common objects, such as a guitar, a clock, and a log. A few days later the participants returned and were asked to recall which drawings they’d been shown. Burum found that the participants who had been told the person behind them was doing a different task — namely, identifying sounds rather than looking at pictures — did a better job of remembering the pictures. In other words, they formed more solid memories when they believed they were the only ones doing the task.

… Burum leans toward a different explanation, which is that sharing an experience with someone is inherently distracting, because it compels us to expend energy on imagining what the other person is going through and how they’re reacting to it.

“People tend to engage quite automatically with thinking about the minds of other people,” Burum said in an interview. “We’re multitasking when we’re with other people in a way that we’re not when we just have an experience by ourselves.”

I used to regularly lock myself in the bathroom to get away from my family members, so that I could just be by myself. That’s also one of the reasons I loved to read – curled up in the corner of my bed, buried in a book, disengaged from the cacophony in the house – that was heaven to my brain; time for me, time away.

And traveling with my family as a group – oh my god. Chaos. Anarchy. Like being on a chain gang with batshit insane people whose only aim is to poke you in the eye, literally and figuratively. And these are people that I love, that I’d walk through fire for.

As much as I love my family, I LOVED college because I had free time away from other people, finally. I had a lot of creative endeavors when I was single. I got a lot of cool shit done. But it was also way too much free time alone – I was lonely for the first time when I was single. I wanted to be in love, to be in a relationship, to build a home and a life together with someone. Growing up with a big family means that you know what it means to be part of a team; to collaborate, to work together and to share everything. That is something I longed to have in my life regularly again, and was so happy to get. I’m so fortunate that I now have that. It’s tremendously valuable to me.

And because I’m so happy to have a collaborator, Stephanie and I spend a heck of a lot of time together – so much so that the only time we’re not around each other outside of work is when she’s skating — and usually I am at home with the dog and cats. Sure, they’re not people, but they do command a lot of attention. Because I was so happy to finally have the life I wanted for so long, I don’t think I really paid that much attention in the last few years to how little down time either of us have from interacting with others.

But I think it shows up for me in lots of little ways – my frustration with not feeling like I have a creative outlet, my irritation while planning vacations and travel, my annoyance with some of the day-to-day responsibilities of my job. I think both Stephanie and I need to have a few hours every week to just get away and think, and then to go home and be part of a team again. It seems like a little bit of alone time is a good thing:

Solitude has long been linked with creativity, spirituality, and intellectual might. The leaders of the world’s great religions — Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses — all had crucial revelations during periods of solitude. The poet James Russell Lowell identified solitude as “needful to the imagination;” in the 1988 book “Solitude: A Return to the Self,” the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr invoked Beethoven, Kafka, and Newton as examples of solitary genius.

But I also don’t want to spend too much time alone… I love my wife and family, too.

The nice thing about medicine is it comes with instructions. Not so with solitude, which may be tremendously good for one’s health when taken in the right doses, but is about as user-friendly as an unmarked white pill. Too much solitude is unequivocally harmful and broadly debilitating, decades of research show. But one person’s “too much” might be someone else’s “just enough,” and eyeballing the difference with any precision is next to impossible.

Research is still far from offering any concrete guidelines. Insofar as there is a consensus among solitude researchers, it’s that in order to get anything positive out of spending time alone, solitude should be a choice: People must feel like they’ve actively decided to take time apart from people, rather than being forced into it against their will.

Maybe at times that Stephanie is out skating, I should get out of the house and go for a walk, take my camera, take a notebook and write, photograph and think. And when we’re traveling and on vacation with others, I should find some time to get away and shop or explore so I can regroup. Maybe I’d have some better balance that way – happy time alone and happy time with family, too.

Continue ReadingThe importance of solitude

Arline Groenwoldt

Arline Groenwoldt
My Grandmother, Arline Groenwoldt

My maternal grandmother, Arline Groenwoldt, died on Thursday, April 15th. I waited to mention it here because I wanted to be sure that my family had a chance to attend her services first. And then I waited some more because I’m having such a hard time figuring out what to say. I can’t adequately capture her likeness in words, and it’s overwhelming to try to explain what she meant to me. I have a vivid memory of her voice, and I keep replaying things she said in my head, afraid that I’ll forget what she sounded like and that little piece of her will be lost to me.

We drove to Iowa for her memorial last week. She is interred in Davenport Memorial Park next to my grandfather, Julius H. Groenwoldt, who died on March 30, 1996.

From the Quad City Times:

Arline Groenwoldt

PERRY, Iowa — Arline V. Groenwoldt, 86, of Perry, Iowa, and a Davenport native, died Thursday, April 15, 2010, at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. A year after her husband Julius’ death in 1996, she moved from Davenport to Perry to be near family. Memorial services will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Runge Mortuary in Davenport. She will be buried next to Julius in Memorial Park Cemetery.

She is survived by her son, Jim Groenwoldt (Debbie), of Indianapolis, Ind.; and daughters Pat Mineart, of Noblesville, Ind.; Judy Barden, of Des Moines, and Nancy Wright (Dave), of Perry; 14 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and one brother, Richard Koos (Beverly), of Davenport.

Grandma Groenwoldt’s love of reading is a legacy she passed to my mother and her siblings, and then to me and my siblings. She and my grandfather also loved flowers and their garden was full of gorgeous blooms – one of my most vivid memories from childhood.

Some flowers from our garden, for my grandmother.

Garden Blooms
Garden Blooms
Garden Blooms

Continue ReadingArline Groenwoldt

Weekend Update: 2008-01-06

Dunno what my last journal entry covered, so let me start at the top – we rang in 2008 at the traditional party at Dan and Doug’s, which is always fun and pretty low-key, and thankfully a few blocks away so we don’t have to risk life and limb. I got really toasted, but managed to not have a hangover the next day; pretty excellent. I seem to have made a dozen different resolutions lately; I’ll work on them if I remember them all. The books resolution is firmly cemented and I’m sure I’ll do well on it.

I have a new niece as of January 2nd at 3:42 a.m. My sister Stacy had her baby, named Annabelle. I’m suffering from “Twitter is killing my blogging” or I would have mentioned it before now.

Stacy's baby Annabelle

So I’m an aunt, again. Yay! Stephanie and I decided we’d get the kid started right, so we set up an ING savings account and automated it to deposit $20 ever month. After a couple of years, we’ll look at investing it. Stephanie’s Dad invested the money her family gave to her when she was a baby and she has a nice nest egg because of it, so I thought it would be good to do something similar for my niece.

This weekend we had a really full To Do list, and we managed to get a lot of it done. We put away all the Christmas decorations and finally cleaned up after all the Christmas baking and the tons of cooking we’ve done at home lately. We’ve done really well about making meals at home rather than dining out, but it does have a tendency to trash the kitchen. We got other vacuuming and cleaning done, and I managed to finally package up and get ready to mail some gifts we’ve had around the house since this summer. I completely failed to do my crime watch block leader stuff; I’ll have to get to it soon.

I had a full-blown cold after Christmas that went away, but left some sort of sinus thing in it’s wake that I can’t seem to shake. Dunno what that’s about. On January 18th, I’m going to be getting laser surgery on my eyes to correct my vision. I’ll take a few days off, but I’m not too worried about it. I have a pretty high pain threshold these days. If it doesn’t involve I giant hole in my chest, I’m not bothered.

I’m going to keep track of the movies we watch in 2008, in addition to the books I read. I’ve never really kept track before, but in reconstructing this past year’s list, it’s apparent movies aren’t really a high priority in our house. I can recall seeing 24 movies, and only 6 of them were in the theater. The bulk of our movie watching was on Netflix. I’ll reconstruct the list in another post.

This weekend we got the movie Madeline from Netflix and watched it. It’s a live-action version of the children’s book that Stephanie adored as a kid, so it’s been in our queue. It was cute but the story didn’t flow well, and we spent the whole movie analyzing what plot points came from the books. However I have had the Carly Simon theme song stuck in my head all morning, so it made some sort of impression.

I’m currently in the middle of reading The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books by J. Peder Zane (a present from Stephanie’s Mom) and The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, which was a present from my friend Jen.

I’ve also been playing several different video games from We had a coupon for free downloads with a Barnes and Noble purchase, and after playing their version of Mahjongg, I started looking at some of their other games, including Madame Fate, Mystery Case Files – Huntsville, and Mystery Case Files – Ravenhurst. They’re basically scavenger hunt-like games, where you poke around rooms and find missing items. I find them a lot more fun than war games and blowing up crap, though.

Continue ReadingWeekend Update: 2008-01-06

Wow – busy time

Long time, no bloggy. Hmmm.
Went to our traditional Thanksgiving trip; Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Iowa with the extended Mineart family. Almost everyone was there – something like 48 family members all in the same house at the same time. Yep. I took lots of photos; most from the trip are up on Flickr.
While we were there, we drove out to Eldon, Iowa to see the little house from the famous Grant Woods painting American Gothic, and took photos of us in front of the house. (Obviously, you can see one of them a few posts down.) I’ve been wanting to do that for years. The house is designated an historic landmark owned by the state of Iowa, and this year the state opened a visitor’s center/museum near the house so you can find out more about the painting and get help getting your picture taken. The proceeds from the center help pay for the maintenance of the house, which is nice. And the volunteers there are pretty fun-loving and enjoy tongue-in-cheek parodies of the painting.
A few years back, I read “American Gothic : The Biography of Grant Wood’s American Masterpiece” so I knew a lot of the background of the painting, but the museum was really interesting, and it makes me want to go back and read it again. Strangely, I know I wrote a review of the book for my blog, but it’s not coming up in my searches. Hmmm.
Speaking of Flickr and photographs, I finished uploading all of the digital photos I have to Flickr. I still have a lot of captioning and tagging to do, but they are in sets in roughly chronological order going backwards to September, 2000 when I bought my first digital camera. I also need to pull significant events into sets, as well, and then embed galleries throughout my site. I have some of that done, but not nearly enough. I had quite a nostalgic time going through all my old photos. And a bit of a sad time, too, coming across photos of our friend Joe. I have more of him I haven’t added to that set, but I stopped hunting for them after awhile because it made me too unhappy. I’ll have to complete that task later.

Continue ReadingWow – busy time

Taking a quick trip to Iowa

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I’m headed to Iowa after work today, with my mom. We’re going to visit my Grandma Groenwoldt, who is in the hospital and not feeling well. I haven’t seen her since my road trip in 2001, when I stopped to see her at her little retirement village apartment. It’s sort of a rush trip so I’m feeling somewhat frazzled; like I’ve forgotten lots of things. I’ll also be missing Jennifer and Patrick’s wedding, which I feel really bad about. Stephanie will be going, though, so hopefully she’s take lots of photos.

Continue ReadingTaking a quick trip to Iowa

Writing? What me? I never do that any more…

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a real journal entry – since we arrived home from our trip, actually. I spent a lot of time organizing my trip photos, and working on a site design for one of my friends. Most of my day to day updates end up on twitter, and I’ve been so busy at work and playing so much catch-up on my blog reading that I haven’t had a chance to write much. I’ve eliminated numerous blogs from my feed reader because I just can’t keep up any more.
I’m so far behind writing little reviews of what I’ve read. I have a stack of 8 books I’ve finished and need to write about, and a giant stack of books from the library to read. I may end up doing a short post where I list the books I’ve read without actually reviewing them, because I get really bogged down and don’t have the time for it.
I’ve been buying loads of cheap crap on eBay – I’ve had an art project stewing in my brain ever since we visited Earl and Syd’s house on the trip, and I want to work on it.
Our vegetable garden seems to have done well for a first attempt. We had a bumper crop of cucumbers and have been giving them away. A few sugar snap peas. The lettuce came in fairly well early, and we had a decent crop of radishes. We learned some good stuff, too – cucumbers need a lot more room, for one thing. Next year we’ll have a little better organization, and I think we’ll do even better.
Did I mention my sister is going to have a baby? I know I talked about it on Twitter. It’s very exciting – we’re going to have a little British niece or nephew. Aren’t aunts and uncles a huge thing in English children’s literature? I expect to be a character in our own Chronicles of Narnia any day now. “Then Charlie’s lesbian aunts flew in from America…”
We have our regular work-sponsored “Fast Friday” at the track today – this year we’re doing it for the NASCAR race here on the Indy track. Because I’m obviously such a huge NASCAR fan. Right. I did enjoy Talladega Nights, though, and more recently – Cars, which we finally saw after being laughed at repeatedly the entire time by all the other drivers on our road trip. (You haven’t seen CARS? That restaurant was in CARS! Hey look, we’re in front of the gas station from CARS! It didn’t help that the movie painstakingly included lots and lots of attractions from Route 66 to support the historic restoration efforts.)
The whole “going to the track” thing is really wasted on me, though. It’s too bad I can’t trade out with some of the guys from our road trip; they love the race cars and asked all about living near the Indy 500. I didn’t tell them that I regularly turn down tickets to the race every year (my dad has had them since I was a little kid) and even sort of avoid the west side of town when there’s a race on. I did mention you can hear the cars from our house though. That’s true of most of city, though – the noise really carries. Anyways, I better go get ready; I’m carpooling to the track with Rich…

Continue ReadingWriting? What me? I never do that any more…