The Office Bard

I spent three hours this morning working on a blog post for a medical practice association. The topic: office romance. Oh, and the kicker? It was a poem.

Nobody can ever say my job is boring.

This is my third poem for these guys in the last year. How I became the office bard is a bit of a mystery. I remember a brainstorming session on blog topics in late 2016, and I suggested holiday party etiquette. I joked that it should be written as a parody of The Night Before Christmas and things kind of took off from there. For the record, I am most definitely not a poet, but I can crank out a decent rhyme, I guess. Here are a few lines of what I came up with:

Sally and Jack worked for Company A
Their friendship grew a bit stronger each day
Innocent talk about movies and weather
Soon led to them eating lunches together
After a while they started to flirt
They were both single – what could it hurt?
Their risqué behavior deserved an R rating
They justified it because they were dating
A few of their coworkers went to HR
Saying the relationship had gone too far
Further developments fueled the commotion
When Sally was handed a big, fat promotion
The other employees went on the attack
“She got this position because she’s with Jack!”

Keep in mind, this is a professional organization with dues-paying members. Because of that, I had to scrap my first draft, which contained the lines,

“This just isn’t fair!” they shouted in anger
“This wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t bang her!”

poetPersonally, I thought that version was a much more compelling read. But tempting as it was, I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it in. I joked that I could end up being the first person in history to be fired for sexual harassment who didn’t actually sexually harass anyone.

Bonus points if you picked up on my pop culture references. I like to throw little Easter eggs into my work, just for fun. That’s kind of my trademark, as the holiday etiquette poem contained characters named Michael, Stanley, Phyllis, Oscar, Jim, Pam, Toby, Dwight, Meredith, Andy, Ryan, Kelly, and Creed. Suffice it to say, there’s a fair amount of creative leeway allowed on these blog posts.

Is it any wonder they’re among my favorite writing assignments?

Countdown: 120 Days

The Shadow Never Lies

I had an unexpected snow day today!

Well, not exactly. I still worked. I just did so from the comfort of my recliner at home, thanks to a rare late February snowstorm. How rare? It’s been 23 years since we’ve had this much snow (3.5”) after Valentine’s Day. And they’re predicting more tonight. What a strange winter it has been. We were in the 60s a couple of weeks ago and it looked like Spring had arrived early. When Punxsatawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter at the beginning of the month, I thought to myself, the groundhog has lost his freakin’ mind. 

But the shadow never lies.

It actually snowed pretty much nonstop all day yesterday, but the temperature hovered right around 34 degrees and the ground was too warm for anything to stick. After sunset the temperature dropped and the snow picked up, so Tara and I found ourselves walking around outside right in the midst of the heaviest of it. I call that “South Dakota research.” This morning when I opened the blinds in our bedroom, I was greeted with the following sight:

snowglow

Gorgeous, huh? The sun was rising next to Mount Hood, and its rays cast a warm glow on the snow-flocked branches. Even Tara seemed to enjoy the magic of last night’s snowfall (or at least pretended to). Normally I’m the one gushing over frozen precipitation while she is rather blase over it all. We may just have turned a corner.

The funny thing is, Rapid City got a bunch of snow on Monday and I was jealous. Not anymore!

We got an email from HR this morning stating that the office was technically closed and we could come in at our own discretion or make alternate arrangements with our managers. I was planning on working from home anyway, because there is absolutely no need for me to do this job in an office (hint, hint!), so that worked out nicely. I’m always more productive working from home anyway. Got an early start too, so I’ll be logging off at 3:30 and heading to WinCo for groceries. Not because another storm is bearing down upon us; Wednesday is just our designated grocery day. Hopefully the store isn’t a madhouse.

Countdown: 122 Days

Homeward Bound

Bloody Marys, a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” marathon (thanks to a free HBO weekend. I can finally watch the newest season – yay!) and even a little snow in the air. Translation: not a half bad Sunday. It would be even better if I had tomorrow off like a certain unnamed female in the house does. Well, technically three females in the house have Monday off if I’m counting the cat, but whatever.

It’s been a pretty nice weekend. Originally Tara’s friend Betsy and her son were supposed to come up for a visit – they live in Vegas – but she inadvertently booked the trip for the wrong weekend and it would have cost something like $700 to change her ticket, so that visit is on hold. Which is probably a good thing, as the weather isn’t great. It took a while, but winter finally decided to arrive. Friday evening we went back to Shanahan’s. Last week we actually had to walk out and come up with a Plan B because every seat in the place was taken, but this time things were back to normal. We got our regular table (I joked that they should put a plaque with our names on it to commemorate our faithful patronage over the years) and enjoyed fried pickles and other wonderful pub grub. I am going to miss the hell out of that place.

Saturday we drove into Portland to kill a few hours. We’ve been stocking up on things we won’t be able to find in Rapid City, like Wild Roots vodka and Jacobsen sea salt. With only four months to go, it’s time to take this stuff seriously. Afterwards we headed over to my parents’ house. They are still out of town and won’t be home for another six days, so we borrowed their grill again and cooked up some chicken and asparagus. Drank wine and cider while listening to Crosby, Stills Nash & Young and Paul Simon. It was a very nice evening.

paul-simon-1Speaking of Paul Simon, I just bought us tickets to see him. His farewell tour is swinging through the Moda Center in Portland on Saturday, May 19. I was on the fence, because honestly it’s kind of a pain in the ass dealing with arena concerts, but I grew up listening to Paul Simon because my dad was a fan. The fact that it’s a weekend show, not to mention his farewell tour, sealed the deal for me. Our seats may be in the nosebleed section but this will be our last big concert before we move and, therefore, totally worth it.

Today I am making chicken noodle soup and plan to finish up Season 9 of Curb. It is otherwise a very chill, low-key day.

Countdown: 125 Days

Fake Like 38

I stepped outside this morning and was greeted with a blast of cold air and a brisk wind. A couple of hours later Tara called and, as we were chatting, I mentioned how chilly it was outside. But I immediately caught myself and retracted the sentence.

“It’s not really cold outside,” I said.

And it wasn’t. The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees, which – granted – ain’t exactly swimsuit weather, but it is only February. We’ve had an unusually warm couple of months, so a temperature closer to the norm felt extra cold to me.

Besides, I keep reminding myself how cold next winter is going to be. I’ve been following the weather in Rapid City religiously for months now, and there have been many days where highs were in the single digits, and nights have dipped below zero. So I’m trying very hard not to complain about fake cold like 38 degrees, because it’s all relative and a year from now that will feel probably feel warm!


My parents are currently on vacation in Florida, so we decided to take advantage of the situation by borrowing their grill. Being as how their grill is attached to the side of their house via a natural gas valve, we ended up borrowing their entire house while we were at it. (Don’t worry, mom – we brought our own wine!).

Grilling is one thing we both miss. When I was a homeowner I’d grill out at least once a week, pretty much all year long. But our apartment complex doesn’t allow grills, and even though some residents break the rules Tara and I choose to walk the straight and narrow. Which means grilling has turned into a special occasion.

flames

We picked up ribeye steaks from Costco, invited our friend Kara over, and had ourselves a feast on Saturday night, kicking back in their sunroom (we borrowed that, too) with the aforementioned steak, accompanied by sauteed mushrooms, shrimp, apricot pepita cabbage slaw, and garlic bread. We had a great time, even if Kara was a little unnerved by the creepy oversized doll in the living room. I didn’t mention how the thing comes to life sometimes and tiptoes up the stairs in the middle of the night, magically appearing in bed with my parents.

Just kidding, Kara.

Countdown: 131 days.

What’s a “Swinged Cat,” Anyway?!

Like most states, South Dakota has several different nicknames. Most are not surprising. It is called, among other things:

  • The Mount Rushmore State
  • The Coyote State
  • The Sunshine State
  • The Blizzard State
  • The Land of Infinite Variety

But one nickname stands out from the pack: South Dakota’s most unusual moniker is the Swinged Cat State. Wondering where such an odd name came from? You can thank (or blame it on) this guy:

mellette

That’s Arthur Calvin Mellette, the first Governor of South Dakota. In 1890, the state was experiencing a drought. Mellette was doing his best to persuade settlers to stick around. While in Chicago on a trip in which he was attempting to secure financial aid, Moses Handy, an associate of Arthur’s and a newspaperman, turned to his friend and asked, “Well, governor, how is South Dakota?”

Mellette’s response?

Well, South Dakota is a swinged cat, better than she looks.

The term “swinged” is an old colloquialism meaning “singed” or “burned slightly.”

The next day, the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper ran a story about Mellette, governor of “the swinged cat state.” And the rest is obscure history.

I’ve been blogging, on and off, for the better part of my adult life now. The platforms have changed, but writing is the one constant in my life. Since 2009, I’ve been posting semi-regularly on WordPress to Mark My Words. That blog has followed me through many ups and downs in my life and contains memories galore. However, 2018 promises to be a year of change like no other, and I feel it’s time for a fresh start.

Welcome to Swinged Cat. This blog will chronicle the journey of me and my wife, Tara, as we leave behind the Pacific Northwest and head 1,200 miles east, to the Great Plains of South Dakota. I lived in Rapid City many years ago and never imagined I’d ever call it home again, but if there’s one lesson I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the old axiom, never say never, holds true.

If you’ve been following me on Mark My Words, first off, thank you. Please go ahead and bookmark this site instead. That 8+ years’ worth of content isn’t going anywhere, but I will be shifting the focus of the blog to business-related articles.

Swingedcat.com (I kind of love the name!) will be my new home for personal posts and more. I have a few goals in mind here: I want to write more frequently, even if my posts are simple one-sentence asides. Or random thoughts. Inspiring quotes. Photos. Reposts of interesting articles. I want to focus more on the attractions of South Dakota, once we get there. The things we eat and drink, the places we go, the crazy weather we are sure to encounter (“Blizzard State,” remember?). But most of all, I want to document the experience of uprooting my entire life, at the not-so-tender age of…never mind…and start fresh. It’s big, and exciting, and a little scary. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be entertaining, too.

So thank you for following along. Buckle your seatbelts…it’s going to be a crazy ride!