01 Feb
2016

3 Comments

Day 1 of Loving Winter 2016

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on February 1, 2016   comments 3

I #lovemnwinter!  Today, I love ten things that only winter brings.

Read about this collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls, or check out last year's #lovemnwinter posts.

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2013-2014 was the coldest winter of my life, and probably the same for many others who did not live in Minnesota before the 1990s. For those who missed out, here is a recap of conditions: days on end of below zero temps; gas and electric bills through the frozen roof; several inches of ice that formed on the roads and never left; frequent snowstorms.


weather-report.pngCredit: National Weather Service Duluth

The summer before this mini(sota) ice age, I had decided that MN would be home for the next several years. With this decision came the realization that, for the good of my mental health, I would have to form an optimistic disposition that defied my perceived reality.

Putting it plainly... winter was cold, and I would have to learn to deal with it like a champ.
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That's right, I would attempt to join the ranks of those who ice fish; gardener year-round; camp on snow; jump in frozen lakes; write odes to snow falls; sled on the regular. I was going to start doing this winter thing.

Key to this attempt:

Not complaining about the weather

Letting my body get cold and paying attention to what it felt like, believing it wasn't simply "cold"

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Following these two guidelines, I started getting outside and trying things I've never considered fun (let alone tolerable). Snowshoeing and winter walks around the neighborhood. Standing around a bonfire and working on bikes in cold garages. I asked my grandmother about our family's history and heard stories about how folks lived, survived, and even ENJOYED the winter before we had battery powered thermal underwear. Winter customs and celebrations became fascinating and I looked for ways to participate. Before long, I found myself saying things like "it's a dry-cold, warmer than yesterday."


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What I realized in this transformation is that if you l#lovemnwinter, you get to experience something really special. You'll witness and celebrate things that other folks will never have the opportunity to. Life here is unique and nuanced and this wonder takes time to explain. Minnesotans can spend so much time defending ourselves for living in one of the most extreme states of the union (temperature wise), that we don't always take the time to describe the good stuff.

 

So, what's the good stuff?

1. Snow Sparkles
A certain kind of snow brings a certain kind of magic. It's soft, it's a "blanket", it's quiet. And you know what? There's a reason we have glitter in snow globes. Because it's SPARKLY!
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2. Food
Some foods I only enjoy in the winter: black eyed peas; squash; turkey; venison. What do you enjoy especially in the winter months?
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3. Pain
The sting of your nostrils, a deep inhale, exhale. A cloud of exhaust. Tingly fingers, will they ever be normal again? Toes that feel as thick as sausages and thighs that burn. Air sneaking through a crack between my jacket and scarf. It feels crazy and amazing and so much more than simply "cold." The sensations of winter remind me that my body is alive, and interesting, and strong.

4. Cardinals and House Sparrows
Without the clatter of leaves and summer activity, you can clearly hear a cardinal call and the chitter chatter of house sparrows flocked together in a hedge.

5. ComRADery
Did you catch the 28 days of #lovemnwinter from last year? And we are doing it all over again this year!

6. Prints in the snow
I'm not a professional animal tracker, but I'll never be closer to it than after a fresh snow. Then, and only then, am I hot on the trail of little critters!

7. Blinding sun is the best sun
I've never felt "thirsty" for sun the way I do when it's cold outside. Frequently, I'll find myself pausing in a sunny window, letting the sun blind my eyes so my face can feel warmed. I imagine my body drinking up the Vitamin D and it feels wonderful! Vitamin D is my favorite winter food!

8. Walking on water
Y'all know it's crazy, right? Driving on ice? Oh, that's insane too.

9. Classy cocktails
Staying in on a snowy day is the only sensible thing to do. Even better with a winter drink: boozy hot cocoa; mulled wine; whiskey drinks; and even "Milk Punch."

10. Minneapolis' Murder
Have you witnessed the thousands of crows that roost around Loring Park, Uptown, and South Minneapolis neighborhoods? Click here for a little peak:
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Need more reasons to love this season?

2015 - 28 Days of Loving Winter

Winter - 28 Days of Love (2014)

 

Good luck on your journey to love this MN winter!

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08 Dec
2015

21 Comments

It is winter, we ride: Winter Skill Share recap - 2015

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on December 8, 2015   comments 21

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A recap of the 7th Annual Winter Skill Share

For over 10 years, I’ve been biking through Minnesota winters. I don’t bike every day. Sometimes, I just don’t want to. Sometimes, I catch myself unprepared so I drive. Sometimes, I ride REALLY slow because the conditions feel more treturous than I’d imagined. Often, I see other WTFs on the trails. Usually, I’m happy that I chose to ride, rather than use my car. I’ve never frozen to death and never experienced a hard fall.

Although I actually prefer slippers, a warm robe, hot coffee, and Netflix for most of the winter, I must admit that there's a lot of enjoyment in riding a bike through the cold and snow. Here is a short list of my favorite things, in no particular order:

  • Exercise (always good)
  • Outside (vitamin D)
  • The noises... quietness after a snowfall, birds
  • Appreciating the range of “cold” (some days feel warm, it’s appreciation)
  • My rear tire fishtailing (it’s so fun!)


Two years ago, I found myself at the Grease Rag Winter Skill Share (Here is a re-cap of that event: Grease Rag’s 6th Annual Winter Skill Share). I was surprised to find others who loved cycling through the snow as much as I did. I was excited to see all the fresh interest from those who were gearing up for their first season of winter riding. I was impressed to learn so much (that I didn’t know I didn’t know) from this group. I learned about how to properly care for my bike (my long-time winter ride is very rusty), I heard tips about clothing and safety, I communed and chatted with others who had a range of experiences and wisdom that was different than mine. The Winter Skill Share taught me much and motivated me for another year of riding.

This year, I helped to market The Winter Skill Share and attended the event. Again, I learned new tricks, left feeling energized, and scored these great ear muffs at the swap.

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After the event, several Grease Rag folks wrote up summaries of the sessions and I’ve posted them here, with a short description of what the event was like:

So, what is a Grease Rag Winter Skill Share?

Each Fall, the Grease Rag community pools it’s collective resources, energy, and smarts to encourage and support WTFs who wish to pedal through Minnesota’s coldest and most unpredictable months. With several teach-ins on winter bicycling related topics, our Grease Rag experts share their expertise in areas like bike maintenance, self-care, riding technique, and more.


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After the pros have shared, we draw on the audience of veteran riders (and sometime even newbie riders!) to share even more know-how on these topics. This event helps all riders to strategize for winter riding and to motivate themselves through the toughest of winter’s biking hurdles.

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This event provided donated snacks, organized a gear swap (winter/bike related items… shared for free!), and partnered with The Exchange (a Queer Community Space) to stock their food shelf with a bunch of goodies. All said and done, we pumped up and prepped over 60 WTFs for the winter riding season, including  at least 18 new riders who are interested in venturing out for their first time this season. Good luck to all!

Individual Session Recaps

Clothing
Safety, Handling & Maintenance (2 sessions)
Self Care

07 Oct
2015

24 Comments

7th Annual Winter Skill Share

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on October 7, 2015   comments 24

Curious about winter biking? Looking for advice on how to ride a little longer into the cool weather this year? Want to ready yourself to hit the slippery streets like a polar bear hits the ice? Do you like door prizes? Join us for the 7th Annual Winter Skill Share!

Sunday, November 1st, 11am - 4pm
Blake School, 511 Kenwood Pkwy, Mpls

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Print and share this flyer!

This event is FREE and open to all women, trans*, and femme bike riders!

RSVP to the Facebook event

#WTFwinter7

Grease Rag peeps will share their experiences of winter biking from different WTF perspectives. Topics covered include bike setups, safe handling, bike maintenance, and clothing strategies. We want to see you out there this winter, so please stop by, eat a cookie and drink some cider, and maybe win a prize - there will be prizes! Come with questions and leave feeling confident and ready to take on Minnesota's most challenging and glorious season!

If this is your second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh WSS, you might notice that we are changing the schedule a bit. We listened to your feedback and are trying longer sessions to allow for more in-depth skill sharing and discussion on the topics!

Schedule

11:00  Warming up with snacks and friendship
11:30  Sessions A & B (details announced soon)
12:30  BYO Lunch Break!
1:00   Sessions C & D (details announced soon)
2:00   Panel Q&A and community announcements
2:30  Gear Swap with Linda  

The program starts at 11:30 and the gear swap will begin at 2:30. You are welcome to come and go as you please.

Gear Swap

Featuring many wonderful items created at our craft event and gently used gear/clothing! Go through your closet, your gear stash, and your bike stuff to find some gear, winter clothing, or other bike stuff that you are willing to part with and that would be useful for winter biking. Bring these treasures to the Winter Biking Skill Share. The Gear Swap is free and everyone is welcome to participate, even if you don't bring anything to swap. Anything leftover will be donated to The Exchange. See information below. Everyone's a Winner!

Bring a donation for The Exchange Queer Community Food Shelf!

Grease Rag will collect non-perishable food items (including gluten-free, nut-free and vegan options) to support this important organization. The Exchange is a Queer community space in the Powderhorn neighborhood of South Minneapolis. The Exchange is a partnership of three non-profit organizations, Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition/Trans Youth Support Network/RARE Productions, that came together to open The Exchange space three years ago.

Popular items include proteins, snack items, fruit and items that can make a whole meal. PRIZES will be awarded for she/they/he who brings the most weight in donations!

Related Events & Activities

Looking for more ways to participate in the WSS7? A craft night is being organized for October and the first Full Moon Ride in November (Beaver Moon) will be designed especially for first time winter riders. Watch for details in the WSS Facebook event/group pages!


Questions?  Please ask in the comments!  And we are still looking for volunteers.

23 Aug
2015

14 Comments

Babes in Bikeland... get up and get it!

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on August 23, 2015   comments 14

Before my first Babes in Bikeland (2014), this was my internal dialogue:

You have never been to a bike race. You don't like going fast. How far are we biking (Answer: too far)? You have no idea what "alley cat" means. You don't know anyone else going. Your bike, all together, probably needs some TLC and you don't even have 5 minutes to get to that unraveling handlebar tape. Do I need spandex pants? You partied too hard, too late last night.

Even though I am typically an ambitious extroverted optimist, I have that weekend habit of talking myself out of doing new and challenging things in lieu of Netflix+couch. Last winter, I struggled with biking to work on the coldest of days, further talking myself into driving with each hit of the snooze button. The morning of last year's Babes in Bikeland, I was laying on the couch weighing the guilt I'd feel from not going against the hangover pounding my brain. It's a terrible habit.


So, how did I end up getting my hungover self to Babes in Bikeland(http://babesinbikeland.com/)? I deployed my most powerful motivation technique: PREPARATION. Packing, planning, and pumping myself up... high fives and up-tempo jams. This year I created a list that I like to call "Pedal Power!" (this also works as a rally cry during the Babes race). Top song: Date with the Night, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

 

Do now

Pre-register! $10 gets you a T-shirt and $5 registers you for the race. Registered racers who complete the course will be entered into drawings for sweet sweet door prizes!

Pick the bike you wanna ride, tune it up at a Grease Rag Open Shop.

Invite a friend to join you or find folks to ride with (...see the following step).

 

Friday before Babes

Go to the PreBabes Wander About! This is a social (slow, fun) ride on the Friday before the Babes race. It's a good time to meet other riders and familiarize yourself with the event.

Don't party too hard.

 

The day of Babes

Wear pants! Or shorts... or a skirt... or some spandexy stuff... whatever I want! There's even a costume contest! Remember to pack warmer clothing for later in the night, after the ride. Check the weather and consider a rain jacket.

Self love! Hydrate. Eat. Fist pump!

Pack the essentials: Helmet/Bike, lights, lock (chain might be helpful), a Twin Cities .
bike map and sharpie (unless you wanna do it all via digital device), cash, ID (there will be beer!), water bottle, snacks (Salted Nut Rolls!), a light/rain jacket.

Charge my phone, replace batteries in bike lights. This race is followed up by an awards ceremony of sorts and celebration. You will be biking after dark!

Get to the registration/starting point with some extra time for stretching and high fives!

 

A few more encouraging thoughts

This event is like a giant, soft, reassuring hug from 500 women/trans/femmes on bikes. It might be exactly what you didn't know you needed!

11 Aug
2015

0 Comments

Sexual harassment is real and really crappy

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on August 11, 2015   comments 0

TL/DR: Sexual harassment is real and really crappy.

“I didn’t want my career interrupted because of a powerful man’s misdeeds. Making a formal complaint could have resulted in me losing access at the university. It could have forced me to take another beat, perhaps out of sports; to change my career path in a way I never planned [...] I carefully considered the editorializing and victim-shaming that goes on in such circumstances, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through that.” ‪#‎AmeliaRayno‬ - http://www.startribune.com/star-tribune-s-rayno-adds-own…/…/

In this editorial, I hear my own voice and the familiar fears that reporting my harassers would play out how Rayno describes it: being left/pushed out; working harder to compensate for the inevitable alienation; being scrutinized by those who have the power to protect; career ending consequences. I’m 100% certain that ‪#‎NormanTeague‬, was fully aware of this power and knew the tools he had at his disposal to pressure and then discredit these women if it was necessary for his self preservation. The manual on how to sexual harass your coworkers is authored by a long list of jerks just like him; its forward is written by the cultural norms and institutions that keep employing and promoting these creeps. Victims are afraid to report, and that’s pointing to a really big problem.

The problem is more than just a handful of annoying trolls, street heckling, and grody harassers... it’s the stories that I hear ALL THE TIME about jerks who feel entitled to someone’s body just for showing up to work. It’s the waste of my energy trying to prove that this is a problem while crowds cheer for Trump who says “I’m sick of being politically correct” in explanation of why it's okay to tell an apprentice contestant that she “looked better on her knees”. It’s how, despite this, some knuckledragger out there is dying to know what Rayno was wearing to back up their delusions of “reverse discrimination”. What a shit show.

So, yeah. I’ve experienced harassment on the job and it has forced me to work harder than my peers and impeded my equal access to the same career opportunities that my male coworkers enjoy. This Norman debacle has me re-living so much trauma that I’ve decided to share what’s happened to me and hope it helps others to start talking about it too. While my experiences weren’t quite as explicit as Rayno’s, they describe some of the ways harassment is pervasive and slippery, how the systems in place protect and harbor harassers just like Teague, at the expense of victims.


Initiation

In the first five minutes, on the first day on my very first professional job, I was initiated into the work environment with a big ‘ol fashion dose of sexual harassment. It was ridiculous, surreal, comical... and here's how it went: In greeting one another at the job site, my colleagues and I shook hands. When I got to my better paid and more senior colleague, he asked me for a hug. “Sure”, he’s nice enough and what would people think if I refused this simple gesture (one that I typically avoided while at work)? Surprisingly, the hug included a full-on butt grab. Butt and grab clearly facing our circle of clients and superiors.

I was shocked, but I didn’t respond or act in my defense. Further silencing me was the perception, shared by some of these same bosses and colleagues during my internship, that women and minorities have gained so much in the workplace that we now have to deal with a reverse discrimination problem. Maybe I was waiting for this supposed advantage to kick in? If they intended to correct this, my bosses could have (should have) said something right then and there. What was I supposed to do except to get on with my work day? It didn’t take long for me to learn that this butt-grabbing guy had a well known reputation for these sorts of behaviors. Naturally, he continued to work for the company.

 

Just another day in the office

At another contract job, a coworker sent numerous inappropriate texts (penis portraits) to several young females on the team and eventually felt empowered enough to offer unsolicited touching, back rubs, etc. to those he supervised (who had less seniority and were half his age). When I first joined the team, coworkers let me know that he had a well-known reputation for asking coworkers for sex. I clearly avoided any unnecessary contact or alone time with him and he would ask my coworkers why I didn’t like him or engage him in conversation. Most of my coworkers knew exactly why, but no one spoke up and said “it’s because you’re completely out of line, jackass”.

Thankfully, in this situation, the management took swift action as soon as they caught wind of the penis texts - evidence that, if they didn’t act on it, could lead to some serious trouble for the organization. After he was escorted off the work site, the bosses asked all the women on our team to come in for a short meeting where they (all males) insisted that we should always tell our superiors, at any job, about sexual harassment … inside, I was laughing! Did they REALLY not understand how terrifying and what kind of professional risk that could be?!  (Side note: high five for these bosses. Thanks for hearing our stories without questioning, acting on it, and offering encouragement!)

 

Lessons in speaking up

In my first higher ed job, I had a coworker I worked closely with for over eight years. For eight years, I listened to him complain about and degrade women, regularly offering, when in a small group or one-on-one setting, his unsolicited commentary about our female coworkers (I won’t even get into the comments he had for LGBTQs and POC). Colleagues he didn’t like were described as ugly and undesirable, females in management roles were described as bitchy and unloveable, and any new hire or attractive colleague was presumably there because of her looks/body or the sexual interest of a male superior. I rarely, if ever, saw his comments challenged or his behavior disciplined. My silent disgust, misconstrued as agreement, was eventually enough of a pass for him to physically intimidate and threaten me on the job. I’m leaving out a lot of detail here - I’ll just say that there was a tramatic incident of physical harassment when he made it very clear that I would not challenge his power and that I would not have access to the protection of my superiors.

When I reported this to my manager, the response was at first to laugh it off, then to explain that I must perform as per usual and he would handle it. After I insisted that further action was needed in order for me to feel safe, my coworker (a life-long employee of the institution) had a letter from HR put in his employment file that seemed worded to serve as a mild critique of his unintentional intimidation. Knowing what I know now, I suspect that this was just enough to prove that the institution had taken action and it served as protection from future lawsuits.

This co-worker eventually found ways to bully me that were difficult to prove to a superior but affected my work environment and kept me from doing a quality job. As the harassment increased, my bosses became less interested and more annoyed with me reporting it. I finally went to the affirmative action office, who explained that harassers know how to harass without getting caught. As if to prove the office’s ineffectiveness, the administration closed the affirmative action office shortly after my meeting with them. When I reached out to a women’s center, we set up a meeting to explain this type of harassment to my boss. In response to this, I was moved out of my work area, away from the harasser, to an entirely different department’s space on the other side of the building. I can only speculate that this satisfied my harasser and lead to me being further alienated from my colleagues and professional duties.

 

It is 2015 and it's still really crappy

Up until I challenged his behavior, my coworker and I had been getting along fabulously. I COULD have not said anything and continued with my work. Instead, I risked speaking up and learned the lesson that most women suspect is the rule: play nice with sexist and derogatory woman-haters, or you don’t have a job. My experiences illustrate the non-sexually explicit, not as interesting, not newsworthy, and not easy to describe problem that the less powerful deal with ALL THE TIME in 2015.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what it's like for a young and inexperienced woman to network and navigate her career growth, there you go. If you need an update on how the advancement of women in the workplace is going, or reverse discrimination, I wrote this for you. If you wonder why I talk about straight/white privilege, this is how it is affecting my life. If you’ve ever wondered why I almost always unquestioningly believe the word of POC/LGBTQ and their accounts of unfair treatment, it’s explained in these experiences. In each of these stories I share, I’m less disgusted by the idiotic harassers than I am by how well the system works in their favor. For some, workplaces are minefields where the power to sexually harass is sanctioned, harbored, encouraged.

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