Friends #36 and 37: Jenny (Courtney and Alexi) and Mindy

My gracious hosts in the Twin Cities were college friend Jenny, her husband Courtney, and their adorable 6-month-old daughter Alexi.  As with many visits along the trip, I caught the family in the midst of transition.  After having Alexi, Jenny returned to work, but after 3 months, decided to transition from work to staying home.  Only two weeks into being a full-time stay-at-home mom, it seems to be suiting them just fine.  Eat your hearts out ladies and gents:

6-month-old Alexi

The process of getting to kids can be so difficult for a lot of families–I have heard many stories of infertility and miscarriage on this trip.  And then to have to decide what to do once you have the kid can be just as hard.  A friend once said, “We are telling women they can have it all, but what they don’t say is that you can’t have it all at the same time,” and I think to a certain extent it’s true.  I have no idea what I would do in the same situation, and of course, a lot of different factors come into play.  I have seen many different family dynamics working splendidly while I’m on this journey: nannies, day cares, stay at home moms, etc.

Jenny spent a good chunk of her childhood in England, so she has a British accent, so to hear her baby talk with Alexi with her accent was just about the cutest thing in the world.  While Alexi took her morning nap, Jenny and I took the most intentional and deliberate walk down memory lane yet on the trip by looking through the incredible scrapbook she made of her college years.  What struck me that hadn’t before was that Jenny and I intersected in college a lot more than I remembered  We were in the same group of 5 or 6 freshmen women at an event for freshmen and continued to meet as a group throughout the rest of the year.  We were in another small group together during a week-long leadership training after our sophomore year.  Jenny’s college roommate was from St. Louis, so she had pictures of her visits to places where I grew up.  We swapped stories, tried to remember some of the names that went with the various faces in the pictures, shared some laughs and some touching moments.  She had various pictures of “The Jens” or of “The Jens and The Jeffs.”  There were, at different times, 3 or 4 Jens or Jennys and 3 Jeffs in our group of friends.  It was just as easy to be with Jenny in conversation as it was to be with Jenny when she was mothering.

Jenny also took me to a great sculpture park in downtown Minneapolis adjacent to the Walker Art Museum.  I have visited Minneapolis several times to visit my best friend from college, but I haven’t seen a lot of the city.  There was a sculpture that was nearly identical to a sculpture in front of the University of Michigan art museum.  It’s a giant wing made out of metal.

Nautilus (1976) by Charles Ginnever, at the Walker Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis.

Charles Ginnever's Daedulus (1975) in front of the University of Michigan Art Museum, from the museum's web site.

And this next one is a classic Walker Sculpture Garden image…the stem of the cherry is actually a fountain that spits out water (when it’s not freezing outside, of course).

Spoonbridge and Cherry, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, 1985-1988

It was so delightfully relaxing to stroll around and chat in a serene environment in the middle of the city, park the stroller, get Alexi out and play, and look at art.  I regret not getting more time with Courtney, who seems to be such a good man and such a good fit for Jenny.  It has actually been a major encouragement to me to see my friends with such great spouses and to see my friends and their spouses as such great parents.  I met Courtney when he and Jenny and I attended the wedding of a mutual friend (one of the Jeffs, actually).  We only met briefly then, but to watch him interact with his daughter now was the greatest thing!  It is pretty incredible how two first-time parents can seem like old pros just a few months in.  Courtney was also really good at explaining the intricacies of his job to a layman like me.  Plus, he wore a Michigan shirt both days I was there, so that makes him a-MAIZE-ing in my book!

Jenny, Alexi, and Courtney

Mindy and I met at her place a literal four blocks from the sculpture garden that night, so I began and ended my Twin Cities day in full-circle fashion.  She was the 5th of 5 friends I saw in my busiest day yet on the trip, and though I was tired, catching up with Mindy re-energized me.  We walked to a rooftop restaurant, Joe’s Garage, with a great vista of the basilica and warded off the mosquitoes for as long as we could.

I remember when Mindy moved into town in junior high because she was a girl who played the trumpet.  As a girl who played the French horn myself, Mindy was instantly cool in my mind.  And Mindy didn’t just play the trumpet in junior high–she was first chair most of the time.  But she opted for sports rather than band in high school and we wound up in different groups, though we had a lot of mutual friends.  I remember we both took a summer school gym class before freshman year and she was giving me tips that her dad had given her about running sprints after you finish doing a mile run to cool down.

Mindy wound up at the University of Wisconsin (go Big Ten) in advertising and moved to the Twin Cities.  She describes her work life as a lot like the show Mad Men.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like in the board rooms of ad agencies or corporations when the creative team pitches a new commercial, especially the ones that leave you scratching your head with their oddities.  Mindy mostly focuses on pets and animals, so if you’ve seen a dog food commercial, chances are, Mindy has her hand in it somehow.

She is a natural schmoozer, too–even though we aren’t very close friends, I never had any concerns about our time together–she’s just so easy to be around.  She was always able to walk the line between sporty and feminine with confidence, though she might try to tell you a different story.  Glasses in junior high made everyone a little bit awkward.  Mindy is the type of person who is comfortable enough in her own skin that she makes you more comfortable in your own.  So at the end of a long day of visits, she was the perfect person to detox with as the sun went down.

Mindy and St. Mary's Basilica from the roof of Joe's Garage. The mosquitoes who also joined us were too small to show up in this photograph.

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