Washington D.C. in the Winter

A few years ago I was invited to my friend’s daughter’s wedding in DC on New Year’s Eve. Normally I am not one to enjoy big cities or seek them out for vacation, unless it is overseas and has mysterious or exotic sites to explore. I planned to make this trip to DC, and since my husband could not attend I called my good friend from law school, Jenny, who was also invited. We decided to go together, share a hotel room, and go out early to see the sites of Washington.DC1

In all of our travels I had never been to Washington D.C. before, but I had studied history in college and really liked American history, so I knew that I would enjoy all of the museums.

We booked our hotel and flight and off we went. We only had an extra couple of days before the wedding, so we really had to pick and chose between the great sites to visit. The one thing I learned is that we do have to go back. There is so much I did not see, especially one of the main places, The White House. I have wanted to see that for a long time, but it was closed to tours during the holidays. Jenny wanted to see the Holocaust museum, and we both wanted to see the Supreme Court since we are both lawyers.

DC4One thing I am proud of is that I am admitted to argue before the United States Supreme Court. I have the certificate on my wall to prove it, and it is an impressive certificate they give out for the Supreme Court. I have never been there to argue a case and the chances are nil that I ever will. There are a very few lawyers that argue before the Supreme Court. It is a very small specialized circle. However, for a small fee and by filling out an application and putting in a few affidavits that I am licensed to practice law and I am of good moral character, I was admitted and got that large certificate to display on my office wall. That certificate is exactly why I did it even though I knew I had no chance in hell of ever arguing before the Supreme Court of the United States. You only live once. Actually a few years later, I did argue before the Minnesota Supreme court, which was awesome and does not happen often to most attorneys here in Minnesota. I won too, so that is a source of pride for me.

We plannedIMG01005-20111228-1118 ahead and made the most of our time. We did not have a car so we walked a lot, used the buses, and we got to know the train schedule really well. Our first stop was Arlington Cemetery on the day we got to D.C. This was a somber reminder of all of the lives cut short to defend our country. The stones go on and on over the hills placed so perfectly to create the perfect rows like soldiers still standing at attention and in formation. However the most impressive are the guards protecting the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They are so precise and so exacting in their movements and the ceremony is somber and respectful. Many people stand around to watch, but everyone is quiet and it is frowned upon to do any talking while watching the ceremony. People move in and out of the area walking lightly and observing and silently contemplating the overwhelming respect for the location and what it signifies.

We spent an entire day on the National Mall area. Jenny wanted to visit the Holocaust museum. It was such a popular spot so we made sure we were in line before it opened to ensure we could view it and also see other sites. It was haunting and disturbing, but a great reminder how horrible people can be to each other sometimes. I wanted to visit to pay my respects, but it was hard to look at the faces of the people, especially the children that were lost to such atrocities.

DC2I was very excited to find out that many of the museums were free in Washington. In this day and age there is usually an entrance fee to everything, so I was elated to find out this was a very inexpensive trip.  We moved from museum to museum seeing our favorites, such as Lincoln’s hat, the first Lady’s gowns, the largest giant squid ever caught and preserved, and dinosaurs and so many other historical artifacts. We moved from place to place talking about the artifacts and about family, life, careers and our worries, hopes and dreams. Time spent with good friends is time well spent.

I have to say my favorite visit was to see the Constitution. However, Jenny and I were almost taken into custody when I entered the building while on my cell phone. While there is no admittance charge for such a location, they do have heavy security and I did not see the signs as I walked into the building, talking with my husband on the phone, that talking on a cell phone is prohibited. It was a quick call, but obviously not quick enough. As we DC3entered the guards started yelling for me to get off of my phone. It took a second for me to realize they were talking to me, but once I realized these armed guards were talking and yelling at me, I shut that thing down and almost dropped it like a hot potato. Luckily, I am of an age where I do not look like much of a threat, so they did not actually draw their weapons, but that phone flew into my pocket and I promptly apologized. I think Jenny was ready to kill me, but later we had a good laugh about it. The Constitution was amazing. I have seen pictures, but as I always say pictures do not do justice to most amazing things one sees in their travels.

My favorite place as an attorney was to visit the Supreme Court. The building is lovely with daunting steps to climb to the front door, like one is ascending mount Olympus and the large Greek columns are set to be majestic and intimidating. The doors are over sized and many times Photo (1)larger than needed. This building was built and is meant to show power and exude respect from those entering, yet it is a court of the people and so they have tried to ensure full access for all who wish to visit. This is the Supreme Court of the land and as a lawyer it meant something to stand in its halls and on its intimidating steps.

Jenny took a picture of me on the front steps of the Supreme Court building looking towards the Capital. It is a cherished picture I keep in my office as a reminder that I visited one of the coolest places in the United States for an attorney to visit and I did it with one of my best friends from law school. Jenny was one of the first people I met in Law school and we were in the same study group. We helped each other through school and have remained friends throughout our careers. That was almost thirty years ago, so to stay friends that long and to travel together to see the highest court in the land was an experience I will treasure forever.

Washington D.C in the winter was amazing, but being able to see it and especially visiting the Supreme Court with one of my best lawyer buddies in the world, made it an extra special event for my memory treasure chest.

Chi Centering & Wine

Centering your Chi is a real thing! I heard about it years ago. I like to try all new things fun, like yoga, and I like the concept of meditation, but I have not been blessed with the ability to sit that long. So when I heard about how to take steps to center your Chi I wanted to give that a try.

Centering, as I understand it, means balancing your life force. You attempt to keep your internal self in balance and harmony. If you are in balance and harmony you are positive, patient, you treat others and yourself with care and kindness. You reject pessimism, stress anxiety and negativism. You can center your Chi in many ways including through meditation and yoga.

I have written about my five girl friends from law school before. We have a lot of stories together. We graduated in 1987 and we have stayed in touch all of these years, and kept up with our girls weekends together. One of our friends lives in Arizona, not far from Sedona, so we decided to 100_7138take a trip to Sedona.

My attraction to it was the advertising that it was known as a spiritual power center because of the Vortexes of Subtle Energy located in the area. It is the place to center one’s Chi. You can actually get maps of where the energy vortexes are located and while I find these things funny, I am more than willing to give it a try and hike to the vortex to see if I can feel its energy and center my Chi. The whole concept was fun. It gave us all something to talk about even if we were all skeptical. However, we all like to hike and we like to hike and eat good food and drink good wine, and Sedona had all of those things, and as a bonus it is a gorgeous area of Arizona with dark red soils, hot weather and crisp cool streams.

100_7199We started talking and planning and everyone was in. I saw one ad for Sedona that actually said, “Come to learn how to manifest the soul’s purpose and heart’s desires while releasing resistance to loving your soul’s mission.” Who could resist that promise? As lawyers we like words and those are good words. We met at our friend’s house in Fountain Hills and drove to Sedona. We had a beautiful hotel, and as much as we loved the descriptions of Arizona online, Sedona was even better than promised. Its lush greenery and dark red mountains and soil covered in desert greenery made it one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

100_7096These girlfriends are very special to me. We have remained friends for so long because they are all very positive, fun people. I love them.   Even though most of them have learned to live a balanced life, they are also the kind that are open to try new things and to go along on a good hike. So we went on our hike, and we had a map showing where the energy Vortexes were located in the Sedona hills, and we used our best abilities to imagined absorbing the energy of the vortex as we soaked up the Arizona sun and breathed the fresh fragrant air. Being the good sports that they are, we stopped at each vortex and raised our arms toward the sky like a sun salutation. I don’t know if it was in fact an energy vortex, but I was on the hillside on one of the most beautiful places in our country, with some of the best women I know and that was an energy boosting experience, no matter how you looked at it.

100_7230We spent a long weekend together and hiked different trails each day and caught up on each others’ kids, family and work. In the evenings we continued to talk and would share good food and even better wine. We went on a pink jeep tour through the hills and went to the spa for massages. Each time we heard about a new trail or a cleansing stream in the foothills we hiked and checked it out. We heard about a cleansing healing stream from the locals. Keep in mind the locals are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. There are multiple palm reading shops and places to buy crystals and have your auras read or participate in rain drop therapy. This was a fun and interesting place with fun people. It is a low stress, high tolerance and accepting of all type group. We could all learn a 100_7171thing or two from them.

To get to the healing stream required a bit of a hike, but was well worth it. We hiked for about an hour in the hot sun, but when we got to the stream it was ice cold. We entered together and refreshed ourselves. I could see why they called them healing. To enter the cold refreshing waters after being in the hot sun did feel as if it had special rejuvenating powers. We spent time together sitting in the warm sands and walking in the healing waters. I cannot say whether the stream had healing powers, but I can say that my weekends with the girls are healing. We spent some quality time together as we always do and shared our deepest thoughts, worries, hopes and dreams. Our weekends together are cathartic and healing in the most basic sense of the word. We come back better. We come back stronger.

100_7125Balancing your life and centering your Chi may be a process that many strive to define and perfect. For me balancing is spending time with the people who I care about deeply. They are my family, my friends and those people who make me better and who look positively upon life. For me it also means spending more time in nature than in an office.   It is using your vacation time wisely. Time is our most precious commodity. Use it wisely with the right people and be in the places that heal your soul. Spend time in beautiful places, drink rum and good wine and eat good food, but remember to share it with the people who accept you, empower you, and support you and those who make your life better.

Chicago Exploration

As much as I love the great outdoors and our National Parks, it is also fun to explore our urban areas. My daughter Jenny had a great idea the summer before she started high school, that she and I should go to Chicago. She mainly wanted to visit the Chicago Institute of Art, but she also had a plan for us to try getting around on the “L,” and to sample the food and do a little shopping. She has always had an interest in art.IMG00052-20090805-1837

I had been to Chicago a number of times and enjoyed it for a few days here and there. I am glad I do not live there and have to deal with the traffic, noise and crowds on a daily basis, but the food and the fun things to see are worth the trip. I made reservations for us at a hotel just off of Michigan Ave (the main drag in downtown Chicago where all the action is) to help save a little money, and we went during the week, so it was not as crowded. We drove down and then parked our car at the hotel and either walked to our destinations or took the “L” train around the city. This is about a six hour drive and the drive is part of the fun. You can learn a lot about your kids in six hours. You have a lot of time to talk about just about everything.   She was the copilot and had to have the money ready when we went through toll booths. She learned a lot about travel and getting around a big city on those trips.

photo (12)Once we got to Chicago I had her help me watch the signs on where to turn and she was good at finding the hotel and our parking garage. That first time driving in downtown Chicago was a little nerve wracking, but we enjoyed Chicago so much that we went back almost every summer for a while and sometimes Sara, my oldest daughter, came along as well. We got to be very comfortable at getting around in Chicago after a few years.

We saw the Institute of Art. I had been there before, but it was even more fun seeing it through my daughter’s eyes. The beauty and talent is almost overwhelming. I always say I cannot stay more than a couple of hours at any one visit.   My mind is so overwhelmed, that I no longer appreciate the uniqueness of each piece after a while and feel like I am just glossing over a particular piece of art. So we have gone a number IMG00019-20090804-1611of times and saw different collections on each visit. We essentially learned how to look at art and really appreciate it.

We also visited the outdoor art in Chicago including the Bean, and we rode the “L” to Chinatown. It was our goal to try something unique each time we were there. We had a lot of fun trying things at the restaurants in Chinatown, and always had good stories to tell after that. We shopped in Chinatown and went into the bakeries. Over the years it got to be one of our favorite places and we visited it each time we were in Chicago.

We did the other touristy stuff on Michigan IMG00047-20090805-1500Avenue like shopping and going to the top of the Sears tower, but we also loved trying new restaurants. The first year we had to have Chicago-style Pizza and even though it is still a favorite, we also tried new restaurants with Asian flavor infused lamb chops and delicious things where we did not even know what we were really ordering, but we were there to try new things and get out of our comfort zone and so we did.

We learned to read train schedules and get around on the “L,” we rode to Chinatown and we IMG00022-20090804-1753walked all over and we learned to be comfortable and confident, or at least look that way, even when we were sometimes a little unsure of ourselves. We visited the Chicago Museum of Natural History and one year we took an architectural boat tour on the Chicago River. We always had a plan for all of the things we wanted to see each year, but we also deviated from the plan to explore the city and see new things. We always had very full days to make the most of our visit and we always found a new restaurant for each evening, and to make it more special, we would dress up for the occasion.

We had so much fun together and we never ran into any trouble. Even though we were tired 20121004_170109at the end of the trip, I was glad we did it. We were exploring together. We had to read train and road maps together and read the city street maps as we walked to find new restaurants or stores. Jenny was really good at that at a young age and saved us a few times from going the wrong direction. We were not so much mother and daughter on those trips, but more like travelers exploring together, making decisions on where to go and what to see. We had shared experiences of everything from, “that was great” to “remind me never to order the curry baby octopus again.” Yes, that is a true story. It was baby octopus and it was very yellow from the curry on it. It was also one of the worst things I have ever eaten and I have eaten squirrel and wood chuck and every organ from the cows and pigs on our farm, so I think I am a good one to judge.

OlderJenny012When you are raising kids, it is easy to find very legitimate reasons not to do these extra adventures. It always costs money that you don’t always have to spare and you have to take time off from work, even when work is really busy, but in looking back I am glad I did not make the excuses, and even though it would have been easier to have the whole family go or have Joe drive us like he did on our family vacations, the dynamics would have been completely different. This way the focus was on just us and we had to fend for ourselves and we got to do what we wanted without any guys. It made us more confident and self sufficient and it brought us closer together. No one and no amount of time can take away our shared Chicago adventures. They are a part of us, our stories and our memories forever.

Running with the Girls

IMG00519-20120715-1055A number of years ago, I decided it would be fun to participate in some of the 5K runs that were becoming so popular. Many were being used as a way to raise funds for charitable organizations and some to get more people active and into running. It seems like the more fun they could add to the experience, the more likely they were to get a lot of runners.

Making the 5K run’s fun worked. It attracted a lot of us and they still do. I have done a number of Color runs, where you show up for the 5K in all white and by the end you look like a rainbow. The course has IMG00514-20120715-1011various color stations that you run through. As you run through the color station, a powdery shower of yellow, purple, green or blue is sprayed at you by the volunteers, creating a multitude of colors on your clothes and also covering your hair by the end. The colors are safe or so they say. Good thing too because you feel like you are breathing them during the run through the color stations, and after the color run you are sneezing colors and wiping colors out of every part of your body—yes every part, even those parts.IMG00534-20120715-1105

These runs were a good way to connect to other women including family. My daughter Sara got me involved in the Color runs, and she invited her friend Megan and my sister Kathy and I, to a run at night, called the Glow run. The Glow run was really fun because it was at night and we had to make matching shirts with glow in the dark paint, and we wore glow in the dark jewelry and glasses. Getting ready for this run was half the fun.

It was held at Valley Fair, so the amusement park atmosphere fit the glow run craziness. IMG_2315During the run we had to be extra careful not to step in a hole or trip in the dark, which added to the fun, but also made it the slowest run ever. We got through the run without any injuries and had a great time. There were hundreds of runners and they had all kinds of colorful moving lights throughout the trail that added to the nighttime mystique.

IMG_2312I also invited my sister Kathy, and Sara and Megan to a charity run called Women Run the Cities. It was sponsored by a great organization I belong to called MNCREW, and the beneficiary of Women Run the cities was a charity for at risk young girls. The charity was started by Ann Bancroft, the Arctic and Antarctic explorer and author. Ann has been one of those amazing women that has succeeded in her own quests to explore and educate, and has worked so hard to make opportunities for other women and girls. We did this run many times and we did get to meet her and it was not disappointing. She was as gracious, energetic and down to earth as she seemed when we had seen her speak on prior occasions and on TV.IMG_2316

My daughter Sara, Megan and I signed up for one of the most fun runs in all the Twin Cities called the Anoka Halloween fun run. This is a 5K that you run in a Halloween costume. We learned quickly to pick your costume carefully. Anoka is known as the Halloween Capital of the world, and those Anoka residents take their Halloween very seriously. The costumes people were running in were amazing. One group of people were actually pushing a large, fifteen foot homemade Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue Ox. It took a IMG_2310group of eight people in lumberjack shirts to pull that off and rightly so, they won the costume contest. Sara and I dressed like luffas and Megan dressed like the Hamburgler, which were all fairly easy to run in.

Luckily no one takes their running times very seriously at these runs. Serious runners and competitive people probably do not spend a lot of time on these fun runs. Many of us are talking the whole time, laughing and tripping over our own feet. What I have discovered is that these runs are more than a good time with the girls, my friends, daughter and sister. It is a bonding experience that starts with IMG_2311the calls and texts to each other, convincing each other to join the run and getting the group together. The next bonding experience is getting ready for the run, whether that is the fun of shopping to find a costume to be able to run in or all white clothes or glow in the dark items to wear at night. The texts and calls fly back and forth and the bonding continues. My daughter Sara has been a real instigator in finding some of these fun experiences, and my sister, who is normally a competitive runner and one with impressive times for her normal 5K’s, has been such a good sport in joining us for these fun runs, even though she has to drive from the South Dakota border to get here.

The runs provide some exercise, but they 140220 732are so much more. They provide a fun, noncompetitive activity that is not the cliché shopping. Running with the girls helps us appreciate the fun things in life, helps drop away our little worries of the day, puts the stress of work or home on hold and provides a connection with some of the best women in our lives. A run that is really no run at all, but provides an outlet to share a laugh and a hug and a little sweat, and rub off some love and sometimes color on each other. Run with your girls and appreciate the sometimes very simple pleasures in life. Housework, homework and work obligations can wait. Run with the girls!

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Joan and Kae’s Excellent Adventure

I graduated from St. Scholastica in Duluth, in 1980, with a degree in Nursing and started my first job as an OB/GYN nurse at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center, now Regions. My good friend Kae Honeman graduated that same year. I had met her in the college dorm on my first day, in my JoanCalifornia1981afirst year of college, at St. Cloud State, where I had done my general education credits before transferring to St. Scholastica for Nursing. Kae was a fun loving soul. We were part of a dorm floor of fun loving girls in their first year of college. Back then we could drink in college and it was the 1970’s, so need I say more. We never got into any serious trouble, but I do recall a Friday night where Kae pierced my ear with a hot needle and an ice cube. There was some liquor involved. I still have that extra earring spot just on my left ear and I wear one earring proudly in it, as a daily remember of those wild and crazy years with my college girlfriends.

A few years after we both graduated we decide to go on a road trip adventure. We flew into SanJoanCalifornia1981n Francisco where Kae’s brother lived, and stayed with him touring around the city for a few days before renting a car and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for 10 days. We had no agenda other than to end up in LA to fly back to Minnesota. It was good to be young and free. We had no worries, only 10 days to enjoy and meander our way through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. So off we went, tunes blaring and driving the cliff roads along the Pacific Ocean. I wish we had had cell phones in those days. We would have a lot more pictures of the beauty of that trip. Alas, technology was not as advanced. In fact we were gone for 10 days and not once in that time did we call our parents or any relatives and that was perfectly acceptable back then. That would be unheard of now, where we are used to communicating on almost a daily basis if we JoanCalifornia1981bwant to. Back then long distance phone calls were expensive.

Fairly quickly in our trip we ended up in Big Sur with its ocean cliffs and mountains. We stopped in a little town for lunch at a local bar restaurant among the large pines. I still remember the cool moist air and the smell of those trees. We ended up staying and talking with the locals and hanging out all day, playing pool, laughing and telling stories. People we had never met before became very close in those few hours. We ended up staying overnight and the next day hopped in our car and were off again on our adventure. When we saw beautiful beaches we stopped to swim, like in Monterey and Pismo beach. We stopped at the Hearst Mansion in San Simeon and toured Santa Barbara. We made our way stopping to eat when we were hungry, drinking wine JoanCalifornia1981hand getting hotels when we were tired. We passed LA after stopping at a few beaches and Sea World, making our way toward San Diego to spend a few days.

We decided that we wanted to visit Tijuana Mexico. After all it was the 1980’s and you did not need a passport. However, I am not sure why we thought, as two women in their twenties, that this was the safest decision. Nothing bad happened, but it makes me judge our stupidity level. We were told not to bring purses because of pick pockets and we were told not to drink the water. With that information we walked across the border. We shopped and bought sea shell wind chimes and tequila, and poor Kae sprained her ankle walking around on the cobblestone streets. Of course me being the nurse, I said we can make this feel better if we just got an ace wrap and wrapped it up. We looked for a “drug store” (pharmacy). Imagine the looks IMG_0887we received from the locals when we Minnesota girls were asking for a “drug store.” It took us a few strange looks before we realized what we were asking for and changed our request to a “pharmacy.” We were lucky we did not get arrested, but we found our pharmacy and with a lot of gesturing to get over the language barrier, were able to buy an ace wrap and keep Kae going.

Having shopped as much as we wanted, we retreated to a local restaurant and bar and ordered margaritas. After all we had to try margaritas in Mexico. After drinking about half of them, we realized they were full of ice and we had been warned not to drink the water or the ice. By that time, we figured the tequila would kill anything in the water and we must have been right because we did not get ill.

On the way back across the border, as I was standing in line, tired from the days activities and with a little tequila under our belt, I suddenly realized as I saw everyone pulling out their drivers IMG_0884licenses for ID, that I only had a credit card on me and no ID of any kind. After all, we had been told not to bring a purse, so I only took cash and a credit card in my pockets. I was panicked as I thought I could not get back into our country without ID, and it was getting dark by now. Kae being the ever calm and reassuring one said “You don’t look Mexican. You will be fine.” At the time, I thought the statement was ridiculous, but it turned out to be true in the 1980’s. I got to the border guard and explained that we had come shopping for the day and were told about the pick pockets and that iIMG_0886s why I had no ID. I am sure I was sweating by this time and looking real nervous. These are all bad things around border guards. The guard laughed and said “no problem” and let us through.

I entered the US without any ID of any kind and on top of it all, I had a shopping bag full of crap, like a Mexican blanket and the shell wind chime all neatly wrapped in paper by the Mexican shop owners. The border guards did not even bother unwrapping or looking into the packages. I could have had 10 pounds of hash or cocaine in there and they would not have known. They checked nothing and let me through on my word. It was clearly a different time.

We finished our trip and had dinner in LA on our last night in California. We flew back tired, but having a real taste for more travel and more adventure. Even though we both became busy over the years with our careers and then families, we shared that road trip in the 1980’s that we can reflect upon fondly. It wove courage, problem solving skills, fun and a taste for adventure in the fabric of our very being. We did not have a lot of money back then, being just out of college, but I am glad we took the time and money to explore our world together.

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Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Girls1 In 1987, five of my female law school classmates and I went on a weekend get-away.  No husbands.  No kids (for those who had some).  Having just graduated and taken the Bar exam, none of us had much money and we used the cabin of a family friend.  We brought a little food, a lot of liquor and some cigarettes.  (How wild – NOT).

We talked the entire weekend, getting little sleep, but covering everything from working like dogs as Associates in our new firms and where we wanted to be in five years, to husbands, politics and the afterlife.  We came back refreshed and with a Girls2new attitude.

A pact was made that we would make the weekend a yearly event and we have.  The schedule of Fall has had to be juggled occasionally because of pregnancies over the years, but we have remained faithful.  All six of us have children now, and husbands.  We still bring liquor and stay up until all hours discussing everything from child behavior, politics and unwanted hair to ghosts.  We have laughed about going to Court with peanut butter fingerprints on our suit, and how to clean up vomit off the rug without you yourself getting the flu before your big Appellate Court argument.  Oh, how times have changed, but the spirit remains the same.  Now we are all in power positions and the discussion of work is about associates who aren’t working hard enough and how we had it more difficult back when we were associates.  We exchange parenting ideas and vent and laugh about our spouse’s inability to use sani-flush.  We have graduated to weekends flying to Chicago or renting a townhome in a resort community.  Prior to the weekend we have a flurry of e-mail activity about the growing anticipation which is expressed as, I need to get out of town, my hair is on fire.

Sometimes things are shared on the weekend that have never been shared with anyone before.  Tears have been shed by at least some if not all of us.  There is a sense of safety to reach out for help or just be able to unload a burden.  The tears are a release from the divulging of something that has been saved for just the right moment and the right people.  It’s a cleansing of the soul.

I would miss the weekend terribly if I couldn’t go.  It is not only good for us, but good for our families and our careers.  We have had the ability to commiserate and to cleanse, to vent, to find solutions or sometimes find peace.  Too often we sacrifice our own balance and needs in order to care for our families and careers.  However, this commitment to keep ourselves balanced makes us better spouses, parents and partners.  Girls not only wanna have fun, they need to have fun.

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