Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walls at the Naw

It only took a year of picture taking and developing, frame buying, and careful arrangement, but we finally put something on one of our blank walls!

[Also note: the plethora of posts today come as the result of holiday travel and downed Internet service disrupting regular posting.]

Van Galder

For those of you who travel between Chicago and Madison, let me extol the virtues of Van Galder. I usually take Megabus from downtown, and for the price it's well worth it to crowd onto a double decker coach and try to nap for a few hours. Depending on when I'm traveling, though, Van Galder's fixed price service is way more worth it.

First, service is from O'Hare, which means I'm already out of the city when we get going, rather than starting from the mess of downtown traffic. It's super easy to find the stop and there's an indoor waiting area instead of a curbside line and mobs of travelers pushing to get on the bus first.

The good news continues: so far, Van Galder has been on time or early for all my stops. I have yet to leave on time with Megabus, especially traveling from Madison to Chicago, when we are waiting on the bus to come from Minneapolis. Rides don't seem to be as crowded (that largely depends on travel time), and this leads to overall less hassles.

One thing both lines feature: friendly, knowledgeable drivers and staff. If you're gonna get one thing right as a bus service, people who get you safely from point A to point B would be it and in all my travels, my drivers have been cheerful and fully competent.

Happy Travels!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crafts & Cooking

As the rain trickles down outside, homemade chicken soup cooks on our stove. Brit melts crayons with a hair dryer for our newest craft project and Diego finishes an episode of Lost to catch up with me.

This is what Saturday is all about. Only it's December, so snow would feel more appropriate than rain.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chicago Fire

After the devastating loss of The Chicago Code, Britney & I have searched to find a replacement TV show for our Chicago pop culture fix. This year's fall TV lineup held several options: Boss, The Good Wife, Happy Endings, Mike & Molly, Shameless, and Chicago Fire among them. Eliminating shows on cable channels and sitcoms, we were left with Chicago Fire.

This show, like many of its cop drama counterparts, has pros and cons. Because it's set in Chicago, Britney and I were willing to hold back on critiques for a few episodes, enough time for us to get to know the characters. Now, halfway through season one, we are pretty much hooked (despite being several weeks behind in watching, but it is on our apartment to-do list!).

What we like about the show is the Chicago factor--minus some geographical oddities (how is the Sears Tower in every shot?), we like spotting the different locations. Twice last week I rode bike or drove past an area where they were filming (as made apparent by all the fire trucks chilling by giant lighting structures and actor trailers parked along my bike route, guarded by cops). One of the sets we drove past featured a car rammed into a concrete pillar. Traffic slowed as we went by--with the cops and fire trucks and all the movie smoke they were using it really looked liked a legit accident. Then we saw that the car was propped on blocks and people from the set crew were literally leaning on it, taking a smoke break.

The characters and their story lines have also intrigued us, not so much that we can't wait to see another episode, but enough to get us to talk about them in everyday conversation, as if they were mutual friends we are curious about. I would say this is significant, but we talk about our neighbors and the pizza delivery guy with about the same concern. So far we haven't spotted any of the lead actors out and about--that's still on our bucket list.

The believability/credibility of the show suffers when they send the firefighters to '800 West Halsted' (as a north-south street, there is no such address on Halsted), or when this squad, whose fire hall appears to be located somewhere southwest of the Sears Tower, responds to calls on the South Side, downtown, AND in my very own neighborhood (a fairly large radius considering the existence of other units in each of these neighborhoods). On the other hand, we had to give the show credit one night when the nightly news that comes on immediately following the show reported two real accidents that were startlingly similar to two featured in that night's episode.

Despite all the drama, Britney and I have found Chicago Fire to have some great comedic moments. Alongside the sexy firefighters/EMTs, the cast also includes men I personally am more familiar seeing on a fire/rescue squad: funny old guys. From the character who goes by 'Mouch' (half man, half couch), to the pranks they pull on each other, these are the firefighter types I know and love in real life.

To all firefighters/EMTs/first responders: Brit and I would love to know what, if anything, is realistic about the show/the accidents they respond to. We've done our best to be a bit skeptical and we know they super play up the drama, but as I said, sometimes the news proves they got some things right. And finally, thanks for all you guys do daily & nightly. From the mundane to the grisly to the downright strange, rescue squads respond to all levels of emergency calls with great care for humanity. If there's one thing the show gets spot on, it's the focus on taking care of victims above all else when the call comes in. You guys are the real stars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12

Today is 12/12/12 and for some reason that seems worth mentioning. Nothing extremely interesting is going on in my life right now. My computer continues to die & resurrect itself. Britney is off work still, so Brooke and I have some variety to our nights. There is no end to the errands I run at work. Jesus won't shut up about smoking his pipe and gearing up for the theater release of The Hobbit on Friday.

I'm going to pretend 12/12/12 is a holiday anyway: one where I don't have to go anywhere, or do or buy anything, one without special music or food, the halfway point between December first and Christmas. I'll celebrate where I am right now, calm and peaceful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Art Museum Adventure

Thanks to Becca's membership, Jesus and I explored the Art Institute of Chicago Saturday afternoon. It was our second time there in two months, and we saw very few repeat pieces of art. We really shouldn't have been so surprised. At nearly one million square feet, it's simple to get lost in the museum, so it makes sense that our visit felt as if we had never been there before.

Some of the exhibits were new or updated, but we also found an entire floor we had previously missed along with part of the modern wing that we barely skimmed through last month. And of course we took full advantage of our borrowed membership: tea and hot chocolate in the Member Lounge.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Local Art, Library Cards, & Luxury Drugstores

Three (free-ish) ways to expand your world on a Saturday morning: visit a local art gallery, use your Chicago Public Library card, and check out the new upscale Walgreen's.

OhNo!Doom is an art gallery, collective of artsy-types, and shop where you can purchase original works by local artists and collective members. I pass this gallery on my way to the library and grocery store, frequently admiring the art from the sidewalk, but yesterday I decided to actually go inside. I'm glad I did, too, because they have some pretty neat pieces on display right now. They invited me back next weekend, when they are having a holiday-closing-open house sale. Anybody want some fun art for Christmas?

After that fun detour I went to the library, where I managed to hold myself to only four books. I judged them all by their covers, which, despite proverbial wisdom, usually works for me. I'll let you know if what's between the covers holds up to my initial expectations.

If it's cheesy to put "visit Walgreen's" on your Saturday bucket list, then cheesy I am. My final stop on my Saturday morning adventure was the new Walgreen's in Bucktown. Housed in what used to be Noel State Bank, a registered Chicago landmark, I'm pretty sure this is the only pharmacy/convenience store that can boast a "Vitamin Vault" and stained glass ceilings. Even the gum I bought tasted fancier than usual.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Zoolights

What do you get when you cross a bank, an electric company, and nearly 1,250 animals?

A free Friday night activity!

Zoolights is essentially the Lincoln Park Zoo at night, bedazzled with strand upon strand of Christmas lights. This is may be only my second time going (a pity considering it's free 365 days a year), but I definitely made it count. Not only did I get to see all the holiday light displays, some set to music, I also got to see most of the zoo animals (provided, some were fast asleep). Another perk: I got to borrow a friend's membership card, which meant free parking and complimentary cookies, tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider.

I saw a pygmy hippo open it's mouth wide and make several children scream, two wide awake giraffes who seemed to spend most of the night licking the wall of their habitat with their foot-long tongues, and monkeys fast asleep in poses uncannily human-like.

There was an ice sculptor carving big blocks of ice with a chainsaw, Santa took up residence in the big cats exhibit, and plenty of Christmas music, which got Jesus & I into the festive spirit so much so that we came home and watched the entirety of the BBC version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. (His idea, not mine, fyi!)


Sunday, December 2, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

...How plastic are your branches.

Our little tree may be fake, but I think we have people fooled with our pine scented candle.

Besides, it's not the size of the tree, it's the amount of presents underneath that counts, right?

Just kidding, what counts is who you trim your tree with. :)



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Many Thanks

I know I'm a week late, but I say we can give thanks whenever we want. Here's what I'm mindful of this year:

Abundance of food in my grocery stores
Bike lanes
Finding farts funny at age 24
Patterns
Low maintenance family who doesn't mind there was no turkey on Thanksgiving
Clean sheets
Recipes
Having a list of things to be thankful for
Chapters ending, chapters beginning
Waffles
Technology, for the most part
Washer/dryer 10 feet from my bedroom
Thrift store treasures
Leftover Halloween candy
Tea
Book clubs of two
Arts & Crafts
Coupons
Borrowing wardrobes
Giraffes

I know, a lot of these were kind of silly--but I think the really great stuff is in the silly things of our lives. I hope I'm living my life in a way that shows gratitude always (I just typed gratefulness & stared at it for a hot minute until I remembered the right word, so thanks universe for the confusing English language). Of course many thanks are due daily to my family & friends, who keep me sane/drive me crazy in a strangely harmonious way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dragons & Clowns

The circus is in town! Thanks to some lucrative connections, Jesus & I got tickets for last night's show. If you haven't gone to a circus lately (like me), you really should. The circus-goers were mostly families with little kids, but I've found that an ADD boyfriend is essentially a child...combine that with said boyfriend's love of dragons (this year's circus theme) and acrobatic stunts, plus a pre-show where audience members can mill around the actual circus arena, and you have one crazy mustachioed guy pulling you around the introductory acts trying to find something to play on/do back flips off.

Once we finally got settled in our seats (only twelve rows up), the real show began & I could relax. JUST KIDDING. Don't get me wrong, the show was amazing to watch, but I spent most of it holding my breath & clenching all my muscles. Anytime a performer let go of the trapeze bar, flew into the air, jumped onto a galloping horse from the ground, dove through a flaming/spinning hoop made of swords, rode a motorcycle on a wire, or broke a piece of wood over their head, I momentarily stopped breathing.

What was most fun was deciding which act I would join should I run away with the circus ever. I'm clearly not cut for feats of flexibility or acrobatics, I enjoyed the animal acts, but have no real heart for animal stunts, and I would poo myself if I were to ever end up on a motorbike in a globe/cage of steel. Remember those career tests you take in high school? One of my possible careers was always clown, and I have to agree with that result. I can do goofy stuff all day. I just need to learn how to juggle.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy Nannyversary!

Today marks one year of me semi-professionally managing a house of two teenagers and one mom. I survived all the seasons, holidays, school functions, doctor appointments, house projects and upkeep, house emergencies, sleepovers, laundry, meal preparation, grocery shopping, dry cleaning, lawn mowing, painting, bed making, soccer practice, piano lessons, and driving around Chicago that this family does in one year.

Okay, about 87% of the year was laundry.

It's hard to believe just one year ago I was wandering around, funemployed, picking up any shift Mercy would throw at me, going for runs, going on interviews, and rearranging furniture. Now I am wandering around, employed, turning down shifts because "I'm at work that day," going for coffee, commuting...and still rearranging furniture.

The more things change, the more things stay the same, right?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Car Troubles & Triumphs

I don't own a car. Never have, most likely never will. Here's why:

Car maintenance is confusing/frustrating/expensive.

Also, I manage quite superbly without a car. Between my bike, CTA, and friends with cars, I can always get to where I need to be.

And yet: all of my post-grad jobs have required driving. Luckily, driving itself is not the problem for me. Unluckily, my current position also involves oil changes, filling up with gas, wiper fluid, and coolant, and disconnecting/reconnecting batteries to reprogram a locked radio.

I can't say I'm a savvy car mechanic after accomplishing all that, but I do feel justified in my annoyance at the car dealer who suggested I bring the car in to reset the radio since 'it might be confusing' for me. Whatever that was supposed to mean, I calmly asked that he explain the steps over the phone so I didn't have to waste gas driving all the way to him. Turns out it wasn't all that confusing once I knew what to do, surprise surprise.

I'm still not convinced I'll ever want a car.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election 2012

Did you vote today? I hope so--as American citizens it's one of the coolest rights we have. I don't particularly care who you voted for; I think it's more important to understand and exercise the right...regardless of if your electoral votes agree with your personal vote.

Take me, for example. My vote in Obama's hometown (whether for or against Obama) technically doesn't matter. Illinois went Obama blue pretty much as soon as polls closed at 7. If I could vote in my home state of Wisconsin, though, my vote (Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Green) would feel a lot more substantial. I still felt it important to get out this morning and join my fellow 13th precinctians. And now, no matter the result, I have the extended right to complain about politics for the next four years. Everyone knows you aren't allowed to complain unless you voted.

Brooke and I are currently watching election coverage. Four years ago, I was pretty sure Obama would win. Tonight, it's not as certain. What I'm most interested in is how they are coloring the ice rink after each state goes red or blue. Happy Election Night!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween

The most popular costume I saw out today? Person Dressed For Winter. I'm used to Halloweens spent covering costumes with winter coats; Chicagoans not as much (though it depends on who you talk to). I definitely went as "Bundled Up" today. I didn't trick-or-treat, but I got to hand out candy at work. That's my favorite part, really--loading other people's kids with sugar, scoping out the creative/scary costumes, staying warm inside.

I saw large women in tiny hats, little girls in giant hats, superheroes, wild creatures, cops, robbers, & dinosaurs. I wasn't stingy with the candy. The best part? I didn't spend any money on the candy and I get to raid the leftovers tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

The storm that's supposed to hit the east coast tonight has also managed to blow a bit further inland, tacking on several minutes to my commute. I'm serious--I couldn't figure out why it was so windy this morning (despite its nickname, Chicago isn't necessarily any more windy than other lakefront cities), but then I heard on the radio (NPR!) that parts of Lake Shore Drive could be closed today due to high winds and waves, effects of Hurricane Sandy.

We definitely aren't under any sort of storm watch here, but that doesn't mean we can't blame this week's inconveniences on Sandy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back on the Bus

Tonight I did something I haven't done since January. I took the bus home. Not any bus, dear reader, but the dreaded 49. Remember my trials with that line? I never thought I'd see the day, but today I couldn't find it in my heart to ride my Schwinn. Heading home, I didn't want to mess with transferring buses without a CTA card. The mile walk was welcome after an activity-filled weekend and hectic work day of cleaning, laundry, cooking, and lots of driving.

My wait was reasonable, the bus wasn't crowded, and I had 15 minutes of blogging time during the ride. I could have opted for reading The Hobbit since I promised to finish it before embarking on another (more welcome) book, but one does not merely dip into The Hobbit during one's commute. Truthfully, I'm having troubles dipping in ever and do more skimming than real reading (sorry Jesus). Whatever. I got a few thoughts down on my ride and got home only 25 minutes later than usual.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Twice the Nostalgia

In the past two weeks I engaged in two activities that reminded me of home/Wisconsin. It's nice to have that occasionally, a taste of another life and a change of pace from my current one.

Richardson Farm Corn Maze

This corn maze is the largest in the world--33 acres and four mazes--and provided hours of fun/confused wandering for Jesus, his family, and me (after the preliminary non-fun of finding the place and maneuvering around rural Illinois). Once there, we ate kettle corn while getting hopelessly lost in the maze. Eventually we figured out how to read the map, and from then on we had no problems finding the checkpoints scattered around the Girl Scout-themed maze.

St Robert Bellarmine Harvest Gala

This Northwest parish reminds me a lot of my home parish in Colby--a fun mix of little old ladies and men, young couples, and plenty of families with kids who attend the connecting school. Their Harvest Gala serves as a fundraiser for the community and school, and this year they honored Fr. Scott with their Guardian Angel Award. Father Scott, CEO & President of Mercy Home, is also a resident at St. Robert Bellarmine. I was at the Harvest Gala to volunteer as a MercyWorks alum. My job for the night: coffee. Brewing, filling carafes  pouring, keeping sugar and cream stocked...this took me back to working at the retirement center and Ryan's. Once the dinner and auction were done, we (other former MWers & I) got to dance and enjoy the party with the young couples who stuck around for the DJ.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Get Fit: Home Stretch

Alright, let's be honest: not a lot changed during this challenge. I have one week left, but once it's over things won't change much then, either. Since I've been eating healthy for a while and getting regularish exercise with my bike rides, so cutting out what little sweets and processed foods I was eating and doing a few more crunches hasn't made-over my body. I lost some water weight, toned certain areas, and my routine feels good, but I am in no way ripped. Even the small improvements I have made in physique can mostly be accredited to my teenage boy metabolism. I myself had little to do with this challenge.

But you know what? I'm okay with that. I'm okay with being hungry every two to three hours, allowing myself to pig out on whatever I want as long as its real food, and getting most of my exercise by commuting to work. Cheers to one more week & then the rest of my life!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Unprocessed October

This is actually a thing people are doing: no processed foods for a month. I already sort of follow that diet, trying my best to follow the "if your great-grandma wouldn't know what it is, don't eat it" rule, aka "if it is a plant, yes; if it was made in a plant, no" rule, aka the "can you make it in your own kitchen?" test. There's really nothing to lose by trying it out (besides probably a few pounds, unprocessed is undoubtedly healthier).

By these guidelines, fruits, veggies, pasta, bread, cheese, milk, meats, nuts, & even many sweets are fair game--provided these things don't have additives, preservatives, or other chemical fillers (think bread that also has high fructose corn syrup). Things like cake, cookies, & alcohol are fine, provided it's in moderation and preferably homemade.

The creator of this challenge usually allows for things you could make in your own kitchen, but for reasons of time and convenience usually don't: coffee, cheese, chocolate, pasta, etc. Then what it comes down to is checking ingredient lists and packaging. As a rule, the less packaging the better (think purchasing fruit vs fruit roll ups). Frozen fruits & veggies are better than canned when fresh isn't available and grass fed/sustainable/organic meats trump their corn fed/factory farmed counterparts. When grocery shopping, stick to the outside aisles, where most of the unprocessed food resides, and avoid all the canned, boxed, and chemical-laden inside aisles.

Don't go for the month right away if it intimidates you--but try going unprocessed for a week, or even one day a week. I promise it's actually quite easy once you've tried!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Get Fit: Week Two

Weight: holding solid at 130
Pull Up Ability: only one at a time, several throughout an evening with plenty of rest between
Areas of focus: abs, arms, butt/thighs
Favorite meals: breakfast smoothies, black beans & veggies, hummus/guacamole with chips/crackers/veggies
Cheats: Oreo ice cream, diet Dr. Pepper, cheddar Chex mix, donut

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More Michael Cunningham

That's what I want in my life right now. I finished A Home at the End of the World yesterday and I'm about to finish By Nightfall tonight. I haven't done much else besides read, work, and workout this week.

There's something sacred to me about waking up earlier than I need to, making coffee and breakfast, then sitting on the couch to read until I have to get ready for work. It's become more than a routine for me--more like a ritual that I don't like to interfere with.

Cunningham's novels fit perfectly into this ritual. As I explained to Becca earlier tonight, his writing is deep and literary without being pretentious or unavailable. It's meaningful, but not snobbish. I've convinced Becca to read him and join my book club, and I make the same plea to all of you. Brit and Diego are busy reading Fifty Shades of Gray, so I need people to discuss these books with!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Specimen Days

It's been a while since I've read a really interesting book. Entertaining, fun, informative, yes--but really different and interesting? Those types are harder to come by.

I first read Michael Cunningham in college. Many people are familiar with the movie The Hours, and I was able to study the novel version along with the book closely tied to it: Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. I was a huge fan of all three.

Specimen Days follows similar themes and styles as The Hours, most noticeably its strong tie to a great piece of literature, this time Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The novel is split into three separate, yet intimately related, novella-type stories, each featuring a man, a woman, and a young boy. One takes place in Industrial Revolution New York, one in post-9/11 New York, and one in a dystopian future New York.

I enjoyed each story's deliberate tone and how they methodically came together to tell one sweeping tale of human connection spanning several centuries. It's not often you come across a historical fiction/cop drama/sci-fi novel all in one. Readers of Specimen Days should be prepared to shift their genre gears as they read, something I'm all too eager to do.

Get Fit: Weekend Update

Friday, Saturday, & Sunday saw more cheating than challenging, but I knew from the start I'd have to cheat a little.

Weight: 130 lbs
Miles biked: 16 miles
Pushups: 30

Cheats:
Cupcake
Deep dish pizza
Chex mix
Juice (high fructose corn syrup)
Ranch dressing
More deep dish
Cookie

Healthy Meals:
Smoothies
Quinoa & veggies
Eggs & guacamole
Carrots & beans & broccoli & hummus
Bison tacos
Apple & banana

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Get Fit to Thursday Night Comedies

What better way to work out than in front of your newly reinstalled ancient television set? I did this circuit as I watched my regular comedies:

30 seconds scissor kicks
30 seconds ab rows
30 seconds toe touches

Yes, I know. That's only a minute and a half. I decided my abs were sore from yesterday and did a few non-core exercises instead. And don't forget my daily 6 mile bike ride!

Meals:
Fruit smoothie (banana, peach, strawberry, yogurt, oatmeal)
Tea
Crackers & salsa
Carrots & hummus
Cheese & crackers
Crackers & hummus
Mint gum
Celery & peanut butter & raisins
Giant salad with veggies, cheese, & nuts
Toast
Raspberry lemonade
Several tempting smells of Brooke baking cupcakes
Water

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Get Fit Day Three: Return of the Appetite

Miles biked: 8
Types of fruit bought for smoothies: 7
Ab circuit:
30 Crunches
60 Bicycles
30 Count Of 6 Inches (cheated by raising my legs a bit higher)
30 Count With Legs Raised
30 Scissor Kicks
30 Wide Kicks
30 Heel Touches
Meals/snacks: 8
English muffin with butter & jam
Clif Bar
Wheat Thins & Hummus
Rice & beans & cheese
Salad with veggies
Toast with leftover salad dressing
Chicken with sautéed zucchini & onion over pasta
Dried fruit & nuts
Water
Tea

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Get Fit Day Two

Still not feeling great. :(

Miles biked: 6
Balance drills performed: 9
Balls of feet, eyes closed: 30 seconds
Right foot: 30 seconds
Left foot: 30 seconds
Right foot, left leg held out: 30 seconds
Left foot, right leg held out: 30 seconds
Right foot, with squat: 10 reps
Left foot, with squat: 10 reps
Right foot, left leg kicks forward, side, and back: 5 reps
Left foot, right leg kicks forward, side, and back: 5 reps

Diet:
Yogurt with cereal & dried fruit
Peanut butter & honey on toast
Quinoa & veggies in sesame soy sauce
Butter toast
Rice & beans
Water

Grain & Veggies & Sesame Dressing

1. Prepare your grain (rice, quinoa, couscous, etc) as usual.

2. Add chopped up veggies of your choice to grain as it cooks, or sauté on the side with some olive oil, salt, & pepper. (Almost any amount/combo of veggies. I've used bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, corn, edamame, kale, onion, spinach, tomatoes...)

3. When grain is fully cooked, pour into serving bowl with veggies and mix with sesame dressing (see recipe below).

4. Enjoy! Variations of this would include a protein (chicken, steak, pork, tofu).

Sesame Dressing: Mix all ingredients.
3 tbsp rice vinegar/white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame/vegetable oil
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Get Fit Challenge

Guys, I let myself get talked into doing a 30 day fitness challenge. It's actually a parkour thing, set up by two brothers who have been training for a while. The whole challenge is not only for people to tone up for parkour, it's to raise awareness of obesity and support people trying maintain a healthy weight.

What it means for me is real workouts (as opposed to my current physical activity of walking back and forth from the kitchen to my room), and reevaluating my diet. Here are my first day numbers and whatnot (I also took a Before picture, but that's just for me to see the difference):

Weight: 135.5 lbs
BMI: 22
Miles biked: 3.5
Miles jogged: 1
Workout:
30 second reps of quads, crab walks, squats, and lunges
Yoga back and shoulder stretches
Diet:
Apple & peanut butter on toast
Baked tilapia
Mixed green salad w/ veggies, nuts, and dried fruit & piece of toast
Water
Tea

This is a lot less food than I would usually eat, even during a fitness challenge. I plan on eating about 5 or 6 times each day, since that's what I'm used to and it keeps my metabolism up near where most teenagers' are. I wasn't feeling too hot today (ate something disagreeable over the weekend) so my appetite wasn't where it normally is. I don't want anyone to think that's my normal diet! I am and will continue to be a blue ribbon eater throughout this month!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Behind Enemy Lines

Clay Matthews jersey is on and I'm ready to support the Packers from the rival bench. M's words to me as he got in the car after school were, "I hate you right now for wearing that." I guess that means he's ready for the game too.

I somehow managed to find two viewing partners who don't actually follow football, but are cheering for the Bears by default. (Brit and I are two of only a few girls who are more into football than our boyfriends are.) Diego and I found a sloppy joe recipe to try and we still have Andre's massive flat screen, so already this is shaping up to be a good night.

Go Pack!

LOST

That's where Diego and I are right now. Lost after the second season of Lost. If you've already watched the series, don't ruin it for us! If you haven't, we recommend a binge session of watching episode after episode. It's the best way to not forget what's been going on and to get your questions answered quicker. Not all your questions, though. Just enough to keep you watching.

Never before has a show been so confusing in such a gratifying way. Diego and I consistently guess and second guess the twists and turns of each episode, and when the credits start rolling we are usually both shouting "What?!" at the TV.

That was the scenario tonight as we finished Season 2 and, on a prearranged agreement, did not start in on Season 3. I don't even know who survives to see Season 3, it was that kind of ending. Luckily I only have to wait until tomorrow.

Strike

I didn't think it would happen; Brit did. She won, so I now owe her a week of five minute foot massages. The Chicago Teachers' Union couldn't reach a deal with the school board over several issues, so the teachers won't be in school today.

I'm not sure if this is a big deal or not; there hasn't been a strike in over 20 years, but I have my doubts about how long it'll last. Mostly it just seems dramatic. Several schools are open to provide breakfast, lunch, and educational activities for kids who have no where to go, and churches, rec centers, and park facilities are also open so parents don't have to scramble to figure out what to do with their kids who were supposed to be in school today.

You can bet there are kids celebrating today, but for the most part a lot of them were hoping their routines wouldn't be disrupted-they know they have to make up this time anyway, so it's not like this is a consequence-free break. High school juniors and seniors are upset because they have credits to earn, AP tests to study for, transcripts to complete, and colleges to apply to. This mess disrupts that process. Kids involved in fall sports and other extracurriculars have to figure out how to practice with missing coaches and advisors.

It would be hard to find someone not inconvenienced by the strike. I hope it's worth it, CTU.

Go Bears! And Packers! And Colts!

How can I cheer for all these teams today? People rarely understand my football loyalties. I'm from Wisconsin, grew up in a split-team household, and now I live in Chicago. What's not to get?

Today I am excited for the Packers to win their first regular season game and to see the Bears and Colts battle it out at Soldier Field.

Here's something else that's super exciting: my roommate is at the coin toss for the Bears! Right now! Go watch!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Premium Rush

Last night J and I saw Joseph Gordon Levitt's newest action flick, Premium Rush. J mostly wanted to see bike stunts; I wanted to see how New York bikers were portrayed.

We were both left wanting in those areas, but still enjoyed the movie overall. I was impressed by even basic urban biking skills and found myself holding my breath during several intense traffic scenes. Those parts hit pretty close to home seeing as I've had to maneuver my way out of sticky traffic situations on my ways to and from work.

As for biker characterization, the movie paints in broad strokes. All bikers aren't as fixed-gear loving, smart phone savvy, and anti-establishment as movies and TV would have you think. Yes, there is a certain segment of the biking world that fits the hipster-elite stereotype, but many of us are just poor 20-somethings trying to get to work or to a friend's house without having to worry about parking or public transportation. Even more of us bikers are merely trying to incorporate some physical activity into our daily existences, reducing stress and environmental/noise pollution with one swift rotation of our pedals.

Sorry. I've gotten off track reviewing this movie. It's just that bikers in Chicago aren't always welcomed and have even come under attack by newspaper reporters. I'm guessing this is nothing new, but one would think an innocent activity like biking wouldn't be the cause of so much irritation. To every annoyed driver: I'm sorry that bikers don't always follow traffic rules, but please don't treat us all the same!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Horner Park

I'm here with M right now. He's running. I'm people watching. Just now a gaggle of kids went running by, perhaps a children's running team or just a very large family chasing each other through the park. There are dog walkers, stroller pushers, marathon trainers, and bikers. You could pick this park up and plop it down pretty much any where in America and it wouldn't be out of place. I very much enjoy the anonymity.

Aaaaand M is finished. Back to work!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Committed

As many of you know, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was and continues to be an inspiring tale for me. I went to Rome shortly after reading it the first time, and a second reading helped put into words my spiritual ideologies. I haven't felt the need for a third reading, but I'm open to it.

Before doing that, I had to read her latest work, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage. From what I'd heard, it wasn't quite the same caliber as EPL, but I personally found it engaging and smart, if not honest and unassuming. Gilbert writes of what she knows: intimacy, loving another person, having a healthy fear of marriage. She doesn't set out to top EPL, and I found the two books to be very different, albeit complementary, works of creative nonfiction.

Here's my one critique (and it's really more of a wonder): why is the book titled Committed if there's no commentary on the connotations of that word? Commitment implies confinement. Why do we commit ourselves to people, but also to mental health clinics? Is it because we must be (for lack of a more PC word) a little crazy to commit? Or is it because (in the safety of a healthy relationship) we feel a little saner once we've done so?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Talk Radio: I Get It

When I was younger (elementary through high school), I didn't get why anyone would listen to talk radio. It seemed bland, uneventful, and contradictory to everything I listened to radio for: music and more music.

I know radio and how we listen to it is different, but I doubt things have changed very much. What has changed is I am a grown person who listens to the radio quite frequently, and I get why people listen to talk radio. I used to hear new music on the radio; now I can listen to whatever I want with (and this is a very short list of things I use) Pandora, Spotify, 8tracks, or plain old YouTube. And what does the majority of public radio have to offer me? Piles and piles of the same thing they played yesterday and the day before.

There are two Mainstream/Top 40/Popular Hits stations here, and I can't tell you how often I've tuned into one station, been unimpressed with the song playing, and switched to the other...to hear the same exact song. It's absurd that in 2012 I have to hear a handful of songs played on every station several times a day. The fact that one radio station has so few songs to play is truly disheartening.

So a few weeks ago, I gave up trying to find original music on a radio station. I made the official switch to NPR in the car I drive at work, where I do most of my radio listening, and at home I find music on the internet (see list of music sites above). I don't miss Rihanna, Katy Perry, Pitbull, Gotye, or Drake (apparently the only five artists with music this summer); even better, I've enjoyed what NPR has to offer.

I've been keeping up with politics, local and national, the economy, local news, interesting bits on Chicago, entertainment, sports, weather, and traffic. I've heard from the DJs and people calling in, reporters in Cairo and New York and Missouri, and from the various people interviewed by the station. In the past week I've learned about this and this.

An NPR story is even my latest inspiration for writing. It's a lengthy explanation, but essentially I'm trying out something a different writer did when he was first starting out. He admitted it didn't quite work the way he wanted it to, but I have no expectations for how this new experiment will work, so as long as I'm writing I feel okay about it.

The way I see it, that's a lot of positives replacing a minor irritation in my life, but those little things add up. What I'm saying is, give talk radio a chance!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Year 24 Bucket List

Guys, I'm 24 now. There's a few things I want to happen before I turn 25. I have a job and an apartment, both huge aspects of my adult life. From my job and home I've learned a lot about home ownership, work-life balance, creating a sanctuary, and time and stress management.

In this next year, I want to put into practice things I've gleaned. These are extras that I either feel old/mature enough to have/do or young/inexperienced enough to have no shame in trying.

Replace watch battery and try out life as a watch-wearer
Put loose pictures in frames or albums
Hang picture frames
Install curtains (Check! Did it today.)
Read about writing
Write
Turn the volume down on my inner critic
Arts and Crafts
Travel out of the country
Find my signature shade of lipstick
Get a new laptop
Host a murder mystery party

That's all I can think of right now. Also, I'm really hungry and kept wanting to write 'make guacamole' on the list as if it's a life goal, not something necessary for my immediate survival.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What I've been doing instead of writing

My laptop is officially out of commission, which has been okay for the summer. My iPod fills in for most of my electronic connection to the world and I've given up whatever isn't convenient: streaming tv, reading/getting lost on certain websites, paying bills...jk. Here's what I've been up to instead:

Arts and Crafts
Interior decorating
Taking weekend trips
Sweating/eating freeze pops
Learning how to front flip
Watching the Olympics

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

baseball & birthdays

Shout outs to Quinn and Mom on their birthdays yesterday and today!

J and I got to leave the city for the day yesterday to celebrate with the fam and watch a Brewer/Cardinals game. I've only been to Milwaukee several times, but every time I'm impressed by the city's architecture/skyline. I wish I knew the city better, besides the few spots I've visited (Miller Park, Summerfest grounds).

I made use of the two hour ride there (In sweltering heat...I'm convinced the A/C was broken. It was like riding in a double-decker convection oven.) by reading a huge chunk of Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. I've seen the movie several times and it's one of my favorites. (I find Shutter Island and Inception comparable--unreliable narrator with a haunted past creating an alternate reality, Leonardo DiCaprio--but I prefer Shutter Island far more. Like piles and piles more.) I recommend the book as well, even if you've already seen the movie. For one, it's an intriguing story, written well and with solid characters. On top of that, the book has subtle layers of depth that a film can't incorporate.

Now I'm back in Chicago, but only for three days. I'm off to Madison on Thursday to see two of my favorite siblings!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Serendipitous

Even though I believe everything happens for a reason, it's a rare occurrence when I learn that reason in a timely manner. Usually it's months or years before I look back and think, "Oh yeah, I'm glad it went that way." Not so a few weeks ago: I experienced instant serendipity, a moment when I knew at least one reason why my day went the way it did.

It was supposed to be a simple Friday at work: my last day with M before his summer camp, finishing up laundry before the weekend, stocking up on groceries, and overseeing a fix to the new cable/internet/phone line installed a day earlier. Enter flash summer storm. In the middle of a 100 degree day, the rain started and didn't let up. It came down, sideways, and in sheets. Hail joined the rain for several seconds. The wind announced its presence by tipping the solid metal patio table over, umbrella and all. Oh, and the power went out.

The AT&T service guy came not long after that, and I had to let him know there wasn't much he could do since we had no power. He answered some questions and left M and me in the humid darkness. Laundry sat sudsy in the washer and damp in the dryer. I begged M to stop opening and closing the fridge and freezer, even though the cold air felt great. Without A/C, we laid on the floor sweating without moving.

I still needed to get groceries, so I left M to his own devices and escaped for a bit to Jewel, but not before having to fix the garage door, which went a little crazy during the storm. I made sure to get ice cream--M and I both needed it and besides, the kid was headed to northern Minnesota in a few days, where he'd miss home comforts.

Back home, I learned the power was back. I also learned the phone line was completely out. On my cell, I volleyed calls between AT&T and H, troubleshooting and explaining the situation. Thanks to faulty installation the day before, plus the power outage, the backup generator had zero charge and wasn't supplying power. M chose all the times I was on the phone to ask me questions, beg me to watch YouTube videos on his iPod, and dribble around a soccer ball.

People: I was frazzled. I left work that day with a shirt damp with sweat and hair plastered to my head. I rode home through a light sprinkle, something I was grateful for as it helped cool me down. Still, I was drenched when I got back to The Naw. I needed a freeze pop and a gentle friend. I called Becca as I unwound from the day, the week. My three day weekend had finally begun and I didn't want to think about work until Tuesday.

We caught up for a bit; I mentioned going to Milwaukee on Monday to see a Brewer game for Quinn's birthday. "I'm going to a Brewers game on Monday too," Becca said. "I think. Let me check." Sure enough, we were going to be at the same game. For two people who used to live together, but currently live in two different states, meeting up in a third state is wonderful. Knowing I'd see Becca the next Monday made my Friday night.

All at once I realized why my day at work was so trying. If not for that, I wouldn't have felt the need to talk to Becca afterwards. I would have came home feeling great about my weekend, ate dinner, had drinks, etc...and very likely wouldn't even know Becca would be in Milwaukee with me on Monday. If not for having a tough day, Becca and I might have attended the Brewer game unaware of each other's presence. And if that would have happened? Unacceptable. Thank you, Universe!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grounded, Receptive

Tonight's yoga class was like that really fun day camp where the counselors are like older sisters that want to hang out with you. Our teacher could have been the love child of Jennifer Coolidge and Drew Barrymore and she spent the class shouting out personal encouragements and corrections: "Look up, Linds! Breathe, Kels!" She also abbreviated everyone's name. I went from no name newbie to "Keep your butt up, Rach!" in about 45 minutes.

And the highlight of the class? I successfully did a headless head stand! Okay, actually a head stand inversion on my forearms. Alright, alright, you got me. The teacher held my hips while I pressed my feet against the wall and my arms to the ground. But I didn't fall over this time!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

And the Living is Sweaty

Today, it hailed. It was also another 100 degree day. Explain that one, science.

Our apartment has no air conditioning, so my routine has been cold showers, freeze pops, fans, and as little movement as possible.

Yesterday Bailey and I celebrated freedom on the beach with the rest of Chicago's young population. We also got to see fireworks aplenty. They are illegal in Illinois, but that doesn't stop enthusiastic Americans from crossing the border to Indiana to appease their need for explosives.

Tonight I'm sleeping at the Charleston, just a few blocks away. They have A/C and down comforters on pillow top mattresses. I'm basically on a staycation except I still have to go to work tomorrow.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Falling for Health

Just this afternoon, I finished reading Drop Dead Healthy, the latest from extreme project guru A.J. Jacobs. During the course of writing it, he tried to be the healthiest man alive, spending about one month per body part for two years: stomach, brain, heart, skin, eyes, ears...he covers a lot of body parts. If I had to write that book, I would have separated it by health categories: diet, exercise, rest, etc, but as a follower of Jacobs' work I heartily (pun intended) enjoyed it.

Sunday for me is overwhelmingly a day of rest, but after devouring Drop Dead Healthy along with these food items today:

cinnamon raisin bagel w/ cream cheese
homemade pizza (3 pieces)
freeze pop (green flavor)
chocolate chips

I couldn't sit around and watch TV, nap, or read more. Off to yoga I went. A lot of what I've read/heard recently has echoed the mind/body relation, namely that a healthy body means a healthy mind, or a stressed out mind means an out of whack body. It makes sense, and luckily a month of chiropractic adjustments sprinkled with yoga and relaxation have done both my mind and body good.

I sometimes surprise myself during yoga with what my body can do, and then I start feeling pretty righteous and my body reminds me I'm definitely NOT the poster child for grace, balance, or flexibility. Just today I started internally praising myself for some great-looking plank push-ups when the teacher suggested hand stands against the wall. Feeding off a so-far successful class, I kicked right up into it...and immediately came crashing to my side. Laughing at myself to ease the embarrassment and thanking the good Lord I didn't knock anyone else over, I settled for a much more accessible downward dog pose. Drop Dead Healthy indeed.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Things I don't understand (a work in progress)

Theorems
Risk: the board game
Risk: financial/banking
The popularity of the Millennium Trilogy
The phrase 'if you want to make an omelet, you have to crack some eggs.'
Kindergarten naps at the end of yoga classes
How divers don't smack their heads on the board when they flip
How it got to be so late so fast
Why I think 11 pm is late
My metabolic cycle

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer Activities

If you are wondering what I am keeping busy with this summer, let me direct you to this fabulous google calendar, highlighting nearly every event Chicago has to offer:

https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=chicagosummercalendar%40gmail.com&ctz=America/Chicago

It's one of the more comprehensive summer calendars I've seen, but doesn't include nearly all my summer activities. If I am not engaged in whatever's on the calendar for the day, you can probably find me:

Sunning on my porch
Sunning on the beach
Sunning at Holstein Park
Swimming/sunning at Holstein Pool
Eating at an al fresco BYOB
Yoga
Watching trashy summer TV
Playing Words with Friends/DrawSomething
Thrifting
Reading beach mysteries

Oh yeah, aaaaaaand I might be doing a little bit of work. At my job. It's tough being a grown up.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Soul Shapes

I'm back on the yoga wagon, at least for ten classes since that's how many came in the Groupon package I bought. Maybe some day I'll wise up and read my own blog to remind myself some sort of breathing/stretching/meditative activity is beneficial to my life.

Our teacher tonight started by asking us to notice the space our bodies took up in the world, then specifically our kidneys. I think the point was to focus inwards, but it kind of made me have to pee.

Yoga is about super awareness--of the body, the breath, and how those two are linked with our thoughts. The final thing the teacher discussed before we started class was going further than noticing our physical beings. She asked us to consider the shape of our souls in the world.

I don't know what my soul shape is, but if I could describe my ideal soul shape it would be more nebulous rather than rigid, and more thick than light or wispy. I want a soul that has presence, but also adapts to different environments.

I guess I'm treating my soul like a personality: flexible, yet solid. Our souls are essentially personalities, eternal cores of our beings, and hopefully the truest parts of who we are.

I'll end with the class invocation:

'I open myself to receive those teachings that reveal the light of knowledge in me.'

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Sounds Like...

The neighborhood ice cream truck playing The Entertainer
Police sirens circling Humboldt Park
My neighbor's sprinkler on her new lawn
The Blue Line making its stop at Western
Passenger planes returning to the city
Fireworks every night

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Emerging from my Burrow


Last night I had a dream that I was on a gigantic space station. A lot of people lived there--it had libraries and classrooms and bedrooms and kitchens and it was all very colorful. At one point, the space station lost power and we were going to crash into Earth. Something/someone saved us just in time, but I have no idea how, because as soon as Dream Rachel learned that the station was going down, she began collecting every pillow, blanket, and mattress aboard in one room where she then nestled in and awaited impact. And yes, in my dreams I can carry and throw mattresses.

When I told J about this dream, he laughed and said that's what I would do in real life too. It's true--when faced with impending doom, it's second nature for me to curl up in a ball, swaddle myself, and hide under all my blankets where I wait out the catastrophe, emerging once it's gone. Anytime I was stressed out about a paper or test in college, my solution was to take a nap and hope I was smarter when I woke up.

My last post gives an idea of what I've been stressing over lately: my bike, my closet, my back. My room won't rearrange itself into something with feng shui, M and I started several hefty painting and gardening projects at work and he has a very short attention span, and we always seem to have dirty dishes at home. All of these petty things have piled up on each other and attached to my big fear as of late: that I have no idea what I want to do with my future. Friends, Brit and Brooke can attest to you that I am in bed before the nightly news is over.

Alas, there comes a point when More Naps is not the answer (SO HARD TO BELIEVE I KNOW)...and I've recently taken steps to emerge from the minor hermit lifestyle I've lived in these past few weeks. An amazing man named Jose came last week and re-installed my closet. He also HAND MADE our screens. I started seeing a chiropractor about my back/neck problems. Waking up with headaches was no bueno and after some testing, it turns out I'm in Phase I of Spinal Crapping Outage. So Dr. Estelle & I are taking care of that. This past Saturday, Brit and I hauled the infamous Schwinns up to Bryn Mawr and our lovely bike men, where they spent about three hours reattaching my seat.

I am fixing things that are stressing me out, blogging again, adjusting to my summer schedule, and overall being alive again. Alas, don't think that emerging from this burrow means I'm not still going to bed early...as soon as this posts, I'm crashing.

[Something we have started in my community, ending with a note of gratitude: for bike lanes, Dave Matthews,  our new foot scrubber, our porch garden in the shopping cart, and that summer fireworks have started and I can hear them from my bedroom.]

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Weak

Things in my life that can't hold the weight required of them:

My closet shelf
My bike seat
One of the chairs in my dining room
My arms when they lift things over my head

Why is everything too heavy?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Recurring

The lights won't turn on
I can't find the switch
the bulbs are burnt
something is broken
Or maybe my eyes are closed
they won't open
Either way, darkness

And now a cat in the room
mean, predisposed to hate me
It hisses, claws digging
I go under covers
Still the weight of it on me
those claws
more hissing
I throw it off, kick it away
make it worse

sit up wide awake
blankets tangled still darkness
just another dream

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sweep

It's nice to know
not much has changed
Chore Time still means turn
the stereo up Dance
like there's a cash
prize instead of swept floors
at stake Clean only as long as the
music plays
Play the music Structured Time calls for.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Making Clean

Let the water get warm.
Step under the spray
its weight, its warmth
holds you firmly in place.
This is your only alone
time in a day surrounded
consumed by people and demands
cashiers, red-light cameras,
and social norms.
Stretch your neck muscles
one side, then the other, the tighter side.
The side you use to hold purse straps,
cradle phones, schlep around grocery bags.
The side you sleep on until you get a headache,
roll over to face the light
from your neighbor's kitchen
shining through your window.
The water continues to pour
you stand, naked,
watch the day disappear
down the drain
insignificant as a cloud of soap bubbles.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Untitled

When edges fade
in the glow of a day almost done,
words lose sharpness, definition
to the hours past.
In the mellow space
of dusk, attention
     shows affection,     release     brings
relief.

Rearranging

The bed goes
against the wall--
no--pull it away. Turn it.
Keep it open and approachable
from both sides. Your
bed is a reflection of you.
Besides, the fitted sheet
goes on easier this way.
After the bed, other furniture
follows, rearranges itself accordingly,
until the flow, feng shui, feels
appropriate. Movement
is necessary.
Bed against the wall.
Away. Rotate.
Under the window.
Constant rearrangement eliminates
stagnation.
Besides, the corners
stay swept clean this way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Commute

Belmont. Barry. Wellington. George.
She hears the automated voice in her head a
millisecond before the bus' PA system
announces each stop, echoing her thoughts.
When a crowd of people get on,
she knows they've reached Palmer. Blue Line Transfer.
Her routine is so routine it's uncomfortable, like an armchair so worn-in the padding no longer pads.
It disgusts and soothes her, going through these motions every day.
She hates change, but in this moment craves it. Suddenly she hears her voice before the bus has made it to the next stop:
"Can you let me out here?"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To do list

Dance
Love
Dance again

Eyes Don't Lie

First there was the one
in the stroller, now
this one, sitting next
to his mother on the bus. Staring
at her, the young woman, with
wide black-brown eyes as if to say
You are not a real grown up
Why do you make silly faces at me?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Endoplasmic Schmendoplasmic

The endoplasmic reticulum
is an organelle of cells in
eukaryotic organisms that
forms an interconnected
network of tubules, vesicles, and cisternae.

If anyone needs to
know this
not for a science test
not ironically
but for every day life
(science teachers don't count)
Please tell me.

I'm very excited to learn
how this is useful
to anyone.

Meditation 2011

[I found this with poems from last year, about the time I was deep in acupuncture, spiritual direction, and personal meditation. I still don't know where I read/heard about sea v. tree poets or what it really means or which camp I'm in.]

Someone once said poets
are either Sea Poets or Tree Poets.
Was it Yeats?
Does not knowing-the source
or my answer-mean I'm neither?

I prefer a forest
thick with trees
wet with rain freshly fallen
It surrounds me, shelters me.

But what of the sea?
She is wide open
makes me feel untethered
I could float away or grow
so big to fill all that space.

I think I aspire to sea-ness
to being okay with the wide open
roaring silence,
but for now I'll stick to the
safety of trees wet with rain.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Urban Law - Alison Hawthorne Deming

[I was about to write a poem about crosswalks/pedestrians/rude drivers when I came across this poem in a collection I'm currently reading. The situation she describes has happened to me almost exactly: getting yelled/honked at by drivers when I have the walk (and let's not forget pedestrians always have the right-of-way). Still, there are also wonderful drivers who will stop traffic for a person to cross when she needs to catch a bus.]

Rush hour and the urban outflow pours
across the Million Dollar Bridge. I wait
for the walk-light, cross-traffic slight but
caution's the rule when the city roars
toward all its separate homes. I get
the sign, little electric man, and step
into the street. A woman turns into
my lane, bearing down, eye-contact,
and still she guns it until I stare and
shake my head in disbelief at her
ferocity. She slows begrudged to let
me pass, runs down the window of her Saab
and shouts, "Why don't you wait for the light?"
and flips me the bird. I feel weepy like
a punished child, mind sinking to lament,
What's wrong with the human race? Too many
of us, too crowded, too greedy for space--
we're doomed, of course, so I head for coffee
and a muffin, walking sad and slow on
the return. I'm waiting again to cross,
picking fingersful of muffin from the
paper sack and watching the phalanx of
cars race by, not even a cell of a
thought in my mind that I might jump the change,
when a man who's got the green stops,
an executive wearing a crisp white
shirt and shiny red tie, and he raises
his palm to gesture me safely across,
making all the cars behind him wait while
I walk, and together at rush hour that
man and I redeem the whole human race.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hoodie on the Bus

I'm in Chicago
but I'm from a small town
High heels, moving buses
make me fall down

Work late, now I'm running
on cheap coffee
Take another drink before I pass out

I don't wanna waste my time with
girls who stuck to their iPhones
guys looking for a place to sit
while I'm busy writing my poems

I don't wanna hold this line up
I just wanna make it to my stop.
Ever since I switched routes from Western
all I do is ride, bike cop.

Young girl in a new dress
looking for the right address.
I go to Roscoe Village
thinking of all the people
who missed out seeing all my facets

I'm cash only and even though I act poor
I get everything that I've worked for
I'm a small town girl, but after living in the city
I don't drive my own car anymore

I don't know what's next for me
guess I'll just have to wait and see
People wanna tell me that I'm too carefree
humming silly ballads, Plain White Tees

Sometimes it's hard to leave my bed
won't do anything til I've been fed
I don't wanna talk on my way to work
put my headphones in, be a jerk

I get to Damen, it's crowded, crowded
About to start work like count it, noon.
Color of my bus card's orange, orange
and I'm texting with the kid I met last June

Real quick bus ride, where's the time go?
Will work be easy, only God knows
Grand Theft Auto'ing Hoodie's lines like Niko
Trying to paint myself like I'm Vincent Van Gogh

I'm in Chicago
but I'm from a small town
High heels, moving buses
make me fall down
Ain't fooling you
I'm from a small town





Thursday, April 12, 2012

Present Tense

I lock the door on my way out
The house stands empty
Just as I found it this morning,
I leave it.

I make my way down the sidewalk,
hoping I don't miss a bus.
It pulls up and I board
I turn on my music.

When I get home,
dirty dishes await me.
I ignore them for a minute while I
make dinner and catch up with my roommate.

We don't get the Bulls game on our TV,
so I watch it via Twitter while I
hammer out more poems and ice a sore shoulder.

As it gets later
the words slow down
I decide to call it a night
and end this poem right here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Living Catalog

It's probably not attentive driving,
but the pedestrians on Belmont
catch my attention most
during my daily drive to the Gold Coast.

I don't need to browse
the glossy pages of
Victoria's Secret
Anthropologie
Ann Taylor
that sit in piles on the counter at work.

Mobs of fashionable women
parade up and down the sidewalk,
displaying the season's trends,
must-haves, and choice colors.

I take a mental inventory and adjust my closet accordingly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

For Independence and The City

I left a queen-size bed in a room with the closet intact,
a wood-burning stove,
and a fully-stocked fridge and pantry
For independence and the city.

I came home to find
a broken bed frame in the kitchen,
the contents of my closet still in the dining room,
and Easter leftovers in the fridge.

At work, dirty laundry greeted me at the door,
dirty dishes gathered in the sink,
and the fridge neared empty.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Resurrection

If I believe that a human can rise from the dead,
why did it seem like more of an Easter miracle that at 7 in the morning I rose from my bed?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Great Wall

The Chinese place at home sells
cell phone covers and earrings
alongside crab rangoon, sesame chicken, and egg rolls.

They always play a mix of contemporary light rock and instrumentals of early 90s pop songs.

Six tables line the walls of the space that used to be our Subway. Sometimes you can catch a whiff of freshly baked bread in the bathrooms, but mostly it's MSG-infused teriyaki and lo mein.

If you go on a Saturday afternoon, expect to have the place to yourself.
Share an order of high school nostalgia with old friends-the time you ordered takeout from your Econ classroom-and enjoy a heavy side of food coma.

Don't forget to grab a fortune cookie, which will most likely suggest that you 'Travel light on the Journey of Life.'

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Just Missing Pillow Mints

Water pressure
Giant bed
So much food
(that I don't have to prepare)
Going home is like a stay at the Holiday Inn.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Still Made It Home

They say to be at the bus stop
15 minutes before departure.

I was at the stop 20 minutes prior.
Too bad it wasn't the right stop.

:(

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Too Heavy

Not many things are scarier than
snapping awake at 4:30 am to the sound of
All my journals
An extra set of sheets
A hiking backpack
A school bag
Every dress/skirt/flannel shirt I own
crashing to the bottom of my closet
as a result of weak drywall combined with
the weight of it all.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday People

He was not a small man,
but I'm sure he still struggled
taking so many bags of groceries on the bus.

The kids in their stroller at the library
weren't afraid to voice their thoughts for all to hear,
even when their nanny reminded them:
Inside voices, please.
They answered in honest tones, Why?

The cool evening wasn't enough to keep the man from his motorcycle ride
And his lack of privacy wasn't enough to keep him from singing along to his radio.
The strains of "Let it Be" reached me on the sidewalk.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mystery Granola

I don't even need the recipe anymore,
I've made enough batches of this granola
to do it unscripted.
Oats, nuts, brown sugar, maple syrup, butter--
I've got it mixed and baked in under an hour.
I know everything about this recipe
except how it tastes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foolish

For thinking I'd sleep in today
that finishing The Hunger Games would take a few hours
instead of just over one

For wondering why the story I wrote two years ago still resonates
taking so long to come back to it

For not going grocery shopping when we had the time
consequently eating pineapple, cheese, chocolate chips, and bagels for dinner
not really minding at all

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break: Week Two

The second week of break brought cooler temps for M and me, but we still enjoyed plenty of activities.

Watching movies, playing board & video games, reading:

While watching Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Me: I used to watch this with my sister.
M: Really? How old is she?

On secret agents retiring: They need to stop going to rich people's parties if they don't want to be agents anymore. That's where trouble starts.

Playing LEGO Batman: I'll be Flatman, you be Ribbon.

To G, out sick from school: What is there to do on facebook in the middle of the day?

After getting off the phone with his mom: Wow, G, Mom actually thinks you're sick.

Playing Pictionary:
M: I was gonna draw Miley Cyrus, but, you know...
Me: What?
M: You wouldn't get it because you're not a kid.

Playing Risk: Your first mistake was keeping all your armies in South America.

Playing Stratego: You should probably never lead an army into battle ever.

After reading for two hours straight (yes, I read too & yes, he loves reading):
M: I wanna watch Family Guy now.
Me: Why?
M: Because it's funnier than you.

As you probably gathered, the kid's a jokester. I plan to continue cultivating this side of him in the months to come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Break: Week One

I'm not in college, or any school for that matter, but I'm still in the middle of Spring Break. That's right, M has TWO weeks off school. Here are some highlights from Week One:


Beach Day with M:


After handing me a shell: "Here's something nice, now go make me a lounge chair out of sand."


"People are at work or school, but I'm at the beach! You're at the beach too...AND you're at work. You have the best job ever."


Me: That cloud looks like a viking ship.
M: That cloud looks like suspended ice particles.


After digging a giant hole in the sand, he lays flat on the ground and puts his head in it: "Is this what ostriches feel like?"


Playdates, bike rides, library trips, random observations:


On being able to stay awake for The Hunger Games midnight premiere: "I mean, it's not like you'd be going to see Water for Elephants. Who would go to a midnight showing of that? Clowns?"


On the neighbors' backed up sewage problem: "Yesterday it smelled like zoo. Today, fish."


"Do you think you could be an assassin if your only weapon was wire?"


"We started off playing Keep Away, but that turned into War, as these things do."


"I want to mow the lawn, but dandelions are all over...my aunt used to pour paint thinner on dandelions."


"What if Katniss had a balloon as her weapon, not a bow and arrow? Everything would be so different."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago

Ethnically speaking, Irish-Americans have the majority in Chicago. So if you're gonna celebrate St. Patrick's Day here, you gotta be ready for an entire day of green debauchery.

We (residents of the Naw/siblings/roommates/Crew) started the day with breakfast at 10 here at the Naw, about the same time the river was being dyed downtown. At noon, when the parade started, we were about ready to leave and join the nonsense. Clearly none of us are Irish as no tears were shed over missing the two major events of the day.

Not that we really missed anything--we still saw the river, in all of its green glory. It was my first time seeing it such a bright kelly green, but if I didn't know it was dyed, I wouldn't have been shocked to see it that color naturally. The Chicago River is not known for its pristine waters.

Because the weather was awesome, everyone and their Irish cousins were out. People crowded around the river front and paraded/stumbled/strolled in packs up and down the streets. The seven of us decided to make our way to the lake front, for the view and a reprieve from the masses. First we made a pit stop at Potbelly's, where we made friends in the bathroom line, and we were on our way.

The lake, as always, didn't disappoint. It was calm and while the sun beat down unforgivingly, the water was about the temperature of green beer straight from the tap. So no swimming, just toe-dipping. Fine by us. We lazed around by the lake until the heat got to be too much, then headed back to the Naw for a midday sleep.

We finished up the holiday by making a giant dish of baked macaroni & cheese and demolishing it while catching up on the NCAA Madness. The sounds of our neighbors having a party downstairs mixed with our conversation and music and I'm pretty sure anyone walking by last Saturday night thought anyone living at the Naw has the good life. We do.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good Day Sunshine 2

Okay, not exactly right now...since it's one in the morning. But today, yesterday--Wednesday--was something like June. Highs in the upper 70s, breezy. It's amazing how this weather brings people out. A drive that usually takes me 10 minutes, even during rush hour took over 30 minutes. Luckily it was Beatles Wednesday on the classic rock radio station.

Even with three straight days of glorious glorious weather, I don't exactly trust Chicago to keep the sunshine coming. It definitely feels too good to be true every time I open the paper to the forecast. Will it really be possible for me to get some sort of color back before Easter? If I keep spending lazy mornings on my porch, eating cereal and people watching, maybe.

I've heard there are those who don't like this weather--at least not in March. These people, winter lovers, fools, hardy folk, they say we didn't endure a harsh enough winter to be rewarded with sunny days so soon. I say, obviously you people haven't had to wait 10, 15, 30 minutes or walk two miles in pounding snow just to find a bus in service. Even once, and that's a harsh enough winter for me.

This is how I know we were spoiled last year. This year's winter seemed longer and more dreary, even though we had less snow and it's warmed up a lot quicker. But this year I had to fend for myself in Nature, whereas last year I didn't have to leave the building for weeks if I was so inclined.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Love Invents Us

Sometimes it's okay to judge a book by its cover. For example, when the cover boasts a review like this, from the Los Angeles Times: "Bloom is a truly excellent writer...lyrical and funny....There is a line worth quoting on almost every page of this book." Under these circumstances, one would be wise to judge the book by the cover, because it's true: Amy Bloom is an excellent writer and Love Invents Us is lyrical, funny, and quotable.

The story follows the lives of its three main characters, Elizabeth, Max, and Horace/Huddie, as they grow, mature, fall in and out of love, and deal with life's intricacies. As I read all I could think was that I want someone to make this a movie because it would be so interesting to see how a screenwriter/director/actors interpret it. Here's an excerpt:

Huddie's wires cross every which way now. Sight, smell, taste, and touch enfold one another. Wet is like sweet is like heat is the aching pulse, is salt caking. Her smell is the smell of the unwrapped ready-to-rot figs, and for a lost half hour he scrunches thin lilac tissue paper around their small purple asses, tilting their stems so each seamed bottom is turned to its most seductive side. Carrot fronds are her hair; the slick celadon crack of a broken honeydew is hers and tastes cool, then warm. He puts his lips flat against tomatoes, plums, peaches, and nectarines before stacking them, and they ripen too fast, with hard-to-sell dark spots where his saliva has gathered and seeped in. Marshmallows, not even of interest since early Boy Scouts, roll out of their bags, pull his fingers into their sweet dusty white middles, pull themselves up around his fingertips. Half a bag. Twenty-three marshmallows. His fingers are stiff, powdered white, and his throat is glued shut, but the sugar thickly coating his lips and the drying tug from the roof of his mouth to the root of his tongue is so like a past moment between them he has to sit down behind the unshelved goods, head resting on the giant cans of juice, sticky hands hard over sticky mouth, and cry without making a sound.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Away We Go

Becca and I zigzagged through the aisles of the Jewel-Osco. My cart held items we can't get at Aldi--organic produce, brown rice, almond milk. As we walked, we planned out the rest of our night: ice cream, vegging in front of the TV, cuddling. Just then the $5 movie rack caught my eye. I barely had to browse; I was sold on the first movie I saw.

John Krasinski (The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, SNL) hold hands and walk in front of a pencil-sketched background of landscape scenery and various items: stroller, airplane, baby bottle, margarita glass. What more could I ask for? I love both these actors. Then I saw that one of the screenwriters was Dave Eggers (How We Are HungryWhat is the WhatA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusYou Shall Know Our VelocityZeitoun...yeah I've read a lot of his stuff). He's quite possibly my favorite contemporary writer. Becca and I had made our decision as to what we would watch once we got home. Away we went with Away We Go.

Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) are a 30-something couple pregnant with their first child. When plans to raise her close to his parents fall through, they pack up for a cross-country trek to find a new home near other family members and friends. I loved the witty dialogue, the music, and the overall sentiment of the movie. Just watch the trailer, then come borrow the movie from me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Find Sometimes It's Easy to Be Myself

The sign said YOGA with an arrow pointing into the space between two buildings, just wide enough for two people to walk through. Another sign pointed to a door, painted black to match the walls next to it. And that's where I had class this morning.

Beyond the door was a foyer, where a bearded man sat on a stool and welcomed students. He wasn't the receptionist. He was Kevin, the teacher. The classroom was up a flight of stairs, in a room with sloped ceilings. Natural light came in through skylights and several hot fans kept the room at a balmy 90 degrees. Only 14 students and their mats fit in the room, plus Kevin, walking around encouraging us to breath in and out through our noses.

This method of breathing made it all the more apparent that this studio sits right above a Subway. Several minutes into class, the faint smell of freshly baked bread floated through the room and mingled with the constant undertones of sweat that most yoga studios have. The mixture was not as bad as one might think.

Refreshed, albeit sore, from an hour of chaturanga and downward dog, I rode the bus only part of the way home so I could stop for a much needed haircut. The lady at Studio I-90 knew what I needed as soon as I walked in. My hair was down and a little messy from yoga, and I swear she had her scissors in hand before I could ask if she had time to give me a trim.

Half an hour later, my "sandpaper" (her word) ends decorated the floor and the hairdresser could actually pull a comb through my hair without it knotting up. I felt like a new woman, in the Herbal Essences/Tresemme tossing my hair around as I walked down the street way.

Once home, I realized I had gone to two new places by myself all before noon on my day off. As an introvert who enjoys nothing more than curling up with the Trib and a cup of coffee on the weekend, I felt quite productive and guilt-free napped the afternoon away.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Holiday Schmoliday

It's Casimir Pulaski Day once again...and I still don't understand why schools, libraries, and city offices are closed today. I generally feel this way about Columbus Day too. Why do these guys get holidays when there are far more deserving historical figures to celebrate?

Okay, and I'm a bit jealous that none of these "holidays" are holidays for me--no days off, no holiday pay, no fun or festive activities. Maybe I'll bake another cake at work.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sweet Home, Chicago

Chicago celebrates its 175th birthday today. Incorporated in the 1800s as a city with a population of 4,170, Chicago is now home to about 2.7 million people, including yours truly. I know I'm a transplant, but as a licensed Illinois driver and registered voter in Ward 1, public record has me as a Chicagoan.

According to the recent ad campaign by Chicago Public Library, several other things I have to do to be a "true" Chicagoan are:
  1. Sox or Cubs, choose one.
  2. Partake in deep dish pizza.
  3. Top my hot dogs with mustard, onions, relish, a dill pickle, and a tomato. No ketchup allowed.
  4. Have a CPL card.
I can check all these off: I've never been good at following baseball, but after attending both a Sox and a Cubs game, I went Sox. Not only do I enjoy deep dish pizza, I can tell you that while Lou Malnati's makes a superb pie, Giordano's has an edge when we are talking cold pizza. Vegetarian tendencies aside, I know ketchup is not for hot dogs. I've been a card-carrying member of the library for over a year now and have already claimed three different branches as "home" libraries.

The clearest "true Chicagoan" sign of all: I've been reminding myself a lot lately that a Chicago summer makes this winter/pseudo-spring worth it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Minty Miracle Thursday

Last year miracles happened on Thursdays more often than on any other day of the week. Either that or Brit and I only noticed Thursday miracles. These miracles usually involved books being at the library when we went, TV shows airing when we watched, getting free things, or anything food related, like Shamrock Shakes at McDonald's. Tonight Brit & I got our first Shamrock Shakes of the season. I'm not Irish, but I'm glad there's an Irish holiday in March because I'm not sure how else I'd mark the end of the dark days of February.

We know Shamrock Shakes have been back for a few weeks now, but there's something about eating them in March that really lets you know spring is coming. February is finally over, as are the biting cold winds, slushy snow, and bus delays due to inclement weather. If only. March weather is generally awful as well, but at least Shamrock Shakes are a ray of sunshine streaming through it all. A minty cold ray of sunshine with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping

You know how the saying goes, "It's Leap Day. Real Life is for March." No? Oh, I guess that's just a 30 Rock thing. Whatever, I still thought it as I went about my day doing crazy Leap Day things like chasing down three separate buses before giving up and getting an iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts, then slamming it down before the next bus came.

If you're thinking my morning didn't go exactly how I planned it out in my head, you're right.

It got better after the coffee, though, as things usually do. I commandeered M & G's iHome so I could listen to my "getting shit done" playlist while I made beds, washed dishes, changed thermostat batteries, and took apart the multitude of LEGO creations M has decided to part with.

Then I took my weekly Whole Foods trip. At the checkout my cashier asked what I planned on making for dinner. I was buying mostly fruit, so I'm not sure what provoked the question. I answered honestly: "Not sure yet, but I have plenty of options!" Turns out Subway is what I made for dinner, at least for me. Since today's the last day of FebruANY, and because I didn't want to cook after running post-work errands/walking home in the rain, I got myself a falafel sandwich.

So I didn't really let Leap Day wonder inspire me to do something crazy, something I'd only do once every four years, but at least the weather definitely channeled the "Real Life is for March" mantra today. Sunny, windy, and in the high 50s this morning, it suddenly switched gears this afternoon and started raining. That means back to real life and 30 degree weather tomorrow...and Shamrock Shakes! (Seriously, how often do I post about those? I deserve a share of profits I think. Or free Shamrock Shakes. O gosh so excited right now. Do they serve them with the breakfast menu?)