Tag Archives: Chicago

Wordless Wednesday: Chasing Spring

Chicago’s had an on-again-off-again relationship with spring this year. This week it’s been more than off since it snowed two days and the temperatures have generally been in the lower 40s. I decided to find myself a little spring and summer in the only place it stays all around. Also, this was one of the items on my bucket list.

Garfield Park Conservatory

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One Race, One Dream and A Fight Against Cancer

No joke. In 10 days one of my dreams is about to come true and the best part is that it’s going to benefit cancer patients.

The dream? It’s running a race with my husband. I know, I know. It sounds eye-rollingly mushy, but don’t tell anyone: I’m a closeted sap.

Getting ready for the Corporate Challenge 5K

I have always been enamored by the idea of running. It’s the purest form of exercise, just you and your legs pounding the pavement. No weights, mats, ropes, pulleys, bars, BOSUs. Nada.

I started running in 2002, largely because many of my co-workers were doing the Corporate Challenge, a 5K. I didn’t want to be the one bringing up the rear, so I put mine in gear and started training. It sucked in the beginning, but I stuck with it and fell in love.

I love the runner’s high. I love how running gives me time to think. I love what it does for my body. (Finally I found something that could turn my pear shape into an hour glass.) So let’s fast forward several races, including the 2006 marathon. In that race, I asked Hubby to jump in after mile 20 to help me get to the finish line. He ran with me until about mile No. 25 and hearing his footsteps next to mine, pushing me to keep going meant so much. He’s not an avid runner, but he stuck it out with me and I wanted that experience again.

Also, in most Chicago races there’s a beautiful view that always gives me chills. You’re on Grand Avenue and about a half block away is Michigan Avenue. Looking up, you see upper Michigan Avenue, it’s almost like a bridge. And you can read the sign for Nordstrom. The street slopes down so below you is a sea of bobbling heads, runners whooping it up because their voices reverberate off the walls of lower Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile’s underbelly. The energy is electric and at that moment I always feel like I can do anything. I want to share that moment with my best friend, my Hubby.

He’s always known this. And I’ve tried not to pressure him into running a race with me, just gently asking if he’d like to join me some day and finally, this year, he’s strapping on his shoes and running his first race. I’m soooo stoked. We’re doing the Shamrock Shuffle on April 10.

This year we’re running as part of a charity team, the Imerman Angels. It’s a neat group because they focus on pairing cancer patients with people who have successfully fought the same type of cancer and it connects parents, spouses, kids of cancer patients with other caregivers and survivors. It’s a one-on-one service and it’s free. Which is why we’re raising money for them.

Unfortunately, our enthusiasm for the race and this group hasn’t matched with what we’ve raised. We’re still quite short of our fundraising goals, so even if you’ve got an extra $5 to share, click here and make a donation.

Jimmy holding Logan in 2007.

I’m running the race in the name of two people in my family who died of cancer. One was Jimmy Bryant, who had lung cancer. He was a hilarious guy who enjoyed the finer things in life with humility. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but it was true. Some of his best tales were those about him being a fish out of water as a city boy who would spend time on my grandparents’ farm.

The other person is Claire Chisholm Bryant, another cousin of mine, but she was known as “Chubby.” Jimmy’s humor made me giggle and smile with amusement, but Chubby’s made me belly laugh. Growing up she was one of the adults who was easy to talk to and her sense of humor was rooted in commonsense.

I will think of them throughout the Shamrock Shuffle’s 8 kilometers. Them as well as a host of other folks whose lives have been touched by cancer. Andre, an amazing coworker whose strength and talent seem endless; my daycare director who is a mother of four and is just like family because of her love for my boys. And there’s a special person in the Twitterverse who I bonded with during my third trimester as we both were having health issues and hoping our little ones baked as long as possible. She’s a spoonie, and my mom is too. She had a healthy baby girl, and then a few weeks later, my Twitterfriend was diagnosed with cancer.

I will think of each of these people and other friends as inspiration when I plod along my 8K. And I’ll smile even broader when I hear the footsteps of my best friend right next to me.

A Day In The Life Of A Snowtastrophe

The descriptions of this blizzard are endless. Snowmaggedon. Snowpocalaypse. Snowtastrophe. Snowlacaust. Or my favorite: winter.

A sledding path to the street.

OK so that’s a bit harsh, it *is* the worst storm in decades and it dumped a good 20 inches. And last night’s “thundersnow” was pretty cool, I’d never before seen lightning during a snowstorm. We’ve got about 4 feet of alps formed just outside our garage. So I’ll admit it, this was a spectacular storm.

I’m just glad we’re all home.

Logan went to day care yesterday and Ethan and I tried to pick him up before the blizzard hit, but it turns out everyone else headed home early, clogging the roads. What usually is a 40 minute round trip, took me two hours. On the way home, I could only see about a quarter a mile in front of me and at times both boys were crying simultaneously. It was fun, let me tell you.

Then Hubby tried to leave work early and the trains were crazy packed. He waited for about an hour on the platforms to get on one and even then had to sharpen his elbows to fight for a place to stand. He said his usually cordial commuters were quite brutal.

But he made it out to the burbs and even swung by the store and got butter pecan ice cream and a bottle of Shiraz. (Other people were stocking up on bottled water and peanut butter, not us!)

Last night, my only request was that we didn’t lose power, and though the lights flickered a bit, the power stayed on. We could hear the skies thundering and saw them brighten with lightning. It was like a good summer thunderstorm except it was, well, winter.

In front of our subdivision.

This morning we went to check out the damage. The porch was covered in several inches and a foot and a half was piled against our front door. When we opened the garage, that’s when we saw the drifts in our driveway. Hubby dug out a little path to the street and Logan “helped.” After a narrow pathway was cleared, the two went sledding in the street, shrieking and giggling the entire way. This is what snow days are supposed to be about.

My New Year’s Resolution: A Chicago Bucket List

Each year I make a New Year’s resolution and as I’ve said before, I take it quite seriously and pride myself on not breaking it. For 2010 I did Christine Kane’s exercise of picking a word that’s your theme for the entire year. Mine was reclaim and I loved it.

I figure I’ve got too many life-changing adjustments to make in 2011 with the new baby, six months of maternity leave and other things to adequately pick a theme for the entire year. So I chose to make a bucket list of Chicago sites that I want to visit this year.

For the record, I’m not dying or anything like that, I just think living in such a fantastic city, it’s easy to take for granted all the great experiences at our fingertips. I want to make a focused effort on hitting up some Chicago favorites.

My list consists of some personal faves and other ideas were gleaned from my friends who told me about what they love to do in the city. I consider my friends to be fun, smart and pretty damn cool but unpretentious, so I added the rest of their suggestions at the bottom of my bucket list in case you’re curious.

  • Millennium Park. I want to come here on a warm summer day, let Logan splash around in the oversized television fountains and enjoy the rest the park has to offer.
  • Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art. Spend the morning at the Art Institute, my favorite Chicago museum, then have lunch at the MCA and tour the exhibits.
  • Take the family to the beach. Logan loves the water and this would be a guaranteed great time.
  • Go to a sing-a-long movie at The Music Box Theatre. I’ve always wanted to do this, but never have. I’ve lived here since 2001, it’s time.
  • Run the Chicago Half Marathon. Chicago is a great racing city, the running community here is so supportive, it’s amazing. I am a novice runner, but one year my New Year’s resolution was to run a marathon and the support I received from running friends and strangers was stupendous. Besides having children and getting married, the marathon was the third best event of my life. I don’t feel committed enough to carve time for a full, so the half is much more manageable.
  • Afternoon tea at the Drake. I never considered myself an afternoon tea kind of gal, after all I don’t even like tea. I recently went to a baby shower that was afternoon tea at the Peninsula and had a wonderful time, I want to duplicate the experience.
  • Lyric Opera House. I’m 33 years old and I’ve never seen an opera, but I work across the street from the opera house. I’m long overdue. I even know what dress I’ll wear, it’s a vintage black dress that I’ve nicknamed “Jackie” after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and we bought it at a Michigan boutique, though it was handmade in Evanston, Ill. in the early 1960s.
  • Dim Sum in Chinatown. It’s been five years since I’ve done this. Again, long overdue.
  • Second City. I’ve seen a fair amount of live theater and comedic troupes while here, but I’d like to go to Second City downtown. The troupes in the suburbs that I’ve seen have been great, but I’d like to go to the heart of the storied institution.
  • Dessert at Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. I used to go here after dinner with girlfriends or when visitors were in town. Hubby and I need a night out where we end our evening about 1,040 feet above the city. (As a side note, clearly these are *the* best bathrooms in the city where opposite of the stalls is a glass wall with a spectacular view.)
  • Garfield Park Conservatory. I’ve never been here, but have heard how it’s so beautiful with its six large greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls. Parts of it are very ornate as it’s 100 years old and on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Cubs game. Sure they’re losers, but it’s always fun to give Wrigley Field some love.

Favorites from my friends:

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Children’s Museum on Navy Pier
  • Chicago Architectural tour
  • The DuSable Museum
  • Gourmet restaurants
  • The Polish American Museum of History
  • Eating the best Mexican food ever in the Pilsen neighborhood
  • Eating the best soul food ever at Army & Lous or Pearl’s Place on the South Side
  • Dancing under the stars in Grant Park
  • Jokes and Notes Comedy Club
  • The Backroom Jazz Club
  • Lucky Strike
  • Green Farmers Market in Lincoln Park
  • Walking through Michigan Avenue shopping area with hot coffee on early summer morning
  • Walking through any Chicago park after a snow fall
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the South Side
  • Coffee/pastries and/or sandwiches at Pastoral or Julius Meinl
  • Browsing books and wine at The Book Cellar
  • Find great half-price shows on Chicago theater web sites

*Updated to note that unfortunately Army & Lou’s recently closed, check out the article here. Also one of my smart readers pointed out that the South Side parade was canceled because it got too rowdy.

Keeping The Door Open On The Wonder Years

Teenagers. I gotta admit, I’m not a fan of them. I didn’t always care for them when I was a teenager and now that I’m grown, I find the ones in my neighborhood annoying. They clog my Panera and Starbucks, fester in my mall, and let’s not forget the string of stupid comments they spew during the movies.

Sheesh, I’m getting old and cranky.

My niece and nephew

But I’ve got a niece and nephew who are very, very close to me. My niece is the one we visited as she’s a freshman at the University of Missouri (M-I-Z!!!) and my nephew is 16 going on 17. Sure they have the same teenage traits as the other teens I don’t like, but to me, in them, it’s endearing. Maybe it’s because I love them so fiercely.

Each year we try to plan a trip for them to visit us in Chicago, now that they’re older, they’ve started to come separately and last weekend was my nephew’s first trip solo to Chi-city. I admit I was anxious because I really wanted him to have a fun time and it was important to me that we connect and have honest conversations because I always want them to know that they can come to me for whatever and I’ll be there for them.

But how do you reach out to a teen? Get them to trust you? For me, I’ve just tried to be there, which is hard hundreds of miles away. I talk about my frustrations, my hopes, my fears, my mistakes, thinking that in sharing more of myself with them, they will in turn do the same with me. Is that the right thing? I don’t know, but it’s what I’ve tried to do. And it’s so much easier just being me than trying to show that I’m “perfect.”

Besides, I can only imagine what it’s like being a teenager these days, the hypersexuality of everything, the constant cliques, which can only be exacerbated by Facebook and texting, the normalizing of drug and alcohol use, not to mention just general pressures of life. No way would I want to be a teen now.

One of my mommyfriends loves teenagers, finds their still-evolving minds interesting and their viewpoints of the world refreshing. Before my nephew came, I decided to try to see the world through teen-colored goggles.

While he was here, we had a blast. He spent a half a day at Shedd Aquarium’s Trainer for A Day program, where he worked with dolphins, sea otters, penguins and beluga whales. The worst part? He said it was handling the dead squid for the mammal’s lunch. Best part? Petting the dolphins. He also spent the day with Hubby at Northwestern’s homecoming, where at the alumni tailgating party he said it was interesting to hear all the guys talk about life at their jobs. We also took him out to Indian food, where he thought the food tasted good but the music was weird. 🙂

And for me the best part of the whole visit was that he opened up. We did talk like I had hoped and I felt so lucky to be let in. I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip.

Leaving The Writer’s Loft

This week’s the last of my writing class and boy what an adventure it has been. I’ve always loved to write, it’s partly why I became a journalist. In the past several months I began to crave writing something for myself, so I started She’sWrite.

Here's the loft where our group of 12 met each week. Amazing stories have been told in this room.

Blogging was so much fun, I flirted with the idea of stretching my writing. After a bit of Googling, I stumbled on a workshop that spoke to me. It was about empowering writers to write better. I called and talked to the teacher, Jerry, and we chatted for a good half hour about writing and I was sold. He was exactly the kind of adviser I wanted. Smart, honest, kind.

My first session, I was very nervous, wondering what the people would be like, whether I’d have to read my writing aloud. Scary stuff.  My group was varied. Some had written books, others screenplays. One woman who oozed Zen was a songwriter and poet. When we introduced ourselves it was inspiring to hear all the reasons people joined the workshop. They were prepping for their MFAs (Master of Fine Arts), dusting off an MFA, trying to get published, finishing their second novel, etc. Me? I gave a very articulate reason for attending: “I just wanna write.” It was followed by a sheepish shrug.

Not so impressive, but it’s me.

I learned a lot from the workshop and Jerry gave us the tools to keep growing. Some of us are forming a writing group that meets regularly so we can keep up the creative momentum.

Honestly it’s somewhat good the workshop is over because with work, our commute and Logan, it created many scheduling constraints that aren’t sustainable long term. Thankfully Hubby bent over backward to fill in the gaps.

Still, I’ll really miss my Wednesdays. I’d get off work, scramble to the Lakeview neighborhood on the city’s North Side and pick out one of the must-taste restaurants on Southport Avenue. I did Tango Sur, Blue Bayou, Fridas (twice) and Coobah. There’s something liberatingly serene about having a table for one.

So that’s it. I’m leaving the writer’s loft, but at least I’m taking a little bit of it with me.

Meeting A Best Friend For the First Time

This weekend I met six besties, BFFs, biffs and believe me, it was a BFD. I’ve blogged about these ladies before but we met on the parenting website BabyCenter in 2007 and formed a group focused on fitness. Six of our 10-member clique met in person for the first time Friday and spent the entire weekend together in a condo in downtown Chicago. Almost sounds like a reality TV show, eh?

We’ve been looking forward to meeting in person since those bonds were forged over swollen bellies. I’ve met a few of them as they’ve looped through Chicago or when I’ve winged through New York. But all of us under the same roof? Eeks! What if you don’t get along? My husband asked. What if you guys get in a fight and it forever changes the group? A friend questioned. What if they’re not as cool as you think?

I blew off their questions. We’ll be fine, we’ve know each other so long and have shared our lives’ most intimate details. Everything will be fine. Inside, though, I was nervous. We run the spectrum on racial backgrounds, tax brackets, religious beliefs, and political persuasions. Will we get along?

First of all Chicago’s air traffic didn’t disappoint. The girls came in from Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey and Florida. Practically everyone’s flight was late and the city was properly clogged with Blackhawks celebrations, so we got off to a later-than-normal start. We picked our rooms in Real World type fashion: First come first serve. All the rooms had spectacular views from the 38th floor across the street from Millennium Park and near the lake front.

At first it was me and Jess unpacking groceries and prepping snacks. Then came Sarah and Brady and there was never that awkward first-date feel. We all fell in lock-step, not like friends, but more like family. We traipsed up and down Michigan Avenue, I bought too much but what else is new. We chatted and shopped and laughed and talked and giggled and gabbed.

We noshed on Chicago’s famous pizza back at the condo while Linds arrived and then we waited for Lynn. She was set to get in after 11 p.m., and a welcoming committee of three met her at the L stop. It was a relief to have the last piece of the puzzle in place, we were all here. Our Hawt Mamas group.

The next day there was the Field Museum, Blues Fest, World Cup soccer watching on the Magnificent Mile, tapas at Cafe Iberico, followed by Navy Pier at night. We did a lot, but the best part was just lounging around the condo talking about everything and nothing. It was freeing to talk face-to-face with the girls instead of pecking out feelings on the keyboard.

The more I thought about that feeling of comfortability, the more I realized I truly love these women and they love me back. Unconditionally. And that was probably the most surprising thing about the weekend _ how unnaturally natural it was to meet a best friend for the first time.