December 31, 2006

Not On the Road Again

As I may have mentioned, I spent this past month going from Chicago to Michigan, back to Chicago, then back to Michigan, only to return to Chicago to return to Michigan again. It has been a month of planes, trains, automobiles, subways and busses. I now am back in Chicago and plan to stay here for quite a while. I used to think having a job in which traveling was a requirement sounded like fun, but over this past month I learned I hope to never have a job like that. It just takes too much out of me.

This past week I've done a lot of bonding with my couch, catching up on laundry and restocking my fridge which previously only had lettuce, Nutella and soy sauce. Saturday though, I did some major cleaning and took down my Christmas decorations. After three hours of vaccuuming, folding laundry, doing dishes and dusting, I sat down on my bed and surveyed my apartment. It felt good to sit and be in my own place and be without any travel plans in the near future.

It occurred to me that most of you have not seen my aparment, so I've attached a few pics below to give you a feel for my pad. They were taken with my cell phone, so I apologize if the quality isn't the greatest.

This is my living room. There are two French doors which stay open all the time. To the left of my living room is my kitchen. It's ghetto fabulous and not really worthy of a photo.

This is part of the main room of my apartment. As you can see, this is my desk (with my dying plant just to the right of it - more on that later.) Just beyond the French door to the left is my living room.

To the right of my desk (note the dying plant again) is my dresser which faces my bed. I was standing in the entryway when I took this photo.

This is my bed (taken from the entryway of the French doors). Just beyond my bed is a wall of windows with a Juliette balcony. I can step out onto it, but it's not large enough to put a chair or anything out there. You can see to the right of my bed in the photo is a doorway which leads to my closet and bathroom (again - not worthy of a photo).

So that's it. That's my home. Let me know when you'd like to see it in person. I should be around. I'm certainly not going anywhere for a while.

December 28, 2006

My Friend, Uncle Sam

My flight home Christmas night did not land in Chicago until 1 a.m. - about two hours later than originally scheduled thanks to problems with a connecting flight in Philadelphia. Since I walked into my apartment after 1:30 a.m. and had to be at work in less than 8 hours, I wasn’t the happiest girl in the world - that is until I read my mail.

As usual, after an extended weekend away from my apartment (my standard mode of living over the past month), my mail was crammed in my tiny mailbox. I began to sort through it quickly while throwing down my bags and surveying my dying plants. Something caught my eye - a large envelope from the IRS. Usually personal messages from Uncle Sam send a chill up my spine, but this was a letter I had been waiting for quite some time - since June to be exact.

While taking classes for my paralegal certificate this past spring, we quickly covered employment law. That brief lecture, though, inspired me to take on a former employer of mine.

At the start of 2005, I took a job as a content developer at Cognitive Arts, a company specializing in creating online and print manuals for employee training. I spent my five months there writing about auto and general liability insurance. I was hired as an independent contractor to work on this project despite not being able to read my own insurance policies when I started. I didn’t really understand what it meant to be an independent contractor beyond the fact that no taxes were taken from my paychecks, and I received no benefits.

I might not have had such a fierce determination to take on Cog Arts if they had not treated me and every other person there like dispensable pieces of machinery. We worked for their bottom line, and the company gave us nothing in return. This was topped by the fact that they let me go in the shadiest manner possible and then asked me to plan a celebration for the end of our project.

When I filled out my taxes in January, I then understood what it meant to be an independent contractor. It means you owe a shit ton of taxes is what it means. When all was said and done I paid over $1,800 to Uncle Sam due to my independent contractor status. And I was pissed. I was still pissed a few months later when my professor began lecturing my classmates and me about how the government defines an employee versus an independent contractor. It was clear for all intents and purposes that in the eyes of the government I was an employee, despite what my former employer may have said. I did a little research, found some forms, filled them out, attached a paper citing the appropriate legal authorities, sent them on to the Department of Treasury and waited for my reply.

That reply was waiting in my mailbox Monday night. And in the words of the government “in reply to (your) request for a determination of your federal employment tax status with respect to the services you performed in 2005 to Niit USA, Inc., we hold you to have been an employee for federal tax purposes.” In other words, I took down the man - and to the tune of I am hoping around $1,000. Needless to say it felt pretty damn good and my excitement delayed my sleep probably about as much as the flight from Philadelphia. But this time instead of trying to sleep in a cold airport terminal I was restless from visions of the ways I plan to spend the money I rightfully earned.

The lesson here: the system does work and it feels pretty damn good to take on the man, provided you win.

December 13, 2006

Seventy-nine Christmases

When I saw my grandfather over Thanksgiving weekend, I did not know it would be the last time. There probably would not be too many more visits, I knew, given how his health had declined so drastically from when I saw him last. But I would be home in less than a month and would see him again this Christmas. I got the news Sunday that grandpa passed away. My Christmas plans would now never come to fruition.

The day after Thanksgiving, my mom and I drove to the nursing home where he was staying temporarily, recovering from a fall a few weeks ago. I questioned my mom on the drive as to what to expect when I saw my grandpa. The last time I had seen him was last Christmas. His health was not great, but he was alert, walking around, his usual, ornery self - but that was grandpa. Jump forward a year’s time, and there was a marked difference.

We found him resting in his bed just before meal time. My mom left his room to find a nurse and see if we should wake him to eat. I stayed in his room, sort of hovering over his bed. Looking down, I could not help noticing he had diminished in stature. How his frame had shrunk from the grandpa I remember from my childhood - the man who used to pick my cousins and I up, tossing us from his dock into the lake. I had not expected to be greeted by that grandpa, but he had lost weight over the past year and his hair was thinner, whiter than I remembered too.

My grandpa began to stir, and I noticed his eyes flutter open. Smiling, I looked down at him, moved toward his bed and quietly said, “Hi grandpa. I hope I didn’t wake you.” Smiling back, he looked at me and shook his head no. The fall my grandpa had taken left him unable to speak. The most he could get out at any one point was a word, so I didn’t expect much conversation in return. I sat on the edge of his bed and held his hand, saying how good it was to see him and that it had been too long. Still looking up and smiling as I spoke, he blew me a kiss - the best way he could communicate his feelings at that point.

My mom walked in with the nurse and shortly thereafter, my grandpa, mother and I made our way down to eat. I helped my grandpa get situated in the dining room while my mom brought my grandma. My grandma was in the same nursing home, but for very different reasons. While my grandpa was dealing with his physical health deteriorating, my grandma’s mental health has succumbed to Alzheimer’s. My mom and I did our best to keep conversation going as they ate lunch, while I did my best to choke down the huge lump building in my throat.

As I sat there, I could not help but notice the cruel irony of my grandparents’ situation. My grandma has the physical ability to speak, but her mental state is such that she does not. My grandpa had the mental ability to understand his surroundings and conversation, but physically, he no longer could communicate. It is a situation people are not explicitly presented when they enter into holy matrimony. No man and wife expressly thinks they will make it though decades of marriage only to find him or herself one day sitting across from their spouse, unable to communicate in any real way.

Throughout the meal, my grandpa kept glancing in my grandma’s direction, and after looking at her for a moment, would give her a wink or blow her a kiss. It touched me more than words can express. To me that simple gesture - one which my grandma could not understand - was my grandpa telling his wife thank you for our four beautiful daughters. Thank you for our five grandchildren and their children. Thank you for a lifetime of memories. And thank you for loving me more than other person has. And while I know you cannot understand all this the way that I wish you could, I cannot help but express it the only way I can.

And that was when I learned one of the final lessons I will probably learn from my grandpa. Say the things you want to say and should say and can say to those you love. Say them often. Say them out loud. Scream them if you must because there may come a day when you won’t have the ability, and a wink will have to say everything.

When we left my grandpa, he was lying in bed, much the same way we found him. My mom said bye and mentioned how she would be back in a few days. Then I leaned down, gave my grandpa a kiss, squeezed his hand and told him how great it was to see him. Walking out, I said to take care and that I’ would see him again soon. I followed my mom out of his room and did not even make it through the doorway before tears spilled from my eyes. They were the same tears I cried when I found out he died a little over a week later.

No one in my family can truly say they were shocked by my grandpa’s passing. With each day it became more apparent that he was ready to go. My mom had told my sister a few days before his passing that she should try to see grandpa soon. My mom had doubts he would make it to Christmas. My nephew happened to overhear this last bit of information and asked who wasn’t going to make it to Christmas. My mom, the grandparent in this situation, explained that her dad, his great-grandpa, was probably not going to have another Christmas. My nephew, in his 6 years of wisdom, responded with, “Well, how many Christmases has he had?” The answer was 79. My nephew processed this number, probably compared it to his own six Christmases, and seemed pretty satisfied with the answer - as well he should be. Seventy-nine Christmases are a lot to celebrate. And even though I do not get to see my grandpa for one more Christmas, I will take comfort knowing he had already done this 79 other times.

December 6, 2006

Bridging the Gap

Today I learned that a violin bridge costs about $6. I looked this up online not long after the bridge on my violin snapped. For those who may not know, I played violin from 5th grade until I graduated high school. And every year since, I’ve at least picked it up. I am always amazed when I do that I remember songs I played over a decade ago. Tonight was one of those nights. However, when I picked up my violin to tune it, the bridge, which had been holding up my strings since 1997, finally gave out. It snapped like a twig, and my hopes of playing a note or two any time in the near future vanished too.

Now I’m looking at bridges and thinking if I’m going to get a new bridge, I might as well restring my violin while I’m at it. And actually the pegs seem to slip more and more, so maybe I’ll swap those out too for a new set while I'm at it. But if I’m going to get new strings, I really should re-hair the bow because it doesn’t grab the strings all that well anymore either. So really this $6 piece of wood is now probably going to cost me about $200.

What was to be a small purchase is becoming an investment - an investement in something that I only use a few times a year, at best. I always told myself I didn’t want to become one of those people who said “I used to play the violin.” I did not like the sound of the past tense, but my violin playing is pretty much past tense these days. I guess it's time to consider if I want to bring it back to the present.

December 4, 2006

Frosty, The Inflatable Snowman

I love Chicago. I do consider it to be one of the greatest cities in the world. From the lakeshore, to shopping on Michigan Ave., to fine dining, nightlife of every kind, theater and live music galore, it is hard to make the argument that Chicago is not a world class city. As I may have mentioned, I went home for Thanksgiving this year, and while I was there realized another reason why I truly love living in the city.

Christmas is marked clear as day on most calendars on Dec. 25. But even calendar makers recognize this holiday is too big for just one day, feeling the need to denote Dec. 24 as Christmas Eve. Now if we were to go by most traditional calendars, it would appear Christmas is celebrated on those two days, but as anyone with functioning eyes, or ears or a nose knows, Christmas beings invading all of our senses before Thanksgiving. From smelly store displays to radio stations that play Christmas music non-stop beginning the second week in November, it is impossible to escape this holiday. It is because of this that usually by the time December hits, I don’t feel like celebrating Christmas all that much.

However, there has been one thing that irks my Christmas spirit more than anything else in recent years. It inspires in me an intense hatred and horror to which I shudder to think about even now. And if anything, it is a trend that has only increased over the past few years. I am talking about the rise of the inflatable lawn ornament.

I ask you, when will the madness stop?

I refer to inflatable lawn ornaments as the lazy man’s Christmas decoration. It takes no effort or thought or design to go to Wal-Mart, purchase an eight-foot tall inflatable Santa Claus for $29.95, blow it up and place it strategically front and center in your yard. There is a word for this kind of Christmas decorating - tacky. I am sure the inflatable lawn ornament is marketed to the same people who buy hundreds of yards of Christmas lights and string them on anything that can withstand the force of gravity. However, these people have all gotten lazy and now are resorting to buying inflatable lawn ornaments by the army.

I remember a few years ago, while I was home for the holidays, passing an inflatable lawn ornament display which has yet to be topped in my eyes. There was a small, white house, not nestled far off the road on a street a short drive from my parents’ house. This house had a fenced-in front yard, which I guess was no larger than 10 feet by 12 feet. In that cramped space were four inflatable lawn ornaments - a Santa, reindeer, snowman and Christmas tree - all over 7 feet tall. As I passed it in disgusted horror, all I could think was, “How do they get in and out of their front door?”

I ask you, what happened to the good old days? Growing up, the start of Christmas was signaled when my mom would drag up our strand of lights from the basement. She would plug them in to check for loose bulbs, only to moments later call my dad to come check out why this or that darn strand was not working. Then without fail, the next day she or my dad, or sometimes both, would put on their hats and gloves, grab the ladder and brave the cold to hang lights outlining the roof of our one-story ranch house. They would come in cursing the cold most years, but later that night when we turned the lights on over the darkness of our street, our house would be baked in the soft glow of little white lights. That’s when I felt Christmas had officially begun. It saddens me to think there are children growing up today who in 20 years will associate the start of Christmas with the sound of mom or dad firing up the air compressor.

I think word is starting to spread, though, about the ridiculousness of these “decorations.” Smart, rational people realize their absurdity. And those who don’t really should take note because they don’t know what they may be missing out on. Case and point: A good friend of mine recently went to check out a daycare for her daughter. Much to her horror, as she drove up to the home which was to house her child during working hours she was assaulted with a barrage of inflatable (and other) lawn ornaments. She went in the home, because she is a polite person, but the interview did not last much longer than 10 minutes. This is why she is a good friend of mine.

As I said, I was in Michigan for Thanksgiving. My parents live in suburbia, also known as “The Land of the Inflatable Lawn Ornament.” Being there, it was hard to ignore the inflatables. Just driving in and out of my parents’ subdivision, I had to pass two inflatable turkeys, which I am almost certain were replaced by giant snowmen and reindeer on Nov. 24. And I was disturbed to note that the latest inflatable design to hit the market is a snow globe with a functioning carousel housed inside. There were at least a half dozen within a one-mile radius of my parents’ house.

But as I was driving around, I learned another reason why I love living in Chicago and not suburbia. In Chicago, most people live in apartments. You know what most apartments don’t have? Lawns. You know what you can’t buy if you don’t have a lawn? Inflatable lawn ornaments. Sigh…. So simple, yet so beautiful. As I have said before, I love Chicago.

And to any of you reading this that currently have inflatable lawn ornaments displayed in your front yard, I make no apologies. You should not own them. Do yourself a favor and deflate your “Christmas decorations” right now.

November 29, 2006

Twinkle Toes: The Final Chapter

There is a very simple answer to the question, why is Twinkle Toes not sitting in my lap at this very moment? It is a two word answer: Joan Cusack.

I went into work Tuesday and got the back story of the Twinke Toes saga. My co-worker, Stephanie, who told me about the cat in the first place, went to Twinkle's owner's home for Thanksgiving and that's where it all went down.

Stephanie walked in her friend's home last Thursday and my little kitty was there. Stephanie ignored it (out of fierce loyalty and kindness to me) and went on to enjoy her Thanksgiving, trying to forget the whole ugly situation. However, later she overheard a mutual friend of hers ask Twinkle's owner when she was taking him to his new home. Twink's owner excitedly responded that it would be soon. She then went on to say she was invited to come visit Twinkle whenever she wanted and even cat sit at Twink's new home on occasion. Now any reasonable person would ask why a grown woman would be so excited at the prospect of cat sitting. Well it's not the cat, so much as the cat's owner.

I was told by Stephanie last week that her friend decided to give Twinkle to her co-worker instead of me. The small detail not previously mentioned was that the co-worker happens to be Mr. Joan Cusack. That's right, Joan Cusack's husband... what's his name. I can only imagine that this woman now thinks this little cat is going to be her ticket to Hollywood.

I can't compete with that. I'm just a lone girl in a studio apartment in the city. I can't offer lavish homes in Chicago's finest suburbs. I can't offer celebrity sitings. I can't guarantee unlimited call me minutes from U.S. Cellular. Clearly, the odds were not in my favor in this situation.

And who knows, maybe Twinkle Toes will be happy in the Chicagoland suburbs, roaming his large, manicured lawn. Maybe he'll be swept up in the glitz and glamour of the Cusack clan. Maybe he'll drink Evian from a golden water dish. Who knows, maybe he'll even get to appear in a U.S. Cellular comercial as the playful kitten in the background. But then again, maybe he would have been happy living with me too. I guess we'll never know.

(*Short endnote - I've been out of town for about a week visiting my peeps in Michigan and gorging myself on Turkey. I'm back in the Chi now and plan to do some catching up on my blog, so as always.... keep reading!)

November 21, 2006

Twinkle Toes

Today I learned that the cat that was to be formerly named Twinkle Toes will no longer be mine. I had planned to pick him up from his owner's home when I got back from Michigan, however that will no longer be happening. It turns out his owner changed her mind last Friday and wants to now give the cat to her co-worker instead of me, even though I rightfully staked claim to him first.

I may still get a cat, but not any time soon. The holidays are here now, so I'm waiting. But I can't say I'm not a little disappointed I won't be getting this cat. Even thought I never met it, I was starting to like the idea of coming home to something at the end of the day, other than my plants.

Oh well, I guess the lesson here is something along the lines of don't count your chickens before they're hatched.... only with cats instead of chickens. Wait. I guess that doesn't really work, but you get the jist of it.

November 19, 2006

An Unwanted Lesson

There are some lessons I would rather not learn. I was forwarded a Web site link by my Aunt Janet regarding the signs, causes and treatments of an intracranial hematoma. This information only became relevant to my family as of about a week ago when my grandpa was admitted to the hospital after taking a fall. These are not words I want to associate with my grandpa. However when I last talked to my mom, she said his doctors believe this is something from which he can recover for the most part, so hopefully I will not have to for long.

Seeing my aunts and mother relaying information back and forth about the status of my grandpa’s health is unsettling, to say the least. It is an undeniable fact that as my grandpa approaches 80-years-old, his health is not rebounding like it did 20 or even 5 years ago. And as my mother and aunts, I am certain, are coming to terms with their father’s mortality, I can’t help but think of how someday my sister and I may relay this same type of information about our parents. It is a scary, scary thought. It is a thought I purposefully cannot allow myself to think about for even a nanosecond, because these are lessons I hope to not have to learn for a very long time.

November 12, 2006

I Can't Say No to a Face Like That

This is Twinkle Toes. A co-worker informed me Friday that dear Twinkle is in need of a new home.

I might do something about it. If I do, though, his name will change.

A Good Idea or Knot?

A co-worker introduced me to a new term the other day - knotting someone. When I asked what it meant, she went on to explain that it is a practice some people do now-a-days when they start dating. Being that I have been in four weddings, I am familiar with The Knot’s power over brides-to-be as the No. 1 source for all things wedding. Little, however, did I know that as a single woman I also should be turning to The Knot for advice.

It has become practice for some women - as proven by the fact it has created its own verb - to enter the name of a new guy they are dating to see if he is listed on The Knot. If he is, at least she gets the satisfaction of knowing she’ll never be registered for bath towels with this cheater. But if he is not, then chances are he is safe, right?

In this age of uncertainly and lightening quick Internet connections, maybe not. I think as a world we can all agree, that the invention of the Internet was more of a benefit to mankind than a deterrent of our progress as a civilization. But I don’t think single people everywhere could have predicted the ability it would have to shield us from heartache.

I don’t know a single person these days whom upon meeting someone new doesn’t Google them once learning the correct spelling of their first and last name. I’ve Googled every guy I’ve met probably since 2002. Usually the results are nothing terribly exciting. Things like quotes in articles, memberships in professional organizations or high school sports stats are most frequent. But it is the one time that I Google a guy to find a link to the FBI's Most Wanted list that I’ll pat myself on the back for being such a savvy, single gal… and then immediately erase his number from my cell phone.

Now my search usually stops at Googling, but if I wanted to take it further, I can think of at least a handful of other sites which might provide the most paranoid of girls a slight peace of mind. Dating can be rough. If the guy is married, engaged and/or a perpetual loser with a criminal history, these are things that might be helpful to know before accepting a second date.

For those who’ve been burned by a married man, there’s The Knot. Equally, the Yellow Pages can prove if he lives alone or, say, with a female with the same last name. For women who are repeatedly burned by players or your average douche bag, there’s Don’t Date Him. In a similar vein, try Women Savers for added peace of mind. For girls who want additional background info about likes, dislikes and numbers of female friends, there’s always Myspace and Friendster. Most everyone is on one of those sites these days. And for those who are incredibly paranoid, do not forget, it is mandatory for all sex offenders to register in their state. And yes, that info is online.

It is my hope that I would never have to resort to such extreme measures to get to know someone. I mean, whatever happened to just asking? Half the fun of meeting someone new is learning about their likes, dislikes and high school sports triumphs firsthand. It is no fun being able to recite the names of a guy’s closest friends before he has even told you about them. (This info is brought to you courtesy of Myspace’s “Top 8” feature.) But if it is impossible for a girl to get to that point without being certain her new interest is not currently engaged, she can always knot him.

November 10, 2006


There are some musicians who you hear on CD and think they sound good, then you see them in concert and learn otherwise.

Last night, I learned that John Legend is NOT one of those artists. He put on a show that had me, and everyone else at his sold out show, dancing and singing along to his majestic voice.

I also learned that when he comes back to town, I will go see him again because he's just that good.

November 7, 2006


There is a fabulous writer named Jen Lancaster, who's blog I read on a daily basis. She also wrote a fabulous book called "Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Ex-Sorority Girl, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office." I recommend it to anyone who likes a light, funny read or is facing an extended period of unemployment.

On her blog today, she posted that November is NaBloPoMo (AKA National Blog Posting Month). Since I am now a blogger, I plan to participate... even if it means updating my blog with random tidbits of info such as this.

November 6, 2006

MySpace is the Devil

Things I planned to accomplish tonight and the reasons why:

1.) Work out - I am on a health kick right now, and the second I let my motivation slip my kick may disappear for a very, very long time.
2.) Do my dishes - If I didn’t do my dishes bad things would happen. Like A) they would start to smell, and B) I would not have a clean knife to spread cream cheese on my bagel tomorrow morning.
3.) Cook dinner - I didn’t want to eat out for lunch tomorrow, and I also didn’t want to bring the same lunch I had today. To curb this from happening, I knew I had to make dinner tonight. (Side note - my lunch today consisted of a banana, Wasabi peas, hummus, carrots, pita bread, a soft pretzel with cheddar cheese, Colby jack cheese and yogurt. I did not eat this all in one sitting, but rather snacked on it throughout the day. I don’t eat full meals. I snack every two hours. I'm like an infant, really.)
4.) Watch “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” - I don’t know how I initially got hooked on this show, but I am. It’s on Monday nights at 9 p.m., so I had to watch it.
5.) Update my blog - I felt like such a slacker these past few weeks so, I’m trying to make up for lost time. Is it working?
6.) Be in bed by 10:30 p.m. - I keep waking up later and later every morning, mainly because my bedtime keeps getting later and later. I’m trying the whole 'early to bed, early to rise' concept.

I am proud to say I accomplished everything on my list tonight, with the exception of my bedtime. It’s going on 11:30 right now and I think it will be close to midnight by the time I actually fall asleep. Now why you ask? The answer is simple. It's hard to quit MySpace.

I signed on to my MySpace account to quickly post a few comments and 45 minutes later I found myself emailing people I haven’t talked to in years. And you know why, because once you start, it’s hard to stop. Those of you who have MySpace accounts understand how entire blocks of a day can suddenly be eaten up searching for the kid who used to sit next to you in fourth grade. Because honestly, what better time to find out if he or she's gotten fat or had five kids than 11 p.m. on a Monday night?

And if you don't understand this at all, be very, very glad. MySpace is like smoking. If you never start you won't get addicted. Granted MySpace won't kill you, but I can guarantee you will be a whole lot better off for having tried it. Case and point... I'll be lucky if I don't hit my snooze five times tomorrow morning.

Damn you, MySpace. I curse you! (Just please don't leave me.)

November 5, 2006

Pissing the Night Away

I live on a very cute, quaint and for the most part quiet street. It has a bit of an old world charm, with most of the buildings having been built decades ago and lit by the soft glow of street lamps. I like my street. It’s tree-lined and generally at the end of the day it’s a pretty nice street to stroll down on my way home.

Being that a lot of the buildings are older, they are classic courtyard buildings. That usually means the building is no taller than four stories and there is a courtyard leading to the main entrance. For instance, my building has a few shrubs lining the walkway, which lead to a few steps and a small patch of grass with pine trees in the middle of five different building entrances. Some courtyards are nicer than others. I can’t help but look with envy as I walk by some of the nicer units that have better landscaping, better lighting and gated entrances. For the most part though, I’m content with paying about $200 less a month to not have these and other amenities that come standard with the nicer buildings on my street.

That is until Friday.

It was about 6:30 p.m. when I got off the bus. It had been a long week, and I was looking forward to my weekend. On my mind at that moment was what I was going to eat for dinner and making sure I had something clean to wear to my midnight yoga class. As I approached my building, my head was down to fight the wind, so I barely noticed this large, 20-something guy practically blocking the walkway to my building.

“It’s cold out tonight,” he said, while rubbing his arms that were covered only by a long sleeve t-shirt. As I walked past him, I quietly said, “Yeah, it is.” What I was thinking as I shook my head was, “Yes, it is cold, which is exactly why I’m going to stand here and make small talk.”

I set foot on my steps and as I ascended them, still head down, I heard someone say, “Busted” ever so matter-of-factly. When I reached the top step I finally raised my head to see not one, not two, but three, count them THREE, guys PEEING IN THE COURTYARD OF MY BUILDING!!!!!!!!! (I am making gagging sounds as I type this.)

I was flabbergasted and a stream of profanities immediately began flowing through my head - much like their pee was flowing onto my building at that moment. This is not what I want to come home to on a Friday, or any day for that matter.

I put two and two together and realized the cold dude at the entryway of my building was their lookout… and a bad one at that. Because if he had been good at his job, I would not have seen three streams of pee while walking up to my building.

I continued walking past the pee-ers (whom I can only assume were trying to finish up at that point) screaming, “What that hell!” It was the only thing that came out. I wish I would have said much more. And as I walked I saw these three children who appeared to be all of 20 start to scatter away from my building. I turned my key in the door muttering “You’ve got to be kidding me”, stepped inside and tried to regain my composure. My week has officially ended on one of the worst notes in recent memory.

So what do I take away from this? I take away the lesson that it might be worth the extra money for a building with a gated entrance. I can almost guarantee the pee-ers picked my lovely courtyard because it didn’t require getting buzzed in to participate in public urination.

Now, granted I don’t pay as much rent as the people who live in the gated courtyard buildings do, but I feel I still pay enough that I should not have to step over streams of pee as I walk up to my building. Is this really too much to ask? I am just praying to God this was an isolated incident because if it happens again I’m subletting my place and moving to a building with a gated entrance.

November 2, 2006

A Mixed Bag of Sorts

I am surprised at my own laziness as of late. I never thought I'd go two weeks between posts, but alas I have. I hope I haven't lost you. Have I? Are you still there? Please, oh please, come back.

I have only this excuse for my lack of writing. I have been out living my life these past few weeks and have neglected to fill you in. So here is my attempt to make up for lost time. A potpourri of life lessons if you will. In no particular order:

Dennis Haskins Will Do Anything for a Buck
For those of you who are not children of the 80s, let me inform you that Dennis Haskins was Mr. Belding, the principal of "Saved By the Bell" for four glorious seasons on Saturday morning TV. And the reason why I know he'll do anything for a buck is I saw him in a bar on Friday night. He was there as a promotion. For what, I still am not sure. Let's just say Dennis was the most senior person in the bar by about 40 years. He was surrounded by children of generation X who were dressed as slutty school girls, slutty nurses and super sperm (no joke). And as he stood in the DJ booth tossing out DVDs, T-shirts, snowboards and beer drums, I couldn't help but think we must have been keeping him out way past his bedtime. Clearly, he was there only for the paycheck he received at the end of the night.

Windex Kills… Big, Scary Bugs
When I entered my shower a few weeks ago to find a big, scary bug with far too many legs, I did what any savvy, single city girl would do. I screamed and ran out my bathroom. Knowing I was not going to be able to sleep if it were still alive, I tried to think of the best way to end its life. I wasn’t concerned with causing it as little pain as possible. I was concerned with not having to come within arm’s reach of it. I scoured my kitchen, grabbed my Windex and confronted the bug. I used half the bottle to drown my disgusting, unwelcome guest, but it was small price to pay. So I say forget Raid, all you need is Windex.

Richard Crowe Loves Ghosts, but Hates Everything Else
A few weeks ago, I and a few co-workers went on a Chicago ghost tour. Richard Crowe was our tourguide, and by his own account has given these types of tours since the ‘70s. Granted I never saw him in the '70s, but I would wager a hefty sum that his tour wasn't quite so political back then. As we drove through various Chicago neighborhoods, Crowe showed us where gangsters were shot, cemeteries used to exist and ghosts are said to roam Southside streets. And in the midst of these explanations, Crowe also told us how Chicago's politicians are corrupt and we should all start beating one another as an alternative to capital punishment, all the while pointing out neighborhoods like "Jew Town." I don't think I'll be going back for another tour of Mr. Crowe's. I like my ghost stories void of political agenda.

I Love a Parade
I actually hate parades, but I went and watched one on Halloween. I live very near the gay Mecca of Chicago, known affectionately at Boystown. Every year since 1996, that neighborhood has held a parade, and it is magnificent. With no exaggeration whatsoever, in this parade you can see a kid dressed as Sponge Bob Square pants, followed by a Drag Queen dressed as the Tropicana Banana woman, followed by a dog dressed as a bumble bee followed two gay guys walking hand-in-hand dressed as “Kermit the Fag” and “Fuzzy the Bear.” It’s got something for everyone, which is why I love a parade… but only in Boystown.

It is Possible to Love Someone You've Never Met
My friend, Lexi, and her husband, Rob, had a beautiful baby girl on Oct. 24. I have only seen pictures of Laynie online, but I can say without a doubt, I love this beautiful little girl already.

October 16, 2006

Watch Out Jessica Alba

Today I learned that my face is an oval/oblong shape. I always thought it was round. Looking at pictures of me sometimes, all I can see is my big round face staring back at me. However, little did I know it was more of an oblong face staring back at me all these years.

There is a reason this information became important to me today. I’m thinking of cutting my hair and decided to do some Internet surfing for a style that might suit me. It was not until I ran across and article titled “Is Your Hair Making You Look Fat?” that I decided to do a little digging. According to the article, if your hair style is uncomplimentary to the shape of your face, it can give the appearance of added weight. And here I thought horizontal stripes were my enemy.

I found this Web site that tells you how to measure your face to determine its shape. I got out my measuring tape expecting to find that my face was round - that is having roughly the same length as width. I was a little surprised to find my face was about 7 inches long by 4 3/4 inches wide. AKA, not round.

Consulting the page, I found that an oval face is roughly 1.5 times as long as it is wide. I did the math and figured I’m actually more of an oval shape. Of course the description of an oblong face is that it is longer than it is wide, so I guess I’m both. I have an oblongy-oval face.

Reading on I found this about my face shape:

“This is the most versatile face. You can pull off almost any look -- short, long, straight or wavy. No matter the length of your cut, you'll look best with layers near your cheekbones, lips or chin -- basically whatever feature you want to highlight. Celebs who share your face shape: Think Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Jada Pinkett Smith.”

This was good news. I have a face shape that should work with almost any haircut. The bad news, however, was that I spent about 30 minutes determining it didn’t matter what kind of haircut I got, but being no closer to deciding what to do with my hair.

October 15, 2006

Bringing Sexy Back

I did something this weekend I’ve never done before. I caressed my own butt in a public setting. But before you go thinking I’m turning into some sort of pervert, let me explain. I wasn’t doing it alone. In fact, I was with a group of about 20 other women. And we were being instructed to as a way to better get into our routine for cardio striptease. That’s right, Teri Hatcher is a fan of cardio striptease, and now, so am I.

I had heard of cardio strip tease long before I attended my first class on Saturday. I’m pretty sure it was all the rage in New York and LA about a year ago. Well it has trickled to the Midwest and now gyms and dance studios across Chicago teach cardio striptease.

The idea of going was brought up a few weeks ago on one of my girls’ nights out, and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I figured even if the class was not that aerobic, I’d get a good laugh at my friends and me strutting our stuff like the pros. Well this past week, one of my co-workers mentioned she signed up for the class and convinced another co-worker and me to join her Saturday. Although, I admit it was not very hard to convince me to go.

I have found most women’s general reaction to strip teasing classes is first mild shock followed immediately by curiosity. This type of class plays on a woman’s desire to be seen in a different light - one we all want to be seen in from time to time. As women, we want it all. We want to be masters in the boardroom as well as the bedroom. It is the struggle we all have with the Madonna/whore complex. As much as men want us to be able to fulfill both rolls, we want to be able to do it. Ludacris said it best in one of the most popular hits of 2004: “I want a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed!”

While in the boardroom, women can exert power to equalize ourselves with our male counterparts, the bedroom holds an entirely different appeal. The bedroom is a place where we can hold all the power. By the bevy of advertisements that feature half- to more-than-half naked women for seemingly no reason, it is overly apparent that when it comes to sexuality, women have the upper hand - one that it seems men are content to let us hold for quite some time. So while in the boardroom, we can be equals by way of hard work and determination, in the bedroom we’re in control with seemingly no effort whatsoever. Hence, the appeal of cardio striptease - it allows for women of any walk of life to indulge in their whore side while doing the respectable Madonna-like thing of taking a class.

And let me tell you, women do go.

When I stepped into the class with my coworker, we firmly planted ourselves in the back row amidst the room of twenty or so women. Our instructor arrived shortly thereafter - a blond twenty-something with heavy eyeliner and a saucy saunter. If anyone was going to teach a room of women clad in tennis shoes and t-shirts how to move like strippers, it was her.

She put on the music and our ears were flooded with thumping beats I’m more accustomed to hearing later in the day than noon on a Saturday. We began with some warm-up moves, which had this not been cardio striptease I am certain would have had a little less hip gyration. Once we warmed up though, the moves turned into a series of arm exercises, sit-ups and butt crunches. It now has me understanding why it is strippers are in such good shape. It lasted longer than I thought it would, and I had to pause a few times to rest my aching muscles. And today our warm-up has me looking more like 80-year-old lady than a stripper. I’ve said “O wow o wow ow” every time I’ve stood up and then proceeded to shuffle across the room like I needed a walker.

When we ended strength training, we began the dancing part of the class. The instructor slowly walked us through an 8-count routine. It wasn’t a terribly hard routine and didn’t really feel all that stripper-ish. It’s a routine that could have been a part of any hip-hop class, it’s just that we were instructed to bite our fingers playfully, toss our hair and rub our butts periodically. My co-worker and I giggled a lot at first.

Once we gone through our routine a few times without music, our instructor cranked up some bass-filled tunes again. She played about five songs, each a little faster than the last. As each song played, I got the hang of our routine a little better. I love dancing, but I’m used to more of a free-form manner. Having to keep time and remember steps is a little more challenging for me. By the last song though, I resolved myself to stop watching the instructor and just to do the steps. It worked and by the last time around, I felt like I finally got it - ass rubbing and all.

There certainly was something freeing about getting so in tune with my feminine wiles - even if it was only for about 30 minutes. When the class ended, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was drenched in sweat and laughing. (Note - this is far different than I feel after most other workouts.) I can honestly say it was one of the best workouts I’ve had in a while. I also honestly can say, I will go back.

Lesson learned: You can bring “Sexy Back” at noon on a Saturday.

October 8, 2006

F*cking Cabbies

My general mode of transportation is the public route. Most often you’ll find me waiting at a bus stop, riding the L or walking before you’ll catch me hailing a cab. I have friends who are cab people. They more often than not will forsake a two block walk for a two second cab ride. I am certainly not one of them. I do, however, have a rule that I stay off public transportation after 10 p.m. I stick to this rule especially on weekends where I may find myself heading home past midnight. It’s these times where I take cabs because it is so much safer than public transit. Usually, that is.

I found myself on Saturday night heading home at 1 a.m. after movies at the Brew and View followed by drinks. It was late when I parted ways with my friends, so I hopped in the first cab I saw and told the man where to go.

Usually, I sit back in the cab and enjoy the ride home in silence. I figure that cabbies have hauled around a ton of people already and who am I to think they care about the mundane details of my day. But occasionally I get chatty cabbies, and I will participate in the banter. Sometimes it leads to humorous conversations - my favorite being a marriage proposal by one cabbie. I was wearing a cowgirl outfit at the time and, yes, it was Halloween. And yes, I think my outfit may have had something to do with the proposal.

I sank into the back of the cab, and my cabbie asked how my night was. I replied good, but that I was glad to be heading home. It didn’t appear he was going to make an effort to continue the conversation, so I zoned out.

A few seconds later though, I noticed he was still talking and in somewhat of a hostile voice. I tuned back in to try and clue myself into what part of the conversation I missed. Unfortunately, his accent was a bit thick and the only word I could clearly make out was “f*cking,” which he used repeatedly. I also then noticed this cab was racing down the street, and the faster the cab went the faster he talked and the more times he said “f*cking.”

I’m not going to lie. I was a little scared.

I was able to piece together amidst his profanities that he had been recently pulled over by the cops and, I assume, harassed for a bit. I sat forward trying to act as if I were at rapt attention and sympathetic to his situation. In reality, I kept my eyes toward the road, keeping watch for unsuspecting pedestrians in his path.

“The f*cking cops had me get out of my car…. and they f*ucking… for a while… f*cking cops… do I look like I f*cking… gave me a f*cking ticket… so that’s why now I gotta to make a full stop because otherwise those f*cking cops are gonna pull me over again… you know I can’t just f*cking stop like this… I got to f*cking make a full stop.”

It was that last part I remember because in order to show me how he was no longer allowed to stop, he slammed on his brakes, and I flew into the glass partition.

He was speeding down Broadway, at am I guessing at least 10 miles above the speed limit, when I praised God that we were finally approaching my street. Afraid in his blinding rage he would miss my street, I raised my voice in the middle of his rant that my street was next, on the left.

“Oh, I know sweetie. I’ve been driving f*cking cabs for 15 years now. I know where your street is.”

We finally got in front of my building. I told him to stop there and my ride of terror came to a screeching halt. I leafed through my wallet searching for another dollar. I was a little short. I had enough for the ride, but not a tip. Normally, I would just ask the cabbie to run my card (because most cabs take debit/credit cards now), but I wanted to get out of there. I apologized and told him I thought I had another dollar and began rounding up my change.

“Don’t worry about it sweetie. It’s ok. Don’t worry. You just have a good night.”

I said thanks give him my $5 bill and some change, wished him the best of luck and scrambled out of the car.

Standing on the relative quiet of my street as my manic cabbie sped away, I questioned my late night public transit theory. Would it really have been any less safe to board a bus? Probably not. Road rage is terrifying, even moreso when you’re subjected to it at the mercy of a deranged cabbie.

The lesson learned here: Never drive angry - especially when you have paying customers in your cab.

Quittin' Time

Today I learned that Judge Stephen E. Walter served as Chief Justice in Lake County, Illinois in 1994 and 1996. It is my guess that these two years served one of two functions that lead to Judge Walter’s retirement announcement on Oct. 4. Either he felt no need to continue his career much longer after having reached such a prestigious position or his two years as cheif served to be so stressful it catapulted him into retirement.

You may wonder why all this matters to me. Well you see, it’s of great importance to me. Judge Walter is the judge who was to preside over a case I am on. The trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 23. Judge Walter's last day is Nov. 1.

Being on trial is hectic and frantic and full of deadlines which must be met. Being on trial is why I put in 12 hours of work last weekend and was never home before sunset all last week. Judge Walter had scheduled our trial to last six weeks, but not continuously - more of an intermittent schedule. That meant Judge Walter had destined my co-workers and me to a fall in Waukegan, Illinois. (It’s not lovely there this or most any time of the year.)

But seeing as how you can't cram a six-week schedule into one week, chances are good that trial is not anywhere in the immediate future for me. It also means I can have my nights and weekends back and won't be spending the coming months in Waukegan.

Because of this I wish Judge Walter the happiest of retirements. He has no plans, which I found out thanks to this Web site, but I imagine he will use it to pursue some of his hobbies - ”playing golf, reading, and listening to all types of music.”

October 3, 2006

Big, Fat, Stinking Liar

I apologize. I lied. I promised I’d write soon and when I did it would be about my fabulous four-day, four-night trip to New York City. Neither of those things is true.

I last wrote 6 days ago, longer than I had anticipated it would be. And when I did finally write, I planned to elaborate upon my trip to New York City with humorous stories thinly disguised as lessons. Well, have I elaborated on my trip yet? No. And there is a reason for that.

It is now 10:52 p.m. and I need to go to bed soon. I still have a sink full of dishes and a pile of laundry that in two days time may take me five loads to complete. I had all kinds of plans for this past weekend to get me caught up on those things that had fallen to the wayside immediately before, during and after my trip. That list of course included writing about my trip. But the truth is they are not done. They were not done this weekend, and I seriously think unless things start growing in my sink or my laundry piles begin to block the entryway to my bathroom, things are pretty much going to remain status quo until the weekend. I have a one word answer as to the root of all this. Usually it would be procrastination, but today it’s not. Today’s word is work.

Work is busy. Busy to where if I leave the office midday for a lunch break I feel lucky. Busy to where I worked almost 40 hours last week despite having Monday and Tuesday off. Busy to where I’m happy if I’m home before 7:30 p.m. during the week. Busy to where I can’t even contemplate doing something creative at home when life’s small, daily tasks scream for my attention first.

This is my own doing. About a month ago work was slow, my cases all incredibly inactive. If anything, I was hounding for work. I asked for more work, and now a month later everything I asked for is begging for 6 hours of my daily attention. That’s why I put in 11 hours at work today and have been told to bring my comfy shoes tomorrow. My coworker and I will apparently be at the office late enough to where the firm dress code will no longer apply.

Perhaps some day when my cases aren’t heading to trial and when attorneys don’t assign me five projects before I’ve finished the first, I’ll sit down and write about my trip to New York. I’ll tell you how I ate ridiculously well, saw Ground Zero, went to my first meet and greet with a band, took in some of the most beautiful fall days in Central Park and laughed until I cried when Dave Attell called my friend, Yvonne, big nipples wet gas. (I still laugh about that just typing it.) But that can’t be tonight because it’s 11:03 p.m. right now and by the sounds of it, I may just be getting home at this time tomorrow.

Instead I will leave you with the lesson I take away from all this: Be careful what you ask for.

September 27, 2006

The Big Apple

I have to formally apologize for my lack of posts as of late. But I have a very good excuse. I took a last minute, spur-of-the-moment trip to New York City this past weekend.

Between getting work stuff in order to go before I left and then being there, I have had no time to post. But to make up for it, I plan to write about all the lessons I learned while visiting NYC. And they are a plenty. So please oh please keep reading. I promise I'll post a real post very soon.

September 19, 2006

Time is Money

Today’s lesson is one of time and economics.

It takes 13 minutes to get from my office to home (after rush hour) by cab. I know this because for the first time since I started work at my firm, I took advantage of the free-cab-ride-home-after-7 p.m. service.

On the contrary, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for me to get home by bus. I know this because I have taken the bus every other day to and from work.

The cab ride home from work costs about $11 + tip. The bus ride costs about $1 per ride thanks to my unlimited monthly CTA pass.

I will continue taking the bus daily.

September 14, 2006

Just Say No

My new job has a lot of perks. It’s been a strange but nice thing to get used to. I had never worked somewhere prior to this firm where I felt like there were perks aside from receiving my paycheck on time, which some of my previous jobs didn’t even have that perk. But my firm is quite different. It promotes a very pleasant working environment and makes a very conscious effort to let the employees know their work is appreciated. When they took us to the White Sox/Cubs game on June 30 and followed it up with a four-day Independence Day weekend, I considered myself one of the luckiest girls in the world.

It’s not always the big gestures though. A lot of the time it’s the small ones. And I have found one of the smallest ways the firm shows its appreciation on a continual basis is with food. My motto with food has always been “I never turn down free food (and sometimes go back for seconds).” However, I may have to amend this given my firms’ affinity for edible treats.

Take yesterday, for instance - a perfect example. I didn’t pack a lunch for work that day because I knew we were having our paralegal luncheon. All us paralegals get together once a month to talk about our cases and any issues we are having, and of course there’s food - loads of it. The menu that day consisted of salad, pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ chicken, ribs, baked beans, potato salad, cornbread and, for dessert, bread pudding and brownies with the requisite toppings. (There were only two things on that list which were not on my plate.)

But before I even made it to lunch, there were cupcakes on the 51st floor in celebration of an attorneys’ birthday. I had a vanilla one. Immediately following our luncheon, I headed with a coworker to the Sears Tower to a card store. I was feeling very full and decided I was most definitely going to come crashing down at my usual 3 p.m. time from a food coma. To curb this, I got a grande coffee with half and half from Starbucks.

After lunch, I was walking back to my desk after scanning a deposition and some exhibits when I spotted a basket on a secretary’s desks. I sensed it had food and sure enough it was a basket of sweets with a note that said “From the Building.” I snatched up two tangerine gummy bears. Yummy, but not at all necessary. To add to this, I had been popping strawberry flavored vitamin C lozenges all day to try and ward off an impending cold.

I felt like a slug by the time I got home.

Yesterday would not have been all too bad if it weren’t a regular occurrence. I would say at least one day a week there are random treats sitting in the café from this or that meeting. Or sometimes the firm in appreciation will have breakfast catered in. I also belong to the firm’s breakfast club, which means every Friday someone takes a turn brining in a delicious assortment of pastries. Plus, whenever you work past 7 p.m., the firm provides a free cab ride home and a free dinner.

While this is all terrible on my waistline, it’s excellent on my check book. I get at minimum four free meals a month. Factor in a few late nights and random snacks in the café and I’m saving at least $15 a month on food. That’s about $200 by the end of the year.

I see where this all is going though. With the holidays just around the corner (I HATE typing that), I imagine enough food sitting around the firm that I could wander the halls grazing all day. If I continue with my current my motto of “I never turn down free food” I might not be able to continue my job after the first of the year because I won’t be able to fit in the elevator to get up to my floor. And lord knows by then I won’t be in any kind of shape to walk up 50 flights of stairs. As a result, my lesson today has been to modify my motto from “I never turn down free food” to “Just Say No”… sometimes. I can’t quit cold turkey. Yum… turkey.

A Shitty Job

After a yummy sushi meal with the girls downtown the other night, my friend Carly presented us with a most unusual fact. I don’t remember how this fact was brought up, because I have to believe it is not something that would be shouted without provocation, Carly told us that mascara is made from bat poop. Being somewhat of a skeptic, I decided to look into this.

Typing in the search words “bat poop mascara” in Google, I got quite a few hits. I clicked on a lot of the links but found a lot were discussion boards or links that no longer worked. I did find a few that mentioned “guano” (AKA bat poop) which has been rumored to be in mascara. The idea is that mascara was made of coal and petroleum jelly at some point. When mining the coal from caves, sometimes workers would collect bad droppings from caves to be used in mascara. I couldn’t find much of anything definitive. I tried typing “guano and mascara” in Google and didn’t get that much more variety of to my responses. I found this Web site which I considered my best authority and it mentions nothing of bat poop.

I’m kind of glad this was the conclusion of my research. If I discovered this was most certainly true, I’d probably been a little hesitant while applying my mascara the following day. On the other hand, had I found Web site after Web site saying bat poop was a main ingredient of mascara, my next line of research would have included if it were possible to work at say L’Oreal Paris and have the title of bat poop collector.

September 12, 2006

Tony, We Have a Problem

I woke up pretty gradually on Sunday. It was a rainy gloomy day and I did not have to be anywhere or do anything. My only goal was to head to the gym sometime before it closed. Knowing I had plenty of time to get this done, I didn’t roll out of bed until about 11 a.m. It was glorious.

I love weekends where I have nothing planned. I do not claim to be either an early bird or a night owl, but if I had to choose one, I’ve got a little more owl in me. I base this on the fact that if I had the chance, I would wake up gradually every morning, sip my coffee, make a hearty breakfast and slowly get ready to face the day. Since my mornings are more a whirlwind of hairdryers, bagels and cream cheese and coffee to go, I relish when I can partake of the occasional lazy Sunday.

When I rolled out of bed, I went into my kitchen and starting making breakfast. I had coffee brewing, a bagel toasting and while I waited decided to tend to some of the dishes collecting in my sink. I was in the midst of rinsing dishes when the lights in my kitchen went out. I peeked around the corner and noticed the light in my living room was out too. Upon opening my refrigerator door, I noticed that light was not on. Not a good sign. But the lights I turned on by my desk were working fine. I deduced I must have blown a fuse. However, I had no idea were any sort of fuse box might be located in the building. I called my super Tony and left a voicemail asking for his assistance.

When I reached him (7 hours later) he explained the fuse boxes were located in the main building by the laundry room. (Lesson number one.) He then asked what I had on when the fuse blew. I took a quick mental inventory - toaster, coffeemaker and overhead light. That’s when Tony explained to me the combo of toaster/coffeemaker, toaster/microwave, and microwave/coffeemaker would most likely always blow my fuse. (Lesson number two.) This is what I get for living in a vintage building. The deep red brick enclosing my building is really pretty but apparently the wiring behind it is crap. Thank goodness I do not own a microwave right now. I was thinking of getting one, but I guess I will most likely never be able to use it, unless I want to turn blowing my fuse into a hobby.

I had to do laundry anyway, so on my way down to put in a few loads I took a gander at the meters. Let it be said that the laundry room in my building is very scary. Going with the vintage theme, it is tucked away on the lower level of the main building. It actually took me a couple of weeks to figure out where it is. I ventured into the main building one day, thinking it must be in there. As looked around and saw nothing but a dark, winding corridor I did not care to venture down. Unfortunately, I was headed in the right direction as Tony later explained to me. The hallway that leads there is something straight out of a 50s horror flick. It’s musty, windy and enclosed by exposed brick on all sides. Whenever I round the corner, I picture some glamorous woman in a 50s garb running down it, scraping against the brick as she runs, clasping her head and screaming while trying to flee from a man in black wielding a sharp, large knife. There are paintings and pictures on the walls which I assume were hung in an effort to brighten the space, but in reality they make it that much creepier. Copies of Time magazine circa ’48 with photos of dead celebrities hardly qualify as art and they do little to calm my nerves. The hallway also has an eerie feeling given by the exposed fuse boxes. That unfortunately was my mission.

Tony informed me mine fuse box would be located in this hallway and clearly marked. Some of the fuse boxes were clearly marked. None of those were for my part of the building though. Those boxes were for the main building. What were nestled between them and in dark corners were metal boxes that looked to have been installed circa the dawn of time with no wiring improvements made to them since then. Spilling forth from the boxes were tangled messes of wire, some marked, some not. Those that were marked gave little comfort. Adding to the eerie feeling, they were marked with hang tags that can only be described as akin to ones that hang from cadavers big toes. I began sifting through the tags one by one and still saw none labeled with my buildings address. Then I took a step back and realized even if I had found them, I was not sticking my hand in the middle of a mess of live wires to flick the fuse to what I hoped would be my apartment.

I went back outside and called Tony to explain my situation. He told me he couldn’t tell me where my fuse box was. He then asked if I wouldn’t mind waiting until he swung by the building tomorrow. Tony I can only assume does not work past 8 p.m. on Sundays. (Lesson number three.) He asked if I had extension cords I could plug my fridge into in the meantime. I do but all three are being used in my four outlets so I can have more than two things plugged into my apartment at any given time. Seeing that Tony was not going to make the trek on my account (and me not feeling like pushing him to do so.) I decided to do just that. I went upstairs and found I was able by using three extension cords to plug my fridge into one of my three working outlets. (Lesson number four.)

Deciding I had enough excitement for one day, I decided to hit the hay. And as I settled into bed the main thought running through my head was how contradictory my Monday morning would be to Sunday morning. Without the use of my toaster, coffeemaker my morning was certain to be the unpleasant frenzy I try to avoid. Thanks, Tony.


It takes 13 minutes to walk down 50 flights of stairs. I did not learn this lesson firsthand. Rather, it was presented as secondhand information by some of my coworkers. As part of the downtown evacuation last week, some of my coworkers decided to take the stairs to see in the event of real emergency how long it would take to descend 50 flights of stairs. I, knowing if it came down to it and I had to take the stairs I would haul ass and do it, chose in this simulated drill to take the elevators. The elevator ride took about 15 seconds.

September 7, 2006

An Oldie But a Goodie

I was on a stationary bike at the gym the other day catching up on my world news. The closest TV to me happened to be showing some sort of news talk show on CNN. I’m not one for the news programming on CNN, but I always enjoy watching the ticker, mainly because as Jon Stewart had pointed out before, it does not discriminate. You never know what is going to scroll across the bottom of the screen. John’s favorite example is its mention one day of the Iraq conflict immediately followed by the fact that Beyonce no longer wanted to use the word bootylicious.

That day at the gym I learned it’s never too late for a comeback. Apparently, someone in Germany had found some undiscovered music by Bach. This new tune showed up in a crate filled with 18th century birthday cards which luckily had been removed from a German libaray shortly before it burned to the ground. I am sure this music will be played by someone, somewhere, but it remains to be seen if it is good.

If it is, I am waiting for the day the CNN ticker will say Beyonce and Jay Z’s remix of it has reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100.


I am at an age where I can claim to have two homes. Not two homes like wealthy people of my parents’ generation can claim, but rather two places I refer to as my home.

There is the one in Chicago, where I pay a ton in rent to stay, and there is the one in Michigan where my parents live - the home of my childhood, the only one from my childhood. We never moved growing up, so it is natural to still refer to my parents’ place as home. Granted, there have been significant improvements (e.g. new carpeting, new kitchen, new furniture) since my sister and I moved out, but it is still home none-the-less.

I spent Labor Day weekend in Michigan getting reacquainted with my home away from home and those whom still live near it. And it was positively wonderful. I soaked in the atmosphere of home late Friday night (thanks to delays from Megabus) by sleeping in my old bedroom. I sat in my parents’ kitchen for hours on Saturday reminiscing with friends and getting updated about family happenings thanks to a small gathering my mother threw. On Sunday morning I spent my time in the company of my best friends’ family, whose house growing up I considered my second home. (It is the only place I can claim to have had an entire table dedicated to pictures of me.) On Sunday afternoon I ventured away from home to visit friends I haven’t seen in quite some time, whom fittingly are settling into their first homes and beginning families of their own.

Home is a strange concept at my age. Yes, I have an apartment where I spend the majority of my nonworking hours, but it does not have the same feeling as my parents’ house. When I did return to Chicago late Monday night, walking through my front door seemed a little empty. It doesn’t even compare to the feeling I get when walking into my parents’ house. There is familiarity and comfort there which I know will never be recreated if my parents finally move to that house on the lake they’ve talked about for years.

I remember being in Spain - farther from home than I had ever been. It was about a week into my trip. My Spanish skills were barely helping me squeak by, and I definitely felt like a stranger in a strange (but beautiful) land. One night I met up with a rag tag group of international students that had assembled by way of the loose acquaintances we had formed since our arrival. Our group of Americans, Swedes, Germans, Scots and Hollanders pulled together some tables outside a bar on a little cobblestone street. We sat under the glow of streetlights and shared the tales of our lives. I distinctly remember that night feeling like Spain actually could become my home for the next few months.

It certainly did. And this is not to say after two years in Chicago I still am searching for home in that sense. The friendships I have formed leave my days and nights full. But it is a different kind of full then I feel upon going to my parents’ home. It has nothing to do with the physical structure which encapsulates me but instead the memories of the time I have spent there. You can live anywhere, but it is the time you spend at any place that truly makes it a home.

My new apartment does not hold that same potential. It is hard to create loads of the kinds of memories I cherish when living alone. I am not sad that I live alone, though. It is something some day I will not have a choice to do, so I relish it now.
I also know someday both my present homes I will no longer call home. I certainly will not stay in my current apartment forever. My parents certainly will move at some point. Thinking ahead to that day is slightly sad, but where there is the future there is possibility. And I realize, it is quite possible that by the time my childhood home is no longer in the family I will be in the process of creating a home of my own, one which will become to my children what my parents’ home is to me.

So I take away from all this the lesson that I should treasure my time at home. Making the trip home is good for me. It is something I need to do, maybe a little more than three times a year, if for no other reason than someday I won’t have that option any more.

August 29, 2006

This is Only a Test

On my lunch hour today I learned what I will be doing on the afternoon of Sept. 7.

As I signed onto my MSN email account, I saw in Chicago's headlines that Mayor Daley has planned downtown evacuation drills. I clicked on the link immediately imagining what a waste of time this will be for the poor saps who are going to be forced to participate.

Well according to the article, I will be one of those poor saps. Of the five buildings listed, mine (111 S. Wacker) is one. The article states the "date has been set for Sept. 7. The practice is expected to take a few hours and will likely kick off in the afternoon."

The article also states, the reason for doing this is due to events that happened, at earliest, one year ago.

"(With) memories of chaos following Hurricane Katrina last year and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Daley administration is planning emergency drills in the downtown area."

Um, ok. The timing, and purpose, seem a bit off.

Yes, I do work a stone's throw away from the Sears tower, so there is always a lingering thought in the back of my mind that it has the potential to be a 9/11-type target. But that was five years ago which I hardly feel now necessitates a disruption of a work day. Did someone drop the ball on this? It seems like something that should have been planned, oh, I'd say four years ago at the latest. And as for Katrina, the last time I checked, no hurricanes have blown through the Chicagoland area - ever. Although my co-worker Katie did inform me of the possiblity of Tsunami-like conditions .

This leads me to question what the actual purpose of this drill will be. But with the Daley administration, these things are hard to tell. At least I now know to plan accordingly for the afternoon of Sept. 7. Cross your fingers for me it's at least a nice day.

August 28, 2006

Head of the Class

I have been spoiled. Going to an amusement park will never be the same.

This past Sunday, my friends Brian and Alison invited me to Six Flags Great America. They received some free passes courtesy of their neighbors and offered one to me. Being a slight rollercoaster enthusiast, I jumped at the chance to go. I literally could not remember the last time I had ridden a rollercoaster, so I figured I was overdue for a coaster ride or two.

Without the free passes our admission to the park would have been upwards of $50 a piece, so we were feeling pretty good as we strolled through the entrance gate with our comp tickets in hand.

We were all first timers, so we meandered aimlessly through the park, our eyes searching the skies for the tallest and fastest coasters. The first we happened upon was the Superman ride. It was tall, it was fast, and it fit the bill. We walked in line and were greeted by a most unwelcoming sign. “The wait is 60 minutes from this point.” Ugh. I don’t like waiting in lines anymore. I have war stories of going to Cedar Point as a teenager and waiting in line, in the rain for three hours just to get on the front of the newest ride. That was then. I would like to think that I’ve matured past such silliness. That or I’m getting old and hate the idea of standing for that long. Either way, I wasn’t happy about the wait.

We got in line and saw a different entrance off to the right for the Fast Pass users. That is when Brian informed me of passes you can buy that will get you to the front of lines. It seemed a little wrong. In a sense, it is paying to cut in line. However, the officials of the park who would normally reprimand patrons for such activities now have deemed it ok - for a small fee, of course. We stood in line for all of one minute before deciding to go check out these passes.

And we bought them - $15 for four tickets that got us to the front on one of any seven of the most popular rides. For us, having spent nothing to get in, this was a no-brainer. We happily coughed up the dough and walked on down to the Raging Bull.

As we made our way down the aisle set aside for the Fast Pass users, it was hard to ignore the crowd of people snaking betwen the zigzagging gates. That short walk to the front I say represented at least 45 minutes of wait time we avoided. When we got toward the front, the 12-year-old standing guard took our tickets, and we hopped in line. As a child (and well still today), I always was a play by the rules kind of girl. Cutting in line felt a little unnatural, even though the park condoned it for the sake of its bottom line. I immediately could feel the glaring stares of the people in line directly behind us. I kept trying to overhear their conversation to ensure they weren’t talking about jumping us in line for taking their spots. But then before I knew it we were waiting to board. I didn’t have time to care any longer. We were about to go on the ride. I instantly felt better about our actions as were exiting the ride and on our way to the next. And I can tell you by the fourth and final fast pass I used, I didn’t care. I was strutting to the front like I owned the freaking park, singing “Fast Passes are worth the money.”

So as I say, I have been spoiled. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go to another park and wait in long lines. Or if I do, I can guarantee I’ll spend the majority of my time waiting in line talking about that one day at Six Flags when I never had to wait.

Lesson learned: Always buy a Fast Pass.

August 25, 2006

Wednesday Nights

There are times in a single girl’s life when the thought of facing another holiday, another family function, another social gathering seems daunting. It’s those times when staying at home and admitting that “No, I have not found Mr. Right yet” seems like the only viable option. Yes, after a couple decades of singleness - minus a couple months here and there where I could have claimed to be in some sort of relationship - I have grown to know those feelings well.

But as is with the yin and yang, the ebb and flow of life there are also those random Wednesday nights where all of a sudden I find myself in the familiar company of friends. We are surrounded by the soft glow of Christmas lights overhead and the comfort of frosty beverages in hand. Talk isn’t of politics or the latest crisis brewing overseas, but rather the sources of childhood embarrassment or plans to attend cardio striptease classes.

Sure, our conversations may seem silly, possibly even pointless to an outsider, but I’m glad to have them. Because there will come a day and time where we will feel grown up. We’ll have more responsibility than we do now. We’ll feel the need to make social commentary and better the world for our kids and our kids’ kids. But for now, this is enough. This is all I need.

This is a lesson I’ve tried to remember time and time again when I’m feeling low because I hear of another friend’s engagement, home purchase or family addition. It’s a lesson I hope one day will allow me to not feel so sad when I crave the comfort of a man who’s professed his undying love to me. That day will come though, and until then I will enjoy the random Wednesday nights.

I am a Sucker for a Man in a Suit

I interviewed for my current job at the start of June. I remember then hearing from my future coworkers about how I might be wooed by vendors who would want my profitable copy jobs. Since I was a journalist for about two years before switching professions, I was well aware of people trying to sway me for their own intents and purposes. I made it perfectly clear in my interviews that I was not a person who was easily swayed, and the firm in return made it clear that it was ok if I was in respect to vendors.

You see, the kind of cases I work with are centered around boxes upon boxes upon boxes of documents, all of which must be copied and then recopied and then labeled and then recopied and then sent to opposing council only to be copied again. When asked what I do for a living, I often feel like I should reply, "I kill forests - daily. That’s what I do." My job, at least in part, depends on the number of documents I can create and then subsequently manage. Hence, the copy vendors are like moths to a flame.

I began to really understand the whole vender phenomenon during my first week as a paralegal. During week one, I was visited by Phillip, Matt and David - all whom promised me their undying devotion to my copy jobs (big or small) at of course the lowest price. I told them all, thanks for visiting but seeing as how I was so new, I had no jobs to send out yet. Pretty much, all my stuff could be handled in house. We ended our meetings with an exchange of business cards, a handshake and me promising to at least “give them a shot” with my next copy job.

The meetings were nice. I like chatting with people. The copy vendors all proved to be pleasant and at worst, mildly attractive. They also served as a nice distraction from all the office procedures being crammed in my brain. But while the meetings were nice, I came to really enjoy the little presents they would leave. I came into my office one day to find Otis Spunkmeyer cookies with a note from Nick with Loop Legal, saying to enjoy. I said to myself, “Nick, I don’t know who you are, but I will eat you cookies.” And I did. Later on that same week, I was sent a $5 Starbucks card and told to get out of the office and have a coffee on Ted and C2 Legal. I did. But the kick came that Friday when one of my fellow paralegals invited us out for a little happy hour celebration on his vendor. I left that happy hour five hours later feeling slightly buzzed and slightly full, yet having paid nothing. I promised the vendor I’ll call him right away when I got my first big copy job.

In meeting with vendors my first few weeks on the job, I didn’t care. My standard answer was always, “Thanks for coming in and meeting with me, but I haven’t had a need to send anything off yet.” Well, that all changed as of Tuesday. An attorney on one of my cases needed a copy set of all the relevant docs I pulled last week. Those relevant docs ended up being about four boxes worth of paper. In the world of litigation copy jobs, I knew that was not large by any means but I also knew it was too large to be done by the firm. A vendor, it was.

I grabbed my stack of vendor business cards, which up to that point had only served to occupy space on my desk. I flipped through them and began weighing my options. Nick did send me those yummy cookies a few weeks ago, but I barely remember him. There was the Starbucks card from Ted, but it was only $5. That hardly warrants my first copy job, which is likely to be 200 times that amount. The happy hour night certainly was very nice but the vendor seemed a little too salesman-like. I don’t like sales people, so I’m not going to purposely work with one.

In the end, I made my decision based on one thing. I chose Eric and I chose Eric for one simple reason. Eric looks very good in a suit. I like me a man in a suit. I always have, so needless to say, the image of Eric floated into my brain when picking a vendor.

Eric came into our office a few weeks ago wanting to meet with any of the new paralegals who could spare him a moment. I did. And when I met Eric (whom I called Nick at first - there are just too many of them) I noticed he was attractive. He wears nice suits. He does not wear a wedding ring. In chatting with him briefly, he didn’t seem too pushy, too vendor-like. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go with him. Well all that, and the suit. Now of course, if Eric returned my documents out of order, missing pages and covered in mud I might have to rethink using his services, but until that happens I might as well work with someone whom presents me good copies and good suits.

So what have I learned from this? I guess I am someone who is easily swayed - at least by a good looking man in a suit.

August 21, 2006


Today I learned that it is approximately 1.5 miles from Diversey Avenue to Irving Park Road in the city of Chicago. This fact became important for me to note because it is the path that my coworker, Sarah, and I ran yesterday while training for a 5k race we are doing at the end of the September.

A 5k race equals 3.1 miles. I figured that by the time we ran to Irving Park Road, circled back in an adjacent park and headed back winding along the lakefront, we ran a little over three miles. So in our first outing training for the 5k, we ran a 5k.

Clearly, neither Sarah or I are worried about finishing this race.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Chicago is a city of summer festivals. Being that the winter almost beats a Chicagoans will to live, it takes an entire summer to recharge and store up sunlight for the long, dark winters. I still will never forget my first winter here. I was working and looked outside. It was pitch black. Expecting I must have been feverishly at work for hours, I looked at my clock and almost gasped when it read 4:30 p.m. That’s right. When this begins in November and seemingly lasts until April, we need summer for as long as it will have us.

The Chicago parks and entertainment district as well as every single neighborhood is on the ball to maximize daylight hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Without exaggeration, there are about three festivals, art fairs or Tastes of (insert location here) every weekend. However, just because these festivals/fairs/tastes are going on each and every weekend, does not mean I attend them all. If anything, I generally try to avoid them. They all contain the same three elements - live music, vendors and a beer tent – with little variety except for the location. It can be fun to go and I have my favorites, but really, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen most. And being a person who likes to be able to actually walk down the street without having to urge to plow down everyone in my way (old ladies and babies in strollers included) I have to limit my attendance on account of my rage.

This weekend however, I could not avoid one of Chicago’s biggest festivals - the Air and Water Show. It is as it seems - a weekend of aquatic and aerial feats. The water portion was easy to ignore. The air portion - not so much.

I was lying in my bed on Saturday afternoon after having put in 5 hours of work beginning at 9 a.m. I was a little tired and trying to figure out the best use of the rest of my day. Then all of a sudden, I hear a thunderous noise first far toward the west and then it roared closer and closer until it was right overhead shaking the panes of glass in my apartment. “So much for an afternoon nap,” I thought, “the U.S. Air Force has different plans for my day.”

The air show had begun. This was only day one. I have experienced the noise of the air show before, but from the safety of my Wicker Park apartment - far from the lakefront. In fact, the weekend I moved to Chicago was the weekend of the air show. I remember asking very hesitantly if it was like this all the time. I figured our apartment must have been located right below a major flight path of either O’Hare or Midway. Thankfully I found out the noise was an annual, not weekly, event. I can say this though - experiencing the air and water show from Wicker Park versus my new apartment in Lakeview is a much different experience. I never had to contend with rattling windows in Wicker Park. In Lakeview, I do.

As I said this was day one of the air show, and it was a gloomy day with little visibility. I knew any frustration I felt at the roaring planes overhead, would be multiplied on Sunday since the weather was forecast as 78 and sunny. And it was.

I figured I had no choice but to enjoy the air show, so on Sunday I called up a co-worker and met she and her husband at the lakeshore. As I walked down the path, I could hear the roar of jets overhead. I kept looking up but saw nothing. While continuing on the path, I glanced to my left and saw a jet gliding by in the sky as graceful and quiet as a bird. It was flying low to the lake with strength and speed that is definitely not witnessed by me on a daily basis. Then as the jet continued past, I felt the rush of wind and heard the roar of the plane’s flight path. It was awesome to see and feel so close.

I made it down the lake, found my friend and sat and watched the remaining three hours of the show. My father would have been so proud and so jealous that I stayed.

There was one thought that kept creeping into my mind throughout the afternoon though. There were millions of people lining the lakeshore to watch these modern feats of engineering take to the skies for our own amusement. We were amazed to watch planes soar by in precise formations and dance through the skies at dizzying speeds. We clapped and cheered when planes buzzed by us close enough to feel their wake. The sound of these plans and their presence in the sky was exhilarating and exciting. It signaled a fun afternoon by the lake. For people in other parts of the world that sound is not associated with anything pleasant. It is filled with fear, worry and memories of heartache. And as they played the cheesiest of American anthems (“I’m Proud to Be an American”) on the loudspeakers, it did make me grateful to live in a place where I could find joy craning my neck to watch fighter pilots play at 10,000 feet above sea level. But it does not mean I did not feel a little bad for those who cannot.

As far as Chicago festivals go, I’d have to say the Air and Water show isn’t one to be lumped in with the standard art fair or music fest. While there were beer tents and vendors and music, as with any other festival, the jets made for a pretty unique edition to the Chicago summer line up.

I left the show slightly sun burnt and headed back home to go about the rest of my Sunday. While walking back, I realized this was now my third year being in the city for the Air and Water Show. And I also realized that meant I was embarking on my third year in this fabulous city. It is a little hard to believe.

Lesson learned: Time flies when you’re having fun. (Pun intended.)

August 17, 2006

Your Mom is Cooler than Brad Pitt

My mail is slowly trickling into my new mailbox. Yesterday, my Glamour magazine arrived.

I have been a subscriber for almost three years now, so I know the magazine well. While I do enjoy getting it every month, I can say Glamour is a somewhat silly publication filled with questionable advice and questionable fashions. (They did a spread on how to wear leggings! Um... try "Don't do it!" Damn you, Sienna Miller.)

But one of my favorite parts of Glamour is the random "quickie" bits of information displayed across the bottom of its health, beauty, happiness and love pages. These sage bits of advice are often commonsense restated as tips or statistics I am convinced someone is paid to invent. Most remind me of a statistic I once read saying "34 percent of all statistics are made up." Think about it.

The most recent issue of Glamour is filled with such pearls of wisdom as:

"To avoid crowds, hit the gym before lunch on weekdays or early morning on weekends."

"Another reason to quit: Smoking while pregnant may increase your child's risk of obesity."

"The ex-factor: 50 percent of people recently polled would like to be contacted by an old flame."

And my favorite, and I quote: "It's a fact, 72 percent of adults say they'd rather take their mom to lunch than a celebrity."

If Glamour said it, it must be true. So there you go, random facts for the day. My only question is who would you rather take to lunch?

But in case anyone from Glamour happens to read my blog - if you ever get in a pinch and need someone to pitch in a last minute article, feel free to contact me any time. I love your publication.