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.

August 16, 2006

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

My life is getting back in order. The boxes in my apartment are about half in number of what they were last week. I know where the closest and cheapest grocery stores are. Even my plants seem to be thriving in their new home. To me that signals unabashed, glorious progress on my home front. I decided to celebrate by doing something I have been unable to in weeks - go for a run.

I picked up running earlier this year and have come to find it is very true that Chicago is a running city. On my last few bus rides home, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of jealousy with every runner I saw down by the lakeshore. I decided yesterday would be the day I’d rejoin the race.

I got home, excitedly searched for my running garb, laced my sneakers, grabbed my gold spare key to the building as well as my silver apartment key and headed outdoors. Chicago has been merciless with good weather this past week. It begs to be enjoyed in the outdoors, not cooped up in offices or apartments. Yesterday was no exception: sunny, clear, and high 70s with a slight lake breeze.

As I said, I had not run in weeks. I figured I would be a little out of shape and if I ran for about 15 minutes and then walked I would consider that ok. I was feeling pretty darn good when I returned to my starting point about 40 minutes later having barely walked at all. My good run was fueled by the beauty of my new path and the number of runners that surrounded me on it - excluding those running at speeds which would qualify for the Kenyan Olympic marathon team. You can find another path and leave us casual runners to feel good about our pace.

A rush of happiness sweep over me as I walked up to my apartment building. The run of course left me feeling good, and for one of the first times since moving, walking up to my building felt a little like coming home.

Eager to head upstairs and shower, I grabbed my gold building key, but it wouldn’t work. Figuring I got my keys mixed up, I grabbed the silver one and turned it. Nothing was clicking. I paused for a moment and tried them both again thinking this was probably just another issue I had with opening yet another door.

It was not.

Then it occurred to me. When I left the apartment, I, at first, only grabbed my spare gold building key thinking the less I have rattling on me the better. Then in a panic before I left, I decided the added weight of my apartment key was worth it for the added security of being able to lock my apartment door as well. The problem is that I didn’t try my spare key before I left. Had I, I would have noted that my spare key was a spare key to my apartment, not to my building as I had incorrectly assumed.

There I stood, outside my building, dripping in sweat, holding two useless keys.

I have yet to officially meet any of my neighbors, so I figured now was as good a time as any. I surveyed the buzzers and noticed most didn’t have names on them. J. Marchant was the exception. Her name was at least on her buzzer. I pressed it and felt a rush of relief when she answered, “Yes?”

“Hi. I live in apartment 3E and I grabbed the wrong keys. I was wondering if you could buzz me in?”

I stood there and waited for the lock to sound. It did not. "Odd," I thought. "Maybe her buzzer doesn’t work. She’s probably on her way down the stairs right now." I waited and watched the stairwell for the shadow of someone descending its steps. Um… didn’t happen. J. Merchant wasn’t coming.

I then tried all the other buzzers. No one answered. Sadly, I had no cell phone, no way of calling maintenance and no way of knowing when someone would next come or leave from my building. Also sad enough, J. Merchant was my only hope.

Now, I understand us city women need to be savvy. You never know who you are going to find wandering your halls by buzzing in unknown people. But I also know I don’t have a scary voice. I’m sure upon hearing me speak one doesn’t immediately conjure up images of hardened criminals on death row. Heck, I don’t even have the damaged vocal cords of people who have smoked for years. If anything, I have been told (on more than one occasion!) I have a very pleasant speaking voice.

“This J. Merchant is crazy,” I thought. “I’ll just try buzzing her again. Maybe this time she’ll let me explain.”

I buzzed. No answer. I buzzed again. No answer. I knew for a fact she had not left the building, so she was still there. J. Merchant was deliberately ignoring my pleas. I immediately vowed she and I would never be friends.

As I stood there pondering what to do and trying to figure out which apartment was J. Merchant’s so I could begin pelting it with rocks, a man came walking up toward me. I asked if he lived in my building but alas he was heading into the doors adjacent to mine, which unfortunately had no access to my wing.

Then he walked up to my door and said, “Well, let me see if it works.” And thankfully it did. The door opened, I called him my hero and as I stepped in to my building ironically one of the girls who actually lives there followed right behind me. Now you might wonder, after my mishap did I decide it was finally time to make nice with the neighbors and introduce myself? Well your answer would be no. I was sweaty, smelly and too busy plotting how I would ruin J. Merchant’s mail. (Her mailbox is labeled too.) Plus I reasoned this girl was probably J. Merchant’s roommate, and they would both talk badly about me once she got home, therefore negating any nice introduction she and I might share. I pretty much claimed defeat and retreated upstairs.

I unlocked my apartment door with one of my two working keys and realized I learned two things from this: One, check to make sure you have the right key before you leave the building; and two, J. Merchant may be my neighbor, but she is no friend of mine.

August 14, 2006

Culture Club

Chicago presented itself this past weekend in its most glorious form with two days of uninterrupted sunny, warm weather. And unlike in previous weeks, there was little to no humidity to be found. In short, it was perfect. I chose to revel in the summer sun by heading down to the beach (which is a short walk from my new place) two days in a row. Before you get too jealous, realize this was the first time I had made this trip all summer. If anything, I was making up for lost time.

I made my way down to the beach on Sunday on the lakeshore path. On any given weekend, especially as nice as this past one, the path is jammed packed worse that Lakeshore Drive. There are walkers, runners, rollerbladers, bicyclists and the occasional Segway jockeying for position on the path. I, being in the walking category, get a little nervous with so many people that I might be hit by a caravan of kids learning to ride their bikes or some marathon runner in full sprint. But on Sunday, I found a way to guarantee people, if anything, would move out of my way.

I was on the path walking by the Theater on the Lake, reading the show signs when I heard some sound in the distance. It sounded like someone humming or trying to carry some sort of tune. I couldn’t quite make it out but I knew the tune.

“… come and…humm…hummm…gold….”

As I kept walking, the sound grew louder, and then it became unmistakable. Karma Chameleon. That’s right the 80s song made popular by Boy George, his crazy fashion and the band Culture Club. When walking down the lakeshore path I expect to hear gentle slapping of waves and the rustling of trees, not 80s pop ballads. Now I am a fan of 80s music, but there is a time and a place for everything thing.

Then it grew louder and I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit.

“Karma karma karma karma karma chameeeeele-on….You come and goooooo…. You come and goo-o-o-oooooooo…“

Having successfully identified the song, I needed to see who was choosing to self-broadcast it on the lakeshore path. I was certain I’d turn my head to see Boy George himself, thinking he is the only person justified to share this song with the public. Although considering I saw on Good Morning America today he’ll be spending the next few days doing public service in New York City, I guess that was pretty impossible.

I see a younger black guy in his 20s, riding a bike, wearing a green t-shirt and khaki pants. He was pretty nondescript if anything; well except for his affinity for 80s pop music. It was odd because looking at him it didn’t appear if he were in Culture Club’s target demographic… then or now.

He rode up in my direction, made a lazy, slow turn around at the theater and continued on the path the way he came.

“Loving would be easy if your colors were like my, gold and greeeeeeenn… red, gold and greee-e-e-eeeeeen….”

I found myself chuckling quietly at this strange scene as I continued down the path. And as I walked in the direction he rode, I noticed quite a few of the bikers and walkers I passed were laughing too. I imagine this laugher must have come from the same source as my own. It then occurred to me: A lot of people were laughing at him, but then again they probably got out of his way. I bet this man if anything was one who had been struck at some point on the lakeshore path and found this to be a good way to avoid any future collisions.

So the next time I walk down to the beach and I feel like the path may be a little too crowded, don’t be surprised if I’m the crazy lady singing “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”

August 11, 2006

A woman's intuition.

When you know, you just know.

I knew it was over last night before he called. Looking back, I probably knew it was over a week or so ago when he stopped returning my text messages and late night phone calls went unanswered. It’s the small things – the little warning signs that in the end make a big difference. To me, they end up making all the difference in the world.

I chalk up this pit-in-your-stomach feeling to womanly intuition. As I learned yesterday, it is best not to ignore it. Had I, I probably would still be under some assumption today that the plans I had made for a beautiful weekend in Chicago were still in place. I didn’t ignore it. I asked the question which I hoped would end up being a crazy, irrational thought. It wasn’t a crazy, irrational thought. It was the truth. And the only reason I discovered it to be so was because I chose to go with my gut.

Although, sometimes it would be nice to ignore that little pit in my stomach because a woman’s intuition is a bitch. But it is an “I told you so” bitch that in the end, as a woman, I would rather have than ignore. Ignoring it prolongs the inevitable. Acknowledging it allows me to recognize the truth of the matter and move on.

Because when you know, you just know. And that isn’t anything worth ignoring.

August 8, 2006

I am not nomadic.

I know this much is true. I was never a nomad in a previous life. Or if I was, I was the slow one that probably got left by the herd for asking, "Are we there yet?" too many times.

These past two and a half weeks, I have lived the life of a nomad. I went from packing up in one apartment to unloading everything in another to then packing up portions of those things to live somewhere temporarily for a week. It's dizzying to think how many times I have trekked across this city and back over the past week alone. Do not mistake me: I have loved my time staying at my friend Karen's beautiful (air conditioned) house, but I am ready to go home. The thing is after so many moves over so many weeks, I feel as if my sense of home is lost.

Yes, tomorrow I will return to the city to my new apartment. Unfortunatley with the two days of unbearable heat I have spent there thus far, I think I have been conditioned to hate it. It's like Pavlov's dog. Subtract the bell for the sight of unpacked boxes and instead of salavating, I'd cry upon seeing them. I associate my apartment with pain, work and illness right now. It's not exactly the vibe I need to come home to. But once I lock Karen's front door on my way out tomorrow morning it's all I've got. That is my home. No more stops in between.

The bright side to this is the sooner I return the sooner I might be able to get a good night's sleep. That's the other thing. It's hard to feel rested when nowhere feels like home. You know how you never get as good a night's sleep in someone else's bed? Well I have spent no quality time with my bed since July 29th (a few days before my move). It's been in transition as much as I have.

All this means is it is finally time to get back to the business of reassembling my life. It is time to dig in, unpack all my boxes and do my best to relax in my new place. And if I can relax, I just might get a good night's sleep and then I'd finally feel at home. Dorothy did say it best: "There's no place like home." I bet even the Nomads would agree with that.

August 7, 2006


I am about two months into my new career as an important, downtown Chicago, high-falootin’ paralegal. (Did I tell you I have my own office…with my name on the door… and business cards… embossed business cards...butI digress...) Being that this is a new career, there has been a lot to learn that was never discussed during my five months of paralegal classes. With so much to master, there were days (namely my entire first and second weeks at the firm) where I felt as if my head was ready to explode with information. Nothing, however, has proved as challenging as learning to master my time.

As a paralegal, my day’s work is billed to our clients. What I do, who I do it for and how long I spend doing it needs to be tracked in six-minute increments of every hour. I was amazed my first week to learn a bathroom break was about six minutes round trip and saying hi to a coworker would suddenly eat up 0.3 hours of my day. Yes, it is a bit ridiculous, but a necessity when I learned exactly how much six minutes of my day costs a client.

That was one half of the time keeping. The other half has proved somewhat of a fun challenge for me. In case you can’t tell, I like to fancy myself a bit of a wordsmith. We have this very sophisticated piece of software which every three days or so I log onto and enter how I’ve spent my time. There is essential info to include which is predetermined, like the time, the client, the matter and task codes that correspond to the work I’ve done. But at the bottom is a space for a description. This is so the client can ensure it is not paying mucho dinero for me to stand in front of a copier for two hours. But the funny thing is, I have stood in front of a copier for two hours. This leads me to today’s life lesson: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

You see, the fact is in that doing my job there are times where mundane, mindless tasks are necessary just to get the freaking job done. Our clients don’t want to see that though, so it’s, I believe, an essential function of my job to make the client think it is getting its money’s worth. This is where my word-smithing comes in handy. Instead of standing in front of a copier, suddenly I’m “Managing and reviewing docs for opposing counsel’s production request.” There were literally two days were my co-worker Katie and I put stickers on the lower right hand corner of 14 boxes of documents. This became “Facilitated quality control of client production.” Good stuff, right?

But confirmation of my newly acquired skills of “elaboration” came this afternoon.

It was my turn to work the night shift. This means is if there is some pressing issue that comes up at the end of the day, I get to cover it. If not, I get to go home at 6 instead of rushing out the door at 5. (I usually stay until 6 anyway.) I sent out my night watch email around 3:30 alerting everyone that if there were any emergency projects, I was to know of them by 5:30. I get an email back not shortly thereafter from an attorney, Dave, with whom I’ve done some work. He jokingly asked if I could schedule a haircut for his shaggy mane which has fallen to the wayside during his busy work weeks. I start to reply with some witty banter and then I stopped. I wondered is this something I could make sound like a billable activity? I am on a case with him. Technically as a paralegal, any activity I do that makes an attorney’s job easier and promotes the maintenance of the case is billable. Well, I think, Dave has no time to schedule his own haircut. By me doing this for him it is taking time off his hands and allowing him to devote more time to his working day, therefore fostering the maintenance of the case. I take all this in, and email Dave that I will do this (with his blessing) because I’ve found a way to make it sound convincingly billable. My description:

"Facilitated coiffure review and analysis with outside expert to enable D. Soderberg's uninterrupted fact investigation and development of the case."

I didn’t get the OK from Dave, so I didn’t schedule his haircut, but a large part of me is very tempted to submit it and see if it’s rejected by the client. My guess is no.

August 6, 2006

There are not enough hours in the day

My lesson for today has been brewing over the past few days.

My idea for starting this blog was to give me an outlet to write on a daily basis. I was thrilled and impressed with my own genious for coming up with my daily lessons theme because I knew it would give me enough meterial to write daily. It has, however finding the time to sit in front of a computer and compose coherent sentences has not come as easily.

This move took everything out of me for a few days. And unfortunatley, when I did feel my health starting to come around, my schedule kicked back into high gear with a housesitting gig in the burbs. And while I have wanted to write (and thought many times thoughtout the day "Oh, I can use that for my blog tonight") when night rolled around I let exhaustion take me to bed instead of to the keyboard.

I hope that will change, although there is no guarantee. I have an apartment full of unpacked boxes waiting for me when I am done with my stint in the burbs. While I would love to say, I'll find time to unpack, work, write about something meaningful (I'm not about crap, people), do laundry and figure out where the heck my local grocery store is, something has to give. I fear it may be my writing for the time being simply because there are not enough hours in the day.

August 2, 2006

I am not a superhero.

Today's lesson: I am not a superhero.

What I thought I could do:
Move for 17 hours in 100 degree heat and then work a full day the following day.

What actually happened:
I dragged myself into work at 9 a.m. (sick, sore and exhausted), stayed until 1 p.m. and then went home to see if it was possible to rest in my insufferable apartment. It was not. But I did find that occasionally sticking my head in my freezer served as a substitute for air conditioning.

Moving sucks.

(* I actually did write this on Aug. 1, but the internet I am stealing wouldn’t let me upload. Another lesson - you can’t always count on a wireless signal to be there if you’re not paying for it.)

Today was a day full of learning and life lessons. It was the big move. I can’t sum it up with one overall, all-encompassing theme, so here are the little things I am taking away from today:

1. Just because you hire movers, don’t expect a smooth move.

2. If movers say they will be at your place by 8 a.m., sometimes that really means 9:50 a.m.

3. Sometimes it takes 17 hours to move. I began at 6 a.m. this morning and did not have everything in my new place until 11:20 p.m.

4. Don’t doubt short movers. They can be small but mighty. I had been saying for weeks how excited I was to have hired big, burly men to boss around. What showed up at my door were two Mexicans, Jose and Pepe, whom were both shorter than me. But they managed to carry all my things down and then up three flights of stairs in 100 degree weather, so I am pretty sure they could take me down before I knew what hit me.

5. You have to turn the key to my front door to the left in order for the locks to unlock. This I discovered after having tried twice to open my door, failed miserably, became convinced I was given the wrong keys, marched back to my apartment management office and demanded someone let me in. I have problems opening doors sometimes.

6. My white sandals had about two year’s life in them. That time was up today at 10:15 a.m., right when as I was walking into my apartment management’s office to demand they give me the right keys. It's hard to make demands when you have to gimp into an office with broken shoes.

7. I have too much stuff. I know this because I bruised my hands while moving. Bruised hands. I didn’t even think that was possible. Oh, but it is.

8. Sometimes when you order an 16 foot truck you get one large enough to haul your things plus a family of eight’s entire life possessions. Jose and Pepe were late this morning because their truck broke down. The replacement they brought was a Penske hauling machine that was so large we had to avoid underpasses lower than 13 feet. It made for a nice tour of my new neighborhood, though.

9. Spending 18 years in my parent’s house, which offered a basement - not central air - as a refuge from the summer heat, prepared me for events later in life. Namely, trying to get a good night’s sleep in an apartment that is still sweltering at midnight.

10. Moving into a non air-conditioned apartment on a 100 degree plus day is not fun. Of course this is common sense more so than a life lesson. But having actually lived through it (just barely), it is a lesson I will take with me to the grave.