May 27, 2009

Between Ten and Twenty-Nine

I rushed out of work yesterday hoping I didn't leave too late to catch the 6:44 train home. I stepped on the elevator and sighed, as I always do, when it stopped three floors below to let on another passenger. My office is on the 50th floor, so both coming and going to work sometimes takes longer than I expect.

Thankfully, the bank of elevators I take is express from the lobby to 10th floor, and then the 10th through 29th, and 29th through the 39th floors. It's really only those 11 floors between 39 and 50 that delay me because it's a rarity that the elevators stop on 10 or twenty-nine. And I long ago gave up leaving right at 5:00 p.m. It takes forever just to get to the 40th floor.

Once my fellow passenger got on, the doors closed and we began our descent past the 39th floor. I was thankful it was express from there to the lobby. I'd have to walk fast, but I'd have plenty of time to catch my train.

But then the elevator started to unsteadily slow.

And then it stopped.

And then the electronic floor indicator flashed "10". But the doors didn't open.

And then it flashed "29". But we hadn't moved.

And then it flashed "--". So I started to get a little nervous.

My fellow passenger and I looked at one another. He expressed his frustration at being stuck and kept pushing the button for the lobby, hoping that could give us momentum in one direction or another.

Nothing. It wouldn't do anything. The button wouldn't light up. Nothing registered. We just sat there in the elevator hoovering somewhere between 10 and twenty-nine.

I've heard stories of my co-workers getting stuck in the elevators. One of my fellow paralegals was once stuck between 50 and 51 for four hours - on a Sunday. It seems not a week goes by that the maintenance crew isn't working on an elevator in my firm's lobby. It's the price we pay for the penthouse view. Well that and probably the actual rental price for the penthouse view.

As I and my fellow elevator passenger hung there in the balance, I momentarily thought about free falling anywhere from 10 to 29 stories. I didn't want to go there, but that's where my brain went. Really, I reasoned, it didn't matter. The 19 floor difference wouldn't factor because the first 10 floors would be enough to do me in. I became acutely aware of the slightest sensation of movement at my feet. And then because I didn't want my fellow passenger watch me begin to freak the 'eff out, I pushed the emergency response button.

A women with a very kind-sounding voice responded immediately and asked what the problem was. I explained our lack of movement. She apologized and then worked her magic. The elevator slowly began to rise.

"You should see the doors open in a moment," she said over the intercom.

Sure enough, the elevator stopped on 41, the doors opened and I explained to the nice elevator lady that all seemed to be working just fine now, thank you. She apologized again and our elevator descended once again to the lobby. My fellow passenger and I both said we hoped we would be able to make our respective trains after this untimely delay. As he and I finally exited the elevator I wished him good luck in catching his train, but honestly what I really wanted to say was "HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS GOOD I AM SO GLAD WE'RE ON THE GROUND!" I guess making my train was good enough.

May 26, 2009

What About Number Two?

I am continually amazed at the web sites that people create. Aside from a few sentences or a properly cropped photograph, I just don't think I'm all that creative. Especially when it comes to naming things. It's quite surprising that to this day Oscar is "Oscar" and not "My Cat."

I once had a teddy bear that I absolutely loved. I remember looking at it for a long time and not being able to think of anything suitable to name it. After a while I decided on Gund, which was not coincidentally the name of the bear's manufacturer. Seriously, the name was affixed to the bear in the form of a little plastic tag. I never removed that tag because, you know, that was his name. My bear came with his own name tag! And you're welcome Gund for all the years of free advertising my unoriginality gave you.

But back to these Web sites and other people's creativity. In my years of blogging, I've stumbled across a lot of good Web sites via other people's blogs. These aren't Web sites that will make the world a better place but they'll probably make you laugh, like this one, and this one, and this one, this one and of course there's this one, oh and this one, and I'm not gonna lie I check this one several times a day. And someone told me about this one once.

Every so often though, I'll hear about a Web site that just makes me say, "Huh? I can't believe someone thought of that." Like today, when I was listening to NPR. There was a four-minute segment with the creator of It's a Web site dedicated to informing movie goers of the most opportune times during a movie to... use the facilities. I don't see movies in the theater a lot, so I doubt I'll use this Web site often. If I were a regular movie goer though, it would be worth a quick glance before catching a flick. I guess either that or not ordering a double big gulp.

Any one else got some creative Web sites they'd like to share?

May 25, 2009

Flora and Fauna

The long weekend is almost over. We had some beautiful weather in Chicago, and I made sure to get out an enjoy it. I am glad I did because currently it looks like it's about to rain.

On Saturday, while Mike was hanging out with his dad in the burbs, I made my way down to Lincoln Park. I was going to head all the way downtown to visit the art museum's new wing, but I ended up getting off the El a stops sooner than planned. I decided I'd prefer fewer crowds and to spend less money. Fortunatly, the Lincoln Park Conservatory - free of admission - was located not to far from the El. I entered the gardens and started snapping photos.

While snapping the flora, I spotted this little guy. He was my favorite find in the conservatory.

He wasn't the only animal I photographed. The conservatory is adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is another free activity within city limits. I strapped on my telephoto lens and started roaming. It just so happened that I arrived around feeding time so a lot of the animals were out and eating.

It was a long afternoon, but man was it fun to be out and about with my camera in hand. I am more and more amazed by it every time I use it. After this outing, I learned that it's going to be a long, long time before I get bored with it. I actually would have stayed in the park longer, but my shoes were killing my feet, and much like the poor sea lion below, I just wanted to put my feet up and get away from the crowds.

May 21, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin' and Prayin'

It's Thursday night, and all I can do is think about tomorrow and how I hope, I hope, I hope I can end the day without having to work during the coming blessed three-day weekend. I hope.

It's been a week of late work nights. At least they were late work nights at home though. There's something about working in my PJs while sitting by an open window that makes it a littler easier to bear. Well that and overtime pay. But still, I've been working until past 10:30 p.m. and hoping that my dutiful work ethic will mean I won't need to bill a single minute until Tuesday.

For now though, since I don't fully know what tomorrow will bring I'm focusing on the plans I can make for my three-day weekend. I hoping to hit up a local farmer's market, do some fishing with Mike, read my new book, wander downtown to take some photos, run, maybe visit the new wing of the art museum and go out to dinner with friends. I've got a lot I'd like to do. I just hope work doesn't end up being something I have to do.

What about you? What are you most excited for this coming weekend?

May 10, 2009

Bloody SOBs

So much for impressing my dentist with my oral hygiene. I saw her yesterday and will be going back in a few weeks to have some non-cavities filled in. She didn't say they were cavities so I'm not either. They're like pre-cavities. Small and cavity-like, but not cavities. But I'm pretty sure filing them will be pretty much like filling a cavity.

Oh, and my gums still bled like SOBs. To add insult to bloody injury, I was reminded by the hygienist who cleaned my teeth just how old I am. My bloody gums gave me away. Because you know, I am not getting any younger and "once you hit 30 your body just doesn't take care of itself the way it used to, including your gums. So the sooner you start flossing regularly the less problems you'll run into in the future." I'm paraphrasing. But the gist of it was, "You are old. Start flossing unless you want dentures by the time you're 40...which really isn't all that far away grandma."

In short, it was not the greatest trip to the dentist. But honestly, I still absolutely love my dentist. I kind of want to be her best friend. I might even have a bit of a girl crush on her. So really, I'm not all that upset I'll be going back in June to get my non-cavities filled. I just hope we don't have to talk about my age again.

May 4, 2009

Growth Spurt

I came into work this morning to find a very complimentary email in my inbox. Last week after my work load slowed, I pitched in with a project to help another team that's prepping for trial. I worked late on this project and spent the better part of a day completing it in a timely manner. I volunteered to help so this task had no bearing on any of my cases. It wasn't my case, well at least it wasn't my case any more.

Around this time last year, I was working full time on this particular case. And up until this point last year, this case had comprised close to 80 percent of my working paralegal career. It was around this time last year that a few personality conflicts came to a head and as a consequence, this case - my case - was given to another paralegal. Soon thereafter, I requested to be taken off it entirely.

I'm not gonna lie. It sucked. In the aftermath of this conflict and some terrible annual reviews, I questioned a lot of things - my work ethic, my intelligence, my ability to read people, my dedication. Most of all, I questioned how exactly I could get out of this mess.

I was carrying some pretty big grudges. I analyzed every word between myself and the parties involved, every email that was exchanged. I tried to find a person, other than myself to blame for my situation. But no matter how long and hard I thought about it, I kept coming back to the fact that I had made some bad choices. My actions lead me there.

I've had a number of jobs since moving to Chicago. As a young 20-something finding my way in the big city, I held the title of reporter, content developer, receptionist, full time student and paralegal. And that was all just within my first two years. The title of paralegal, I've held longer than all others. It's a fact that is still somewhat surprising to me. I moved here a young budding journalist (or so I thought) fully expecting to be recognized for my talent and snatched up immediately by the Trib or the Sun Times. When the jobs I wanted didn't come as easily as I'd expected, I took ones I didn't necessarily want. But these jobs all offered me one thing - the opportunity to continue living in this great city.

It was about a year and a half into my stint as a Chicago resident. I was swimming in debt and working a dead end job for the meanest person I've ever worked for when I realized it was time to grow up. My current situation was not where I wanted to be and my chances of being called by any publication, local or national, was waining by the day. I needed a change and something that would put me on a sturdier footing than my journalism degree could provide. At that point, my dreams had morphed. These dreams, not as glamorous as globe trotting famous journalist per se, included paid off credit cards, a savings account and a well paying job surrounded by intelligent people. My friends often ask what it is that made me want to be a paralegal. I can say that it began with intentions of becoming a lawyer, but I knew even if I didn't make it that far, that the title of paralegal held far more realistic opportunities than my undergrad degree. This position with it's starting salary paid what would have taken me at minimum another decade to make as a journalist. In short, I wanted some stability. Stability had been sorely lacking from my first two years in Chicago.

I started my present job the week after I finished paralegal school. Even with an internship under my belt I had a lot to learn. I jumped in head first and soaked up as much as I could. My second year, when I saw the reputation I had built for myself come crashing down, I realized just how much more I had to learn. But I dug in, and I learned as much as I could from my mistakes.

Looking back at this past year - my third year - I am starting to realize some of the ways I have grown during my Chicago journey. I can say had I been faced a few years ago with the same challenges I endured last summer, I wouldn't have stuck around. My paralegal job would have been just another entry on my resume. I would have told myself there's better out there, I can do better, it's their loss for treating me this way. And I would have been gone. That explains why I held three different jobs within my first year in the city.

When the going got tough last year though, I didn't bail. I stuck around and proved I was more than other people's worst assumptions of my character. It's part of growing up. Whereas before, it was easier to run, I now know I'll face my challenges head on. I can't run away from a job, a relationship, a challenge at the first setback. Mike and I would have thrown in the towel long ago if I hadn't opted to stick around and muddle through all the tough stuff. But it's the muddling through that makes the difference. It's the muddling through that has made me feel strong and more self assured. I know my worth, and I'm willing to stick around and define it instead of running off to what may be the next best thing. And today, I learned the rewards for such actions can be sweet.

The email this morning was from one of the attorneys who last year questioned my ability and dedication to my job. His email was to my direct supervisor. It said that since he wouldn't have the opportunity to review me this year, he wanted to let my boss know that I was of great assistance to the team on an emergency project. He went on to say that I stayed up late working on this project, one that he described as mundane but important. His email was incredibly complimentary and incredibly unnecessary. He went out of his way to make sure my boss knew that my help was appreciated. After of year of proving I have value at the firm, it's nice to know that those who once said the opposite are seeing differently.

May 3, 2009


The shot above isn't some long lost vacation shot I found. I took it today, down by the lake. It was that kind of a spring Chicago day. And when days such as this are presented to Chicago's residents, we feel compelled to get out and enjoy.

And I did. I got out and enjoyed the weather and the lake shore both Saturday and Sunday. I headed down to Lake Shore Drive with a friend on Saturday afternoon. We hopped on the crowded running/biking path and ran 1.6 miles south to Navy Pier, and then the 1.6 miles back to the car. It was glorious. The sun was shining and there was a nice 65 degree breeze blowing off the Lake.

Today Mike and I went down to the lake shore closest to our home. Mike was anxious to get back to one of his favorite fishing spots, and I wanted to capture what I could of this beautiful day with my camera.

We both won. Well kind of.

Mike caught quite a few fish, but they were all goby fish. I didn't know this, but gobies are not native to these waters. They were unintentionally introduced to this region over a decade ago and ever since have overrun the Great Lakes. When Mike bought his fishing license he was told he couldn't even throw gobies he caught back into the lake. He fed them to the seagulls instead.

I got some decent photos while walking up and down the shore. Looking back I should have done a little more presetting than I did. A lot of my photos turned out way too blue. But it was a small price to pay given I was surrounded with an abundance of blue waters and blue skies, things that I had missed over the past few months.