Monday, July 30, 2012


I get it. Blogs are like journals. You do them consistently for awhile, then forget about them. Something reminds you "ohyeahIhaveablog" so you go back, reread what you've written, have a good laugh, and TRY to remember to write more often. Is that correct?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Parking Ticket? Me??

If you’ve read my previous blogs, then you know how careful (freaked out) I’ve been regarding the street parking here in the South Loop of Chicago. I’ve paid attention to street signs, checked online parking maps, and religiously checked my car’s vicinity for new “no-parking” notices. Imagine my dismay to return from my recent cross-country, fly/driving trip only to find a parking ticket on my previously only leaf-covered car.

Prior to taking my impromptu trip, I was excitedly planning to visit the Illinois DMV. After 27 years of #40XXX58, I was ready to replace my ODL with some official Chicago credentials. Besides the fact I desperately needed a new picture on my license, (it was taken during my short stint as a blonde and is not my favorite. Let’s face it, I’m a hardcore brunette) I was ready to become a real Chicagoan.  

Coming home and finding this ticket actually hit me pretty hard. I thought I was being so careful, but when I headed out to get groceries yesterday and saw that soggy piece of orange and white official-ness under my wiper, I wanted to cry. I was so careful during the road construction mess, when it seemed I had to move my car daily. I constantly placed my Soldier Field placard in the window …just in case there was an event I wasn’t aware of. Only to be undone by a previously unknown, City of Chicago website posted, street cleaning schedule. FYI: for the rest of the year street sweeping is “weather permitting” and apparently they will be posting signs. Good to know.

Getting this ticket jarred my pursuit of perfectionism (ego), because I hadn’t even thought to worry about street cleaning schedules. Where I’m from, street sweepers just drive around your car. They don’t ticket you for being in their way. The worst part is that my car sat there for four days with this ticket on the window, announcing to all the neighbors that I’m a parking genius (screw-up).

After whining about this ticket on Facebook, I have learned a few things: First, spending time complaining about getting a ticket is going to take up way too much time. Duly noted. Second, there are Chicagoans who actually have a monthly budget for parking tickets and red light tickets. Seriously? It must be true, because when I went online to pay my ticket, I saw they provide enough room to pay TEN tickets at a time! TEN!

And the last thing I learned? My piddly little $50 parking ticket is not worth crying over (my car wasn’t towed or booted right?)

So, on this gloomy rainy day where I am marinating in a Trader Joe’s French Vanilla ice cream soaked pity party over my parking incompetence, I decided it’s time to adjust my attitude about this ticket. Rather than viewing it as another new girl in town screw-up, I can accept it as my Welcome to Chicagoland Ticket. This credential is more official than any Illinois driver’s license.

My self-esteem will heal and my parking pride will survive. I’m sure more tickets will happen, so I will just make a budget and prepare to face them when they come. Meanwhile, I’m stocking up on French Vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011

The marathon is over here in Chicago. The street sweepers have cleared up the empty Gatorade cups and plastic water bottles littering the ground. It’s impressive how quickly the streets were blocked off, shut down, and cleared out for the runners. A few hours later, and the streets are back to normal.

Steve and I arrived at our post near the 25-mile marker on Michigan Ave. at about 9:30 am. The elite runners were about half an hour away, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss them. Besides, it was a great opportunity to hang out with people in our neighborhood. We enjoyed talking to a lady who said her claim to fame was handing a cup of water to last year’s winner as he ran by the water station. She said she earned that honor because she happened to have the longest arms. Her little boy seemed just as eager for the race as she was and was excitedly pointing out all the policemen.

Leading off the marathon were the wheelchairs and hand bikes. The chair/bike riders were impressively beefy, not at all like you would expect long distance runners to look. I was surprised to see only about a dozen or so through the entire race, though.

Moses Mosop of Kenya
As the first runner came by, I was not surprised to see it was a Kenyan. His name is Moses Mosop and he was so fast, with a beautiful smooth stride. I was surprised to see him so far in the lead, though, with just the camera entourage around him. Last I knew from the news there were about eight or nine elite runners together in the lead. Moses won the marathon with a new course record time of 2:05:37. The American, Ryan Hall, came in fifth place.

Before the race started, I’d heard about the female from Russia, Liliya Shubukhova, who was vying for her third Chicago Marathon win in a row! I had forgotten to watch for her in all the excitement, but I managed to take a picture of her running by. I almost missed her, but I swear that is her leg and most of her face. She did end up winning overall female. Winning three consecutive years is a marathon record, male or female.
Liliya Shubukhova of Russia

Wanting to be closer to the big crowds and action, Steve and I made our way north on Michigan until we reached the hill leading to the finish line, which was close to the 26 mile marker on Roosevelt Road. The variety and number of runners passing by us for hours was entertaining and inspirational.

About four hours into the race came the people who really impressed me. They are the everyday, run for fun and fitness, here for the beer, not so elite, have little chance of winning crowd. My kind of people. Some were smiling. Some were grimacing. Some were limping and some were picking up speed heading up the hill for the last half mile. They are the ones I cheered and clapped for. They were running for friends, family, foster kids, stray animals, charities, cancer survivors and victims, and some were running just for themselves. I got a knot in my throat seeing their determination. When someone stumbled or slowed, I wanted to run out and help them. These people were reaching deep inside themselves to bring out the best they had in order to get across the finish line. It was so inspiring.

Finally saw a tutu halfway through the race!
For a lot of people, the marathon is about who wins. For others, it’s all about who finishes. For me, the real winners are those who start. Winning, or even finishing, the race doesn’t happen if there is no start. One single step forward is all it takes to begin. That step doesn’t even happen the day of the race. For many people it starts months in advance. First, there’s the decision to run, goal setting, then planning and training. Today, 45,000 people followed through on their decision by showing up at the starting line. Not everyone finished. I saw a few people taken away by wheel chair. The fact that not everyone finishes will not deter me from starting.

Today, a man I know (Congratulations Rob!) ran his first marathon in Portland, Oregon. During my time at Brundage Bootcamp, he was very supportive and motivational to me. I am so proud of him for running and I want to join the group of marathon runners he became a member of today. Tears came to my eyes as I considered my own purpose and reason for running the Chicago Marathon. Perhaps I will share my reason some day. But not today.

Hill near the finish.
Today, I take my first step towards finishing. I have decided to run the 2012 Chicago Marathon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Marathon Saturday

One of the great things about Chicago is there is always something going on. This weekend, there isn’t just some thing going on, it’s an amazing thing! The 2011 Chicago Marathon may not begin until 7:30 Sunday morning, but the entire weekend is full of marathon excitement.

Helping out at McCormick Place handing out runner packets gave me marathon fever, so I decided to take a walk down to Grant Park where the run starts and finishes. I was hoping to see some interesting things/people and I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s a link to a map of Grant Park to get an idea of the layout.

Being such a beautiful day, there were lots of pedestrians meandering around. Half the people I saw were wearing some sort of marathon attire, whether it was a brand new Chicago Marathon 2011 t-shirt, a previous marathon tech-shirt, or a shirt simply stating “26.2”. I was becoming envious of this marathon club. The longest race I’ve run is the Butte to Butte, in Eugene, which is a 10k, or 6.2 miles, about half of a half-marathon.

I walked from the apartment on Cullerton, down Indiana Ave. (the map doesn’t show it, but it’s one block east of Michigan and ends @ Grant Park). I took a left at Roosevelt to Michigan, turned right and walked along the park for a bit. The Finish Line was off to my right so I cut through the park to take a look. The street leading to the finish was blocked off because of all the set-up in progress, but I got close enough for a picture. Bleachers lined the chute and I could just imagine the exhausted runners pushing a little harder as they made their way to the line with the crowd cheering them on. 

Working my way around the finish, I headed east toward the lake then went north through Lower Hutchinson Field. This is a great, big open field with lots of baseball diamonds. There is somewhat of a berm around it and every so often wide sets of steps lead from the walkways down to the field. I did some extra walking in this field because there was a fence all the around it that normally isn’t there. I tried to cut across, but ended up walking the perimeter inside the fence until a found a way out, almost back where I went in. So much for trying to take a shortcut.

There were white tents set up for hospitality, medical care, gear check, sponsors, and who-knows-what-else, throughout the park, as well as a few hundred port-a-potties. These were lined up in perfect rows of about 40 in several places. Somehow, with 45,000 people running, and 1.2 million people watching, the marathon, that just doesn’t seem like enough toilets.

Finally, I made it to Buckingham Fountain, where I treated myself to an iced coffee. It was warm out there, around 80 degrees. It’s going to be fairly warm Sunday for the marathon too. Yellow banners were on display warning the runners of the moderate weather conditions for the race. If the weather gets too extreme, the race can be stopped. Also, if the wind blows too hard, any times, record or otherwise, become unofficial.

Around the fountain were gear check tents. These covered an area about the size of the local food-booth strip at the Lane County Fair. Each tent held gear for about 1,000 runners. I cut through this area to Columbus Drive where the Start Line is located. The finish was neat to see, but the Start, well, it’s hard to describe. Even with cars still driving on the road, it was easy to imagine a giant mass of people lined up, ready to run. As I approached the street, I noticed the signs marking the mile pace starting areas. The slowest pace allowed is a 15-minute mile. At that pace, however, it will take a little over six and a half hours to finish.

Walking closer to the start, I came up to my normal pace. I ran a little under 11/mi in the B2B this summer. This still would put me about three blocks from the official Start Line. Continuing north, the pace gets faster until I came to the VIP corrals. These are the sections for the runners who can really move. These people are serious and to keep them from having to climb over the backs of slower runners (like me) they have reserved starting areas that put them ahead of the rest of the pack. There is one Open (where the majority of runners start) and five Closed corrals: A thru D (A being fastest), and then the Elite. The Elite are the gods of the marathon. These are the people who actually have a chance at winning the $100,000 First Place prize. Expect them to come in around two hours. That’s a pace of sub-five per mile.

There are so many runners that it takes about 20 minutes from the time the Elite runners start to when the Open runners get to the starting line. Here is more information on the pace required for the corrals and how to qualify for them:

Several people were getting pics taken of themselves at the pace markers, so I had to join in. Since it’s not likely I’ll ever be assigned an Elite starting location, I decided that’s where I wanted my picture taken. A group of ladies who are running the marathon together were kind enough to offer to take my pic for me after I took theirs. They were so excited to be running! Like I said earlier, I’m jealous of this group of marathon runners. Next year, I will be one of them.

This year I will be a supportive spectator somewhere around the 21 to 25 mile mark. Here is a map of the course: I live a couple blocks east of the 25-mile marker. I imagine by this time, the runners need all the encouragement they can get.

It would be wonderful to run with people I know. Half the fun of accomplishing something this big is being able to share the experience of training, and the joy of finishing. Registration opens in February. Let’s RUN together!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free Parking

Today I went to Target. Then I went to Best Buy.

I know. You’re thinking, “So what?”

Both places had free parking. That is a big deal in Chicago. Finding a good parking place is like finding a $100 bill in your sofa. Or a deed to an oil well in your attic. Seriously.

Tow trucks know how hard it is to find a parking spot so they cruise around ready to nab a car wrongfully parked by their desperate owner. For entertainment on game days, Steve will stand on his balcony just to watch the tow trucks at work. He says they are not too careful when they tow. They hook up to Hondas and BMWs alike by the front and yank them, scraping, squealing, and popping, sideways out of their parallel parking spaces. Yikes.

Not only is it hard to find a space, but when you finally do, you’ll have a hard time translating those impossible to translate parking signs. In Steve’s previous neighborhood, one side of the street would say “No parking on Wednesday”. So you figure that’s fine, I’ll just park on the other side of the street. Well, that side says “No parking on Tuesday” and “No parking on Snow Days”. What if it snows on a Wednesday? Where do you park then? So, even if you don’t move your car, you can still lose your space or, worse, your drive line.

Before moving and getting his space in the parking garage, Steve was in a constant state of hyper-weekday-awareness. “What day is this? Is it Wednesday, or still Tuesday?? Where did I park?” Working the overnight shift did not ease his anxiety; it made it worse. Going to work on a Tuesday and coming home on a Wednesday led to calendarial confusion. Tow trucks lurking like vultures didn’t help either. Now Steve works an evening shift and has his cozy covered, reserved parking space. He can sleep at night. At least he could until I showed up in my bug-covered, permit-less Pontiac.

It’s common to find opposite sides of the same street labeled differently. My side of the street says “No parking 2 hours before or 1 hour after events at Soldier Field, unless displaying resident parking permit.” The opposite side says, “No parking without Permit #968.” Go one block and it says, “No parking. Anytime.” Turn the corner and there are no signs. Anywhere. That’s the spookiest of all. You stand there looking around wondering what you aren’t seeing.

I needed to go shopping today and, normally, I would hate to move my car. It’s been in the same spot for over a week now with no problems (i.e. warnings, tickets or tows) so imagine my dismay when I went to check on my car (I do this daily because, well, read on and you’ll see why) I found a construction sawhorse on the side of the road with a tag saying “Tow Zone Oct. 7 to Oct. 10”. Being the 6th it’s imperative I move my car. Now.

Since I need to move my car I may as well do some errands; thus the trip to Target and Best Buy. It’s actually not bad to park there since those stores share parking with other stores in their respective buildings. The tricky place to park is Whole Foods. Park in any one of their parking garages and you are greeted with signs saying, “Towing in Progress!” Say what?? I look around expecting snarling tow trucks to come whipping around the corner. All is quiet, however.

Apparently, when shopping at Whole Foods, one is required to shop at Whole Foods and ONLY Whole Foods. Don’t even think about crossing over the hallway to World Market or going up the escalator to DSW. Forget that they are in the same frigging building! With so many people going in and out of so many different doors, I don’t see how they can tell if I’m sneaking into Marshall’s or if I’m dutifully grocery shopping. Nevertheless, I’m not taking the chance. I would share with you my first traumatic experience trying to find the parking garage allowing access to DSW, but it’s so confusing I could never type it out. Besides, I’ve blocked half of it and only deep hypnosis could bring it back.

After finishing my errands, I face the daunting task of finding a place to park. Since Steve is at work, I could snag his space in the garage…uh…no. Even though he has all the proper permits and could park anywhere, I wouldn’t want the convertible on the street. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t like it either.

So I begin to circle. I can practically feel the tow trucks breathing down my necks. All the usual signs are posted, but it’s the addition of these pesky sawhorses stating the city’s plans to dig up water lines that are causing me serious grief. One says Oct 7- 10, and another says Oct 6-12. Ugh. They’re digging up all these streets at once??

Finally, on 21st street, just behind the alley leading to the parking garage, I see one empty spot. At first glance, I don’t see any signs. I was almost too frightened to park there. With cars behind me and no other options in sight, I throw it into reverse and do my not-so-smooth version of country girl parallel parking. After awkwardly parking, I walk up and down the street looking for signs. I check all the trees. They often completely cover signs creating an effective parking trap.

After I convince myself that all is good, I pop open my trunk only to remember I bought a small piece of furniture at Target. I should have taken it into the garage and up to the apartment before parking. Damn.

Tempted to just leave it all in the car, I grab the sack I could easily carry, walk up the alley, and deliver the goods to the apartment. After deciding I really wanted the little cupboard out of my trunk and in the apartment where it belongs, I decide to go get it. After seriously contemplating carrying it, I jump in the driver’s seat and leave my glorious parking space. I pull into the alley, through the garage door, park in Steve’s spot, run into the lobby to grab a luggage cart, load up the cupboard, and haul it up to the eighth floor. I quickly dispose of it through the door and scurry back down, luggage rack in tow.

I jumped back into my car, head out the garage door, down the alley, and turn the corner only to find . . . the car parked behind me had left and I could now pull straight into my recently vacated parking spot. No parallel parking required.

I’ll let you know tomorrow if my car is still there or if there’s nothing left but sideways tire marks. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's Gonna Hurt!

Recently, while out for a run, I witnessed something that really made me think. I was on the loop back to my house when I came across a yard where a lady was comfortably ensconced in the shade, in a lawn chair. A little boy was standing in the sun a couple of feet in front of her. I say standing, but I actually mean he was jumping up and down, waving his arms, and animatedly describing something to the lady.

I couldn’t hear the words the boy was saying but I could hear the excitement in his voice. As I came closer to the yard, the little boy began bouncing on his toes with his arms clutched to his chest. He looked like a coiled spring all ready to explode. He finished his pitch to lawn chair lady and as I came up to the yard, I clearly heard her say, “Oh, but that’s gonna hurt!”

And just like that, all the energy in that coiled spring was gone. Arms drooped to the side. All bouncing stopped. Head tipped forward toward the ground.

I recognized the look. I’d seen it enough in my own kids whenever I told them any one of 10,000 perfectly good reasons why they shouldn’t do something. I’d seen it in my own face when I let someone talk me out of something that I really truly wanted to do.

Let me ask you, why shouldn’t we do things that hurt? I can understand that purposely damaging ourselves is a really bad idea, but what if pain is a pathway to something great? What if putting up with being a little uncomfortable or inconvenienced is going to bring strength, excitement, or even glory??

I broke a bone once and having it set, really hurt, but it would have healed wrong if they didn’t set it. I’ve received shots that hurt but they made me feel better or even protected me from disease. I’ve donated blood. That’s a hurt that is so good for other people! I’ve been through some tough relationships that hurt, and even ending them hurt. Next week, I’m moving to Chicago. It’s hurting to leave my home state and my friends, but this is going to be a great adventure and wonderful new life.

Lately, I’ve been getting up at four in the morning to go workout in a field in the dark with a bunch of other pain worshipers in Brundage Boot Camp, and baby that hurts!! Yesterday, when my daughter exclaimed over my “traps”, I knew it was worth the pain of those early morning workouts.

Sometimes, the things that hurt are the best things for us. We gain knowledge, experience, strength, zest for life, a new outlook, and most importantly, new friends. I wish I could take back those times I discouraged my kids with my dour pain predictions. All I can do now is set a good example for them.

Today, my BBC friends and I, are heading to North Plains to take on the Oregon Warrior Dash. There will be mud, fire, logs in a pond, cargo nets, walls, lots of running, and glory. We will arrive on the battlefield ready to attack. As we head to the starting line, we will go forth proudly knowing that THIS IS GONNA HURT!!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Packing for Chicago

Today, I’m packing.

I know, I’ve been supposedly packing all week, but really all I’ve been doing is rearranging stuff. I hate packing.

Every item I pick up is a decision to be made.

Do I keep it? Sell it? Toss it? If it’s paper do I recycle it? Toss it? Shred it? Use it to wrap other stuff?

What size box do I need? Should I get the giant one to pack everything or a bunch of little ones so they are easy to carry? Should I just throw it all into a big garbage bag???

Not only do I have those decisions, I have to decide how soon I will need each item.

If I’m donating it to the Brundage Boot Camp yard sale, I have to put it in the car today and drop it off tomorrow at Friday Fun Day in Springfield. Easy.

If I need it in the next three days, for work or cooking, I can’t pack it just yet. 

If I am taking it in four days to my daughter in Portland, I can pack it but I can’t put it in my car yet (because of the yard sale stuff, it would be bad to mix those things up) so her things have to sit in my storage shed.

If I don’t need it in the next two weeks but will need it in the next month or so, then it goes into suitcases to take to Steve who will be flying it to Chicago, in four days . . . along with my cat, which I can’t pack until the day I go to Portland.

There are also the things I will need off and on over the course of the next two weeks but I have to get them out of my 5th wheel by next week when the consignment lot people will be coming to get it. I have been living in this for the past four years. Fifth wheels will hold more crap than you think!

Anyway, those items will need to either go into my storage shed, or my storage unit (in an entirely different town!) or into my suitcase/car to take to my friend Julie’s house, where I will be staying for a couple of days. Then I need to take some stuff up to my daughter’s in Portland (again, but my own stuff this time) where I will be staying for a couple days while I run the Warrior Dash on September 10th! (Yay, for the WD!!!) When I return to Julie’s, I have to load things up in my car to drive to Chicago. Since I will be staying in Iowa for a few days on the way, I will of course need things there!!

However, before I leave for good on the 13th for Chicago, everything that has been shoved into my storage shed will need to be taken to my storage UNIT where it will sit, costing me forty bucks a month until I can come back and haul it home. To Chicago.

On top of this packing and decision-making, I still have a 40-hour workweek to squeeze in over this coming weekend, more good-bye social visits (including a wake-boarding expedition), not to mention the two Portland trips, and, of course, my dad’s Trailerhood Poker Game!

I HAVE to go to dad’s poker night. I will miss my dad immensely! I have worked at the sawmill with him for the past ten and a half years, and have felt very lucky to do so.

There are a lot of great people at the sawmill. I will miss them terribly, as well. I’ll miss the sawfilers who have taught me so much and become my friends. I’ll miss my little sister and her three beautiful kids. I’ll miss my mom and her obnoxious little dogs. I’ll miss my fellow bootcampers, even Matt. I’ll miss Julie and Lori and all my friends. I’ll miss my cozy corner of the trailer park and my pretty little 5th wheel with my shaded little yard and my pretty pink flamingos. I’ll miss hiking Mt. Pisgah. I’ll miss Oregon.

I think I found the real problem with finishing my packing.

When the packing is done . . . the leaving begins.