Snow Day!

The picture above is what I came home to last night. I had a day off today and was planning on spending it exploring with a great friend from home, but as they say “the best laid plans…”. We had a night in, enjoying our cute, cleaned apartment that looks it’s best yet since we moved in 3 and a half months ago. 

Last night it got down to 18 degrees. I woke up to little bits of snow flakes, but now it’s full on flurries! I can’t tell if it’s sticking because of all the construction dust and gravel in the front yard, but even the construction is almost done. 

We had our first church board meeting of the new board members Wednesday. I learned a lot of background about our church, LUKE (Lutheran Urban Kingdom Expansion) the organization that is trying to grow inner-city churches, and CLEF (Chicagoland Lutheran Education Foundation) that was given money to help grow our church and a few others. I also learned just how many moving pieces are involved. 

(It’s snowing even harder now and Mark is laughing at my cheesy grin and two-minute updates!) 

In anticipation of showing my friend around the city, I looked up new coffee shops and tea rooms. I even found a second conservatory like we went to in October. Now I have quite a few more places to explore in Chicago. Speaking of exploring, I usually have two train stations to choose from to get downtown, Jefferson Park and Montrose. I used to walk to Irving Park from the old apartment because it was about 7 minutes closer. Last week, I decided to try walking home from Irving Park to the new apartment because I was pretty sure I knew exactly how to get home. Well, I was right, but by getting off the other end of the platform my bearings were switched and I may have walked about 20 minutes in the wrong direction… Now that I know what I’m doing, I usually walk there in the morning when it’s light out. Now that the time switch happened, it’s completely dark when I walk home. 

(Cars are now covered, but the grass is stubbornly not accepting any snow.)

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying exploring the thrift stores here, too. Besides the donut maker, I found a fancy humidifier that works great and has a ton of extra settings. It’s been really helpful now that it’s cold. There are so many cool things in the thrift stores in our area, and it’s like an adventure to see what I can find. ($1 silk blouse? Cashmere and wool winter coat?) It also doubles as exercise walking around the stores. 

Mark signs up for spring classes soon. He’s still deciding what he wants to do. Maybe physical therapy, maybe computers, maybe something else. He’s also getting back to seeing someone about his ADHD. He’s not happy hanging out at home all day, but his schedule isn’t normal enough to work along with classes. Things will make more sense when he knows what he wants to do. 


Officially too busy

Remember when I tried to be philosophical and asked how busy is too busy? I have an answer. Spring semester visa season is the breaking point. I was always so surprised to be one of few advisors who never stayed late, but I’ve left late for almost 2-3 weeks in a row now. 

We have a large group of students for spring semester, and all but like 40 of my students need visas. (Dual citizenship students are my favorites! So much simpler!) Consulates are booking full left and right, colleagues are in and out covering the huge amount of orientations, study abroad fairs, and for advisors out sick. I’ve officially lost the busy-battle. I’m sick, dishes and laundry are needing more of my attention, and I’m stuck on the couch. 

So much has been crammed into the past few weeks. Mark and I celebrated our first anniversary by being rained in for about 22 hours straight, but managed to go to the Garfield Park Conservatory, a greenhouse/park/garden South of us. Mark loved taking tons of photos of everything.

Because my original plan was rained out, we went to Starved Rock State Park last weekend. We got a late start, but it was really neat and we met so many friendly dogs! 

Friday, we helped with Candy Kingdom, which was a church trunk-or-treat type event. I think I picked up some small child’s germs, but it was a lot of fun handing out candy and helping with the ring toss. 

Yesterday we had a brunch for millennial Cru ladies in Rogers Park. It was a good time, and even with a small turnout we had fun talking and trying apple cider pancakes. 

Mark’s highlight of the past few weeks was my last thrift store trip. Rather than flannels, this time I found a fancy humidifier and a donut maker! We’ve only tried two kinds of donuts so far, but more will surely come as we figure out recipes and timing. 

I also ate my way through a day in Madison, Wisconsin, at an orientation for my Barcelona students. We met the study abroad office, had lunch, and introduced the Barcelona Academics person who was visiting to cheese curds. After lunch, we talked through a bit of the political situation, answered dozens of emails, and had real Wisconsin ice cream from the student union before getting to the actual orientation. UW Madison is gorgeous and right on the lake. The orientation went well and I got to actually meet a few of my advisees. We finished of the day with more Barcelona questions over dinner where we had Door County cherries in a salad, and Wisconsin mac n cheese! 

Today, I’m hanging out on the couch with home made soup thanks to Mark who’s taking on the job of cleaning up the house! 

You’ll never believe what happened today

Work was more interesting than usual today! We gained and re-homed a pet inch worm and I found a lost passport in the recycling bin. 

The morning started like usual, we had Bible study at the Chase building and walked over after. About 30 minutes into doing emails, I start hearing things from the cube next to me. “He’s trying to escape!” “What do we do?” Turns out the bouquet one of the advisors brought in had a stowaway! A little green inch worm was trying to make a run for it. After some debate, we got him into an open Ziploc bag and took him outside. Millennium Park is a bit of a walk just to save a worm, but there happened to be a raised flower bed across the street. The inch worm survived the journey and is happily munching on some leaves outside 30 something Monroe.

After lunch, team Spain gathered to go through visa applications for our students. I was dealing with the copy machine, scanning things and making copies as needed. After probably 20 applications, I found one that was missing the passport! We had a copy in the file already, so it was in the office. After a little bit of panicking, I went back to check around the copier and found the missing passport in the recycle bin! With no table in the area, we were setting the folders on the machine and it must’ve slid out and into the bin underneath. Fortunately the panic was short lived and all is well. 

Misadventures on the CTA

From what I’ve seen, most people tolerate the CTA as a necessary part of living in Chicago. It’s much cheaper and easier than driving, but it’s crowded and unpredictable. It took me months to figure out the 78 bus alone, which seems to always have 2-3 buses going the direction I’m not and none going where I want to go. (We moved to the other side of the train station and this still holds true). 

This week’s misadventures include Mark’s stolen wallet and my returning motion sickness. When we came home Saturday from a friend’s birthday, we got off the bus and made it about 10 steps before Mark realized his wallet was gone. We checked the ground, called the bus garage, and cancelled all cards. No one turned it in to the bus garage after 48 hours, so I assumed it was gone for good. 

The one thing we didn’t cancel was Mark’s ventra card. His monthly pass expired the day after it was taken, so we didn’t think it was a big deal. Well, he logged into his account Tuesday night to see that someone loaded money on his card and has been using it! It’s maddening to know someone daily walks through the Grand Red Line station with Mark’s wallet and card. And, there’s nothing we can do about it since we already got him a new ventra card. The only way to report one stolen is to replace it and pay for a new card, which we’ve already done, but in the wrong order. 

I used to always get car sick on any trip over about 30 minutes. It went away somewhere around high school/college, except for when I fly. I was so proud of myself for surviving a boat trip and the road to Hana in Hawaii (with my wrist bands), but it seems that I can’t get rid of motion sickness forever. The train ride home from work is 30 minutes, and the right combination of temperature, food, and visual stimuli can wreak havoc by the time the train gets above ground. 

Hopefully when the weather makes up its mind between cold and mostly warm this will go away again. But for now, I’m back to my anti-sickness wrist bands and goldfish crackers. 

Edit: Although the wrist bands are also marketed for morning sickness, no I’m not pregnant! Just living with motion sickness!

How busy is too busy?

If you know my family, you know we’re usually going from one thing to managing the next while prepping for a third and so on. And we’re actually pretty good at it, and at hiding/ignoring the stress it can cause. None of the things we spend time on are bad, but being over-committed, stressed, and too busy can be. When I was younger, I really didn’t understand the idea of vacations to relax. We had planned vacations where we had lists of places to see, trails to hike, or people to see. And we had fun! I saw more of the USA than most people by the time I was in high school. We once took a no-schedule trip and didn’t really know what to do with ourselves.

When I started dating Mark, I learned the meaning of “hanging out”. Rather than doing something, we would sit and watch tv, or pet the cats, or just cuddle on the couch. I also didn’t get a smart phone until half-way through college. I used to be very unattached to my phone. I’d always answer it when I got a text or call, but without the entire app store and internet in my pocket, I didn’t have much reason to stay on it. Now, I have too many things to check and still check it even when I’m bored of it. Now I feel like I spend too much time “relaxing” and reading internet articles, watching entire seasons of shows because we’re adults and we can, browsing Pinterest, or any number of other non-productive things.

We’ve been in our new apartment for a full month now and I feel like so much hasn’t gotten done. I got so much accomplished today even while sick just by putting my phone down and doing things. Our ladies’ Bible study group is reading Let It Go by Karen Ehman, and the second chapter ended with a discussion of tools, toys, and tangents. Is what you’re doing useful? fun? or a time-waster? I’ve spent so much screen in the name of relaxing that I made myself more stressed about what wasn’t getting done. I wrongly tried to justify myself by “well, Mark’s not getting anything done so why should I?” which meant nobody got anything done and we both felt like we were ignoring each other. Our house will not become a no-phone-zone, but it hopefully will become a more people-time place.

Thrifting in Chicago!

I used to like going to Goodwill in Ohio, and occasionally in Ft. Wayne when we were visiting, but Chicago is awesome for the variety it offers. In high school I actually found two of my prom dresses at the Bowling Green Goodwill for $5 a piece, and before 4H camp we would descend on the store for costumes that we would wear at campfire and to meals. In college, I would drive friends and international students to the stores looking for sweaters, flannels, and crazy random things. We’d also do clothing swaps a few times a year with the ladies of Cru, and the leftovers were found for months afterwards at the local thrift store. (Have you ever seen something and thought, I have one just like that! only to realize that IS your old shirt/dress/scarf? It’s a weird feeling.)

After cleaning out my closet this weekend, I wanted to check the local thrift stores for flannels and boots. Most of the stores near me have certain colored tags designated for half-off on different days of the month. There’s a chain, Village Discount Outlet, with at least a dozen locations, a more well-kept store called Unique, and a Salvation Army all in reasonable distance of our apartment. Each location has a slightly different type of stock. The store near my gym has a ton of vintage suits, sweaters, and skirts plus a good amount of wool clothes. The only one with fitting rooms-Unique-has more of your season or two old name brand clothes and some more modern shoes. The Salvation Army is hit-or-miss most days. **As the internet is not always friendly, I want to clarify that I am mentioning the brands of things not because I only wear name-brands but to show the craziness of what you can find/how much you can save by thrifting.**

After about two hours of carrying around all kinds of things, I ended up finding a vintage plaid German wool skirt, a New York and Company blouse that actually fits, an L.L. Bean super soft flannel shirt (in the men’s section, but who cares?), a Banana Republic longer women’s flannel, and a mystery flannel with an embroidery style print on the back. I also found replacement tall boots for the ones I’ve entirely worn through at 10% of what they’d be in the store! I know I’m not the only one who finds more than they were looking for when they go shopping. My other goal was to look for baskets to organize my tea & coffee shelf, but the ones of the right size didn’t have tags & they won’t sell them unmarked.

One of these days when we have all of our pictures hung up and the boxes all dealt with, I’m planning to go back and find some fun decorations. Both my mom & MIL have found me fun wreaths that make the front door look more fun, but my current decoration set up consists of my wedding bouquet, two lanterns, and a ton of mostly-burnt candles. The candles are perfectly usable, but not so pretty to look at right when you come in the door. I also have quite a bit of yarn that I don’t have a project for. I only know a handful of crochet stitches and I can only use/give away so many earwarmers.

In other news, I finally got around to sewing the tears in my leggings that have been waiting a long, long time. Unlike the other ladies of my family, sewing and I just don’t get along. Much like my math skills, I can get things done and understand the concepts, but don’t enjoy it. I also don’t know much about the sewing machine I currently have, which is my excuse for not hemming my jeans. Can you stitch through light-weight denim without an industrial machine? Not wanting to find out the hard way, I decided rolling my jeans will work until I get back to Ohio and my mother’s sewing expertise.

Rather than blogging about each week’s highs & lows, I wanted to try writing about themes & topics. I like fashion & cooking, but I’m not sure whether the audience of this blog would have any interest in either of those. Feel free to comment here or on the Facebook post with opinions or any topics you want to hear about. I plan to also write about the new books I’ve been reading after processing them a bit more.

Round Two of Changing Everything

So most people know that when I got my job in Chicago I moved here, got married, moved Mark here and went back to work the next day all in under a month. This time we found a new apartment, moved across town, had family bring all kinds of things from Ohio, became church members, and flew to Cancun in under a week. We need to stop doing this!

My department at work has two yearly meetings where everyone comes to the Chicago office for a week each time. That happened the week before we moved, so boxing things up didn’t really happen. Mark tried to box & move some things but ended up hurting his back somehow early in the week and didn’t get as much accomplished as we planned. Both sets  of parents came from Ohio on Saturday to help move & brought the couch over. Our pastor came to help along with two other friends before they all went home to clean up and go to the pastor’s wife’s 40th birthday party. Our lovely Cru friend brought over a delicious dinner and we all went to bed early.

Sunday we headed to church, Costco, and then home to keep unpacking and see off our parents. Monday I went to work and we went to bed early. We packed up two backpacks and a carry on and set the alarm clock for Tuesday for 4 am. Being up-to-date on the latest airline suggestions, we got there 3 hours ahead, and made it through security in 10 minutes, leaving us with nothing to do at 5:36 am. We finally boarded around 8:00 and were promptly told we’d be sitting at the gate for around 45 minutes while they documented the “parking lot ding” on the airplane that “was nothing to worry about”. Knowing that Tropical Storm Franklin had just hit the day before, I was in no hurry to be in an airplane over the remnants of 64 mph wind, but we made up time somewhere and landed about 20 minutes later than planned.

The vacation package included a shuttle, but the arrival area was packed & chaotic. We did find the shuttle, but then stood outside in line for about 30 minutes. We were the 3rd group to be dropped off, and the hotel staff met us outside with fresh orange juice and took us to the check in. By then, it was 3 pm and we were hungry. American Airlines doesn’t serve lunch on 3 hour flights unless you purchase a lunch. We checked in, walked up the main staircase and down the hall to our room. I was a bit concerned by the reviews I read before going, but everything was better than expected! (With the exception of the bed feeling like they put a mattress pad on a wood block). After setting things down we headed for lunch, which was served indoors on account of the storm the day before.


After lunch, we walked around outside and looked at the beach and the two hotel pools. They had hammocks, little covered areas, and regular umbrellas. We went back to the room for a nap before going to dinner & back to bed. (Really exciting, I know, but I woke up at 3 am.)

Wednesday, we had breakfast in the lobby, and took a walk to the Flamingo Mall don the road. It was in the last stages of closing before being turned into a convention center in December, so the store owners were happy to see people. We wandered through, walked a ways down the road and looked at the lagoon and resorts, then headed back to the pool at the hotel. Mark decided the ocean was more fun and spent a few hours getting bashed around by the huge waves. He made a friend, and I got us reservations for the fancy restaurant for that night. We mainly stayed at the pool/ocean until 5-ish when we went back and Mark napped while I got cleaned up for dinner. We both got burnt even with sunscreen, but Mark was extremely crispy and was doused in lotion about every 2 hours for the rest of the trip.



Dinner was very nice. Not much to choose from for a vegetarian, but the cook sent out additional appetizers of the day that were really good and my pesto pasta was good. Mark was surprised at the length of dinner; it took 2 hours.

Thursday we doubled up on the sunscreen, met friends at the pool, tried water aerobics with a very adamant instructor, and still got burnt. We found out that there are fenced areas for sea turtle nest protection and that the turtles come in around 10-12 pm to lay their eggs. I had every intention of staying up, but passed out around 9:30 and Mark couldn’t wake me up. I thought they released the baby turtles at 8 am, but when we showed up Friday morning we found out it was 8 pm. But we got to see them digging up the egg shells, baby turtles, and counting them all.

After the turtles, we walked back to the Flamingo Mall. I got two sets of earrings, but when Mark went to buy his souvenir, the machine declined both of our cards. The shop owner scrambled up $10 USD in change for us after telling me he had no US dollars, and as soon as we got back to the resort, both our phones went off with fraud alerts from the bank. He tried charging us $30 USD each time, which the bank flagged. Good for us that the bank caught it, but that meant all of our auto payments, like our transit passes, wouldn’t load. After the flight back, we had just enough coins to get Mark back to the apartment. I didn’t realize that my pass also wasn’t working and ended up with a negative balance. Apparently you can have about $10 in negative charges before your pass won’t work.

Mark got both our cards working yesterday after we unpacked some, grocery shopped, and then we met my cousins at a pub in Lincoln Square for dinner. It was nice, and it’s a good place for food, but something was going on at 6 pm yesterday because it was packed with rowdy people! I made a week’s worth of lunches and tried to straighten out our closet before going to bed.

It will be interesting to see how tomorrow goes at work. I haven’t ever been gone this long before, and even with my team covering I feel like I’ll have several hundred emails! Now I’ll have to start saving up vacation days for the next adventure!