Lent & Learning

This year’s Lent season has gone much better for me than usual.  The weather is usually dark, cold, and just generally miserable and the effects of well-intended sermons each Sunday & Wednesday usually feel the same.  Why do we tell people how miserable they are just to expect them 40 days later to celebrate? The psychology just doesn’t work for me on this.  This year, even with some miserable weather, it’s been decent enough to go outside some weekends and Mark & I are at the tail-end of a Happiness bible study with our Wednesday night group.  We also had a mini-staycation with two family visits, and our house is cleaner because of it!

Thursday of last week, I posted on my way to a conference.  The IEI, International Educators of Illinois, met at Kendall College to talk about a variety of subjects. I was in Study Abroad 101 for the full day with two of our other newer advisors.  Speaking with some of the more seasoned professionals, I was reminded that experience isn’t always measured in years & that I should never apologize for my newness.  I met several people who I was able to continue talking to at the networking hour afterward.  I joined another international ed. group, and signed up to be mentored.  Here’s hoping I can build more skills this year!

Saturday was the last kickboxing class for a few weeks.  After that, the lady who leads the class and I went upstairs to meet the newly recruited accompanist for Sunday.  Our usual music people were in Iowa, so we spent roughly 2 hours figuring out the timing together with a piano instead of the usual guitar.  I’m still adjusting to Mark working all day, so afterwards I took a field trip to Lakeview to see him at his store.  I successfully came home with no new plants, even though the variety was great and they had small plants on sale.  Someday I will have the space for a garden…  I went to Trader Joe’s for the first time after leaving Mark’s store and found the best Indian food!  $2 for the same food that would cost me $14 in a restaurant.  Sunday we made it to the 8:30am service and met several people I’d never seen in our neighborhood.  They have cake & coffee between services with a Bible study, so I stayed for a bit before the 11am service started.

I walked around the Lakeview neighborhood for a long while on Saturday, and walked Jefferson Park on Sunday waiting for my parents train to arrive.  I joined them at the airport to see them off for 3 weeks in the UK with my sister. We have half a plan figured out for the day they come home, since the train schedule doesn’t work very well and my dad works the day after.  It looks like I’ll be driving them out of Chicago to meet my uncle who will take them the rest of the way back.

Conference Day

I feel like I’ve barely been back to work since Christine and get mom were here. Monday I was in Ohio again finishing up dental work. I finally have a full set of teeth again! For those who didn’t know, I was missing four adult teeth and they were replaced with crowns over implants.  I’m still getting used to not having a gap in my mouth. After almost a year of not chewing on one side it’s hard to switch back to normal. 

Today I’m attending the Illinois International Educators conference with two of the other newer advisors. It was a bit rough this morning having exploding coffee and getting dressed in the dark, but I’m on the train with time to spare! 

Last night Mark worked late again at Home Depot. I’ve been spoiled having him home all the time and I don’t know what to do with myself when he’s not there. Tuesday night not much was accomplished, but yesterday I made a new recipe, cleaned things up a bit, did dishes and put away half the laundry! Without a good washer and dryer our Ohio trips turn into “take five baskets of laundry home” trips. Last night, Mark came home with a surprise! I now have three house plants, the newest addition is full of red blossoms. The hyacinth is past it’s flowing stage, and the succulents have morphed into the plant that ate Chicago, so it’s nice to have a pretty new plant with flowers.

The fun part of last night was hearing from one of the leaders of Cru Chicago Millennials. She is setting Mark up with potential friends, and Mark came home talking about one of the ladies at work who started talking with him about church. He’s now volunteered to help her fix her car! I’m pretty sure Mark would fix everything if he could. 

My First Vacation from Work

I officially took three consecutive days off of work and everyone survived! My department is separated into teams so we can cover for each other, but Monday all of us were out. My boss covered, and so Friday afternoon I gave her all the info I had about the application my students were working on. On Tuesday, one of my co-workers on our team was back, so she took over the whole team. I’m so thankful for the amazing, capable people I work with! Unfortunately, things got crazy this week with major program changes, so when I came in five minutes late Thursday there was a small panic that I wasn’t going to be back. 127 emails and several database interactions later, I’m caught up!

After leaving work last Friday, Mark and I helped his mom and little sister carry a weekend’s worth of things into our apartment. Saturday, I took Christine (Mark’s little sister) with me to kick boxing. We had fun, and one of the ladies from church who had heard I didn’t have tennis shoes brought her old (practically new) pair for me to keep! I had been kickboxing in socks for the past weeks since my only pair of tennis shoes was in Ohio.

After kick boxing, we collected our weekend things into two cars and drive to Iowa. Unfortunately, my wallet was hidden back in Illinois. We drove past every place Mark had lived and just made it to the church in Cedar Rapids in time for Christine to practice her solo. Their grandma was turning 80, and we were having a party at the church after Saturday night service. Christine’s solo went well, everyone had fun, and we ended the day by playing with two awesome dogs at the friend’s house we were staying at.

Sunday, we ate breakfast at a local diner, walked through a gem and mineral show, packed up, and drove back to Chicago with Christine. Monday we took the train and a bus to the planetarium. We had a late start, but we still saw two shows. The second one was funny, and we learned about the Japanese names for a few constellations.  Subaru is what we call the Pleiades.  Right before closing time, we were in line for a lift that takes visitors into a sphere with holes punched through that show the stars in the night sky. Two of the girls misunderstood the man operating the lift when he asked them to move, so he decided to switch sides so I could fit with Christine. That meant he was on the opposite side of the lift from the controls, and I got to drive it!

Tuesday, we split up and Mark dropped his transcripts at UIC while Christine and I started at the Field Museum. On the way there, we decided to be adventurous and switch from the Brown Line train to the Red Line.  We had passed a Red Line station the day before where we got on the bus to the museums.  So when we saw a Red Line train arrive at the same time as our Brown Line train into the Belmont station, we just hopped off one onto the other.  Christine then saw an underground train for the first time, and we did a bit less walking to get to the bus.  Mark joined us after lunch due to a train delay where he had to exit the delayed train and wait for another. After the museum closed, we had Chicago style deep dish pizza, walked through Millennium Park, and went home. Everyone was tired after so much walking and learning.

Wednesday, I looked up the Museum of Science and Industry, and navigated us to the wrong place. We switched up the schedule and went to the aquarium instead. Patience was a little thin on day 5, but we got to see a 4D show about prehistoric sea monsters, watch beluga whales eat lunch, and saw a live dolphin show. The plan was to end the day at the Skydeck, but Christine heard how high up it was and opted out. We watched Big Hero 6 at home instead.

Thursday I went back to work and Mark and Christine took a pajama day. Their mom came back to Chicago about the same time I got home, and we ordered food and stayed in listening to music and laughing at Lutheran memes. I think some of us needed a vacation from our vacation!

This weekend, Mark and I are going to Ohio. Saturday night there’s an international dinner at the place my mom teaches English, and Monday I finally finish the dental work I started before I went to Salzburg! Maybe then things will calm down.

To move or not to move?

This week we’ve had a lot going on again. Our first male kick boxer joined us Saturday for class. Sunday I got to hold a sweet little baby during church. I now am on the schedule to sing at church various weeks. Due to the crime spree this weekend across northern Chicago, I reached out to the ladies in my small group and we are actively looking for a safe apartment that doesn’t leak or have crawlies. And Mark and I both ended up getting new phones after mine refused to connect to WiFi for over a week.

I think the hardest part of all these changes is the idea of moving. As much as I wish we had had more time in August to find a better apartment, this is still our first home. And cracks, leaks and mouse traps aside, we’ve made it pretty nice. I’ve gotten used to our streets and especially enjoy being two blocks from church, our pastor’s family, and the Deaconess who hosts small group. But waking past a forensics truck and officers in bullet proof vests Sunday on the way home from church reminded me that this is still the big city of Chicago.

Mark has officially applied to UIC, but Monday was pretty rough for him. He’s not on the work schedule until April because they schedule in three week cycles, so he’s had lots of time to kill, and is upset with himself for not using the time better. He’s now started working out at a gym nearby, which we both think will help him, but he is still in search of one with a pool.  Teaching himself anatomy and exercise science from library books is also working well, and hopefully also helping for when he starts school. We’re still waiting to hear back from UIC Admissions.

Tech issues at my work resulted in an emergency team meeting earlier in the week, and we are now calling about 400 students to make sure they know they were accepted. Some of these kids are so sweet and professional, and others are enjoying life by recording themselves singing songs instead of a voice mail message. It’s hard to believe there’s only about three years between myself and our students.

Last night was really great, seeing our entire small group and finishing the last video in the happiness series we’ve been going through. We got to sing together, learned fun guitar tuning tips from the guy who led, and didn’t even miss anything when we arrived late after an impromptu visit to Verizon. (I couldn’t tell the difference between a nano and micro SIM. Now I can, and have one of each and a new working phone!)

Today I feel great and actually got up when my alarm went off at 6:30. Mark made a whole pan of lasagna yesterday, so I have ready-to-eat lunch to go with my coffee and muffin breakfast. I even did a whole sink full of dishes before having to catch the bus! This weekend we’ll be going to Iowa to celebrate Mark’s grandma’s birthday, and then hanging out with his younger sister at all the museums in Chicago until Thursday. It’ll be quite a week!

You win some, you lose some.

Everything is now happening at once.  Mark went to his first day of work, where he made other managers wish he was in their department by fixing a paper towel dispenser on his first break.  One of my coworkers is leaving our team for another department, and we’re having a breakfast for her tomorrow.  I’m taking on Barcelona advising again after having to give it up a few months ago.  We had an adventure at the laundromat and I’m currently wearing my one and only bra all week… (To be explained later.)

Life has been full of interesting things this week, like dropping 5 inches of snow on us Monday, followed by several more overnight.  I walked outside this morning to snow taller than my boots!

I went thrift shopping Saturday, and found two pairs of new-to-me jeans that originally would’ve totaled $200+.  Sunday, I got my Amazon package with two pairs of Lularoe-style leggings.  Monday, I slept through my alarm and wore said leggings to work, having 15 minutes to get ready & out the door.  Fortunately, my other thrift store find was a one person sized coffee maker, that I had prepped and could just fill my mug with coffee Monday morning.  Today, however, I planned to wear my lovely new jeans.  After getting everything ready, boots on, bus 5 minutes away, I bent my leg and ripped through the knee of my jeans. Apparently, I win some & I lose some.  Those jeans weren’t meant to last through multiple owners.

I can’t really consider Saturday’s laundry adventure a loss, but it was pretty eventful.  I asked around at cardio kickboxing (which was, again, fantastic) and Mark and I carried all our laundry out to the car and drove about 10-15 minutes to the laundromat.  As soon as we got inside, we realized that the crucial part of laundry, the detergent, was in the pantry at home.  So I drove back to get it while Mark figured out the system of changing cash into credits on a card. The numbers on the machines didn’t really make sense, so when we first put in the card to the washer I was shocked that 395 was actually $3.95 per 15 minute wash!  The 35 on the dryers seemed reasonable, 35 cents isn’t such a big deal.  Until we found out that the dryers also only lasted 15 minutes. Pressing the button a second time charged another 35 cents, but only added 8 minutes.  Why?  $15 later, we had very damp but clean laundry, and an extra basket of delicates and sheets that we decided to deal with another day.  Planning to deal with the rest of the laundry this week, we left that basket in the car, and all my bras but one are currently snowed in along with the brush we need to uncover the car.

Who would have thought that a 23 year old college graduate would be having this much trouble with laundry?

I love snow and am thoroughly enjoying this weather.  It is a bit harder to get up when it’s freezing outside at 6am, but it’s sunny and I want to walk trough all the snow before it turns gray and gets shoveled away.  My third program of students has their deadline tomorrow, so I’m getting a few more questions at work to keep busy, in addition to a presentation on our company’s money situation that took up the last hour of our day.  It alternately looked like a blizzard, then completely clear, then back & forth all day.  And then all the snow piled up on the slanted windows fell off all at once.  Now I know why they have those signs at street level.

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The Chicago Winter That Wasn’t

This has been one of the weirdest winters I’ve seen.  We’ve had days of 8-10 inches of snow, -9 degrees, or 65 degrees and sunny all jumbled up and switching almost every week.  Personally, I think the only reason for winter is to have snow, so our two large snow falls that lasted about a week each weren’t quite enough for me.  With the weird and often cold-but-not-that-cold days, everyone stays inside for the most part.  I couldn’t name any of our neighbors, and have only seen 3 of them.  One rides the bus the same times I do, and another has a small child.  There’s a fourth neighbor who sings opera, but she’s often heard but never seen.

Along with the weather, it seems like so many people are stuck in a different winter mode.  Just waiting for change like we’re all waiting for spring.  We’ve been waiting months for Mark to find a job and he finally did!  We’ve been waiting for him to have in-state rates on tuition so he can finish his degree.  Waiting at my office on the next cycle of busy season.  Waiting for the next post by my fantastic sister on her blog.  Friends at home are waiting on support to come in for ministry, or waiting on relationships.  It feels like there’s going to be an explosion of busyness once spring arrives.

I’ve only recently been learning to relax.  I’m not one of those people who can sleep in until noon, and I’m realizing that since I’ve had a phone that does more than call & text I’ve developed a habit of checking it to look busy & not look bored or lonely in social settings.  That habit needs to end.  Starting over has made me focus alternately more & less on appearances.  My first week of work I had a whole set of coordinated outfits picked out, until I realized that leggings and jeans were fair game.  I used to look out the windows and people-watch on the train ride work, but now I alternate between apps to avoid the looks of people who think I’m staring.  But on the positive end, Mark is teaching me to relax.  I can stay in bed an extra ten minutes instead of putting on makeup everyday.  And a large part of relaxing is realizing that we aren’t/can’t be in control of everything.

Does anyone else get Inst-envy? Or feel less when your house isn’t Pinterest-worthy?  That has been me.  I was putting so much energy into looking good every day, and cleaning and organizing everything when we’d only just moved in.  But who, exactly, was that for?  It didn’t make me happy; I was always stressed out & frustrated that Mark didn’t care enough to help.  Until he showed me that maybe I cared a bit too much.  I get so much guilt from saying that I want to stay in and not go on the date Mark planned, but he doesn’t mind!  So who is the guilt coming from and what is it helping?  (Me and not me.)  It’s a work in progress.

Another work in progress is meeting people.  It’s an established fact that Chicagoans don’t go out during winter.  We were lucky enough to find a Lutheran 20-somethings group in October and a small group in Evanston.  From those, I have three lovely friends.  But there’s not the history that I had in 4 years with people in BG.  And Mark hasn’t met anyone his age.  Where are all the young 20s aged men?  We’re hoping this will change when he goes back to school.  Our group at Tabor braves the cold on Monday nights to get together and on Saturday mornings for cardio kickboxing, but neither of those are for men.  Even my friends from Evanston mentioned the lack of 20-something men when we last got together.  Maybe they’re all hibernating until it’s warm enough to play sports instead of watching them on tv.

This week will be a big adventure as Mark starts training for his job in the garden center.  He’s finishing up an application for school and studying to get back in school mode.  I’m not used to him being gone during the day.  He has so much more energy now that he has things to do.  Sitting at home is not recommended for anyone, much less someone with ADD who wants to do things and learn things.  Reddit has been an unlikely support for this. Plenty of other people have gone back to school after a few years off and written about it.  Other people have written about how to meet people in Chicago, what places to go, and things to do.  Once it gets warm enough to venture out of our apartment, we’ll give the suggestions a try!