Friday, December 30, 2011

Kindred Spirits

“Our lives at times seem a study in contrast... love & hate, birth & death, right & wrong... everything seen in absolutes of black & white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of grey that add depth & meaning to the starkness of those extremes.”
-Ansel Adams (whose photos these are)

There's so much I could say about today, but what sums it up for me is that I really feel like I visited with a kindred spirit more than just a source of inspiration when I went out to the museum to see Ansel Adams' works today.  I've always felt inspired by his images, well before photography became something I absolutely loved doing. 

In my somewhat limited exploration of America and its national parks, I've so often found myself standing there alone, trying to process it all.  Standing up in the mountains looking down over Colorado Springs or watching a storm roll in across the Rio Grande at sunset in Los Alamos at the overlook, or being  in the middle of an expanse of prairie grasses and forest in the fall when the entire world takes on the look of a stained glass cathedral.  Those things, to me, are the only true meaning of awesome.   And as someone interested in photography, I've always wanted to be able to somehow capture that, bring it back and share it. I feel like you're really letting people in to who you are when you can show them the things that take your breath away.  There's a certain intimacy to that, and I think that's something Adams did in a way that few others have.
"Some photographers take reality... and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation. "
Ansel Adams 

His photos have made me want to stand where he stood and remember all the amazing places I'd been, alone or with people.  It makes me remember how it feels and smells in the desert after it rains, or when the sun would spill up over the mountains each morning on my break from bread baking.   It reminds me of the Quebradas, so close to my home in Socorro at the time,  but it took someone visiting from IL for me to make the trek.  And I got to have that first person moment where you're standing in the desert in a windswept canyon wanting to climb until you can't climb any longer.  Where you feel small in the best way, turning a corner and being face to face with ancient stone and sun, and being able to have that moment with someone you care very much for.  Knowing they're feeling that same amazing sense of awe.

His photos make me want to keep having those adventures, keep sharing those moments. Keep writing, keep climbing...

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied - it speaks in silence to the very core of your being”

And the more I dug into his words and thought about the things that I've felt, the more personal it became to me, and I found myself being even more glad that I wasn't there alone.  I think we all really want is to share the things we love with the people we love.  And today walking around that place, I kept finding out more about the man AND his work, the more I related.  And the more I fell in love with the detail and depth and the clarity of the work I'd never seen that clearly before, the happier I was that I could share that feeling all over again.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Words have been unclear lately...and in absence of any more words to really say how I felt about sharing this experience with someone close to me and digging deeper afterwards, I'm just going to leave it to silence.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All I can say...

Christmas is over, and while there's a lot I want to say about it, and even more pictures, and while I'm definitely trying to kick things off here again...
I'm completely without words today.
And most of yesterday.

Sometimes all you can do is stand in the silence and hope what you're not saying is getting through somehow. 
Sometimes all you can wish is that someone will know that you might be standing still and silent but you're holding back every impulse to run straight to them, because you know that's not always what's right in the moment.  But you're still there, and there's nowhere else you'd go, even if it feels really confusing.
And that's all I can say.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Night at the Mansion

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the midst of a pile of clean laundry, old papers and things that needed to be tossed out.  Not terribly glamorous, with my hair piled up in a messy bun, no makeup and yoga pants.  It was around this time I got a phone call with an invitation to go to the Cuneo Mansion for a cocktail party that evening. I knew about the party beforehand but had to be added to the list and hadn't heard about it, and had therefore figured that while it sounded fun, it wasn't meant to be.  The call came 2 hours before the party was going to start, roughly. I was on the list!

It was exciting at the same time it was a bit alarming (something I've been experiencing far too often lately, I might add).  Any female reading this knows why this  kind of news could fling a messy-haired hausfrau into a bit of a panic.  What was I going to WEAR? How was the hair going to go? Can I actually put all of this together in 2 hours? I ran to the closet and did some serious closet shopping while on the phone confirming I'd be there at the same time my head was going "You are not nearly fancy enough for this kind of event." Kind of a blur. I doubted whether I should go or not a few times, but at 6:30 sharp my glittery heels and little black dress were setting foot on the mansion grounds, trekking over to the main building.

 This is the terrace and reception area that we came in to. Pardon the grainy nature of some of these pictures, I was carrying a teeny tiny clutch and therefore could not put my big ol' camera in that bag.  I wasn't sure if it was the kind of event that'd appreciate big ol' cameras in the first place, so this is all brought to you by the iPhone.
 This was the main room for the event, which was sponsored by Yelp. Everyone was dressed impeccably and almost all the ladies were in black, so I felt like I did well there. (I'd go on to get lots of compliments on choice of dress and sparkly shoes, which were nice!) There were lots of high end party vendors, and when we first walked in we got pulled in to do a blind 12 yr. Scotch taste test, wherein I discovered I cannot tolerate Johnny Walker Black. There were high end cupcakes, appetizers, plenty of bartenders and a wine tasting that we took part in with Lulu wine.  This ballroom itself was awesome, with amazing tall centerpieces, a beautiful dance floor and amazing chandeliers.
 You know, like that. I can't help it if I'm a magpie.  These were just gorgeous.  There was a raffle for a big New Year's Eve event at the Hotel Inter-Continental downtown which sadly, I did not win.  They made a few announcements and gave some background on the property, which apparently was donated to Loyola University a year ago, and then?  They told us to go explore the mansion!  I was excited about this part just in general because the peek I'd taken earlier had promised good things to come.  We sat and finished our wine and talked a little and then headed out to explore.
 The mansion is full of big stone archways and amazing Italian Renaissance style decor.  The lighting is amazing, and it was decked out for Christmas with garland and white lights.

They had a DJ in the main atrium and a palm reader in the Ships room, which smelled like antique books. It had a concealed telephone booth and bathroom and was just full of dark wood, actually taken from ships.

I always love giant libraries, and the wood detail in this one and all the old books from floor to ceiling made me want to cozy up and stay.  But there was more mansion to explore, of course...
 It's honestly amazing, and the pictures, especially phone pictures, don't really do it justice. It felt surreal to be all dressed up and have the run of a beautiful mansion like this one.

We got to explore all the bedrooms which were full of beautiful gowns and bedclothes, fainting couches and ornate hairbrushes.

Naturally this got us in the mood for a few glamour shots ourselves, so we indulged.

Here's me and Juli, who got me the invite...
And here's our equally glamorous elite, who was the one who had the invites to put both of us on the list.

The whole night was pretty incredible, I must say. It just felt like you were in a movie. It's not all that often you get to shine up your best sparkly shoes, put on your little black dress and attend a holiday cocktail party at a beautiful mansion.  The whole night seemed magical.  Great conversations in the candlelight glow of an old stone mansion.  It's something I certainly couldn't picture I'd get the chance to do...and something I'm so glad I did. 

This year for me has been for getting out of what's comfortable and trying new things.  And I was *so* nervous before this party...what if I did or said something wrong, wasn't dressed nicely enough, was too dressed up...

And in the end, I got to be *here*. I met someone new, laughed, drank wine, told stories, and explored, and every moment was more than worth it. I guess that's just another Wednesday at the mansion, eh? ;)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The First Snow

(Parenthetical Opening Statement: Kick my butt for not just posting when I have the desire to write. Because...someone needs to.  If only me when I read this)

So here I am in Illinois. Another year older, and sometimes when I look at things, it seems that nothing's really turned out. For all I thought it would get me to be here, it's the holiday season and I am yet again looking for work. It's a rough time of year for a lot of people, and at the same time we all want to feel warm and cozy and loved.  I was curled up on the couch last night watching a Muppet special BEGGING for it to snow and attempting not to tear up when the little girl in the special just wanted the people she loved to be with her for Christmas.  Some of the people I love are here, but some....I would give anything to have them around to spend the holidays with.  People who can change my entire day with a few words, and who turn my world upside down in good ways when they're around.

There's something about the first snow.  The way the air smells...the different sort of chill in the air...
I look forward to it so much.  I thought I smelled it in the air early this morning on my walk to a friend's house.

I watched the clouds gather some this afternoon while I was eating dinner with a friend and kept hoping.  It's December 1st, and in my book, it's past due.  My heart is in the desert, of course, but the Midwesterner in me demands that if we have to endure the harsh winters and negative temperatures, we should at least get consistent blankets of snow.  It just changes things.  Where I live it gives all the old buildings the look of Christmas villages, and the forests that insane pristine white sparkle. 

I had a dress rehearsal tonight for our holiday concert with the Wind Ensemble, and now, post-Thanksgiving, I was ready for full on Christmas.  Dress rehearsals are always hard work, always longer hours, but fun. They're also usually right in the midst of a storm.  I don't know why, but it's happened for years now. For 2 hours I played things like Sleigh Ride, Greensleeves, and the like and hoped soon it would look a bit like things were sounding.

And when I stepped outside? It did.  I know it doesn't make all that much sense, but it really felt like a gift to me. My mood always improves when I'm playing music, so I had a good start, but getting outside and being greeted by a good steady-falling snow?   It transformed my mood.  The real deal. Snow on my eyelashes, my hair, on my coat...suddenly everything just felt better. I felt like a kid, and nothing else mattered. Not plowing, not the roads on the way home, not anything.  Just the feeling of witnessing the first snow.  A few of the ensemble members actually cheered, and I joined in. There's something that feels almost sacred about it, maybe just the arrival of a new season, maybe the way the world seems a bit quieter when the snow starts falling.

But in a month when a lot of things can get you down...distance, money, loss...
It's the little things that aren't so little anymore.

My "dad" told me that tonight.  That even if it doesn't make sense, and even if it seems silly...the people that love you, if they had the power, would make it snow just for you, just to see you smile.
And no matter what you believe or who you are...
I hope one of these nights you feel like it's snowing just because you hoped it would. And when it happens, I hope you feel a little loved, whether it's silly or not.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Without your Consent

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Eleanor Roosevelt said that, and you've probably heard it before.  But you know what she didn't say? 
She never said people wouldn't try to make you feel inferior.  It's about what you do with it, about how you fight it when people try.

Someone tried very hard to make me feel incredibly inferior today.  I lost my job about a month ago. My contract was ended unexpectedly and without any real explanations.  Since then I've of course been unemployed and looking for work.  That's something that can really impact your self-esteem and can drag you down into depression before you even know you're there.   If it sounds like I've been there before, I have. 

Today I spoke with the staffing agency that got me the contract that I previously mentioned, in hopes to connect with them on some opportunities in the area.  When I went to get my things from my previous contract I had met this woman once. At the time, I asked to sit down and talk if she had time.  She very brusquely said that she didn't and said I should set up a meeting at another time.  I forgave the brusqueness as the product of a busy day and continued down the employment road.  I had some promising interviews with several companies including a second staffing agency with a rep who was absolutely wonderful. She took time to get to know me, my resume, and is an advocate for me every day. She's an encouragement and the absolute example of professionalism and what any recruiter should be.  She's honest about what improvements can be made but absolutely positive and upbeat and actively shows excitement and confidence in me and my skills. 

After seeing some positions here in Libertyville where I live that were posted with the staffing agency I got my last contract through, I called to set up a meeting. I got the same person who I was assigned to. She remembered me, and when I asked for a meeting, she shut me down immediately. "No, we don't need to meet."  She then made a comment about me coming all the way over, even though if she'd have looked at my file like she said she did, she'd know I was in walking distance. No matter, I was trying to be professional, and I mentioned that it would be no problem to meet any time, because I lived in walking distance, and had in fact walked there the last time I had to be at their office. But she was insistent that she didn't need to meet with me. ( Interesting, since every other staffing agency I've ever worked with did). She said she had all the information she needed in her system "from when you worked at [redacted]." Keep in mind she said that specifically, it'll be important later.

This person proceeded to summarily dress me down, point by point, on my resume. Her opening was that I didn't "really have any relevant experience" to the "types of jobs we have here." 
This just astounded me, and so I politely brought up my years of experience in Customer Service (one of the types of jobs they posted), HR, administrative tasks, management and marketing.  This is an office that fits people in corporate roles.  These are all applicable things.  

Well, that didn't stop this ball rolling. She proceeded to tell me that I didn't have ENOUGH experience. I needed at least 7 years with one place if I was ever going to get a job over anyone else. Which, hello, I do have 8 years with Pizza Hut, during which I learned to train, manage, and got a position in marketing created for me.  Granted I had a gap in service, but the first 6 years were uninterrupted. 
She says she wouldn't even submit me for anything direct hire or temp to hire because I wouldn't get it, and she'd only submit me for temp jobs anyway. (Noteworthy is that if this is what is standard, then how do they expect people to GET that kind of longevity in service?)

Now, I'm a reasonable person. My work experience is varied, and some of it is short, and I understand that that can be viewed negatively.  I'm not attempting to insinuate that nothing she said had any merit, this is more about how she said things.  

From our discussion about longevity in roles, she starts reviewing my work history from when I was in New Mexico.  How does she begin talking about it?  She's not even halfway through her "You would never get a job over someone else without 7 years experience" rant when she goes..."and you worked for...some BAGEL place?"

At this point, it's become personal. I'm attempting to bite my tongue.  She continues.  "Village Arts....I don't even know what that is...." So here's my question.  If, say, someone said, hey do you want to go to Village Arts, would you maybe possibly in your genius brain figure out that it's an ART STORE? I thought so.  I thought maybe the ART part of the name would give it away.  Not to mention that in the description under the name of the place in the resume, I've put down inventorying art supplies, and framing appointments.  Arts...framing... it's clear Village Arts is a hospital that I worked for as a neurosurgeon!!!  Then, the honey on top..."is that...retail?" 
No lady, it's a hospital, I'm a neurosurgeon, I have a feeling you have a lobe that needs removing....

From there, she says "And you didn't even work in 2011."
Here's where I realize that I may have a knack for neurosurgery after all, as I've clearly identified something missing.  Like her saying she had "all the information" she needed in her system and yet overlooking....the almost 6 months of this year I worked FOR HER COMPANY at my last contract. 
She obviously didn't have my updated resume, either, but excuse for that.

I did finally speak my piece. I asked her why she didn't think there was anything she could submit me for. I pointed out my relevant experience, and I even asked her why it was she wasn't doing any assisting in this entire matter in the first place.  I corrected her errors and oversights, still politely, but firmly.  I asked her why she had asked for my updated resume if she wasn't going to submit me for anything. I pointed out that despite her saying there wasn't anything I'd seen openings on the site I knew I would be a good fit for.  I asked her to please look locally, though in retrospect, I should have told her I was reporting her to corporate, which I did.

Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Especially not when they are actively looking for work.  Nobody in a recruiting office should treat someone like the scum on the bottom of their shoes.  It's not right. She'd even managed a final jab at  the end when I asked her to look locally.  "Do you *have* transportation?"Not worded politely.  As in "do you even HAVE transportation?"

I hung up from that phone call feeling AWFUL. I felt like I could never get a job, like clearly my resume was a pile of crap, and like I was doomed to work temp the rest of my life.
Then I remembered what Eleanor Roosevelt said.

You know what my resume says? 
Yes, I did work at Pizza Hut for years.  In that time I learned to multi-task, to handle money, to give amazing customer service in person and on the phones.  I learned inventory, ordering, waitressing, delivery driving, cooking, managing, and when I wanted to go further, Pizza Hut corporate gave me a marketing position they DESIGNED for me that didn't previously exist. Because they believed in me and they KNEW that I was passionate about it and could do well at it.  And I did.  I learned to train, I learned to handle emergencies....

At my job in the HRO field, I learned all about employee benefits, legal issues, confidentiality, HIPAA, 401ks, and pensions. I started as a temp, worked my way to hire, and excelled. I started being a retirement specialist, handling death calls, and eventually taking escalations and being a leader to newer reps. I excelled at that, and I was made the lead of the team.  I handled very sensitive issues, issues for high powered execs of global companies, and was a liason between them and the insurance companies, banks and even government agencies.  In that role I learned about leadership, about the inner workings of HR, and most importantly how to handle heated and sensitive issues, which takes me far in life.  And I'm proud of it. 

And you know what? I'm proud of working at "some bagel place" too.  Very proud.  That was one of the bravest moments of my life.  I put it all on the line, and when it didn't work out the way I planned when I got there, I kept going.  I thought a million times I was going to fail, and while I had to come back, or thought I did, it was a success. I don't regret a moment of it.
When I worked at SOME bagel place, I apprenticed under a professional baker. I learned the tools and tricks of the trade. I learned how to function in a VITAL role.  As the baker, if I didn't do my job right, that bagel place had nothing to sell.  I worked EXTRA in that role as a prep cook on the weekends.  I was able to help create and problem-solve.  I worked with my hands before the sun was up and we made  the food that town ran on, at least in part.  Some of the loaves of bread I made were made into free sandwiches for firefighters working burns in the mountains.  Some of the bagels I made were donated at a race to benefit children's charities.  I learned perseverance, a trade, and followed a passion. 

At the art store I learned how to do things I always wanted to know how to do. And more importantly? I held down 3 jobs at one point.  I had 2 that kept me on my feet all day, slinging fish or making bread, and I did it.  My feet would ache so bad that I came home one night and cried on the phone to my mom back in IL, because I was so overwhelmed and exhausted. 

I *am* a fighter. I have an amazing work ethic, I have fantastic skills, relevant to office work, and you know what? More importantly, relevant to LIFE.  Most people will never pack up everything they have and give it a go somewhere they don't know.  I got my scars, literal and metaphorical, from it, but I wear them proudly. 

Is my resume pristine?  Did I constantly work 15 years for one company? No. 
Did I hold some "odd jobs"?
Odd to whom? I learned valuable life skills and working skills from each and every one of those roles. I would never have had the ability to field the escalations and the high pressure environment of the HR role without the experiences I had at the restaurant.  Because I knew what it was like to have your heels to the coals already. I knew what URGENT meant. I knew deadlines, and I knew how to multi-task. 

So you know what? You say odd jobs. You say I won't be able to get a job.
But YOU can't make me feel inferior without my consent.
I am the 99%
And I'm a fighter. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

So Far Away...

Winter's almost here. I can hear the winds howling against the windows and the late fall rainy days are getting more frequent. It's definitely starting to be soup weather. I was thinking about this the other day. When I lived out in New Mexico and I was really really broke, I used to buy a big tub of green chile stew from a place called the Hill Diner in Los Alamos.  I'd couple it with hunks of baguettes that were "day-old" from the bakery I was the baker at.  The stew was amazing and comforting and warming (especially with that good ol' chile!) and it was satisfying biting into the nice chewy bread I'd made with my own hands. I miss it.

I got wrapped up in a conversation last night that made it impossible to think of anything but this.
The holidays in the desert, back when I lived, well....right there, where this picture was taken.  There was this outcropping at the overlook where the picture was taken....if I could have slept there every night I think I would have.  I sat and watched both sunrises and sunsets there. I got caught there in a huge storm, and I rushed there the night of the first real blizzard I saw in NM up in the mountains. It came on strong and the snow on the yucca and cactus was so strange to me.

I'm a holiday person at heart.  Most people who know me know that I love Thanksgiving.  It's near my birthday, but even if it wasn't, I think I'd still love it.  It was always full of family and great tradition.  The big creaky house in Jacksonville and my aunt making the huge huge meal while all of us talked or watched movies or pretended to be our own spy ring. My cousin Laura and I both have November birthdays, so our mission usually involved spying what our presents would be.  She was the closest thing that I had to a sister, and since we were so close in age we used to have a great time palling around and making up adventures.  When the meal was over, there was always movies and the next day, we'd go to see a movie instead of trying the Black Friday thing.  It's always fun, and I even enjoyed the four hour drive out there and the stops we always make along the way.

The first year I was in New Mexico, though I loved the new state and the exploration, I remember feeling really strange about Thanksgiving.  I had plans to go down to Socorro and celebrate with my friends there, but I knew that it was going to be hard not to get homesick being somewhere unfamiliar and without the cozy trappings of tradition and family.  Still, I was excited to be a part of a Friends Thanksgiving.  A lot of our friends at the time were bartenders and we were going to be celebrating with them at the bar, since they had to work.  I admit, to me it sounded kind of depressing, because they didn't want to be working I'm sure and I figured the people who came in would be sad too, not being with their families or not having anyone to be with.   I was a baker at the time, and I brought some rolls to contribute.

That turned into one of the best Thanksgivings.  My birthday was the night before, I think.  I'd had an amazing time, everyone made me feel special, one in particular made me important and so loved.  So the next day just seemed like it'd go well, and it went better than I'd ever though.  There was no turkey initially, just steak expertly grilled.  The bar started out a little empty and we sat towards the door, chatting and laughing and playing music.  Something crazy happened though.  People started to come in with more and more food, like a progressive dinner, sharing what they had with us.  They'd come from their family dinners or walk in from somewhere....we'd tell them to grab a steak at the local grocery store before they closed.  And they did. By the end of it we had green chile mac and cheese, turkey, stuffing, steak....someone even got me the cranberry sauce in a can.  I can't even say how much that meant, as silly as it sounds.  Because it was a part of *MY* traditional Thanksgiving, and I needed a touch of home. Soon it was a group of at least 20 people, happy, sharing stories, toasting the holiday...

That late fall and winter was amazing. I learned how to make biscochitos at the bakery, a part of a traditional New Mexico Christmas. I saw farolitos lining the streets, and it was SO beautiful. The winter nights are so quiet. So many stars and then the glow of something as simple as a candle in a paper bag with some sand, but it transforms everything, bathes it in this soft, flickering glow... I still remember the drive from Los Alamos to Socorro on Christmas Eve. I'd thought I was going to have to be alone on Christmas, something else I wasn't particularly relishing, though I'd made up my mind to go to Santa Fe and see the farolitos and hear the carolers, and then go to the midnight mass at the Cathedral....
Instead I grabbed some posole (new to me at the time) and tamales (another NM Christmas tradition) and headed out.

I drove on these lonely roads with the familiar mesas and mountains, but it was all new with the farolitos. I remember passing this mission I'd never seen before when I was coming down through San Ysidro, all lit up for the was so amazing.  And everything really did seem silent. There was something about that moment, and I pulled over to take a picture which eventually wouldn't turn out. It didn't need to anyway.

That Christmas, I watched all the Die Hards back to back, didn't go anywhere at all, shared tamales and posole and learned all about what Christmas in New Mexico was like.  And it wasn't what I was used to, but it was amazing.  A million stars, perfect silence, and new traditions.
I realized that even though those traditions I had back in IL were great and the family time was wonderful, the new things could be just as homey.  Another Christmas when I lived in Socorro I remember taking a walk by myself at night with my camera over to the San Miguel mission and listening to the flames of the candles get tossed by the breeze on a clear night so you could see all the stars.  That's something you can't forget, and it's something you certainly can never hear or see in Chicago outside of the pages of the New Mexico magazine I got today, which brought me all the way back, at least in my heart.
Maybe one day, I'll get all the way back.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Waiting in the Wings

Feeling a bit blue tonight. It's been lurking somewhere in my head the past few days, and the quiet has coaxed it out of its hiding place.

I'm missing someone, someone I both don't normally miss and it's someone I feel like there's a different distance than normal with.  I really don't like that feeling.  What I've tried to do though, is just wait.  Because this isn't a person that tends to let me down.  But that makes it that much worse when it feels like there's a bigger-than-geographic distance.

It's also tied up in my concert tomorrow.  It's one that my mother and grandmother both won't be able to make, and that makes a difference.  I might have two friends show up, which would be a first-in-a-long-time situation. In my heart I always want to see people I love there.  Not because I need to be lauded for my performance or because I want to look important, but because music is the absolute direct line to my heart and soul.  I want to feel like people understand that.  And in my heart, I've always wanted to know people wanted to see me at my best, my absolute best, you know?

When I'm on stage, and when that baton drops and we fly into the first song...that's me at my absolute best. That's focus and strength and skill from years and years of study.  It's something that's important to me, and close to my heart.   When you put in years of your life to something, I feel like it's ok to want people to witness it, you know?

And maybe classical music isn't really everyone's main interest in life, but I really think in a hall where the sound echoes like that, it can be enjoyable.  I might be strange, but when a friend's passionate about something, really passionate, I just immediately feel like even if I don't really know anything about it, it's something I want to see, because I think that's the moment when people are at their best, you know?

Recently, someone close to me responded the same way to my asking them to the event as they did to someone asking to something they hated, and it stung.  So I guess it clung to my mind a little harder this time.

Here's what I ask of anyone reading this...
Take time out to discover why the people you love love the things they love.  It'll bring you closer.

And here's my own medicine: If you miss someone, tell them. Don't mope about it.
I'll fix that, and I'll hope eventually, there will be someone I love waiting in the wings for me.  It's been a longstanding desire of mine to see someone there, happy to see me, after a concert.  That we could both get enjoyment from.  And I don't think that's too high a bar to set.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fireside Chat

So, spoiler alert: I'm not the president, nor am I going to converse with the entire nation...though based on some things I've chatted about with people today, I might actually have something to say.

I *am* fireside.  I've got every candle in my room burning bright. It's pouring rain outside, and the wind is howling. It's finally chilly enough for the navajo blankets I tend to curl up under not to bring suspicious looks. It's getting dark earlier, which I always have at least a degree of trouble with, and the leaves are falling quickly.  In some ways I feel like fall may already be over, but in other ways it's like it's just beginning.

I've definitely always loved fall, and this year I was determined to get out and enjoy it as much as possible.  It's gorgeous...the entire world seems to turn to a cathedral of stained glass reds, yellows, greens and oranges set on fire by the autumn sun.

This year the colors have been amazing, and I've been lucky enough to take quite a few drives to see them at different state parks and forest preserves.  I've also had a great month or two for finding time to get together with friends and reconnect.  It's been great to take these drives with people I love and just admire it all.

I put together a little bucket list of "Fall Things" I wanted to do, and I've gotten to do almost all of them.

One of the ones that was a first for me was the corn maze. It was fun, actually. I started off with the intention of getting everyone lost. I was extremely successful in this endeavor, and then we needed the guidance of my friend Josh to get us UNlost.  Still, we had a great time, and I was happy that at the end, I was able to amble my way out of the maze first AND without the map they give you. (We initially decided not to use the map, then we realized, an hour in, that the map wasn't really all that useful, it was still a feat with or without it).

 Julie and Josh were my partners in crime at the maze, pictured above. :D

We did a whole family thing a week or two later. My mom and grandma and I went out to Kenosha to the pumpkin patch that I've been going to since I was a kid, and got our pumpkins (which I *still* need to carve) and indian corn and had dinner at a barbecue place. We did NOT get to Apple Holler, but apparently that's a really hard place to get in to this time of year. :D

That was a really nice full day with everyone.  Grandma and I got some alone time at Grant Forest Preserve in Round Lake waiting for Mom to get out of a meeting. We took a very short hike and stayed by the pond. Grandma told me Fall was her favorite season, and we spent a good amount of time just admiring the colors at sunset.  My grandma is completely and utterly awesome.

I've enjoyed all of it.   This past weekend I went to a birthday party of a friend's, and he and his wife always throw a huge Halloween inspired bash.  His heart's in film and he's won awards for his stop motion animation.  As a film buff, part of the party every year is screening films outside on a big projection screen while everyone sits around a nice big bonfire.  My coat still smells like campfire.  This year it was pretty cold, but they had plenty of blankets to pass around.  There was great food, apple cider, (some alcoholic thanks to another drink, apple bob), all kinds of decorations and silliness, and it was great.

This weekend will be a road trip, hopefully involving some more photography.  One thing fall has gotten me doing again is getting out and doing the things I love.  It's inspired me to write (sometimes to stay home under the covers and write, hehe) and I need to keep that fire lit.  So, whoever is out there reading this...keep me honest.
Keep me writing.

Keep enjoying fall, down to the very last drop of cider.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Embarassment of Riches

My heart may be in the desert, as anyone who knows me personally or has read this knows...
But one thing that I always loved about Illinois was fall out here.

The weather gets to that wonderful equillibrium where it's chilly but not too cold.  Time to break out the sweaters and cuddle under blankets, but still perfect for outdoor activities.   The mornings feel different.  Fall makes me nostalgic and cozy and warm.  I even enjoyed the recent rainy spell.  There's something about the chill in the air wafting in through the window with the rain falling softly on the roof that makes you want to just stay in bed and let the world pass by around you.

This morning,  I did a little of that, but then I went out to explore.  Fall is just beginning, and from the looks of's going to be fantastic.
I've been driving this way to work lately and it happens to run along the Des Plaines River trail which I was taking south for the first time today.  This tree literally makes me happy.  It's so insanely bright that it looks like it's on fire. It makes me excited for fall to kick in in full swing.

The south end of the trail doesn't follow the river as closely as the north, save for the beginning

But it does put you right in the heart of the woods and take you through some amazing prairies.

It's honestly hard to believe there's still places like this in the suburbs, and I'm so glad to be finding them.

Fall colors may not be in full splendor yet, but what I saw today was better than any stained glass window in any great cathedral. And honestly? That's what this kind of place is for own little sanctuary. Away from the cubicle, away from, the bike, the trail...fresh air and amazing sights. I left the music off this trip and listened to the wind moving through the woods, and the call of the birds, or rustle of the leaves when the squirrels would run past.   The smells were amazing too...riding through the prairie brought back all kinds of memories of when I'd go running through the fields in our backyard growing up, pants accumulating burrs, picking all sorts of plants to take back to my forts and "cook" with.

Getting out there alone on the trails feels like a vacation from everything. I am so, so glad I decided to go exploring today instead of staying in.  The bike ride today wasn't easy...there were some strong headwinds that you really had to push against, and the trail was pretty wet from the recent rains, so in places where the trail was particularly sandy, the wheels would either slip or kind of sink in, again making pedalling harder.  But it was worth it.

I can't wait to take this ride again in a week or two when the whole forest is bursting with color. I have a feeling that will be a longer ride with more frequent stops to take it all in.
Despite the riding challenges, I made it a full 12.19 miles. It would have been a bit longer a ride, too, as I wanted to make it to a favorite spot of mine in Mettawa, Daniel Wright Woods. 
I was somewhere in MacArthur woods when I saw a sign saying the underpass was closed, but I wasn't sure how long the sign had been up, so I decided to keep going.
When I got there, though, I immediately saw why...
Seems the Des Plaines River Trail is now just the Des Plaines River.
Initially I thought there was an easy way to get me and the bike around it, but there was heavy fencing for about a half a mile, and the workaround would put me about a mile out of my way in the end, so I turned back. I'm hoping this opens back up in a week or so, so I can see the rest of the trail.

It was an absolutely amazing trip, and even as my legs ache some from the long ride, I can honestly say I want to do it all again. The best part? This is all in my own backyard. Literally.