Sunday, January 15, 2012

In the Rear View 2: Electric Boogaloo

Well hello!
I've been excited to come back and do the rest of that last post on the year in review and in pictures!
This week has been a little crazy (or a lot crazy) and lack of sleep has been the theme, but I'm more rested now and back from out of town and back from watching my friend have a baby a month early (which is part of the lack of sleep part) and so life is...more...normal?  At least for the purposes of having an evening to sift and tell stories.
Which is what I plan on doing. :D

When last we ...well, when last I was here typing... it was June, and my brother had gotten married and other neat things had occurred. It was hot. Very hot.  Summer in IL is gross and hot and sticky.  Not much of a news flash, obviously. So let's jump into July and see what happens...

Kicked July off with a girl's night out to see Maroon 5 at Ravinia. It was insanely hot that week and we all thought it might be absolutely deadly out on the lawn, but when we got there, it had cooled down to an optimum temperature. There was wine, there was girl talk, there was Maroon 5. Maroon 5 is amazing in person, and we had a wonderful time picnicking on the lawn and listening to the music.  Great way to start a month, I tell ya.
This was the scene from the 4th of July in Round Lake. Spent that with Patty and Cherie and Aedan and Summer and Michael and...well you get the idea. :)  It was nice to be back in Round Lake with friends from there.  The friends I made at high school that followed me into the post-high school bonfires are ones I really couldn't imagine life without, even when things aren't good.  It's nice to get that back now and again.
Somewhere in the early to middleish part of July we had a huge, horrible windstorm. Lasted about 10 to 20 minutes, but knocked out power for a full week for most towns in the area, including parts of Libertyville. I was home from my temp job at Mercer that day sick, and I woke up to a frantic cat and that train I really thought it was a tornado. Scary!
I also took a trip out to the city again. Had a fun time spending the day there with Erika and Stephen. We ran into an art fair and had dinner and caught a really fun improv show at the IO theater.  I cannot stress enough how much I love having THIS city so close by.  We had a great time.

August turned out to be a pretty amazing month.  Started the month out getting a lot of time with someone I very much wanted a lot of time with.  I took a little mini vacation to the Ohare region...which doesn't sound fantastic, but it was.  Between the quality time, the nice hotel, banana splits in the park,  the trip to Wicker Park to wander around an AMAZING bookstore I discovered with someone who would appreciate it just as much as I did...and a particularly nice dinner much fun. It doesn't always matter where you are so much as the company.

I had a *real* vacation planned anyway to take place later that month.  My wonderful friend Kija was getting married in Colorado Springs, and somewhere in there I was lucky enough to convince my awesome friend Lewis, who was biking all over the US, to meet me there and be my date to the wedding.  I got to explore Boulder all day by myself, including a visit to Centro Latin American Kitchen, where I had probably the best meal I've had in my life, visit with my sister and the lil' baby nephew, get some great time together with one of my best friends from New Mexico (including a lot of hiking and picture taking) and see another awesome NM friend marry her best friend.  I count that a success. I had such an amazing time in Colorado. I love it out there.  But you've heard that, and I've posted a million pictures from that trip.  So...yeah.
Last day of that trip I finally got to go to Seven Falls.  It's got a ridiculous number of steps to conquer. Very, very steep steps. With nothing on either side. And while I'm *better* about not freaking out about heights, the major amount of stairs, the way they moved, and the amount of effort it takes were pretty immense.  It was amazing and I'm glad I did it, but holy crap, it's quite the workout and quite the test to your handling of your irrational fears. :D
There's way more than 224 steps by the way, this is just one of the signs...
It was good to get back down...but a little sad to go back to IL.  My heart's just out West. But we knew that already.

A little ren faire with one of my oldest friends...and ren hair...
Good times. Which kept rolling when I got to host my friend Jacquie here at my house. She was in from Texas to see her husband, who was training to be a SEAL at Great Lakes. 
 We did some botanic garden wandering, a lot of laughing and talking til late at night, and some catching up with a bunch of friends back at Olando's.

And some playing in the water. It was pretty amazing.  Jacquie and I have lots in common and I was really glad to have her here. I feel like I got to know her better and now have an even closer friendship with her, and that makes me glad. :)
It was also time for homecoming. :)  The 10 year reunion was in September. I was realllly wishy washy on if I even wanted to go. The mixer at the Vine was fun, the game was alright.   I think the mixer seemed more friendly, and the game kinda seemed..meh.  So, instead of going to the second event after the game, Cherie and I took her son to Chicago for the first time. Which.was.awesome.

I take a lot of city trips, obviously, but this was different. Aside from not being alone, it was really cool to see the city through the eyes of a little kid.  He loved to run up and interact with the sculptures and was afraid of the Art Institute lions, but it was a day of firsts for him, right down to the train ride. Meanwhile we got to catch up, enjoy a beautiful day in the park and a nice dinner, and generally just stretch our legs.   Pretty awesome.

October was a pretty outdoorsy month for me. I took a LOT of long bike rides.  I was also randomly let go from my contract at Mercer for no apparent reason.  Just ended the contract unexpectedly.  That was pretty rough, and I think my way of coping was to get out on the trails.  All in all, not a bad way to handle it.
To be fair, it was a pretty gorgeous October. :)

And here's me on a normal day where I went ahead and did something I was afraid of doing. Sitting on my favorite rock on Lake Michigan taking pictures isn't that thing, but auditioning to be an on air radio host is.  Like I said way back in the beginning of this whole rear view retrospect thing...this year was about challenging myself. And while obviously, I'm not an on air radio host...I'm proud of myself for trying. And you know what? I didn't miss out on that job because I wasn't good at it.  I know that for sure, and I never would have if I didn't try.  So, scary or not scary, it was worth it.

Honestly, November was pretty awesome this year.  I had already arranged to spend an extra day downstate over Thanksgiving because my birthday was the day before it this year.  I took the Amtrak down early and played around in Springfield some. :)  I found a neat little cafe for lunch, ordered food to the room, went swimming no less than 4 times in 24 hours, and really enjoyed the alone time.   I had a party too, the weekend before which was also awesome (but i can't find the pictures from it...weird..) but it was all really nice.
Plus, it led into Thanksgiving down at my aunt's. She just got a new place so it was fun to see what that was like and still have the big traditional trip and feast.  

This December was more or less all a big buildup to the holidays.  We didn't get our snow, sadly, but I can say we had a pretty wonderful Christmas, and one I was really looking forward to.
I did get a really neat opportunity too, though. :)
One of my friends invited me to a Christmas cocktail party at a local mansion!  It was really exciting and again, something I wasn't entirely comfortable with right off the bat (because it was all formal and because I'm a bit of an introvert, and because I wouldn't know a lot of people) but I went and it.was.amazing.  The mansion was decorated with all kinds of sparkling lights, it was amazing to get dressed up and we felt like royalty all night long.
Apparently iphoto has done away with the photos from that night that weren't in the original post, but that wasn't that long ago, so take a look back if you want to know more.  It's a beautiful place, and I was really glad to go.

Christmas though? Even more awesome.  We were hosting Christmas this year, and we had EVERYONE here.  Not everyone literalaly, but my sister and her husband, plus my amazing and adorable nephew, my brother and his wife, my uncle, my aunt, my cousin and his wife and their two kids, and my friend Sarah.   It was a bit crazy with all those people, but we had a great time. Everyone got to stay for a while too.  We had a crazy time playing apples to apples, watching Collin try to walk, and just sitting and talking. Great food, lots of activity, and just...a great time.  

Family and friends really do make all the difference.   That's pretty much what I've learned the entire time I've been doing this retrospective.  This year was certainly not the best, and there's a lot of lowlights that you obviously don't get to read on here...but you know what? The people you love?  Kinda make that go away. So I hope this year is filled with people you love to help you through the hard times and make new good times.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

In the Rear View...

So hello, and happy January!
Or at least...hello.
I know January isn't always the most pleasant month, full of financial woes and leftover worries and regrets.

I was searching my photo library for something to help my mom out, and I thought, in perusing last year visually, I might do a little 2011 wrap up and see what came of it.  So buckle in, and I'll take you through my year, visually.  Hopefully it'll be good fun. :)

January 2011: I'd just been laid off from a seasonal job, and found myself unemployed yet again. I will say Illinois has been nothing but a cycle of temp jobs thus far, and that's made it hard to feel like it was a good decision in the first place.  Things were difficult, but I was trying to look at things that got in my way differently, which is, in fact, what this picture was about.  There's a gorgeous bike path behind my house that winds through forest and river and prairie...and I used to get so mad at the power lines being there.  But they're there...and in a glimmer of what was to come for the year, I decided I'd try to see if I could maybe pull something good out of even that.  It was my first goal.
I think when things get hard, it's really important to remember what you do have.  This time last year, I was celebrating my dear Erika's birthday with a bunch of her friends and family who have become friends of mine as well. I love going out to Freeport to visit them, and I'm glad we do it.  I'm really grateful for the friends I've found and the friends I've had for years, and getting to spend time with them.

So February...Patty's birthday to be specific...started with...well...this.  If it looks all post-apocalyptic, that's because it kind of was. I have never seen a snowstorm with that kind of intensity. It was amazing, though it was the first time I was ever frightened during a snowstorm (the roof seemed like it would blow off) and the first time I've been snowed inside a house and had to dive in a literal six foot deep snowbank and wade through waist high snow to the front door to unbury *THAT*.  23 inches of snow those 2 days, drifts up to 8 feet tall.  The whole county (several, actually) was declared a disaster area, and it was illegal to drive on the roads for 2 days to allow for plows and emergency vehicles.   If it sounds wasn't.  I love to see nature at its most powerful, and this was definitely that.

Looking back, it was a month for friends too, and I'm glad. We had a "reunion dinner party" of sorts with my core group of high school friends, I got to spend some one on one time with my friend Ben, who's a lot like a brother to me, and who is now living really, really far away, and got to go enjoy antique hunting and photography with one of my newer friends, Erin.  I couldn't remember, looking through the photos, what I did for Valentine's Day.  And I think that's ok, because you know what? I had a lot of love around me.


A little of what comes naturally....

A good dose of nature...I did a lot of little photography excursions this March...

And some unnatural...I got greened by Duco from 95 WIIL Rock on St Patrick's Day. I also got an Irish Car Bomb served to me at 7 in the morning, met a few new friends and socialized with them over some Finn's brews, and sang a drinking song ON THE AIR.  We won sweatshirts and it was really a fun experience, borne of trying something new and actually trying to get outside my comfort zone as far as meeting new people. :) 

April started off with a lot of moving and shaking.  I took a road trip with my lovely friend Sarah to CO where she was going to be spending time with her husband, who was stationed out there, and I was going to spend time with my sister and my adorable (genius!) nephew.  I'd also received word that I'd gotten a job, which was set to start shortly after I returned from my trip. Things were starting to look up.  The trip was amazing, and a really good chance to bond with Sarah. I feel like since we did that we've been a lot closer and I'm glad for it.
Here's my little buddy, Collin. :)  He's a sweetheart, and being an aunt has been amazing so far. I didn't realize how different it would be than having a close friend with a baby, but it really is. Watching him grow and learn and change has been wonderful.

Seeing my sister as a mom has been really cool, too.  The trip was a perfect mix of family, friends, and  the mountains and it definitely had me in a great mood to start a new job.

In May, we had a bridal shower for Diana, my newest family member.  She's now officially my sister-in-law, and I know she's a perfect match for my brother.  She's also an awesome person to hang out, drink wine, and chat with.  I think we'd have seriously rioted if my brother didn't figure out she was the one. :)

I got to hang out with some friends I don't see as often as I'd like, too. :)  Like Cherie and her son. :)
 Spring had finally sprung and I was out on my bike again, which always feels great.

 June...well, June was interesting for a lot of reasons.  And I took a trip back to the city to kick it off.  It was technically Memorial Day, which is in May, but we'll count it, cuz it felt like June.  This Memorial Day I decided that instead of my traditional picnic, I'd go do something just for me.  And a visit to my favorite city sounded like exactly the right thing to do.
 It was so hot that day. 94 I think? We had quite the summer this year.  Erin hung around and took photos and explored pubs with me til she had to get back to some family celebrations. When she left, I decided I wasn't going to.  I was having a wonderful day and decided to just do my own thing, and I'm glad I did.
I was sipping a Horny Goat (!!) at the Billy Goat Tavern on Navy Pier watching someone climb the crow's nest on a tall ship and thinking how much fun it would be to be on board.  And...instead of just sitting there and thinking about it...I did it!  And this...was exactly the kind of amazing that turned out to be. I know it seems silly, but it's something I wouldn't have done on my own before. And yes, it would have been great to share it with someone else, but at the same time? I got to sip cocktails, set sail, and explore freely.  And I wouldn't take back anything about that day.  As much as I love New Mexico, as much as I love sharing things with friends and family...this was a pretty perfect day....

And, so was this.  June was the month my little brother became someone's husband.  And like I said before...I can't argue with his choice one bit.  They're great together, and I love to see both of them. I've always been close to my brother, and Shan and I definitely couldn't keep our tear ducts in order meeting him at the end of the aisle as Di's bridesmaids,  but it was a great time.  We got to hang out with family, had crazy adventures on the party bus, and share a new adventure.   Definitely a fantastic event.

Well, this wraps up the first half of the year, and I've decided to split it into two posts, because really...I can't contain 1 year in 1 post, can I?
I thought I might be able to, and I thought my year was kinda blah, til I started telling stories and looking at the pictures.
But with the right people in your life, even a year of struggles with unemployment, pain, and loss can seem pretty amazing in retrospect.
More retrospect to come tomorrow.