Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's Christmas time in Chicago.  Twinkling lights, cookies baking, families gathering, snow falling, noses red , toes cold, children smiling, Santa coming....

It will be such a very different Christmas for me this year.   For the very first time in my 66 years I will be spending it alone.  My first grandchild is scheduled to arrive on January 3rd and I didn't want to over stay my welcome by flying to CA a week early.  And though an invitation was extended from #2 to fly to Raleigh, with losing my job just 2 weeks ago, the price of a flight just wasn't in the budget.  

So here I sit, warm and cozy in my beautiful apartment with Christmas carols softly playing in the background.  What are my plans for Christmas you might ask?   I'll be babysitting my cousin's 3 cats - feeding and petting while they are gone for the next 8 days.  My wonderful sons gifted me my 'most wanted' gift - a iPad.  They said to open and use it immediately instead of putting it under the tree and opening it on Christmas morning and I did and have enjoyed taking several free workshops at the Apple store learning how to use this great techie toy.  Yesterday I did my end-of-year file clean-out - shredding un-needed receipts and moving those required into a file for this year's taxes.  I finished sewing a cute jacket and pulled a few other pieces of fabric out of my stash to contemplate what they may become in the New Year.  I'm reading a couple of books I got from the library by people who have walked the Camino de Santiago and downloaded a couple onto the iPad so I won't have to haul real books with me to CA.  

Several friends have invited me out for holiday lunches and dinners and I've enjoyed a few holiday celebrations with the new groups I've joined.  On New Year's Day I've been invited to join a walking group in the Loop where we will walk from State Street to the top of Michigan Avenue and back; then enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Macy's Chicago flagship store (which to those of us who have lived here, will always be and still wish it were Marshall Fields).  We'll conclude with lunch in the The Walnut Room, where carolers will sing and their massive tree will dominate the scene on this, the last day the decorations will be still up and shinning.  

I will come home and take down my tree, put the ornaments away for another year and start packing my suitcase for my flight. It all sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Sounds as if I've been busy - and I have. But it's almost like I am forcing myself.  I know there are many, many, many people who spend every holiday alone.  I even know some who prefer it that way.  But I'm not one of those.  I'm lost with no one to cook a big meal for, no one to bake cookies for, no one to watch the original Die Hard movie with on Christmas Eve (a Scott-family tradition), no one to talk to except via a phone or Face-Time.  It will just be so lonely and sad and even now, typing this, I feel tears gathering and think 'how stupid are you being?'  Grow up!  You're a big girl and this is dumb!

But I'm a people person.  I love being with and around people, especially 'my people' and this year I won't be and that makes me sad.  I think about and wonder how many Christmas's I'll have left - I know - maudlin and stupid - but I learned the hard way 13 years ago that nothing is permanent or lasts forever so to miss spending even one holiday without those I love it really difficult.

So before I get to the point where I can't type and my keyboard gets ruined from getting wet, I'll just say this - enjoy your families.  Enjoy the time you have together - even if it's only for one day and even if some of them you don't even like - try for just one day of peace and love and togetherness.  Take a moment to remember those who are no longer with us and say a prayer for the parents of the children lost at Sandy Hook.  Count your blessing and then turn and give those you love the most a great big Merry Christmas hug!

Until next year......

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Here we go....again!

Hello Everyone -

Bet you thought I had given up writing this blog!  Nope - just took a break while getting settled into my new Chicago home.

Over Thanksgiving (see family above) my youngest mentioned that my Facebook posts were getting much too long and I should go back to blogging instead.  I agreed with him, so here we are, approximately 9 months after my last post.  I will try and catch you up with what's happened since last we met....

I now live in the big city of Chicago! and I am so happy compared to living on the beach in Wilmington, NC that I almost can't express it in words.   How can I possible say that, you might ask?  You left sea and sun and warmth for noise and crowds and soon-to-be-snow-covered streets?  Well, since you asked....I chose Wilmington to settle in because it was in the area where we as a family had spent so much time while the boys were growing up.  We vacationed on Holden Beach, a barrier island just south of Wilmington, for weeks each summer for many, many years.  I have wonderful memories of all of our friends and family visiting us there.  When John passed, it was where he asked that his ashes be scattered.  We spent many wonderful hours dining and shopping and sightseeing in Wilmington, we even discussed retiring there, so you would think this would be a perfect place for me to settle down.  

It is a perfect place - if what you want from life is peace and quiet, a few restaurants, a tiny bit of theater, hardly any shopping and everyone you meet is 'coupled-up'.  Not a hot-bed of activity for singles.  Not a hot-bed of any activity, really.  I made a few good and lasting friendships while there but I was always looking for a way to get-out-of town.  That should have been a hint.  First it was the Peace Corps that took me away, then it was living in my wonderful Minnie Winnie RV that took me across the country and back - several times,  and lastly it was a renter that drove me crazy and necessitated my just 'geting away!' for awhile to rethink my life.  That's when I took the top off the Jeep and drove to the opposite coast - and back.  By the time I returned, I knew it was time to put Wilmington in my rear-view mirror for the last time.

I have now lived in my huge, 1920's apartment for 9 months.  I'm almost used to having upstairs neighbors with little children who run and jump and bang at all hours.  I'm almost used to having downstairs neighbors who when home play their music loud enough to make my floor vibrate.  I'm almost used to having a fire house/ambulance center around the corner which sends out it's vehicles, sirens blasting at all hours all day and all night.

I am used to living in the diverse, colorful, fabulous, interesting neighborhood of Rogers Park. I am used to shopping at wonderful, little neighborhood markets instead of huge grocery stores for most of my food. I am used to the necessity of walking anywhere I have to go (I sold my car) and I have become extremely adept at riding all the forms of pubic transportation that Chicago provides it's residents.

I am enjoying my membership in such diverse new groups as Friendship Force International, The Haute Couture Club of Chicago, The Windy City Walkers and The Chicago Digital Photography Group.  I even found a nice little part-time job working 2-3 days a week as a reservation specialist for a small hospitality company.  I have met more people and made more friends in 9 months than my entire 5 years in Wilmington.

So what's next?  A couple of HUGE family events will be taking center stage in the New Year.  Son #1 and his wonderful, beautiful finance will be presenting me with my first grandchild in early January.  They live in the San Diego area so I really won't mind going out there for a few weeks to help out in any way I can at that time of year.  Then in May they will celebrate their wedding in Cabo San Lucas.  It will be my first time back in Mexico after living there several years ago and I'm looking forward to a return visit.

Once all the festivities are over, I will begin focusing on my plans to walk the Camino de Santiago.  If you've heard about or seen the movie The Way staring Martin Sheen, then you know a little bit about the walk of St. James.  I first learned about it reading Sherry Ott's travel blog  - http://www.ottsworld.com/.  I became enthralled and engrossed with the idea and possibility of my actually doing this walk, this pilgrimage.  The walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port  in France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain is just a wee bit under 500 miles long.  The average time it takes to walk is 4-6 weeks and yes, most do walk it alone.

Once this thought took a firm grip, I immediately started searching the web for all the information I could find and the first and most information-filled site I found was this one http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/ in case you want to read a bit about it.   I then joined the huge, on-line forum with 1000's of past, present and future walkers who so graciously and willingly share their insights, thoughts and helpful suggestions with each other and anyone who might pose a question.  I've just ordered my first books from the library and Amazon and will spend the upcoming winter months learning all I can about this exciting adventure.

So you are asking Are you nuts? You're 66 years old, you have a bad foot,  a bum knee, not in the best of shape, and you think you can just take off to France, traipse over the Pyrenees mountains and across the vast northern plains of Spain to some cathedral on the other side?  And to answer your question, the same one both boys asked at Thanksgiving, is you bet I do!  And if that makes me nuts, then so be it.

Why are you doing this?  I found while driving cross-country in the Jeep, when listening to music or books-on-tape was impossible with the top off,  that I  came to truly enjoy the solitude, the quietude, the peacefulness of only the sound of the wind whistling past.  My mind was set free to roam from thought to thought.  It was the very first time I had ever taken to really reflect on my life so far; what if anything I have accomplished that has meaning, besides the birth of two wonderful sons; and what did I still want to do, can I do, with the time I have left?  Reading the many voices who have written about their experience walking The Camino made me even more sure that this is something I have to do while I still can.

So for those who enjoy reading long, rambling posting which will in turn allow you to 'travel along with me' wherever the road may lead....welcome...or as the case may be....welcome back. I only plan to post sporadically for a while, focusing on the highlights, maybe even a few low lights of my daily life,  but I will keep you up-to-date on my preparations as I get ready for this next great adventure.

Until next time..... 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Trucker Babe Signing On!

WheW - moving is just no fun. First I was told I needed a 16' truck, but then Penske was nice enough to up me to a 22' for no extra charge. I thought great, bigger is always better. But my local store only had 26' trucks, which they were going to let me have for the same cost - but of course, the cost of driving that much bigger of a truck across country would cost way more in gas and I tried like crazy for them to get me in the promised 22' - but that didn't work. So they took some $$ off for the larger size and I drove home the 26' footer - THANK GOd!

The two guys who came to load the truck worked 3 more hours than had been estimated - for a lot more $$ - but my 26' truck is stuffed literally to the very top and all the way to the back door! Not one inch of space is left. If I had insisted ont he 22 footer I would have had to leave 4 feet of stuff in NC!

As it is, when I thought I would be on the road by noon, it wasn't till 3 p.m. I bid adieu to my little house by the sea and headed on the first leg of my road trip to Chicago. Pulled into my youngest son's cul-du-sac in Raleigh at 6 p.m. Grabbed a quick shower and dashed off to dinner my son, good friend Page and broker/good buddy Matt Archer. Delicious Indian food and then to bed really early - which is why it's only 5 a.m. and I'm wide awake and typing!

Plan to be wheels-up by 7 a.m. but forecast is that we will be driving into some pretty severe thunderstorms. Keep your fingers crossed for a safe drive and a few prayers wouldn't hurt either.

Until next time....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A New Adventure Begins.....

I have lived in my little-house-by-the-sea in Wilmington, NC on-and-off for the past 5 1/2 years. I say on-and-off as during that time I was away serving in the Peace Corps and then traveling cross-country in my RV or in my Jeep.

I decided it was time to move during my 4-month road-trip last Fall . With the wind whipping through my topless Jeep preventing me from listening to any type of music and with only my own thoughts playing in my head, I came to the realization that I was just not happy living in Wilmington - I needed to make a change.

I moved to Wilmington for several reasons. First, it's on the ocean and I'm a 'water baby.' What's interesting is that when you live here you end up not spending a lot of time on the beach - especially during the summer months - as they are jammed packed with tourists. I can barely get over the bridge, let alone find a parking space!

Second, I moved here because I knew the area. When the children were quite small we started vacationing each summer on Holden Beach, the most beautiful and family-friendly of the area beaches. It was there that I have some of my happiest memories. It was there that we spent our last family Christmas and New Years together before learning of John's cancer. It was there that his ashes were, as he requested, scattered over the waves. So I had this connection to Wilmington and thought it would be a perfect place to settle.

But it wasn't - for many different reasons - one of the major ones being that Wilmington has become a huge COUPLES retirement community. Though I've met and made some good friends while here, it really hit me that I'm single! And even though I really am not interested in ever remarrying, as a single person you are not welcomed with open arms into the local couples social scene (you might want to steal someone's husband - seriously!!!).

And then there is the fact I am a middle-of-the-road liberal Independent and I am also not a Baptist. That might sound like a rather silly statement, but times have really changed since I moved here and these two characteristics have began to stand out in this land of church-going, extremely conservative Republicans. I recently had a man tell me he could never ask me out as he would only date a God-fearing Christian woman who attended church regularly and voted the RIGHT way. Those that know me well can guess my response....ggg.

While driving those 7999 miles last Fall I thought about where I would really want to live - someplace that would make me happy..and I could afford. Someplace I have a good, circle of friends; where are there fabulous museums, excellent theater, great concerts and to-die-for shopping. Plus I wanted good public transportation and a large body of water. I came up with only one place that fit my criteria... HOME....to Chicago.

Though born and raised in Danville (126 straight south of Chicago on Route 1), I fell in love with the Windy City during several summer theater sessions at Northwestern while in college. I packed up and moved there 2 days after I graduated. I sang and danced my way across some of the cities biggest (and smallest) stages, met my John and was married there, We sailed Lake Michgan, had a $500-a-month apartment on Lake Shore Drive (it's now a condo and they want over $300k for our one-bedroom) made wonderful, life-long friends who still live there, left to live in Brussels and then Mpls/St. Paul and returned 30 years later to live in the far western suburb of Barrington (where I spent most of my time hoping on the train to spend my days downtown!)

I adore Chicago. I love a BIG city. I love the diversity, the hustle and bustle, the fact if I want a bagel at 4 a.m. I can find someplace open and serving them hot and fresh. I love all of the opportunities and organizations I can pick and chose from to join-in and participate, I love even the raucous politics. I love the idea of living in a 'neighborhood', knowing my neighbors and being able to walk to the local grocery store - all the things I've missed while living in a small town.

So I put my little house on the market October 1st and starting flying to Chicago to look for my new home. It took 4 trips (undying thanks to my cousin Sarah and her husband Mike for allowing me to use their apartment as my local B&B during these vists!) and a great realtor with Dwell Chicago to find me my perfect place...but in January I did just that.

I had come to the realization that at that my age I no longer needed or wanted to 'own' property. The upkeep of a home near the water was enough to make me know that I could do without the hassle of home maintenance or yard upkeep for the rest of my life. So I went in search of one of those wonderful, old, pre-WWII buildings that downtown Chicago is famous for. I wanted a building done in the Arts & Crafts design that had retained it's original architectural features - like a fireplace, built-in bookcases and hutches, walk-in pantry and huge bay windows.

I found my perfect, 2-bedroom apartment in the East Rogers Park neighborhood.

Rogers Park is a great place to live. It's located on the far North side of downtown, and boasts a wide array of locally-owned grocery stores, fruit markets, delis, restaurants and bars nestled along it's tree-lined streets.

My place is a short 5 blocks to the lakeside where I can hop on my bike and ride for miles north into Evanston or south to Lincoln Park and downtown. I'm 2 blocks for the El, 3 blocks from the Metra (commuter train) and within mere feet from over 10 different bus lines. Because of all these options and a near-by Zip-Car lot, last week I sold my little Jeep.

My house is filled with boxes stacked to the ceiling and covering every flat surface.

I've hired a crew of movers on both ends to come and load and unload my furniture. I've talked my youngest into hoping in the truck in Raleigh and riding along to keep me company (which means he'll do most of the driving - tee hee).

What I have really gotten so tired of hearing, over-and-over-and-over again, since I began telling folks that I was moving is "how can you possibly leave the fabulous, year-round nice weather of the South and return to the snow and ice of the Midwest?" And to that I say...easily... you just have to know how to dress for it. I've bought a really good down-filled coat, a pair of boots, hat and mittens and I'm ready for what little winter is left to endure once I arrive. I keep telling people that weather isn't a reason to keep you some place. Weather can effect your mood but good weather alone can't make you happy.

So with a day and a half left before "Move Day" when I'll pick-up the 22' Penske truck and head North, I have an appointment with my hair dresser this afternoon, dinner and a concert featuring Wynton Marsalis at UNCW tonight, packing the very last things to be packed and one last meeting with my realtor tomorrow and then.....wheels-up! I won't be posting again until I get wireless service up and running and find the box with the computer, but promise to keep you posted on how everything is going.

I'm excited to get started as I've already been offered a part-time job at my favorite fabric store, a writing gig with the local historical society, being once again an active member of Sew Chicago and the Haute Couture Club of Chicago and I just volunteered to help with the 2012 Obama re-election campaign.

Life is good and only getting better!

Until next time....