Monday, November 21, 2016

Post Election/Winter Blues Pick-Me-Ups

Are you feeling blue about the election? I'm certainly not over the results but I can't go around feeling angry and dismayed ALL the time. Here are some things that have been lifting my mood during these unsettling weeks. (And Trump fans read on - these tips can be helpful to get through a long, bleak winter too.)

1. Get Outside
A good brisk walk (or run) makes everything better. Find a spot that inspires you - a park, the lakefront, an interesting neighborhood - and march around until you feel your blood pumping and the knot in your chest begin to loosen. Feel the wind on your skin and the sun on your face. You're alive! The world looks just the same as it did a couple weeks ago. Breathe deep and enjoy. In this moment all is well and, not to get all Eckhart Tolle on you, this moment is all we have.

2. The Crown on Netflix
I just finished the first season of this show about the early years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign and I'm obsessed. Watching this young woman struggle with her duties as monarch and her desires as a woman/wife/mother/sister/daughter is fascinating and inspiring.  It's even more compelling when you realize that Elizabeth II has been ruling Great Britain and beyond for almost 65 years. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted - it's an escape and a timely history lesson combined.

3. Make Up a Little
It may seem frivolous but a mini-makeover always gives me a lift. Play around with a new shade of lipstick or eyeshadow then take some silly selfies to celebrate the new you. A nice make-up artist at Nordstrom helped me select this color-drenched Giorgio Armani Rouge Sheer Lipstick. It wasn't cheap but I think $37 is a small price to pay for looking and feeling brighter.

3. Clean Up Your Act
Organize a drawer, wash a window, or just throw out a pile of old magazines. The simple act of completing a small job makes you feel positive and productive and improves your surroundings at the same time. Here's an interesting story about the therapeutic effects of cleaning.

4. Unfriend/Unfollow as Needed
That person whose political comments are making your social media life a misery? Take control. After spending countless hours worrying how to respond respectfully to one dude's right wing rants on my page,  I realized we'd never really been friends to begin with and I'd miss nothing if we were no longer connected on Facebook.  I blocked him. Another option is to simply remove a person's annoying posts from your feed by using the "unfollow" setting. Hey, if I'm bumming you out, feel free to do the same to me!

5. Donate Some Cash
If you're unhappy about a particular aspect of our new leader's agenda, put your money where your mouth is and donate to a cause or organization that you believe in. I donated to the Human Rights Campaign but if you're looking for a list of pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-earth, anti-bigotry organizations, this story at Jezebel is a good place to start.

6. Bottoms Up
And if you're still feeling upset, there's always this. Cheers!

It's an act of courage to stay positive my friends. I'm going to do what I can to stay in a productive, optimistic frame of mind, otherwise I'll be no use to anyone.  If you've got some suggestions, please share.

Sending you warm wishes for a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Breaking News: Old Bitch Learns New Tricks

Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States and I am training for my first five mile race. Three months ago I wouldn't have believed either of these things could be possible.

But there's Trump, touring the White House with President Obama and assembling his cabinet, and here's me, slowly but surely logging miles along the Chicago lakefront in preparation for the 8K Turkey Trot in Lincoln Park next week. Life is full of surprises.

I've never been a runner but I was inspired to take on this challenge in August when my daughter Emma and I watched her boyfriend Kevin do a half triathlon with his friends in Chicago. There were so many different people competing - all ages and body types. We stood cheering the athletes a half mile before the finish line. Some people were exhausted and some were exhilarated, but they all were determined to reach their goal. It was awesome! I wanted a piece of that sense of accomplishment.

"Emma," I said, "We could do this, or at least we could do the running part. Let's sign up for a race at Thanksgiving at do it together."

Emma, who played competitive soccer for 13 years and has run several races including the BIG 10 ten-mile run, looked at me skeptically.

"You always say you're going to do things," she said, "and you never do them."

Oh, snap. That hurt.

"Well. I guess I'm going to have to do this one then."

I found a training plan for beginning runners online and began to follow it. The plan assumed you could already run a mile - something I hadn't done in like forever, but I gave it a go. Encouraged by that first mile I invested in some running shoes and supportive inserts. I've been running ever since.
Emma and me on a training run on Navy Pier.

It doesn't come easily. First of all, I'm slow. Second, every time I head out I have to overcome my fear. I'm not sure what I'm so frightened of - that it will hurt, that I can't do it, that I'll fail. But once I get chugging along I do a check-in with myself - look, you're fine, you're breathing, it's a little uncomfortable but nothing actually is in pain. And when it does get hard I ask myself, "Am I really more tired than all those triathletes were on their last half mile?" The answer is always no. I also think of what Emma said, damn her.

Friday I ran four miles along the Lakefront trail - a beautiful route from my condo down to the Shedd Aquarium and back - so I'm almost ready for next week's big race. Each time I reach a new milestone I feel so great about myself. Look at me, I'm 53 years old and I'm doing something I've never done before!

If I can do this new thing, what else can I do?

Donald Trump was not my candidate.  I was dismayed when Hillary Clinton lost the election - I still am. But one thing that stunning defeat made me realize is that I have to get involved. It's not enough to send a donation or post an anti-Trump ad on my Facebook page or laugh at a snarky SNL skit. I can't expect other people to do the important work for me. I'm not sure what form it will take yet, but I'm resolved to take action, especially for women's rights, human rights, and equality for all. America has come far but the fight still continues, one slow milestone at a time.

Hillary lost, but as a result there's a newly activated me. I'm no old dog. I'm an empowered bitch ready to tackle new tricks. Hear me woof!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Tale of Two Cities (and three houses)

Over the last year or so we've transitioned to live in two places - Sioux City, where Liam works for a very cool company, and downtown Chicago, where we have a very cool condo.  During the week, Liam is mostly in Iowa and I'm mostly in Chicago, but on the weekends we travel between the two or hit someplace different for fun. It's an unconventional arrangement that even has our kids a bit confused, but we like the freedom and excitement of being able to hang in both places.

Downtime in Sioux City is relaxing and serene. We live on a beautiful pond on a pretty golf course that's home to all sorts of critters like fox and pheasant and muskrat and turtle and weasel (when's the last time you saw a weasel?) We love to hike local nature trails and play terrible golf and take naps and cook pots of soup and hit the 80s band concerts that roll through town. We have cocktails on our balcony and listen to the geese honking as the sun slides down the open sky.  We have a GMC pickup truck and a sauna and a three-car heated garage.

View from our terrace in Sioux City.

Our condo is still new to us, but living in downtown Chicago is already a thrill. Restaurants and culture and shopping and sports (Go Cubs!) and parks and the river and lake are literally on our doorstep. The vibe is energized and exciting and busy, busy, busy. Our building has wonderful doormen and a huge gym and indoor pool. We can see the fireworks at Navy Pier from our balcony and hear motorcycles racing through Lower Wacker at night.

Living at the corner of Chicago River and Lake Michigan

Living in two such different places provides a contrast and balance that makes me feel alive and excited about the future. Change is scary but change is growth and growth is good (that's my mantra.)

That said, we haven't made a clean break from Wilmette, because we haven't sold our house there yet. So I'm still hanging out on the North Shore, which is fine, because I love Wilmette, but honestly, the three house thing is getting old. It's like a big ball of energy holding us down and we're moving on! I know this house is perfect for the right family and I hope they find each other soon.

 I'm happy inside and out. Buy me!

I know plenty of couples with similar arrangements in Chicago, but our Sioux City neighbors don't know what to think of us. This back and forth wouldn't work if we still had kids at home, but we're at a point where we can create a life that works for the two of us. This situation and these places are still new and I'm still figuring stuff out myself. I lose my keys on the daily.

Hopefully this should make for lots of good writing material and luckily I can write from anywhere. So check back soon and for an update on my pursuit of a ripe peach life in Chicago, Sioux City and beyond!