Archive | Life in Chicago RSS feed for this section

The Discipline of Exploration | A Summer Day in Chicago

21 Aug

Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain

Peter and I have lived in some pretty amazing cities throughout our lives. Chicago being just one of them. We’ve both lived in the D.C. area, Austin, and a year in Jerusalem. On our own we’ve lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Twin Cities, Baltimore, Lafayette … I could keep going, we we’re quite the roamers in our younger days.

Sadly, neither one of us gave ourselves the opportunity to really (I mean, really) explore these cities while we lived there.

After all, the task of exploration requires a lot of effort for us. Pack up the gear for the day, make sure we have plenty of cash, water and snacks, change of clothes for the kids. (For those Murphy’s law moments that always seem to happen while out.) Lift and shove the stroller, with two children sitting in it, on and off the train. Maneuver through the heavy foot traffic of the city just to find that one restaurant that we’ve been hearing about for ages. It’s a schlep.

Noah and Mommy, Buckingham Fountain.

Us, Lake Michigan

In fact, one could call exploration a discipline. The task of moving outside of our comfort zone to see what’s beyond the view right in front of us requires effort, and hope … that there is something out there that’s actually worth discovering.

I have a vivid memory. Years ago while living in Ft. Lauderdale I went for a run through my neighborhood. I needed the workout to help me process my feelings. I was really jealous. A friend of mine was in a very happy and loving relationship with a man. I felt sorry for myself. I wanted to know where my happy love affair was too.

Me, Lurie Garden

After I finished my run, I chose to stretch out by the pond near my condo. The sun was setting and the pond seemed inviting, at first. Upon closer inspection though, this body of water was teeming with gnats and smelled like rotting fish.

I stood there stretching my calves thinking about how this pond was all I could see, but I knew that not even three miles away there was a peaceful beach that offered the softest white sand swept up in turquoise waters.

It felt like a fitting metaphor for my life. In a quick act of determination, I set my heart towards hope. Just because all I could see was that ugly pond, didn’t  mean the ocean wasn’t there waiting for me. I knew that someday I would explore that part of life, if I could only find my way to it.

Zoe, Millennium Park

Today, I ask myself am I staring at the pond in front of me forgetting that there’s a beautiful beach just beyond sight? Am I stuck in my routine of daily living, forgetting that there’s an amazing city just a quick train ride away?

Am I neglecting the responsibility of nurturing my life because I’m afraid of what will happen when I leave my comfort zone? Am I reveling in my sadness because it takes too much effort to commit to the work of happiness?  These are all questions I’m exploring right now.

I must take time to search out my heart in order to move forward. Where does my sorrow come from? What’s the root? What does my joy come from? What’s the source? Exploration of the soul is not for everyone. Self-awareness is hard, because the answers we find when we are really seeking truth can be thrilling, or scary as hell, or a key to our personal growth and healing.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Elliot

Zoe and Noah, Millennium Park

On the theme of exploration, and with our year anniversary of living in Chicagoland just around the corner, Peter and I took the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful 80 degree August day with our family. We hopped on the train, and headed into our thriving and gorgeous city, Chicago. (As you can see, I threw in some pictures of our day for good measure.)

So, here’s to exploration, both the tangible and intangible. Sometimes you’ve got to take your eyes off the pond, and head towards the beach. Even when it’s hard to get there.

Ever exploring,


Read “The Discipline of Hope | Facebook Sucks Your Life Out” by clicking here.

Chicago Skyscraper

Zoe playing at Millennium Park

Always exploring…

I Have FTP And Now I Will Tell You EVERYTHING

10 Jan

He Qi, "Moses Striking the Rock", 2002.

FTP stands for Failure to Progress.  It’s applied to a woman whose contractions do not bring cervical changes.  I feel like I have writers FTP. Like my ability to write about my personal life has stopped dilating.  I actually told Peter the other day that I want to write so bad and when I try nothing happens.  I told him in earnest that I have this big ‘ole word-baby in side of me and I’m stuck at 9.5cm for 8 hours with a cervical lip and I’m siting forward leaning over the toilet to get the lip to move and it’s just stuck and if I push then my cervix will swell and well…gosh.  See. You get it.

My Placenta

I want to write about how I had my placenta encapsulated. I want to show y’all pictures of it and how it was done in my own kitchen and how taking my placenta pills made a huge difference for me in combating postpartum depression.  But nope, nothing to write about there. I’m afraid people will freak out if I show pics of placenta on the internet  anyway.  And who does that stuff?  That’s disgusting, you may never read my blog again if I post pics of my placenta.

Continue reading

The Walls of My Home

24 Aug

November 2008. Our first family photo outside our home in Denton.

My lap top tells me that it’s 12:17 AM.  Everyone is, thankfully I might add, sleeping.  I’m sitting in my Dad’s recliner in the living room of my parents house.  When I stop typing and listen I hear my ears ringing, thanks to way too many loud music events that I was a part of in my 20s, I hear the bugs sawing their legs in rhythm with the clock ticking, and a few creeks of  the house moaning in the night from the heat of the day.

My daughter is asleep in the room I grew up in. She is sleeping in the same bed I did for my entire life spent in this house.  It makes me sentimental.  Peter put her to bed tonight, like he has most every night for the past four months since Noah’s arrival.  Zoe has turned into a full on Daddy’s girl.  If she wakes in the night she cries for Daddy and not Momma.  Which, I’ll admit, makes my heart zing just a bit.  I’m not available for her as much as I was when I only had her.  Noah, who still nurses every two hours on most days, keeps me really … not busy, but … occupied, my hands are generally filled with his chubby, demanding, but oh-so-loving body.  I have to make a very strong effort to get quality time with Zoe.

Which now is spent on the floor of my parents living room, playing with her brightly colored lego blocks while Noah sits in my lap.  She repeats the phrase, “We need four walls to make a house, Mom.”  Something I said to her the first time we made a lego house together, and now she says it to me every time we play legos.  Four walls, indeed.

We are in Arkansas.  We are in transition, somewhere between almost there and not quite yet.

We packed up our house and moved our belongings into a trailer truck that drove away from our Denton address on Wednesday, August 3, three weeks ago exactly.  We loaded every single last scrap that we own into a truck’s trailer headed for Chicago.  I have no idea how it happened, packing up  – with all my crying, and wandering through old pictures and letters, and the stress of planning it all, and feeding my baby and entertaining my pre-schooler.  If it weren’t for the help of our friends, Marissa, Amanda, Katie, Kristen and Lindy – as well as Marissa’s and Amanda’s husbands we would have never managed to pack up our home.

At the end of our last day in Denton, a dreadfully hot day in Texas, 108 degrees  – too hot for the AC to keep up, Peter and I stood, holding our children in our arms, inside our empty home.  The home that we lived in for almost three years, the home that we brought ourselves to after living in Israel, the home that we brought our tiny newborn children to, the home where we discovered our better selves and shed our worst moments in, this home with its four walls covered in memories, was empty.  Bone bare and thread dry.

We stood there like travel weary, wanderlust(y) hitch hikers on the side of the road waiting for our next ride. Except this side of the road is our home, and our home is an empty shell.  Our future does not fit inside these four walls.  We outgrew our present. I stood there trying not to cry. Sweat pouring down my face, dirt under my nails.  A suitcase by my foot.  Noah perched on my hip. Peter holding my hand and Nutmeg staring at us.  I wasn’t going to do this, I remind myself.  I can’t get emotional.  Not right now.  There isn’t the energy for this much feeling.  I must just keep moving forward. Without. Within. Without.

I’m sentimental.  As you can see.

It’s been the most exhausting season of my soul so far.  Truly.  I’ve just sat here and reread that sentence about ten different times trying to make sure that statement is true, and I’m pretty sure it is.

And now, here we are in Arkansas, waiting for the rest of the story.

Peter leaves for Chicago on Sunday (today is Wednesday) to start grad school.  Zoe, Noah and I will stay in Arkansas with my parents. Peter will temporarily live with friends.  School starts on the 31st of August (his birthday).  Once loan money disburses and Peter finds us a rental unit that’s close enough to the train and big enough for all four of us and a dog, we will make our way to Chicago.  Our reunion will likely be the end of September.

I’m not excited about his leaving.  I remind myself that I’ve been without Peter before. In fact, I did it for two months, when Peter went to Denton and I stayed in Israel.  In those two months, Peter found a job, bought a car, located a home for us and enrolled in school.  I arrived in Denton 26 weeks pregnant on November 4th, 2008 to our tiny, little home with its bare white walls and our mattress on the floor surrounded by boxes filled with our dishes.

Now it seems the story repeats itself, except this time it’s not just me who has to be without Peter, it’s Zoe and Noah too.  I think of how much Zoe is going to miss her Daddy and the same for Peter.  I wonder if she’ll be okay when she wakes up at night and cries for Daddy and it’s me that comes to her. I’m not sure how she’ll manage without him.  What I mean is … I’m not sure how I’ll manage without him.

This is where we are.  I can’t imagine the future right now because I’m treading water.  Focused on the present.

Tonight, Stevie Wonder’s, I Just Called To Say I Love You, started playing on the radio, (the second time today).  I turned up the volume and Peter and I playfully danced together in the middle of the living room.  Zoe saw us, smiled and laughed and came running over.  She hugged my leg and danced with Peter and me while Noah vocalized in the pack-n-play.  I joked to Zoe saying, “This is something Daddy is going to be doing quite a bit of soon. Calling to say I love you.”

While Peter and I dance in the living room of my childhood home, for a tiny second, my mind stops treading water long enough to think about what all of this change has brought us. I smile into Peter’s neck and touch my daughter’s hair and look at my son. If it takes four walls to make a house, then the four of us are the walls to our home – where ever we are.  We make the best house, ever.

May 2011. Our last family photo outside our home in Denton.

In Which We Move to Chicago

6 Jul

Chicago Skyline

I’m not sure if I’m more relieved to have finally made a decision or more scared that we’re moving to Chicago.  But we are.  Moving that is. To Chicago.

Let me tell you how it all went down.

In early March, Southern Methodist University of Dallas (SMU) was the first school to let us know that they had accepted Peter into their two-year MFA program.  Not only that, but they awarded Peter a full academic scholarship, plus an assistantship, a small assistantship, but still worth mentioning.  Bingo.  Grad School can happen without a move.  Let’s jump on this, I said. In total, they awarded Peter over $100,000.  Not bad.  SMU is known for being highly selective and stingy with their awards, so let’s just see this for what it is…the right choice.  Let’s confirm our decision and be done with this – that’s what I felt.

Mind you, I was 30 plus weeks pregnant, desperate for some closure and ready to know what our future looked like, and really excited about the idea that we could stay in Denton and I could stay connected with my work here.

Then we hear from School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).  Peter applied to this school knowing that it was a long shot.  Everyone told us that scholarships were few and far between. But seeing as how this was THE program Peter really wished he could land, the third top New Media Program in the Nation, second only to Harvard’s,  and it has a 90% placement rate post graduation, and it is only a two-year program, Peter thought he would give it a shot.  SAIC offers Peter a partial scholarship.  Oh wow. This is getting complicated.

We take SAIC’s offer into serious consideration.  We would need to take out a lot of loans to make this work.  Too many, in fact.  There’s just not enough money available for a family of four and a dog to live in Chicago.  Oh, well, I said…let’s move on.  You can have a successful career wherever you go.

Did I mention that Peter intends to teach at a college level?  New Media is an up and coming art field and it’s pretty exciting to be a part of right now.

Then we hear from University of Houston.  They award Peter a full scholarship into their MFA program.  Woah. Uof H has a strong artistic community, much stronger than Dallas. Maybe we should think about this.

Then the deadline to let SMU know if we were accepting their offer came around.  But we still hadn’t heard from Denver University, University of Texas, or University of Texas at Arlington. What should we do?

Peter asked SMU for an extension, and they agreed.  They gave us another two weeks. Hopefully we would hear from the other schools by then.

We hear from UT, they place Peter on a wait list.  Essentially, if anyone they offered a position to in their New Media MFA program says no thanks, they will then offer the position to Peter. Oh man, wouldn’t it be great to live in Austin again?  Oh wow.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed and let’s pray and hope that someone says no, because being with our community in Austin would be fantastic.  Let’s hope we hear something soon.

And so we waited, and waited.  And waited some more.

On April 11th, we hear from UT.  There is no space for Peter.  We learn that we will not be going to Austin.  I’m sad, but ready to get some closure too. Okay, looks like SMU it is.

But wait, we still haven’t heard from Denver, or University of Texas at Arlington?  How can we make a decision until all the cards are on the table?

Peter talks to me about how much he wishes it could work out for SAIC.  This is ridiculous.  It’s just not possible.  Let’s move on.  Peter lets SAIC know we cannot attend.  They write back saying that they will extend the offer of acceptance and the award for at least a year. If our circumstances or our perspective changes, let them know ASAP.

That’s cool, I guess.

On April, 13th, Noah Luke makes his arrival into our world, and Peter starts to feel more pressure to make the right decision for our future.  Good, I say.  We need to finalize this decision.

So, without hearing from Denver or UTA, Peter tells SMU that he will accept their offer.

AWESOME!  Now let’s pack up our house and move into a bigger place, this two bedroom is too small for us.

We start packing up.  We find an awesome three bedroom in Denton that’s just perfect for us. Peter will take the train to SMU.  Maybe I can start working again once Noah is past all this crazy colic junk.

In the middle of June, two days before we sign our lease, Denver University lets us know that they have awarded Peter a full scholarship into their three year MFA program.

Which means, we could be moving to Denver.  Maybe signing a lease right now is a bad idea.  Sadly, we let the house go.

OY.  You’ve got to be kidding!

Denver was Peter’s second choice.  His first was SAIC.  But they didn’t offer a full scholarship, but Denver is, and they’re giving the option of Peter doing an MA in art History and an MFA in New Media.  Two grad degrees ain’t bad.  But what is their assistantship?

They promise to let us know, administration is a mess, they tell us, which is why the delay in letting us know Peter was accepted in the first place, but they will give us word on the assistantship ASAP.

And so we wait.  Meanwhile University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) let’s us know that Peter was accepted into their program and awarded a full scholarship plus a very sizeable assistantship.

Okay.  Now this is getting confusing.

What do we do?

Since UTA isn’t a very high-ranking school and their New Media program isn’t well-known, and Peter can’t take the train into school, (We are a one car family) we decide to say no to UTA.

But dang it, if we still haven’t heard from Denver.  This is getting stupid.  Let’s just confirm our decision to move to Denver and then we will figure out what their assistanship is once we are there.  I mean it has to be better than SMU’s measly 150 a month, right?

July 1st, Peter writes SAIC to find out if they have any further funding available….

They do.  They offer a 20% increase in award money to Peter plus a work-study program.  They also offer more money for personal loans.

What?  Oh, okay.  Now this changes everything. SAIC is workable now.

Yes, we told SMU that we would attend a while ago.  But SAIC is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  So, SMU is not going to like that we are telling them no thanks after the fact (and I do feel bad about that).

We may have more debt post grad, but Peter has a greater chance of a stronger, better paying career afterwards.  SAIC is to art, as Harvard is to law.  It’s a huge deal.

And when I see how happy it makes Peter, it makes me happy too.

And believe it or not, we still have not heard from Denver.  (you suck, thanks for being such an administrative mess)

I’m scared to move to Chicago.  Seriously.  It’s a big city.  And it’s as cold as it is big. But it’s just for two years, and it’s for the benefit of our whole family.  Going to SAIC gives us a stronger chance of success post grad than any of the other schools.  So, yes, it’s more of a gamble up front, but less of a gamble afterwards.

We have some good friends in the area.  Good friends, who are even now helping us find a place. Good friends who will help us make the transition from Southern living to city life.  We’ll be okay.  In fact, after these last six months, I’m pretty sure we will be fine.

And me, I’m excited to live in a place that doesn’t have the washer and dryer in the dining room.

SAIC starts at the end of August.  We are still in the planning stages of when we will make our arrival.  Which means, I don’t know when we are leaving Denton, but it will likely be the second week of August.

Dear Texas, I love you. I love the friends that you gave me.  I love the experience I’ve had in this amazing place.  Your summers are a beating, but you make up for it with people who are as big-hearted as you are wide.  Thanks for being a place I could call home.



%d bloggers like this: