Tag Archives: Chicago

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…

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.



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