Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Red Kettle and me

Sometimes in life there are things that are just meant to be. Unbeknownst to me, I think I was destined to work for The Salvation Army. I was more than hesitant about working here for the first few days (maybe weeks), just based on some interviews and then my first few weeks. It was not the best start to any job. Thankfully, it has turned around and become a place I am really excited to go every day and am excited about the work I do and the people I do it with. But really what I am most excited about is the change that The Army makes in the world. They (rather, we) make a significant positive to the community we are in.

The reason I started this post by saying sometimes you are just destined to be part of something is that ever since I can remember, I put money into the red kettles. I am not sure where it started or how, but in high school I would save my change all year (in jars or more likely bowls) and then starting at Thanksgiving I would put handfuls of change in my pockets before I took a trip anywhere. When I was in high school, the mall was THE PLACE to go to socialize, hang with friends, eat- basically do anything. And we lived less than a mile from the mall. So if I wasn't at a school or church function, you'd likely find me at the mall with friends. And in my Letterman's jacket that jingled and jangled with its metals, so pockets full of change didn't really make a sound. I would just empty my pockets as we entered the mall. My friends would sometimes tease me and ask why. My response was always the same- it just seems like a good thing to do. What else should I do with all that change. Sometimes, they'd add more. And my less than good friends would roll their eyes and keep going (probably a reason we aren't lifelong pals!).

Well, fast forward, 20 plus years and according to my neice, I am in charge of all those red kettle pople (not true, but funny!). One of my tasks is taking care of our local celebrity ringers. Read: weather people (um, LOVE!), newscasters, mascots, firemen, and others at the Celebrity Corner downtown Chicago. While being out there, I have witnessed the beauty and goodness of humanity (and some craziness, too!). In particular, this last Friday as I was ringing by myself while I waited for the firemen to arrive, a man who was obviously down on his luck came up to the bucket and folded up a $5 bill and put it in the kettle. He told me that "The Salvation Army helps him everyday. That we make his life the best it can be and just give love". He wished me a Merry Christmas and went on his way. I was choking back tears and thanked him and wished him a Merry Christmas.
This. This is the best of humanity. The people that have the least amount to share, share the most. $5 has never seemed like so much. It's been a few days and I am still teary eyed when I see his face in my minds eye. He is the reason we stand at a kettle and ring a bell. He is the reason to give during the holiday season. He is the good in the world.

As I've gotten older and use less and less cash (much to Frank's dismay!), I don't have a years worth of change to share. But I do put what I have in the kettle- even before I really knew all the good that TSA does!
But now that I know and am much more aware of the options to give and the amazing ROI that comes from kettles (nearly 90 cents for every dollar is used for programs- meals, housing, emergency services), I decided to start an online kettle. My goal is to raise $1000. I set that goal because two of our kettles were stolen and it equated to about $1000 worth of loss. If you're inclined and don't always have cash but want to put money in a kettle- consider a gift here:


Thanks for helping me "Do the Most Good"

Love and Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A life of Happy Chaos

I have been meaning to write this for two weeks. 
Life. Events. Work. It all gets in the way. 
But here we go...

Two weeks ago, I married my person. We hosted 70 friends and family and celebrated our love for one another and for those we love. And it was perfect. 
I mean it. Everything was exactly as it should be. 

It was more than just a few hours, it was a whole weekend. I was very skeptical when Frank said he wanted to host Thanksgiving the day before the wedding. I mean, seriously. Who does that?! Well, apparently, we do. And it was THE BEST day! We hosted 25 adults, 7 kids and 5 dogs. It was literally happy chaos. I loved every single minute. I found myself looking around and just watching. Then I'd get choked up. It was our people, all together. I looked at my husband and he just twinkled- all day. It was loud and busy and so very happy. And we hadn't even gotten to the wedding day yet! 

By 10am on Friday the house was filled with people and chaos once again. And once again, I kept finding myself pausing, looking around and taking it all in. And it was so joyful. And again, I kept choking up. My heart was so full. It was all my favorite people in one place, all together. Joy. 

Instead of recapping the whole of everything, I am just going to list my very favorite moments:
  • Getting a manicure and pedicure with my mom and Papa
  • Enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee and conversation with my mama before we got busy building centerpieces and cooking turkey
  • seeing Frank's eyes twinkle with joy as our home was filled with so many we love
  • hearing conversation and laughter in every room of our house
  • watching our people make connections with one another and becoming friends
  • laughing with my brother about "losing control"
  • seeing C fall head over heals for Walter
  • enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, snuggles with my pups and writing my vows before the happy chaos began again
  • seeing Maria obviously feel so pretty after her hair was done
  • Hot Pink Sparkle shoes (both pair!)
  • sharing quiet moments with each of my munchkins
  • Steph helping the girlies do their nails and figure out what hairstyle they wanted
  • Gus telling Jenny she was the most beautiful momma in the world
  • helping get Gus and Jade ready (before mom and dad helped)
  • having a quiet moment getting ready with Jenny
  • laughing with my First Dude (again)
  • laughing with Erica (always)
  • the moment my mom saw me in my dress- she doesn't cry anymore and couldn't stop.
  • hugging my dad
  • seeing Frank in the kitchen when he didn't know I was watching. He was so handsome
  • learning that Walter is fiercely protective of his pack
  • walking into the venue- it was so beautiful (Papa, Uncle Tim and the crew did such a good job)
  • being able to hug and greet people when they arrived
  • the little shared moment with Erica before we all walked down the "aisle"
  • laughing with my dad and discussing whether or not he should carry the truck down the aisle
  • the dudes all carrying a beer (and walking a dog!)
  • the remarks
  • the vows
  • forgetting (and then remembering) the rings!
  • being with all of our people
Like I said, it was more perfect than anything I ever expected. It was truly the perfect way to begin a marriage. To begin a life of happy chaos. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's the little things

Image result for love and care

As we get closer to our official wedding day and prepare for our ceremony (Thanks, Uncle Tim!), I have been giving a lot of thought to "us"- what makes us fit.

We've been together for three years now. In the scheme of life it's not that long. But looking back over the last three years, we've lived a lot of life. We've weathered job loss, moving in together, celebrating new nieces/nephews, meeting families, becoming part of those families. We've celebrated new lives, new jobs, new friends, new dogs (!) and so much more than I can recall as I type. We've also taken on being caregivers for F's aging mother. (the biggest challenge of all!).
So, all this to say- for practical purposes, we are already married. We are committed to one another through thick and thin, and without a piece of paper or a ring or an exchanging of vows, we are committed to one another through the ups and downs of this fabulous life. We support one another, and each help the other become who we want (and need) to be. Everyday is not perfect. Everyday is not joyful. But there are perfect moments in everyday. And there are joyful moments in everyday. And I, for one, can't imagine pairing my life with anyone else.

What I realize as I think about it- it's not grand gestures that make me want to stick around, it's the little things. It's the pat on the ass, the kiss on the top of my head, the reach across the bed to hold my hand, the hilarious text in the middle of the work day or the quick phone call just to check in. It's these little things that remind me I am loved and that I have a partner to traverse this life path with me.

I recently read this blog (I can't recall the name!), but came across this-
"Relationships aren't always a fairy tale. They're not always fireworks and sparks, at least, after the start. But they are a quiet rhythm and hum of love and care. It's not a fire in your soul, but one in your hearth, keeping you warm and comfortable, comforting you as you drift to sleep."

And I love that.

I'm looking forward to wedding and to the celebrating with those with we love. Let's be honest, it'll be a blast! We have amazing people!
But beyond that (and more importantly), I am looking forward to a lifetime of little things and to the rhythm and hum of love.

Monday, February 27, 2017

What moving means...

This morning, I chose to snuggle with dogs for a few extra minutes before getting up and facing the day (packing). As I lay there, my mind drifted to all of the things I needed to accomplish today. All of which revolve around the move (and packing!). From there, I started to lament the fact that I have moved every two years since I was 18. I am 36. That means since moving from my parents home after high school, I have moved 16 times.
- The dorms at MSU
- The sorority house
- The 504 house
- The Forest house
- back home to Mom/Papa's
- My Scottsdale apartment
- My downtown Phoenix apartment
- The Ahwatukee house with my roomies (and the pool!)
- The house next door to the homies and down the block from my HLP
- My precious Seattle garden cottage
- My darling DC English basement
- The Bedolla's playroom in Maryland
- Gabriella's room in Naperville
- The basement apartment at the Connell's in Glenview
- My charming apartment in Andersonville
- My apartment with Frank and the pups in Logan Square

DAMN. That is A LOT of moving. (My sincere apologies to those that keep an old school address book! I hope you've used pencil...)
While it's been an expensive and rather nomadic way to live, I would not change a thing! With each move, I have learned and grown. College moves are pretty self explanatory. Everyone moves during that time of their life. But the subsequent moves- the moves I have done since being a grown up, those are the ones that have really taught me about myself and about life.
My move to Scottsdale was a full on risk (and adventure!). I moved sight unseen to Phoenix for a new job. I made that one happen in 10 days. I got a little help from the Dude and I was on my way. The moves within Phoenix were all about finding my way and discovering the city that I called home for 7 years. My move to Seattle was me trying to find a place to settle, a place to call my home. And it was the loveliest place to call my home for the 2 years I lived there, but life had other plans and new adventures- so it was across the country to take on new work challenges and be nearer to my favorite little family in DC. Living with the families I did between my time in DC and in Chicago was a temporary fix for a transient time. I realized during that time just how lucky and how loved I am. How lucky am I to be invited to stay for an extended frame of time and share another family's home? Those months were truly some of my very favorite. Once I found my Andersonville place, I knew it would be home. It was cozy and so very 'Chicago'. I decorated with floral and it was ultra girlie! The perfect place to have ended my time as a single gal. Once F and I decided to move in together, this place was the very first that I wasn't fully moved into within a month. I was shocked when I realized that, but my smart mama pointed out that for the first time I had distractions-- a person whom I wanted to spend time with and enjoy a conversation and two dogs who need and deserve snuggles. Who wants to unpack when I could be spending time with the three beings I love so much?!
Well, now we've come to next big life adventure which means another move. I am now more than just me. I am a We. And when you become a We, you see the worries of your person and take them as your own. So, We have invited Frank's mom to come to Chicago to live with us. That means we needed to find a place with a first floor bedroom and a neighborhood for her to feel comfortable. We found a wonderful home with plenty of space for us, for her, for the dogs, and for our loved ones to come to Chicago for a visit. (Really, please come! We'd love to host you!)
This will be move #17 for me. And I think it will be one of the best yet. While I am completely over the process of moving and really do hope this is it for some time, I am wise enough to know that you never know what opportunity will arise and what move we will need to make. But I am crossing my fingers that whatever opportunity comes up, it is one that means we can stay in our new home. In the meantime, I am going to take full advantage of this chapter and be grateful for the stories and life that will be lived in this place to fill this chapter in the story of my life.
And seriously, this place has a pool. I mean, for real, I am going to be the happiest lady come warmer weather. ;)
Now, enough procrastinating, I need to get back to packing boxes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Life. It is said that life is what happens when you're making other plans. 
Well, there's been a whole lot of life happening!

We were on our way to buying a home- a cute bungalo in Berwyn. Making major life plans. 
I was plugging along at work and had been discovering all the glaring negatives about the job I took about a year ago. Things had been changing over time, but I kept holding out hope that things would get better (as I always do!). Then I got an email from my boss asking me to meet in a room on the other side of the office-- away from everyone. As soon as I got that email, I packed up my personal belongings and was ready to not go back. I knew. 
I walked into the room- where three others were seated and we got the news. There were layoffs due to a restructure and we, along with eight others, were being let go. I smirked and said okay. 
I move on. As soon as they said we were laid off, I was ready to move on. Let's close this chapter and move on to the next. The HR lady walked us through all the paperwork and my mind drifted. I thought about what I'll do in the next few months while I look for work, I thought about telling F, I thought about what that would mean for our house. For us. And instead of being nervous and scared, I felt hope. I felt like (and feel like), there is something else out there for me. I know everything will be okay. 

So, here I am- one week into being unemployed (a stay-at-home dog mom), and I know staying home full time with dogs is not for me. I love our dogs, but need more. I am applying for interesting jobs and thinking about what else there might be. My mind drifts to the possibility of something totally new-- something in the medical field. Obviously that involves a lot of commitment, time and money but who knows. 

In the meantime, I am going to organize our lives-- clean closets, organize the office, finally hang pictures, settle in. The dogs and I will take lots of walks, maybe discover new parts of the neighborhood. I'll become a regular at Starbucks for my "office hours", finally get caught up on sleep, take care of F, and just enjoy this life in the midst of making other plans. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dusting off the jacket...

Well, it has  been AWHILE. Eeks!
But I feel like that's the way it goes with a blog. You are good and consistent and then life happens. Fun and "adulting" get in the way of taking the time to write about the happenings. But I have missed it. I miss thinking about life and processing it all by writing it down.
So, let's get you all caught up...
In March of 2015, the boy, the dogs and I all moved in together. We live in a fabulous place in Logan Square that makes moving to another neighborhood really hard. We can walk everywhere, or hop on the freeway, or hop on the El. It's pretty great.
And co-habitating is pretty great, too.  I love coming home to him. I love having the dogs.  And I love that they all love me, too! The boy and the dogs can make life messy but I wouldn't have it any other way.
The next question typically posed is-- well, when are you getting married?! Someday. We talk about it a lot, but are so happy with the way things are, we are in no rush. Plus, the event planner in me ha ZERO desire to plan a wedding. Ideally, I'd like to just elope but it's not a choice when we are loved by so many people who would be sad if we didn't include them in the moment. So, that puts us right back to where we are-- content and happy and "living in sin".

A new munchkin came into my life in November. The dude and dudette added to their adorable family with a chubby, perfect, baby girl. She's almost six months old now and is the apple of her big brother's eye (all the rest of us, too!). Gusman continues to be the cutest, smartest 2 year old I know (as he will be at any of his ages!). We Facetime regularly and it's always the best part of my day. I love how chatty he is and love that he sometimes wants nothing to do with me. It's that 2 yo independence rearing it's head- just means he'll be a strong kid! :)

In January I started a new job. At the end of time at Glenwood things were not good. It had become a pretty toxic, unhappy work environment. So much so, that I was bringing the crabby home with me. Ugh. So last summer, I started looking for something new. It took many interviews with good organizations to find the right fit. This time I wanted to find a place to stick and grow and be challenged and love my work again. I have enough experience now to know-- no place is perfect, but event a bad day should be a good day. During my first interview, I knew I had found it. Even on a rough day, I enjoy my work. I am challenged in a good way again. I am being trusted to do what I do best and am being given the opportunity to rise to challenges and do things my way. I get to be strategic and create a vision and lead a team. Not everyday or everything is perfect, but I am so happy.
I am hopeful that this is the start of a regular habit once again. Until the next time!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Christmas Letter

 As I've opened my mailbox this holiday season,  it has been filled with many letters and updates about people's lives and happenings-- weddings, babies, new houses, new pets, etc. It's so spectacular to read these wonderful things! I genuinely care and am interested. And after reading the "what's new with you these days? we need to catch up" written in, I thought maybe this is the year I send a letter with my christmas card. There's quite a bit to share. Sadly, I am quite certain I am not going to get any cards out until after Christmas. I'll make them New Year greetings cards! :) I am okay with that. I really hope no one will be offended. Life is busy and social and booked, so I have less time to spend writing out those cards. I am a firm believer in sending a personal note on them so it takes a bit of time. They'll find a mailbox soon and will be a bright spot. I personally always love an unexpected piece of fun mail. (Silver lining or really great excuse? ;) )

Because my cards won't likely make it out in time, I thought I'd write my Christmas letter here and share with everyone.

2014….what a year! I survived my first winter in Chicago during one of the worst winters in recorded history- record-breaking snowfall, wind chills and all. The term Chi-beria was coined during the time. At the very start of the year, I got stranded in Michigan for 5 days following Gus' baptism because the freeway was closed. Yep, you read that right-- the freeway. A major thoroughfare between Michigan and Chicago was closed for days at a time. Welcome back to the midwest, indeed! But the key was that I survived it and can now truly say I am a Chicagoan. ;) Aside from the weather, the winter was fun-filled with new people, old favorites, and a couple warm-weather adventures to see my west coast pals. I am the luckiest to be able to have places to go and people who really want to see me when it the depths of frigid here and lovely and sunny where they are. Lucky.
The spring got a little dicey. While life was never bad, it definitely was not the happiest. Work was terrible. Like terrible, terrible. Terrible in a way that made me regret taking the job in the first place. Ugh. And just as I was starting to think I needed to really find something new, a more major life event occurred. My Papa had an unexpected open heart surgery on the weekend he and my mom were scheduled to move to their new home and begin their lives together as a retired couple. That week was a blur. I got home and heard the news, then the dude, dudette and I made decisions. We took charge for a bit of time. I realize we have been grown-ups for some time, but in those weeks, we really become adults. We appreciated the situation and realized it could have been so much worse. As a family, we held each other closer and were reminded that while we may drive each other crazy sometimes, we really do like one another. Spring went by in a blur of time between Chicago and Michigan.
By June, I was looking for a new full time gig and enjoying the start to what turned out to be the best summer of my adult life so far. I was able to hang with my dad when he needed a little extra time. I spent tons of time with some of my little (& big) people in Howell and Grand Ledge. I got to spend a lot of time at the beach Up North and be with my parents as they settled down into their new home.  And I got to discover and spend time at the beach here in Chicago! I got to work on a bunch of super fun events, work with really great people, and learn some new skills- copy editor to name one! I walked 10K plus steps every day. I started a new passion of pure barre, and continued to look and interview for the next big adventure in my career.
At the start of fall, I had a job offer on the table and had started to work on a gig that took me to state 49 of 50 (Maine), and work with some of my very favorite people! Ultimately, I accepted the job and am now working at Glenwood Academy. With the new gigs on weekends and the new job with a commute, the fall has been crazy. Three months later, I feel like I have finally found a bit of a groove and understand how to schedule my days with a commute and a job that takes me to an office everyday. The commute can especially brutal in Chicago traffic, but I'm figuring it out. I found a team to call my home for some time again.
As I look back on this year-- my first full year in Chicago, I am super happy! I have had lots of fun with people new and old. I have made some really wonderful new friends. The kind of friends who are keepers and will be around for years to come. I have enjoyed seeing friends that come in and out of this fair city and we've enjoyed catching up after some lost time. I have been spoiled with the time I have been able to spend with my family- both immediate and extended. I have gotten to know Chicago and am totally smitten! I met a guy. Like, THE guy. The guy that will be featured in every letter and Christmas card from here on out. I'd say, it's been a good year.
Looking ahead to 2015, I am excited for the possibilities that lie ahead. The adventures that will be. The joy that I can't fathom yet. I am aware that none of it will perfect, just like this last year (and the years before it). But I know it will be a good year!
Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukkuh! Cheers to the New Year!
Wishing you and yours a season of love, laughter, and peace.

2014: Recap in pictures.