Friday, March 10, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 21: Friendship

"It is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships, that not only support a good life, but create one.  Through friendships, we spark and inspire one another's ambitions."  
--Wallace Stegner

Much like that 8MM prompt that invited me to write about one sibling (and instead I wrote about all of them), I read this prompt about friendship--and the quote that inspires it--and I can't write about just one friend.

I have been blessed in my nearly three decades by a multitude of friendships and relationships that have enriched my life in various different ways.  I feel lucky that I've already gotten to know so many wonderful and magical people!  People who "spark and inspire" my ambitions and dreams, who encourage me to be better by their actions and by the things they are doing with their lives.

Teachers, students, writers, artists, parents, career women and men, business starters, medical professionals, innovators.  They all work so hard to make a difference and forge a path for themselves.  It truly is inspiring to see my friends being successful, to see them receiving back the good energy they put into the world.

I am appreciative of the many friendships in my life.  I am grateful for the opportunity to interact on a more personal level with many different perspectives and I'm definitely glad to be the recipient of some of that previously mentioned good energy.  This is a celebration of friendship!

"Surround yourself with people who make you hungry for life, touch your heart, and nourish your soul."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 20: Decorations

Growing up, I remember the winter months being so magical and so wonderful.  As an adult looking back, I feel like my parents did a perfect job of decorating and making the season special.  The house always felt festive but not overdone...  I always loved pulling into the driveway and seeing the lights hanging along the roof--the white painted wooden dear, adorned with beautiful bows, that still make their way into the front yard every year.

Some years, we went to the tree farm in the next town over, trudging through snow-fallen rows of balsams and evergreens until we found the perfect one.  Others, we got a tree from the Boy Scout lot.  I remember many years waiting impatiently as Dad wrapped the tree in lights, wanting to just decorate it already!  Eventually they got an artificial tree.  The house is still no less special during the holidays and now that my niece is getting older, Christmas has become even more fun!

I have fond memories of Thanksgiving dinners at my Aunt's house and Christmas Eve's at my grandpa's.  The latter is probably my most consistent, fond, favorite memory...  every year was different and every year was wonderful.  And every year, I relished the drive home from Grandpa's house to ours, feeling like I might burst with excitement and happiness and love, just the most incredible and pure joy.  The lights and the deer in the yard and the Santa statuette in the boarded-up breezeway, the tree glowing in multicolored lights and shiny glass ornaments (so perhaps you can see why some of my most vivid childhood memories occurred on cold winter nights.)  The holidays lingered on until after the start of the New Year, the decorations being put away one by one, the magic hanging on for as long as it could.   

Monday, February 27, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 19: Waking Up

Waking up, and my routines around rising, are entirely dependent upon what part of my week I'm in.  As per my work routine, I have a descending schedule where I work later at the beginning of my week and gradually have earlier shifts as I work towards my weekend.  So without further adieu, let's start with...

My Weekend (Thursday-Friday):  I try to be up by 9:30 or 10 at the latest.  Often times I'm still catching up on sleep from getting up so early the day before, which you will read about below!  Yoga is at 8:30 on Friday morning, so if I'm gonna go, ideally I need to be up by 7:45 and out the door by 8:15 at the very latest.  Of course, I'll set the alarm and get up earlier if need be.

Days that I work at 1pm or 12pm (the start of my workweek): Usually up by 8:30 or 9.  I'll go for a run if I have time, or just hang out around the apartment.  I'll take time to write, or tidy things up, or make myself food.  It's a pretty leisurely pace for getting ready and I'm about the door about 40 minutes before my shift starts, just to account for traffic and not being rushed to get settled at work.

Days I work at 8am or 9am: I try to get up a half an hour before I need to leave for work.  During rush hour, it takes me about 45-50 minutes so I really can't be in the car any later than 10 or 15 minutes after the top of the hour.  Sometimes I will shower in the morning; other times I will have showered the night before.  A quick freshen up and I'm on my way (generally without having eaten anything yet, if I have time I'll stop, otherwise I can find something to snack on when I get to work).

Days I work at 7am or 6am:  The gap between "when I need to get up" and "when I need to leave for work" gets a bit smaller.  For example, on Tuesday, when I have to be to work at 7:00, I will set the alarm for 5:50 and allow myself to snooze once (this is a habitual practice: I snooze once, and only once, it has never failed me yet *knock on wood* *crosses fingers*)  I'll be up by 6:00 and I'll be out the door by 6:20 at the latest.

The morning that I have to be there at 4am (Yes, you read that correctly--I work at 4am once a week, generally on Wednesday, or my Friday): First alarm at 3:10, snooze, second alarm 3:20.  Up, dressed, ready, and out the door by 3:30 and no later.  Even still I make it to work about 5-10 minutes before I need to be there, depending on how I hit the lights on Peterson.  I mean, it also helps that there is virtually no traffic on the road at that time of the day--er, night.  I pride myself on my punctuality, even at 4am!

Friday, February 24, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 18: Drive Bys

(From my first run of the year, which took the very route you're going to read about below, certainly the first of many times I'll cross those sidewalks.)

Or, in my case, run bys... you know, when you pass by a place familiar to you in a current life, or maybe a past one, and you are filled with all sorts of emotion (perhaps nostalgic, perhaps wistful, perhaps joyful).  Anyway, of course I have those experiences while driving, or riding the train, but it happens when I'm out running, too.

Especially when I'm out in the neighborhood.  This year marks 5 years that I have been running.  In a way I kind of can't believe it... but here we are.  I know I still have so far to go but I am proud of the progress I have made and the plans I have for myself.  I love that through running I am constantly growing, constantly learning more about myself.  I feel really lucky to have found myself on this journey.  I kind of went off on a tangent there, but the reason I love to run through the neighborhood, especially heading up north towards Devon, is that I used to spend a ton of time just a few blocks north of here while Tom was attending Loyola University Chicago.

He lived with a few roommates on Newgard and I often times find myself running north on Glenwood, crossing Devon, heading a block west and then up past the old apartment.  Sometimes I swear I can see 19 year old Jess looking out the window on the street below.  Often times I continue on north and then over on side streets to Sheridan and the LUC campus.  I pass by the buildings he used to go to class in (remembering especially the humanities building where he took photography classes, the darkroom there, the afternoon where he took photos of me in an empty classroom), the lawns and the Lake and the chapel.  It has changed so much since he was a student, but a lot of it has stayed the same, too.

And, I don't know, running on campus and running through our old stomping grounds always fills me with a sense of contentment and happiness.  I'd like to think that 19 year old Jess would be happy with the life that almost 29 year old Jess has made for herself.  I always hoped that he and I would end up back here, because I loved it so much, but I never could have guessed that "here" would literally be 3 blocks away.  So I'll soak it up while I can, I'll run north on Devon and past the old apartment and I'll wave when I see her in the window.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 17: Sibling

The prompt for today's 8 Minute Memoir suggested writing about a sibling.  The thing is, I am blessed enough to have 3 siblings who are so wonderful that I can't pick just one.  (I also have great three brothers-in-law, two being my husband's younger brothers and one being my sister's husband.)  In fact, I may have won the sibling lottery.  I have an older brother, an older sister, and a younger brother.  It's true that we may have had our differences here and there growing up (because what family hasn't?) but I love each of my brothers and sister fiercely.  And I am so proud of the people they have become as they have grown into adults!  They are pursuing their passions and learning new things and creating lives that are important and fulfilling.

They are such unique people with individual but related likes and dislikes to mine.  It's great that we can always find common ground with one another.  My older brother, for example, continually impresses me with his prowess at running and the art of the Ragnar Relay.  My older sister is a pharmacist who is passionate about her job, and it is great to hear her stories of being able to help people (though my job is a quite a bit less serious than hers--because she is saving lives!--in the ways that we are given the opportunity to serve others it is similar and I can relate to a lot of her feelings).  She also made me an auntie and I love watching her as a mom.  My younger brother is witty and into movies and music and podcasts and coaches the robotics team at the middle school he works at, which I think is just awesome!  In addition to all of this, my siblings are kind and caring individuals who work hard to make life betters for others, and I am honored to be related to them, to have them as friends, too.

Friday, February 17, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 16: Learning New Things

I have always been an interested learner.  If it made more sense financially for me, I'd probably have gone back to school by now to get a graduate degree.  Instead, I strive to keep learning and growing my knowledge of, well, everything!  I know this is a great way to become a well rounded and enlightened person and I definitely love learning.

Getting outside of my comfort zone is really important.  Sometimes, for me, this means trying new kinds of food or pushing myself to go to yoga class.  I've worked hard to learn more about running--everything from mechanics to nutrition to form--and I feel as though it is absolutely beneficial for me to keep reading and getting more information.  In the end, this will help me to be a better runner.

I have a library card and have used it to check out some great books!  Being a member of the Chicago Public Library is a huge benefit and I highly suggest that anyone get a card from their local library.  I also like to do a lot of research on the internet.  Obviously there is a large amount of information to sift through but I try to make sure I'm getting my information and knowledge from reputable sources.  I am also a fan of NPR and PBS on the visual side, and I try to learn about cooking or painting or anything I might find interesting!

One of my goals for this year is to try and become a better cook, and in doing so I have been learning more about the art.  just the other week I made Hasselback chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese and spinich, with a quinoa rice blend and sauteed asparagus.  it was delicious!  It was totally outside of my comfort zone, but certainly a dinner I would make again.  I have been researching via Pinterest and recipes that I find online.  I would ideally like to cook something new once a week in an effort to learn more about cooking but also to try new and different things I might previously have avoided.  So far, this has been a valuable experience for me--and exciting to try new meals!

8 Minute Memoir, Day 15: Camping

In the summer of 2007, Tom and I spent a week camping at Devil's Lake near Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I make no secret of the fact that I love Devil's Lake--it is one of my favorite places in the world.  It is just a beautiful collection of Midwestern natural beauty and there is such a wide variety of things to see.  I love swimming in the lake, hiking the trails, climbing the bluffs (which I haven't actually done in a long time, long before I got into better physical health).  Tom and I got engaged at Devil's Lake, at the end of a hike up the Balancing Rock trail, and so the place also has sentimental meaning to me as well.

Anyway, we'd gone camping the previous summer but this was just the two of us, and for much longer.  It was a great week!  We set up camp and went back into town to get supplies at Aldi.  (We certainly did not purchase any alcoholic beverages with an ID that may or may not have been valid.)  This trip was only the second time in my life that I had ever been camping, besides the occasional backyard camping I did as a kid.  I loved it, spending the entirety of my time outside, sleeping under the stars.  We did a ton of hiking, cooking meals over the campfire, taking afternoon naps, pretty much just doing whatever we wanted.  Devil's Lake covers a pretty significant area so there's a lot to see and explore!  I really didn't want that week to end.

The next summer, in 2008, we made reservations to go camping again at Devil's Lake.  Unfortunately, the Madison/Wisconsin Dells/Baraboo areas received a ton of rainfall and damaging storms.  Many parts of the park were flooded and in need of repair after the severe weather.  We ended up having to cancel our camping reservation, and as of yet we still haven't gone camping again.  Our adventures have just taken us elsewhere.  Hopefully this year will be the year, though!