Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy haunting

Here's hoping you get lots of treats, no tricks!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

can and can't

I've seen this on a few blogs over the last few days...thank you for the inspiration for today's post.

Things I can do well.

1. Print. My handwriting can be very neat - if I try to make it so. I have to try, of course. Most of the time around here it's basic scrawl. Sometimes I find that it's been so long since I've written anything that when I do need to write, I find it kind of hard to do it for an extended period of time. You too?

2. Organize. Straighten. Arrange. Again, I have to be in the mood. But when the mood strikes, I like to get into this task. My mom used to have me organize her kitchen every time she and my dad moved because I always liked figuring out where pots and pans and dishes should go in a new space.

3. Speak in public. And get this, I actually like doing it! You meet so many people who dread it, but not me. Once upon a time I dreamed of a career as a broadcast journalist, but a stint as a production assistant with a local news channel convinced me otherwise. There were (and are) just too many things about that business that I don't like. So I took the moral high ground and instead pursued a career in advertising. Go figure.

4. Communicate. I like to keep in close touch with my family and friends, and I look at it almost as a job that I need to work on all the time - especially since we are all scattered about. I also have found that most misunderstandings between people can be traced back to a simple case of it's important to keep those lines open and get the message out, loud and clear.

5. Listen. This is always challenging, and many times that I struggle to get it right. People often tell me I have a good memory, but I think it's due in part to the times when I've been an active listener. Not an easy task. Next time you want to try this, listen to someone speak and absorb what they say without letting your mind jump ahead to what you'll say when there's a pause in the conversation. You'll be surprised by how difficult this can be.

Things I can't do well.

1. Math. I am not good at it, but I've exaggerated my deficit in this area so much in my mind that I'm convinced I'm awful at it. Also, I get extremely nervous doing math - basic calculations - in front of people. Like, adding a tip on a receipt. I can do this without a problem if I'm by myself, but if I think people are looking at me, I freeze up. I have to shade my work with one hand so no one can see what I'm doing.

2. Financial planning. A sibling of #1. I can balance a checkbook (math phobia and all) but I cannot see in my mind a clear, sky-view map of creating a comprehensive financial plan. I don't know how to explain it other than to say that when it comes to creating plans in other areas of my life, I know exactly what to do and can intuitively find my way through the process - even if it is in an area I don't know well. But when it comes to long-range financial planning, I get very intimidated. This is what you pay people for, I guess.

3. Crafts. Don't laugh. I like to decorate my house, but I'm terrible at crafts. So many of you lovely readers have studios in your houses. We don't have that here...and if we did, what would I do with it? I can barely sew on a button. I tried knitting lessons a few years ago and after awhile it just wasn't working out. I'd like to try it again, I figure anyone can do it...but actually, is that true? The thing that would motivate me this time is finding a way to make myself Christmas stockings that look just like hers.

4. Throw and catch. I am beyond bad. I always feel a little embarrassed admitting this to my husband (as if it's not obvious) because he's very talented in this area. At a family picnic shortly before I got married, my brothers and I were throwing a football around when one of them suggested I try to throw with my left hand (because I'm a lefty). Then they all said it was better than my right, which I'd been using to throw since, oh, let's see - when I was about 3? Come to think of it, why was I throwing that football in the first place? at my picnic??

5. Letting go. I can be a bit of a control freak, especially when it comes to my house. Sometimes I wish I was one of those moms who could just relax and let the kids mess up everything, but I'm not. But actually, this doesn't bother me anymore. You take the good with the bad, and by and large, I'm happy being me.

My Tip.

This from the interpersonal communication major: don't be afraid to ask someone about their bad news, because they want to talk about it.

Many people believe that if someone has a problem - wife left, child sick, parent died, dog ran away, husband involved in scandal - that person does not want to talk about it, and it's better to wait for them to bring it up with you versus taking the chance in upsetting them by bringing it up first. This is a mistake. People are generally very happy to have an opportunity to respond to sincere inquiries about how they're doing. They want to talk to you, they want you to listen. They want a friend who isn't afraid to ask them about their terrible news. All it takes is a gentle "how are you doing with [obvious problem]?" and you can gauge by their answer how much or how little they want to share with you. Believe me, they do want to share. They'll let you know if they don't, but either way they'll love you for caring.

Monday, October 29, 2007

happy birthday Little B

Happy 30-something birthday to my dear friend Betsy
my freshman roommate from across the country
who became my attached-at-the-hip pal
and who now lives away again (yet strangely close)
My little buddy (4' 10")
who makes me laugh more than anyone
who cares about me, and all of her friends so much,
who loves her husband and family - so much

Such a *fun*, genuine friend, devoted mother and wife -

You would feel lucky to know her, too.

Happy Birthday, Little B!

Friday, October 26, 2007

poor neglected blog

Hi...I'm back to my old template for awhile. I didn't really like the blue background, or the yellow before that. Overall I'm just not very happy about the look of things on the blog but I'm unable (or unwilling?) to take the time right now to make it look better. I look at your blogs and they are so creative and pretty. Bear with me, I will get there eventually. In the meantime, I've always thought this lighthouse theme was rather soothing.

It's been a challenging week. How was yours?

We've had a big dose of viruses sweeping through the house recently. Thankfully they didn't affect me...but then again, I got something bad as well. Ah, what a pain in the neck. Literally! Seems I've got a couple of vertebrae in my neck out of whack, causing me much discomfort as well as my driving privileges for the time being. Hmph. Here's hoping the little buggers align themselves soon.

And speaking of alignment...I always find that when I start feeling sorry for myself over pesky little problems, something comes along to right my tilted view of the world. Did anyone happen to see this the other day? I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. What a powerful and inspirational message to get going and start living.

Do you ever think...these messages come along and find you, just when you need to hear them the most? I do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

from the party

We had a total of 18 guests on Saturday night, and everyone brought something. That really helped. I was toying with the idea of having them each just bring beer or wine, but in the end it was such a time saver to ask them to bring a food dish. Some people brought appetizers, some brought sides, and one lovely lady brought 2 scrumptious desserts. One was pumpkin cookies that had a little pumpkin spread that you could spoon directly on to the top of each cookie. The other was pumpkin brownies. I knew she was planning to bring a dessert, but I didn't know she'd bring two (though I probably should have guessed this - she's quite a baker.) So I baked something of my own to have on hand, just in case. And of course there are lots of dessert leftovers...just what I don't need but what can you do!

Remember Gooey Butter Cake? Well, this variation is Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake (you know, I really do make other desserts, but I admit that this is a favorite because it's such a crowd pleaser.)

I had never tried the pumpkin variation before Saturday. It's a very good - but very rich - alternative to pumpkin pie. If you think you might like it, I highly recommend it for your dessert crowd as well.

Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 egg
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted

1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 16-oz box confectioners' sugar
1/2 C (1 stick) butter, melted
1 15-oz. can pumpkin pie filling

In a large bowl with electric mixer combine cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well. Pat into bottom of a prepared pan and set aside. Still using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth; add eggs and vanilla. Dump in confectioners' sugar and beat well. Slowly pour in butter and pumpkin and mix well. Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Center of cake should be a little gooey. Serve with a little whipped cream on top. Bon appetit!

* * *
Also, I wanted to show you some flowers that one of our guests brought. My kids added the curling leaves yesterday. Isn't this a pretty autumn bouquet? It is very cheerful to see in my kitchen.

Have a nice day, everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2007

back yard action

Saturday's party was a lot of fun. A whole lot of fun! I wish now that I had taken some pictures, but we were so caught up in the moment that it never occurred to us to stop what we were doing and grab the camera. It had been a beautiful day and it was a perfect night for the party: clear skies, mild temps. We could go back and forth, inside and outside, without jackets or even sweaters. Lovely lovely night!

In the middle of our party prep on Saturday we were interrupted by these strange sounds coming from the backyard: clank, whir, creee, crash! crash! crash! They started out loud and got progressively louder. Not being able to see over our fence back there, we hustled up to my bedroom to have a look. Turns out there's another tear down, caddy corner behind us. We saw the garage of the house being knocked down. Looks like the house will be coming down shortly (maybe today?) My kids...just when I was saying how lucky they are to have had the construction going on across the street. Here's another golden opportunity for them to see those big men and machines at work.

P.S. Look who was with us this weekend...Snoopy again!

Friday, October 19, 2007

ready to relax

My second day home...aah, it's heavenly to be back. My kindergartner has been home as well, as school is out because of parent/teacher conferences. So during the day it's just been the 3 of us again...hanging out, no schedule, no place to be or to run to. Love being around the little people here. They make me so very happy. I hope and believe they feel the same way about me.

How about that label on the bottle above? Don't worry, I took this picture a couple of nights ago, not 5 minutes ago. But this weekend we're going to be all about relaxing. Kicking back, hanging out, having FUN. No worries or cares. We're having our neighborhood dinner club over tomorrow night, but do you think I'm feeling concerned? No sir. We're staging it like a tailgate party - complete with the grill on the driveway, tiki torches lit, burgers and brats served out of the back of our car. I've asked everyone to dress in support of their favorite football team. Lots of die hard fans around here of all different schools, so it will be a real variety show. We also have 2 glam European couples, I think they may come dressed for their favorite European football league? There's also one guy coming who played high school football with my husband, and his wife tells me that he's wearing the high school jersey to the party. wow.

I've told all the couples to plan on extra long shifts for their babysitters tomorrow night. We're not wrapping things up until the cows come home!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I've got one more day of work - tomorrow. Whoopee! So today I thought I'd show you some of the steps I've taken over the last 8 weeks.

Awhile back I brought my camera to work with me. It was pretty silly - me snapping pictures in the middle of a morning commute. My camera is nothing fancy, so I couldn't pass myself off as an amateur photographer or anything remotely like it. And since I was in my work clothes I didn't look like a tourist, either. I just looked like a strange working girl taking pictures. But if anyone asked, I was all ready with a made up excuse about how this was really for my kindergartner son. Of course, no one asked. The whole crowd was much too sleepy to be inquisitive. But it was fun anyway.

Ok, so here we go. Hope you enjoy this!

Here's my view of sleepy passengers taking the metra train in from the suburbs to the city. Actually, they don't look too sleepy here.

A view from my window seat, still at the station. Park & ride to the city.

After 32 express minutes, we have rolled into Chi-town. A mad rush for exits and escalators at Union Station.
Emptying out of Union into the street. The start of my walk to work. It takes me about 25 minutes from here to get to the office building where I was stationed.

There's the Chicago "L" going by. It gets a lot of bad press and always seems to have significant operating issues going on, but when I used to live down here I never minded taking it. Nice people watching view from above, don'tcha think?

If you prefer Caribou over Starbucks, as I do, you gotta look extra hard for one down here in the Loop. Worth finding it, though.

A random look up a city street.

That one was so exciting I decided to repeat it.

Still walking. I really did look like a fool with my camera. But for the blog, there's no such thing as vanity, wouldn't you say?

Something important looking going on at Daley plaza. Maybe a job fair. My mission was too important for me to stop and find out.

Ah, yes. The corner of heartbreak and despair. Macy's in the old Marshall Field's State Street location. You can hear the sobs of Chicagoans walking by as you approach the building.

More randomness here. Look, it's the L again.

By now I've worked up a bit of a sweat. I'm all the way over by Millennium Park, which is several blocks east of the train station and right next to Lake Michigan. You can see that the sky is starting to clear up a bit. Looks like we're going to have sunshine after all.

Another view of the park.

Walking next to the old Chicago public library. This looks like a shot from Paris...or am I exaggerating here?

There's another shot of the park.

Now I leave the street and I'm up on the 39th floor of the office building where I worked. This is the view out my window. Looking due east, and a little south.

Now looking north. You can see a tiny bit of Navy Pier.
And here's a view from the conference room down the hall. Straight south. Birdseye view of Millennium Park.

Now looking a little more southeast. You can see how pretty the day turned out to be.

A couple more shots.

Too bad the view was the best part of the project!

Of course I meant to take more pictures...I should have even snapped some shots looking north on this day. But wouldn't you know, they started asking me to be productive. Nice people I worked with. Miserable project, but really great team.
The next time I go downtown, I'll try to remember to take some pictures. It's fun for me to see things like this, too. You always think you'll remember these shots forever in your mind, but then you don't.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

season's greetings

Are you ready for Halloween? After a trip to the pumpkin patch yesterday, we are. We gathered up pumpkins, apples, pies, candy corn, caramel-covered apples, hay (straw), and some corn stalks. All set. The kids ran through the pumpkins, posed for pictures with the many painted sesame street characters, and we went on a hayride through the corn field before having a picnic lunch. It felt very festive.

I've been away from my blog for awhile. No specific reason why. Things had gotten really busy with my temporary job, but fortunately that is concluding this week. The project has not been one of my favorites, but you know how it goes. You learn more from challenges than triumphs. Right? And, like I said, it's over this week. Thank goodness.

Not that I've been a terrible blogger. I have been reading your blogs, just not making myself known. But I promise to do better and get back to my comment-leaving ways.

See you in blogland, and have a great week!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

week - ?

It's been awhile since my last report on the house across the street. Let's see...I believe according to the last post that we are somewhere around week 20. As you can see, the driveway has been added and most of the exterior finishes on the house look complete. Most!

Pretty exciting stuff. I know I've mentioned this before, but my kids with their Bob the Builder obsession...they just don't realize how lucky they are to have witnessed this kind of construction from their bedroom windows. I think they are taking it for granted. Big Scoop and Dizzy won't be coming around here much longer. At least, not until the next tear down...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

my thoughts on Jenny

Below is a link to a NY Times column written by Cammie McGovern, the author who wrote "Eye Contact" (a fiction book I just finished and loved.) It was written last year but I just found it on her personal website. I think it sums up nicely the drawback of hearing too much about "recovery" from autism.

I enjoyed watching Jenny McCarthy talk about her new book "Louder than Words" on Oprah, and the segment she did for The View, and Larry King. I am happy that well known people like Jenny are talking openly about autism, because it makes me think that increased attention will ultimately lead to increased demand from the public for more medical research to discover how and why this disorder occurs. But hearing her mention "recovery" makes me think of the many parents I have met who are doing everything they can - everything she says she did for her son - and not seeing changes.

Jenny's commitment to trusting her "mommy instinct" is right on. Every mom knows that the inner voice is the best voice to listen to when considering what's right for her child. But her writing and speaking with such conviction about what works and what doesn' makes me uneasy.

I believe what I've heard and learned from the trusted professionals we've worked with over the past 2 years, people who have spent their entire medical and professional careers working with hundreds of kids on the autism spectrum. From them I have learned this frustrating truth: there so much that is not understood about autism, and every child is different. In terms of treatment, what works for one child may not work for the next.

It's wonderful that Jenny is sharing what worked so well for her son, but that's the thing - it worked for her son. It very well might not work for someone else.

Anyway, here's the link:

a very hopeful heart

My husband my husband my husband. I see these signs around Chicago and I can't help but think of him. He is excited. And rightfully so.

Me? Of course I love the Cubbies! But he's the real tried & true, 2003-depressed-on-the-couch-with-5-outs-away-from-the-World-Series-Steve Bartman-ball-fiasco kind of fan.

As a Chicago native, he's known Cubs pain a long time. He's so excited, and very optimistic.

No jinxes here, just words of encouragement.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

lunch hour thinking

Still here at work, right now eating my lunch over the computer. I just saw this on the news wires and thought it was interesting (sorry if you are someone who also just received this in an email from me...I forget about my blog sometimes!)

I don't have a daughter, but beauty/myths/perceptions/self-esteem & the intersection of all of those issues with modern media have always been a great interest of mine. Too bad I have not had an opportunity to work on a beauty account (yet?) Imagine how it feels to be a part of this work. The entire campaign is brilliant.

Monday, October 01, 2007

happy #3

My youngest son turned 3 yesterday, and we had presents and birthday cupcakes with my family in Ohio, who we were visiting. Knowing that we were going to be away on the actual day, we had an outdoor picnic with pizza and birthday cake with my husband's parents last weekend. Then, today there was a third celebration - this time at his Kids Day Out program, where the kids and teachers sang to him and made him this crown.

He is very excited about his birthday being stretched out so. When I got home tonight he told me excitedly, "Mommy, it's my birthday again!"

How great it is to be 3!