Not-So-Subtle Differences

“The years got harder with each passing day. We’re on our way back home, and when we get there we’ll be lovely. Lovely but not alone. We are the lovely and alone.” ~Chamberlain, Lovely and Alone

I’ve been living in Kansas City for 27 days now. I’m still adjusting and carrying the feeling of being an outsider, but I’m getting there. I haven’t made my first local friend to hang out with yet, but I’m sure it will happen at some point…unless this goes as well as my dating life. In which case I’m in trouble!

On an almost daily basis, I am perplexed and amused by the differences between Kansas City and Chicago. I don’t want to give the impression that any of these differences are negative towards one city or the other. They’re just differences, plain and simple. Some are easier to adapt to than others. Here are some of the differences I’m referring to:

  • Traffic. I absolutely hated driving in Chicago with a passion. A stalled car on the expressway would cause me to be in traffic an extra 45+ minutes. Sometimes I was in traffic and didn’t no why and then all of a sudden the lanes would start moving as if nothing ever happened. On a traffic report this morning in KC I heard, “There is a stalled car in the right lane of the highway. Plan for it to take you an extra 5 minutes if you’re traveling that direction.” My ears perked up when I heard stalled car. Then I looked at my TV like an adorable puppy. Five minutes? That’s cute, I thought. I drove 9 miles to work in Chicago. It took me 45 minutes up to an hour to get there. I drive 18 miles to work here. It takes me 25 minutes on a highway with construction. Traffic has been an easy and welcome adjustment. Also, they say highway vs. expressway like in Chicago. It took me almost my entire 13 years of living in Chicago to start saying expressway. Now I have to get back to my old habits. First world problems, am I right? (I know there are technical differences between a highway and expressway, but I just don’t care. Nothing was “express” on Chicago roads so…)
  • Cows. I have cows across the street from my office. While this is unique to where my office is located (KC is no cow town), I wanted to point it out because they’re adorable. Chicago is just tall buildings. I am enjoying seeing/walking around the green spaces. They’re small and few and far between in Chicago. The green space and trees do a lot for my mind. However…that Chicago architecture though….
They’re so cute!
  • Talking. There is a lot more chatter here in KC. My furniture delivery folks, colleagues, people at the grocery store…you name it. People just talk to me. I was in line at the grocery store and the man ringing me up was giving me recipe ideas based upon what I was buying. I thought that was odd until the woman checking out in the aisle over started suggesting I make fajitas! I don’t want to know what my face looked like. In Chicago, no stranger ever tried to talk to me. Passerby’s rarely, if ever, looked me in the eye to say hello. It’s not personal. It’s just a big city and people are always trying to get from one place to another. It’s just how it is. There’s a lot more impatient people buying groceries, so they just got you through and on your way. I told my sister about the grocery store and overall increased level of talking, and she said it’s called being friendly. OHHH!!! Got it. I need to stop looking around like I’m on Candid Camera when someone makes conversation here. (Did that reference just date me? No? Cool.) I need to get out of the mindset that anyone who talks to me is trying to distract me while their friend robs me. Thanks for the paranoia Chicago public transportation!
  • Walking. Other than obvious exercising, I don’t see anyone walking anywhere in KC. Everyone drives. I see people walking their dogs. I don’t see people walking as a mode of transportation. I enjoy walking as a mode of transportation. I walked myself to a bar last Sunday. When I left I saw the people sitting outside watch me walk out of the parking lot to see where I was going. This will be an adjustment I will fight. Although, my walking trips will probably be limited to solo outings or when I have Chicago visitors. I haven’t met anyone yet interested in walking more then .1 miles to get somewhere.
  • Accents. I have found most KC folks do not think there is an accent here. There is an accent here. Not everyone has it, but it’s here. It’s slightly southern but without the drawl. This may not make sense to you, but parts of the Midwest states bordering the southern states have them. When I moved to Chicago from St. Louis, everyone thought I had one. I did not think I had one…until I heard my own voice on my voicemail message. I had this slightly southern sans drawl accent when I said certain words. Living in Chicago for 13 years rid me of that. Chicagoans have an accent as well, except they know they have one. It’s heaviest on the south side. It’s essentially talking with short vowels in the tone of a jackass. Check out an old Bill Swerski’s Super Fans sketch on SNL if you are unsure of what I mean here.
  • House visits. In the 27 days I’ve been here, there have been four unexpected knocks on my door that I know of. Those are just from the days I’ve been home. I have answered zero times because, well, in Chicago I only had one person knock on my door that was unexpected. It was the police investigating a shooting across the street from my apartment. I hear knocking and automatically get in Dateline mode wondering who this scoundrel is knocking on my door scoping out my new place. Why? I don’t know. I need to answer the damn door one of these times.
  • Manners. When I ordered a pizza from the local pizza place in KC, the lady asked if I was new to the area because my number wasn’t in their system. I fought the urge to lie about my identity to this stranger. She had a motherly tone so told her I just moved here. She welcomed me to the neighborhood, called me sweetie and told me to have a nice weekend. What a weirdo! Just kidding! It was awesome. Once in Chicago when I called to see where my pizza was that was 30 minutes late they told me to hold on and then hung up on me. I thought perhaps it was a mistake, but they did it again when I called back.

I think it’s easier to go from a fast pace to a slower pace than the other way around. At least for me. You have time to observe, think and react to things. In Chicago I was mostly reacting to, what became to feel like, a rat race. I think you can find the peace and serenity in Chicago I was craving, but I needed to make a lot more money to afford it. I’m curious how I will feel about these things in another month. In my 27 days here, I noticed a few things I need to work on socially. In addition to relearning patience, I need to start talking. In Chicago, I felt patient and nice. I talk A LOT, but apparently only to people I know or friends of friends. I see here how that fast-paced life became part of who I am. Time to relearn that Midwest hospitality that waved bye-bye to me after years of sitting in pee and getting sneezed on by strangers on the trains and busses in Chicago.


“What I feel, I can’t say. But my love is there for you any time of day. But if it’s not love that you need. Then I’ll try my best to make everything succeed. Tell me, what is my life without your love? Tell me, who am I without you by my side?” George Harrison, What Is Life

Is it possible to find one of your soul mates in an animal? I say yes. I did. I lost my dog, best friend, sweetest soul and greatest joy of my life last week. It’s been a tough start to this new beginning, but it’s also a blessing she is no longer suffering. I don’t want to get into her ailments because it’s too sad. I will say I was a full-time caregiver since the end of May. I will also say giving up personal time to care for her was an easy decision to make, and I would do it all over again. What she gave me in love and friendship outweighs any sacrifice to my personal time.

Chopper was my first dog. I wrote about her back in March (Chopper, Choppy, Chips, Mama C, Muffin, Punky, Stinky Face, Best Friend) so I won’t repeat how we met. I will tell you some of the funny things my little nugget did over the years that made my heart melt on a daily basis:

  • Snoring. She could rival any man with her snoring capabilities. I have lost many hours of sleep from her snoring but never minded. It is my favorite sound.
  • She thought people were treat machines. She learned pretty early on that people thought her little T-Rex legs coming up to try to high-five was adorable. Treats found their way to her in abundance when she raised that paw. She was a low rider (part bulldog, part pitbull), and her body was large on top and her legs were short. She walked into the vet, sat down and would just raise her paw in the air. She ruled.
  • She knew when I was drunk. For a short period of time I tried to get her to sleep in her own bed. Magically, and only on the nights I drank wine at home, I would wake to find her in my bed. I only had one glass one night so was not sound asleep (ok, passed out) when she pulled her move. I stayed still to find out her tricks. I heard light clicking from her walk, and then I saw her head pop up to see if I moved. When I didn’t, she brought her right paw up onto the bed. Then she paused while staring at me. When I didn’t move, the left paw came up. She paused again. When I remained still, she started to ever so slowly pull herself up. Her back right paw came up, followed by the left. For lack of a better description, she tip-toed in a circle and calmly laid herself down. Then sighed. Success! If I wasn’t so impressed, I would have told her to get down. I said, “Choppy!” Her head jerked up so fast like she was in trouble. I told her she was a good girl, and she slept with me in bed until the end.
  • When I was sad, she gave me what I needed. Love and her presence. She would just lay next to me, always making sure she was touching me in some way. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have made it through my divorce. I would have come out an angry, bitter lady, but she gave me purpose and meaning on days when I couldn’t find any.
  • She stopped to smell the roses. Literally. When we would go on walks, she always stopped to smell the flowers along the way. She reminded me to do the same.
  • She loved the mornings. She woke up happy, did a downward dog stretch and wagged her tail ready to take on the day. I was already a morning person, but she made me appreciate them even more. Watching her morning routine reminded me that every day truly is a new start. You have a choice to embrace it or be an asshole. Chops and I embraced it. This is a lesson I couldn’t have learned in therapy. I could have only learned that from life with Chopper.


The end with her shattered my heart. In true Chopper fashion, she gave me a laugh and smile before she left. When she was asleep, she gave her loudest snores I have ever heard. I’m quite certain the entire doctor’s office could hear them. I got to hear my favorite sound once more as loud as it could go! I am forever grateful for the comic relief at the worst moment of my life. That’s Chopper though – always taking care of me.

She will be a part of me the rest of my life. When someone (she was a person to me) is there for every high and low of your life, loves you unconditionally and waits until you are in a good place to let go, they will remain in your heart forever. Our bond was one that can’t be explained. We got each other and were in each others’ lives for a reason. To be cliché, when I rescued her from the shelter, she saved me right back. I love you, Chopper. Rest easy, sweet girl.

Later Skaters!

“I walk alone through sleet and snow and pouring rain to get my heart broken, forever ever lost inside of. I walk along to slip and fall on strong reactions. Keep my heart broken, never ever amend myself. That’s alright and that’s ok.” ~Pegboy, Strong Reaction

Prior to my leaving Chicago, I did my best to make the rounds and say goodbye to everyone I possibly could. I was pretty successful. So successful in fact, I got to see people I didn’t want to see. People I mentally and emotionally said goodbye to many months ago simply because it was too painful and toxic to mentally hang onto the relationship or think there was a friend future. Specifically, my ex husband…with his new wife in tow. (If you haven’t been following along my story line so far, I’ll give you some relationship math. We were together for a decade. We’ve been divorced for about 18 months. He is married again. I am very single. Good? Good.)

Much like my run-in with them months ago at Nada Surf, life made sure the last time I ever saw him was memorable. At least I hope this was the last time. It went like this:

A good buddy of mine also happens to be moving from Chicago. He was a mutual friend of my ex and I, so there was a solid chance I would run into him at my buddy’s going away party. I was hoping he wouldn’t show, but I always hope that. The party was going on long enough that I thought I was in the clear. I wasn’t. I was standing at the bar talking to a friend when all of a sudden three of my girlfriends were surrounding me in some protective huddle. (I know. How rad are they?) At first I thought, oh man! My gals are making sure they get every last second of hanging with me while I still live here. Then, slowly I turned following their gaze…oh…fudge. My ex had walked in, they saw him first and were surrounding me since this was the first time I would be seeing him as a newly married man to someone that is not me. I made eye contact with him, and I know my face did a disappointed eye roll while my head sunk and looked away. Part of my charm is not being able to hide that I am annoyed or disappointed. I stayed where I was while my girlfriends kept me in a lady huddle. I will never forget their efforts to make sure I was ok.

The huddle slowly dispersed as I insisted I was ok. I was ok. That was no lie. I felt calm, and I felt nothing. No sadness. No anger. Just awkward from knowing people were staring at me to see if I was going to have some sort of strong reaction to this bizarre situation we were in.

It was 20 minutes or so before there was any interaction. I was in a conversation when I felt a pat on the back of my left shoulder while someone said, “Hey! What’s up?” The pat was to my left, but the voice came from the right. I looked right and saw it was him. He didn’t stop walking as he did this, so I only muttered, “Hey.” Any more words and I would have been talking to air. My poor friend just stood there like a deer in headlights not knowing what to say or do. For the next hour they stayed on one side of the bar, and I kept my distance minding my own business with my friends. What else was I supposed to do?

I will say this. I have separated and closed myself off so much from him that it was strange watching my good friends interact with them for the first time. It was like watching this secret life that had been building on the nights and weekends we weren’t together. Except not really a secret because I know they’re friends. I just can’t find a better way to describe the feeling. It was strange at first, but I expected that. It was out of my mind after about five minutes. No big deal. Back to the main event…

At one point I was standing at the table by the exit with two of my girlfriends. Rookie mistake. This was the moment they decided to leave. Walking away meant walking towards them so I just stayed put hoping they’d breeze by but no. My two friends were mutual friends so of course he was going to say goodbye. As he was walking towards us one friend asked, “Is this awkward?” My response? “Yeah it’s fucking awkward!” My timing was impeccable because this was right as he stepped to hug said friend goodbye. His wife hugged my other friend then stepped back. My ex walked around towards me. I just stood there because I had no clue what to do with myself other than keep my hands wrapped real tight around my pint glass. There was another awkward back pat followed by a, “Well, take care.” I said, “Bye.” Then he looked at me for a moment and inhaled. Then nothing. Now I could be reading into this. It wouldn’t be the first time. He either wanted to say something and didn’t, or he just didn’t know what to do with himself. Either way it doesn’t matter. He turned to leave except turned the wrong way and ended up doing a full 360 turn to face the right way and exit. He walked out with his wife. It was entertaining and awkward. I felt relieved. I hope that was our last encounter because anything else would have made me bummed out, and I don’t want to feel that way. I’d rather my last time with him be him turning in an uncomfortable circle and walking away. That pretty much sums up the marriage, so it was perfect.

Now, I will say this. He could have said nothing to me all night and not acknowledged my presence. I would have been ok with that. It certainly was my plan. While super awkward, he did make an effort to be cordial. I had no intentions of speaking to him unless spoken to for a few reasons:

  1. He was there with his WIFE. It didn’t seem appropriate. I pictured myself walking over and saying hello to him in front of her, and it wasn’t a happy picture for anyone. No thanks.
  2. I was two weeks away from moving. It makes no difference to either of us if I made an effort to communicate or learn how to coexist at mutual friends parties because I won’t be around. I didn’t see the point. Right or wrong that’s how I felt.
  3. I just don’t care. I can’t pretend like I’m happy for him and his new life. I’m not, not happy. I don’t wish anything bad for him or have any ill will. I just don’t care. It has zero effect on me. Our marriage and the aftermath of its demise put me through an emotional and financial ringer. I don’t feel like inserting myself into that anymore. I will be cordial if I ever see him and say hi back and what not, but I don’t need to play catch up on each other’s lives. He is making his new life choices, and I’m making mine. As we should.

I’m not sure why life had to toss that last zinger in before I left. She threw in several last minute reminders and lessons in the weeks before I moved. Those are for another story. In terms of the ex husband saga, I can physically stop watching that unfold. The credits are rolling.

The Move

“I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been. Hangin’ on the promises in songs of yesterday. And I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time. Here I go again.” -Whitesnake, Here I Go Again 

(Lyrics in remembrance of Casey and in honor of my bud Andy who helps me keep his memory alive.)

It’s been three days since my life was packed into a truck by three strange men and transported to Kansas City. I watched it all get loaded and crossed my fingers I packed well enough my things arrive in tact. Here’s hoping! I will find out in two days. 

My sister is the best human and flew up to make the drive with me and my three pets. My cats have never been in a car for more than 30 minutes and my dog gets anxious. I was convinced this was going to be a disaster. It wasn’t. Well, except for the fact that as I was scruffing one of my cats to get into his carrier he did some ninja move to get out of my grip…and snapped my pinky finger. It took a minute for the pain to sink in, but oh…it sunk in. I refused medical treatment other than my own half ass tape job, ice and pain meds. Moving day was here, and nothing was stopping me! I’ve been having meltdowns for a month. No more delays. My sister agreed this was sort of fitting for the end of my time in Chicago. One last reminder that things aren’t shaking out for me. It finally, literally broke me, so it was time to get the fuck out already!

I was surprised on how I handled the drive out. I asked my sister if she would drive first in case I lost it. I didn’t lose it. I have been breaking down every Monday since the last week of August. And I mean full-on ugly crying, struggling to breathe sort of thing. Maybe I was all cried out. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t have to see the skyline on the way out. Or maybe it was because my jerk of a cat broke my finger. Either way, I was good. Relieved almost. 

The last few months made it clear my good friends will be with me always. Any city at any time. I think it was just relief that I could truly put the struggles I’ve had the last two plus years physically behind me. It’s insanely liberating. 

And now, the time spent sitting alone in silence waiting for my furniture, things to sit on and scrambling to get my life set up is one I both hate but also appreciate. I am an organized person. Not having my things in closets and put away is irritating. The free spirit in me knows I’m going to remember these quiet and lonely moments when I tell this story in the days, weeks and years ahead…that time I uprooted my life and moved to small(er) town USA. I am doing my best to savor the calm before my life’s storm. 

(This is how my dog sat for 99% of the 8 hour drive while I tried to elevate my finger.)

I have no idea what is about to come my way. I’m in a cute house that my family filled with food, toiletries, cute decorations and flowers. How lucky am I to have family like that in my life? I kept telling my sister I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop because that’s how things have gone for me. She said the other shoe dropped first. Now it’s only good things ahead. For some reason I think she’s right.

I can’t wait to share these new experiences with you. Even today I had my first smaller city reminder. I received directions that went like this, “We are just two blocks east of Quick Trip and the lumber yard.” I didn’t giggle so she didn’t think I was rude, but I sure did when I hung up and texted my best buds about it. This is going to be a trip! 

I will miss you, Chicago. KC…lets see what you’ve got in store for me!