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!

Describe Yourself…

“My kind of medicine is whiskey straight. I got a mouth to put you in your place. They said I’ll never be the poster type, but they don’t make posters of my kind of life.” ~Elle King, America’s Sweetheart

I recently participated in one of those trending things on social media. The deal with this one was to describe yourself by using three fictional characters. Most of my friends took a humorous route, which I appreciate. I enjoy self-deprecating jokes. I took the bait and created my own. I surprised myself by how much thought I put into this. I landed on the following peeps:

  • Liz Lemon (from 30 Rock played by Tina Fey)
  • Mary Katherine Gallagher (from SNL played by Molly Shannon)
  • Murray Goldberg (from The Goldberg’s played by Jeff Garlin)

Many times when watching these characters on television I thought, “Oh snap. That’s me.” Why? Let me explain:

Liz Lemon. If there were ever a character I identified with more, I haven’t met her. In the pilot episode she was described by her boss as: “New York third-wave feminist, college-educated, single-and-pretending-to-be-happy-about-it, over-scheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover and every two years you take up knitting for…a week”. Swap New York with Chicago and knitting with this Tracy Anderson workout DVD I’ve owned for 8 years and that’s me. Her social skills with dudes are awkward but direct usually resulting in confusion or disgust on the guy’s part. We both love Ina Garten, sweater weather, food and television. She doesn’t like stereotypical female interests and hates the word “lovers” unless it’s between meat and pizza. It’s like she’s in my brain.

Mary Katherine Gallagher. She’s a Catholic school girl who is clumsy, nerdy and accidentally flashes her underwear. I am all of the above. She never quite fits in with the Catholic school crowd, which was and still is me to a T. I’m also prone to crashing into furniture except it’s not as funny as when she does it.

Murray Goldberg. This was easy. No pants after work, he’s blunt, realistic and values hard work. Check, check, check and check!

There were a few that didn’t make the list that I debated using. Here is a short list of who didn’t make it:

  • Garfield – naps and lasagna
  • Leslie Knope – sick work organizational skills, loves and would do anything for her friends, sense of humor, loves waffles
  • Darlene Conner – tomboyish, sarcasm

Typically I find these things silly, but I actually enjoyed this one. It was fun to see who everyone chose, and I have to say most really nailed it! I’m considering using these characters for answers on dates or when meeting dudes if I’m ever asked to describe myself. Then I’ll be sure to make a mental notes of their reactions and time how quickly they leave…

Fresh Start or Giving Up?

“I got my body and my mind on the same page and honey now happiness is all the rage.” ~The Promise Ring, Happiness is All the Rage

I recently told a story of my decision to move (Dear Chicago). When I made the decision and started telling people, the reaction was varied. I expected that. There was one reaction that stuck with me and for months I debated whether or not it was true. It went like this:

“Don’t move away because of your ex-husband. Don’t give up just because he sucked.”

Interesting and perhaps a little true. Is he the reason I’m moving? Not directly. I stuck it out here two years since the split. This wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. However, I have the chance to do and go wherever I want because of him. Could I have stayed in Chicago and found true love and happiness? Maybe. Life has thrown some chances my way since I announced I was leaving so it has made me wonder. It was the “giving up” notion that stuck with me. Was I? Am I?

Giving up is not a term I take lightly. I don’t give up easily. Sometimes this has a down side because I stick around the wrong people for too long. But, for the most part, I view it as a positive. If you have somehow crept your way into my heart, be it friend or otherwise, I got you! Always. No question. No judgment. So the notion I was giving up on myself was hard to wrap my head around. Here is what I concluded:

  • I firmly believe staying in a bad marriage was the definition of giving up on myself, not moving. I think that for any bad relationship – partner, friend or family member. I still have some work to do on letting go of certain relationships, but I’m trying my best to take care of myself these days. It feels good making the effort.
  • Sometimes removing yourself from an environment that’s not working for you after years and years of trying is the right thing to do. It’s ok to admit something isn’t working, even if it is something you truly wanted for yourself…since you were ten (but who is counting?). I don’t view that as giving up. I view it as being smart. It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I can attest this is true because it’s what I’ve been doing. Nothing is changing. Time for a new approach.
  • No move has to be permanent. What a move will do is put your life into perspective. You will realize one of three things: you made the right decision, you had it better where you were or this is just a pit stop. I know this already because I did it 13 years ago. It was the right decision at the time. It was what I needed when I was 22. I’m not that same girl. Right now I feel as if I have gotten all I can out of this beautiful bitch called Chicago, so why force myself to stay?

I have watched several friends move away. Some have returned. Most have not. Those that haven’t have created happy lives. Lives that have inspired me to not settle because being alone can be, well, pretty damn lonely some nights. Those that returned have claimed they’ll never leave again. I feel like my options are good either way. I have 12 more days. Time to start the goodbyes…is it me or is it getting dusty in here (sniff)?

Punch Your Fears in the Face

“So why waste another day turning our back and walking away. I wanna feel everything. I wanna grow in every way.” ~Chuck Ragan, California Burritos

Fears are assholes. It’s impossible to go through life never being afraid of anything. At some point you are going to be in a vulnerable position, be it emotionally or physically, where you feel helpless and paralyzed. I’m not talking about rational fears such as there is a crazy person running towards me, and I’m terrified. That’s understandable. You should be scared. I’m talking fears like being afraid of heights, death, spiders…whatever.

I noticed as the years went by I started developing fears and anxieties.  I’m still not fully sure why, but I developed a fear of heights, increased anxiety flying and a deep fear of losing everything I worked so hard for in my life. All of those fears were very real to me. All of the time spent being afraid of those things happening was a colossal waste of time.

Also, I flew through trees like Tarzan on a sketchy cable. I felt pretty confident after that.

I woke up one day and decided I needed to stop being a baby and tackle these fears. I started with heights. The world looks better from above, so this one needed to go. I started by going on a ride that dropped me straight down at an amusement park. This was a terrible idea. It did not work. I wasn’t giving up though! I went to the sky deck at Willis Tower and stood on the glass. I was knock kneed, but I stood there until my nerves calmed. Progress. I did the next small step and went sky diving. (This is also where my ex proposed. Yes. You heard that right. He planned, on purpose, to take the woman he loved so terrified of heights and flying skydiving for a proposal. It’s amazing things didn’t work out…) Anyway, I did it. Why? I saw a woman there doing it for her 60th birthday, and I thought, “That woman can’t have more courage than you. Stop being a pussy and go!” It actually did help, but I wasn’t fully cured. I did one more final act, and that was to go zip lining in St. Lucia. That did it. I think it was the fact that I had to keep repeating it. My anxiety disappeared by the tenth and final line. Also, I flew through trees like Tarzan on a sketchy cable. I felt pretty confident after that. Fear of heights is no longer a thing for me. Not having that hold me back is awesome. That could have prevented me from doing some cool shit in the future!

The writing was on the wall, and I had to say fuck it. I had to face this fear because I was miserable

Next up was flying. I’m not quite sure where this one came from. I remember being excited the first time I flew. I wasn’t scared at all. However, the adult me grew anxious, so it became an issue. I wrote a story about my flight experiences, and I have to say, while hilarious, I’m glad I can behave like a relatively normal person now. Like the heights thing, it was just going on a bunch of flights in the same week that helped me calm down. Oh, and observing a man on my flight so terrified even I thought he was ridiculous. I felt terrible for him, but I also thought…dude. Get it together! There’s nothing to be that scared of….oh, snap. That means I also need to stop being ridiculous. For the record, he was holding a rosary, sweating and praying. The flight attendant kept checking on him. She told him, “You don’t need to panic unless I panic.” That has stuck with me. Another fear in the trash! Who wants to go on a trip with me?

The fear of losing everything. This became the fear of all fears when I knew my marriage was failing. The fear kept me hanging on to a toxic relationship for far too long. I was afraid of losing the house I worked so hard my entire life to buy; I was afraid of being alone and having to start over; I was afraid of losing friends; I was afraid of the unknown. The writing was on the wall, and I had to say fuck it. I had to face this fear because I was miserable. I looked in the mirror and didn’t know who this weak person was looking back. Letting my fears take over and getting to this low point was not worth it for a second. Don’t do this to yourself. When I made the choice to let go, I took this bitch head on. I still struggle here and there, but I faced every one of these obstacles in the face. I’m still standing. I feel more alive than ever.

Like I said, fears are assholes. They’re like that friend who is always miserable and ends up ruining your night out. The night always starts out ok, but you never walk away having had a good time. That’s what your fears are doing. They’re holding you back from experiences and people that will make your world whole. Do whatever it takes to get rid of them and go live!


What Time Should We Meet?

“I drove all night to get to you. Is that all right? I drove all night, crept in your room. Woke you up from your sleep to make love to you. Is that all right? I drove all night.” ~Roy Orbison, I Drove All Night

It’s been exactly two years since I told my ex I wanted a divorce. The other way of saying that is I’ve been single for two years. Primarily by choice. For a while it was a necessity and now…well, it’s rough out there. Navigating the single/dating world for me has been equivalent to  when you’re driving and take the wrong turn at the roundabout because you were so sure you had it right while your GPS lady incessantly repeats…RECALCULATING! RECALCULATING! Then you freak out because you’re just driving in circles shouting, “Just tell me where the fuck to go!” It’s been a lot like that.

I have been doing some reflecting on my own “date” experiences and stories from my single friends. Do you know what the stories never start with? “He picked me up around…” No one is picking anyone up anymore. It got me wondering why. Is it because I live in a big city, not everyone needs therefore doesn’t have a car, so you just figure out your own way? Did guys forget that’s a thing? OR, is it because of online dating? I decided that’s the reason. I’m also peppering in Dateline and other couple crime shows (I’m looking at you ID Channel) scaring the crap out of it’s demographic (me). I don’t want strangers knowing where I live.

Has online dating single-handedly ruined one of the best first date moments? It makes sense. We really don’t know who is on the other side of the computer screen so best to not give them your address. I sure as hell don’t want a copycat Craigslist killer knocking on my door. BUT, man. I feel like we’re getting screwed. The minutes leading up to pick up time were so exciting and nauseating! It was the worst but also the best! Now we have to show up somewhere and look around until you see them? Or, in my case watch THEM walk in because I’m always early. Lame. This is so lame. These are things I didn’t think about when I became single never getting to experience again. I mean…I’m sure if I ever get involved with someone other than casual hanging, we’ll get to that point. It just won’t be the same. He’ll know me, I’ll know him. I won’t feel like puking, and he won’t be sweating. He won’t nervously mess up opening the car door car, and I won’t do a quick check in the side mirror while he is walking around to make sure I don’t have any boogers in my nose or lipstick on my teeth. I kind of hate this!

The last time I got picked up for a first date was my ex, and that was in 2004! This is bullshit, and I really don’t want this to be the last time I can tell that story to my dog children. Perhaps I’m showing my age here, but this realization has made me so sad. It’s like that old saying…that I don’t know, but the sentiment is if I knew it were the last time, I would have cherished it more. Oh times…stop changing so much, please.

Dear Chicago

“Broken skyline, moving through the airport. She’s an honest defector. Conscientious objector. Now her own protector.” ~Tom Petty, Time to Move On

Several months ago I made the decision to move to a new city. This was not a decision I made lightly. Tears were shed, beers were drank, conversations were had, lists were made… Chicago has been my home for 13 years. 13! This is like moving your kid away from all of their friends right before high school. I grew up here…in a sense. I “grew up” in St. Louis, but I became a full-blown adult here. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest lows I ever thought possible.

I successfully avoided jail. (That one is surprising given my first year living here.)

I’m leaving 13 years to the day I moved here. I don’t know if there is some hidden meaning in that or not. I don’t think numbers are lucky or unlucky. Just numbers. It’s the same day thing that is tripping me up. But I digress, the next several weeks are going to be physically and emotionally draining. I want to take in all I can before I go – friends, food, favorite places and spaces. I hope I can make it happen!

Snapped after an 11 mile run on the lake.
Snapped after an 11 mile run on the lake.

Chicago, man. We’ve had an interesting relationship. I love her. I hate her. I respect her. She made me strong. She scared me. She showed me what I’m made of. She beat me down. She was the source of great pain for so long. She gave me the best moments of my life. She breathed new life into me then turned around and sucked nearly all of it out. Right before I fell through the floor, she showed me she still had a good side. She almost made me second guess this decision, but we both know it’s time for me to leave while we’re back on good terms. No hard feelings.

The wave of emotions while putting my stuff in boxes can be overwhelming at times. Nearly every item was bought, received or collected here. I don’t have much here from my life in St. Louis except some pictures, old band t-shirts I don’t have it in me to throw out and some music. I know where every item came from, and I think of the story when I’m wrapping it in bubble wrap. Most memories are boring like…I think I got this at Target….this is from Target….this is also from Target. Holy shit, I spend a lot of time and money at flippin’ Target! Others have better(ish) memories attached. The tiny tea set my mom bought because it reminded her of me. The mason jars I bought for a friends’ baby shower that became my water glasses after my divorce because they were all I had to use. The extra set of dishes I bought on a whim to host my first Thanksgiving that are now my full-time dishes because I didn’t want to have to eat off the ones I got for my wedding. The cookbooks I used to bake my friends’ birthday cakes and potluck dishes. The boots I bought to keep my feet dry at Riot Fest after ruining my shoes the year before. The small, white entertainment center I bought for my bedroom when I owned my home that became the focal point of the living room in my apartment. The artwork I bought years ago but was never able to hang up until I had my own space. Most memories are ones only I know. But they’re mine and from a life I worked my ass off to build.

Chicago at night.
Captured during a date in downtown Chicago.

When I think of the current state of my life, I tend to feel like I haven’t accomplished much. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I met my best friends. I fell in love. I fell out of love and recovered. I learned how to be selfless. I got my first “real” post-college job. I successfully avoided jail. (That one is surprising given my first year living here.) I learned how to love a being more than myself. (I’m referring to my dog, you guys.) I bought my first home. I sold my first home. I was my own divorce attorney. I have fallen down the stairs at every apartment I’ve lived in. Totally unrelated, I learned vodka is not my friend. I learned how to drywall but still suck at painting walls. I made out with the wrong people…and some good ones, too. I ran a half-marathon and countless other races. I was inducted into both my high school and college sports Hall of Fames. I’ve seen the sunrise and set over the lake. I learned how to respond to a creep feeling up my leg on a train. I expanded my food palette. I taught two kids how to read. I jumped out of a plane to get over my fear of heights. I rescued three animals. I saw some of the best live music I’ll ever see in my life. I made the most of my life here. I survived here.

I rode this bike trail often. A LOT of decisions were made on this trail...
I rode this bike trail often. Major life decisions were made on this trail…

I feel like I could write a love letter to the city of Chicago. I could tell her how beautiful she is, I’m sorry for the bad times but will always remember the good, how she’ll always be a part of me, how I’ll make time to come see her and I’ll never forget her. But…she knows.

When You Sweat the Small Stuff

“But maybe I’ll be the one to roll you over. I’ll call when I wanna, call you honey magnolia. And I’ll be the one to let you know when the sweet taste is gone. And it’s over, honey magnolia.” ~Brian Fallon, Honey Magnolia.

We’ve all been told not to do this. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” “Only worry about those who matter.” Yet I’ve never been told how to not sweat the small stuff when it comes to human interaction. Material things? I don’t care. They mean nothing to me, but people do.

Maybe how to not sweat the small stuff is obvious to most, but it’s not to me. Maybe it’s something that takes practice. I don’t even know how or what to practice. I sweat all the stuff. Big and small. I put energy and effort into people that don’t do the same for me. This is what it does to me:

  • It makes me feel terrible.
  • I lose sleep.
  • I sometimes just sit, worry and think of bullshit scenarios.
  • I waste my own time.
  • I temporarily lose focus on the things and people that DO matter. People that are present, in front of my face or calling/texting me because they care.
  • I waste their time because I’m talking about the things that bothered me and people that don’t care about me when we should be spending time talking about cool shit that matters.

This is dumb, but I don’t know how to stop. I have come to the conclusion giving advice about not sweating the small stuff is much, much easier said than done. So why do I do it? I have thought about this over and over again. I concluded that it’s for two reasons. The first being it bugs the absolute shit out of me when people are rude because they think you’ll just put up with it. I will fuss over someone’s lack of consideration for my time and feelings and how to react for way longer than I should. The second is because I worry about hurting the feelings of people who don’t think twice about hurting mine. No one likes getting their feelings hurt. I don’t like to be the cause of that for anyone, so I fuss over how to say things the right way, doing the “right” thing…for everyone, even when they are being unfair. I think it’s time I look I the mirror and have a long heart-to-heart with me.

I’ve gained a lot of internal strength in the last two years. My new priority is changing my view from thinking standing up for myself and not putting up with people’s shit is somehow hurtful to them. That standing up for myself equates not being nice. The “right” thing is taking care of me. This might be my toughest challenge yet…

Sometimes I Make Awkward Situations Worse

“I don’t know what to do with my hands….I kinda want it to stay this way. No wrong moves, no mistakes. Nothing lost, nothing broken. Like a boat on a windless ocean. I don’t know what to do.” ~Minor Alps, I Don’t Know What To Do With My Hands.

When I came out of my divorce haze and decided to embrace this new single life, I decided my underwear situation needed a refresh. As us ladies do. New me, new undies. That coupled with the fact that I had dropped some weight from running, I needed new bras. I decided to do the adult woman thing and go for a bra fitting. You know…make a thing of it!

It dawned on me on the way to the store that this was going to be the first person to see my boobs post-divorce. After doing the boob math and realizing how sad that was…I got a little anxious. I went from “Oh boy! New bras!” to “Oh shit… I’m going to make this weird. Don’t be weird…don’t be weird. You got this.” I made it weird.

I walked into the store all cool and shit, but I was not all cool and shit on the inside. This nice young lady offered to help me. I said ok while thinking how sorry I was for her. When the question came, “Do you know what size you are?” I responded, “Um…I think I’m a…yeah I don’t really know anymore.” She was so upbeat about helping me. When we entered the dressing room, she measured me with my bra on. I thought, “Ok. Cool. No biggie! Wait…I’m a what?” Even with my weight loss, I still have large boobs apparently. (This explains why I can’t buy cheap shit at Target. They don’t carry my size.)

The rest of the conversation was just nervous laughter. I bought several things, including items I didn’t need, to make up for it.

I thought the hard part was over until she came in with a fistful of bras. “Take your bra off and turn around.” Umm…what? “Oh. Ok? Like this?” Like this? Really? There is one way to turn around, and we all learned how to do it when we were five. Then she helped me put it on. Every. Step. I didn’t know this was so complicated. When I turned around her hands were all up in, on and around my boobs adjusting the fit. I just stood there with my hands up trying to not make eye contact. She giggled and said, “Sorry. I’m not trying to cop a feel. Just getting the fit right.” What eloquent response did I have? Oh. This… “It’s cool. This is the most action I’ve had in months.” (I know. I closed my eyes and lowered my head.) Her response was just nervous laughter. She didn’t help me with the rest of my bras. She just checked in on me, verbally instructed me on how to cram my boobs in a cup (which…for the love I freaking know how to do by now) and adjusted the straps as needed.

You’d think after that first experience, I’d totally be cool with whipping my boobs out in front of another lady. Or, as I was corrected, Curvologist. I recently went for some freshies, and I couldn’t help myself from being awkward. These women see boobs all day. Why do I care?  I feel it coming. I can’t stop my actions or my mouth. So obviously, when she said take your bra off and turn around…I did as I was told. Except when I turned around I put my hands on the wall like I was being arrested. She said, “Um. No. You just need to stand straight up.” I naturally I responded, “Ha! Just kidding. Old habits.” I followed it up with an awkward laugh and pretended like I did it on purpose as a joke. She was so confused and so was I. I’ve NEVER been arrested. (knock on wood) I am pretty sure I’ve never even had my person searched. My car? Yes. Me? No. I don’t recall, anyway. The rest of the conversation was just nervous laughter. I bought several things, including items I didn’t need, to make up for it. I over-corrected, but it’s cool. She kindly pretended she thought my “joke” was funny.

All I can say for myself now is…brace yourself future boob lady. I’m coming for you, and I’m super sorry.

Lyrics or Music Person?

I have a different format this go-around. I am going to go ahead and quote each artist I am discussing below. Here goes…

I get asked this question a lot – Are you a lyrics or a music person? If you have clicked on this site before (thank you so much!), you probably could guess I am lyrics person. Lyrics can save a shitty song (musically) for me. It’s just how I feel. I don’t like debating this question, but I’ll answer honestly if you ask. I don’t think one matters more than the other in the grand scheme of things. Whatever drives you to turn the music on…who fucking cares? You turned it on. Now turn it up. That’s what matters.

This question got me thinking about my favorite songwriters. I guess I should really say lyricists. I could get super granular here and break down favorite vocalist, favorite bands, favorite performers…all of these lists would vary in one (or more) way than the other. This “top” list is solely focused on who writes my favorite lyrics and why. If you don’t know any of these artists, do the Google thing.

“…now all these tastes improve through the view that comes with you. Like they handed me my life for the first time it felt worth it. Like I deserved it.” ~Jets to Brazil, Sweet Avenue

Blake Schwarzenbach: For the love of everything, he is my favorite. Why? I almost can’t explain it, but I’ll try so perhaps you’ll go buy a Jawbreaker or Jets to Brazil record. He has a way of describing and writing about love gained, loved lost, awkward crushes (awkward feelings of any sort, really), frustration, happiness…everything you’re going to experience in life, in a way where you feel comforted and ok. His phrasing and form is both delicate and strong. When I compare his songs on paper to other lyricists I think…no one compares. His words crush me. I found his songs at the age of 17, and I have been a fan ever since. I chose his song Sweet Avenue to walk down the aisle to when I got married. Even my divorce can’t change the way I feel about that song. That says everything, right? If I had to give you a handful of “Blake” songs to check out what I’m putting down here, I’d say the following: Sweet Avenue (Jets to Brazil), Accident Prone (Jawbreaker), Chemistry (Jawbreaker), Jet Black (Jawbreaker), In the Summer’s When You Really Know (Jets to Brazil), Empty Picture Frame (Jets to Brazil).

Total side bar – I saw his band forgetters (that was not capitalized on purpose as Blake explained before the show there is no “the” and it’s not a capital “f’) play in 2010. I wasn’t lucky enough to see Jawbreaker or Jets to Brazil when they toured, so this was my only shot to see him perform live. I remember having to pee so bad but wouldn’t give up my prime spot at Subterranean to watch him sing. He’s a total weirdo, but the kind of weird I appreciate.

“You never dreamed you go down on one knee. but now. Who could’ve seen, you’d be so hard to please somehow. You feel like a poor boy, a long way from home. You’re just a poor boy, a long way from home.” ~Tom Petty, Wake Up Time

Tom Petty. He’s my favorite All-American rock lyricists. His songs are written in a way where you think…yes! I was just thinking that! He writes how we emote. He’s direct, he’s playful, he’s a little weird…he’s a badass. My parents had Dylan, I have Petty. Ok…they had him for a little bit before me, but I’m claiming him as mine. If you ask me to describe Americana, he’d be at the top of the list. American Girl? Listen to Her Heart? You Wreck Me? Runnin’ Down a Dream? Wildflowers? Time to Move On? Alright for Now? I mean…I don’t know what life is like without these songs. I don’t even know what a road trip is without his songs. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, chasing dreams, travel, moving on…he does it for me. All the feels, as the kids say these days. By the way, all of those questions were songs I would suggest. I could do a second list, but I feel like I’ve made my point. I love you Tom Petty songs.

“And oh my love remind me, what was it that I said? I can’t help but pull the earth around me, to make my bed.” ~Florence and the Machines, Ship to Wreck

Florence Welch. As a woman, this is my girl. In terms of looking at life and love from my own gender’s perspective, we speak the same language. She explains and questions in similar ways thoughts and words run through my own head. Except when they come out of her, they’re fluid and beautiful and make sense. I’m addicted to her songs and voice. Here are some songs that I can’t seem to stop putting on playlists: What Kind of Man, Delilah, Ship to Wreck, Shake It Out, Dog Days Are Over (this is the one that vocally sucked me in). Listen to her, dammit!

“I never wondered. I never bothered. I never cared what I wanted to be about. I have more truth than lies to me.” ~Hot Water Music, 220 Years

Chuck Ragan + Chris Wollard. While separate humans with their own solo projects and bands, I am grouping them together because they are the writers for my favorite band Hot Water Music. They’re my punk peas and carrots. Their songs go together, and they make me feel full inside. Too much? I know. Gross. But seriously you guys…this is a time when it’s hard for me not to fuss over music and performance to solely focus on the fact that this is a lyrics list. While Blake fueled my sentimental side, Chris and Chuck fueled everything else with their words of being an independent thinker, staying true to yourself, being honest about struggles, and despite whatever life throws at you…be a good person. Don’t give up. While I don’t know what life is like without Tom Petty…I don’t know who I would have become without Chris and Chuck. Here are some songs to look up and see what I mean: It’s Hard to Know, 220 Years, Drag My Body, Manual, Remedy. It’s really hard to not just list their entire catalog.

“I feel far away from you. So what else is new? The moon is closer to the sun than I am to anyone.” ~Nada Surf, 80 Windows

Matthew Caws. Mr. Caws sings, plays guitar and writes songs for Nada Surf. I think I’ve quoted Nada Surf songs a few times in my stories. He just freakin’ nails it every time for me. Sadness, loneliness, love, insecurity…all of it. The lyrics are poems. They’re love letters. They’re notes to the future. When you couple the lyrics and meaning with his angel voice…you get sweet indie rock bliss. Here are some songs to rope you into my decade-long love affair with Nada Surf songs: Blizzard of ’77, 80 Windows, Killian’s Red, Treading Water, Always Love, In the Mirror.

“My finger waves be dazed, they fall like Humpty. Chumpy, I break up with him before he dump me. To have me yes you lucky.” ~Missy Elliott, The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

Missy Elliott. Does this require an explanation, really? I love hip hop. It’s one of the genres of music that, when I put it on, I feel free. For me growing up, there wasn’t a lot to be desired by the male hip hop perspective of women, and, on the flip side, even less to be desired by women’s responses to their sexist lyrics and portrayal of themselves. Until Missy. I like people who tell it like it is, and she does that…but in rhymes I still can’t get over. She commanded respect for herself and all women, she talked about womanhood very matter of fact while at the same time embraced love. She was aggressive but loving. She was materialistic but grounded. I love her. Here are my top picks: The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), Work It, Gossip Folks, Sock It 2 Me, Get Ur Freak On. Good luck not dancing…

Long, long story longer, these are the short list of artists who have touched me the most, lyrically. There are so many more I could list! You should really check these guys out if you’re not already familiar. Even if you don’t like the music, read the words. Something will stick with you.