Category Archives: Chicago

How to Run Your First 5K

If you follow this blog or are friends with me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I ran my first 5K this past weekend.  If you didn’t notice, you should probably get your observation skills tested by a professional because I’ve been basically shouting it from every form of social media I have at my disposal.  I’m not going to lie – I am proud of myself.  Proud of myself for signing up, for following through, for finishing, for signing up for more.  It may not seem like the biggest deal; I was among thousands on that day alone, let alone all of the other people that run miles more than that every day. But was a big deal to me.

That being said, I think I may have been overoptimistic and conveniently forgot that the 5K was not just a big party and that before all of the good feels that would come with finishing, I would actually have to run three miles.  While I knew I could do it, I was much more involved in the atmosphere and fun than the actual running portion.

And thus I present to you:  My First 5K – A Narrative

  • It’s RACEDAY, BITCHES!!
  • Sweet Jesus, it’s early.  Is that the moon?
  • I don’t get up this early for work.
  • Whatever.  It’s raceday!
  • NO YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WEAR A SOX JERSEY TO THE RACE TO WRIGLEY, TONY.
  • This is great!  Look at all of these other runners on our bus!  How fun!
  • Yes, yes, I am a runner too, people.  I have the commemorative shirt on, just like you.
  • Which is a bit smaller than I would like, I must mention.
  • I must have been drunk and optimistic when I ordered this size.
  • We’re here!  Look at all the people!  There’s my mom and dad!  Yay!
  • I have to go to the bathroom right this second.
  • Apparently raceday for me starts in a porta-potty.
  • Okay, I see how it works.  The 7 minute milers start here.  (Show offs.)  I’ll head back a bit.
  • Where, exactly, is the 15 minute miler start line?
  • I’ll just stand back here with the people pushing strollers.
  • They’re all stretching.  I should stretch.
  • Except I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I usually warm up with a brisk walk.
  • I’ll just walk in a little circle for a bit.
  • Yeah, now you totally look like you’ve done this before.  Stop it.
  • Starting horn!  We’re underway!
  • Except my group isn’t moving.
  • Here we go!  There’s the start line!
  • This is awesome!  So many people cheering! Woohoo!!!
  • There’s my mom and dad again!  Look at me!  I’m doing it!
  • That picture they took is totally going to be my profile pic.
  • Wait, why does this hurt already?
  • OW.  Should have stretched more.  That’s okay.  First couple of minutes are always a little tough.  You got this.
  • Awe, look at this awesome couple!  He’s pushing his wife in a wheelchair!  How great are they?
  • I’m kind of sad that I just saw that because he passed me up….
  • Huh.  I thought they were going to mark each mile.  Must have read that wrong.  Because surely we’re past the first mile?
  • I’ll just check my watch.
  • Seven minutes?  It’s only been seven fucking minutes?!
  • Where’d all the cheering crowd go?
  • I should have brought my headphones.  Listening to myself huff and puff is not super motivating.
  • Okay, okay.  Beautiful day, first 5K, we’re doing this!  Look, there’s the first mile marker!  You’re almost done!
  • Yay!  They have one of those water tables and I can totally be one of the runners that grabs a cup of water and downs it without stopping, defiantly throwing the cup on the ground as I continue my strenuous run.
  • Except no one is handing me water.
  • Oh, yay, someone did!
  • Yeah, I’m not sure what made you think you could drink a cup of water and run at the same time.
  • Because now you’re choking.
  • Also, you’re an asshole, because no one else threw their cup on the ground.
  • I’ll just double back and throw that in one of the fourteen conveniently placed receptacles.
  • This went a lot different in my head.
  • Where’s the wheelchair guy?
  • Here we go!  The girl in front of me has on a Marine Corps shirt.  And I’m keeping pace!  You, unknown soldier, will be my motivation.  I shall keep up with you.
  • That bitch just picked up a toddler, put him on her shoulders, and sped past me.
  • Well, there’s like 475 reasons you wouldn’t be a good Marine – this is just another one.
  • Wait, no one said there was going to be a hill.
  • Now’s probably a good time for a little walk.
  • Hey, guy?  On your front porch?  Who just yelled, “Good job!  Only four miles to go!”  You’re an asshole.
  • Water station!  That means mile two is done!
  • Let’s try not to fuck up so spectacularly with the water this time, yeah?
  • I don’t want any more water, anyhow.
  • Wheelchair guy!  Yay!
  • Don’t think about the fact that you’re celebrating catching a septuagenarian who is literally pushing the weight of another human.  Concentrate on the positive!
  • Hey, there’s my mom and dad again!  And friends!
  • Hell yes, it IS almost bloody mary time!!
  • It’s entirely possible my parents have covered more ground this morning than myself.
  • Hey, lady?  With the stroller containing three children?  You are hurting my feelings.
  • Yay, more cheerleaders!
  • Almost there!  I see the field!
  • I do not, however, see a finish line.  Which is unfortunate, because I’m kind of getting done with this whole running thing.
  • WTF do you mean, we still have to run around the whole field before we go inside?
  • DO YOU KNOW HOW BIG THIS STUPID FIELD IS?
  • Maybe just another short walk.
  • Heading into the concourse!  I did it!
  • Except this is kind of uphill, too.
  • And I totally have to pee again.  I wonder if the bathrooms are open?
  • It would probably be the shortest line ever for the bathroom at Wrigley.
  • No one will ever let you live it down if you stop to pee in a three mile race.
  • There’s the finish line!
  • And there’s all of my favorite people that came to see me!
  • That picture?  Is totally not going to be cute.
  • FINISHED!!!
  • This?  Right here?  With my best friends and family, who got up at the crack of dawn to watch me chug past the finish line?  This is awesome.  I love everything.

Next time, though, I’m bringing my headphones.  Ke$ha and Avril Lavigne are infinitely more motivating than my inner monologue.

Finally!

Finally!

Am I The Only One??

To walk across the fire for you????  Ha!  Now that I have that song in your head, you’re going to want to read on, right?  I wasn’t even planning on going there but as soon as I typed the title, Melissa Etheridge was all up in my brain so I had to share.  Aren’t you glad?

Anyway, it’s been a long week.  Well, it’s been a long several weeks, as most of you living in Chicago understand.  I’m not going to write about the weather because it makes me want to punch everything in the face and wish that wind would become a solid, physical thing for like forty seconds so I could kickbox it to death instead of it calling the shots and propelling me face-first over ice disguised as sidewalks and sonofabitch if you people would just shovel this wouldn’t happen….Ahem.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a bad winter.  When the best part of your day is NOT getting impaled by an icicle falling off of a building, the winter has already beaten you.  Trust.  So us Chicagoans have been pretty much of one mind the past couple of weeks, which consists mainly dreamily remembering those beautiful days last year that didn’t require fucking boots.

I saw a picture on Facebook yesterday demonstrating how we can save ducks’ lives by cutting the plastic rings from a six-pack so they don’t get caught in them and choke.  A year or so ago, I wrote this post on that same topic, as I was surprised that other people didn’t do this all the time.  It got me thinking about some other things that I do or think that I assume are perfectly normal, but other people consider to be a teensy bit crazy.

Am I The Only One?

  • That Thinks We Need to Leave Bieber Alone?  Yeah, I said it.  Leave. Him. Alone.  Is he a punk kid with little respect for authority?  Absolutely.  Does he deserve the wrath of an entire country actively awful upon him?  No.  One, making jokes about how hilarious it would be for him to get raped in prison?  Doesn’t make us look very smart.  Ditto for starting a petition to get him deported that received so many signatures the government actually had to act on it.  Folks, if we deported or imprisoned every nineteen-year old that made a couple of really stupid, arrogant decisions, it would be the end of the population as we know it.  Do you not remember being 19?  Hell, I was an asshole at 19, and I was a rule-abiding kid from the suburbs with only $45 a week to work with.  If I’d had access to millions of dollars with no supervision, the least of my problems would have been smoking pot and drag racing, I promise you that.  Is he a shit?  Yes.  Did he make some mistakes?  Absolutely.  In one way or another, he’ll pay for them.  I hope it’s in the form of realizing he’s a shit and straightening up.  Hoping for him to fall into the revolving door of drugs and rehab like so many celebrity teenagers before him, hoping for him to fail, is just mean-spirited.

 

  • That is Completely Terrified about The Missing Plane?  Is it just me, or is this some Langoliers shit come to reality?  Two hundred people and thousands of tons of metal just gone into thin air?  How have we just gone on about our business, like, “Oh, well, can’t find it, that’s weird.”  I just picture them all in some abandoned airport in an alternate universe all, “What the fuck?  Why are we not the top story on the news?  What is WRONG with these people?”

 

  • With the Musical Taste of a Preteen in the 90′s?  I’ve been running a lot, and I’ve found there is a direct correlation between how long I can run and how much 90′s angsty pop music is on my playlist.  Ludacris and Eminem have taken some top spots in the rotation to keep me going, but the number one song that pumps me up and propels me to keep going?  Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend.”  Why?  I don’t know.  It’s been over a decade since I’ve had any reason to hate someone’s girlfriend, and if you really listen to it – which I have, often – it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Yet here we are, and every time it comes on, I go faster than I did the day before.  If the folks in the park had any idea what was blasting in my headphones, they’d actually be LESS scared of me than they already are, which is a tough spot to find.

 

  • That Has Notebook Paper Decorating the Fridge with Magnets, Despite Being Childless?  Currently, my refrigerator boasts a notepad, three coupons for Family Dollar, a picture from 1980, a pen-draw picture of an eyeball, my sister’s baby shower invitation held up by a Bert and Ernie magnet, and a note scribbled in Magic Marker that says nothing but, “SOUL TRAIN IS ON.”  The notepad?  Not for grocery lists, or things we’re out of.  (Which is likely we make frequent trips to above-mentioned Family Dollar at 9PM for things like toilet paper and cat food.)  No, it has sports predictions for the upcoming week.  The eyeball was drawn by a friend late one Saturday night and we deemed it a work of art.  The Soul Train note?  My husband was on the phone one Sunday morning and he would not appropriately respond to my frantic gestures to run into the living room for this grand moment in television programming.

Everyone has their little pockets of weird, right?  Right????

Adulthood.

Adulthood.

 

 

 

 

The Running Diaries

Last year, I starting riding a bike to work in an effort to not murder someone on the CTA and hopefully improve my fitness at the same time.  I learned a lot in those first couple of weeks; drivers in Chicago despise bike riders more than Steve Bartman and Lovie Smith combined, speeding joyfully down a hill whilst reminiscing about the freedom you experienced as a child riding a bike lasts only as long as it takes for a car to pull into the intersection at the bottom, and people should really pay more attention before whipping their car door open on a busy street with a bike lane.

I loved riding the bike to work and can’t wait to start it up again. Of course – it has to be mentioned – this is partially because this winter is by far the biggest bitch I have ever encountered and the CTA, as hard as it tries, cannot possibly keep up.  There’s too many people, there’s too much snow, there’s too much slush, there’s problems with Ventra, everything is freezing to itself – it sucks.  My commute, on a good day, should be about 30 minutes, door to door.  This year?  It runs between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, and that’s on a day it’s NOT snowing.  Which isn’t often.  So the thought of walking out my door, not almost killing myself on the stairs, getting on a bike, riding through the wind and sunshine, and arriving at work not swearing and covered in salt and slush is extraordinarily appealing.

I did not take off any weight after starting this regimen.  In fact, I gained some.  That was disappointing – I mean seriously, who gains weight after going from zero activity to riding a bike six miles a day?  The answer is someone who carb loads as if they are training for a marathon instead of mildly exercising for 40 minutes a day.  (Very mildly.  I’m so slow on the bike that everyone passes me.  Old people, young people, overweight tourists on the Divvy bikes – everyone.) Baked macaroni and cheese, loaded mashed potatoes, and my favorite creation entitled spaghetti monster – baked spaghetti with cream cheese and mozzarella in the sauce – this is what I lived on.  Unsurprisingly, by the time Christmas rolled around, I was a giant, puffy version of myself and more closely resembled John Goodman than I ever would have liked to.

Something had to give, and that something was carbs.  I won’t bore you with all of the details of my newfound love affair with cauliflower as a substitute for every single thing I used to make - take a look at my Facebook and you can see plenty of that as I am, unfortunately, that person who now posts pictures of their dinner with alarming frequency.  (But seriously – cauliflower pizza?  Genius.)  So I’d been feeling good, had taken some weight off, had more energy – all the good feels you get with eating better.  And somehow, somewhere in my brain along the way, I got it in my head that I wanted to run one of the 5K’s that Chicago always hosts throughout the year.

Let’s get something straight right here.  My family?  We’re not runners.  Even my little sister, who does run, who has run a half-marathon, who attends those terrifying-looking fitness classes that make me want to vomit just watching them – even she admits we are not runners.  It’s not that we’re lazy or have never been athletic; in fact, some of my favorite memories are bike riding in the forest preserve as a family when we were younger.  My sister and I always played softball or soccer, and she was a cheerleader and - believe it or not - I was in my high school dance troupe for two years.*

*People are always surprised by this.  For some reason, they are never as surprised when I tell them I played the tuba.  Go figure.

At any rate, the most I had run since high school was at a haunted house about 15 years ago when one of the actors chased me out the exit with a chainsaw. I ran about fifty yards out of sheer terror before my body realized what it was doing and I collided into a tree.  So when the thought of running a 5K first crossed my mind, I dismissed it as pure madness.  Like, Okay, Courtney, we’re not drowning in a vat of mac and cheese every night – let’s just go with that win instead of getting all crazy here, okay?

But I couldn’t get it out of my head, and soon I found myself researching 5K’s and how to get started running.  I found a program called Couch to 5K promising to turn me from a couch potato into someone able to run three miles in nine weeks.  I found myself looking up success stories and starting to think that I might be able to do it.  There were other people, both smaller and bigger than myself, with pictures of themselves smiling with medals and thought, well, it’s worth a try.  And I decided I would start the next day.  And I did, which is possibly the first thing I’ve followed through on in three years.

Week One. Longest run time – 1 minute.  I learned that when one is 35, out of shape, and an ex-heavy smoker, running for even such a short amount of time should be approached with more caution than exuberance.  By the third repetition of the “run” portion of the workout, I was running slower than I was walking and being outpaced by toddlers in snowsuits.

Week Two. Longest run time – 1 1/2 minutes.  An increase of a measly thirty seconds.  Pssht.  That’s nothing, right?  I learned that thirty seconds is a really fucking long time when you’re trying to run.

Week Three. Longest run time – 3 minutes.  This time, I knew.  I knew it was going to be harder.  So I downloaded some inspiring music to keep me going.  I was feeling good and enjoying the challenge, so I really wanted to keep it up.  I learned that just because you like a song does not mean that it is good to try and run to. (Eminem’s Lose Yourself?  Good.  Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe?  Not as much.)

Week Four. Longest run time – 5 minutes.  This is the week that I got hit in the ear with a piece of rock salt by a passing car so hard I almost went blind and Mother Nature dumped a whole shitload of snow and horribleness on Chicago – again – and I had to repeat it over the course of about three weeks.  I learned that I should pay more attention to cars in my path and that Mother Nature is fucking pissed beyond belief at us for spraying all that Aquanet in the 80′s.

Week Five. Longest run time – 20 minutes.  I know.  Hell of a jump, right?  It was eight minutes the first day, then the last day of the week – WHAM.  Twenty minutes.  Like you weren’t huffing and puffing through 90 seconds just a few weeks ago.  I learned that this stupid app on my phone has been right since January, which is a longer track record than I’ve had in quite awhile.

I’m signed up for three 5K’s this year.  The first one is the Race to Wrigley in April.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to run to the whole thing.  My app says I can, so I’m hopeful.  But I do know that I will finish, whether it takes me 35 or 60 minutes.   And if the Cubs’ past few seasons are any indication, it is the happiest Cubs fans will be all year at Wrigley unless they’re going to a concert there.

So there’s that.

To be fair, I only make that face when I'm about to fall.  I don't look nearly that cute the rest of the time.

To be fair, I only make that face when I’m about to fall. I don’t look nearly that cute the rest of the time.

 

So, There’s a Live Animal in Your Wall.

Thursday, 10PM.  “Hmm, why are the cats skulking along the baseboards in the kitchen?”  “Oh, there’s a loose floorboard.”  “Hmm, I hope that rat/mouse I saw in the summer doesn’t try to get in.”

Friday, 7PM. “Aaah.  Excellent.  Long week complete.  Time to sit down and relax with a drink.  Hey, you’re home all alone for the first time in forever.  This is sort of nice.”

Friday, 7:48PM.  “I’ll just go ahead and stir this pot roast.  What a great dinner this is going to be!”

Friday, 7:51PM. “What’s that scratching?  Hmm, I never noticed that hole below the kitchen cabinets.”

Friday, 7:53PM. “OMG SWEET JESUS THAT WAS A FUCKING PAW THERE IS SOMETHING SCRATCHING ITS WAY INTO THE APARTMENT.”

Friday, 7:54PM. “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK STOP IT STOP IT OH MY GOD OH MY GOD HELP!!!”

Friday, 7:56PM. “No, I don’t THINK there’s a rat in my wall.  There IS something in my wall.  I saw it. Send help, like right this second.”

Friday, 7:57PM -Friday, 8:05PM, Pounding on wall frantically whilst yelling out loud. Go away!! Oh my god oh my god!!!

Friday, 8:05PM to 8:35PM. Hysterics.  There’s no other word.

Friday 8:35PM to 8:37PM. Silence.  No one cares.

Friday 8:38PM to 8:42PM. Scratchedy scratchedy scratchedy, motherfucker!  I’m going to get you!!!

Friday, 8:43PM to 8:51PM.  Camped out at kitchen table, making as much noise as possible.  “Come on, Ramon, hiss at the dirty shit filled rodent – yeah, okay, it’s a mammal – trying to attack our lives.  And my pot roast.”

Friday, 8:52PM to 8:56PM. “Why are you throwing up, you stupid cat???  This should be your shining moment!  Your one chance in your eleven years to do something that doesn’t make everyone angry!”

Friday, 8:57PM to 9:01PM. OMG this is totally worse than when that possum got onto the porch.

Friday, 9:02PM to 9:05PM.  And when that stupid skunk had babies in the backyard and they were all digging everything up and trying to act like they were cute but were actually horror-filled stink bombs that ruined entire weekends.

Friday, 9:06PM to 9:10PM. Scratchedy scratchedy scratchedy!!!!  Ima get you!!  You’ll never sleep again!!!

Friday, 9:11PM to 9:15PM. Yes, yes, I do believe it’s time for another vodka drink.

Friday, 9:16PM to 9:21PM. “Die, motherfucker!” yelled while pounding on the wall.  “AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEE!!”  (that’s me screaming, if you didn’t catch it.)

Friday, 9:22PM to 9:30PM. Maybe it died?  Or fell asleep?  Does that happen?  Do they just give up?

Friday, 9:31PM to 9:45PM. “All is calm, All is bright!”

Friday, 9:46PM to 9:47PM. I am not losing this pot roast.  You don’t scare me, rodent!

Friday, 9:48PM to 9:51PM. Seriously, this has to be the one night in six months that the partyboys upstairs haven’t come home around this time to gear up for the night.  I don’t know that they’d be that much help, but this is one situation I’m not ashamed to admit I really wish there was someone of the opposite sex here to give some advice.

Friday, 9:52PM to 9:57PM. Am going to be found here, alone, eaten by rodents.  I swear, Mom, I was just about to clean up and organize that dresser.  I got sidetracked.  I’m sorry.

Friday, 9:58PM to 10:01PM.  Might as well have one last drink.  The thing has been quiet for a few minutes.  I can only assume this means it is gathering reinforcements.

Friday, 10:02PM to Present. Clutching glass of vodka, head spinning as if on a swivel, just waiting for the noise, spontaneously yelling and/or stomping feet.

Just know I loved you all.

Image

See that little hole right underneath the cabinets? That’s where the scary monster is trying to get in.

It’s Too Cold for This Shit.

And by this shit, I mean absolutely everything.  Seriously.  I usually try and embrace all of the seasons and take them in stride,  “Hey, it’s winter, pretty soon we’ll be complaining about how hot it is!”  I  even believe myself most of the time.  After today, though, when I waited a cumulative 47 minutes outside in subzero wind chills for the CTA, after I slipped going down the stairs, after my I got my stupid coat sleeve wet trying to wash my hands, after I was pushed out of the way by a full grown man for a bus seat, after I dropped my glove and bus card onto the disgusting floor, after I stepped off the bus into a pile of slush up to my ankle, I surrender.  This is a big, huge, miserable bucket of suck and I would give my yet-to-be-conceived firstborn for a single afternoon swimming in Lake Michigan.  Taking a shower in the morning is the happiest part of my day because it is the only ten minutes of the day I’m actually warm.

  • It is too cold to go to the grocery store.  I will make a meal out of zucchini and cream cheese if I have to.
  • It is too cold for that stupid Erin Andrews probiotics commercial.
  • It is too cold to talk about anything other than how cold it is and how much worse next week is going to be.
  • It is too cold for every single living soul to turn into an amateur weatherman.  Today I heard everything from six inches of snow to 40 degrees tomorrow.
  • It is too cold to mop the floors a-fucking-gain.
  • It is too cold to listen to one more word about Justin Bieber and the fact that he acts very similar to 70% of 19-year-olds in the United States and it is too cold to scroll through the hundred or so memes that have already been created and are running rampant on Facebook.   Two things about this: One, if he was a well-loved superstar to adults instead of teenagers here on a Visa and we were making jokes about deportation, the country would be up in arms. He’s not selling government secrets; he’s an idiot teenager    Two, one of the most popular memes thus far is a split-shot of the Biebs and a tough looking criminal with a caption along the lines of “Oh, I’m gonna love you!”  Wait, so rape jokes are okay if we don’t like someone’s music or attitude?  Come on.
  • It is too cold to watch one more fluffed up weatherperson – who is almost always a perky little girl – standing outside in frigid temperatures telling us how cold it is.  WE KNOW.  WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE HER STAND OUTSIDE??
  • It is too cold to remove the plastic Christmas decorations from my front yard because their cords have been frozen to the ground for three weeks.
  • It is too cold to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night because no matter how high the heat is, the toilet seat is like fucking ice.
  • It is definitely too cold for this idiot, Republican GOP candidate Susanne Atanus, who believes “God controls the weather and that tornadoes, autism and dementia are his punishments for the gay rights movement and abortions.”  In other news, Santa Claus really does travel the entire world in one night giving gifts to good, deserving (heterosexual) children and the Easter Bunny is totally real.
  • It is too cold to even enjoy the beautifulness that is Harry Connick Jr. on American Idol because J-Lo is wearing a dress without a snowsuit over it and it makes me mutter incomprehensible things like, “I bet SHE didn’t almost freeze to the front gate trying to get in.  I bet her stupid front door wasn’t frozen shut.”  (True story.  That was when it was actually 20 below as opposed to balmy 7 degrees we’re enjoying right now.)
  • It is too cold for Captain and Tenille to get divorced.  WTF???
  • It is too cold to be sitting at the laptop with two fur-covered animals just staring at me instead of keeping my feet warm.
  • It is too cold to not have a fireplace.
  • It is too cold to not be dressed like Randy from a Christmas Story and I hate scarves.
  • It is too cold to drive a car.
  • It is too cold to enjoy national media pointing out how miserable it is here.  Jimmy Fallon has polar vortex songs and I can’t even be happy about them.

I am declaring this weekend Summer in January.  The heat’s going up to 80, static electricity be damned – hey, the ensuing fire will only create more heat!!! – we’re getting beach cocktails, spreading out a blanket on the floor, and only playing Jimmy Buffett for 24 hours.  Who’s with me??

Four short months ago.

Four short months ago.

Ten Signs the Chicago Winter Has Beaten You Senseless.

One year, I had tickets to both the Bears and Cubs home opener.  The day of the football game, it was 105 degrees on the field.  The baseball game?  Was snowed out.  We know the weather is bipolar in Chicago, but somehow we are continuously surprised by it.  “I don’t remember it sucking this much last year.  Was it this hot last year?”  “Remember last year on this day, when we went to the beach?  Why is it snowing?  WHY???”  We have approximately seven days a year of perfect weather, and generally even those are marred by the impending bitchfit we know Mother Nature is brewing.  Oh, are you enjoying this unseasonably warm day in March?  Opened up all of the windows and pulled out the grill in anticipation of an early spring, didja?  I have two words for you, losers.  WINTRY MIX.  What?  You’re surprised?  Don’t worry.  I’ve got a tornado I’m working on for next week that’s going to make this miserable shit seem like rainbows and sunshine. 

That being said, this winter has been particularly brutal.  Snowstorm in January?  Not surprising.  Wind chills of negative 40?  That’s new.  And being that it’s only January 9th and we’ve already had nearly two feet of snow and several days in which Alaska was enjoying temperatures 30 degrees higher than here, I think we have a legitimate argument that spring should probably start next week.  Here’s a couple of signs the weather is winning.

You Have Worn More Than One Pair of Pants.  To Work.

I don’t generally even pull out a coat until it dips below 25 or so.  This year?  I had seven outfits on at the same time.  Once arriving at work, it was like the unsexiest strip show ever -  and I wasn’t alone.  The whole office was like a graveyard of outerwear.  Boots strewn about, sweatshirts laid out on desks, extra socks under desks; coats, scarves, and hats ripped off haphazardly to counteract the 80 degree difference in temperature between the ground floor and the 29th.

Every Single Person You Know Has a Cold.

Coughing, sneezing, sniffing, that gross clearing of the throat and sound of snot in Kleenex – these are your days now.  The only place I’ve found to be comfortable is in a sweatshirt, yoga pants, thermal socks and slippers on the bathroom floor with the shower running full stop to create my own personal sauna.  Sometimes I bring whiskey to make it a party.

If You See That Post About How Beautiful Chicago Looks Under Ice Posted One More Time, You’re Going to Punch Someone.

So many of my social media friends – currently not in sub-zero temps but instead in places with reasonable weather like California and the South Pole – posted this article this week.  Yes, it IS beautiful.  Unless, perchance, you happen to be attempting to walk through it.  Then, you can’t stop to admire the beauty.  You know why?  Because YOU’LL FREEZE TO THAT SPOT FOREVER if you stop moving for even a second.

Ditto to the “Chiberia” Folks.

Just, ugh.  Fucking stop it already.  That’s worse than “Chiraq.”  Sometimes I hate Twitter.

Your Kitchen Floor Looks Like This.

"There's only so much I can do!!!!!"  cried the mop.

“There’s only so much I can do!!!!!” cried the mop.

You’re About to Spontaneously Combust At Just About Any Second.

It’s so dry in your house/apartment/workplace due to the constantly running heat that shuffling along the floor on carpet is a deadly game of Russian roulette – the next thing you touch might be your last.

You’ve Developed a Love-Hate Relationship with Your Mode of Transportation.

I can’t speak to those of you poor souls trying to drive in this nonsense.  But those of us taking the CTA have developed a drug-dealer-like dependency on our bus drivers.  “Please, please, please, be on time, you miserable f-ing piece of garbage.  Please.  I’ll be nice.  Please just show up.  Please don’t make me wait out here longer than three minutes, you f-ing jerks.”

You Forgot How to Walk Like a Normal Person.

Anyone who has thought that they were walking on innocent snow or slush who has violently found the black ice underneath is terrified of it happening again.  So we all walk gingerly, which, in boots, is more of a slow uncoordinated clompstomp across the street.  Walking the full block and a half from the El to work becomes a terrified mantra of “Don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall WATCH OUT SEWER COVER don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall please please don’t fall.”

You’ve Done This.  Or At Least Watched a Video of One of Your Friends Doing This.

For those of you lucky souls who aren’t currently dealing with Mars-like temperatures, this is what happens when you throw a pot of boiling water into the air when it’s 14 below.  (Also, yes, I am considering a second career as a cinematographer, how did you know?)

Gray, Dirty, and Wet is the New Clean, Shiny, and New.

Nothing you own will ever be the same.  The slush alone is enough to ruin the best of pants and shoes, no matter how hard you try.  Just let it go.  You need all of your strength just to not fall on your fucking head and break every bone in your body. Everything is ruined.  We’ll start again next year.

So thanks, Polar Vortex.  For making us appreciate this so very much more.

SEVEN MORE MONTHS!  SEVEN MORE MONTHS!

SEVEN MORE MONTHS! SEVEN MORE MONTHS!

Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I know you’re busy this time of year.  I know you’re probably inundated with adorable letters from adorable children; children who have probably spent their year trying to be good instead of calling people doucheboxes on the internet and secretly harboring fantasies of tripping people on the bus that were mean to them like I have.  So I’m not going to ask for anything too crazy or expensive, because I just might not deserve it.  But I’ve put together a list that I think will benefit everyone should you choose to grant any of my Christmas wishes.

1.  No more twerking.

2.  A do-over button on Candy Crush for when you notice the move you should have made right after swiping out something useless.

3.  A worldwide, yearlong ban on Kanye West’s name being mentioned in the media.  If any media outlet slips up and runs a story on him or even says his name, they face a punishment of spending an entire day with him and Kim telling each other how amazing, special, and talented they are.  No breaks, even for vomiting.

4.  The Blacklist should be a weekly show all year long – none of this “Season Finale” nonsense until we find Red.

5.  A pop-up box on Facebook anytime a user tries to share a story that says, “Are you sure?  Have you checked Snopes?”

6.  Speaking of Facebook, AnE1 WhO PoSTs a STaTus ThAt LoOks lieK DIs has to go back to third grade for two days.

7. Ditto to anyone who says “supposably,” “irregardless,” or “Valentimes day.”

8.  Every year at this time, we retire one awful Christmas song in the rotation and replace it with a new, good one.  This year I vote we switch “Wonderful Christmastime,” with “Underneath the Tree.”  Sorry, Sir Paul, but Kelly Clarkson rocks that shit and your song?  SUCKS.  So hard.

9.  My neighbor to please drop his new habit of whistling like a mass murderer as he’s walking up the stairs in the middle of the night so as to ease my night terrors.

10. Please let Jay Cutler not throw any interceptions in the endzone this Sunday; I simply cannot handle any more controversy.  (I know this will happen before Christmas, but trust me as I believe in you, if you lived in Chicago, you would feel my pain.)

11. Every news story about a celebrity or athlete being arrested or just generally being a moron is to be counteracted by a story of an athlete or celebrity doing something good.  There are more like Andre Johnson than there are like Lindsay Lohan.

12. Anyone cataloguing the triumphant exploits of their Elf on a Shelf must also show the aftermath, whether that be the cleanup or the careful explanation of why Elfie was in the car with Barbie to begin with.

13. On a personal note, I would like a nonstick pan.  And by nonstick pan, I mean nonstick even when it comes to eggs, or at least an honest advertisement which states, “Nonstick unless you are cooking eggs, in which case you’re going to be really mad trying to clean this.”

Pretty please Santa?  If you can’t accommodate them all, maybe just a few?  Or if you only pick one, can it please be the Kanye ban?

Merry Christmas,

Courtney

Also, can I get my cat to sit still long enough to take a fun picture like this?

Also, can I get my cat to sit still long enough to take a fun picture like this?

 

 

 

 

Politically Correct and Stupid

You know how sometimes you hear or read something, and something about it just sticks with you for awhile?  You’re not sure what it is or why, but it just keeps rolling around in your subconscious until you have to do something about it, like Google it or ask a friend, “Hey, I know this sounds stupid, but have you ever heard of insert your own weird thought because it’s driving me crazy?” You know what I mean?  You’re watching TV and someone uses some off-the-wall phrase like “cattywhompus,” and wham, you’re thinking about second grade for two weeks before you connect the dots that the lunch lady at your elementary school used to say that all the time.  Or you can’t get a song out of your head for six days and don’t know why until you realize it’s because the singer pronounced something incorrectly and NOW it’s really driving you crazy.

That’s been me this week.  I read an article the other day – which I can’t find, and for that I am sorry to not give proper credit to what I’m sure is a great organization – regarding a group that is raising money and donating meals to those in need this holiday season.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all week, and I couldn’t figure out why.  While I’d like to say it was an epiphany about helping the less fortunate, some guiding force telling me to stop whining about taking the bus and instead focus on giving, that’s not it.  I try and give when I can, whether it’s a coffee to my homeless buddy Kevin at the blue line or a buck to the Streetwise guy on the corner, and while that certainly isn’t winning me any philanthropy awards, I knew it wasn’t guilt about not contributing more than I do.  Nope, it was something different.  Why couldn’t I get this damn article out of my head?

“Food Insecure.”

My brain finally caught up with my subconscious and realized it wasn’t about the article or the organization; it was stuck on one little phrase that didn’t fully register.  And when it did, I thought, “What the fuck?  Food insecure??  That’s what we’re saying now?”  Then I did some Google searching and apparently this isn’t new.  This is the actual term that the USDA uses to describe those who are unable to put food on their table.  Hunger is apparently not a problem anymore.  No one is going hungry.  They are simply food insecure.

Does this ring like a sack of BS to anyone else? It makes poverty sound so patronizingly trivial, “Oh, you’re not hungry.  You’re food insecure.”  Just the word insecure takes away the significance.  You’re insecure about your looks, about your talent, about your job, about measuring up to someone else’s standards.  Being insecure is a personal issue, a feeling that one has.  If I heard the term “food insecure,” outside of this context, I would assume it was being applied to a person who is uncomfortable with what they eat, who is worried about what food they put in their mouth.  The first definition that comes up in Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary for the word “insecure,” is as follows: “Not confident about yourself or your ability to do things well.”  Well, that’s nice.  Now you’re hungry AND being judged for it.  That certainly gives off a bunch of good feels, doesn’t it?

Here’s the thing.  There’s a difference between being worried about feeding your family on a short budget for a week and being hungry.  I would wager that a good portion of middle-class families whom we wouldn’t normally consider “hungry,” have gotten their paycheck, looked at their bills, and thought, “Shit.  How am I going to stretch a hundred dollars to feed us for the next two weeks?”  That’s worrisome.  That’s not being comfortable with your situation.  That’s buying whatever meat is on sale and skipping take-out and eliminating morning coffee; it’s eating pasta when you want a steak and leftovers instead of a sandwich from the deli.  And that sucks.  It does.  But that’s not being hungry.  Literally coming home to nothing in the refrigerator or pantry, going to work on an empty stomach – that’s not insecure.  That’s hungry.

I don’t know why this struck such a chord with me – I’m certainly not in danger of going hungry.  If anything, I am a little *too* secure with my food, as in, “Well, of course I can eat all of these mashed potatoes tonight, I can make more tomorrow!”  It just seems that by changing the definition, by using the politically correct term instead of the word that defines the problem of hunger, we dehumanize it.  Think about it.  Take a picture of an average-looking man with the caption, “I am food insecure.”  Then take the exact same picture of the exact same man and change the caption to “I am hungry.”  Which one gets your attention??

There’s many, many terms in our lexicon that we don’t use - at least in polite company – anymore, instead opting for the PC term.  These are usually terms that can be construed as insulting, demeaning, downright mean or ignorant. Hungry isn’t one of them.  Hunger is hunger, and to call it something else simply does a disservice to an entire population that didn’t get dinner tonight.

Insecurity.  A million strong and growing.

Insecurity. A million strong and growing.

****All jokes and ranting aside – if you’re in Chicago and would like to help, please visit No 1 Goes Hungry to see how you can provide for a family this holiday season****

Hey Macklemore, I’m Going Thrift Shopping. Again.

To my knowledge, I had never stepped foot in a thrift store prior to September of this year.  If I had, it was by accident and probably against my will as I generally regard shopping as a necessary evil to be performed only as a drastic last measure once I literally have nothing to wear on my person or feet.  Think I’m kidding?  Before my nephew could walk, he owned more pairs of shoes than myself.  This is not because he had an exorbitant amount of shoes, it’s because I literally had four.  A pair of ballet flats, a pair of rain boots, a pair of gym shoes, and some flip flops.  I hate wearing shoes and would walk around barefoot 24/7 if given the opportunity.  Same with coats.  As previously mentioned, I hate wearing them.  If there is a remote chance that I might be hot at some point while wearing the coat, I will rip it off and take my chances on getting frostbite.

Regular clothes pose a bit more of a challenge as it’s illegal to go outside without pants – I think – and once it’s too cold for me to pull off sundresses, I have to figure something else out.  Left to my own devices, I’m perfectly happy to wear leggings, mismatched socks, and a hoodie.  But some people – TONY – refused to leave the house with me a few weeks ago so I was forced to consider that it may, in fact, be time for some new clothes.

Of course, me being me, once I decided I needed to new clothes, it distracted and bothered me to the point that I was in near tears every morning as I schlepped along in my outdated dress pants, scowling at the girls waiting for the train in their a-fucking-dorable skinny jeans and leggings.  It morphed from “Hey, I should probably get some new clothes,” to “OMG I NEED AN ENTIRELY NEW WARDROBE AND I HAVE FORTY DOLLARS AND I HATE EVERYTHING UNTIL I HAVE SKINNY JEANS AND BOOTS.”

Enter the thrift store.  There is a giant one in my new neighborhood, and a few weeks ago decided I would check it out.  Just figured I would take a look, see what I could see, maybe get lucky with a couple of new things.  Four hours later, I was walking home with a vintage Band-Aid dispenser, a wooden black cat statue Halloween decoration that scared the shit out of my cat, two t-shirts, and an obsession.  It. Has. EVERYTHING.  I was a little daunted the first time around, as it’s giant maze of humanity; the kids clothes are by the vacuums, the bathing suits (fucking ew, absolutely not, there has to be a line somewhere,) are by the electronics, the furniture is by the shoes, and the coats are mixed in with the dresses.

In addition to the disorganization, it’s simply confusing.  There’s these random, unwritten rules; for instance, you are supposed to take the clothes off the hangers when you get to the register and if you don’t are ostracized by fellow thrifters and the cashier alike, which – especially for the faint of heart like me – can be relatively tough on the self-esteem.  Also, the clientele at this particular store, due to its location, is comprised of stupid hipsters that are simply looking for the most ironic thing they can find, families that are there out of genuine need, and big, scary soccer-mom types who will muscle past you while talking on a cell phone and somehow traveling the aisles with three carts.  (Note: they’re the ones to watch out for.  Trust.)

All of that being said, there’s somewhat of a party atmosphere; there’s a guy with a cart outside selling elotes and tacos who inexplicably has balloons, and they play the most random, fabulous soundtrack of any store I’ve ever been in.  The last time I was there, in succession, they played the Spanish version of “Unchained Melody,” Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”  It was fucking amazing.

Certainly, you have to go in with an open mind.  You have to be willing to pretty much look through everything; clothes are grouped by color, not size, so there are size zero jeans next to size 22s, size smalls next to XXXL.  But here’s a secret – nothing will open your mind faster than getting six pairs of brand name jeans, two pairs of boots, and five shirts/sweaters for a grand total of $37.00. I have gotten more compliments on my thrift store finds in the past three weeks than I have gotten since I began my job almost two years ago.  And thus, an obsession has been born.  Almost without my realization or intent, we seem to be propelling ourselves there every Saturday morning (it’s HALF PRICE DAY!!  HURRY!!) and coming home only ten or fifteen bucks lighter, but with new clothes.

Downside?  It’s actually cheaper to buy new clothes than to do laundry in our building, which for two extremely lazy people will likely become a problem in the very foreseeable future.  Upside?  Aside from the obvious, it’s possibly the greatest people-watching on the planet save for Las Vegas, and it’s a lot cheaper and less stressful to go to Village Discount.

Case in point?  When we were there Saturday, the lines were outrageous.  This is obviously not a big surprise and again is part of the whole “open mind” part of the experience.  Expect to be there awhile.  Anyhow, we were about seventh in line once we finished shopping and settled into our favorite game which basically consists of  mocking others for sport.  While we debated the purchases of the three – seemingly unrelated – men at the register who were buying, among other things, a badminton racket, a dollhouse, four towels (fucking ew again,) and a VCR, when something caught my eye.

Or rather, someone caught my eye.  This girl a couple carts in front of us, all hundred and twenty pounds of her, wearing leggings with cute little patterned leg warmers under her knee high boots (seriously, I don’t even want to talk about how difficult it is to fit my pants inside my boots; you have to have a special kind of tiny baby-giraffe legs to wear thick knit leg warmers underneath them,) a teeny-tiny shirt, and super cute jean jacket.  She had curly hair all piled up in a bun in that way that is meant to look messy but takes most people three hours to accomplish.  She was pretty much stunning and what I pretend I look like when I am putting outfits together in my head, and she was hurting my feelings just for existing.

I looked down at my yoga pants and big comfy t-shirt – perfect for shopping! – and, noticing a stain, remarked to my husband, “Life’s not fair.”  Without missing a beat or taking his eyes off of her, he replied, “No shit.”  A couple of minutes later, he nudged me.  “Yeah, this is probably more our speed,” while pointing down another aisle where a woman was trying to knock a shirt down from a high rack by waving a Halloween scarecrow at it wildly, muttering, “Come on, come ON,” prompting me to burst out laughing so hard I couldn’t compose myself and he nearly sent me outside.

So yeah.  The thrift store pretty much has everything; entertainment, music, people watching, and every possible item you could ever imagine wanting for under five dollars.  Grab some friends and forty dollars – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 

Is that your grandma's coat?

Is that your grandma’s coat?

 

Surviving Winter

If you’re in the Chicago area, you undoubtedly had the conversation today.  It was impossible to avoid, no matter how hard you tried.  The news was all over it, Facebook was awash with amateur weathermen, (excuse me, weatherPEOPLE,) and casual conversations on the elevator couldn’t help but veer towards it; today was the first day of possible snow.  And despite all of the obvious, i.e. it’s the end of October, this tends to happen, and oh yeah, we live in Chicago why are we still surprised at any weather, EVER, we just can’t help but be surprised.  It’s like Mother Nature stopped her tease of the past few weeks, which had lulled us into a false sense of security, thinking, Hey!  Maybe this will be the year we actually WILL have a fall! and just dropped the temperature like 30 degrees while at the same time taking away the sun, leaving half of us standing in flip flops and dresses and the other half in gear fit for Antarctica on a bad day while we all stare at each other, uncomprehending.  Seriously, if one were to come from another planet today and was forced to make assumptions based on how well we dressed for the weather, we would fail everything.

That being said, I’m trying to get over my frustration with the fact that once the temperature dips below 40 degrees social media loses its collective mind and can concentrate only on the weather outside.  So I decided to embrace it; cold, snow, sleet and all, and make a list of what I’d like to accomplish during this upcoming glorious six months of slush.

winter

Dress Appropriately

Here’s something that will likely surprise no one – I am woefully lacking in dressing for the weather.  You’d think, with all my bitching, that I’d pay a tiny bit more attention to all of the Facebook weather updates and manage to dress accordingly, but you would be wrong.  For one, I hate wearing a coat.  Hate it.  I hate being hot more than pretty much anything in the world, and if walking to a bus stop and then waiting for a bus and train in below freezing temperatures for a total of 30 minutes while freezing in a long sleeve shirt means I don’t have to suffer through it being all hot and twisty and miserable for five minutes while ON the bus, I’m all for it.  I tried wearing gloves, a hat, and a scarf with my normal clothes last winter so as not to give myself frostbite, but I was still smoking then and not only almost lit myself on fire, but lost at least one of these items on a daily basis.  In addition, being asked 20 times a day, “Where is your COAT???” from concerned citizens and co-workers is only slightly less annoying than being strangled by that stupid coat.  So this year, I bought a pair of boots, and this weekend, I am buying a coat.  And I am going to spend time – ugh – shopping for said coat, so I don’t leave it hanging up every morning while I throw a DC sweatshirt over my dress pants.

Go Sledding

I haven’t been sledding in years.  The last time I consciously remember sledding, I was in high school and me and one of the boys in my class damn near killed some innocent schoolchildren while careening down the hill, Griswold-style, completely out of control.  It was glorious.  I love sledding.  There is a big sledding hill at the park near my new apartment, and despite the negative effect the addition of forty pounds, Peppermint Schnapps, gangbangers, and diminished coordination may have on the experience, I am going this year.  I don’t particularly care if it kills all of us, because we will die SLEDDING which is awesome.  (Note to self – Google “sleds for uncoordinated adults.”)

Embrace the Chicago Holiday Season

Every year, I’m all, “Ugh, it’s so crowded, and who the hell wants to see stupid window decorations and lights with four hundredy billion tourists?”  This year, I’m going to embrace it.  You know what, Chicagoans?  Especially all of you Loop workers out there?  We are so, so, lucky.  People take bus tours to come see our lights.  People from all over the country make a point to come look at our windows and go shopping in our historic stores.  People visiting will talk for years of the street performer they saw inexplicably playing the Flintstones theme song on the saxophone, (seriously, that must be the easiest song ever on the sax.  EVERYONE knows it.)  And us?  We just brush by all, Ugh, please, people, learn to cross a street!  This year, I am going to do my best to enjoy it.  Please note, I said I would try.  Should you see a post around December 20th entitled “OMG Why Can’t People Just Stay at Home and Shop in Their Own Damn Stores, I Just Need a Fucking Extension Cord and This Target is Not Any Different Than the One in Kansas!” do not be surprised.

Not Fall Down.  In Case of Failure, Allow Self to Wallow Under Blanket for the Rest of the Day

Again in the you’re-probably-not-surprised category, each year I tend to “lose my balance,” at some point during the ice-filled, snow-covered season.  Sometimes it’s because of black ice, sometimes it’s because my shoes are completely unsuitable for snow, and sometimes it’s because I’m just really bad at walking on uneven surfaces.  But this year, I have fucking boots.  This year, I am going to pay attention.  This year, I am considering walking along with one of those wheelbarrows that spreads salt, just to be on the safe side.  However, if this should fail, and I fall down in a puddle of mess on my way down the street, I am GOING BACK HOME.  This year, I will not be mocked on the bus when I get on, covered only on one side with dirty slush.  This year, I will not be asked, whilst trying to maintain dignity despite being soaking wet and bleeding from my hands, “What happened to you!?” from co-workers desperately trying not to burst out into laughter.  I will turn around, go home, make myself a hot toddy or seven, and stay under the blanket where it is warm and dry.

What are your goals for the winter?

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