Thursday, November 29, 2018

Illinois State Symbols

The other night while watching the news, we saw a story about a woman living on the south side of Chicago who plants milkweed in her front yard for the Monarch Butterfly, to aid its migration from Mexico up through the US and back again.  Our "septuagenarian"neighbor, Chester, has done the same thing.  But Chester is a whole other blog unto himself.  More on him later.

And then I remembered as a 6th grader, I sent a letter to Governor (of my home state) of Maryland, Blair Lee III, requesting the Monarch Butterfly be adopted as the State Insect (this was during a class lesson on State Government).  My classmates and I chose the Monarch because of its coloring - orange and black just like the State Bird, the Baltimore Oriole.  A few weeks after mailing the letter, I received a response from the Governor thanking me and my classmates for our interest, but noting that the State of Maryland already had a State Insect: the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly.  The letter came addressed to me at my elementary school.  In those days, that was a BIG deal - on par with getting your picture or name in the newspaper.

So then I got to wondering about state symbols and learned that the Monarch Butterfly is actually the State Insect for (my new state of) Illinois.  Coincidental, I thought, but Chester probably already knows this.  But learning this was not as surprising as finding out the other state symbols for The Land of Lincoln (our State Slogan).  We can start with the popular ones:
State Capital:  Springfield
State Motto:  State Sovereignty, National Union
State Nickname:  The Prairie State
State Song:  "Illinois" (not sure I've ever heard this)
State Tree:  White Oak
State Flower:  Violet
State Bird:  Northern Cardinal
Along with these, we also have a State Flag, a State Seal, and a State Language (English).  However, we also have a few other state symbols that may be a tad more shall-we-say obscure:

State Amphibian: Eastern Tiger Salamander
Illinois designated the eastern tiger salamander as the official state amphibian in 2005. An election was held on the Internet in 2004; the students and citizens of Illinois chose the eastern tiger salamander over the other two candidates (gray tree frog and American toad). Eastern tiger salamanders are the largest amphibian found in Illinois and live throughout the state.

State Fish:  Bluegill
The Bluegill was designated the official state fish of Illinois in 1986, selected by the school children of the state.  A member of the sunfish family, Bluegill are found throughout Illinois.  They grow to about 9 inches and weigh about 12 ounces.

State Fruit: Goldrush Apple
Illinois designated goldrush apples as the official state fruit in 2008.  Mark Richardson's fourth-grade class of Woodlawn Elementary School initiated this legislation after learning that Illinois was one of the few states that did not recognize a state fruit. After doing research and discovering the part played by the University of Illinois in developing the goldrush apple, they contacted Senator John Jones, who was the primary sponsor of the bill. Goldrush apples are a cross of golden delicious and an experimental variety of apple developed by the disease-resistant apple breeding program of the University of Illinois, Purdue University, and Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Sidenote:  Since Illinois has a state fruit, we must also have a state vegetable right?  And that would be sweet corn, so chosen based on the preponderance of corn grown throughout Illinois.  Which naturally brings me to...

State Snack Food:  Popcorn
No real surprise here, but Illinois designated popcorn as the official state snack food in 2003.  There are 333 farms in Illinois that grow popcorn on 47,000 acres​. Corn is native to the Americas, probably first cultivated in Mexico about 5,000 years ago; native Americans started growing corn in Illinois about 100 A.D. Second and third-grade students at Cunningham Elementary School in Joliet proposed popcorn as the state snack food. State Senator Larry Walsh sponsored the bill.

State Folk Dance: Square Dance
Illinois designated the square dance as the official state American Folk Dance in 1990. Twenty-two states have declared the square dance as an official state symbol, and more than thirty bills have been introduced at the federal level proposing the square dance as the national (folk) dance of the United States.

State Reptile: Painted Turtle
Illinois designated the painted turtle as the official state reptile in 2005 (also the reptile symbol of Michigan). An election for favorite state reptile was conducted on the Internet in 2004 (other candidates considered were the Eastern Box Turtle and the common Garter Snake). The citizens of Illinois elected the painted turtle, one of the most widespread and abundant turtle species in the US and Canada. 

State Tartan:  Illinois Saint Andrew Society Tartan
The Illinois Saint Andrew Society tartan was designated the official tartan of the state of Illinois in 2012.  According to Chicago Scots; "The Governors chose a field of blue and white, representing the flag of Scotland. White was also reminiscent of the Illinois State flag's background. Green was incorporated for its representation of the Scottish homeland and a touch of red was a nod to the red, white and blue of the United States flag. Finally, a strand of gold for its association with the eagle on the Illinois State flag."

State Pet:  Shelter Dogs and Cats
Illinois designated "shelter dogs and shelter cats that are residing in or have been adopted from a shelter or rescue facility in this State" as the official state pet of the state of Illinois (effective August 25, 2017).  It seems Illinois couldn't pass a State budget but we had no trouble deciding on what our State Pet should be.  And in doing so, Illinois joins four other states recognizing rescued and shelter pets as official symbols (California, Tennessee, Colorado, and Georgia). 

State Pie: Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie was designated as the official state pie of Illinois in 2015.  According to the Chicago Tribune; "State Representative Keith Sommer of Morton sponsored the legislation as a tribute to how  much pumpkin is produced in Illinois. About 85 percent of consumed pumpkin in the U.S. comes from Illinois."

And there are several others, like our State Prairie Grass (Big Bluestem), State Soil (Drummer Soil), State Mineral (Fluorite), State Fossil (Tully Monster), State Exercise (Cycling), and even our State Artifact (a Pirogue, a canoe made from hollowing out a tree trunk).

Now as unnecessary as all this sounds, these are only the symbols for Illinois.  There are different states that have other legally-adopted emblems that they believe are necessary to help them self-identify; items that they feel represent their great state in a way that nothing else can.  For example, an official State Boat (Maryland), a State Caricature Artist (Texas), a State Gun (Kentucky), a State Cantata (Connecticut), and my personal favourite, a State Cooking Pot (Utah, 'cause nothing says Mormon like a Dutch Oven), to name just a few.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

My White Privilege

Race relations and racial inequality are all over the news today; in fact, it's rare when a newscast doesn't include at least one report of racial violence, especially in Chicago.  Right now, the city is tense awaiting the finished trial and verdict for white city police officer Jason Van Dyke, accused of murdering black teenager, Laquan McDonald in 2014.  Van Dyke has been indicted on 16 counts of aggravated battery (1 for every shot he fired), six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct.

Shortly before 10:00 p.m., police were called to investigate McDonald at 4100 South 
Pulaski Road (in the westside neighborhood of Archer Heights) responding to reports that he was carrying a knife and breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard at 41st Street and Kildare Avenue. When officers confronted McDonald, he used a knife with a 3-inch blade to slice the tire on a patrol vehicle and damage its windshield. McDonald walked away from police after numerous verbal instructions from officers to drop the knife, at which point responding officers requested Taser backup.

Video of the shooting shows that Van Dyke was advancing on McDonald, while McDonald was walking away from Van Dyke when the first shot was fired. The first shot hit McDonald, who spun and fell to the ground. As McDonald lay on the ground, still holding the knife, Van Dyke fired more shots into him. In total, Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times in 14–15 seconds, expending the maximum capacity of his 9mm semi-automatic firearm. Van Dyke was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before opening fire and began shooting approximately six seconds after exiting his car. The first responding officer said that he did not see the need to use force, and none of the at least eight other officers on the scene fired their weapons.
The eventual verdict of this trial has the same measured intensity as the OJ Simpson verdict back in October 1995.  A return of "not-guilty" for Van Dyke will certainly put Chicago into chaos.  I would expect the National Guard, which has long been rumored to be coming to Chicago to assist with our gun crisis, will finally show up in anticipation of riots, looting and other violent activity.  However, a "guilty" verdict may be the atonement for a metropolitan police force that has largely gone unchecked on their behavior until now.  Chicago has a long history of white police officers targeting young black men who may/may not have committed crimes, but are murdered in the street by police before they can even make it to trial.  

It's as if Chicago is two different cities: the white northside, and the south and west sides made up of mostly people of color.

With this in mind, hear my story:

A few mornings ago, I was driving home from the gym.  It was about 7am and Western Avenue was particularly busy, which made turning left off of Western onto any street very tricky.  Just like in most towns and cities in American, Chicago drivers do not understand the concept of "don't block the box" - otherwise known as don't block the intersection. After waiting through 3 cycles of red-green-red-green-red-green, I took a chance and turned on a red light just to make the turn.  And right on cue, an undercover police car flips its lights on behind me.

My first thought was, "Well, shit!"

My second thought was "I haven't been pulled over since 1991."

My third thought was, "My driver's license is sitting on my desk at home."

To avoid going to the gym locker room and possibly forgetting them, I leave my license and credit cards at home in the morning when I go to the gym.  All I really need is the fob that allows me access to the parking lot and the gym itself.  My gym is 5 city blocks from the house.  It's definitely walkable, but not at 5am.  So I drive.

I pulled over and the two white officers approached my door: 

"Yeah", the one started, "that was a red light back there."  I apologized and tried to explain how I had sat through several light changes unable to turn due to traffic.  He asked for my license and I admitted that I did not have it on me.
"That's okay," he said, "what's your name?"  I answered.
"And this car will come back registered to you?" To me and my husband, I answered.
"Okay, do you have insurance on the car?" Yes but I can't find the ID card.
"That's okay, who do you have insurance with?"  Geico
"Okay, I'm just gonna let you off with a warning.  You have a good day."  
Then the officer walked back to his car.  He had taken me at my word that I was who I said I was and that the car was mine.  He didn't run a background check on me of any kind.  And I couldn't help but think to myself, "it's good to be white."

So there are lots of things at play here:
1)  I was driving without my license on me
2)  I could not provide proof of insurance
3)  The proof I did give was erroneous; our car insurance is with State Farm, not Geico.
4)  I outed myself to a police officer.
Believe me when I tell you that black people in Chicago have been killed by police for far less than this - in fact committing just one of these offenses can get you shot on the south and west sides.  African American males who get pulled over call it "driving while black".

In many respects, I count myself a fortunate person:  I'm healthy, educated, have a nice home, great friends, close family ties, and am married to my best friend - all things that I have had a hand in cultivating in my life. However that morning, the only thing I was grateful for was the one thing I had no control over: the color of my skin.  I could say I was lucky that morning.

But I shouldn't have to.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Year Without Dad

One year ago today, July 22, 2017, Dad passed away from complications associated with dementia.  We believe he died peacefully in his sleep after all of his visitors had gone home for the night.  He had turned 78 years old 29 days earlier.

Today also marked the final day of "Firsts".  For the past year, we (especially Mom) have been ticking off the days and how they related to July 22nd.  It's difficult to not be a little maudlin about it all.  I guess when someone close to you dies, you have to go through your year of "first _____ without" before the real healing begins.  First wedding anniversary without him, first Thanksgiving without him, first Christmas, New Year's, Super Bowl, Opening Day of baseball, NASCAR season, etc. And on June 23rd last month, Dad's 79th birthday, the first one he missed.

I went home the weekend before Dad's birthday to be with Mom on her birthday (my parents' birthdays are a week apart) and it wasn't easy to celebrate her 75 years.  We all got together and it was nice, but it wasn't the same.  And it's really strange because for the last 4 or 5 years of Dad's life, he wasn't around for these celebrations anyway, being unable to leave the nursing home.  But at least he was around.

Through all these events, it felt weird to not go shopping for a card or find some wacky gift online to send, or to even call Dad on the phone just to say hello.  I would compare the feeling to being single on Valentine's Day.  But while it's easy to remember the feeling of being alone when the rest of the world seems to be paired up, it doesn't compare to the overwhelming sense of loss from the definite absence of a particular person who you will never see again. Being alone on Valentine's Day feels annoying, but not having your Dad on Fathers' Day feels hollow.

But all that is in the past now.  A full year has gone by, and along with it all the markers we had ridiculously set up to help mark the passage of time.  Starting today, we just go on living without keeping track of anything anymore. 

But the memories will never go away.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Farewell Facebook

Yesterday, after threatening to do so for months, I finally disabled my Facebook account. 

I stuck with it as long as I could, but eventually I just couldn't take it anymore.  The fake news, the unsubstantiated rhetoric, the click bait, and the conservative propaganda made me long for the days of when people posted actual life updates, pictures of the food they were about to consume, and photos of kittens hanging from tree branches.  I stayed on it so that my family and friends who do not live in Chicago, and even a few friends who do, could stay updated on my life and what Kevin and I are doing.  But most of them are connected to Kevin now anyway, and he will share stories and photos with me when those we love have life events.

Back in March, I took 5 weeks away from Facebook just to see how it would go.  And I didn't miss it at all.  Of course I missed the real updates from friends, but they were hard to find amidst all the crap that filled my newsfeed.  I tried in vain to us block content, but to no avail.  So after a few more months of dealing with it, I decided to just disable my account with hopes that eventually Facebook will do what they keep saying they will and return their product to what it was before foreign countries began using it for political gain.

Back in February 2014, I noticed some of my friends were starting to leave Facebook.  Same thing happened again en masse back in April this year when 87 million Facebook users had their personal and private information compromised.

Time on Facebook has cost me dearly.  I can't begin to think of the number of minutes/hours/days/weeks I spent cumulatively just aimlessly scrolling through my newsfeed looking for nothing in particular.  While I don't consider it a waste of time, I do have to wonder if that time would have been better spent spending time with friends or reaching out and calling them for updates rather than relying on a website to keep me updated.

Things I have posted have cause problems with friends, just like some of the things they post have caused me to rethink friendships.  The one that bothers me the most was the deterioration of my relationship with my best friend, Jeff.  And now that he is dead, I will never get those estranged years back again.  Please take a lesson from this.

I used Facebook to help promote this blog, so my readership will most likely go way down.  But that's okay.  I write mostly for me anyway.  But I do hope to return to Facebook someday.  I hope they get their stuff straightened out, for their sake and the sakes of all those who don't realize the lies they read every day.


Sunday, May 06, 2018


Last week while on vacation, I received a text from my friend Jeffrey letting me know that Carl had died suddenly following a seizure of some kind.

Carl was a Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix.  He was rescued by my friends Jeffrey and Michael, who were also the parents of Tucker, whom I also watched for several years when we all lived in DC the same time.  After moving to NYC, and Tucker had passed, a friend reached out to them to tell them about Carl.  At the time, they weren't sure they wanted to adopt another dog.  Tucker had been the love of their lives and the freshness of his passing was still looming large with them.  But the friend was apparently persuasive enough, and sooner than planned they adopted Carl.

Carl had been living on the streets somewhere in the Carolinas, eating pigeons and anything else he could get his paws on.  He was very thin when he moved to NYC, but within a few months of a completely changed lifestyle, he had put on a good bit of weight and much needed fur.  The guys quickly fell in love with Carl, but then so did anyone Carl ever met.

Despite how he had been living, Carl was the gentlest soul I had ever met.  I was fortunate that Jeffrey and Michael would invite me to NYC to watch Carl, just like I had watched Tucker previously.  Kevin joined me the first time we met Carl.  The guys were out and left a key with their doorman.  Kevin and I spent a few minutes fumbling with the keys in the lock, unable to get the door open. We figured the guys must be taking Carl for a walk since we didn't hear any noise from inside the apartment while we played with the lock.  After several minutes, we figured it out and opened the door to find Carl, just laying towards the door, front legs crossed, tail wagging, not making a sound - apparently entertained by our buffoonery.  He slowly stood up and crossed the floor to greet us.  For me, it was love at first sight.

During my first walk with Carl, it didn't take long to realize that he was the unofficial mayor of East Greenwich Village/SoHo.  It didn't take long for Carl to establish himself and make friends in his neighborhood.  He had a walking path that he preferred and you just kind of loose-leashed him and let him lead the way.  He knew where to go, where he would get a treat or a belly rub.  Everyone knew Carl.  I'd walk him down the street and people would ask, "Is that Carl?" and as soon as I said yes, their demeanor changed and they greeted him the way you greet an old friend.  And Carl's tail would just constantly wag.

It was as if Carl realized how good his life was compared to what it had been.  He seemed grateful for the friendships and for the life he had, going from living on the streets to being flown in private jets from one home in LA to another in NYC.  I believe he knew he had it good; he had the best temperament of any dog I've ever met.

Along with Jeffrey and Michael, I imagine the entire neighborhood is feeling Carl's loss these days.  It was as if people were just waiting to see him, or that he had the power to improve their day just by walking by them.  Even here in Chicago, I can sense him gone.

I have to laugh a bit when I think of Carl and Tucker meeting up in wherever dogs' souls go when they die.  If you really believe that all dogs go to heaven, then I am imagining the two of them comparing notes on everyone they mutually knew - which is hilarious in thought because Tucker and Carl couldn't have been more different from each other.  Tucker was as eternal puppy, always a little needy, a bit  mischievous, disobedient, and impatient.  Carl was just the opposite: an easy going old soul, steady and stable, and would stand on a street corner for hours just waiting for you to take the first step.

And so the universe claims yet another kind, tender soul from my life, one that I was lucky the universe brought to me in the first place..  I wish him peace and send my condolences to Jeffrey and Michael, who plucked Carl from an uncertain future and showed him how to love - which he spent the rest of his life giving back to everyone else. 

R.I.P., my sweet friend.

Friday, April 27, 2018

So Now It's ...VERTIGO, Part 2

So after several hours of just sitting and waiting, with the world still spinning around me in all directions, I was finally placed in an ER exam room.  By this time it was 7PM and I had not eaten since noon so I asked the nurse when I could have food and water.  She said I'd be going for a CT scan within the next few minutes so we could address that when I was done.

I had the CT scan which showed nothing:  no stroke, no brain tumor, no brain disease.  Great news!  But the doctors weren't satisfied, so they ordered an MRI.  By this time, it was 8PM on Saturday, April 7th.  They told me it would take a few hours to set up the MRI.

Sound cue: needle scratching across a record

"A few HOURS?  That will put me past midnight!"  So it didn't look like I would be going home that night.  They didn't admit me, so I guess I was just being "kept?

I phoned Kevin and told him not to expect me and not to come visit me.  The orders were that I couldn't eat or drink before the MRI and I was already in a bad mood from being dizzy and nauseous so I told him to stay home and I'd call him when I was done.

And then I waited.

As anyone who has been admitted or, in my case kept, at a hospital, you know you don't get any rest.  Between alarms going off, patients screaming, and the nursing staff congregating at the nursing station like its the student center at a college, the noises alone prevent you from getting any kind of rest.  Add to that the very physical fact that the room is spinning, my eyes are flitting back and forth, my head feels like a giant hand is trying to push me into the ground.  Mix in the fact that my mouth was arid and my stomach was grumbling and I may have been the least pleasant person to be around in Chicago that night.

Because at 12:00 midnight, I still had not gone for the MRI, I still hadn't eaten or had anything to drink, I still had no idea how long I would be there, I had no clue what was wrong with me, and it was now Sunday, April 8th - my birthday.  On my 52nd birthday, I was almost exactly where I was 52 years before:  in a hospital, barely clothed, wrapped in hospital wear, unable to walk and see straight, and with an empty stomach.

But this time - I was not one bit happy about it.

By 4AM, I had HAD it.  I called the nurse and told her to take out my IV, I was going home.  I told them I would schedule my own MRI someplace and send them the results, but that waiting 13 hours for a test was ridiculous.  She said she needed to get the doctor.  Fine, I say.  A few minutes later, the doctor came in and wanted the details, which I methodically laid out for her.  She agreed that the CT scan was clear but that the MRI would tell them more.  She believed I would have mine around 8AM.  Nope, I said.  I'm outta here.  But she played her little ER mind games on me.  And when she offered to go to Subway and get me something to eat, I caved completely.  She came back 15 minutes later with a sub, chips, and a birthday cupcake.  I ate it all and by 4:30AM, I passed out.

At 6:30AM, they took me for the MRI.  I completely passed out during the procedure.  It was the easiest test I had taken so far.  The problem now was that I needed to wait for a doctor to read the results which, they estimated, would be around noon.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record.

Apparently, it takes 6 hours or so for someone to read the results and disseminate the information to the patient.  So now, just more waiting.  I ate breakfast and just as I finished, Kevin walked into the room -- a true sight for sore eyes.  He wished me a happy birthday and suggested we delay celebrating it for a few weeks, to which I agreed.  I updated him on the situation.

A few hours later, the nursing staff came into my room with lunch.  They sang "Happy Birthday" to me and sympathized with my being stuck in the hospital on my birthday.  I even got a piece of apple pie with a little decoration on top.  I mean, they tried.  And it did make me feel a little better.

Around noon, the doctor finally came in to let me know that they had ruled out a stroke, ruled out a brain tumor, but noticed some severe blockage in my left sinuses.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record.

Left sinuses?  The sinuses on which I had three surgeries, the last one being almost exactly one year ago? Those sinuses?  YAAASSSS Queen, THOSE sinuses.  So they suggested I make an appointment with an otoneurologist soon and see my ENT about the sinus infection.  So here we go again.

I was discharged soon after and Kevin took me home.  The rest of my birthday was quiet, just him and me watching TV in the living room.  Perhaps we will celebrate it sometime later, but frankly turning 52 doesn't really mean anything to me.  But he has a big birthday coming up next month, so more to follow on that.

And this story continues as well... 

Sound cue:  sad trombone.

Monday, April 23, 2018

So Now It's . . . VERTIGO

On the morning of Wednesday, April 4th, I was sitting in a conference room at work attending a weekly leadership meeting.  At one point in the middle of the meeting, I turned my head to the right to look out the window and the room began to spin.  It was quite a sudden and jarring action.  When I turned my head back to face the room, the spinning continued.

I shook my head quickly and hard-blinked several times in a futile attempt to realign whatever had been messed up.  But that only served to make the room spin even more.  I'm not diabetic, but I wondered if my glucose levels were off and my sugar was dropping.  So I stood from my chair in an attempt to walk to the corner of the conference room where we always have a ridiculous arrangement of treats and candy, and I immediately thought I was going to fall over.  I grabbed a few pieces of chocolates and woofed them down but nothing seemed to change.  Whether, I sat, stood, or walked, I felt like I was on a shaky merry-go-round, like I was being pushed back and forth and side to side at the same time.

I walked past the candy and excused myself from the room to go to the men's room, which happens to be, of course, down the other end of the hall.  I looked like a pinball bouncing off both walls as I stumbled down.  I looked in the mirror and from what I could tell I looked completely normal.  I could speak, I had used of my appendages, I was cognitive so I figured I wasn't having a stroke.  But no matter what I did, my world seemed to be spinning and shaking uncontrollably.

I managed to walk back to my office and sit down, and as word spread that I was walking like I was still celebrating St. Patrick's Day, my co-workers quickly deduced that I had been stricken with vertigo - something I have never before experienced in my life.  I sat paralyzed, unable to function in any capacity.  My boss, who actually suffers from occasional vertigo, walked me to the local CVS Minute Clinic for diagnosis and treatment.  The diagnosis:  vertigo.  The treatment: meclizine.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record

Turns out I can't take meclizine because it negatively interacts with a drug I already take.  Alternative treatment?  A rub on the shoulder and the advice to see my regular doctor, who squeezed me into his schedule the following day.  I've been with my doctor for 13 years now, ever since moving to Chicago in 2005.  He was recommended by a friend and it was the best advice I've ever taken.  He put me on an antibiotic, a steroid, and told me to visit my ENT - the good one who successfully fixed my sinuses last year, not the bad one who said all my problems were dental.  Ugh, don't get me started.

So I made an appointment with my ENT for the following week.  But by Saturday afternoon (two days of being on the antibiotic), I was feeling worse, not better.  I couldn't raise my head to look up because it made me nauseous.  I had to hold on to every surface in order to move anywhere.  I had to lean against walls to walk.  I felt best when I was laying flat on the bed, just still.  But even with my eyes closed, if I moved my head even ever-so-slightly I could still feel the world spinning.  So on Saturday I posted on Facebook that I wasn't feeling any better and my doctor (who is Friends with me) ordered me to the ER for imaging.

So I had Kevin drop me off at the ER.  I knew I would probably be awhile and didn't want him just sitting and looking at me, so I sent him home and told him I'd call him later with an update.  I was put through triage pretty quickly and then I sat in a wheelchair while I waited for an exam room to open.  I sat in the wheelchair for 4 hours.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record

That's right, 4 hours of just sitting and waiting to be put someplace.  No tests were done, no blood was drawn, no one offered me water or anything.  I just sat in a waiting room alone.  Occasionally someone would pop her head in to apologize and tell me it would just be a little bit longer, but that was all the "care" I got for that amount of time.  I played 86 games of solitaire on my phone.

So like my heart surgery and my sinus surgery, I will be writing about my vertigo in installments.  Perhaps I should rename this blog, "View from my Hospital Bed".

Next up:  A CT scan and an MRI for my birthday

Monday, April 02, 2018

My Month Away From Facebook

On February 25th, I logged on to Facebook and posted the following:
Dear Friends - I just can't take it anymore. I'm staying off of Facebook for the entire month of March. It's doing nothing but infuriating me on a daily basis and causing me to rethink connections with some friends and certain family members. 
Facebook has become too polarizing for me and I don't like how i feel when I am on it. You can still reach me through Messenger (sending a message to me through Facebook), but I won't be posting or reading your posts for a while.

I actually started my month hiatus early.  The posting on the 25th of February was the last time I logged in to Facebook (except for a hot second on March 16th to promote a blog I had written for work) until Sunday, April 1st, when I posted the following:  

I'm ba-aack, but not for long. This is the first time in 5 weeks I have logged in to Facebook and I can tell you I haven't missed it one bit. I actually feel less stress. Over the course of the next week or so, I will be whittling my Friends List down to about 50 people. Those not on the list will still be able to send me messages through the Messenger App, email or of course by text. 
So for most of you, this is the last you'll be seeing of me on FB. Out of sight will not mean out of mind, quite the opposite. Now that I won't be seeing where you're going, what you're doing or even what you are about to eat, I hope it will spur me to reach out and actually speak to you. And vice versa. 
I am now reminded of a song about friendship: 
I guess this is good-bye old pal, you've been a perfect friend,
Don't want to see us part old pal, someday I'll buy you back
I'll see you soon again
I hope that when I do.
It won't be on a plate.

That last part is from the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Into The Woods".  It's sung by Jack, from the beanstalk fame.  He's singing it to his best friend whom he just sold for some magic beans.  The best friend was a cow.

To say that 34 days off of Facebook allowed me to be more productive would be a half-truth.  I am certain there is truth in that statement, but I have nothing to measure it against.  I was able to get a lot done both at home and at work, but I didn't have anything to compare it to.  So even through I say I was MORE productive, I have no proof of that.

I also can't say that I felt less stress in that month because both work and home life had their fair share of stressful situations.  Between being still new in my job and Kevin and I selling our old loft condo, not to mention the normal day-to-day demands on our time and energy, I have not necessarily felt less stressed out.  However I can say that I have felt less stress when it comes to our president and the current state of our Union - mostly because I am ignorant to what is going on in the world beyond my front door.  

In past days, I would wonder why someone would choose to be ignorant and irresponsible by not knowing what was going on in the world.  But today, I completely understand the NEED or DESIRE to be less in-the-know.

That all said, I still find Facebook a valuable way for me to stay in touch with a few close friends and my immediate family.  So while I have not missed spending hours on the site, I have missed being updated on what they are doing, as well as being unable to be contacted by them. So I will remain on Facebook, for now, but with a much-limited list of friends or contacts.  It will be less about who I like most, and more about who I share memories and pictures with most often.  THOSE folks will be the ones who remain.

And fortunately because I am staying on Facebook, even in a limited capacity, I am still accessible through Facebook Messenger (through the site directly and the app), so everyone else can still reach me that way too.  Again - nothing personal folks.  My decision will be based on who I share with regularly.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Backpacks On Public Transit

So I'm taking public transportation to work again.  And I'm sorry to report that not much has changed: people still crowd near the doors, young people still don't give up their seats for their elders, and the person on crutches is still not seen by people sitting in the seats marked for the mobility-challenged because they are too busy looking down at their phones.  And my biggest pet peeve has remained in full bloom: people are still NOT removing their backpacks or large purses and holding them at their sides.

It's mind-numbing that this still happens in 2018.

This morning, while sitting on my ride to work, I got smacked in the face by a backpack that easily doubled the girth of the young man wearing it.  Making us better friends was the fact that he didn't bother to apologize.  And our love was sealed when he didn't respond to my asking him to remove the backpack and hold it at his side.  He looked at me, then back down at his phone.  Nothing.  Yeah - we're best buds now.

People, apparently, are not born with an innate sense of spacial awareness.  This special ability is mostly attuned by people with larger builds who've either been made to feel self-conscious or try to shrink as much as possible in crowded situations.  Likewise, people who use wheelchairs have to immediately assess where they can fit or at least hope people move so that they can access the specifically designated areas for them.  Otherwise, the rest of the world is unaware that they may be encroaching on someone else's personal space.

All too soon, Chicagoans will put away their North Face winter coats and whipped out their North Face jackets and spring fleeces which will thankfully diminish everyone's girth, even if ever so slightly.  But the backpacks and large purses will still be worn by the clueless.  I guess I'll just have to get used to getting hit in the head with said backpacks and shoulder bags because this is apparently how it goes; it's what we do in Chicago.  Like going to the lake, and not putting ketchup on hot dogs. and "dibs". In the 23 years I've been riding subways and buses, it's never changed.

And really, why should I have expected that?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bad Neighbors

The sidewalk in front of West House
on our block.  Ugh.
If there is any semblance of justice in the afterlife, Hell is 10 degrees hotter for those people who simply refuse to shovel the snow from the sidewalk in front of their residence(s). Because the only 2 reasons for neither doing it nor having it done are 1) laziness and/or 2) a complete lack of respect for your neighbors.

On either side of our adorable and well-maintained house are neighbors who live in variant degrees of negligence when it comes to the upkeep of their premises.  Neither neighbor lives on their actual property:  The house to the east (heretofore "East House") is a rental property with two units.  It was renovated all last summer and tenants moved into it in September.  The house to the west (heretofore "West House") is in transition from being single family to being two rental units, just like East House.  Sadly, West House is about 90% completed with its renovation, and that's where it's been since we moved in three years ago.  Since March 2015, the same bottle of Windex has sat in a window in West House without moving.  No work has been done in or on the house since we moved in next door.

While admittedly it was somewhat nice NOT having neighbors, the City of Chicago is still very clear when it comes to maintaining your property, specifically mowing the lawns in the summer and removing the snow in the winter. 

For grass that need mowing:  Any person who owns or controls property within the city must cut or otherwise control all weeds on such property so that the average height of such weeds does not exceed ten inches. Any person who violates this subsection shall be subject to a fine of not less than $600 nor more than $1,200. Each day that such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense to which a separate fine shall apply.  

And for sidewalks that need shoveling, a City of Chicagordinance makes it crystal clear that property owners are required by law to remove snow seven days a week: For daytime snowfall, sidewalks must be cleared by 10 p.m., and for nighttime snowfall, it must be removed by 10 a.m. at the latest.  Violations during both summer and winter are to be reported to your Ward Alderman.

The owner of East House has been very responsive to my requests to maintain his property once I presented my concerns.  While that house sat empty for the first two years of our living here, I mowed the grass on the parkway and kept the snow shoveled on the public sidewalk - mostly because we didn't know who actually owned the building.  The owner rents the house to tenants and now employs a service to maintain the sidewalks and lawn for the house.  But still, now and then, I need to call him because the service doesn't show up according the to regulations listed above.  But it's mostly taken care of within hours.

The neighbor for West House is a different story.  And I could easily write an entire blog about my interactions with him, and will probably do so.  We've been in a few verbal altercations.  It's a hoot.  But I digress...

Lovely, isn't it?  I am going to covertly throw
down wildflower seeds in the spring.
He's completely unresponsive when I call him to complain, so then I call the Alderman's office who then, in turn, fines him and gives him a deadline to bring his property up to snuff.  Within hours of receiving the fines and notices, he shows up.  But instead of mowing the grass in the summer, for example, he pulls it all up by the roots so that the entire yard is nothing but a giant dirt pile (see picture to the left).  In the last three winters, he's never showed up to shovel the public sidewalk or the sidewalk and stairs that lead into his house.  Looking at the property, it's glaringly obvious that no one lives there and looks, for all intents and purposes, to be abandoned.  Which it is, for the most part.

So for the 4th or 5th time this winter, it has snowed here in Chicago.  Which mean I've had to call the Alderman as many times to complain about my neighbor not doing his civic duty.  I don't know if he pays the actual fines, but according to Chester, our self-described "octogenarian pre-Stonewall 'mo" who lives on the OTHER side of West House, the neighbor is a piece of bad news who owes back taxes on more than one property in Chicago.  (Chester has lived in this neighborhood since the '60s and once operated a bookstore in the building in which he currently lives.  Chester knows.) 

The saga continues...