December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009...Hello 2010

Well here it is...the end of another year and time to reminisce about all the good and sad time of 2009. This year sure has been a whirlwind of emotions for me but am so thankful for all I have and am so excited to ring in another new year! As I've done in the last couple years, I like to share my year in chronological order where my life has been...

January
  • Started the New Year in Steamboat with Laura, Tom and Samuel, my first time skiing in 10 years! (this was the weekend, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Jason...awww)
  • Started serving at our church's "Connections Desk"
  • Andrew turns 2!
  • Grandpa celebrated his 90th Birthday with a big celebration at my parent's house
  • I became a brunette
  • I was laid off from my job as a Special Events Manager
February
  • Started working part-time at a school in their Development office...met Heather. :)
  • Learned all about COBRA and unemployment benefits
  • Attended "Corporate Challenge" for Young Associate Board affiliated with Children's Memorial Hospital
  • Turned 30! Celebrated with Meredith at a sushi BYOB
  • Had a 30th birthday bash at Jason's with lots of my closest friends
March
  • St. Patricks Day in true Chicago fashion
  • Went back to being a blond...they really do have more fun!
  • Shawn, Tiff and I threw a surprise 60th Birthday party for Dad...I mean 59th...
  • Saw Chris Tomlin Worship concert at Sears Center
  • Found a sub-let and packed up 3115 Southport...
April
  • Sam, Chaz and I moved back to the suburbs
  • Trip to Cancun with Mom, Dad and Jason
  • Started attending a women's Tuesday morning group/class/Bible Study in the burbs
  • Cub's Opener with Ellis and Josh
  • Brittany Spears "Circus" concert
  • Gave up drinking bottled water for Earth Day...and still going strong!
May
  • Planned and attended my first Cubs Rooftop game (for Young Associates Board)
  • Got my first couch!
  • Mothers Day in Ottomwa, Iowa
  • Said our goodbyes to Grandpa who was laid to rest on May 20...I miss you, Grandpa!
  • My parent's brought home Sophie!
  • Mom, Dad, Jason and I saw Mary Poppins, on Broadway
June
  • Young Associates Board's "Summer Luau"...was canceled :(
  • Got an i-phone!! (then learned all about AT&T's deadzones first hand!)
  • Cubs/Twins game and Old Town Art Fest with Meredith and Jason
  • Ran Children Memorials, "Race for the Kids 5k"
  • Joined Ellis and her family on their family vacation in/on Green Lake, Wisconsin
  • Michael Jackson died
  • Cubs/Sox game
  • Small Group begins
July
  • Went to Brookfield Zoo with Karrie and the kids
  • Survived Phil's Birthday bash in Des Moines, IA at 80/35
  • Bike ride to Navy Pier for fireworks with Jason
  • Rascal Flatts at Wrigley Field
  • Women's Race...barely survived this one
  • Visited Cousin Amy in Rock Island
  • Ran and volunteered for "Run for Gus" 5k...Young Associates Board's 5k
August
  • Jason and I rode our bikes all over Chicago trying to find Meredith as she ran and completed her first Half Marathon - YAY MEREDITH!
  • Dog-sat Sophie in Chicago
  • Trip to see my family in Geneseo
  • Attended Willow Creek's Leadership Summit...amazing leasders/speakers!
  • My first Lollapolooza!!!
  • I was baptised...again.
  • Celebrated Mom's birthday at the lakehouse
  • Saw Cavalia
  • Heard Pearl Jam at United Center
  • Went on my first mission trip - Baja, Mexico
  • Figured out what I want to be when I grow up - A Special Ed teacher
September
  • So sick from some Mexican stomach bug
  • Stacy's 30th Surprise party
  • Cubs Bleachers...first time in the bleachers in a couple years!
  • Architecture Tour...and ran into Jenee and Will there
  • Saw DMB...in Iowa!
  • Cubs game with Mom, Dad, Uncle Dennis, Marilyn and Jason...Mom's second Cubs game!
  • Phil and Laura in town...more Cubs bleachers
October
  • My baby, Chaz was put to sleep
  • Over-night trip to Devils Lake
  • Jason proposed!
  • We're Engaged!
  • Dog-sat for Jelenik's labs
  • Walked 5 miles for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer - our team raised over$1,000
  • Met Aunt Shelby for some girl time and wine...way overdue!
  • Volunteered at Young Associates Board's Hospital Party at Children's Memorial
  • Served at a homeless shelter with our small group
November
  • Andrew's sister, Kate, was born
  • Saw Hillsong United's Documentary with Christy
  • Cousin Amy and her friend visited Chicago
  • Our Engagement party at Shawn and Tiff's
  • Went to see "New Moon" with Jacinda
December
  • Cousin Karrie donated her kidney to her husband, Al - so this really has nothing to do with me, but was a HUGE blessing this year!
  • Started working at Nohea Cafe
  • Attended Chris Tomlin's "Glory in the Highest" Christmas tour with Christy
  • Celebrated Christmas with the small group girls
  • Willow Christmas with my parents and Jason
  • Sioux City, IA for Christmas with Jason's family
As I look back at 2009, I again realize how blessed I am. As last year closed our, I had this uneasy feeling that something big was going to happen in 2009, something life-changing. It wasn't even a month into the year that I lost my job. From that first day, I have tried to maintain a positive attitude and remember that God is there for me and won't let me fall. I could probably write a book about all the things I have been able to be a part of or how much my life has changed (in good ways) because of this one loss. (I probably will blog about it all once I'm working again!) There is no way I thought I'd be writing my "closing of 2009" entry sitting on a couch in Wheaton, IL, but gosh have I been able to experience amazing things because of this big loss. I have a great family, incredibly loving and loyal fiance, good health and an amazing God who loves me and always has my back!

------------------------------------------

As I said last year, rather than New Years Resolutions, I like to call them "positive changes." First, I posted my 2009 "positive changes"...then commented after it with my progress. Followed by that are my 2010 Positive Changes.

2009 Positive Changes...and their progress...
  • less wine...always something I struggle with!
  • Nashville 1/2 marathon in April...was injured, then the move put a damper on things!
  • more time at the gym....still going strong!
  • grad school if I feel led by God...God led me to be a Special Ed teacher and I should start in March at National Louis University!
  • trip to see Anne and JT...went in July to Geneseo
  • keep up with my reading...still trying
  • eat healthier...still trying
  • turn 30...check!
  • Cubs make it to the World Series...2010 will be it :)
  • spoil my cats even more than I did in 08...check!
  • Chicago Marathon (and run for a charity)...see Nashville 1/2 update
  • trip to see Laura (can check that one off! :)...check
  • Move to Bucktown?...Wheaton, Bucktown? Whats the difference ;-)
  • See Chris Tomlin in March...check, plus again in December!
Last but not least...
constantly improve myself by keeping God first and respecting Jason as he needs to be respected....Always, always working on this!

"Positive Changes" for 2010
  • get a job!
  • less wine
  • Run the Disney 1/2 marathon in Jan '11 (or something before)
  • find a new serving opportunity at the church I can serve in
  • lose 10 lbs...preferably by 9/18!
  • begin grad school for Special Ed teaching
  • Read the Bible, starting with the new testament...and finishing with the old
  • Cubs make it to the World Series
  • Be comfortable praying outloud
  • Keep a clean car (bring my mugs/cups in every day)
  • Marry my best friend
  • Move back to Chicago
  • convince Jason to let me get another cat ;-)
As always...constantly improve myself by keeping God first and respecting Jason as he needs to be respected. This year it is especially important to remember to keep God first in all of our wedding plans and as we start our lives together

Happy 2010!!

December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas with Mom and Dad (and Sophie)

As I was driving back to the city yesterday I realized I didn't mention the amazing Christmas celebration Jason and I had with my mom and dad! A week ago Sunday, Jason and I went to my parents house. We started by opening our Christmas presents by the Christmas tree. Every year for as long as I can remember, my mom gives my brother and me an ornament. Generally that year's ornament has a theme to it. This year, she gave Jason and I an ornament for our engagement. It's a bear on one knee proposing with this ginormous ring, with the date and location of the proposal. I told her that in years to come, she'll need to start buying for Jason and for each of our kids! Then, Jason, myself and our little ones can all decorate the tree together...the tree Grandma and Grandpa gave us! After presents we all sat down for an amazing meal cooked by my mom. It was complete with ham (my favorite!), twice-baked potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes (another favorite!) and cherry pie. I think there was more than that, but I know I had 3 helpings of each! Mom even used her fancy Christmas dishes! After opening presents and stuffing our faces, we went to the Willow Creek Christmas service. The service was amazing. I know, I know...I say that about every Willow Creek service, but I didn't love, love, love last years Christmas service but thought this year's was magical! Both my parents enjoyed it which meant a lot to me since Willow is the church I call home. Christmas 2009 in We-Go was a very special Christmas for me, keeping some of our family traditions while switching up some others.

Click here for more info on the Willow Creek Christmas service. (do it...you know you want to!)
*theres a few cute photos with us in front of the tree...and one of me and sophie...but the camera is missing. :( I will post them when I find it!

We're Going Shopping!

I am so excited! I just scheduled an appointment to go dress shopping on January 11! My mom and Meredith are going with that day to a couple stores. Then if I can't find my dress that day, we have January 23 planned as our back-up date...a week-end date where more people can hopefully come. I have a couple dresses picked out that I like the style (and price!) Since I've never really looked into anything wedding-related, this has been crazy fun looking at wedding magazines and dresses and trying to figure out colors and all the little details that Jason doesn't have a strong opinion about. It's a tiny bit more stressful too since I have no clue what I want, but OH MY GOSH, I am going to be a bride!! :) YAY!

December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! Mine sure did fly by. I was organized and got all my presents early and spent last Wednesday night wrapping ALL of them while listening to Christmas music. Sam enjoyed that a lot and kept me company!

this was right before he climbed into the box

then curled up right next to me...on the wrapping paper and tissue!

Jason and I went to Sioux City, Iowa for Christmas this year. We will be trading off Thanksgiving and Christmas each year...last year was Thanksgiving in Iowa and Christmas here. This year we flipped it. This was the first Christmas away from home. I didn't do as well as I'd have liked; I am such a homebody. Plus, we were in the country and ended up getting snowed in which really put me out of my comfort zone. Through it all though, our Christmas as an "engaged couple" was very special. Everyone from Jason's mom side of the family was able to make it in for Christmas. His cousin, John was in from Atlanta and his cousin, Brad was there from Florida. Brad's girlfriend was also able to fly in from Atlanta. His cousin, Andrea, was home from school but is usually in Arkansas. Obviously, Jason and I both from Chicago. His brother, Phil, and his fiance, Laura, were in from Des Moines. They were only supposed to be stopping in for a few hours and head back out to South Dakota but the snow storm kept them with us all through Christmas and even longer than Jason and me! Both of Judy's sisters, Dawn and Bonnnie were able to be there along withJason's uncle, Bernard and cousin, Daniel. Bless Daniel's heart for all that he did for us that weekend...driving us back and forth on the Arctic Cat, ploughing all the snow so we could get though!

snowed in at Daniel and Bernard's house so Daniel brought us over to Grandma and Grandpa Jones on the Arctic Cat. It was quite an adventure for suburbanite me.


The highlight of the weekend was that we were all at Jason's grandparents farm house. It was very special to be with them, all of us cozied up in the kitchen to celebrate together. After we opened presents, Jason's Grandpa read a letter from "Jesus" about the true meaning of Christmas.






From being snowed in, to the shoveling incident, to the Arctic Cat, to Uncle Bernard and his kidney stone, to a flooded basement, to no running water, toliets or dishwashers and the County Parson, it's one I know I will never forget.

Merry Very White Christmas 2009!

December 22, 2009

Small Group Christmas Celebration

Need I say it again? I love you girls!

As I have shared numerous times, my small group is wonderful! Us girls in the group decided to have a small Christmas gathering in December since the group isn't meeting through the holidays. We all dressed up and brought a small Christmas gift for the gift exchange. We each brought some delicious cookies, cider or appetizer and just had a nice night of fellowship next to the fireplace and 1.5 ft tree. I'm hoping this will be the first of many years that I host a Christmas gathering. (Thank you Jason for allowing me to host at your place!) It was yet, another way to appreciate the Christmas season with loved ones and prepare for the birth of our Savior.

Eleni opening her gift...everything you'll need for a relaxing night in!

Nikki got a beautiful necklace...until Meredith stole that from here in round 2!

Another themed gift for Melanie, such a creative group of girls!

Goodbye ORD and Hertz Car Rental!

After 2 years in prayer, Jason is no longer traveling for work!! Our first year together Jason traveled every week, Sunday through Thursday. The later months of him traveling in '08 nearly killed our relationship. It was through no fault of Jason but through my own selfishness that I needed him home a lot more and needed to be able to talk to him a lot more regularly. Yes, I am a needy person in a relationship. I get lonely and I talk a lot...so a long distance relationship where Jason was working so much he couldn't talk to me until the wee hours of night wasn't my cup of tea. Last January, Jason accepted a new job and was only expected to travel once a month. Now, that was something I could get used to! All the other days he was working from his home office (approximately 10 steps from his bedroom!) That worked really well for me since I am unemployed, I was able to see him whenever I wanted. Even though he was working, just having him home was wonderful. It wasn't until my grandpa was sick and passed away in May that I realized how much one week away was still too much. There are times in our lives when we can't plan when we need him to be here and since Jason and I are planning to have children some day, him traveling is not something I would desire. A few weeks ago, Jason accepted a position where his office and client are in the loop, Monday through Friday, normal business hours. What an answer to prayer!

This past Friday night, I dropped my friend off at ORD and the emotions that came upon me as I pulled out after dropping her off were unreal. I was pulling out of the airport without tears in my eyes! (Not that I won't miss you Meredith!) but this was the first time in over 2 years that I dropped someone off and was not truly sad.

I am so thankful that Jason isn't traveling anymore. I am fully aware that with the type of work that he does, it is likely that he'll be traveling again someday, I just pray it isn't someday real soon and am enjoying any days we have that he isn't boarding a flight or renting a car for a week!

Chris Tomlin


You must use your imagination on this one and pretend it's the night of December 8th. (as I said in the Christmas tree post...I'm very behind on my entries!) Christy and I went to see Chris Tomlin perform his Christmas show, "Glory in the Highest" with Louie Giglio and special guest Audrey Assad. The show was incredible. Not that I really expected anything less from Chris Tomlin but it was such a wonderful way to get in the Christmas spirit. As a side note, I highly recommend picking up a copy of his Christmas CD, "Glory in the Highest." It was my "one Christmas CD" that I bought this year and is one I will be listening to for many, many years to come!

song-of-the-day|"Glory in the Highest"| by Chris Tomlin

Andrew has a Baby Sister

Katherine Grace Schuetz was born November 4, 2009 at 11:29am weighing 7 lbs, 13 oz and 20 inches long. She is absolutely precious and perfect in every way. Congrats Michael, Susan and Big Brother, Andrew!

PS...could that name be any more beautiful!?

December 21, 2009

My First Christmas Tree


This entry would probably be much better had I written it when I intended to write it...the weekend of Thanksgiving, but I have had serious writers block and haven't been able to get started on any entries lately.

Last year our church's Christmas series was called, "Prepare" which also had a daily devotion which was emailed daily with ways to "Prepare" you for Christmas day. It came in the perfect time in my life. I made every effort to get all my Christmas shopping done early, wrapped presents with matching bows and just enjoy the little things leading up to Christmas without being stressed about everything. Not that I really had anything to stress about, but being that I had worked retail for many years leading up to last year, the Christmas season had sadly lost part of its meaning so I was very excited to "prepare" myself differently last year.

One of the ways I really made an effort to enjoy the season was while putting up my Christmas decorations I listened to Christmas music and drank hot cocoa with my favorite Christmas scented candle, Tree by Bath and Body Works, scenting the room. It made such a world of difference to hang the lights around the windows and decorate my tiny 1.5 ft tree while singing along to Christmas tunes and sipping hot chocolate!

This year, it was even more fun decorating. My grandma gave me hers and Grandpa's old tree which is a pre-lit tree and stands at 7.5 feet!! I was tempted to put it up at Jason's since I was hosting a Christmas party for our small group (blog to come) but I decided to embrace this year as my last Christmas in my own place and put the tree and all my holiday decorations up here. I had a blast buying ornaments for the tree and picking out the perfect star for the top of the tree. what I hadn't prepared for was just how emotional it was spreading the branches knowing the last person to have done that was my grandpa. It meant so much more to me knowing that this was the tree that he had put up and taken down. It's amazing what a larger Christmas tree can do to a room. It is so festive here and I feel my grandpas presence every time I light it. Thank you Grandma for sharing this tree with me. I love it more than words could ever say.

song-of-the-day|Emmanual|by Chris Tomlin (though my favorite Christmas CD is Point of Grace, "Tennessee Christmas," there aren't many good songs on youtube, so my second favorite Christmas CD is Chris Tomlins...so enjoy!)

December 7, 2009

2 years


Today is the 2 year mark since Jason and I went on our first "date." It wasn't much of a date in the way I would normally think of a first date. (he had me meet him out at a bar and brought his cousin with him!! :) But we had a blast! It was the first night (of many) that we really got to know each other and spent about 7 hours talking non-stop. The past 2 years have been an amazing journey. Jason has helped me grow as a person and with my relationship with Christ. It is with great joy that I type this and know we will be spending the rest of our lives together. We've already had so much fun planning our wedding and can only imagine the fun we will have leading up to September 18 and beyond! I love you, Jason. Thank you for the most amazing 2 years of my life. xoxo

December 5, 2009

It's a KING

I feel kind of weird blogging about this but I am too excited not to! Jason bought a new bed shortly after we started dating and it ended up being defective. Basically it slanted toward the middle. Jason had to go through many steps in order to get the bed returned. He had to prove that there was at least a 1 1/2 inch drop in the bed, which he did. Though his place is not really large enough for a King-sized bed, I know there will be more years ahead in a different home than his currently place of residence . I cannot express just how excited I am to have a King-sized bed when we're married!! It'll be like we're on vacation every night! I wish I had some way of convincing Jason the bed needs to be stored at my apartment instead of his until then, but I guess my full-sized bed will have to do. Sooooo excited!!

November 30, 2009

Tuna

Tonight was the first night I opened tuna and only one cat came running. I miss Chaz. Sammie is a completely different cat now. He never leaves me side and cuddles as Chaz used to. There is nothing I would change about Sam, but I miss having 2 kitties who come running to greet me at the door, or sleep next to me or come running when I open a can of tuna. Miss you Chazzy!

November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend

This weekend has been the best Thanksgiving weekend I've had in a LONG time! The holiday was great with my family at my aunt and uncle's house in Yorkville. Black Friday was spent cleaning my entire place which was way overdue. That evening we met Rebekah out for drinks at Martini Ranch; it was nice to see her and catch up! Not to mention the amazing martini's they have there - YUM. Saturday we were lazy, lazy, lazy but finally went out for soup at the Soupbox, which was a great way to welcome winter back to Chicago! However, that evening was unseasonably warm for late November so our walk there and back made me fall even more in love with Chicago. Today we went to church and did our normal Sunday routine of breakfast after then Jason packing and watching football while I nap. This weekend was wonderful! So thankful for that!!

November 28, 2009

Engagament Party

Sorry for the ridiculous delay, but we had an amazing time at our engagement party. A HUGE thank you to my parents for helping plan with buying all the paper goods and to my mom for making a lot of the food and dad for the excellent brownies (and not putting nuts on all of them ;-) Thanks Shawn and Tiffany for hosting the party, it was so nice of you to offer your place since mine was too small and we thought by having it in Chicago wed miss out on a lot of our suburban family/friends. Maybe this will be your last big party at that house?? Thanks to Phil, Laura, Judy and Mark for traveling in from Iowa for the entire weekend to be with us. We are so glad you got to meet my family and all our friends! We are so excited to have all of you be part of our special day and hope you will be able to attend! Thanks again for joining us at our party! Click here to see the pictures from that night! Thanks again!



Our Wedding Party

Phil, Chris, Meredith and Shawn (not pictured, Katie, our flowergirl)

click here for our friend, Christy's, post on our party. Those umbrella's sure were great, Christy! LOL.

November 26, 2009

What I'm Thankful for this Thanksgiving

I've created my thankful list every year but this is the first year that my blog is public. Feel free to share your top 5.
*these are in no specific order!
  • fun coffee mugs
  • cats
  • nice people
  • family
  • red wine
  • heat
  • greeting cards
  • my new couch
  • my honda
  • good health
  • 90210
  • Jacinda
  • Mexico
  • not working at a recent place of employment anymore
  • my apartment
  • pictures
  • Dad
  • hand lotion
  • being engaged to my best friend
  • glasses
  • God
  • Jason's family
  • cheesy movies
  • small group
  • xsport
  • love
  • nail polish
  • Meredith
  • tea
  • good sales
  • Sam
  • Hobby Lobby
  • birthdays
  • my iphone
  • Grandma
  • Panera
  • my parent's lakehouse
  • facebook
  • dental care
  • Mom
  • lipgloss
  • milk
  • my lap top
  • Shawn and Tiffany
  • my cousin's children
  • being baptised this year
  • hugs
  • my bike
  • Barnes and Noble
  • friendly dogs
  • blankets
  • sunshine
  • girls nights
  • flowers
  • air conditioning
  • hooded sweatshirts
  • doctors
  • summer
  • Christmas trees
  • horses
  • Olive Garden
  • books
  • Klove
  • Target
  • easy recipes
  • clean sheets and towels
  • unemployment benefits
  • Dominicks salsa
  • Sophie
  • my engagement ring
  • holiday candles (perfect autumn and perfect christmas from BBW)
  • college degree
  • Chicago
  • snow
  • Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend
  • DMB
  • warm towels
  • running shoes
  • our freedom
  • Jason's condo
  • hospitals
  • Lakefron bike path
  • Willow Creek
  • When Jason lets us drive to church (instead of el!)
  • popcorn
  • The Bible
  • Wrigley Field
  • Real Simple magazine
  • our wedding website
  • Young Associates Board
  • Christmas music
  • children
  • safe drinking water
  • Disney movies
  • blistex
  • an education
  • vacations
  • friends
  • Walgreens

November 12, 2009

Noticable Changes

So I'm almost through week one of really trying to get into shape and eating better. I've kind of eased into this with trying to eat better, drink less wine and incorporate some form of daily activity in on a daily basis. This week was the real deal! Monday I took Sophie for a walk/run. She was so good as a running partner, never stopped to smell anything and every time I stopped to walk, she turned around and gave me a dirty look, so definitely a good motivation to keep me running. (who wants to disappoint the cutest black puppy?) Tuesday I went to an ab class at the gym. It's Thursday and it still hurts to cough, sneeze, bend over, breathe, etc. Wednesday I met with a personal trainer. I have 2 more sessions left from back in the day and thought I'd get good use out of them. My new trainer, Adriene brought me brought me through the typical orientation/assessment. I shared my goals of losing 10-15 lbs, gaining muscle and basically just getting myself into shape again. Today I went to the gym and did the elliptical, so today makes 4 days straight of doing something! We've been eating better too and not drinking. It's Jason's birthday and we're not even toasting with a glass of wine. (that was not my idea...I think birthdays require a glass of wine!)

We'll see how long I can keep this up but I'm off to a good start! :)

November 4, 2009

i-heart.org

I am honestly at a loss for words of how to even begin to descibe what I am feeling in my heart. What I I do know is that I need to put something down in writing to come back to tomorrow and the day after to review and pray about.

It is by no accident that I have been emailing back and forth with the global team at Willow about me possibly co-leading and then leading a group to Mexico or beyond next year.It was also no accidnt that my plans were canceled tonight which allowed me to meet Christy to see Hillsong United's documentary, "I Heart Revolution." I know in my heart that I have been prompted to listen to where God sees me in the next year and though I really only have it in my head to plan a wedding, find a job, start grad school, marry the love of my life and begin our future together, God may have some other plans for me. I'm scared out of my mind but am trusting Him to lead me the next few weeks, months or even years as I now have a much clearer understanding of my calling.

More to come on this but in the meantime, here's a tiny intro to what Christy and I saw this evening. (click here) and then see i-heart.org. I am not sure what the plans are for this film being released onto DVD and when that will happen but you can be assured that it will be a top priority of mine to make sure everyone I come into contact with sees it. It wrecked me. AMAZING. Thank you Jesus and thank you Hillsong United for the impact I pray you are making all over the world.

Uh-Oh

There's a dead squirrel in front of my building. I really hope it's not Rusty! :(

November 1, 2009

I love my small group!

I've been in 3 different small groups (fancy word for a group of 10-15 people who meet regularly to study a book of the Bible or certain topic led by one or two trained individuals.) It was joining a small group which helped me to grow in my relationship with Christ. Therefore, I am a firm believer in belonging to one for accountability reasons and I especially love what I gain from the community aspect since I am the extrovert that I am.

My first group was through Park Community and was a group of girls all in very different places in our spiritual journey but I met one of my closest friends, Virginia, in that group. Then I joined another group which didn't have a leader and was a bit over my head, but my third group was an amazing group of girls all on very different paths in many ways but I grew so much for this group as well.

Back in May or June, Meredith and I wanted to join a group together so we registered for what we thought was a women's group. Turns out it was co-ed but still wanted to be in a group for the summer so we moved forward. Being that it was co-ed, I asked Jason if he wanted to join us and he registered as well. Over the summer we studied the book of Acts with a focus on community. We had a social outing every other week which was a great way to get to know everyone. We went bowling, had a picnic in the park, happy hour at Sushi Samba (yum!) and a few other outings. It is an extremely non-threatening environment and a wonderful group of women and men who help each of us in our walk with God and act as a support system in whatever we may need. Jason and I are in our second semester with the group, this time studying Tim Keller's "The Prodigal Son" which isn't holding my attention as much as it is is for others but value the fellowship and friendship I've gained from these individuals.

*The picture above is from last Sunday night. We served together at Joshua Center which is a women's shelter on the west side. We prepared lasagna and spaghetti served with salad and bread. Amazing group. Amazing time. I am so thankful for each other these individuals! Love you guys!!

*not pictured: Christy, Jason and Ismael. The woman in pink is the women's shelters staff and my friend, Michelle, in red joined us that evening as well.

October 29, 2009

Stephanie's Emailing Rules

Not to go off on a tangent or anything but this is something I've been wanting to blog about for a while and as the days go on, the more and more emails I receive where someone has cc'd me on an email about something totally unrelated to everyone else on the distribution list except that we all have the sender as our common interest. As if that isn't annoying enough, it is taken a step further when each of those receiving the email hit "reply-all" and I then am bombarded with a half million peoples thoughts and feelings about whatever the forward, update, announcements or whatever are.

First, let me be clear and state that I am not talking about business emails or personal emails to a group of friends trying to arrange a dinner date or the such. This speaks specifically to general emails wanting to forward something they absolutely have to share with everyone or to make a general announcement.

In my opinion there should be a really good reason that someone is sending an email to friends/family in the cc instead of bcc. It is the senders responsibility to protect the recipients privacy (email addresses) and add everyone through bcc. However, in the rare case one should choose to send an email and cc everyone, it should be assumed it is a close group of friends and everyone knows everyone. It is only after you've established that everyone knows everyone and really, truly, positively believe that it's necessary to let everyone you're emailing know that you're emailing all your other friends too, then by all means, use the cc. Though need I state once more, it is a very very rare situation that the cc should be used.

So now that we have the etiquette of sending email via cc...lets move on.

Should your friend not obey the rules stated above and you are receiving some horrific news that your friends uncle has passed...or your best friends cousins, brothers grandmas great-grandsons been murdered in a gang fight....or some exciting news that your friends eloping to Vegas tomorrow or their expecting quadruplets, it is now up to YOU to respond accordingly. Please, I beg you, please only respond to those who are really affected by whatever it is you have to say. There is no need to send your congratulations or sympathies to everyone on the distribution list! As if it's not bad enough that this person has shared your email address with a million other people, please make it stop there and not draw attention to this annoyance! Though the reply-all button may be begging to be clicked simply ignore it and click reply. Or better yet, send the person a real heart-felt card via snail-mail. But that's a topic of conversation for another time. Happy emailing!

October 26, 2009

Think Pink with Striders With Hope!


Back in 2005 one of my first events I had was to help recruit walkers and help with the logistics for the American Cancer Society's breast cancer walk, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. I've always loved everything about this walk and especially where the money goes. I'm proud to say that I worked for the American Cancer Society since I believe that the money goes to cancer research. I've been involved in this walk in some capacity from working it, having bar fundraising parties or walking it since 2005 and this year was able to form a very small team but our team was over to raise $1,000! (a huge thanks to Ellis for raising over 3/4 of that!) The walk was a beautiful 5 miles on the north side of Chicago along parts of the bike path, around Montrose Harbor and then back along the lake. It's such a wonderful way to feel like you're making a difference in the lives of those who are battling, are survivors and who have lost their lives to this devastating disease. Thanks so much to my team, "Striders With Hope," Ellis, Josh, Les, Beth, Jason and Carli for fundraising and/or participating last Sunday, October 18!

Also, a huge thanks to those who donated to our team, Sarah, Brooke, Michelle, Mom & Dad, Rob and Beth!! Though it seems like everywhere you turn there's a pink ribbon this month, it's for a good reason. Early detection is KEY! So be sure to to do your monthly breast-self exams and women over 40 should call to schedule a mammogram. For more information about early detection guidelines for breast cancer (and other types of cancer) click here. Think Pink!

October 24, 2009

Andrew

In May of '07 the church I used to attend (Park Community Church) put together a babysitters list which would be distributed to parents who attended Park. The idea was to be that this list was only shared between those attending Park, which would serve as a way of finding a babysitter who shares the same Christian values...however, that wasn't the case and I was getting calls for different babysitting opportunities weekly. The jobs ranged from one-time jobs sitting at a hotel for children from another state while their parents attended weddings to full time 8-5 nanny jobs. Obviously the full-time jobs weren't something I was able to do but the hotel jobs worked well several times and paid really well!

In June, I met with a family who lived 2 blocks from my apartment and met Andrew, a 6 month old, who I would start watching every Monday. Here it is over 2 years later and no post on this blog can explain my excitement in being able to share in all of Andrew's milestones. At first, it was when he would be able to sit up, then when he started crawling, and walking...then his first words. (he went from not even attempting my name to saying it nearly perfectly!) Now in the past couple months he is potty trained and in a big boys bed. He even switched rooms...to make room for his new little sister who is expected in the next couple weeks!! (AHHH!!!) From the very first day I started watching watching Andrew, he has always been smiles and laughs. I've never met a baby, now little boy, with such a happy outlook on life. Every night I tuck Andrew in I tell him I love him and I really mean it from the bottom of my heart. It's been such a wonderful opportunity to be part of his life on a weekly...now about a bi-weekly basis. I am so blessed to have been part of his life the past couple years and cannot wait to meet his little sister in the next few days/weeks!

October 19, 2009

We're Engaged!!

Last year when Jason was traveling every week I planned a little "get-away" trip to Michigan to go apple-picking and go to a local winery all while the colors were changing. That trip was so much fun and I realized this was a way to really appreciate the season of Fall as I generally dread the changing colors since it's just a sign of winter quickly approaching.


Though Jason wasn't traveling nearly as much as last year (Woo hoo!!) I thought it may be fun to plan a trip this year but instead to Wisconsin...my favorite midwestern state. My mom's family used to go camping to Devil's Lake every year which is a gorgeous state park with a beach and bunch of hiking trails. Our weekends had been filling up quickly and since there's only a couple weeks of pretty trees I knew I had to plan it while we still could. I asked Jason if we could take a one night trip (our only free night in a month) to Wisconsin for a hike. We booked the trip a few weeks ago through Orbitz and the plan was to drive up on Friday afternoon, spend the night in the Dells and then spend Saturday hiking with a break to eat a brown-bagged lunch and then head back to the city that same evening for a good nights rest before the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Sunday.

We ended up getting a late start on Friday so we got stuck in typical Friday Chicago traffic and got to the Dells around 7:00 or so. We went to dinner and then headed back to the hotel and watched a movie. I took my time waking up as I generally do and we finally got on the road around 10:30 or 11:00. We fueled up for our big hike at Denny's that morning. I had made a comment to Jason teasing him that it was Sweetest Day but didn't really pay much attention to it since neither one of us really celebrate. So after I had my first peice of pumpkin pie of the year (definetly a blog about my love for this to come!) we headed off to Devils Lake. The drive was only about 20 minutes and was gorgeaous as we traveled down country roads.

When we got to the park I took my sweet time changing into my gym shoes, layering up about 10 layers because I was worried about being cold. We spent about 10 minutes in the car scouting out the best trail on the map. Then we walked around looking for a while in search of a bathroom. I say all this to share in how slowly I was moving...in no hurry for what was about to come next! We finally began walking and veered off to a path to the right and started our long trek up the hills. As we were climbing I was huffing and puffing and pealing all those layers off one by one! I couldn't understand why Jason wasn't as tired as me...I always thought I was the one in better shape! ;-) Anyway, we're hiking up this hill and stepped off to the side a couple times to take a quick breather. When we got close to the top I saw a man taking a picture of 3 people so I asked him if he wanted me to take it of all 4 of them. When we stopped to take the picture I wanted to look over the bluff at the gorgeous tress and lake. While we were standing there taking in the gorgeous site Jason asked, "You know I love you, right?" I replied, "Yes." Jason then asked, "You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, right?" I responded with "Yes" but admitedly was thinking "when is he ever going to want to marry me?!" Right then Jason gave me a big hug and dropped to his knee and asked me to marry him! He was so nervous and I was just so shocked. I just kept repeating over and over, "Are you serious? Really? You're kidding, are you really serious?" Finally he said, "You haven't even said yes yet!" So I, of course, said yes, but kept asking him if this was for real!

We stood there for a while just taking it all in, big smiles on both of us and captured some pictures. I told the couple who was taking our picture that he had just propsed so the woman was all excited for us and ran over to see my ring and then made us pose with my hand on Jasons chest. Cheesy but I know, but I knew I'd appreciate that later.


Since we'd only been hiking about 10-15 minutes when he proposed, we still had a lot of ground to cover but all I kept thinking and saying was, "We're Engaged!!!!" :) We had terrible cell reception (darn AT&T iphones!!!) but we were able to call my parents and share the good news. Mom was completely shocked and started crying so she handed the phone off to my dad who also was shocked and happy. After our hike we called/texted friends and family. We skipped out on the bagged lunch and went to Olive garden in Rockford to meet my parents to show them the ring. (they were at the lake house so it worked out perfectly!)
I am still on cloud 9, as excited as ever. We've been researching to set a date and location which is proving to be more work than I had thought but am confident it will all come together in the right time. Though the wedding details make it a challenge, we are trying to remember to bring it back to God as our center of planning and know He will provide. I couldn't be more excited to spend the rest of my life with such a wonderful, loving man!






Click the small picture to view all of the pics from the proposal! :)

October 15, 2009

Healthy Choices

Jason and I are attempting to eat better and work out. My goal is to lose 10 lbs. I have no idea what that will look like, I may need to lose more after that, but 10 lbs is my starting point. It's hard to eat a low cal/low fat diet, especially while dating Jason who chooses pizza when we pull up to Panera to get salads because there's a Little Caesar's next store offering $5.99 medium pizzas! (wondering at what point he's going to ask me to hold him accountable!?) I know I need to cut wine out but that's quite a challenge too! I'm thinking that the stress from dieting may cause me to drink more wine...so why cut it all at once, right? Baby steps. We've been making more of an effort to take the stairs and walk (at a brisk pace!) everywhere. I've even started using that XSport pass as more than just an accessory on my keyring. I'm also hoping Meredith and I will begin Saturday morning pilates again. (LOL, again...I think I met her there once last Spring!) I love working out and love even more the way it makes me feel afterwards! I also have PLENTY of time on my hands to fit a work-out (or two...or three) in a day, so no more excuses!! Won't someone hold me accountable for this? Or better yet, anyone want to join me on this way to a healthier living?

*above image from tin8toppee's blog

October 14, 2009

#629. Raising Dorks

One of my favorite blogs is written by Jonathon Acuff, called "Stuff Christians Like." He is in the process of writing a book very similar to his posts in his blog. I thought this post was not only funny (as most of his are) but also enlightening. Jason teases me all the time that if it was up to my my children are going to live in a bubble, but I don't agree. Yes, I will be protective but I also I want my children to experience life which means they're going to have to fall a few times. (and hopefully bounce right back up!) That's all part of growing up. Though I am aware it may be odd that I keep sharing other peoples blogs on my blog, I really liked the way Jonathon wrote about this topic. I hope for any parents out there who may read my blog you will take a minute to read what Jonathon has to say about children growing up as dorks. And if you don't already I highly recommend you checking out his other posts for a good chuckle. :)

Read on....#629. Raising Dorks

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October 13, 2009

Girlfriends

I have had my fair share of "best friends" growing up. I've always been the type of girl who has many friends at one time...and now that I am older, my friends are all from different parts of my life. But there are 3 "best friends" who were there when I needed them most and there are girls in my life now who are there when I need them the most!

It was about 2-3 months ago that I was at the Target on Elston behind a girl with an adorable little, blond-haired boy. I wasn't paying much attention as I unloaded my items from the cart but then realized the mom resembled someone I used to be very close with. After staring but trying really hard not to be obvious, I figured out that it was, in fact, my best friend, Jen, from college. I had met Jen my second year at ISU and our friendship blossomed into more than just ISU memories to hanging out over the summer and holidays and even got to know each others families. I don't remember the specifics of what went exactly wrong but know it happened when I was going through my "hard times" in 2002-2004. After a couple years of not talking, we ran into each other and decided to grab a drink together to "work things out" but we both quickly realized we each had too many issues to work past and decided to go our separate ways. I am very comfortable now knowing we gave it our best but have gone our separate ways but that day at Target broke my heart.

This past Friday night, Jason and I went to dinner with a couple from our small group to Wildfire and I was excited because I hadn't been there since Cari and I had been there a couple years back. That night I learned that her brother still works there (and was serving all the tables surrounding us!) and seeing him and being there brought back a ton of memories. Cari and I met through a mutual friend around the same time of the original falling out with Jen. After going to Florida with our mutual friend we became best of buds and did everything together. She was a huge part of my life while I was going through my "hard times", which sadly, combined with her losing her father, was in the end part of what ruined us. We both attended NIU at the same time and even had a class together since I was a psychology minor which was her major. She was as big of a Cubs fan as me so we went to a couple AZ Spring Trainings together and would watch most regular season games and all of the play-offs together. She practically lived with me on the weekends when I was in my studio in Boystown. We never had a falling out, it was just that me and her had different ideas of how to deal with life's harder issues and it became obvious that we couldn't remain friends. (her words...not mine) I have since reached out to her and and am comfortable in that she knows how much I love her but that's the extent of us ever talking again.

Lastly, there was my best friend from 3rd grade through high school, Melinda. All I will say about her was that we were each others halves growing up but our lives went different ways. We, however, have been in touch recently via email and have been updated and will continue to update each other through yearly Christmas cards which is the most I could ever hope for. (and her parent's dog is my parents dogs brother...how cute is that!?)

The purpose in me sharing all this is that I have been hurt badly by friendships. We all struggle with relationships with the opposite sex -- I know I have had my fair share of heart-ache through break-ups, but girlfriends aren't supposed to "break-up." I have had the unfortunate luck (or maybe I was just a bad friend?) with my bestest and closest girlfriends. It is because of that that I have always been very hesitant get close to girls. It's bad enough that girls can be so cliquey and gossipy! However, these past couple weeks have been pretty hard for me. Besides God, I have found myself looking to more than just Jason who I share everything with. I mean, lets admit it...there's some times you really just need a girls opinion or advice. It was today on my way home from meeting a friend for coffee that I realized I have grown very close to a few girls the past 3-4 years and it has been these girlfriends who have been there for me in ways I never could have expected. Whether it's been with a phone call, a card , a loving email, text or just a comment or reaction they may have to something going on in my life, they have been there for me! It made me take a step back and realize that though I was hurt pretty badly and was afraid of not ever letting myself get "close" to a girlfriend again, I have and am so very thankful for that. I feel like as we get older, we have different needs from our friends but I am very excited to know that I have a few girls I can really count on when I need them...and because I have more than just one "best friend" each friend can help me when I need it most in their own special way. I also realize that those 3 "best friends" were there for a season of my life to help me when I needed it most. Thanks girls for being there for me. I hope I am and will always there when you need me the most...and you know who you are!

October 8, 2009

Chaz - 2/13/06-10/5/09

So it's been a couple days and it's finally sinking in about Chaz. My "dog trapped in a cat body" took his final breath on Monday, October 5. When I write it like that it sounds so dramatic, but it really was. Unless you've had a pet who you love and care for, I believe it's hard to understand what an animal might really mean to someone. As many people have written me this week, our animals really do have a way of becoming part of our family, and I couldn't agree more. So back in February Chaz got really sick and was throwing up for a couple weeks. After he stopped eating and drinking entirely, I brought him into the vet for a 2nd time for some fluids because we were still waiting on some test results but in the meantime he was becoming lethargic and dehydrated. The date happened to be on my 30th birthday. The vet was convinced that Chaz had an enlarged heart and also had cancer and I was told to put him to sleep that same day. Being that I was already feeling sorry enough for myself for having to be at the vet on my 30th birthday and that Jason was out of town on my "big day," I knew it was something I didn't want to do that day. I went home that night and spent the evening crying on the couch with Chaz taking what I thought would be some final pictures of him. I prayed a lot that night thanking God for the best 3 years with my Chazzy. (I got Chaz in Feb of '06 but was told he was 5 years old when I brought him home.) Though I was extremely sad about having to say my goodbyes to Chaz the following day, I was also very thankful for my time with him. The next morning I was awaken to a purring and chipper Chaz begging for attention and he was back to himself again! He was eating and drinking and perfectly fine. I couldn't believe it. It was like he used one of his 9 lives and was well again! In April, the boys and I moved to a much larger apartment and within a month Chaz and Sam were no longer overweight. The place allowed for much more running around and chasing! Chaz would still have what I would call "asthmatic coughs" when Sam was chasing him but he was healthy otherwise. About a week ago, Chaz had thrown up but I had blamed it on the new food I was trying for them. I ended up leaving for the weekend on Friday and came home on Sunday night. Both Sam and Chaz were excited to see Jason and I and sat on the couch with us cuddling and purring and then did their normal night routines taking their place in my full-size bed. When we were all on the couch, I remember commenting to Jason as I have many times, "Oh yeah, all four of us have to be on the couch! Guess the boys love it as much as me!" Monday morning was my normal routine, Jason working from the couch with me and Chaz next to him while I searched the internet for jobs. After Jason left I decided to shower, which I normally wouldn't have done until much later in the day but for some reason felt like I needed to shower. All seemed normal. I took my shower which was about 8 minutes long because any longer than that and I run out of hot water. When I got out, Chaz was in the bathroom which is normal, but the door was open all the way, which normally he'd just open it enough to slide in. Chaz crawled to the side of the bathroom by the door and I was teasing him that he was laying against the door to make sure Sam couldn't get in. That was when I realized something was very wrong. Chaz was breathing very heavily and couldn't move his hind legs. Not knowing what to do, instead of getting hysterical, I called Jason and told him that I thought Chaz had a stroke and was taking him to the vet but to pray because I was so scared. I knew from the very second I saw him that this was the end but I just wanted to be able save Chaz from any discomfort and confusion. He kept trying to move but his back legs weren't working. So after I got him into his carrier we were off to the vet, my hair still dripping and not even sure that I had my shirt on the right way. The vet was trying to explain to me what happened so she could put him to sleep but I already knew. It was his enlarged heart and as soon as I told her he about the heart she matter-of-factly confirmed it was a blood clot and that he was in a lot of pain. I will spare you the details about Chaz in that hospital room but he was not his normal self and I just wanted him to be free of whatever he was feeling. I stayed with him while they put him to rest and told him how much I loved him, but I know he already knew. That cat was loved so much the past 3 1/2 years and he had to know it every second. Even though Jason had a hard time admitting it, even he loved that cat. Looking back, what happened to Chaz was exactly what his Chicago vet had told me would happen. Just in an instant, his blood would clot and he would be in a lot of pain and need to be put to sleep. God was definitely looking down on me that morning. After I had been gone for 2 1/2 days and was leaving that night for small group, I cannot believe that I was home when it happened and able to help Chaz as fast as possible. I also cannot believe that it happened in the very short time that I was showered so I didn't have to witness it happen to Chaz or see him crawl to me in the bathroom. I am deeply hurt that he isn't here anymore. It's hard to even be typing this without him nudging me for attention and I really miss our 10-15 solid cuddle time in the morning before I get up each morning but I had more fun and love from that cat in 3 1/2 years than I could have asked for in any amount of time from another cat. I love the picture I shared on facebook the day he died and that is on this post because it was just so Chaz. Him loving life sitting right next to me on the balcony without a care in the world except love. I feel the best way I could honor my buddy would be to write about how great he was and I did that back in July. Click here to read. RIP Chazzy. You were everything and more than I ever could have asked for when I picked you out that cold, February, Sunday afternoon. Thanks for all the smiles. Hope there's more than enough laps for you to sit on in kitty heaven and more than enough Sammies to beat up every day. Love and miss you!

October 5, 2009

The Chicago List


I met Heather at a school where I did a little part-time work right after I lost my job. Heather is originally from San Francisco but had been in the Chicago-land area for a little over a year at that time. I had stopped for lunch on my way to "work" and called Heather to see if I could bring her lunch from Portillos. Her response was, "What's Portillos?" My jaw dropped. What is Portillos?! I realized that there are probably a few other things Heather needed to learn about while she was living in Chicago. So I wrote a note on facebook and asked all my Chicago friends what they loved most about Chicago. Thanks so much to all of you who helped create what I like to refer to as "The Chicago List." Let me know if there is something you think should be on the list!

• Air and Water Show
• Ann Sathers cinnamon rolls
• Architectural Artifacts
• architecture boat tour!
• Argo Tea
• Armitage between Halsted and Racine for shopping
• Around Coyote
• Aurora outlets
• Baha’i House of Worship and gardens
• Beach volleyball on North Avenue Beach
• Bears game with tailgating
• boat tours
• Bobtail Ice cream
• Bongo room in bucktown for brunch
• Boutique shopping down Armitage or Halsted
• Brew and View at the Vic
• Broadway Chicago shows
• Brookfield Zoo
• Bulls game
• catch a good concert at Northerly Island
• Century Theater for indie movies
• Chicago Symphony Orchestra
• Chicago Diner
• Chicago Fire game
• Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder (across the street from where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre happened - they have the best salad w/2 dressings and Chicago "bowl" pizza & great house merlot)
• Chicago Public Library on Congress
• China Town for dim sum brunch (I like the Phoenix)
• Coast for sushi
• Coffee and a walk on the lake front
• Coffee from Bleeding Heart Organic Bakery on Belmont
• Costa’s Restaurant (best Greek food outside of Greece)
• CS Magazine
• cupcakes at southport grocery
• De Cero in the West Loop
• Delilah’s
• Double Door
• Drake for afternoon tea
• ed debevics
• Farmers markets/Green City Market
• Field Museum
• Flash Taco right above it has fantastic tacos and quesadillas
• fondue at geja's
• For breakfast Toast on Webster
• Frances on Clark (near wiener circle) has best chocolate peanut butter milk shake
• Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
• Funky Buddha Lounge
• funky shops on Belmont
• Gallery hopping around River North or West Loop
• Garfield Park Conservatory
• Garrett’s popcorn
• Gene & Georgetti's
• german fest in lincoln square
• Get on a boat and drink the day away!
• Goddess & Grocer
• going to an Oprah show taping
• Goodman Theater
• Goose Island Beer
• Graceland Cemetery
• Great America
• Green Dolphin Street
• Green Mill
• Hancock sky deck
• High Tea at the Peninsula
• Hot Chocolate on Damen
• Hot Doug’s
• House of Blues
• Ice Skating at Millennium Park
• if they were still having it -- The Southside Irish Parade (RIP)
• Ikram for wonderful shopping… though it is not cheap it is gorgeous and amazing.
• Improv Olympic
• intelligentsia coffee!
• italian at Topo Gigio in Old Town
• Jane Adams Hull House museum
• Japonais
• Jean and Jude's hot dog hmmmmmm good
• just hang out by Wrigley..always a good time! :)
• kayaking/architecture tours on the river
• Kenosha Outlets
• Kitsch’n on Roscoe
• Lincoln Park Boat Club - rowing is simply one of the best group sport
• Lincoln Park Zoo
• live jazz in the garden -- late hours so you can stroll through the museum.
• lollapalooza
• Lookingglass theater
• Lou Malnati’s stuffed pizza and Malnati’s salad – YUMM!
• Mario's Italian Ice on Taylor
• Market Days
• Melting Pot for fondue
• Michigan Avenue shops
• Michigan for apple-picking
• Millennium Park
• millennium park for chicago symphony orchestra
• Montrose Dog Park
• Morton Arboretum
• movies in the park
• Museum of Science and Industry
• Navy Pier Wed/Sat fireworks
• north ave beach in the summer
• Oak Park (Frank Lloyd Wright tour)
• Old Orchard Mall
• Old Town for shopping
• Pasta Bowl on Clark
• Pete’s coffee and tea
• Piece for pizza
• Pitchfork
• Pizano's pizza
• Portillos hot dogs, fries and Italian beefs
• R. J. Grunts
• Ravinia
• Remy Bumpo Theater Company
• Renegade Craft Fair
• Rib Fest in Naperville
• Ricobenes
• Robie House
• rock n roll mcd's
• Rock Shop in Evanston (they have a museum in the basement!)
• Rotofugi Designer Toy Store
• RR#1 Apothecary
• Salvage One
• Second City Improv
• Segway tours
• Shedd Aquarium
• Sheffield Garden Walk
• Shopping down Milwaukee starting at Milwaukee & Division then Damen going north
• Shopping on Armitage, especially the shoe place.
• shops and bars around Bucktown/Wicker Park
• Signature Room on the 95th
• Skydeck at the Sears Tower
• Steppenwolf
• Sultan's Market
• summer dance series if you’re interested in learning different types of dance
• Summer Farmer's Markets
• Summerfest in Milwaukee
• Super Dawg
• Sushi Luxe
• Svea’s
• Sweet Mandy B's in Lincoln Park has great pastries
• Taking public transportation everywhere
• Taste of Chicago
• The huge Macy's on State
• the BEAN!
• The Best Deep Dish Pizza really is Peaquods on Clybourn
• The best Merk's cheddar burger is at Underdog at the 6 corners at Milwaukee, Damen & North
• The best thin crust is at Pat's on Lincoln
• the bike path
• The Bottom Lounge
• The Chicago Botanic Garden is heavenly
• The rooftop garden/deck at Lightology
• thursday nights at the art institute - free admission,
• Viceroy of India
• Violet Hour
• Warren Dunes in MI (about 3 hours) but soooo worth it!
• Water tower and pumping station
• Webster’s Wine Bar
• weiner circle after 3 am!
• Wells Art Fest
• Wrigley Field and the Cubs

October 4, 2009

Willow Chicago Turns THREE!

Image by Steve Bailey, 2009

Today was the 3rd Year Anniversary of Willow Creek Chicago! I absolutely love this church and all it has done to help strengthen my relationship with God. Yes, that picture is really of a typical Sunday morning! Our services are held at The Auditorium Theater on Congress, what a gorgeous theater to worship every Sunday! I've already explained how I got plugged into Willow Chicago in my baptism post, but not a Sunday goes by that I don't appreciate Willow Chicago's diversity and appreciate all that God is doing in the city through the Chicago campus. It's been almost a year since we have been without a pastor and while I admit that I have worried about what this might do to Willow Chicago's attendance it is milestones like today that remind me that we are stronger than ever! I love all the girls I met in my first Willow small group (also where I met Meredith!) and my current group is more than an answer to prayer. (more to come on this group in the coming weeks/months) I am fortunate enough to serve at the Connections Desk once a month where I am able to help newcomers get plugged into community at Willow and in Chicago. Though I am not currently a member, this is something I am praying about and currently feel led to join once we get a pastor in place if not sooner. I also hope to get involved in a serving group, lead a small group and learn more about leading a group to Baja in the coming years.

Last Games of the Season

Cubs have been out of any running for the Wild Card for about a week now but Jason and I had tickets with Uncle Dennis and Marilyn for last Tuesday night's game. (obviously we knew in advance it'd be a really hot ticket or a fairly cheap ticket.) It was not nearly as cold as we had planned but was still a chilly night! This was my mom's second Cubs game which was pretty exciting. Still makes me laugh considering I go to about 5-10 games a year for the past 10 years. We all had a blast and it was a bonus that the Cubs even pulled off a win so my mom could sing "Go Cubs Go!"

Then yesterday Jason's brother and about 6 of his friends came to Chicago for the weekend so we got some last minute bleacher tickets. It was especially fun because Michelle was able to come and celebrate her birthday with us! While we were all set to sit in the rain with about 50 degree temps, it ended up being a sunny, dry afternoon! In addition, Phil and his friends managed to spread the word to get everyone in our section of the bleachers to sing "Happy Birthday" to her in the middle of the 6th inning. Thanks Phil, it was very cool to hear everyone sing to her!

Simple Idea but a Big Impact!

I saw this story in the Tribune on Friday and thought it was a great story about one person making a difference. I found that in a very small way I could relate to these women because as we all know, I have gained some weight the past year or so and have been in the process of buying new undergarments but this is something that certainly goes to the way-side when you're broke. I'd much rather spend any extra cash (which I can assure you I have none of laying around these days) on something I need which can at least be seen on the outside or more practical such a jeans or a new jacket or something that I could wear more than just once every wash cycle. After reading the article below, click here for the blog for more info. :)

Thousands of Bras Collected for the Needy

Stacks of bras in brown cardboard boxes fill Oz du Soleil's home in Chicago's Kilbourn Park neighborhood. Red bras. Polka-dotted pink and brown ones, white lace and sheer black bras. Hundreds of them sorted size AA to DD, with an H or even a J thrown in the mix.

When asked why, du Soleil, 44, always has his elevator pitch prepared.

"I collect new and slightly used bras for underprivileged, lower-income girls and women," he tells them. "Usually they ask if I'm serious, and then I just tell them I've sent more than 1,400 bras around the world. ... I am careful about it since people do look at you like you're some weirdo."

Du Soleil collects the bras through his blog, support1000.blogspot.com, which in April surpassed its goal of collecting 1,000 bras to donate. He's now at 3,000-plus and counting.

At $15 to $40, an inexpensive bra is not the type of thing most people think about donating. But many women who show up at shelters or are homeless don't have a bra, and many girls are embarrassed to go to school without one, say advocates.

Paula Gomez, a domestic violence advocate for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, responded to an ad that du Soleil posted on Craigslist for free bras, which she says are the least donated item. "If you can't afford to pay the rent, you're not going to buy a bra," Gomez said.

Deborah Slowe of the nonprofit IMAGINE Me Foundation said du Soleil donated more than 100 bras to that organization. The foundation focuses on self-esteem issues affecting teenage girls.

"I had girls crying," Slowe said. "Things that are so small that we take for granted are so important to young girls."

Du Soleil, who describes himself as a creative inventor type, said the idea to collect the bras was inspired by an earlier digital art project. He posted a picture of a bra on his blog and wrote a short narrative. Soon female friends started mailing him bras, and du Soleil wrote short bios about them, sans their names. He left the bras in a bag in his closet for 5 years, he said, until his then-girlfriend found them and donated some of them to girls at Myra Bradwell Elementary School.

"I was really moved by the response," he said. "The girls wanted them because most of them had one bra to go to P.E., to parties, to the grocery store, to the doctor. It was about giving them dignity."

When he was laid off from his job as a trainer at Kaplan Financial in July 2008, du Soleil said he decided that while he looked for work he would try to collect 1,000 bras for lower-income girls and women.

Having no idea what type of bras he would need, du Soleil went to Target. He approached a young worker in the intimates area to ask, "What's a good bra to buy?"

"Now, I know the difference between a racer back and five-way," he said.

September 30, 2009

Perfect Fall Day

Today was an absolutely gorgeous Fall day so I decided to take Sophie to the suburban dog park/forest preserve in Glendale Hts. I used to take Abby there when she was a puppy but haven't been back since and wow, was I was in for a treat! They have a path which I was told in a loop was 6 miles long surrounded by several ponds/lakes. I passed an area full of grasshoppers, a crane in the lake, many, many other dogs, birds and everything else you'd expect to find in the forest preserve. Sophie enjoyed every second of it. Running into the water every chance she could and sniffing every inch of the path. (and as far as she was allowed off the path!) At one point she even tried to eat the butterfly flying above her. Though I wasn't happy about that one, I had to smile. She was so excited!! I am going to bring her back when the leaves start to change, can't wait!
Her new friend, Wrigley.

Beautiful, peaceful crane

"Stephanie, you are too slow!!! Come on!!"

Right before she darted into the water again!

September 28, 2009

I Prayed Outloud!!


Another thing I realized I didn't share about -- last Monday at small group I finally prayed out loud!! I have had a fear or praying out loud but know it's something I need to get over if I ever want to lead a small group or mission trip (both of which I feel led to do in the next couple years) Jason and I pray before our meals, road trips and other times and I have prayed a few times in front of him but am still always nervous and cut it short. Last week our group split off into two groups to share prayer requests. After we shared our requests we were to pray for the person to our right. I've been in a small group before where this has come up and have had to pass before because I just couldn't do it. But last week I finally got up the courage and did it! I have been praying to be able to do this for such a long time and it felt so right! I was giddy the entire drive home! Then the next morning I went to my DuPage Willow Women's group (I joined this when I lost my job in an attempt to get plugged into suburban life) and our time ran very long. We had to do a quick closing prayer and if we had any prayer requests we were to say them during the closing prayer. I felt very led to share about my 2nd interview I had later in the day so I, again, prayed out loud...this time in front of about 15 women! Woo hoo!

Comment, Comment, Comment!!!

I just spent some time updating my profile and realized that the reason that the settings were not set properly to allow for comments from everyone. Please, please, if you are reading my blog comment every once in a while. I know all I say is probably not comment-worthy but if you have anything to say please let me know you're reading my blog. The reason it is public is so others can share in the excitement (said with slight sarcasm!) of this unemployment time so comment away please! Or if you don't want to comment on a particular post, at least comment on this one so I know you've been here:)

THANKS! :) Love to all!

DELISH!!!!

Update: I ate all of the tomatoes from the post below! YUMMMMMMM

DMB 2009

I love seeing Dave Matthews perform live. I've always been a fan but seeing them perform live and jam out is such a thrill! One year I even drove out to Champaign and went to a show by myself just to see them play in Assembly Hall. Fortunately I outgrew that phase of my life, but still like to catch at least one show a year and look forward to it pretty much all year long! This year my options were Alpine (which I'd like to say I've outgrown too unless I can get a hotel room to stay in...LOL, call me an old lady) or the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, which I cannot stand for too many reasons to list. But as I was searching for tickets I saw they were also playing in Des Moines, IA where Jason grew up and brother lives so I thought it would be fun to make a weekend out of it. We ended up getting tickets and left early afternoon on Friday (a perk I like to remind myself of with being unemployed) and headed out to Des Moines. The venue was really small and just had a home-like feeling to it. We had great seats and they played a great setlist! Already looking forward to next years show (but hoping it's back at Toyota Park! :)

Archetecture Tour

I'm a little late in getting this out but Jason and I had purchased a two-for-one ticket to the Wendella Architecture Tour a few months ago. (Jenee had sent a mass email about the offer through groupon.com) We had tried scheduling the tour a few times but it just kept getting pushed aside but the coupon expired in December and like we'd want to go on a boat tour when its cold! We finally made it last weekend and ran into Jenee and Will standing in line. Not completely random as they had purchased tickets too but totally random considering we had tried to go numerous times and had no idea they were coming into the city. The boat tour was so much fun! This was my second time and you always learn so many fun-facts about Chicago and the buildings, I could do it again and again. Plus it was a gorgeous day to be out on the river. My favorite tid-bit was learning that the Windy City got its name because of the long winded speeches after the Chicago Fire to promote the World Fair being hosted in Chicago. I always knew it wasn't called the Windy City because it's windy so I was glad to finally be able to remember why it got it's name. :) After the tour, we went for lunch at the Trump Towers Restaurant, Sixteen, and sat outside on the patio overlooking the city. (if we stood up) We ended up passing on lunch and ordered a drink as the prices were a bit steep! Being up there just made us feel like we were somebody important! The view was gorgeous and was a special treat on an already special day. Thanks Jenee for the suggestion of both the two-for-one and Sixteen!

September 23, 2009

Sonny Acres Trip


I went to Sonny Acres today to get myself in the Fall spirit. As many of my entries have said, I love home-grown tomatos. I tried to get to the Farmers Market as much as possible in August but never made it. Then I was in Mexico for a week and then was too sick to eat so I never got my August home-grown tomatos fix! I think I may have gone a bit overboard today?! HA!

September 21, 2009

Temptation

If you're reading this blog you already know that I am unemployed, therefore living off my bi-weekly unemployment check which does a little less than pay the bills.

I generally don't even open the credit card junk mail but for some reason I decided to open all 5 pieces of my junk mail tonight. I couldn't even believe what I saw. A PINK credit card with my big initial on it!!


Honestly I think if I was to design my own personalized credit card with every imaginable design possible this would have been it!! I LOVE monogrammed stationary and note cards...whats better than a pink monogrammed credit card!? Seriously, what are the credit cards doing to us.? Have we not learned enough the past year that we're spending entirely way too much more than we are making?! The LAST thing I need is the temptation to open up a credit card right now. I am just appalled that these credit card companies are taking advantage of our financial situations right now. Way to try to get me when I'm down with your cute little monogrammed pink card. Though I wanted to keep it, if not to just look cute in my wallet, I know better and chose to cut it up. It was fun while it lasted.