Monday, November 28, 2011

Family and Friends

Robert Frost said: "Home is where when you go they have to take you in."  He was referring to family.  Last month I spent time with my 6 siblings: Tom, John, Susan, Judy, Bill and Jane.  I fall between Susan and Judy.  We were in Kansas City, the city where we grew up.  Though none of us live there now, to me it feels like coming home and my youngest sister, Jane, has a condo that she graciously lets us share.  Thank you Jane.  We use to get together much more often, this family of mine, when our parents were still living. But they have been gone for almost 10 years now. 

None of us live in the same place.  Bill lives on Cape Cod, John lives in Eugene, Oregon and the rest of us in between.  None of us even live in the same state. But when we come together it is like we have never left.  Not really.  Nobody seems to have changed.  We all have the same quirks we use to.  The boys still play golf, the girls still do crafts and chat.  We eat out and play games at night.  All of us were together for less than 48 hours but it was worth the effort of coming together.

This is not to say that I don't see some of my siblings much more often.  We do visit each others and the sisters get together at least once a year.  But it had been a long time for all of us to be together.

The same is true for my children.  None of my 3 girls live in the same place.  My oldest daughter, Kate, lives here in Chicago where I live but the other two are still in Missouri (at the moment.)  Rachel, my youngest, tends to wander a bit.  The girls get together at Thanksgiving with their dad and then spend Christmas here with me in Chicago.  This year will be different as my middle daughter, Judy, has other obligations.  Earlier this year the four of us were together in St. Louis for a wedding.  I wish it were much more often.    But I fear it will become less often as with my family of origin. 

I envy people who's siblings have stayed in the same community, who have large holiday dinners.  These are the gatherings in my memories from when I was a child.  But then I would have no place to go on vacations.  Yes, I could go to Paris, or Arizona, or California, but it is much less expensive when you are going to visit families. 

And so this brings me to the second part.  Friends.  When your family is not around you, you have to fill in with friends.  I have been lucky since coming to Chicago, meeting lots of different people.  I use to be able to count my friends on one hand.  I can't do that anymore.  For Thanksgiving a small group of 7 of us met for a Persian buffet and then a couple of us went to see a movie after.  I have close friends, old friends, new friends and everything in between.  I had many, Happy Thanksgiving wishes from family and friends.  I sent out some as well and got replies.  I got wishes from people that I can't figure out who they are because I lost my phone a couple of months back and my contact list is gone.  Its kind of fun getting a "Happy Thanksgiving" text and wondering who the number belongs to.  It could be a wrong number but all is still good.  My favorite text was a week ago in the middle of the night.  "I love you: it said, but no name came up just a number.  So I text back  "I love you too, who is this?"  It turned out to be Douggie, a young friend, who told me he was with my beautiful daughter, Rachel.

So I am blessed with a large family and an even larger group of friends.  It is what sustains me and makes me happy.  A good friend recently told me that the Buddha said that we are suppose to be happy.  And so I am.

My Siblings

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 best invention since sliced bread, Seran Wrap and spell check

It is Saturday.  I want to go out and see a new movie and no one is available to go with me.  I can do several things.  1) I can go alone.  I've done that frequently and I actually enjoy watching movies in the theater by myself.  But sometimes I want company.  So 2) I can put an ad on Craig's list and ask if anyone wants to see Cowboy's and Aliens.  I actually did that and had mixed results but that is a different blog.  Or 3) I can check out and see if there is a movie group going to see the movie I want to see.  I did and there was.  And so last Saturday I saw One Day with a group of 4 other people. is a social network.  Their new slogan is "Use the Internet to get off of the Internet."  It is about meeting people in person, face to face, not about reading what your friends are doing on Facebook, or chatting in chat rooms.  It is about getting together.

According to the article The Long and Curious History of by Adrianne Jefferies, in late 2001 co founders Matt Meeker and Scott Heiferman were looking for a start up. They had lots of ideas but kept coming back to Meetup for two major reasons.  "One was Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam's book about the collapse of community in America.  The other was that something had changed in New York:  Strangers had started saying hello.  It was after September 11, and people seemed suddenly aware of each other."  When launched was an immediate success.

In 2004, Meetup and John Dean joined together to for an unprecedented grass roots campaign.  Today Meetup has 8 million members in 100 countries, 65000+ organizers, 80,000+ meetup groups and 50,000 meetups are scheduled each week.

I have been a member of for a number of years now.  I think my first meetup group was Chicago's Digital Photographers.  I've taken a few classes with them, and recently took a new friend to a meetup.  But overall I have been a very inactive member in that group that boasts 3738 members.  I've attended a couple of knitting meetup groups but haven't found them to be much fun.  I belong to several other groups that I have never attended. 

Recently however, due to a change in relationship status, I  needed to become more active and decided to take by storm.  I joined a brand new group called Chicago Curvy Girls DIY Fitness Club.  It is for us curvy girls not quite ready for the gym.  The organizer Deanna is fabulous.  She has really put her heart and soul into this group.  Less than a month old, she has already had 10 meetups.  Last Saturday we met in Milliennium Park for free yoga and Zumba and then Sunday morning we met in a park close to where I live and walked 2 miles.  I can't keep up with the group yet, but Deanna comes back and keeps me company.

I mentioned the Saturday and Sunday Night Movie Club.  I joined that group on Saturday afternoon and saw One Day with them on Saturday night.  As with the nature of meetup groups some people are more interesting than others.  It is probably not a group I will go back to.

Sunday I was looking for something to do and cruised the hundred of happenings on until I found a Djembe group in my area.  Most meetup groups are free unless donations are asked for to cover the cost the organizer pays to  Some meetup groups however are a way for people to teach others for money or to promote a business.  But at 12 dollars a session, it is much cheaper than the lessons I took at Old Town School of Folk Music and the organizer, Rick is great.  (He also teaches at Old Town School).  I am now back to playing my drum.

The most fun I had, however, was on Friday evening.  I had been looking for a city group for people over 50.  I couldn't find one so I started one myself.  The City's Wine and Diners. With in a week of starting it I had 60 members and 20 people had signed up for the first meetup on Friday with 6 on the waiting list.  Organizing can be stressful with finding a venue, setting up guide lines, worrying if people are really going to show, etc.  But it was well worth it.  People dropped out of course but my wait list filled in and we ended up with 12 very cool people, grateful to me for starting the group.

Three days, 5 Meetups.  It was a very good weekend.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Christmas and New Years

I know it is a little late for a Christmas and even a New Years blog, but I've been busy and or lazy and I didn't want to miss out on getting some of my thoughts down regarding the holidays.

Christmas was quiet and peaceful.  All of my girls were here and Kate and I had the whole four days off that Judy and Rachel were here.  By the way Kate just graduated (again) this time with a Bachelor of Nursing.  After taking boards she will have an RN, with a BSN.  She will then out rank her mother.  We didn't exchange presents at Christmas (a new tradition) because everyone is broke and it just adds to the stress.  I did receive gifts from three special people.  My roommate, Kim gave me a beautiful centerpiece for the table, (pictured above)  Susan sent me a bottle of Virginia hard apple cider for me to taste test and Judy sent me the Cake Doctor Bakes Gluten Free.

We spent most of the time indoors playing games, watching TV and of course eating.  As Kate put it so well, "We all lead really busy lives, it is nice to just relax for a few days with no agenda."

We didn't even do much cooking.  What we did cook was from Women of Great Taste.  The baked potato soup which I should quadruple rather than just double.  This year not only was it vegetarian, but gluten free as well.  Turned out great.  The Apple muffins on the other hand Christmas morning were less successful.   Rachel has made some successful gluten free cup cakes, but these didn't want to stick together.  A few days later, I made a pretty good bread pudding out of them, using the Caramel sauce from the apple cake in the book.  On Christmas evening we had the enchiladas complicated by making some of them vegetarian and some of them with gluten free tortillas.  Turned out yummy.  And finally we made the white chili.  We had sent Kate to the store but she didn't understand I wanted 4 cans of Great Northern beans and instead got 4 bags of dried beans.  The dried beans worked when when soaked and cooked and you can never have too many beans in the house. 
I was very sorry to see the kids leave and wish we all live much closer together.  One of my plans for this year is to see more of Kate now that she is no longer in school.

I did not make any New Years resolutions this year and for me that is most unusual.  I think the reason for that is that I am very content with my life.  I am in a much different place this year than last.  I've connecting with people I want to connect with and I actually had a New Year's Eve date.  I am feeling pretty good about myself these days. Yes I want to continue my weight loss and write more, photograph more and connect more with the people I love.   But life is good.  Happy New Years to all.