Project Snapshots

I realize I don’t put a lot on this blog about the things I’m working on, and so I’d like to share some tidbits from a project I’m wrapping up.  A few months ago, I was contacted by a lovely family who purchased a second home in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood and needed their new empty condo completely furnished.  Sound like a dream?  I know… Continue reading “Project Snapshots”

Strong, Independent, Beautiful

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Once you hit the bottom, you can only go up.

When I was in college, we had a system called ROLM Phone.  It was basically the phone system that you could dial directly to anyone’s dorm room – this is back before it was a given that everyone had a cell phone, though most of us did.  Like a hotel phone, you could pick up and punch in your friend’s room number down the hall and it would ring like you put in the whole phone number.   It was extremely easy and convenient.  (So easy, in fact that a local pervert figured out the formula, and called all of the girls in my dorm, one by one down the hall. Those who picked up heard nothing but heavy breathing.)

Anyway, once a week, we’d get voice messages from our college dean about upcoming events on campus to be aware of.  She had the nicest, sweetest voice, and began every message the same way.  “Hello to all of my Strong, Independent, Beautiful Barnard Women… ” and “Good MORNING to all of my Strong, Independent, Beautiful Barnard Women…”  It was a self-image they tried to hammer into us.  As Barnard girls, we actually did face some minor adversity on campus, though most of it were from girls across the street at Columbia, who viewed us as second class citizens.  Many girls went to Barnard because they didn’t get accepted to Columbia College (which has a much larger pool of applicants), but still wanted to be a part of the university system.  Columbia girls made fun of this fact despite it not being true for all of us.  They saw Barnard girls as a threat because we tipped the male to female ratio out of their favor.  Almost all of the Barnard girls I knew thought that the rivalry was stupid, though I recall meeting girls who admittedly only came to college to find a husband, rendering the general angst about us somewhat valid.

I could be remembering all of that totally wrong, but that’s not the point.  The point is that despite how we may have felt, or how others may have wanted us to feel, almost all of the Barnard girls I knew repeated the phrase “strong, independent, beautiful Barnard woman” more often than they probably realized.  It was a joke in a way, but it was our joke.  We said it to each other in moments of joy, congratulation, stress and encouragement.  Yes, it was almost always said in jest, but we still said it.  We didn’t have to believe it for it to be true.

Continue reading “Strong, Independent, Beautiful”

A New Season

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March 2016

Back in early March, I was sitting on my sister’s couch, crying my eyes out in the middle of the night.  Things were horribly, yet inexplicably wrong at my job (my dream job!) and the anxiety of returning to a toxic workplace had ruined the end of my week long vacation in Phoenix.  The feeling crept up on me, until it had totally overwhelmed me and stopped my ability to enjoy a single moment of the day.  Imagine Sunday Anxiety x 1000.

Earlier that day as we wandered through the aisles of a Native American Market, I felt lost and hopeless, touching every stone and asking what they meant.  Where was the thing that would purify my soul?  Where was the thing that could protect me?  I allowed my mom and sister to dawdle at the booths and rushed ahead of them so they would not see that I was crying.  Something in me had cracked and broken, but I did not know what it was.

Continue reading “A New Season”

Writer’s Theater in Glencoe, IL

The other day while I was out doing some site visits in the suburbs, I stumbled across the brand new Writer’s Theater in Glencoe.  When I say it’s brand new, I mean it’s not even done yet, but that didn’t stop me from rushing in and taking photos.  The gallery catwalk is protected by the wooden slats to prevent birds from crashing into the windows. The firm even labels the project as bird safe on their website.

As someone who just recently had to rescue a frightened bird from the jaws of my cat, I can definitely get behind some bird-safe windows – especially if they look like this!  (Side note: the bird was fine, but it will likely never come near our windows again.)

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The catwalk was closed, since it is still under construction, but I tried to press as close to the glass as humanly possible without getting it dirty.
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Even the ceiling is a work of art.

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Sadly  I did not get to tour the inside of the actual auditoriums, but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back for a play!

If you are not familiar with Studio Gang’s work, please take a moment to peruse their portfolio, and then book the next flight out to Chicago.  Jeanne Gang is a certifiable genius, and her work was a constant source of inspiration for me while in design school.   Everything she touches becomes beautiful.

Summer Sixteen

It’s not over yet but it may as well be, with all of the back to school ads and pumpkins I’ve seen popping up in my social media feeds.  And while the shortening days depress me, I’m also really excited for the cooler days of autumn.  Specifically, I’m excited to wear pants again without wanting to die.  I don’t know about anyone else, but dressing for extreme heat is exhausting to me.

But before it goes away completely, I thought I’d do a brief recap since summer sixteen held some pretty great moments, and it’s fun to revisit the days through photos.

  • We got married!
  • I turned 30!
  • I learned to ride a bike!
  • We went to Traverse City, and I fell madly in love with Michigan!
  • We got free tickets to Lollapalooza and saw Radiohead on MJ’s birthday!
  • And lots, lots more.  It went fast, but it’s been a fun and lovely summer full of adventures with good friends, tasty snacks, and beautiful skies.

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Pleasant House Pub

When I first moved to Bridgeport from the north side of Chicago (most recently, 3 years in the ultra-cool Logan Square), a major selling point was that I would be living less than a block away from a cool coffee shop, a really cool bar, and an awesome restaurant, all at the same intersection.

MJ and I would go on “Bridgeport Date Nights” where we’d walk into Pleasant House, place an order, and then walk next door to Maria’s to get drinks. Pleasant House would then deliver our food to us at the bar. The people who worked at Pleasant House were neighborhood people, and recognized us despite little personal conversation.  When the girl behind the counter saw I was engaged, she was excited and approached MJ to congratulate him when they happened to both be in the coffee shop a few days later.  It was that kind of amazing customer service and friendly neighbor experience that made me love Pleasant House with all my heart. Oh yeah, and their food is delicious.

So imagine my dismay when they announced they were leaving the neighborhood.  Yes, their old location had a gross looking exterior and tiny interior space, but it was charming!  And so close to my house!

They ended up moving to Pilsen on Halsted Street, taking over the mysteriously vacated Nightwood restaurant space.  The menu is essentially the same, and now they offer an assortment of beers and wines as well.   Their interior is like an expanded version of their old location, featuring dark wood paneling in contrast with marble table tops and crisp white paint.  Throw in some taxidermy and dangly plants, and it has a cozy, hip vibe without feeling too trendy.  Oh and their outdoor space is going to be open year-round!

Even though I can no longer walk here, I definitely approve of the upgrade.   Now, if we can only find a way to get cool businesses like these to stay in Bridgeport instead of fleeing to the more hipster neighborhoods…


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Obligatory food pic!

Work Exchange: Bottom Line Yoga

As you may know, recently I wrote a ranty post about working for free (don’t do it if you can avoid it).  I am a firm believer in not giving your talents away unless you get something back.   That’s the key concept behind a lot of work exchange programs at fitness studios, and what lured me in to participate in Bottom Line Yoga‘s work exchange.   Sit at the desk for a few hours a week, and in return, receive an unlimited membership that would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars.  If you can afford the time, you’ll end up doing something good for your body and your wallet.

One of the greatest things about a freelancer’s life is having the ability to determine my own schedule.   If I want to sign up to do a yoga work trade, I can go right ahead and do that, and fit my freelance work in around that.  Living in Bridgeport, there are ZERO yoga studios in my neighborhood.  The gyms that offer yoga are dance studios, boxing clubs, or some other non-yoga focused fitness clubs that offer yoga almost as an afterthought.  The classes show up on the schedule once a week at a really inconvenient time.  The yoga class at my gym is a total joke, and it’s hard to get into the right mindset when you can hear weights dropping outside the door, or when guys with no respect for the group fitness class come in to use the punching bags.  So you know, it’s obviously less than ideal.

The cost of a yoga membership in Chicago is just a little bit out of reach for me.   On top of my regular gym membership, to pay $125+ for yoga just does not make sense for me right now.   Inspired by some advice from Scrappy Yogi, I decided to look for a work trade program that would allow me the benefit of membership in exchange for a few hours of my life each week.  Bottom Line Yoga has two locations in the loop, just steps away from the train – so not too bad of a commute for me.  On Mondays, I man the desk for  few hours, checking members in to the open studio nap and meditation time, and bring my laptop so I can get whatever work I need to done.   It’s a double duty situation for me, and it’s so far been working out great!

The classes I’ve attended have been amazing.  Since it’s a loop worker focused studio, many of the classes are during lunch hour, and the studio does not get super crowded. The increased personal attention has allowed me to get into some poses that I had always thought were too advanced for me.  Never again do I want to cram myself into the back of a 6 pm Core Power Fusion class!

On top of everything else, the studio is such a relaxing, well curated space that is a pleasure to spend time in.  The mix of mid century modern furniture with vintage found elements creates an inviting environment with a casual style.  Mondays have become a day to look forward to, instead of filling me with dread and destroying my Sundays with anxiety.

I’ve always wanted to design a yoga studio…


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The New York Feeling: Part 2

Whoops, that last post got a little bit away from me.  But I think it sets the scene on why my trip to New York this time was so important to me, when other times I leave feeling nothing was accomplished and a little bit depressed.

My visit was a much needed break from my recent quest to be Super Serious.  I have been trying so hard lately to Figure It Out that life sometimes feels like a chore instead of an adventure.   The two of us stayed up late talking about art for the sake of art.  Expression with no expectation of meaning or gain.

Shannon and I graduated from the same creative writing program, and for various reasons, we each let life lead us down a different path.  I got a Super Serious job at a law firm and she moved to Florida and started a family.  During the few years after college, we both dabbled with writing blogs and trying to still be creative while leading lives filled with other obligations.  Mine didn’t amount to much, but she gained some success, and had built a following of other like-minded creative moms.  While she no longer continues that blog, she is now an ambitious student at SVA’s graduate program in Visual Narrative.  She showed me her works in progress, and I read her stories while we lounged in her adorable AirBNB apartment.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly jealous of the life she was living – however temporary it may be.

I am the type of person who loses interest in something if I discover I am no good at  it.  It is what separates a hobbyist from an artist – I hate to practice.  I like to pick something up, be brilliant, and wow the crowd.  (It does not happen often, if you are wondering.)  False starts on short stories, novels, art projects, sewing projects, …. you name it, I’ve tried it, and given up.   If I can’t be absolutely EXECLLENT, I don’t want to waste my time.   It makes me sad to think of all the projects I’ve started that had potential, if only I’d put in the work.  I am incapable of being proud of something that isn’t perfect.

Anyway, that Saturday we visited the Met Bruer to see the Diane Arbus exhibit, and as we wove through the columns of photos, Shannon geeked out over one of her favorite artists.  Later, we stopped into an independent book store in Fort Greene, and she picked up books left and right to tell me why it was an amazing, influential work.  She commented, when I had little to offer, “You don’t read much anymore, do you?”.  It struck me that the voracious appetite I once had was still there lingering within me, but somehow something I had learned to justify ignoring.  I have a habit of buying books in a moment of pure excitement and inspiration and then putting them on the shelf to continue on my daily life.  It is not how I used to be, but without anyone around who knew the old me and call me back to it, I let it slide.

Sometimes it takes visiting an old friend to make you realize that you’re still the same person you thought you were, and that the things that used to be important still very much matter.  That part of me was lying dormant, or maybe just needed coaxing to come alive again.  I think that’s ok.  I’m not that old, but I’ve lived many different lives that all seem so disjointed at times.  Like a series of disconnected phases – states of being that come with their own cast of characters.   That weekend I got to reconnect with the Art-School-Writer version of myself and it was wonderful to see her again.  I often recall Super-Stressed-Paralegal me, as well as Super-Stressed-Grad-School me, because the people from those phases in my life are still around.  It was a treat to visit Shannon in New York, and see the art she is making, and be reminded that I used to (and maybe still do, to a certain degree) have a certain number of undefined creative aspirations.

I don’t hold on to many people, but the ones I do are the ones who matter to me.  I’m holding on to them, and also to the person they bring out in me.  Maybe it’s selfish, but it takes two to make a friendship, and so who I am when I’m with a person determines if I want to remain in the relationship.  It’s been hard as I get older, making conscious decisions to walk away from friends if I don’t feel good about my role when I’m with them.  But I don’t intend it to hurt.  It’s more like shedding a skin so that I can keep growing.

New York is like that, too.  Every time I visit, I’m filled with emotions that confuse me and make me feel bad.  But whether I like it or not, my past lives there, and so I will continue to return.  I will need to learn to remember the things I used to do and the dreams I used to have without feeling sad.


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The New York Feeling: Part 1

This past weekend, I went to New York to visit my friend Shannon, who is staying in Brooklyn for the summer.  Normally visits “home” fill me with all sorts of guilt and sadness.

My parents live in New Jersey in the home I grew up in, so obviously I see them.  They get very insulted if I do not spend at least one night with them at their house, even if it makes the rest of my plans inconvenient.  My mom insists on picking me up from the airport, which is another source of guilt – especially when my flights are already scheduled for late evening, and then get delayed.  But there she is, every time, with snacks waiting for me in the front seat.

Because I grew up just outside of the city, and went to college there, I have an army of friends (loose terminology here) past and present, and it is impossible to see them all when I come to town.  I have been trying to make plans with some friends for years.  I had one friend who I just never made time for, and when she died in an accident, I was overcome with guilt that I never saw her one last time.   Maybe that’s a story for another day.    The point is, I always feel like I am letting someone down.  Even if that someone is a high school friend I’ve lost touch with and who only happened to find out I was in town by random chance.  I know that I’m the one that moved away, but it’s exhausting to be the person bearing the sole responsibility to make the rounds.  When I was planning my wedding, I crossed people off the list if they had never made the effort to visit me in Chicago since I’ve been here.  It felt bad.  It felt good.  But ten years is a long time, and planes fly in both directions.

Something about visiting a place that was once my home fills me with this strange sadness.  I expect to feel the things I used to feel, and to laugh at the things I used to laugh at.  I expect to remember my way around, and just fall back into my old self: curious, inspired, artistic, an ambitious writer.  But time passes, and people change, and I find myself in a weird state of limbo.  A tourist asked me for directions and I realized I also had no idea how to get where I was going.  In my day to day life, I strive for constant improvement – which of course means change.  But then I lament the loss of the old me, and worry about who I’ve become.   Is it the real me this time?  How much change is allowed in order to maintain authenticity?

When I first moved to New York in 2004, I was excited to define a self that was whole and separate from my parents, and from the kids I went to school with.  I was inspired by the city, and eager to blossom into the real me – and not be held back by the character that I fell into being in high school.  To most people, I was the weird art girl, who dyed her hair black, and had a pierced lip, wore lots of eyeliner and smoked whatever cigarettes she could get her hands on.  For a multitude of reasons, I had to be different because I could never fit in, so I embraced it even if some of it was just a facade.  People mostly ignored me, but some bullied me for being a weirdo.  Everyone was always surprised when I showed up in their honors classes on the first day of school.  Because I didn’t speak much, nobody knew I was smart.  My college, being the only Ivy League university in Manhattan, was filled with many of the same people from my high school.  I would be smoking outside the library at night, and see girls I knew growing up crossing the campus.  They were in classes with me.  We never spoke, but I knew they knew I was there – the loser girl from high school – and I felt paralyzed.  Stunted.  How could I possibly make a change when I would be caught in the act?  I didn’t know how to grow up if I couldn’t grow.  So instead, I crumbled.  I fell into a deep depression and dropped out after only a year and a half.  In the summer of 2006 I moved to Chicago and never looked back.

Ten years later, I am still here.  In that time, I have grown and changed and found many different me’s to be.   I’m still struggling to figure all that out, and because it happens gradually, I forget that it’s happening.  But when I go back home, it’s like stepping into a wormhole.  The people and the places are the same, and I’m the thing that’s different.


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Gearing Up

A few weeks ago I posted about my bike, and how I was trying to get over my fear of riding in the city.   I made it my summer goal to not just ride, but become more confident and comfortable.  And really, I did try.  We went on a few rides around town (side streets only, please!), and we took a few trips to the beach & the lake front path, even brought our bikes on a weekend trip to Michigan.  I was starting to get into the groove.  Nothing crazy, but you know, enough to get me places and feeling more confident.

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And then, this happened:

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Someone broke into my home and stole my bike.  Ok, technically it was the garage, which isn’t actually attached to my apartment building, but it’s like 10 feet away when you walk out the back stairs.  And that doesn’t make it any better.  A crime is a crime.

The more I think about the circumstances, I get all sorts of icky creepy feelings.  Usually our cars are parked in the garage, but that particular night, only my bike – which normally lives in the house!-  was in there, as MJ was working on some projects and we parked our cars on the street.  The one night that my car isn’t in the garage, and my bike and a bunch of power tools that are normally put away ARE?  I hate to think that we were being watched, but I can’t help it.  People are creeps!

Anyway, after a few weeks of anger and scouring craigslist, and posting on my community NextDoor page, MJ surprised me with an early birthday present!

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He and my mom secretly teamed up to buy me a new bike for my upcoming birthday, and this one is way fancier.  Doesn’t it just look more intense?  For starters, it has gears, which makes life way easier, and I’m actually able to build up speed and go up hills without wanting to die.  My old bike, while cuter, did not have a lot of bells and whistles (it was a very inexpensive starter bike), and I never knew what I was missing until now.   I was huffing and puffing up a not-that-big hill on a single speed.  Minor rides were a workout for me because the bike I had required I do almost all of the work.  Already I can tell the difference – that same hill was a breeze!  So after the test ride it is an approved keeper.

I’m still really sad about my old bike.  It was barely a year old, and so cute!  I’ll welcome it home any day, but at least now I’m mobile again. We’ll be bringing our bikes up to Wisconsin this weekend for a mini-holiday and I’m looking forward to keeping up!

I’d love to hear from you – Do you have any fun plans for the holiday weekend?