Polar Vortextual Mood Swings (January 31, 2014)

“Yesterday, I stood outside waiting for the Chicago Avenue bus. I saw one approaching and my heart leapt. Then the bastard drove right by us, resulting in another 30 minutes of trying to withstand the wind. I just started crying. I am so sick of being cold.”

-Conversational anecdote from personal trainer friend

“Oh my God. More snow. I want to die. Can’t take anymore. Stabby stab.”

-Text message from a buddy who thought this might make for a catchy, if lengthy, Twitter hashtag

“Sometimes I just sit at my post at the reception desk and wistfully stare out the window, trying to summon memories of less dark and miserable days. Lately I am just pretending to be a nice person. So much hate in my heart.”

-Forlorn colleague

“Hey Mother Nature and God… this is a memo to you. WE ARE GOING TO GET ON THAT PLANE TOMORROW MORNING to get to New Orleans for our cruise. I don’t care WHAT you say. We deserve a vacation after the crap you’ve thrown our way these last few weeks. 8″ of snow on Friday night before our trip starts? REALLY? NO. I’m telling you RIGHT NOW. WE WILL GET ON THAT PLANE TOMORROW MORNING. #PolarVortexCanSuckIt”

-Agitated Facebook rant courtesy of my best friend’s partner

“Dear Alaska and Chicago, Illinois:

We need to immediately work out a weather exchange here. Anchorage, Alaska, Colorado wants its weather back. I am going to arrange for Chicago to send you yours. And I’m going to send this s**t to Chicago. Chicago should be fine with that, since the 22° we had today is much warmer than what they had.

Every time I have to break out my ‘Chicago clothes’ a baby kitten cries. True Story.”

-Native Chicagoan who relocated to Colorado several years ago

“Winter 2014 sucks more than anything that has ever sucked before.”

-A poetic Becky Sarwate, channeling “Beavis & Butthead”

These are quotes sampled from a smattering of hardened Midwestern weather survivors. It felt appropriate to publish this roundup on this, the last day of January 2014. A punishing 31 days indeed, the month will forever be remembered as usurper of April as the cruelest. If T.S. Eliot was still alive and forced to wear two pairs of pants every day just to survive the commute to work, I am certain he’d agree.

In aggregating the misery of my acquaintance, I accomplish two goals. The first is to feel slightly less isolated throughout my own increasingly despondent winter experience. The second is to answer critics who have diagnosed Windy City residents with an acute case of Cry Babyitis. We should be used to this, the thinking goes. What more do we expect from January adjacent to one of the Great Lakes?

Perhaps just a small, teeny tiny respite from the cycle of white out blizzard conditions followed by Arctic deep freeze. In years past, winter could be counted upon to furnish the occasional 30 or 40-degree day which made daily life navigable, even if the sun remained stubbornly hidden. This is expected and infinitely preferable to the trick of blazing sunshine that requires industrial strength shades, a cruel irony contradicting the soul deadening chore of trudging through multiple feet of snow-turned-block ice.

But I believe the current variable that is really dragging down morale is the calendar. Tomorrow is just February 1. We have so much farther to go before there’s any real hope of hospitable climate change. Let us not forget that we received nearly an inch of snowfall in mid-April 2013. With a number of meteorologists predicting “Polar Vortex: Part 3” during the early days of February, it’s not a stretch to wonder if a hat trick of tragic weather (predictably on the heels of what’s expected to be another 10” of accumulated snow through the weekend) might not just be enough to turn us all into Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

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April 2013 Is the Cruelest Month (April 25, 2013)

April 2013 is the Cruelest Month

I have been struggling this month my friends. Struggling to write, struggling to exercise. Many days I’m struggling to get out of bed, though insomniac tossing and turning allows no comfort. It’s not exactly a state secret that I war with depression now and again. In addition to emotional ennui’s position as the cliched birthright of the author, it’s been a full frontal assault and I haven’t enough weapons.

The weather is enough to engender a Midwestern Seasonal Affective Disorder pandemic. I saw a Facebook status morning that neatly summed it up, “We’ve having a lovely winter this spring.” Keen observation of the air’s lingering chill aside, it really hasn’t been lovely at all, has it? My fellow Chicagoans will perhaps join me in observing that it isn’t often we can call in “rain” to the office. Yet last week Thursday morning, that’s just what a majority of students and workers were forced to do. Mother Nature assailed us with up to eight inches of precipitation in slightly above 24 hours. I have never seen such a sustained downpour, but I was safe and warm in my apartment. The thousands still grappling with flooded basements and ruined memories are the source of my sorrow.

Then we have the terrorism, ricin letters, explosions and public executions which are becoming the stuff of daily domestic headline. It’s not Tel Aviv in 1984. It’s Boston in 2013 replete with high speed chases, car jackings and robberies. Honestly, I am more comfortable than ever with my decision to remain childless this month. I don’t want to have to explain this broken, deadly partisan and cruel society to anyone. We’re hyperconnected yet increasingly isolated, more mercenary than Gordon Gekko could have imagined. And we’re being led down the rabbit hole by national leaders who cannot pass reforms approved by 90 percent of Americans, laws designed to make purchasing an instrument of death slightly more challenging than obtaining cold medicine

This pungent month does not want to stop at threatening weather and dysfunctional, destructive events that make one assume a whimpering fetal position. Nope. On top of the regular global warming and existential human questions, myself and many of my loved ones have been gifted with disquieting personal challenges. I can say for myself that my romantic partner was injured and rushed to the hospital earlier this week in an industrial accident, which included a total information blackout and mindless race to his side that stopped the world for an hour (mercifully, JC is going to be fine). I’ve undergone tremendous professional upheaval and today, April 25, marks the four-year anniversary of the premature death of my high school mate, Jesika Thompson. My best friend lost an egregiously short 17-day battle with ovarian cancer at the age of 30 and while we share many happy memories, none of us who loved her will ever be the same.

I am not trying to justify my lethargy. It’s there whether I want it or not, and honestly, I’d prefer the distraction of the constant movement to which I’m accustomed. By my mind and spirit are trapped under multi-ton boulders this month and it’s making it hard to breathe.

I realize that the simple transition to May has no direct correlation with the shift in toxic anti-mojo I desperately desire. On behalf of myself and the Newtown families, the Boston bombing victims and their loved ones and everyone else facing an exhausting cluster of defiance this month, the movement of a couple dates promises no release. But let’s try it anyway, shall we?

The Spring That Wouldn’t Come (March 27, 2013)

The_Spring_That_Wouldn_t_Come

 

 

Today is March 27th. It’s a full week after the official inauguration of spring. The sun is shining but the air temperature hasn’t risen above 43 degrees Fahrenheit in the Windy City. It must be mentioned that the daytime high soared to 80 degrees on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012, a strange anomaly that took Chicago’s love for green beer to extremes. I recall sending my boyfriend at the time out for a bottle of wine to complement our meal of corned beef and cabbage. This was early afternoon. He returned from a four block round-trip walk shaking his head. If you have to step over more than one drunk in broad daylight, hedonism has clearly won.

This year, the Chi-rish were significantly more subdued. With windy, cold conditions and the barometer stuck in the 30s, I can personally report a more humbuggish approach to the drinking holiday.

The irascibility has yet to wear off given spring’s stubborn refusal to approximate its normal self. And it’s not just me. Allow me to quote recent Facebook status updates from my circle of acquaintance:

“Just because I’m giving you a shot doesn’t mean I’ll ever like you, cold weather running. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you…I hate you…I. Hate. You.”

“Spring starts tomorrow, right? Right? RIGHT?!?!?!?!?!?”

“Really, 19 degrees?!? Full of S***!”

“Have officially reached my limit, this weather is B.S. where is spring? #overit”

“Glad it’s rain, not snow.”

“Mighty happy I don’t work for Yahoo! This is the second Tuesday in a row I have waited for the snow in my PJs”

“How am I supposed to start running again when winter NEVER ENDS!!!”

And on it goes. I must remind my gentle readers that these protests emanate from hardened Midwesterners used to winter’s cruelty. But we’ve had enough now. My fellow Chicagoans are angry at this tardy season to the point of mutiny, if only we knew who to tie up and threaten. Our current mayor, former Obama administration Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel, is accustomed to hurling obscenities to get his way, but thus far Mother Nature seems unmoved by our collective epithets.

St. Louis received another 11 inches of snow this past weekend. It seems prudent to assume we’ll be wearing ski jackets to Seders, Easter dinner and other springtime celebrations.

With that dreary thought in mind, I leave you with these lyrics from the K.D. Lang song, “I Dream of Spring:”

“This is world is filled with frozen lovers
The sheets of their beds are frightfully cold
And I’ve slept there in the snow with others
Yet loved no others before

These cold dark places, places I’ve been
In cold dark places, I dream of spring”

Shamrock Stomach Flu (March 20, 2010)

Sick Stomach

Long, gross story short: something happened to my stomach and I have been unleashing gastronomic pyrotechnics since about 9:00 PM Thursday night. It continued all day yesterday, though I pride myself on having been able to participate in a phone interview for a job whilst flat on my back. It certainly sucked having to cancel my Friday night social plans, but as our regular blog followers may remember, I am running the Shamrock Shuffle tomorrow morning in Grant Park. I have exactly 24 hours to get my strength back.

Given that all I managed to keep down yesterday was snack size bag of Oreo cookies (at least my upset stomach has good taste), Step 1 is going to be eating healthy, light foods. No one can run an 8k on an empty stomach. Step 2 is rehydration via water and Gatorade, with a dash of ginger tea thrown in.

The change in the weather makes things more interesting too. After a near 70 degree day yesterday, I am presently watching snowflakes fall outside my office window. No matter, I like a challenge. Bring it Mother Nature. Bring on the remnants of stomach flu. I will run and I will finish in less than 50 minutes.

Wish me luck!

2010 Shamrock Shuffle (January 26, 2010)

shamrock

This was the scene at last year’s 2009 Chicago Shamrock Shuffle. My best friend Gary entered the race and reported that his feet were so wet by the end of the 8k (roughly 5 miles), he felt like he was trying to run with bricks on his feet.

God help me if Mother Nature isn’t a little kinder this round. Because I hate winter, I kind of hate running, and yet I felt it necessary to throw my hat in the ring for the first Shamrock Shuffle of the new decade. I am an official entrant, as of yesterday afternoon, and there’s no turning back now.

When using the treadmill, my biggest accomplishment to this point is a four mile walk/run hybrid where I pump it for six minutes and then sort of speed walk for two minutes. Rinse and repeat. In other words, I am no great, driven long distance runner. Therefore, running five continuous miles away from my usual idle pace is going to be a challenge.

The one thing I have going for me as I begin two months of preparatory training is my competitive nature (just ask my friends Timbo and Di about the level of “in your face!” obnoxiousness I displayed last Tuesday when we won an evening of bar trivia at O’Shaughnessey’s). I also loathe humiliating myself with demonstrations of mediocrity. I do not enter into contests unless I have a decent hope, and certain intention, of finishing in the top 10%. The knowledge of these relentless character traits staves off a bit of the “Oh shit. What have I gotten myself into?”

But still, this old girl is once again trying something new and that’s always a little scary. The race is Sunday, March 21st. Join me in praying that on that day, I run with more grace than I walk.