My Thoughts Were Traveling Too

How funny is it that I sometimes check my own blog, hoping that there will be a new post? Like some good samaritan might log in and write a little post, which would serve my handful of readers and interest me as well. Until a confirmed diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, this is unlikely to happen.
This week I was in San Francisco for an infectious disease conference. I made sure to wash my hands thoroughly with each ladies room visit, because these doctors might be watching. (Although there was recently an interesting NYT article on how even doctors don't always wash.)
Just a few days in San Francisco, staying near the shopping mecca of Union Square, and walking each day to the Moscone Center, reminded me that this might be a town worthwhile visiting for an actual leisure trip. This was reinforced when I tore into the my convention center sandwich, tasted the yummy bread and thought to myself, "Oh that's right, San Francisco! Sourdough bread!"
That absent-minded thinking might be what's kept me away from blogging; a failure to focus my mind on any one thing, or maybe the problem is focusing on just one or two things, to the exclusion of all else.
To take in more of our own neighborhood, upon my return home Jason suggested going to our local bagel shop for lunch. I suggested we make it a walk to the bagel shop and a lunch on the nearby beaches of Lake Michigan. Sounds picturesque, except that as we walked to the beach there was a tremor of thunder in the sky. "It's just the El," I thought to myself and didn't say anything to Jason since it's not always easy to coax him out in the sunshine and fresh air. It wasn't the El; it was the introduction to a heavy midday thunderstorm. Which we were caught in, 4 blocks from home, without umbrellas. So much for the appreciation of local landscape.

Swedish for malarkey

Having now figured out the most direct, and least argument - inducing route to IKEA, it has opened our home to many Swedish houseware riches. IKEA reassures us that cheap does not have to mean ugly. Functional does not have to mean boring. Shopping there can make you feel so young, hip, even avant garde. All of the items have their swedish names on the labels. It's like shopping in Europe. Except for all the loud Americans.
The product names get a little wacky though. My hangers, for example, were labeled "bumerang." Am I supposed to believe that this is really the Swedish word for trouser hanger? It's not. Not surprisingly, it's the Swedish term for "boomerang." (And the hanger would not be a very effective one.)
After some shallow internet research, I learned tonight that the Swedes may have gotten a little bored during those long winter nights and became a little creative with the product names. For example, DUKTIG (meaning: good, well-behaved) is a children's tea set. However my closet knobs, "modest" don't really mean anything at all in the Swedish dictionary. Not even modest. (The naming firm, A Hundred Monkeys, offers more insight.)
The IKEA pillow in the background of the photo is cute, but that's not what it's called. ("Bettan blom" is its name, which as far as I can figure, means "bite blossom.")
Post-Script: I can't find the Swedish word for malarkey, but the translation for nonsense is "nonsens." And on the shelves IKEA, I think this might be a funny-looking lamp maybe, or maybe a kiddie chair.
And proving that the blogs never fail in their minute coverage of our world: there's a blog dedicated entirely to IKEA.

Lions and Tigers and Bears: Whatever

It wasn't the furry threats of the forest or even the flying monkeys and wicked witch that got me scared as a wee one watching the Wizard of Oz. It was The Tornado that worried me. Dorothy's entire house lifted up off the ground and she couldn't make it to the basement in time. Growing up in Philadelphia though, there was rarely occasion to worry. A hurricane maybe, or a fantastic summer lightening storm might create some awe, and once, a downed tree in front of our house.
Moving to the Midwest brought me closer to the tornados. In Columbus, I was little concerned since Ohio is pretty flat and Columbus has its nearby fields and farmland, opening a wide avenue for any strong-willed tornado to cruise right through. My town had its daily test of the tornado alarm, which was a new routine. In Chicago though, I figured though it was still in the Midwest certainly tornados don't come after city folk. But they do.
I heard the shrill call of Evanston tornado alarms last night while driving home through puddles of rain and pools of Northwestern University students huddling for shelter under the trees. (You'd think such smart kids would know that you're not supposed to stand under trees in a lightening storm.) A real tornado warning -- not a test -- and I was driving right through it! More than a hundred tornado sirens went off last night in Chicago. I wondered, what do you do in this situation? Look for a store with a sympathetic proprietor and a basement? Drive faster? Although traffic didn't seem to cooperate. Pedestrians on the street stood waiting for their buses, but pointed to the sky behind me with concern.
I was nearly home so I rationalized that I could drive through it. My drive takes me from Evanston, right near Skokie and then into Rogers Park. And wouldn't it figure that the radio announcer provided updates that the storm was following me, heading to Evanston, now nearing Skokie. As I pulled into the alley and opened our back gate, the warning was extended to Rogers Park. Oh my.
After surviving my harrowing trip home, I'd like to point out that Jason suggested it might be a nice night to visit IKEA. Driving us through the neighborhood where live wires had been downed and streets were flooded. (I made him drive and I brought a book to read.)

The C.W.hat?

Who knew there was a new network? The CW, is an amalgamation of the WB and UPN, which both apparently ceased operations last week. An answer to the question of 'if I died, would you miss me?' for them, since I totally hadn't noticed or heard they were leaving my television dial.
But I was curiously wondering when the next season of America's Next Top Model might start when the UPN link passed me off to this new network site. (BTW, ANTM starts tonight, Weds, 8 EST/7 Central, which means I'll have to hustle to the early train home!)Unfortunately, I think that there might also be a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in our neighborhood tonight, which Jason and I considered attending to contribute positively to the rebirth of our neighborhood. (If we decide to buy in Rogers Park, it'll help the property value. And our upstairs neighbor is trying to encourage to buy her place when she retires soon. As the sole renters in the building, we must have a potential buyer target marked on our backs.)
Mmm, America's Next Top Model or fighting crime and making the streets safer? This is a dilemma where TiVo would help immensely.

A Good Read

Raised a bookworm, the arrival of gifts from Juliet and Hugh for my birthday (a little housekeeping for the bottom end of my amazon wishlist) was welcome. There's now a tidy pile of books waiting to be read.
It won't take too long to crack the first edition, since I'm trucking right through a v. good read right now: A Fine Balance. This book was also a gift, from friend Dipti. Dipti is one of those very gracious folks who always seems to have a thoughtful gift for you whenever you see them. No occasion required. It's a trait I'd like to adopt myself, but it seems like one of those things that is only done well when it is done sincerely. I can't just start foisting books on people to get the good credit.
This book, starting in India in the 1970s but moving both forward and backward, reminds me of how little true world history is covered in World History survey classes. While as good little US citizens we learned about the 13 original colonies in fifth, seventh, and again in eleventh grade, I'm at a total loss to explain "the partition." Who knew that that's where Pakistan came from? And why Kashmir is such a problem. (Not just a cozy type of sweater, which can sometimes be a problem in and of itself, i.e. worn on a day that turns out to be warmer than expected.) It's embarrassing to realize stuff like this: both the lack of world knowledge, and the inappropriate wardrobe.

Craving Introversion

It has been a long (but not yet over) week of 'grinning and gripping' as I traveled to a sales meeting and now find myself in Los Angeles awaiting the start of a large customer meeting. Sales meetings can be very pleasurable as most sales people are naturally extroverted. After meeting me just once, months before, they will still spy me from the corner of their eye, turn with arms outstretched and exclaim, "Claire! How ARE you??" I am particularly endeared to two colleague's who started with my company on the same day and this week confided that they refer to me as "Our Claire" whenever my name comes up.
By nature however, I am likely an introvert. A little shy, although my voice's natural propensity to carry across the room and my quick giggle might belie this.
In Las Vegas, on the last night of our sales meeting, I followed the group of chattering sales reps across the floor of the blinking and buzzing casino floor to dinner. The energy of the group, the blare of the casino, and my fatigue from the lingering cold and three days away from home drove my urge to introvert harder. I realized that I probably began to look a little like the bodyguard for the group, following just a step behind, a serious and thoughtful look on my face (as my thoughts focused inward) and quietly scanning the room with my eyes.
To survive, I might consider reading this book, The Introvert Advantage. The author notes, "Introverts are like a rechargeable battery. They need to stop expending energy and rest in order to recharge." Right now, I definitely need a little charge. Also, I've always considered introversion the less desirable tendency, so seeing this title piqued my interest... but the title's likely just a marketing ploy to us guilty introverts. Tricky.

Days Lost

Where in the world have I been? Well, I crawled under covers Saturday night and did not resurface until Tuesday morning, sicker than I've been in years with a cold. It was alarming, and frustrating that all I could do was kind of nap it out. Meanwhile I heard my new Blackberry vibrating in my bag, with new e-mails piling up in my inbox at work. If I had the energy I would have gotten up and turned off my new little device. But the energy was just not there; the night before I had laid in bed wishing that Jason would come into the room so that I could ask him to get me a tissue. The bathroom was just too far for a solo journey. (Jason did take good care of me, driving me to get more medicine when I needed it, and even finding those little travel packs of tissues on the back of the supermarket shelves.)
The travel packs were required for my current business trip to Las Vegas. Fortunately TSA did not discover smuggled nasal spray in my carry-on, so that I could clear my sinuses before take-off, avoiding that feeling that your ears will pop right out of your head as the air pressure changes. (I feel confident that I could have argued the case that the nasal spray fell under the non-prescription medicine allowance for carry-on fluids, if pressed.) So now I'm sniffling my way through powerpoint presentations in Vegas. And further procrastinating addressing those e-mails.

Four Eyes Forever

When the receptionist asks, "And would you like to schedule another appointment now?" as I pay at the hairdressers I nod eagerly. I will diligently make new hair appointments in advance to make sure that I'm keeping myself from looking too shaggy, but it's those appointments that matter that I will regret allowing to go postponed when I'm older: dentist, doctor, optometrist.
I returned to the eye doctor's just yesterday, like the prodigal son. And apparently the blind, prodigal son. I guessed that it had probably been at least over two years since I'd been for an eye exam. However, after the doctor flipped different lens options in front of me to figure out my new prescription she asked, "Are you sure it's only been two years? You're prescription has changed a lot." She followed that statement shortly with the question, "Have you ever considered contacts?" "What? I don't need contacts!" I wanted to reply, but then I realized that even by asking the question she was gently telling me that I did. Apparently, as she explained, I have been settling for compromised vision, and if I were to wear contacts I'd notice a greater clarity. I felt sullen, like I did the day that the dentist told me I'd gotten my first cavity. Gone were the days of hopping down from the dentist's chair to tell mom, "No cavitites!!"
I don't think I'll go straight to contacts, especially because apparently my eyes have worsened so much that the doctor is giving me a new prescription that isn't quite as strong as what I really need. Making the jump to the full prescription would probably make me out of sorts for a while, she explained. "Okay," I mumbled.
I selected my new frames, ignoring prices: I now knew that if this pair was going to sit on my face full-time, I might as well pick the ones I really like. Stupid glasses. Stupid cavities.

The Fantasy Begins

Over the course of killing-time small talk with a co-worker, she mentioned that she, her husband and baby had gone home to Pittsburgh recently to visit family. "Well," she hesitated, "it was actually kind of for my husband's fantasy football draft." She smirked a little as she confessed it. My eyes grew wide, "I'm going to Columbus this weekend for the very same thing!" I exclaimed.
I'm wondering if Fantasy Football Draft Day will fall in amongst the other family get-together holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

In the excited anticipation of fantasy season kick-off, Jason can recap the funniest fantasy related ads on TV. Like the one above, and this one too. Neither one of which I exactly get, because you kind of have to know something about football. Or like what a running back even does.
In the AT&T commercial that I enjoy, but can't find a link to, a man is roused from his sleep by a late night phone call. "What happened? You're kidding? Is he hurt?" he asks urgently. The woman lying next to him in bed knits her eyebrows together in concern, "What? What is it, honey?" she asks reaching out to comfort him. (Watching, you think that this must be a car insurance ad, their child in an accident, the trusty but overinvolved insurance agent calling the parents.) The shrugs off the woman's hand and gets out of bed. He urgently wakes up his nearby computer, to see a clip of his fantasy player being put onto a stretcher on the playing field. "No, it's good that you called," he reassures his friend on the other line.

Back to Ohio

It's in fact a good thing that Jason and I hail from different geographies. In just about two days we ambled across the greater Columbus metro area to visit Jason's family and friends this weekend. If I had my own relatives to visit at the same time, our Labor Day weekend surely would have been much more hectic.
Going back to Ohio provoked me to reflect on how I've grown from spending two years living in Ohio. Moving to Columbus, and to Chicago, has made me think that everyone should try living away from the place where they grew up. Each place has its different values, idiosyncracies, pace, demeanor, and flavor.
Revisting Ohio reminded me of a few things:
> Scarlet and gray are the most beautiful complimentary colors. On a game weekend, particularly the seaon opening weekend, working these colors into your wardrobe is compulsory.
> Open spaces, like those surrouding the homes of Jason's grandparents and aunt still exist... and only twenty minutes from the mall even.
> When your city matured after the invention of the automobile, you will drive everywhere, but traffic jams are not a foregone conclusion. If find yourself stuck in traffic in Columbus it's always due to an accident. If you find yourself stuck in traffic in Philadelphia or Chicago, it's probably just Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Friday, or even Saturday.
> I've taken it as symbolic of Columbus' generous spirit that the airport has free wi-fi. FREE.

A few weeks ago, as our flight attendant asked us to raise our seat backs, turn off and stow our portable electronic devices, I gazed out the window to the landscape below. I was flying home, but I felt a momentary unease as my mind searched to remember where 'home' was: most recently Columbus, now Chicago, always Philadelphia. I was a little dumbfounded that accessing the definition and picture of home was not an instant mental connection. I felt lost momentarily, until I reminded myself who waited for me in Chicago, and then who might wait for me in Ohio, and who always hopes for me in Philadelphia. Considering this I changed my mind from feeling lost to feeling lucky and loved.

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