Monday, June 27, 2011

The Generosity of Strangers...

  It was near the end of my shift when a woman of sixty years or so, entered the small family owned cafe in which I work. She settled into a small booth in the back. I promptly greeted her, asking her if she wanted coffee or orange juice before she placed her food order. She asked for coffee and cream. I walked back to the kitchen and poured a fresh cup of coffee. I placed the mini cream cartons into a small dish and made a bee-line back to the lady's table. Greeting her again, I found her eyes fixed on Anne Lamott's book Blue Shoe

  Smiling I said, "I love Anne Lamott!" 

  The lady looked up and smiled too. She replied, "Yes, I really enjoyed reading her book Bird by Bird".

  I was relieved she mentioned Bird by Bird. In truth I had only read two books by the author, and that happened to be one of them. "That book enabled me to believe I could and should write," I noted. There was a slight pause after my response and then she shot me an excited glance. 

  "I'm almost finished with this book. Would you like to have it?" I kindly told her, her gesture was kind but unnecessary. But she fought off my words. She insisted she could drop it off in the next day or two, while her granddaughter attended rehearsal down the street. 

  This time I avoided the polite refusal and accepted her gesture. I casually remarked "Thanks, that would be great. But only if you have time." 
  I proceeded to guide her through the menu. Collectively we decided the grilled glazed cinnamon roll would be her best option. After about an hour of refilling her coffee mug, thanking me for the gooey warm roll and quietly turning the pages of Lamott's novel, the lady left.

  Looking forward to the wedding I would be attending in Cleveland a few days later, I forgot all about the lady and Anne Lamott. But when I showed up to work a week later, I immediately spotted Blue Shoe on the bottom shelf of the take out counter. Underneath, lay the sequel to the other Anne Lamott book I had read, Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith. Two books, authored by a writer I respect, gifted to me by a complete stranger; a delightful surprise. 

  Grabbing the hardback books off the shelf, I paused to feel the glossy covers between my fingers. My mind wandered away from the whims of the restaurant, marveling at this lady's benevolence. Her generosity broke down the imaginary lines that made me her server and her my customer. Her generosity cut through the stereotype of the harsh cold city, where acts of violence bombard the first ten minutes of the six o'clock news. Her generosity reminded me that I have a choice as I continue to navigate this city. I have the choice to view everyone as a stranger, separate from myself until proven otherwise. Or, I have the choice to view everyone as my neighbor, interconnected beaming with the possibility of meaningful human interaction (no matter how small or brief).

I hope I will choose the latter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 30: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Happy Summer Solstice Everyone!!
Summer has officially arrived, bringing Underlined and Bold to the end of its countdown. Thank you to everyone who participated in the summer solstice project, it would not have come together without you! A big thank you also goes out to the Underlined and Bold audience. I hope the countdown served as a bright spot in your days, while you patiently awaited summer's arrival. 

On that note, I leave you one last "countdown" post, divulging what I am looking forward to this summer in Chicago. Enjoy!


Ukrainian Village

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
I am so excited for Chicago summer! I look forward to eating fresh veggies from the farmers markets, biking all over the city (trying to avoid pot holes), running on the lakeshore, improving my yoga practice, going to my first White Sox game, reading great books, and (most importantly) spending quality time with all the wonderful people in my life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 29: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

A day for our beloved fury friends...


Proud Parents:
Lisa & Joe

Rogers Park

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"I love spending time at the beach, taking walks in the park and camping during the summer!


Proud Parents:
(also Kristen & Jason)


Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"I love going for family runs with Kristen and Emma, especially when we stop at the neighborhood treat bowls along the way! But nothing says summer like letting loose at the dog beach, getting sand in my paws, and finishing off the day with a nice cool bath and nap on the couch!"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 28: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Congratulations to Billy & Ashley!
May all your days be filled with health, happiness & love.

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a wedding at the Walden Inn in Ohio. It was a pleasure to see two young people express such genuine affection and love for one another. The wedding was obviously well planned. Color schemes and outfits were well coordinated. Dinner was delicious, dancing was contagious and the best man was actually funny. Wine was generously poured and desserts were plentiful. I appreciated all these things, as many people probably poured over these details long before I sat upright in my chair watching the exchange of vows.

But beyond these details, what I appreciated most was the small exchanges of genuine but fleeting moments of joy between so many people. I watched the bride and groom glow as they graced the dance floor staring into each others eyes. I saw mothers beaming with happiness, as they hugged their children during the rose ceremony, showing approval of their child entering into the bond of marriage. I observed my brother exchange knowing glances between his friends he's known since high school, while the best man did a little roasting of the groom during his speech. I experienced the feeling of community as the live band sang well known songs, so everyone on the dance floor could sing in unison.

Often grander and/or more dramatic moments in our lives remind us of what is important and how we would like to live our lives. Billy and Ashley's wedding reminded me of how I value the relational aspect of being human. It reminded me how each moment (where you're in the presence of others) offers the opportunity for each of us to positively and compassionately connect with one another.

Day 28 is dedicated to all the small moments of joy we may share with friends, family and even strangers this summer. Whether we're attending a wedding, or sharing a bowl of cereal and a tall cup of orange juice with a roommate, may we all enjoy the fleeting moments of tiny pleasures that grace each of our days!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 27: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

I recently discovered the deliciousness of watermelon (especially on a hot day).
May all our summer's be filled with this tasty juicy refreshing treat!

by: Charles Simic

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 26: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown


Ukrainian Village

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"A memorable moment for me, was adopting my dog Luke last summer!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 25: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Melissa will be training all summer long to run the
2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

As the summer months roll by, many of us will spot runners pounding the pavement around our neighborhoods and on the lakefront. Some runners are just aiming to get a little cardio in their exercise routines, using outdoor spaces as their gym due to the nicer weather. Some maybe training to run a 5k, 10k and/or half marathon in the near future. Others are training for one of the biggest events our amazing city hosts each year, the Chicago Marathon.
Melissa's cat Penske Pennyloafer Pepperpants
 (AKA Dirty Face)

The Chicago Marathon is one of the World Marathon Majors that attracts approximately 45,000 runners each year from across the globe. One person attracted to run the marathon in 2011 is friend and co-worker Melissa Korpalski. Melissa will be training hard all summer long to run 26.2 miles on October 9th. The marathon will not only serve as a personal challenge, but will help raise money for PAWS Chicago, the city's largest "no kill" animal shelter. The money raised will "support PAWS Chicago's life-saving Adoption, Spay/Neuter, and Humane Education programs". Melissa chose PAWS Chicago for her charity of choice for the marathon, not only because of her love of animals, but to honor her mother, Marcia Korpalski, who recently passed away from cancer. Her mother was a true animal lover.

Whether you're an enthusiastic runner, admirer of runners, passionate animal lover or all of the above, support Melissa by making a donation to PAWS via her online fundraising page. Click here to make your donation today, then pass the link along to friends and family.

As for all the Chicagoan's lacing up their sneakers and hitting the streets this summer, Day 25 is for you! No matter the distance or duration you inspire me! See you out there! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 24: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Lauren & David met two years ago on this very day. They will marry on this day
 1 year from now. Congratulations! I love you both!

If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it 
invented romance.
-Bern Williams

Day 24 is dedicated to the inherent romance of summer. Whether you are flirting at the bar, having fun with a summer fling, holding hands with your partner or taking marriage vows... get swept up in the poetic intimacy and passion that is the essence of the season. Just lean into it and let go of your inhibitions!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 23: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown


Ukrainian Village

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"My favorite memory of Chicago in the summer is meeting my fiance at a Patrick Wolf concert at the Bottom Lounge. We ended up riding the blue line home together... and the rest is history."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 22: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
-Anna Quindlen 
"Enough Book Shelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

As a young child, one element of summer I can remember being as prominent and important as swimming, soaking up rays of sunshine and grilling outiside was reading. I remember my mother always taking my brother and I routinely to the library where we participated in the summer reading program. The program required us to read a certain quantity of books from a variety of genres in order to win stamps on board games (aka, a kid friendly book log). The stamps would later lead to stickers and other treasured knick knacks qualifying as prizes in the eyes of children.

Despite the level of sophistication of the program or its prizes, I always deeply enjoyed this annual event. An event that encouraged me to get lost among the book shelves for hours, as I reveled in the possibilities of new naratives and characters that would captivate me for the next week or two.

As I grew older, my district school sent out summer reading lists. When I first started receiving these lists, recommendations were common and requirements were few.  But as I grew in maturity and grade level the freedom to choose was squashed. A one to two page letter fraught with a small list of required titles and book report guidelines would be mailed to my home. I never viewed these lists negatively. They were merely another fact of my sheltered suburban American life, like breathing air, eating dinner and riding in my mother's mini van.

As I reflect upon childhood library adventures and carefully constructed book reports, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I am grateful to have a mother who cared about her children's education and had the time to take us on weekly library trips. I am grateful for all the enthusiastic children's librarians who put together the programs and met me each week with smiles as they looked over my board games with approval. I am grateful to have lived in a place during a time in history where I could have easy access to a building full of great books free of charge.

In the novel I most recently finished, The Help, the setting is Jackson, Mississippi. The time period is the 1960s. Skeeter, a twenty-three year old white girl, becomes friendly with an older black maid named Aibleen because of a weekly column she writes for the local paper. As their friendship blossoms and conversations become increasingly honest, Aibleen is forced to remind Skeeter that she does not have access to the library because of the color of her skin.

Aibleen's words, "You know colored folks ain't allowed in that library," forced me to place the book on my lap for a few moments. The thought of not having access to commonplace books and information became an increasingly disturbing thought. My mind began jumping rapidly between thoughts as I reflected upon how different life would be if it were void of diverse reading experiences.

Therefore, as I increase the number of lazy days I spend wrapped up in novels, books of poetry and essays this summer, I hope I can remember to cultivate a sense of gratitude. I hope I can remember not to take for granted the works of authors who enrich my life so deeply.

The first texts I will be reading this summer include Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, Bossypants by Tina Fey and Wilderness Volume 1 --The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison (poetry). I would love to know what you're reading this summer so I can add to my list! Leave comments below!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 21: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Amanda (right) in Cancun with sister Hannah (left).



Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"I'm looking forward to going to the beach as much as possible and hitting up the street fests in the different neighborhoods!"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 20: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown


Ukrainian Village

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
I'm looking forward to free music, sitting in the grass, and day drinking.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 19: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

DePaul University Graduation 2009
There are big ships and small ships. But the best ship of all is friendship. 
-Author Unknown

At eighteen, I moved away from a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, to attend DePaul University in Lincoln Park. The transition from suburban girl to urban dweller was rough. Instead of using my '99 Corolla for transportation; I relied on trains, buses, taxi's and my own two feet to run errands and explore the city. Instead of quiet night skies filled with stars; city lights shined 24/7 and the rush of the 'L' train woke me up at all hours of the night. Instead of a nicely manicured lawns, colorful flower beds and tall trees outside my front door; concrete, homeless people and cigarette butts greeted me as I exited my dormitory.

Needless to say, it took me a while to embrace Chicago as a place I could hang my hat and call home. There wasn't a defining moment or event that made me see that this city is a beautiful place to live. There were people. People who made me laugh. People who wanted to drink bubble tea in Chinatown and listen to live music at Alive One. There were people who brought me tea when I was sick and invited me out to my first sushi restaurant. People who laid out with me at the beach, and people who took me to my first protest. 

The development of amazing friendships enabled me to create memories throughout the landscape of Chicago. My love for the city slowly blossomed as neighborhoods, train rides and restaurants no longer blurred together with the rest of the urban hustle and bustle. Certain places became the home of fun nights out, quiet spots to study, and excellent dining experiences facilitating great conversation.

Therefore, I dedicate Day 19 to the lovely ladies I met at DePaul University who transformed my view of the urban jungle. The formation of our friendships is why I can blog with such enthusiasm about this city today. I look forward to spending my days creating new memories with many of these ladies this summer. Below are photos from the college reunion weekend we had together last summer in Indiana.

Who do you look forward to creating memories with this summer in Chicago?

Almost are entire circle of friends made it out for this fun weekend
reunion last summer. We missed you Brittany, Julia, & Katy!!

Ali (top left), Peapod (top right), Julie (lower left), & Anne (lower right)!

Heading out for some time at the pool.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 18: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

The photo I posted yesterday for the countdown inspired me to post a few more shots of myself enjoying warm summer days in the kiddie pool. 

Life was so simple then! Enjoy!

Safety first! The inner tube around my waist saved me from the great depths of the kiddie pool. 

I love this photo because it captures the personalities of my older brother Jordan and  myself when we were kids perfectly. Jordan was outgoing and extroverted, and I was quiet, shy and introverted. As adults, these personality traits are completely switched!

Notice the bucket being held by a mysterious arm (my brother's) in the background. I'm confident this photo captures the calm before the storm.

Squinting at the brightness of the sun with an unknown girl next to me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 17: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Photo of me around age 3!

 Beat the heat and keep cool all summer long with a nice dip in the pool. 
Just remember, keep your mouth closed!

Happy Swimming Everyone!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 16: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown


Logan Square

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"The best thing about summer is being able to end any night on some roof top with friends."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 15: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Happy Birthday Mom!!

As a child, the best time of year to have your birthday is during the school year. One can relish in a day where the classroom is completely centered around you. A birthday message on the board, homemade treats brought in by a parent at the end of the day, line leader privileges and a valid excuse to slack off on assignments is the expected outcome! Some teachers even provide crowns!

As an adult, I would argue the reverse is true. Summer is truly an ideal time to have your birthday. It's a time of BBQs, outdoor concerts, patio seating and lazy days where taking an extra day off work is more socially acceptable.

I have a January birthday. Personal experience has shown me there is no beach waiting for me if I take an extra day off work. Historically my birthday is snowy and cold, leaving me few options of people who want to brave the elements to celebrate. 

Day 15 is dedicated to all people with summer birthdays! May your special day be filled with the people you love and lots of cake and ice cream!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 14: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

Happy Birthday Fabrizio!

Each year I've lived in the city, I've attended the annual Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park. Being able to see some of the most talented musicians in the city for free is an amazing privilege.

One of the musicians you may see at the festival is my friend Fabrizio Rodio (pictured above). Despite growing up in Italy far away from the Chicago Blues scene, Fabrizio has worked hard to become a blues man, learning from some of the best musicians in the city. Click here to check out his new album Playing My Game Too. You can also check out his album on iTunes. 

The arrival of Chicago Blues festival is always the unofficial "kick-off" of summer for me. This year the festival is June 10th - 12th. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 13: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

"Summer is kind of like the ultimate one-night stand: hot as hell, totally thrilling, and gone before you know it."

Image courtesy of  Vlado /

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 12: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

(Underlined and Bold's first guest blogger!)


Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"In the summer I'm all about the Chicago street festivals, a cold beer on an outdoor patio, free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion, movies in the park and running along the lake shore with the Chicago skyline in my view!"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 11: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown


Wicker Park

Astrological Sign:

Thoughts on Chicago Summer:
"I am looking forward to movies in the park, neighborhood music festivals, fresh produce at the farmers markets, sunny days at the beach and spending quality time with good friends."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 10: Chicago Summer Solstice Countdown

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.  -Gertrude Jekyll

Happy first day of June everyone!! If you're in Chicago today, go out and enjoy the sun. It's beautiful!

Photo courtesy of
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