Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Treading Water



It has been four days since I sat at my friend Bobby's computer in Tel Aviv, Israel, chatting with Eddie on Skype at 3 AM. I was two hours away from leaving for Ben Gurion Airport to catch my flight back to Chicago via London. I was good naturedly giving Eddie the business for ordering a costly new computer in my absence, when Jen called Eddie's cell phone, tearfully relaying the news that Jesika had passed.

Though I was in complete shock at the time, and had to endure a painful 24-hour trip home that I would not wish on my worst enemy, for some reason, I have only thought of Jesika more, rather than less with each passing day. Those of us who loved her have learned some information that accounts for Jesika's really sudden expiration (aggressive small cell Stage 4 ovarian cancer), but there is just no explanation that will make these events seem fair, or soothe the ache of our hearts.

I expected the constant mental replay of all the special and hilarious moments we shared throughout the course of our 16-year friendship. I was ready to feel the anger, sadness and pain that accompanies the sudden absence of a loved one. But as I try to go about my day-to-day business, it is the little things that feel like they are crushing my heart into even smaller pieces. For example, while giving my house a thorough cleaning on Monday, I suddenly looked down at the dustbuster in my hand and lost it. This utensil, which I adore, was a wedding shower gift from Jesika to me back in the Fall of 2007. Of all the things I had listed in my registry, it was so like her to zero in and buy the one item that compliments my neat freak nature.

My last day at the ADA is next week, Friday the 8th. I sent out a little going away happy hour invitation for myself prior to leaving for Israel. I reviewed the invitation today for anyone I may have missed. Before I could catch myself, I remarked out loud that I had forgotten Jesika. There will be many tough days ahead, but I know for a fact that if she were still here and well, she would have indeed joined me for a last day drink. Because very few people were as supportive of my efforts to make myself a writer as she was, even if she complained about having to buy StreetWise.

I have lost loved ones before, but never a close, intimate friend, a contemporary who I firmly believed had a long, full and fabulous life ahead of her. Jesika was educated, funny, and immensely talented. I can't get over the apparent waste of her death. I know there must be a silver lining somewhere, but God help me, I just can't find it right now.

Jesika's funeral is on Saturday. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for that first shocking image of her lifeless body lying in wait. Among many factors related to this situation, it seems so wrong that someone with so much joie de vivre pumping through her veins should be motionless and quiet. How? Why? And before all of us could say our final goodbyes? Granted, I wrote this post when Jesika first found out she was sick, lo these three weeks ago. I am forever glad I did, no matter how uncomfortable it made her. I know that she saw it, and I know she understood my love for her. I just wish I had time to say more.

Jesika's brother Brandon called me the day before Jesika perished. He urged me to call him back ASAP, and that is a message I never received because my cell did not have international service. I am struggling very hard to overcome the intense guilt I feel over not having been with her and her family in the end.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Heaven Just Got a Whole Lot Funnier


Jesika Brooke Thompson

Born: August 17, 1978

Died: April 25, 2009

I will let Jen speak for me. For once, I have no words.

JESIKA BROOKE THOMPSON 1978-2009


{This is a picture of Jesika and Boop at Boop's bachelorette party in 2007} I am writing this post with a profound sadness. Several weeks ago, Boop posted that she had a friend in crisis, fighting for her life. She lost that battle this afternoon. I am only finding things out in small pieces and  quite honestly cannot wrap my head around it at all. Boop is still in Israel (heading to the airport as we speak) and she is completely devastated. None of us knew how little time we had left to see Jesika. I thought I was going to see her this week or next. That chance has passed but I will leave you with two of my favorite, most recent memories of a girl who NEVER failed to have a good time.

Boop had a wine and cheese party and invited some girls who are, shall we say, less than classy when they are intoxicated. Jesika and I, along with another pal spent the better part of that soiree mercilessly making fun of these girls in all of their tiredness. It made the party that much more enjoyable.

My hubby ditched me for a date night (that's a long story for another day). We were supposed to go to a dance show with Boop and her hubby and another couple. I was left with an extra ticket last minute. Jesika ended up my date. She promised to one day to return the favor. Now we'll never get the chance. But its okay because even though she made fun of the dancing THE ENTIRE TIME I wouldn't have wanted to be there with anyone else.

Rest in peace my friend. And as my beautiful daughter so eloquently put at only nine years old; you will be safe in heaven. 

The End?


It's going to take me some time to process all I have seen and experienced here in Israel, and what it all means to me. Right now, my head is sort of dizzy with the prospect of seeing Eddie for the first time in two weeks at the airport tomorrow. At the risk of sounding completely corny, it's like nothing in my life is real or full until I have shared it with him. We had a brief web chat over Skype earlier this evening before I went with Bobby and Moish out on the town for my last night in Tel Aviv. I warned him that he will be bored out of his socks tomorrow night listening to my chatter. No matter how lethargic I might be when I deplane, I know I will find my second wind when I see his gorgeous face waiting for me in baggage claim.

I think I have found a side of myself I never knew existed until I came to this place, so abundantly rich in religious and cultural history. I discovered a "believer" of some sort. I am not necessarily certain as of yet what shape that belief takes, but I definitely unloaded a heavy burden of cynicism. As I said, it will take awhile to sort out, but I don't think this change is at all temporary. If this post sounds annoyingly vague, I think I have warned you in the past that I have more questions than answers. But in ways I don't yet have the language to describe, I think I have found some truth here amongst heritage that frankly, everyone in the world can claim in some form or another. It's an inner kind of certainty. I feel more sure of the decisions I have made recently, less plagued by doubt.

Bobby and I have been friends for years, but I do feel I will be at a loss without Moish. He has been my friend, companion and nurse throughout the last week. Brat that I am, I have mocked his solicitous nature a time or two, but yesterday, as Day 3 of a nasty rash raged on my forearms and hands, tears falling, more than slightly considering rebooking my flight for an early return to Chicago, it was his gentle RN experience and love that soothed me in a way that I am not sure anyone else could have. He consulted his Israeli medical books, pulled out an unforseen arsenal of creams and medications, and confidently assured me that what I feared was a bacterial infection, was in reality, simply an allergy to their laundry detergent. I don't have a mother in my life, though I have dear mother figures. Somehow I feel Moish is the comforting Mummy I have always longed for, friend to all children and animals. Lucky Bobby, and he knows it.

I feel that the little vignettes of understanding I have gained here will only enhance as I move forward through the next phase of my life. I am back to work on Monday, two weeks to go until I am done at the ADA. Then? Who knows? But something tells me that this week has fortified me to face that unknown. I have a greater sense of what's really important in life, what is and isn't worth getting worked up about. I pray tonight, as I prepare for my flight home, for the strength of character to hold onto those assurances in the weeks ahead.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shamless Self Promotion

e
We interrupt this regularly scheduled installment of Boop's semi frequent broadcast of her adventures in Israel to remind her readership that she has experienced her official debut as a reporter! Sadly, http://streetwise.org/ doesn't depict anything but the cover, but the article itself, dated 4/22 and on sale through Wednesday, 4/29, is on sale via many of the streets of her beloved hometown, Chicago.

For those of you wondering, that Swamp Thing displayed above is none other than Boop herself, covered voluntarily in Dead Sea Mud. She may look ugly, but after a long hose down, her skin is soft and clear as a baby's ass.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Wayward Christian's Pilgrimage?

video
Jen and I were raised in the Lutheran faith. From Kindergarten up to graduation from 8th grade, we dutifully attended day school and Sunday school, went through first communions and confirmations. Heck, I even taught a Sunday school class myself once I got into high school. We sang in choirs, the whole nine yards. To this day, I enjoy reading the Bible, particularly the Old Testament (Job and Ruth are favorites) as a good book full of great stories. I remain interested in Christian teachings and their evolution, but since about the age of 14, that interest has become that of an outside observer. Frankly, I don't think anyone the age of 13 knows their own mind well enough to commit to a Church membership, but that is not what I am here to discuss.

With all that in mind, I was particularly looking forward to today's Israeli itinerary, artfully laid out by Bobby weeks in advance of my trip. Though I have long since converted to Hinduism prior to my marriage to Eddie, today was the day I was to see the things I had, to this point, only heard about, read about, and watched the History Channel documentaries regarding. Bobby, Moish and I checked out of our hostel in Qatrin, way in the Northern part of Israel, this morning and made our way to to the following sites: the Church where the Gospel of Mark was first decreed, the Rock where Jesus allegedly fed 5,000 on nothing more than a loaf of bread and two fish, and the relics of St. Peter's House.

I went into this, I am ashamed to say, with my usual clowning. I was determined to limit my interest to that of a historical perspective, but as I watched the Pilgrims from other nations weep, sing and kiss the various landmarks, I suddenly felt I owed an apology of some sort for my cynicism and doubt. Mind you, I am still not sure where I ultimately stand on the Big Guy himself, if he exists, and if so, what is his place in my life? But something profound clearly happened to me today. In the Church of Mark, feet that felt not like my own, carried me over to a bench where I knelt down to pray. I confess, I have not done so in years by my own choice, and I did so rather furtively, fearing that my companions would hold me up for mockery. But Moish, sly Israeli dog that he is, captured me on film, very quietly. As I watched the playback of myself back at their home in Tel Aviv that night, I felt that I should expose this moment to all of you.

I drew two possible conclusions: even the Enlightened have their moments of weakness, or perhaps, after all, I am part of something, so deep inside me, that even I don't realize it.

Our little caravan goes onto to Jerusalem tomorrow. Even I am interested to see where my emotions might take me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Little Differences

Disclaimer: the following post is in no way intended to be a serious critical discussion of the cultural and religious differences between the U.S. and Israel. I am not qualified to make those types of distinctions, nor, in the end, do I ultimately feel they are important. I am interested here in the little quirks that let me know, as a girl from Chicago, that I am definitely somewhere else. In the last two days, I have walked upwards of ten miles around Tel Aviv, a midsized City of 500,000, and for every one of these observations, I did not consider it recordable unless I witnessed on at least three or more occasions. So it's not an exact science, but I stand by my claims that these are discernable Israeli behavior patterns.

- Solo riders in taxis sit right up front with the driver, and most of the time, *gasp!* even engage in conversation with them. Most of us regular Janes in Chicago like our cabbie to take us where we asked to go without any extraneous chitchat, and we certainly don't ride shotgun.

- The pedestrian "walk" signal, rather than white in color, is green over here. For whatever reason, I have a Pavlovian response to this that gives me the urge to run very fast when it is time to cross the street. The childhood game "Red Light, Green Light" apparently penetrates into the psyche far deeper than previously imagined.

- On that note, traffic laws and signs are apparently offerred as suggestions, as opposed to hard and fast rules. This explains the inordinate amount of people who drive on the sidewalk (yes), go the wrong way down one-way streets, and run red lights without the slightest "tsk, tsk" from passerby.

- Coffee shops ALWAYS double as pubs. It is perfectly acceptable for the Israeli corporate type to get an Irish coffee to go and finish it at their desk before starting the day's work. I honestly think this practice needs to make its way to professional America. Imagine the increase in job satisfaction.

- To continue that thought, convenience stores put individual beers in the cooler at the front of the store, right next to the bottled water and soda. There is nothing at all strange about a person popping in for a brew and merrily sipping it as they walk down the street. This may seem counterintuitive, but it appears to cut down on the incidence of public intoxication and drunk driving, because the taboo is completely removed. Something to consider.

- I have not seen even one stray dog, though there are plenty of dogs in Israel. However, stray cats roam the streets in abundance. For some reason, I find this both increasingly depressing as well as less threatening.

- People think those who jog are mentally ill, a response I ran into hundreds of times as I ran through the streets of Bobby and Moish's neighborhood this morning. Running just doesn't seem to be understood in a place where it's far easier to drink an iced Irish coffee on a sweltering morning. That being said, Israelis can literally walk for miles without any visible signs of fatigue. I am nearly 20 years younger than my companions, and as I arrogantly thought, in far better shape. But guess who was begging for mercy after these lengthy jaunts the last two days?

- Israeli men, well 85% of them anyway, are H-O-T. In fact, the incidence of pulchritude amongst both sexes is astoundingly high, and almost no one is obese. I would be positively drowned in envy were I not too busy looking. Hey! I am married, not dead, you know?

- Whereas Chicago has pretty well defined boundaries between downtown and residential areas, the layout here is continuous and fluid. It is not at all uncommon to have a sprawling shopping mall, a car dealer, several apartment complexes, and a high rise office building on the same block.

- Chicago is abominable when it comes to recycling, one of the few things about Chi town that really sticks in my craw. On the other hand, Tel Aviv is very casually green: plastic bottle receptacles scattered casually throughout the City, solar panels, lights, even attached to businesses, that operate on motion detection.

- Buildings, even new construction, are built solidly of stone, not brick, or even the much maligned (by me anyway) glass and steel. These materials may come into play, but they are not the sum total.

- People bring their kids everywhere, and that includes bars, clubs, late night cinemas., etc. There appears to be no such thing as an "adults only" haven, much to the chagrin of my hosts. Fine, I hate this too. I said it.

- Each shopping mall appears to contain at least two or three tattoo parlors.

- People stare at you. They look long and hard. I realized belatedly that this not rudeness. They are just trying to gain some understanding before they speak - not a bad habit in my opinion, although it takes getting used to.

- Israelis work to live, rather than live to work. One of my hosts, Moish, is an RN. He opts to work three days a week because that is enough to satisfy his material needs, and still allow him the time to pursue his music, work with animals, etc. If this philosophy could be bottled and sold, I would be the first customer in line.

- Fast food restaurants are few and far between (see my above comment on lack of fat Israelis).

- Curls, rather than flat irons, are celebrated as beautiful. Obviously, for very personal reasons (see Boop on the right in the above photo), this brings me great joy.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lessons Learned


I have been in Tel Aviv for all of 36 hours and I have already answered the following questions:

1. How exactly will my body respond to absinthe?

I have read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises numerous times. It is one of my favorite novels of all time, misogyny and all. In it, Jake Barnes and Brett, the romantic leads, ingest this naughty beverage, declared to cause hallucinations, more than once. Bobby offered a me a shot last night before we went out and I could barely contain my excitement. I am sorry to report that absinthe did not live up to the hype. It burned my throat approximately three times as much as it provided any strange effect. And this is when I was already severely hobbled by jetlag. Sad.

2. Do Israelis bear the same level of intolerance for Arabs as has been historically shown to them?

To my great despair, the answer seems to be "yes," and what's worse is that I actually understand where Israelis are coming from. Basically, they are under constant attack from all countries that border them except for Egypt, and that includes: Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (Gaza), and the West Bank (sort of an undifferentiated home for Arabs). I being the naive and optimistic Nancy that I tend to be, always hope for a peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews in the region, but now that I have begun to grasp the politics and nuances at play, it is hard not to feel hopeless regarding the lasting chances of peace in the region. For example, while watching the local news today, I heard a leader from the West Bank declare, to loud cheers, that Arabs will "never accept the State of Israel." That seems highly counterproductive as the country has already been in existence for decades. There are as many peaceful and loving Arabs as there are Jews who just want to live unharmed. Unfortunately, it would seem that the leaders of both sides have their own rhetorical and personal agendas which preclude this process from ever getting off the ground. Obviously, much more so than the absinthe disappointment, this is just sad.

3. Is Tel Aviv the dangerous, bombed out hovel that was shown to the USA on TV in the 80s and 90s?

Everything I have seen since I arrived goes dead set against the stereotypes of the City as a shellacked and dangerous war zone. Like Chicago, it has trendy areas that are being gentrified with new housing developments and shops, homeless folks, crowding, issues with property taxes - in other words, all of the issues which plague every major world city. I saw the long, pristine beaches of the Mediterranean Sea today, and, much as I love my hometown, Tel Aviv has some amenities that Chicago may want to consider: sandlot gyms, open air cafes, shops and bars. Everything here is very European in look and feel. I took almost 30 photos today itself and will post some of them on these pages as I return.

4. Can I drink the local tap water without getting sick?

The answer to this, apparently yes. However, I chalk this finding up to pure fatigue and laziness, rather than science or bravado. Also, the results have been duplicated more than once, so I feel fairly confident.

5. Are my skills compromised at bar entertainment trivia games when I am in a foreign land?

Indeed no. Bring it!

Tomorrow is only Day 3 of my nine day Israeli adventure. There is, as yet, so much more to see and learn. But I have had my eyes opened (not just closed with hash and absinthe) so much already.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shalom



Well boys and girls, I am off to Israel! Tomorrow afternoon, I fly from Chicago to Tel Aviv by way of London, and will arrive late Friday afternoon. I have never flown for so long a stretch completely unaccompanied, but I actually look forward to it. Plenty of time for sleep, journal writing, reading and movie watching - all things I normally never have enough time to do. My friends Bobby and Moish, who are kind enough to host me, have planned a whirlwind itinerary for us: floating on the Dead Sea, tours of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Akko. I will see the Western Wall, the holy site where Jesus allegedly gave his famous "Sermon on the Mount," and be there on Monday, 4/20, to witness the observance of Holocaust Memorial Day. I will see things that take my breath away, break my heart and inspire me - all in the company of great friends. I am a very lucky girl and eager to make the most of this opportunity.


Though I never ascribed much to my Christian upbringing and have long since converted to Hinduism, I cannot deny that something about Israel speaks to me as part of the world from which I spring. I suspect I may discover some surprising and new things about myself on this journey, besides whether or not my body can tolerate absinthe.


I will have sporadic access to a computer while I am away, and do plan to check in with some thoughts and musings on the all the things I will see. I return Sunday, April 26th, and once I calm down from the excitment of the trip and seeing my beloved husband again, I plan to give my sojourn the treatment it deserves, and share some of my experiences with all of you.


Until then, behave!

Monday, April 13, 2009

My End or Yours?


What was supposed to be a weekly element to this blog has kind of become a "whenever we have the chance to BOTH write something together" element. Its been a while and I felt like changing it up a bit this time around. For this installment, I thought of random questions for us to answer. It ended up being the first 10 things that popped into my head. I, Jen, will be in blue, Boops answers in green. ENJOY! And feel free to answer them yourself in our comments section.

1 - Give one selfless act you would do that is doable and one that seems extraordinary

Doable: Friends of mine are adopting two brothers from Russia. I have offered (and hope they will take me up on) my babysitting services when the mom goes back to work after her "maternity leave". If she goes back part time and works mornings, I will watch her boys free of charge before I go to work myself. I am watching my kids anyway, so...

Extraordinary: I have often thought of starting a volunteer program that gets kids involved helping out less fortunate children their own ages. Be it providing food to the hungry kids, providing a playmate to an otherwise isolated child, etc. I think kids these days have it waaaaay to good in many cases and would be humbled and inspired by this type of work.


Doable: If my ill friend must undergo chemotherapy and therefore loses her hair, I will shave my head as a show of solidarity, as well as to help her demonstrate to the world just how beautiful bald can be.

Extraordinary: I have set myself a September 1, 2009 deadline. I am trying very hard to find a corporate position in a writing field. However, given the tough economic climate, as well as the plentiful job applicants, if I am unable to secure a position by this date, I am going to try and do a stint with City Year (
http://www.cityyear.org/chicago.aspx). They state they their “corps members” are between the ages of 17-24. I am just a touch out of that range (ha!) but think they ought to make an exception if I am willing, no? Who better to teach underprivileged children to read and such than an old lady with a Master’s in English Literature? I guess the “extraordinary” part would be convincing these people that you CAN trust someone over 30.


2 - If you could be doing absolutely anything anywhere in the world, what would you do?

I would either be in Disney World for a two week vacay with my family OR on a more reasonable level snuggled up in my pjs and blankie taking a nap on the couch.

I’d be sipping an Italian soda across a table from my husband in Venice, Italy, working on the latest installment of my world famous and heavy trafficked, travelogue.

3 - Do you still own any items of clothing you owned in high school?

I know I have a few pieces of cheap jewelry that somehow managed to stay in one piece for 10+ years (cheep doesn't always = poor quality). I can't specifically think of a clothing item, but if I go search the closet I might come up with a shirt or two.

Like Oprah, Janet Jackson, Valerie Bertinelli and Kirstie Alley, I have been somewhat of a yo-yo dieter over the course of my adulthood. Happily, I have kept my weight reasonable for the last 5 years and actually weigh a touch less than I did when I graduated high school, though I am in much better shape. The biggest downside to shape shifting is the tremendous wardrobe challenges and expense presented. I got rid of my high school “thin clothes” back in 1998, only to wish I had some of them back now. C’est la vie. Oh wait! I do have a pair of Nikes from 1996. Vintage baby!

4 - What is one thing you feel is missing from your life right now?

I was just thinking the other day ....I don't have very many really good friends that I regularly see or talk to on the phone. I have kind of let my family life be the main thing and think I may have let a few things fall by the wayside. Boop is always meeting up with her peeps, and I really don't.

I suppose I could address the flipside of Jen’s dilemma and say that I do, despite what I may say, feel a sort of emptiness in my life at times when it comes to family. My hubby is on the road a lot, and I have no children. Jen and I are tight as it is possible to be, but live a bit too far apart for day to day visual contact. My own parents have been, shall we say, quite intermittent in my life, and while I enjoy a fair to middling relationship with my in-laws, they live thousands of miles away in India. I had a couple of tough days last week, and shed some tears, but there was really no one around to give me the hug I needed.

5 - What's your favorite luxury?

I LOOOOOVE facials. Massages are okay I guess, but there is always a creepy factor that a stranger is rubbing their hands all over your. EEEEEWWW (unless he's hot. tee hee)

This is probably weird, not to mention a little disgusting, but we have all grown so close these last few months, haven’t we gentle readers? I am a huge fan of the Brazilian bikini wax. I am a big fan of order and cleanliness in every arena of my life. I will leave it at that.

6 - What would you grab out of your house as it burns down other than people or pets?

I would try to grab as many handbags as possible. The expensive ones anyway. On the way out the front door I would grab a few photo albums that aren't stored digitally somewhere. Those are irreplaceable. I don't have a lot of room left in my arms for my shoes and clothes, so I would be crying. Alot.

My journals, which I have kept on and off since I was 14 years old. There are dozens of them. Basically, my whole silly little world is catalogued there. Even if no one but me ever reads them, it is, quite literally, my life’s work.

7 - What's the thing you love most about your husband?

I love how much he loves me. He proves it by doing things like telling me in a room full of strangers in a store that I look beautiful with the sunlight shining behind me through the storefront window. It takes quite a man to do that in public without feeling embarassed. Oh, and he's a pretty damn awesome daddy too.

I hardly know where to start. Eddie is a complex, brilliant and wickedly funny man. He is damn sexy too. Wait, where was I going with this? Um yeah, ok, the thing I love most about him is his brutal honesty. It is not for everyone, but it completely works for me.

8 - Last meal?


Lobster bisque soup from Entourage, Ceasar salad from Maggianos, Queso dip from Ruby Tuesdays, main course of rare steak from anywhere that cooks it right with a side of McDonalds french fries. Dessert would have to be Oreos and milk.

Again, here comes the weird factor: buttered lobster tail with sides of creamed spinach, asparagus and steamed baby carrots with just a hint of butter and brown sugar.

9 - Tell us something we may not know about your co-blogger?

In grammar school she wiped out in a puddle of sewer water in the school "gym"....wearing white pants!!!

Oh shit Jen, it’s on now! I have mentioned before that Ms. “Of All Trades” was not always the most outgoing gal. We both auditioned for the “New Mickey Mouse Club” back in 1990 (bonus points for anyone who can uncover the footage of me doing the Running Man on NBC 5 that night, wearing my coolest Debbie Gibson hat and Hammer Pants). Jen and I had both selected Wilson Phillips tunes for the singing portion of our audition. The producers got to Jen, who had selected “You’re in Love” (great adult contemporary jam, and of course I say this without irony), and just as she opened her mouth…she forgot the words. Tears came immediately.

(since I was responsible for posting this I take the liberty of making a comment to you, Boop.....you bitch!!! And one more thing we don't know about you is that you are spiteful)

10 - Who is the one celebrity you wished was a follower of this blog?

Guiliana Rancic of E News fame because she would see how much she NEEDED me to replace Ryan Seacrest as her co-host. You know also know my dream job.

Perez Hilton, Barack Obama and Tim Russert, in no particular order and with the obvious fact that my third choice would have to return from the grave.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Homecoming



In all the excitement of the week, both positive and negative, I almost forgot to mention the good news regarding the next phase of my road warrior husband's career. He has been, for the most part, happily working away in Denver for Comcast. Of course he has missed our home and the cats, but has found himself suprisingly content with the work he has been doing, and with the camaraderie of his colleagues. I had asked him to keep looking for jobs in Chicago, but the truth of the matter is, he had stopped searching. However, that does not mean companies stopped looking for him.

One such interested party was Blue Cross/Blue Shield right here in Chicago. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this was a posting that many of Eddie's fellow IT consultants had heard of and wanted badly. In this economy, health care is one of the few "safe" industries left. The attractiveness of a company of that size, with that capacity to take on exciting projects, such as the Electronic Health Record work that President Obama has highlighted as critical to the future of health care, cannot be overstated. Anyway, Blue Cross told my hubby when they met him face to face, that they had received well over 100 resumes for the job. Here's the irony: one of those hundreds was not from Eddie. As I said, he had stopped looking. My husband, oddly not one to take all the credit for his career success, even though he is more than willing to do so in most social situations, has basically concluded that his lucky number simply came up. Hogwash, I say. When you have it, you have it, and Eddie had it all along. It still saddens to me to see the confidence fallout he is left with after a bruising January and February.

So, Eddie is coming home. This week will be his last flying to Denver. He begins his new assignment, a manager role (I confess I am guilty of bragging - sue me), Monday, 4/20. Heh heh. 4/20. Oops, sorry. At least for the first couple of weeks, it appears he will not have to travel at all. And when he does, the trips will be shorter. Blue Cross has already talked salary, benefits and vacation time with him, so selfishly for me, this is a great gain as well. As you all know, I am about to join the ranks of the unemployed. I have been the one providing the health insurance coverage while Eddie has chased the big dollar contracts. So now, with this gig being a permanent one, the heat is turned down even lower on my behind.

At any other time, these developments, basically all I have prayed for since 2009 began, would have me streaking through the streets with joy. But I have had a good stiff kick to the face this week which reminded me that money, climbing the corporate ladder and all the accoutrements that come with it, are fleeting, and in the end, meaningless. I am just happy to have Eddie home with me. That's where he belongs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Luck Be With A Lady


I am going to protect her privacy and not name names, because my friend is not the type to enjoy a serious fuss made over her anyway. The laughs and cheers that accompany her slapstick, smart-aleck comedy are always welcome, but she is never one to tolerate real drama, or even worse, tears. I fought them back as I spoke to her on the phone yesterday afternoon, though all I really wanted to do was have a nice, cleansing shock and panic breakdown. But for once, this situation, and in fact, this post, are not about me. So I swallowed my tears because on top of everything else she's dealing with, my buddy shouldn't have to comfort anyone. On second thought, my blubbering may have offerred her a distraction in that she could have impatiently chastised me for jumping right away to the worst conclusions (I have a habit of doing that, you know). I'll try to remember that when I visit her later this week.


My friend and I have been in each others' lives since the age of 14, when my skinny, Harry Caray glasses wearing, Lutheran school geek self first began to idolize her. She was so much more confident, funny and cool than I could ever dream of being at that time (hell, even now). We engaged in all the usual freshman year of high school milestones together: first periods, first stolen hood ornaments, first time drunk on a tennis court - you know, the usual.


After that year, she and her mother relocated to Hawaii, where her mom had found a great new job. For awhile, a long while even, my friend and I exchanged letters, gifts and other trinkets through the mail, a la Beaches. Inevitably, as we grew older and our lives took different paths, the contact lessened and eventually dropped to nothing. I never forgot her though and corny as it sounds, I was always sorry I never said the words, "You are my best friend."


So what a boon for me when the advent of Social Networking came about. My friend and I reconnected on FaceBook two years ago. By then she was a lawyer in New York. Though so many years had passed, slipping back into friendship with her was like finding a favorite pair of worn slippers hidden in the recesses of your closet. While in law school, she had met and fallen in love with a great guy, who, lo and behold, happened to live in Chicago. My friend relocated shortly thereafter and we began a comfortable routine of emails, home visits and happy hours.


But now she's in trouble and looks to be in for the battle of her life. It's the Big C. She is an otherwise healthy 30 year-old woman and all of the sudden, her world has been turned totally upside down. I promised to try and be cool when I pay her a visit on Friday, but I don't have a very good poker face, as you may have guessed. I am very likely to sniffle, but thankfully she knows to expect this after 16 years of friendship.


Honestly, if she had any inkling I was even going to say this much about her on my blog, she would have already rushed over here to unplug my computer. But I have learned from my past mistakes and will not repeat them. I will say the words I was too immature and foolish to say when you moved to Hawaii. You are one of my best friends, and I am here for you. Even if I annoy the crap out of you and you yell at me, I will take that as a sign of your continued strength and smile right at you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rookie Mistake




I bet this photo grabbed your attention, eh? Fear not! No baseball players were harmed in the writing of this post. I stole the image from The Onion.

Most of those familiar with my life know by now that I recently accepted an opportunity to be a volunteer feature writer for StreetWise, a non for profit publication sold on the crosswalks of Chicago, benefitting the City's homeless with direct employment, as well as through social programs designed to educate and empower. I would be gratified to be affiliated with this organization in any way, even were I not to be published in its pages very shortly:

http://streetwise.org/

My article hits the stands on April 22nd as part of StreetWise's annual "Green Issue," typically published close to Earth Day. I was assigned a story by Suzanne, the Editor-in-chief, covering Ken Dunn and the Chicago Resource Center on Chicago's South Side. Ken was selected as Tempo's (Tribune) "Greenest Person" in Fall 2008. Now bear in mind that I have NEVER written for a newspaper, unless you count the one time my best friend Christian and I submitted a point/counterpoint review of the awful Linda Fiorentino movie Jade in 1995 to the Lincoln Park High School student press. Even though this was a high school publication, I still look down upon them for accepting this swill (yes, I said swill) as news. I will not even acquit myself on the grounds that I was on the right side of the debate (con). Jade never warranted press of any kind. Wait! I have done it again. D'oh!

Anywhoo, Suzanne obviously mistook my enthusiasm for actual, you know, media experience, because right out of the bag, she throws me a prize feature. The last words I remember her saying to me over the phone were, "You can do breakouts if you want, but I leave that to you." Luckily, there appears to be a weigh station between my brain and my mouth because the first thing I thought was, "What's a breakout?" Wisely I concluded that this question would not add to my aura of cracker jack reporter girl extraordinare.

Ken Dunn has received quite a bit of local media attention over the years, so I went about some Internet research and reading prior to the interview I scheduled with him for last Thursday morning. As the idea that I was about to write my first bonafide scoop began to take root, so too did the inevitable feelings of incompetence and unworthiness (the unfortunate bane of any writer). But like any good Obama disciple, I repeated "Yes, we can" to myself mantra-style, and it was at that moment that a brilliant, no a genius idea, entered my mind. About 15 minutes prior to our scheduled call time, I pulled out my notes, opened Microsoft Word and wrote out five multi-part questions that were at once thoughtful, incisive and would demonstrate my new mastery of the subject of Chicago's ecological development. My thinking was that if I had a script, I would be less likely to freeze Ralph Kramden style muttering, "Hamana, hamana, hamana." Does Barbara Walters stutter when she puts the hot lights over Fidel Castro? I think not! So with my beautifully phrased conversation starters, I had just a moment to daydream about the Pulitzer that would surely come my way later this year. Since it's a "Green Issue," with my clearly excellent investigative reporting, I might even net myself a Nobel Peace Prize, no? If Al Gore, why not I, I thought to myself?

I settled into my conversation with Ken, expertly balancing my cell phone between my left shoulder and ear, as I typed away with both hands. I was able to keep up with Ken almost word for word (spellcheck be damned!) and he was giving me good stuff. At one point, Mr. Dunn even complemented me on tying the state of the economy to a possible citizen readiness to "go green." Good so far.

We were on the last question, me furiously typing away and lauding myself on writing my material beforehand, when that pesky Office Assistant appeared on the right hand side of the screen. You know, that paper clip shaped asshole who ALWAYS assumes you need help writing a friggin' letter when you are in fact on your way to media superstardom? I swatted that little piece of crap away with a right click. Of course the presumptuous and arrogant icon asked me if I were sure, and on my confirmation that I did indeed want him to go away, I watched with horror as everything disappeared.

And that's when it hit me. I. Never. Hit. Save. Not even when I started to write my questions, never gave it a name. Nada. I grabbed frantically for a piece of paper and scribbled down Ken's last few words as internally, I felt my journalistic career end before it ever began.

As we ended the call, I did a nonchalant job of holding it together. Mr. Dunn generously offered himself for follow-up questions once I began to piece the article together. I slipped into good manners on auto pilot, "Why thank you Mr. Dunn. So kind and thoughtful of you. I would be simply delighted to touch base with you again (clearly in a panic, my manners become one and the same with Jane Austen's)." I gingerly hung up the phone and then lapsed into full hysteria. I called my husband, by this time foaming at the mouth. He's in IT right, and what are IT guys good for if not to help salvage your documents? To Eddie's everlasting credit, he resisted the obvious urge to laugh at me and snipe that what was never saved could thus never be recovered. He even gamely opened Microsoft Word and played along as I unleashed a string of curse words on mineself I am embarassed to repeat in mixed company.

Ok then, I had to regroup. Fortunately, I have a good memory. I am 30 years old and have not yet required even one ginko biloba tablet in order to retain the copious information I ingest daily. I took a few deep breaths, and started by recreating my questions. I did not get them exactly word for word, but these were not being printed anyway. No matter. To my surprise, my instant recall allowed me to remember more of what Mr. Dunn said verbatim than I dared hope. I tried to tell myself that what I had lost was probably the chaff anyway, but we'll see how I feel after I start to get feedback on the piece.

I would be remiss if I did not point out the irony of a woman who has spent nearly all her life typing: grade school, high school, undergrad and graduate school. From the early days of Word Perfect up until today's MS Office 2007, I have word processed, Control C'd and written essays ad nauseum. And yet, when my biggest authorial opportunity presented itself, I never hit Save? Are you kidding me? How Kate Hudson rom-com cliche is that? So now (if you happen to do me the honor of reading my article later this month) you know, as Paul Harvey might have said, "the rest of the story."