Moving Forward with Thanks

I’m taking time out before the meal preparations start to tell you more about our big news, presented in brief in my previous post.  Chicago!

ashland

Let me back up.

When we started to talk about leaving DC, we were both unhappy in our jobs.  We were tired of our commutes, tired of living in the suburbs, tired of the cost of living somewhere just a little too expensive.  We had a lease that was ending, and a fabulous job opportunity for Shane.  We were Ready To Go.

We’ve now been  in the mitten for a little over two years, and (in the spirit of the day) have much for which we’re thankful.  We have good jobs and many good friends.  We’ve been able to pursue our interests – beer, mopeds, knitting, running, cooking, records, gardening – and have had storage space to accommodate all of those interests.  We’re healthy, though Shane has been fighting a nasty cold all week, as are our cat friends.  Our families and most of our friends are within half a day’s drive, as are several major cities and lots of gorgeous nature.

Chicago

So why move?

Because we’re craving city life.  Because every time we go to Chicago and see allllllllllllllll of our friends, we feel grumpy that we don’t live closer.  Because having a newish nephew has made us acutely aware of the passage of time and how much we’re missing by only seeing him a few times a year.  Because we’ve only gone to a handful of shows in the time that we’ve lived here.  Because it’s frankly not that much more expensive than Ann Arbor, but offers so much more to a childless couple in their 30s who want to have fun before they’re too old to be fun.  Because we didn’t get the full city experience living in the ‘burbs of DC.  Because it’s a major hub for airlines and a world class destination for good food and coffee.  Because I’m a Cubs fan.  Because so many of the people that made Champaign home are now in Chicago, and because Champaign is 2.5 hours away by train.  Because there’s a lake and beaches in the interminable summer.  Because it’s a city of neighborhoods, each with their distinct identity.  Because it has an established bike (and moped) culture.  And because we’re ready for a change.

wrigley!

After several conversations this summer, we decided that we wanted to focus our energy in this direction.  We weren’t sure if or when it would happen, but we wanted to make it happen.  We started applying for jobs, realizing that if they didn’t happen, we were still in a very good place, and the worst it meant would be that we would be in that good place a while longer.  In October, on the heels of a few weeks of ridiculous travel, Shane interviewed at DePaul, and a few weeks ago, he was offered the job.  Chicago!

So what happens next?  At some point in December, a moving company will pack up our apartment and load it onto a truck and drive it to Chicago.  We’ll go home for Christmas, then come back here to move me into a month-to-month sublet and to load up the van with some cats and the stuff Shane will need until the movers arrive.  I’ll help him get settled so that he can start his new job on January 2, and then we’ll do the back and forth thing until I can find a job.  There will be lots of visits and Skype calls and separation angst, but hopefully it won’t last too long, and by the spring we’ll be together again in our new city.  And we absolutely can’t wait.

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Places I Have Lived: Olson Hall, Rockford College, Rockford, IL

August 1998 – January 1999

The summer on the farm ended in a flurry of activity.  The guys had about a week to find an apartment and move out; I on the other hand was moving back into the dorms.  My three friends and I had secured a suite in Olson Hall, a smaller and more centrally located dorm than freshman year’s McGaw.  Olson had two single sex floors, each of which had somewhere around 10-12 suites housing four students.  Kelley and I lucked out, however, as in the time between committing to our housing situation and the beginning of the school year, Mayra decided not to come back to RC, and Amanda accepted a job as an RA – leaving just the two of us in the suite.

There were pluses and minuses to this living situation – as, I’m sure, is the case for all dorms.  RC didn’t have a football team, so baseball and soccer players filled in the rowdy partying gap – and we lived directly above a suite full of ’em.  The window below our living room window was both kicked out and kicked in several times throughout the semester.  It was almost impossible to sleep after 25c wings night at the closest bar to campus.  We made up for it by dragging furniture around our rooms very early the next morning.

Most of my memories of life in Olson are pretty vague.  Kelley basically had the suite to herself.  I stayed in my room for about half of the first semester, but after a brief break-up and reconciliation, I moved in with my boyfriend and only returned to our suite for parties and to move out at the end of the year.  I remember getting my car stuck in a snow drift over Christmas break, and having to leave it there for a few days since no one was available to dig me out.  I also remember many games of Trivial Pursuit, including one where Kelley’s boyfriend didn’t know the answer to a question about Little Women (?), and I replied – from the shower – with “C’mon! It’s a classic American novel!”.  Cos that’s how I roll.

“We are beginning to make friends with the water.”

Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – November 15, 2011

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): A great deal of land in the Netherlands has been reclaimed from the sea by human effort. But the system of dikes that holds back the primal flow is not a foolproof or permanent guarantee against flooding. That’s why more and more people are building homes that can float if they have to. “We are actually trying to move away from fighting against the water,” says architect Koen Olthuis. “We are beginning to make friends with the water.” I recommend you adopt this as a useful metaphor, Capricorn. During the coming months, you should be doing a lot of foundation work. What can you do to add buoyancy?

Things I Miss About Champaign

I’ve been meaning to make this list for a long time, but Gemma’s recent photos have pushed me to actually writing it up.  My feelings for Champaign are all wrapped up in my grad school experience, my first really fulfilling (and challenging) professional job, and a prolonged period of personal growth and experimentation between the end of my marriage and the beginning of my relationship with Shane – so lots of complicated, complicating things factor into my relationship with that little city in the corn.

  1. Riding my bike down University towards GSLIS early in the morning in the summer – empty roads and the sun coming up through the trees.  A 7 minute commute on a good day.  And then the long months when I couldn’t ride because my arm was in a cast.
  2. West Side Park.  Living across from West Side Park.  Walking home through West Side Park after a long shift at Aroma or a movie at the Art or a too-late night at Mike & Molly’s.
  3. Coffee and sandwiches at Paradiso.  Consistently good music on the stereo.  The smoking section at Paradiso, barely partitioned off by a row of ficus trees.  Books or homework on the “patio”.  Paradiso’s perfect imperfectness.
  4. Living near downtown Champaign, where I never paid more than $500 for a one bedroom apartment, and even that included utilities.  My first solo apartment directly across from the park.  My studio apartment that never really got above 50 degrees in the winter, but that in the summer offered the most fabulous porch for parties.  The apartment with the Wild Things on the wall and the yellow kitchen.  Our last place on Clark, where we rented the entire ground floor for around $750, planted our first garden, spent $300+ on heat in the winter, and enjoyed the mixed blessing of a screened-in entryway – great for cats in the sun, not great for cats escaping.
  5. Saturday mornings at the Urbana farmers’ market, bringing home things I didn’t recognize and that would eventually go bad in the fridge. Splurging on fancy cheese, meat, and a croissant from Art Mart.  Riding our bikes to the market and bringing a dedicated backpack for watermelon or canteloupe.
  6. Friday afternoon Revolution Lunch at Jerusalem Restaurant with my favorite nutters.  The food was fine, but the company was effing crazy.  I’m glad to hear that it hasn’t changed.
  7. French toast at Sam’s, where Shane and I went for breakfast one of the first times he spent the night.  We drew maps of our hometowns on the rectangular napkins.  In case you ever forget, the special is at the top.
  8. Late nights studying at Merry Ann’s with Sarah and Nicole, drinking TERRIBLE coffee and eating fries and goofing around with the servers.  Going to Merry Ann’s at bar time, ordering a grilled cheese sandwich, and being in and out in under 10 minutes.  Greg and I standing on the booth and singing happy birthday to Mark, who brought us screwdrivers mixed in the back.  Hanging out with Shane for the first time after Carl and I had gone to see 2046, all three of us wasted but on totally different things (exhaustion, alcohol, an emotionally weighty movie).  Many many plates of fries before Subversion.
  9. Boltini bingo.  We went almost every week the last summer we lived there, but I didn’t win ANYTHING until my very last card on my very last bingo.  Marv gave me his oversized clapper, which I kept until we moved to Michigan.
  10. AromaWorking at Aroma.  Drinking mojitos outside Aroma in the spring of 2003.  Working 20 hour days (Aroma + Carle) in the fall of 2004 when it was easier to not sleep than to deal with my heartbreak.  10 hour kitchen shifts with all New Order all the time, getting fake engaged to Sam, smoking out front with Carl and Erich and Leah in the summer.  Ryan’s shark mug and Dave catching flies out the air.  Flirting with customers who became friends.  Coffee grounds permanently under my fingernails.  A good place and a good time, though definitely not the best coffee in the world.
  11. Symposium at the Esquire, and the Esquire in general.  For at least the first year after we left Champaign, I would often sigh and say that I just wanted to go the Esquire for dinner – cheap beer, cheap bar food, endless bowls of peanuts.  Always the same, never disappointing – just a solid townie bar.
  12. The Blind Pig in the winter of 2004-2005.  Holding hands with Carl on my 25th birthday.  A snowball fight in the middle of the night in the middle of Walnut Street.  It’s still a great bar, and I know Shane misses it greatly, but (oh this is so hipster) I stopped truly loving it when the sign went up.
  13. Swimming laps in the outside pool at IMPE in the summer of 2005.  I had started exercising that spring, but realized after my first botched length that Curves had nothing on laps in the 50 meter pool.  Sunshine, chlorine, hard work, bliss.
  14. Sunday nights at Bentley’s – our Local Neighborhood Bar – with the GSLIS crew.  Beth’s Bloody Marys and Blue Moons adorned with loads of snacks.  So many games of Bohnanza that we bought a second copy – one for the bar, another for occasions when we were less likely to spill drinks.  Planning our first Bonnaroo, celebrating our first NYE, eating a whole lot of miniature pizzas.
  15. Gyne instruction totally changed my understanding of my own body, and of the range of what constitutes ‘normal’.  I am so thankful for having the opportunity to work with such a remarkable group of women and to become empowered to advocate for my own health.  In the years since, a number of friends have felt comfortable asking me about gyne health stuff because they knew I had this experience and was willing to talk about it openly.  What a remarkable gift.
  16. Porch parties at my place on Springfield.  There weren’t many of them, but oh, they were wonderful.
  17. So much enduring love for Cafe Kopi.  I can’t believe I lived in Champaign almost a year before I found it, and can’t believe I haven’t found a comparable spot since.  Actually, I can believe it.  Kopi has something really special going on.  The coffee and food aren’t remarkable, but they’re solidly good, as are the staff and the ambiance.  I spent way too many nights doing my grad school reading over their cafe miels and tuna salad salads – and swatting away the ever-present flies on the patio.  Those things will survive the apocalypse, I swear.
  18. Mike & Molly’s may be my most favorite bar ever.  Shane preferred the Blind Pig, but my heart belongs to M&M.  Lots of nights reading with a beer, hanging out with townie friends, dancing to music played in the loft by friends.  Someone – Tim? Steve? – trying to explain darts to me.  The chalkboard in the bathroom.  Knowing that I was a regular when I forgot my ID and the bartender vouched for me to the doorman.  The bar’s vignette in Tell Me Do You Miss Me.  Carl arranging for my induction into Pi Omega Omega on my next-to-last night in town.
  19. Nox/Subversion and the year that saw me on the dance floor almost every week.  I told Shane recently that I missed out on being a raver girl because I didn’t live in a big city in my early 20s.  Instead, I had Tuesday nights at the High Dive with Emily and Jim playing the music I always wanted to listen to but didn’t know how to discover on my own.  Saturday nights with Tim in the booth and reciprocal pants protection with Shane and Karin.  Meeting Brian and Ben and Kristina and so many others.  Dancing when I was sick, dancing when my heart was breaking, dancing when I’d had too much to drink, dancing on the patio in the pouring rain.
  20. And then there’s everything about GSLIS: getting my job, making my friends, meeting Shane, finding a career path, getting a real job, discovering and falling in love with and then hating and then loving research.  All the wonderful, remarkable, challenging, and exceptional people who over the years became friends, colleagues, trusted associates, and family.  I can’t even begin to articulate the ways that this school changed my life.

Ultimately, though, what I miss is being able to walk everywhere – and the fact that wherever I went, I would run into someone I knew.  Hell, it’s been four years and that is still often the case.  And it goes without saying that the people and relationships made Champaign my home, but there are far too many of them to list here.

All My Friends

I loved LCD Soundsystem before Sound of Silver, but I don’t know that I have words for the weight of this song hitting me as I drove through the mountains into Virginia in September of 2007.

So many aspects of a life I loved left behind. So many goodbyes. And no better way to do it than with New Order, Tim in the booth, DocD and the symposium crew on the dance floor. I stopped at a hotel two hours out, too tired and blurry-eyed to drive safely, and checked in via chat with a party that I was missing, with friends I’d seen that morning but already missed.

As the sun came up and I merged onto the Beltway, I turned the stereo in our new car way, way up and just let it all wash over me. All the sadness. All the longing. All the uncertainty. All the love.