A great blog post … but I forgot it so you’ll never read it

22 Jul

This blog post was going to be so good.

You would have loved it, really. It was going to be so up your alley and so universal. It might have even been my defining piece as a blogger and as a writer.

I would have used it as a writing sample next time I needed to produce one.

But, alas, this blog post will never live to see the light of day.

You see, the idea came to me a few weeks ago, while watching Fourth of July fireworks with Adam and our friends Alyssa and Avi. I made some comment and the conversation went like this.

Lia: “[hilariously observant thought on the world, something that would have made Jerry Seinfeld proud]

Avi: “That would make a great blog post.”

Adam: “Yeah, you should totally write about that.”

Lia: “Definitely. I’ll make a mental note of it and maybe write it for next week.”

Alyssa: “Can’t wait to read it!”

Lia’s brain: “We don’t do ‘mental notes.’ You either write down the idea or it’s down the drain.”

I have been known, from time to time, to slip into what my brother has lovingly named “Blog Mode.” There I’ll be, in the middle of a regular conversation, and I’ll say something like this:

“By the way, what’s the deal with the phrase ‘Have a good one!’? Does it even mean anything? Have a good what? It’s a useless waste of words.”

My brother, or whoever else knows me well enough, will say, “Blog post!” I’ll think to myself, yes, that’s a great idea, I’ll be sure to remember that.

And there I am, the following Tuesday night, calling Michael to see if he remembers what that brilliant rant was all about.

It’s not that I have a shortage of places to write down ideas. I keep a running list of blog ideas in a Google Doc, accessible easily on my phone and computer; I carry a reporter’s notebook in my purse; and when in doubt, there’s usually a pen and a napkin around somewhere. The problem is just that I rely too much on my ever-failing memory — or, perhaps, that my memory used to be much better but then years of relying on notebooks and cell phones have diminished my memory for these kinds of ideas into mush.

So, dear friends, next time you hear me speak in “Blog Mode” or mention an idea that might be a good blog idea, please, make me stop what I’m doing and write it down. Otherwise the post will go where potential blog post ideas go to die, which would be sad for everyone.

Oh! I just had a great idea! I should blog about how often I forget my blog ideas! Good thing I just wrote the post so I don’t have to rely on my non-trustworthy memory.

A petition about gerrymandering for you, him, her over there, but not you over here

15 Jul
Gerrymandering, thank you Google definitions, is manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one party or class (as illustrated in Chicago's 4th congressional district)

“Gerrymandering” means “manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one party or class” (thank you Google definitions), as illustrated here in Chicago’s 4th congressional district

At two different Chicago summer festivals last weekend, I saw volunteers with clipboards approaching festivalgoers.

“Excuse me, can I get you to sign this petition against gerrymandering?”

Other than thinking, “Cool!!! I love it when strangers ask me to sign petitions when I’m in the middle of doing something else!,” I chuckled to myself while having a different thought.

What the volunteers should have said was this:

“Excuse me, can I get you, you, you in the blue shirt, but not you three on the left over there, and everyone in this general area from the tall curly-haired man all the way to the right of the girl in the white sandals, but not including the girl in the white sandals, to sign this petition about gerrymandering?”

I should totally quit my day job and become a volunteer signature-collector.

24 hours in the Indiana Dunes

8 Jul

Need a one-day getaway? Between work, wedding planning, and heaps of laundry, Adam and I needed a quick trip out of town, and the Fourth of July weekend was a great time to do it. We spent literally 24 hours on our mini trip to the Indiana Dunes and had a fun time, and you can, too!

5 p.m.

Leave work and drive southeast to Indiana. Fill your phone with podcasts from The Moth and Radiolab for this 1.5-hour drive. Sorry about rush hour.

7 p.m.

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Arrive in the cutesy town of Chesterton, Indiana. Its two-block-long Main Street, complete with a gazebo and an old-fashioned clock, will bring you back in time to a place that feels almost make-believe. Enjoy a relaxing dinner at Lucrezia Cafe, the town’s Italian fine dining establishment. Head to your hotel, swim in the pool, and go to bed.

8 a.m.

Wake up, grab some breakfast, and get on your hiking pants. We’re going to the Dunes.

10 a.m.

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Start at the Indiana Dunes information center and figure out which of the 16 hiking trails is right for you. We chose a route called Trail 9 (shouldn’t it have a more creative title, like Spunky Beaver’s Run?) and headed out. The sandy path began in a forest, brought us through open-air sandy blowouts with a view of Lake Michigan, and led us on a winding 4-mile trail. Pro tip: Wear hiking sandals; I can’t believe that I’m still shaking sand out of my gym shoes.

1:30 p.m.

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You’re hungry and thirsty! Drive 30 minutes south to Valparaiso, Indiana, and grab a scoop of ice cream at Valpo Velvet, a sweet shop with a billion flavors of ice cream and yogurt and a confusingly robust list of sundaes. Okay, now that dessert is taken care of, wander through Valparaiso’s main street — bigger than Chesterton and triple the charm. Explore the artsy boutiques and bakeries, then sit down for a relaxing lunch in the sun. We chose the French/American restaurant Bon Femme, where I enjoyed one of my top five favorite quiches ever.

4 p.m.

Drive home (again, sorry about rush hour) — it’s been a fun one-day escape to small-town America and a beautiful natural landscape. Go home and empty the sand out of your shoes.

Good app; unnecessary social network

1 Jul

venmo_banner_newI may be a little late in the game, but I finally created a Venmo account.

For those of you, who, like me, still carry around a checkbook in your purse and might not know about Venmo, it’s a phone app that allows friends to pay each other directly from one bank account to another. Convenient for splitting the restaurant bill, paying rent, or doing a group rental for a game of Whirlyball.

But when I created my account and logged in, I was surprised to see a Facebook-esque newsfeed. They’ve pulled my Facebook friends and created a special newsfeed for me, like this (I won’t do a screen shot so I can change the names here):

Mark Schwartz paid Fred Cohen for sailing
Like   Comment   15hr

Sarah Smith paid Alexandra Roth for powdered sugar
Like   Comment    17hr

Susan Epstein paid Elizabeth Friedland for keeping the house functional
Like   Comment   <3 1  20 hr *

Rich Lang paid Molly Jones for [series of emoticons I don’t understand]
Like   Comment    1d

Jon Siegel paid Raphael Gold for Chicken Hut lunch. Thanks!
Like   Comment   1d

*That <3 on the Susan Epstein transaction appears to be similar to a “like” on Facebook. Clicking on that transaction shows me that Isabel Arthur “likes” this transaction.

I’m a big fan of Facebook. I’m on Twitter and I love YouTube. I’m even on Instagram, though I still don’t totally understand its etiquette. But why do we need yet ANOTHER social network — one that tracks personal financial transactions?

I see what happened here. Every company wants to be the next Facebook. So some guy came up with this app as an easy way to split the grocery bill with his roommate. Suddenly, the app became huge, and he, now the CEO, said, “We gotta get social. Let’s figure out a way to involve news feeds, liking, commenting, emoji, and statuses. Mark Zuckerberg will never know what hit him.”

I figured out that you can, in fact, change your privacy settings so that the whole world doesn’t have to find out when you paid your friend for your dinner because you embarrassingly forgot your wallet one night. But why, Venmo? Why is that even necessary?

What’s next?

A social network for the Flashlight app? (“Lia turned on her flashlight when she couldn’t find the light switch in the room.” “So funny, that happens to me all the time,” a friend comments.)

A social network for the Calculator app? (“Lia used the Calculator app to figure out 35 + 455.” “What, Lia, did you never take math in high school? Duhhhh!”)

A social network for the Transit Tracker app I use to find out when the bus is coming? (“Lia got on the 146 bus at Hawthorne and got off at Belmont.” “Couldn’t walk the couple of blocks?? Lazzyyyyy.”)

Well, friends, I’ll talk to you all soon — or if I don’t talk to you, at least I’ll creepily see that you paid your friend for pizza delivery and an OnDemand movie rental.

My workout heaven

24 Jun

I have found my workout heaven.

It’s a place where I’m accepted, I belong, and I feel motivated to do my best.

But first, let me tell you what my workout heaven is NOT:

  1. Boxing gyms. I tried one because a friend found a coupon for a free class. It was probably the most intense workout I’ve ever had — sprinting, running, more lunges than I’ve ever done in my life, and then punching and kicking a bag as if it were your worst enemy. It’s possible I might have been so exhausted that I shed some tears — or was that sweat?? — no, they were legitimate tears. Meanwhile, the instructor didn’t explain the terms — something about upper crust? I thought that was a bakery — and I felt a bit stupid.
  2. Running on the street. I might someday become that girl who suddenly picks up running, little by little, and then runs marathons, but so far that hasn’t happened. For now, it’s hard, and then the whole world — and all of my friends in my neighborhood — have to watch me suffer.
  3. Sports. I wish I liked playing sports for exercise, but again with the whole embarrassment thing. Remember how in college they had the professional level, then the “club” level for the pretty serious kids, and then the “intramural” level for the kids playing on teams with their dormmates? I need a level below that, for people who don’t always remember the rules of sports but need a ball to hold and a team to be a part of to distract them while running.
This is the basic idea.

This is the basic idea.

After trying those and many other workout activities unsuccessfully, my ears perked up when my coworker mentioned her Aqua Zumba class. I used to like swimming, I thought. This could be good.

I signed up in January and I’ve been going weekly ever since.

Aqua Zumba — a water aerobics class — meets at the Lutheran General Hospital Fitness Center in Park Ridge, Ill. It’s sort of on my way home from work, and for $5 a class, it’s certainly worth it. I arrive in the pool 20-30 minutes early and swim laps, recalling my front crawl, breast stroke, side crawl, and, my personal favorite, the “Monkey-Airplane-Soldier” strokes from my swimming lesson days.

The members of the class trickle into the pool, chatting, and then the music starts. The instructor leads us through a warm-up and then into our upbeat Zumba moves — but we’re all under water. Dragging your arms in the air might not do anything in real life, but under water, there’s resistance and it’s a real muscle workout. Running a few feet outside is no big deal, but running a few feet under water — it’s quite different.

Our instructor dances to fun Latin songs with an occasional “Uptown Funk” thrown in there, and I appreciate the no-pressure environment. Can’t kick your leg all the way up in the air? No problem. Starting with your right arm instead of your left? No biggie. Need to take a break? Who cares? We are told that we are doing a good job, and we’re even encouraged to sing along with the music.

I follow the moves, I tune out, I make next week’s dinner plans in my head, and I enjoy some brainless, stress-free time to myself.

Oh, and the best part — I’m the youngest, skinniest, fittest, most in-shape person in the class. When I go to the gyms in Lakeview, I’m surrounded by girls who are much better at it all than me; but here, in the comfort of the Lutheran General Hospital Fitness Center, I’m the one to watch, the most flexible, the highest jumper. It might not be fair, being 30 years younger than most of the other people, but you know what, it’s doing wonders for my self-esteem.

So, one of these days, join me in the pool — I’ll show you my new moves to the latest Pitbull songs and I promise — no lunges.

Blast from the past: “Long time no talk!”

17 Jun

For this week’s blog post, I’d like to revisit where I was this time 10 years ago for an edition of my “Blast from the Past” blog entries.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy 18-year-old Lia’s ramblings on long-lost friendship.

June 27, 2005

Long time no talk!

What do you do when you run into a person you haven’t talked to in a really long time?

“Oh, it’s so great to see you!” “How have you been?” Fake hugs, fake smiles, fake interest in each other’s lives.

When you talk to someone you talk to every day, even multiple times a day, there are infinite things to talk about. “Did you see that man on the street who looked just like our English teacher from 2nd grade?” “I couldn’t believe that it turned out pink.” “By that time, I was so sick of restarting the computer, I just took the hammer and smashed it to pieces! Needless to say, my file was not recovered.”

You’d think that the longer the time between talkings, the more there is to talk about.

You’d think wrong.

For people like that, the “really-long-time-no-talk” people–the people you haven’t talked to in months or years–the questions become very broad.

“What’s up?” “How’s life?” “What have you been up to?”

The answers are vague.

“Oh, not much.” “Life’s been pretty good.” “I’ve kept myself busy.”

It’s especially hard when these are people who, at one point in your life, were at the previously mentioned stage of your talkingship where you never ran out of things to talk about.

These conversations deeply sadden me. I want to reconnect with these long-lost friends, but it’s so hard, with nothing (or really, way too much) to discuss.

What’s the solution? Is there a cure?

My extensive research on these situations have produced the following result.

Potential conversation:
Betty: Oh my goodness, Veronica, is that you?
Veronica: Betty, you look great! How are you? How’s life?
Betty: Oh, it’s pretty good. How about you?
Veronica: Yeah, same here.
Betty: Yeah.
[extremely awkward pause]
Veronica: So, um, is that Archie over there?

STOP. Rewind. Here’s how this conversation should have gone.
Betty: Oh my goodness, Veronica, is that you? I haven’t seen you in three years!
Veronica: Betty, you look great! How are you? How’s life?
Betty: Thanks, I actually went tanning last week, and I got my hair cut too. Life’s been alright, except for the weird dreams I’ve been having.
Veronica: Oh yeah?
Betty: I keep having dreams that I meet famous people! Like last night, I dreamt I met James Earl Jones.
Veronica: James Earl Jones! Oh my gosh! He’s like my biggest hero.
Betty: No way! Did you see that one Simpsons episode…
Veronica: With the “You’ve made an old jazz man happy, Lisa,” “Kimba…I mean, Simba,” “Luke, I am your father,” and “This is CNN”…!!
Betty: That reminds me…have you talked to Jughead recently? I hear he’s on a diet!
Veronica: No way!
Etc, etc, etc.

So, therefore, the morals of the story.

1. When conversations lead you to the “oh, not much, how are you” discussions, find a really random topic to discuss. If it’s a good topic for the two of you, a good conversation will ensue. If it’s not, you’ll merely be at the same place you started. If it’s so bizarre that the other person thinks you’re really strange, and thank goodness they haven’t kept in touch with you, and maybe they’ll just walk away now, then good, at least they’re gone.

2. If you see someone who will bring about a potential conversation like the aforementioned one, run in the other direction. If you must walk by her, become really interested in something around you, like the freckle on your
index finger or the crack on the sidewalk that has an uncanny resemblance to the shape of your township.

3. Don’t ever lose touch with anyone. It’s better to keep an unwanted friendship than have to face an awkward conversation.

A weekend of redheads and undeads

10 Jun

I’m not sure what was the strangest occurrence of last weekend. Was it the afternoon I spent at a north suburban festival celebrating redheads? Was it the night I spent trying to escape a room with a zombie? Or maybe it was the fact that I went shopping and found five outfits I loved?? While the third one is incredibly rare and should be celebrated, let me tell you about the first two activities.

Redhead Days Chicago
Highwood, Ill.

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No, I’m not a redhead myself, but I’m really excited to marry one! Shortly after I met Adam, I learned about the redhead festival that takes place in The Netherlands every fall and I was so excited for us to see this crazy spectacle someday. But then, a few months ago, I learned of the Chicago affiliate of that very festival, taking place in June 2015 in Highwood, Ill.

Adam and I had a blast at the festival. There wasn’t all that much to do, but it was just so much fun to be a part of so many redheads in one place. The festival had some food, drinks, and music, an opportunity to take a picture with Ronald McDonald, a carrot cake contest, and a group photo. The emcees of the afternoon repeatedly said, “Redheads, you are not alone!” As a redhead ally — can I even call myself an honorary redhead? — I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful hair and freckles and smelling all of that precious protective sunscreen. I look forward to coming back next year with Adam — and hopefully also with my other redhead buddies Alyssa, Josh, Hal, and friends!

 

Room Escape Adventures Chicago
408 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

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Trapped. In a room. With 11 other people. And a zombie. For one hour. Will you live or will you die??!?! Dun dun dun. It sounds straight out of a horror movie — but my friends and I got together Saturday night to test our fate and our knowledge against the vicious zombie.

I won’t give away any of the secrets — but I will say that our group narrowly escaped the room with three minutes to spare, attempting to work through riddles and puzzles as a team.

There’s not much else I can say here — but everyone should take their friends, their family, or their co-workers and try to escape the room … if you dare!

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