New city. New traditions.

New city. New traditions.

The tradition in our family was to put the holiday decorations up after Thanksgiving. Never earlier. They stay up until January 6 (“Little Christmas” or the Feast of the Epiphany), although when I was working full-time outside the home, I’d put them all away on New Year’s Day in order to feel a fresh start going back to work on the 2nd. Once my daughter came along and developed an opinion, she objected to both.

She told me just last week that she doesn’t like Thanksgiving because she “loves Christmas so much and Thanksgiving gets in the way.” LOL She starts bugging me about putting up the decorations right after Halloween. I’ve stuck to my guns. No Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Six weeks of coffee in holly-adorned mugs, keeping the cat out of the tree, and a house smelling like some combination of cinnamon, balsam, and candy canes (thanks to our seasonal trip to Bath & Body Works for candles and soaps) is enough for me.

Last year – our last Thanksgiving in our New Jersey home – it was just us. I promised her a low-key Thanksgiving the way she wanted. I let her choose the menu (no Turkey!), and, yes, I’d agree to set up the Christmas decorations right after dinner. That’s where she started chipping away at my tradition. This year, our first in Chicago, I decided it was okay to start some new traditions.

Our Thanksgiving will be split this year. She and I will be having lunch together much the way we did last year, then she will be heading back to New Jersey to spend the rest of the long holiday weekend with her boyfriend and his family, while I venture on to have dinner at my boyfriend’s home with his family (she wasn’t quite ready for our attempt at blending families, so Enzo the dog and I will test the waters first).

The fact that she wasn’t going to be at home to help with the decorating after Thanksgiving was the ultimate factor that contributed to my decision, but there was more. I will admit that this can be a difficult time of year. I waver between my own child-like excitement that seasonal music (available of SiriusXM beginning November 1st!) resurrects in me, to missing all the people that used to make up my holiday celebrations through the years and wanting to crawl under a blanket until it’s all over. I try hard to maintain the child-like excitement.

Chicago, I believe, embraces the holidays early. I remember coming here on business the weekend before Thanksgiving years ago and noticing all the decorations up already, making one think it was December. And not just retail stores, as is always the case, but the city streets – and O’Hare!

As the temperatures dipped below freezing last week, I also noticed the snowflake decorations on the light posts lining the main street of my neighborhood. I felt the cold on my face, but was warmed by thoughts of spice smelling candles, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and yes, Christmas. It wasn’t too early, was it?

When I was a kid, my parents owned a gift shop and they would designate a room “The Christmas Shop” which would feature Christmas decorations for sale beginning in August! While the post-Thanksgiving decorating tradition in our home certainly started with my parents, as a child, I still had this magical place to go to surround myself with nutcrackers, lit trees, and balsam incense, even weeks before Halloween.  So, who was I to deny my daughter an early start to the Christmas season?

This week, we got the decorations out of storage and proceeded to find new homes for everything. In our old home, everything had a place. Here we had to be more thoughtful of the placement of every item. That made decorating more mindful and special. We made our trip to Bath & Body Works. Winter Candy Apple soap for the kitchen;Fresh Sparkling Snow and Twisted Peppermint for the bathrooms.  Fresh Balsam remains my favorite candle because the scent transports me back to my parent’s Christmas shop.

New city. New traditions. A whole new outlook for a joyous holiday season with warm memories of holidays past. Although January 6this my limit. I swear.

A new home for the holiday decorations. Lakeview East. Chicago, Illinois. November 2018.
Settling into mundane reality

Settling into mundane reality

This is actually last week’s blog. 🙂

Not sure what happened to last week. Would love to report that I took the week off and had my feet up someplace or was vacationing on a sunny beach. No such luck. Although if that were the case, I’d probably have something exciting to write about. Can’t even say I filled my time voting last week. Thanks to early voting here in Illinois, I did that the week before the election.

My life is filled with mundane reality at the moment.  Working. Running. Housekeeping. Parenting. Highlights include weekends with my boyfriend and a little extra time with my girl this month. Still love Chicago although I miss summer. But every morning I ask, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” and I get the report for Chicago. And then I ask, “Alexa, what’s the weather in Ramsey, New Jersey?” So far, no drastic differences. Somedays better there. Some days better here.

My first season as Let Me Run Chicago Metro regional director is coming to an end and I’m thinking forward to spring and beyond, tasked with expanding this worthwhile program. About 120 boys participated this season and completed their 5k this month. I feel pretty good about that, but every boy should have a chance, so that not only means getting the word out to other schools but finding donors and sponsors to underwrite the program for Title 1 schools and provide scholarships for low income families.

Personally, I am also working on building my business here in Chicago (Click HERE for what I do). So, spending lots of time networking! My daughter, apparently less than satisfied with her social life at college has resorted to coming home (although she still calls New Jersey, not the apartment, “home”) mid-week when she has a day without classes and spending time with me. No problem with that. She even cooked dinner – without being asked! – one night last week!

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I realized that my first opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon in my new age group will be next fall. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon lottery and, although still 49 weeks away, I spent a bunch of time last week sketching out a training plan. If I’m really going to do it this time, I have to get serious about it and start prepping myself for the training early. When I ran my marathon PR (personal record) in spring 2014, I had been working hard at strengthening and stretching, as well as speed and endurance, months in advance of the actual marathon training.

While I am not a big fan of winter (here, New Jersey, or anywhere cold), having goals keeps me from just staying under the warm covers and catching up on Netflix. Getting out the door is hard, but whether it’s to log some miles or to have coffee with a new contact, I never, ever, regret doing it. Exploring keeps reality from being too mundane and certainly keeps me busy!

Exploring the Lakefront Trail. Lincoln Park. Chicago, Illinois. November, 2018.


First marathon: the role of a coach

First marathon: the role of a coach

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” – Emile Zatopec

Deciding to take on the marathon – like getting a tattoo – has to be a personal decision. It shouldn’t be something one does on a dare or feels compelled to do because of others’ expectations. It has to be about you, your goals, and who you want to be. That said, when asked, “Do you think I can do this,” my answer is yes 99% of the time. Read more

2018 Chicago Half Marathon Reviewed

2018 Chicago Half Marathon Reviewed

The Chicago Half Marathon/5k was this past weekend. Like all of the other city races I’ve run here, it was a great course and a well-organized race.  It was a Lifetime Fitness event that served as a Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Circuit Race and the USA Track & Field Illinois (USATF-IL) Half Marathon Championship. The event also boosted fundraising efforts for charity partner Chicago Run, which promotes “the health and wellness of Chicago children through innovative, engaging, and sustainable youth running programs.” Read more

The truth about the move

The truth about the move

As I write this I am sitting at DMV. West Randolph Street. Chicago, Illinois. So far doesn’t appear to be all that different than New Jersey. They are telling me I need to take the written exam even though it’s technically not a requirement (“agents do reserve the right to choose whether or not you take one”). So much for 36 years of driving experience. They took my picture already, so I guess they’re assuming I’ll pass. I’ve been here for a half hour. Read more