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Charming Christmas Lights 2015

It’s that time of year again!  The time to capture those delightful lights. The weather in the center of the US has been incredibly mild so I have yet to see the lights in snow, but I can’t say I am complaining since it has given me the opportunity to take long walks on many nights to take in the sights.

When I was a kid, I celebrated Christmas week in the rural midwest with my maternal grandparents and family. Christmas Eve was spent diving in gifts and wrapping paper in my grandparents’ living room. Afterwards, I had the option of doing the dishes or going to church.

On Christmas Day, my family and I would drive three blocks (still kind of crazy that we took the car) to see my eccentric great-aunt and gentle great-uncle, “the engineer” with a hard g. He was from Sweden and had really pretty eyes but when he spoke, it sounded like svenska gibberish, and I had no idea what he was saying most of the time.

When we arrived to the house, cousin Muggsy, an obnoxious Boston Terrier, would eagerly greet us by slobbering all over our legs, biting holes in nylons and causing overall chaos until he was gently directed to the basement. Muggsy morphed into Muggsy 2 and the trilogy ended with naming her last dog Hercules. Hercules made the previous Boston Terriers look like stuffed animals.

There were tons of homemade cookies in the back of the house and my other great-aunt would squeal, “Would you like to have a coooookie?” and her sister would back it up with, “Have one of eaaaaaach!”  But I digress.

I saw many wreaths with lights this year, but this one is my favorite.

I saw many wreaths with lights this year, but this one is my favorite.

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Lake Michigan Tour

These last 12 months have been one of many changes.  All of them, positive; although I may not have known it at the time.  One of them is that I can walk or ride my bike along Lake Michigan to get to work and start my day with a  stunning view such as the one below.

Good Morning!

Good Morning!

Last week, my old chum from high school, Rich Cohen, sent me his latest article in the New York Times.  It’s a fun read that makes you feel like you are in the car with him as he visits Read the rest of this entry

Eat the Watermelon and Sing

 

The Month of Lauren had some amazing moments and I thank everyone who thought of me on the big day. I am very lucky! The month also had two notable losses. 

One of them was the untimely demise of a 53-year-old former colleague of mine. He was always very supportive of me, good-natured and funny. I haven’t seen him in four years but it seems like yesterday. “I’m on Team Lauren,” he would say as he greeted me with a big smile and exuded positivity.

The other loss was my guitar teacher’s 82-year-old mom who was in the hospital for quite a few weeks before dying a few days after Mother’s Day.  I had never met her but opted to show support by attending her memorial and get a mental snapshot of the person who had brought this encouraging and witty wordsmith, my guitar teacher, into the world.

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The 11th of Lauren

How can it be the 11th of Lauren, already? Birthday month is here!

Flashback: When my parents took me home from the hospital. They brought a fire truck, balloon, and a  baby.  That is the order of preference that my brother welcomed the gifts…

Despite early hesitation, my brother became one of my biggest fans.

Despite early hesitation about his little sister arriving on the scene, my brother  has become one of my biggest fans. I constantly make him laugh. I’m glad I can help, Bro.

Imagine having a month dedicated just to you. Our expectations are way too low. This one day nonsense for your birthday isn’t enough. Each year we have more things we want to do and run out of time. So it only makes sense that this homage to ourselves get expanded. In my case, the month formerly known as May is Lauren. Today is Lauren the 11th.

How does one partake in the Celebration of the Month of Lauren? Here are some easy ways to be successful that are inexpensive on the pocket-book but rich in thought:

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Christmas Lights – Awesome Sights

When I was a kid, I would awaken Christmas morning to the hypnotic sound of the chirping bird on the Christmas Tree and the pitter patter of my maternal grandparents stirring about upstairs. My Christmas Stocking  greeted me with a chocolate marshmallow Santa, a ballpoint pen from the local bank, and a waiting-to be-ripe orange. I’m sure there was more in there – but that is what stands out as I write this memory.  Now these moments would be captured on social media or Facebook…but not then!

Here are some photos of Christmas lights to warm up your inner holiday spirit. It doesn’t appear it will be a White Christmas in my part of the world but this weather condition has allowed me the opportunity to stroll along the streets at night to take in the lights and not be cold!

House Outline - always impresses me, trust me, the top of the house exists...

House Outline and stars – a good beginning…

Pretty remarkable.

A bright colorful tree with Rudolph watching over things…

Introducing the Ho Ho Helicopter...

Introducing the Ho Ho Helicopter…

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Ride it Out

Weather permitting, I push myself to take long bicycle rides on the weekends. Given our brutal weather in the Midwest, I was pretty elated to be able to ride 40 miles this past Sunday.  There is nothing like a ride offering decompression that lasts for half a day.

From a cardio point of view, I wasn’t fatigued at all. In fact, when I got to my half-way point at 20 miles in, a part of me wanted to bike all the way to Wisconsin.  My brother did that once.

Great Lakes Naval Base - 1/2 Way to 40 or Do I Ride to Wisconsin?

Great Lakes Naval Base – 1/2 Way to 40 or Do I Ride to Wisconsin?

He would pedal on his bike until the sun went down. He didn’t concern himself with how he would get home. However, it did hit him that he could not ride in the dark on a major highway – without a light.

In an age that offered no cell phones, he promptly found a pay phone at McDonald’s and called our father hoping that he would be home. Moments later, our dad said, “Found your brother! Come on, we’re going to Kenosha to pick him up – he rode his bike there this afternoon.” I was so impressed that he had gone 50 miles on a bike at one time!

Some people are baffled as to why I would choose to spend four or five hours of my precious weekend time on a bike. It’s a gift and as long as I can keep pedaling, I will do it. It’s time away to reflect and re-group.  Granted, I have climbed 2,109 stairs of the Willis Tower, twice. But, I digress.

When I turned around, Read the rest of this entry

Christmas Light Delight

Last night, despite the frigid weather, I covered up in warm clothing so I could walk around town to complete my annual mission of capturing Christmas lights on film. The slabs of concrete were slick with ice and crunched as I spotted various delightful lit up displays. I waited for my blurred lenses to de-fog and used my fingers (slowly transforming into icicles) to snap some shots.

Starring...star lights!

Starring…star lights!

Classic Christmas Feel - with a wreath, of course!

Classic Christmas Feel – with a wreath, of course!

Love the wreath and all of the color!

Love the wreath and all of the color!

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The Day Before Climbing The Willis Tower

Tomorrow, I take on the beast known as the WIllis Tower. It’s 2,109 steps, 103 floors and 1,353 feet above the ground. Whenever people hear that I am doing Skyrise Chicago 2013, they picture me scaling the building like Spiderman or should I say Spider-Dan ala Dan Goodwin. Whatever happened to that guy who donned a Spiderman outfit and had suction cups  for hands in the early 80s? But I digress.

My fundraising efforts have paid off (get it) and I’m delighted to say that the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will see an impressive increase from Team Support Lauren over last year.  I’m giddy with gratitude! My Facebook family has really stepped it up (oops, another pun) as well as the inner circle of people I can overload with spirited “give me your money” emails, who are really good-natured about it and supportive.

My training efforts had me climbing up and down a bunch of stairs at an outside venue with Lake Michigan as the backdrop.   On the weekends, I shared the stairs with fellow exercise enthusiasts.  I saw one guy who was probably in his 70s. He was taking two steps at a time and jumping up them.  I was impressed.

I also saw a quartet of pre-teen boys jumping off the high stone walls at the top of the stadium. It was like a cut scene from the early 80s movie, “The Outsiders” – with their younger siblings, of course.  Whatever happened to C. Thomas Howell?  Again I digress.

At one point, one of the boys declared that they should take their bikes down the stairs to the stage and ride in circles.  The grandma who was overseeing this scene didn’t think it was such a good idea.  I heard this loud thump after thump as the frame of the ring leader’s bike got smashed with each step and the rims got trashed!  He wasn’t carrying it down the stairs, he was almost pushing it down the stairs. Toward the bottom of the stadium, it was as if the bike had morphed into a dying horse as it spouted its last cough before its final collapse, teetering to the side.

The wheels were no longer round but misshapen like Read the rest of this entry

Supportive but not Smothering

A frequent adventure during my childhood was visiting this big mansion – this house was huge by our family’s standards.  It was the biggest house where we actually knew the people who lived there.  The mom and dad who lived inside with their three sons became fixtures in our lives. 

The two dads played tennis together on a regular basis. Our families spent many holidays together, often camping and cross-country skiing.  

Upon arrival at the mansion, the two fathers would disappear into a room and watch football while I hung out with the two mothers (who would be besties for life) in the kitchen. We nibbled on onion dip and potato chips as I held my doll.  The mother with the long black hair tied into a single braid in back would smile at me as she shook her head: Read the rest of this entry

Girl, I Want to Skate Backwards With You

Some of the best moments of laughter, for me,  are when I am not expecting it and out of nowhere I get sucked in by something really witty and laugh for a long time. It’s therapeutic.

Last night I was catching up on the family sitcom, See Dad Run.  Full disclosure, I watch this show because my brother writes for it. Being the ever devoted sister,  I was multi-tasking so I wasn’t completely paying attention but then I had to hit rewind because I was drawn in because I realized Scott Baio was singing!

It’s just a Read the rest of this entry

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