American Pride

FLagI was six years old the first time I felt an overwhelming feeling of patriotism. I was standing in my elementary school gym, staring at the flag with my right hand over my heart, singing at the top of my lungs.

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I admit I don’t appreciate my freedom like I should. It’s not something I thank God for when I wake up in the morning. Instead, I find myself thanking him for the mundane conveniences in life, like being able to button my favorite jeans with no muffin top or a short commute. I skate through life, a smile on my face, rarely stopping to think about why it’s so great in the first place.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin’ here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

When I do stop and think about it, I realize why it’s so easy to forget. I live in the greatest country – a developed country, a democracy. I’ve grown up with choices. The American dream was in my grasp from the moment I left the womb. I was born with the ability to succeed, if I chose to do so.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

A grin spread on my young face as we all approached our favorite verse. I grabbed my best friend, Kayla’s hand, bending my knees in anticipation of what came next.

And I gladly stand up,

In unison, we stood as tall as we could. We stretched our heads to the ceiling, our voices filling the air. We sang louder, and we sang prouder.

next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

The beauty of this country is that we come together in the time of need. Unfortunately, those times seem to be happening more and more often. The internet swirls with banners of breaking news. News that makes my heart sink. News that makes me reevaluate my priorities and hug my loved ones at home. News that makes me ask “Why?”

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

I don’t think I’ll ever find the answer to that looming question but what I do know is that I will always find people who care. And just as I was filled with pride as a six year old singing a song, I am filled with the same feeling as an adult.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

Last night, Tom and I went to the Blackhawks play-off game. The crowd was a sea of red, filled with loud, excited chatter. I was anxious with anticipation as we waited for the game to start. I sipped my beer making small talk with Tom as I observed the crowd. It was amazing to think just a week earlier the whole country was in a state of turmoil.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

For every tragedy, there is a nation united, standing as one. And I can’t think of a better place to experience this unity than a Blackhawk’s game. As with most American games, it is preceded with a rendition of the national anthem. The difference being at the United Center it is not the quiet rendition.

A voice boomed through the stadium announcing Jim Cornelison, the same singer who has sang the anthem for the last four years. In that moment, I was transported back to my six year old self but this time I grabbed Tom’s hand. We stood up, anticipating what came next.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA

As soon as Jim belted the first note, the fans erupted in cheers. The entire stadium was yelling, clapping, singing…and smiling. I looked around observing the pure joy and pride on every single person’s face. The fans were united. The fans were proud. And the fans were loud!

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

“I’m so happy.” I shouted to Tom. “I’m busting with pride. This is amazing!”

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,

For me, pride is an overwhelming feeling that doesn’t happen every day but last night was a reminder. Being proud of our country shouldn’t be a feeling that comes out only in the wake of tragedy. It should be something I feel every day.

God bless the USA.

*Here is a video of the Blackhawks national anthem.

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Growing Up

Growing upI lived my twenties as a free spirit.  I had a lot of fun.   After all, the only person I had to take care of was myself.  I was an independent, young adult with a lust for life.  I did what I wanted, and only I had to suffer the consequences or so I thought. 

Tom and I recently placed an offer on a condo in the city.  We first saw the condo in January.   It is a large, vintage unit with two floors.   From the moment I walked in the door, I was in awe.  The space was unlike anything I had ever seen.  I wandered into the kitchen seeing our future flash in front of my eyes.  I imagined myself standing at the sink making dinner, hearing the pitter patter of little feet running down the hallway and later in life standing in the same place hearing laughter of teenagers echoing from the basement.  I could smell Tom’s coffee brewing as he shouted to me from another room.  The condo was warm and inviting.  I knew in my heart it was the place we would raise our family.

After we left the building, Tom and I excitedly talked about everything we liked in the unit.  It needed work but the bones were good.   Plus, Tom needs a house with projects.  The unit had the original woodwork from the early 1900’s and quite frankly, we were never going to find another place that size in the neighborhood we were looking.  There was only one issue, it was slightly more than we wanted to pay.  

For the next three months, we looked at more places comparing it to “the one”.  We looked at it online every night to see if it was still available or if the price dropped.  We talked in length about what we would do to the place if it were ours and more importantly, did we need that much space?  We did everything we could to talk ourselves out of the place, even placing an offer on a different condo, but in every scenario, “the one” was staring back at us.  

After consulting two of our sisters on what we should do, we decided to make an aggressive offer.  After some negotiating, the condo was ours and thus begins the rest of the process.  The process of buying house is a lot of work, and there had been one piece I was dreading – the finance piece.  While I had gotten my act together in the past few years, I had made some mistakes as a free spirit.  And while it wasn’t a surprise to Tom (seriously, we have no secrets), I felt terrible.  The consequences of my actions weren’t just mine anymore, they were Tom’s too.  

I took an afternoon off from work so we could go to the bank.  I was a bucket of nerves the entire day.  

“I’m nervous.” I said grabbing Tom’s hand as we walked into the bank. 

“It’ll be fine.”

We sat in front of the broker going over every detail of our life.  Every rock was turned over and bumps in the road exposed.  I sat there face flushed.  In comparison to Tom, I had a long ways to go.  While he’s 29 going on 60, I’m 31 going on 28.  

“Elyse, don’t worry.  It’s not bad.”  The broker had gentle eyes and a kind smile.  I looked down in my lap and Tom squeezed my hand.  It was my worst nightmare, as she asked more and more questions. 

“I’ll be right back.”  She said walking off to get something.

“I’m sorry, Tom.”

“Don’t worry about it.  It’s not bad…just promise me you’ll continue to make good decisions going forward.”

“I promise.”  I bounced my feet as I waited.  My heart was beating ninety to nothing.  One of my biggest fears in life is letting Tom down. 

The broker came back with papers in her hand. 

“Congratulations.  You are approved”

My heart leaped out of my chest.  Buying a home had suddenly become a reality.  I didn’t have to hide behind my fear anymore.  I didn’t have to be skeptical that it wasn’t really going to happen.  I could relax and get excited.  We were going to buy a home…together.

Downsizing

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

It’s been almost three months since I sat down to write creatively. I think about it daily, writing stories in my head but lately, as is my usual excuse for everything – life got in the way. Seriously, I don’t have kids. It’s the only excuse I have.

I started this blog after moving to the suburbs with Tom being the only person I knew and vice versa. While the space was amazing, the rest of it was mundane and boring. Writing filled the time as I stared out the window wondering why our neighbors never spent time outside. From the moment, I moved in with Tom, we talked about moving back to the city. After all, he was commuting everyday into the city, and I missed the hustle and bustle immediately. So after a year of talking about it, we finally made it happen. We put our (technically it’s his) house on the market and crossed our fingers. We accepted an offer in six days and closed six weeks later! We were tremendously lucky except that we had no idea where we were going to live next.

We had already started looking for places to buy in the city but we still hadn’t found “the place”. Being in a time crunch, we weighed our options, took a break from house hunting to pack up the suburban house and find a temporary place in the city. Together, we put together a list of must haves for the temporary place, which in retrospect was an absolutely ridiculous list. It’s amazing how a year in single family home with a yard changes the perspective on apartment living. Among the requirements on the list was a short term lease, a place that allowed a dog, cheap rent, in the neighborhood we wanted to buy, had parking, an in unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, no elevator and non-radiant heat – oh and central air. The only one of those things I had when I lived in my last apartment was no lease.

“So what do you think?” I asked Tom as he read over the list.

“It looks good. Are you taking this one on?”

“Sure! I’m good at apartment hunting.” He wrinkled his and looked at me skeptically.

“Seriously, Elyse? I hope you don’t call your last apartment good apartment hunting. That place was gross and questionable.”

“Well, I loved it. It was the first place I could ever call my own. I promise, I’ll find something that meets our criteria.”

In the past, I walked around neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs on the doors of buildings. I would run up the steps immediately calling the number of places that interested me. It’s how I had found every apartment but this time was different. Craigslist has single handedly ruined apartment hunting. Continue reading

A New Year Means New [Lofty] Goals

GoalsI kicked off 2013 the same way I’ve kicked off every other year for the past decade – nursing a wicked hangover. I woke up in Evelyn’s bed blinded by the sun. She always complains it’s too bright in her apartment. While I always responded that it wasn’t so bad, yesterday, I realized she has been right all along. I tried everything to slow the drumbeat in my head – my arm splayed over my eyes, the pillow wrapped around my head and blankets pulled high. Yet, as usual, nothing worked except time. As Tom and I made the epic journey back to the suburbs pale faced and nauseous, he asked me what my mom always asks me, “Was it worth it?”

I was quiet.

For the first time in my life, I found myself not answering an enthusiastic “Yes!” Instead, I was rewinding the night. I was fortunate to ring in the new year with my best friends – Evelyn, Jack and Tom. Yet, I could have had just as much fun if I had only 3 glasses of champagne instead of the countless number I drank. But as with every new year, I celebrated with the freedom of ending one year and the hopefulness of another. It’s a fleeting feeling but one that fills me with joy to know there are new beginnings ahead.

As I drove into work today, relieved to feel like myself again, I thought about the year ahead and the things I want to do. I’ve never been one that’s good on follow through but last year I began to make a series of life changes. Work is going well, I’ve been working out regularly, being more money conscious, writing, etc. Surprisingly, those changes have added up, and somehow I’ve turned into a responsible adult. With this revelation, this year I’ve decided to make a few more hearty resolutions. When I texted them to Tom this morning, he said, “Wow, that’s a very comprehensive list.”

He’s right – it is. But I’m already on my way. This year is about taking the changes of last year and bringing them to a new level. Here are my resolutions, exactly as I sent them to Tom:

1. Enter a writing competition
2. Continue to work out each week to get into my goal pants (I bought the pants a year ago. They didn’t fit when I bought them so I’m not sure why I bought them. They taunt me every morning in my closet).
3. Reach new goals professionally – this one is vague but includes trying harder at work and/or a new job in the city
4. Maximizing the money I put into savings
5. Try to limit the processed foods eaten at home (this one is a bit aspirational). I want to continue exploring how to make things from scratch.
6. Be the best person I can be for Tom, Sam, friends, etc. This means always contributing at home, coming up with and initiating things to do on the weekends, being kind, etc.

So there you have it. I am welcoming 2013 and all it has to bring with open arms…and lofty goals.

What are your resolutions?

Wardrobe Decisions

Cowboy BootsI am always antsy the day before a trip. For one reason, I wait until the very last minute to pack every time. It’s a bad habit that will most likely never change.

There is a lot of thought that goes into packing for a trip home. When I was in college, the primary one was do I pack all dirty clothes to take advantage of easy access to a washing machine or do I pack half and half? I once brought home a 55 lb suitcase of dirty clothes. Luckily, it was before the days of being charged for luggage. In my twenties, I thought about how often I would be out with friends. And now in my thirties, I think about how many lounge outfits I need because let’s be realistic – when I am at my parent’s house all I do is sit around, eat, drink, watch tv, hang with the family, rinse and repeat. It’s awesome.

This year is a bit different. While lounge outfits are still what are being primarily packed, there is one other factor to consider. My mom is getting me a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas. I have been dying for a pair of boots and picked them out myself. I know they are already wrapped and under the tree, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. When I do, I will have four days left at home to wear the boots. That means, I have to plan four outfits that I can wear with my new boots. It also means, I have to actually get dressed in real clothes for the last half of my vacation.

I love skirts and dresses with cowboy boots, but I also have a newfound love of skinny jeans after working my butt off at the gym. I have a lot of decisions to make today – maybe a spreadsheet will help. What do you think? What should I wear with my new boots?

Baby Fever

I took this photo while waiting to get my oil changed.  The little chair made me warm & fuzzy inside.  Seriously, the fever is in full force.

I took this photo while waiting to get my oil changed. The little chair made me warm & fuzzy inside. Seriously, the fever is in full force.

I have baby fever.  I laughed the day Lana told me the same thing four years ago.   It was a few days before her 30th birthday.   We were walking to our favorite neighborhood hot dog joint when she almost melted at the site of a baby in a stroller.   

“Oh my gosh, Elyse, did you see that little girl? She is adorable.” 

I looked at her cross-eyed.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Lana had never been one to coo over babies.  Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t kicking babies on the sidewalk, but she always had an indifferent attitude toward them. 

“Where is Lana and who took her?” 

“It’s strange.  Everywhere I look, I see babies.  I want one.”

I was shocked at the revelation.  Lana always seemed more interested in her career.  She worked a lot and as a result was very successful at her age. 

“I think my biological clock is ticking.”

“That really happens?” I asked.

The first time I had heard about the elusive clock was as a young girl.  I was watching Look Who’s Talking.  At the time, I didn’t fully understand the concept but I wasn’t worried.  I was going to get married right after college and have babies in my late twenties.  Timing was never a question.

I’ve always known I wanted a family.  I played dolls and house regularly as a little girl.  My Christmas list was littered with the necessities – doll clothes, strollers and diapers.  I wanted the real deal, well as close as I could get.  I remember the smell of a fresh diaper.  It was a sweet perfume.  I would learn later as a teenager babysitting, that smell didn’t last long in real life.  In fact, I regularly gagged changing diapers, but it didn’t deter my want for children.

Even though I want kids, I didn’t feel magnetized toward them like Lana did.  I thought she was crazy so I teased her often about her newfound baby fever.  What I didn’t realize is that as the years passed, I would soon be experiencing the same fever. 

It’s a strange phenomenon to want to hug every child.  I find myself smiling, fighting the urge to scoop them up and give them a twirl.  I want to cuddle a baby and rock her to sleep.  I want one.

I know like Lana, my fever will too pass.  And the reality is as it passes so does the optimal conceiving window but I am not deterred.  It’s something I have always wanted.  My time will come.

Side note for my mom and dad: No worries guys, I’m hoping that ‘time’ is after I am married.

Bread, Ketchup, Bologna, OH MY!

Work

While I’m sitting at my desk on a conference call, I can feel someone behind me.  I turn around and co-worker holds out a grocery bag.

“For you.”

And then he left!  I couldn’t even ask questions, and I have so many.

1. What the hell?
2. How did you know I love bologna?
3. I’m confused. (Okay, this one’s a statement). 4. Why me?
5. Can I take this bag of goodies home?

Seriously, this has made my day.  It’s so random and baffling, yet so great.