The Train: One of the great American equalizers

In the Chicago area you can ride the train for an entire weekend for a mere $7. You can be sitting next to a struggling college student, a homeless guy that barely got the $7 together or the gentleman in the Armani top coat. The train stations are every few miles and cover many social and economic areas. There are some gorgeous condos within walking distance to the Metra stations. But everyone rides the train, no special cars for the Bloomingdale fans. You just sit back and relax no matter who you are. The city of Chicago awaits.


So Let’s Talk About Packing

Just the word “packing” makes my blood pressure go up.  I always seem to forget the obvious thing that I need for any trip.  Like the trek into Chicago yesterday where I forgot the $7 city map I bought that folds easily and can be written on and wiped off. But I digress….. think of your packing in categories and buy some large sized rubbermaid totes. Make 2 labels for each one. Tape one label on the top and one on the side for easy reading. Label one clothes, one kitchen, miscellaneous, bathroom and office. As you start to think of things that you don’t want to forget, you can toss them in the totes that are stacked somewhere out of the way. This will alleviate some of the midnight insomnia. Once you reach your destination and unpack, these totes can be placed in the trunk or rear of your vehicle for storage since they are lightweight and heat nor cold will ruin them.

As you are deciding what to take, look around your kitchen and think of what items you use every 2 or 3 days.  Those are the items you definitely want to take with you.  Items that are more costly like a blender are more important to remember than scotch tape or potholders. Then do the same with your bathroom, bedroom and office and desk area.

Remember everyday items other than clothes. With the exception of items that cost under $10 (such as corkscrews and nail clippers) you don’t want to be stuck for five months without your doctor’s prescription for your nervous stomach. Your insurance may not allow you to go to a doctor at your destination (without penalty) and it could be problematic to get another prescription. Make sure you bring enough pills along to last the five months. Bring your favorite book, journal, and a couple of DVDs. Don’t forget your laptop, especially if you are a writer or are the chatty e-mail type. If you won’t miss it, don’t bring it, of course. Items such as a favorite pillow or stuffed animal are not to be dismissed. When far from home, a familiar scent on a pillow and the way it folds between your arms can ease anxiety during travel.

Read more: How to Pack for a Five-Month Trip |

The Ugly Sweater Contest is Mine!!!

You see my small group in Ocala does an ugly sweater contest for their Christmas party each year. They have changed the name to “Silly Sweater” to be more PC but we all know what it really is. UGLY sweater. You know the kind that were really cool back in the 90s. The ones with birds and flowers and huge poinsettias knitted into pretty little red knots all over the back of it. The best ones have giant school buses or crocheted bandaids on them but those are really hard to find.

But Now the contest should be a cinch for me this year. I have started working in our new church’s thrift store. They actually have TWO thrift stores. One is for furniture and boutiquey quality stuff and the other is for nice clothes, shoes, toys and uh Yep! Ugly sweaters!!! Now I don’t want to say that my new Illinois friends dress badly, it’s just that it’s cold here for so much longer than Florida that the capacity to have once OWNED an ugly sweater is much greater.

Okay small group….the race is on!

Thirty One Days

It’s been 31 days since we became hotel residents in northern Illinois. We have learned our way around, made peace with the tight accommodations and have chosen a favorite restaurant. We have found a church home away from home.  I’m on a first name basis with Manuel, Hernan, Kyle, Jennifer, Stephanie and Judy.I know where they hide the remote for the fitness room and what day the Culligan Man brings the salt for the water softener. I can whip up a full course meal in my little kitchen and have found a close by grocery that  provides drive up loading!
Tomorrow I will try out a new hairdresser. Courage….it just takes some courage.

Nice Ice!

Ice sculpting is one of those activities that folks from the south hear about, see on the news occasionally and see in reality on a cruise ship at the midnight buffet. So when I found out that Rockford had an ice sculpting competition in the local park, I couldn’t wait to get there and see these creations for myself.
We had visited the park for the first time a few weeks ago and had noticed some large blue plastic covered boxes that looked like porta potties in size and shape. But there were so many of them scattered around and I knew they wouldn’t have that many in the park in winter and what good would they be all covered in plastic.
After the ice sculpting event, we realized that the large blue blocks were the ice blocks being prepared.

The creativity and attention to detail was astounding. I only wish I had gone sooner to watch the process being carried out. The Couch Potato was my personal favorite.

That Snow Sticks Around

There are many aspects of living in cold weather that I find interesting. The snow shoes, ice skates and ice fishing tents at Dick’s Sporting Goods are a hoot. The small mountains of snow in the rear of Target and Walmart parking lots and the ever present bucket of salt at each exit door in the hotel are noteworthy. But the one little tidbit that cracks me up is the snow that remains INSIDE your vehicle! Yep, hard to believe but if you get snow on your boots when you are getting in and out of your car and you don’t travel far. The next morning that snow will still be there on the floor!

This blog may not be for you.

This blog may not be for you.

It may be just the right tool for someone else in your life however, or someone you will meet in the next week or so. We don’t often have warning of being displaced, of being thrust out of our common everyday life of the comfortable and the ordinary and the “go to” places in our days.

We can be moved by circumstances like a fire, flood or tornado or because our husband or wife made a quick decision to go back to school in another city. Perhaps it was not so quick but it still happened. Maybe your aging parent is suddenly hospitalized and you find yourself a caregiver in a location you aren’t so familiar with. Or maybe you find yourself a caregiver in your OWN HOME that you weren’t expecting. We love the familiar and the comfortable and the predictable. That’s why people sit in the same seat each Sunday morning or drive the same way to work each day or eat the same thing for breakfast each morning. But when that time comes that you lose control of the familiar…..
This blog may not be for you.

My intention is to reach those who are feeling uprooted, out of place, out of their comfort zone and looking for ideas to put some “normal” back into their days. So this blog may not be for you now …..

This blog MAY be for you.

Don’t touch that button!

We are finding out that there are many challenges to living in a cold climate. We knew that there would be the obvious ice and snow issues. We bought the top notch thermal undies and the “not Florida” gloves and boots. We got the heavy duty below zero windshield washer stuff and the ultra antifreeze. We got new tires, the best windshield wipers and even looked at some stuff that keeps your gas from freezing. What we DIDN”T count on though was our power window mechanism freezing and falling apart! Yep but it gets worse. We were leaving church on a very frosty Sunday morning when the traffic volunteer motioned us to put the window down to see which way we needed to go. We all heard a loud “THUNK” and all said “uh oh, what was that?” When the window wouldn’t go back up, we knew! The mechanical arm inside the door that raises and lowers the window had frozen and broken when Brian lowered the window. We were headed to a neighboring town to have dinner with some relatives of Brian’s. So here we are traveling down the interstate in 20 degree weather with the window stuck down!!!
We have a new family rule……”Don’t touch the window buttons!”

Tom, Chip and Dale

One of the best aspects of doing out of town work is getting to know folks from other places. It’s kind of like going away to college. No, it’s a LOT like going away to college. But more on that later. We have met three other engineers who are also here working on this project. Tom is from Austin Texas, Chip is from Tuscon Arizona and Dale is from Cocoa Beach Florida. We are all thrust into this frozen tundra that we are unaccustomed to living in much less driving in. We commiserate together over who will drive the 20 minutes to work on the snow covered roads and what types of equipment are needed for snow and ice removal. We find it interesting that this company has brought in several guys from warm climates to enjoy their January.

Dale is a fun guy who reminds me greatly of Ray Romano. His dry wit and outspoken personality warm up a chilly restaurant dining room. He misses his wife who is not only NOT with him but is currently residing in another country!
Monday is Brian’s birthday so I will be inviting Tom, Chip and Dale as our little makeshift family to enjoy a birthday celebration with us. So nothing like spending your evening with four engineers in a 20 degree birthday bash.

Cold Chicago Pizza and Hot Ocala Dunkin Donuts Coffee

I got up early this morning to wish my sister a Happy 60th Birthday on facebook.  The internet in the hotel is iffy at best even with the $30 monthly upgrade.  So as I’m sipping on my great coffee (good thing I brought my DD coffee from home because they closed the Dunkin Donuts here) and munching on my leftover Chicago pizza, the most awful screeching sound you have ever heard penetrates the air!  OH MY GOSH that water that is simmering on the stove to offer a little relief from the 10% humidity has gone dry and the fire alarm is going off at 5:00 a.m.  My hotel neighbors are going to hate me!  I run to the stove but the water isn’t dry.  It isn’t just MY alarm going off!  I throw on some boots and a scarf that go so well with my Joe Boxer pink plaid pajamas, grab a coat and room key and head out the door…..other hotel patrons join me in the hall.  The girl with fire engine red hair (how appropos) and t shirt tell me that it’s a false alarm.  Oh good!  Now to go back in and endure another ten minutes of eardrum shattering shrill.  Another day is underway.  Happy Birthday Karen.  I will always remember the start of your special day!