My New Favorite Place

It’s been a brutal summer in Chicago.  We’ve had 9 days over 90 degrees and the forecast is for 90’s through the next 8 days.  I really don’t like the heat at all which is why I live as north as I do.  I always say, you can put on a sweater if you get cold but you can only get so naked if you’re hot.  As a result of this heat and the accompanying humidity, I’ve become a bit of a hermit.  Really not going outside unless I had to.  But tonight I ventured up to my rooftop deck to water my plants-BTW if all these flowers are going to become cucumbers, I’ll be eating cukes until they come out of my ears.  And while it had only dropped into the mid 80’s, the humidity had dissipated and the wind had picked up.  As a result, it was unbelievably pleasant up there.  I brought my book up and read for while and then as the sun went down, plugged in the icicle lights that encircle my deck.  It’d been a long time since I’d done that so only about 30% were working.  I spent the next hour checking each strand and replacing bulbs, replacing strands that were beyond repair and reconfiguring the remaining ones.  Once finished, my deck was glowing quite nicely.  It was too dark to read so I brought up my laptop to see if my wi-fi reach this far.  I’ll be dog-goned if it didn’t.  I spent the few hours surfing and writing and listening to life in my neighborhood.  It even got chilly and I had to put on a sweater (see reference above).

It sounds silly to get jazzed about sitting outside but I’m not used to this kind of heat.  It really impacts my enjoyment of the wonderfulness that is Chicago in the summer.  I’ll make a deal with you Mother Nature, if you insist on pushing the mercury above 90 during the day, please provide me with nights like tonight.  They are truly magical.

Flip Flops

This time of year, we start to go a bit batty because we’ve been stuck indoors for far too long staring at the same four walls and looking out the window at cement skies.  Chicago doesn’t really have a spring, we usually go from 40 degree weather to upper 70’s in about a weeks time.  The skies finally clear and we can see that the atmosphere is indeed blue above our heads, it’s just been covered up in permaclouds.  This usually happens in mid June.  Seriously.  Every once in a while we’ll get a sunny clear day with temps that are moderate but we just don’t have a spring to speak of here.

Anywho, last weekend we had one of those days that just teases our memories of how wonderful summers are here.  The skies cleared to absolute brilliant blue and the sun warmed the air to the low 40’s.  It was the first time this year we’d had some moderation.  Chicagoan’s tend to explode out of doors on a day like this and today was no exception.  I took advantage of it by strapping on my running shoes and getting back to my routine of last year.  I had lots to do around the office and house so by the time I finally left, it was 4pmish.  The sun was getting lower in the skies and because we still had significant snow on the ground, there was a definite chill in the air.  I wasn’t bundled as much as I would have liked (forgot my gloves!).  But I was determined to get this back on track so I pushed through.  Along my route, I passed not just one, but 3 people wearing flip flops.  One girl had on a down coat, hat, gloves, scarf and bare feet.  Now I know I’m showing my age when I shake my head in confusion over this but it happens every year and I can’t understand why.  If you are that cold you have to wear all that stuff, why wouldn’t you wear socks and shoes also?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Are you that desperate to expose your ghostly white, unpainted toes to a wind chill of 35 degrees?  Really?

I just don’t get it.  Maybe I’m too practical.  My feet are not any where near summer ready yet and quite frankly I can’t stand being cold.  If that’s what getting old is all about, well, I’m fine with that.  Now where did I put my bifocals?

The year without a summer

It’s cold here.  Not cool, we went right to cold-with a wind chill thank you very much.  We really didn’t have a summer and that’s a stinker.  Here in the upper Midwest, we live for our summer because the winters are so blasted awful the thought of warmth is the only thing that keeps us going through the long, cold, dark days.  Every year about this time I plant approximately 800 tulips in my front yard and plan them for early, mid and late spring blooming.  That way I have color for about 6 weeks.  There have been years I’ve almost waited too long to plant and thought about blowing them off but then I remembered how much seeing their little leaves poking through the snowy frozen ground lifted my spirits each spring.   Out came the shovel and the bulbs, sometimes getting the job done in the dark.  It’s a big job but the payoff is so worth it.

The summer is our long thank you from Mother Nature for putting up with the cold grey skies for what seems to be endless months.  There’s a trade off, if the sky is clear blue and the sun is beautiful, you know the temp is most likely in the single digits.  If it warms up to the upper 20’s-low 30’s bye-bye sun, hello lake induced low cloud cover.  So we wait in anticipation for the weather to break and the 15 pounds of additional clothing to be cast aside.  I live behind a grocery store and one of my past times is seeing when the first pair of shorts and flip flops will appear in the parking lot.  It’s pretty much guaranteed to happen if we get a sunny day in the mid 40’s.

But this year, no summer.  When I drove through the South I got a big dose of the heat, temps in the upper 90’s with matching humidity, and it followed me north for a few days.  We did have a heat spurt in mid June for about 5 days but then nada.  July and August were below average in temps and above average in rain.  Nice.  It’s been cool and humid for about a month now and my hair is over all this foolishness.  And now we get to deal with the ever darkening days.  It’s enough to send a body into decline.  I used to laugh that Chicago winters weed out the faint of heart.  I just hope this poor heart can take 8 months of yuck.

Lean on me

My iPod contains over 3500 songs on it.  I purchased my iPod used inheriting the music already on there.  I’ve also added quite a bit of music on my own. I usually listen to podcasts when I am running, multitasking as always.  Lately I’ve started listening to music.  And not to pre-planned playlists.  I’m playing the list alphabetically, never really knowing what I will hear next.  The juxtaposition the songs afford makes me laugh sometimes.  This morning it was Beyonce/JayZ followed by My Fair Lady.  And yes, I’m usually singing along louder than I realize, as evidenced by the looks I get.

Then the classic Bill Withers song, Lean On Me, with it’s opening organ chords came on.  I was immediately transported back to my teenage years, Summertime at the swimming pool, golden couple Crash and Susie and all the really cool kids hanging about.  The radio blaring much to the disdain of the golfers teeing off on the first tee just yards away.   I’m always amazed when music takes me back.  It was like it was yesterday.

This time though I listened, really listened to the lyrics.  And they blew me away.  I’ve gone through some very challenging times recently both personally and professionally.  There were moments it seemed as if I wouldn’t endure them.  Most times I felt really alone and scared.  Still do every once in a while. Especially the scared part. Hearing those lyrics made me realize I had some amazing friends and support that I’d been leaning on pretty heavily.   I’m not good at asking for help, fairly sure my tombstone will read “I’m fine”, even worse at admitting I need help and accepting it when offered.  Swallowing my pride isn’t on my list of skills.  This time around though, I’ve been leaning on whomever will let me.  I realize the lyrics could be referencing a friend, family member, God.  Who knows?  But the fourth time I’d replayed it this morning, the first verse really stuck with me –And if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow. I’ll get to tomorrow, safe in the knowledge I’m not alone.

Oh and the song that followed?  It was also by Bill Withers and was called Use Me.  But that’s an entirely different type of post for another day!