200 Miles of Summer

My bike at Montrose Beach in July

My bike at Montrose Beach in July

I wrote earlier this year about my newly-discovered love of cycling. I managed to keep loose track of my miles traveled via bicycle this summer using questionable metrics, and I’ve determined that I’ve biked more than 200 miles in three months.

The mild weather kept it from feeling like summer most of the season (I realize this was a major plus in many’s eyes — not in mine) but having my bike to get me around the city made for some great experiences. I rode downtown to do Zumba in the park; I went to the Empty Bottle to see my friend’s band; I made grocery runs by bike and backpack and wasn’t at the mercy of the Lawrence bus. I pedaled proudly and with independence. It was a great summer to get some added feelings of independence.

Thanks to Becca for getting me on my bike in the first place, and to Stef for answering my many questions, and to Brianne for giving me confidence and extremely handy knowledge for basic bike repair.

At the end of June, July, and August I looked at my Google calendar to see where all I’d been. If I remembered biking there, I used Google Maps to check distance. With this inexact data, I’ve compiled a (probably, maybe) complete list from June 1 until today, Aug. 31:

  • Saturday, June 7: Rode to meet Jaimi at Wilson & Broadway, then downtown to Millennium Park: 10.2 miles; then rode north to Belmont, then down to Diversey, then up Clark to Andersonville: 10; then Andersonville to home: 2.3 miles
  • Sunday, June 8: Rode to visit new apartment in Albany Park, then went to Brianne’s with Becca and back home: 8.1 miles
  • Saturday, June 14: Rode bike to Target at Wilson & Broadway, then to brunch with Kristen in Wicker Park: 13.8 miles, roundtrip
  • Sunday, June 15: Rode to Mariano’s on Lawrence and back: 2.8 miles, roundtrip
  • Rode to The Empty Bottle in Ukranian Village to see Saintseneca: 11.4 miles, roundtrip
  • Friday, June 20: Biked to Jaimi’s to stay the night before a race by her house: 3.1 miles
  • Saturday, June 21, biked from Jaimi’s to Montrose Beach run an 8K, then to Horizon Cafe in Lakeview to get breakfast with Liz, and then home: 4.0 miles
  • Tuesday, June 24: Biked to Stef’s and back: 6.4 miles roundtrip
  • Thursday, June 26: Biked down to McCormick Place downtown for an all-day work event, then to Lincoln Park to run a 5K, then home: 24.4 miles total (this was a poorly-planned day)
  • Friday, June 27: Biked to Stef’s and back: 6.4 miles
  • Sunday, June 29: Biked to Pride at Montrose and Broadway, then to new apt, then back home: 7.8 miles

June: 110.7

  • Sunday, July 13: Biked to the lake and back with Dad: 6.8 miles
  • Wednesday, July 16: Biked to Guts & Glory at Schuba’s to watch live lit with Christina and friends: 6 miles
  • Saturday, July 19: Biked to Target at Wilson & Broadway, then up to Foster Beach, then home: 8.2 miles
  • Tuesday, July 22: Biked to Starbucks in Lincoln Square, then home: 1.8 miles
  • Saturday, July 26: Biked from old apartment to new apartment: 1.7 miles
  • Sunday, July 27: Biked from new place to Davis Movie Theater and back: 4.2 miles
  • Monday, July 28: Biked from new place to Potbelly’s in Lincoln Square, then home: 4.2 miles
  • Tuesday, July 29: Biked from new place to Starbucks at Wilson & Kedzie, then home: 1.4 miles
  • Thursday, July 31: Biked from new place to Kevin’s to write episode of webseries, then home: 3.6 miles

July: 37.9

  • Friday, Aug. 1: Biked Park West to Stef’s house after Jenny Lewis concert: 3.5 miles
  • Wednesday, Aug. 6: Biked from home to gym and grocery store Lincoln Square, then back home to Albany Park: 3 miles
  • Thursday, Aug. 7: Biked to Pilates at Montrose and Damen, then to Melrose Restaurant in Boystown for writers group meeting, then home: 10.2 miles
  • Saturday, Aug. 9: Biked to Hamburger Mary’s to see live lit, walked to Fat Cat’s, then biked home: 6.9 miles
  • Sunday, Aug. 10: Biked from home to Lincoln Square; dropped bike off for repairs, which took almost two weeks (so much lost time!): 1.7 miles
  • Saturday, Aug. 23: Biked from On The Route Bikes to home: 1.7 miles
  • Sunday, Aug. 24: Biked to Lincoln Square to drop off a gift for friend, then walked bike home: 1.7 miles
  • Tuesday, Aug. 26: Biked to Holiday Club for trivia, then back home: 8.6 miles
  • Wednesday, Aug. 27: Biked to Women & Children First Bookstore and back: 6.8 miles
  • Thursday, Aug. 28: Biked to Stef’s, then downtown, then home: 19.1 miles roundtrip
  • Sunday, Aug. 31: Biked to Starbucks to write this blog post: 0.7 miles

August: 63.9


Me and my bike, as taken by Dad in July

Me and my bike, as taken by Dad in July

Not bad for a first summer. We’ll see how long into the fall I can last.

Settled In

I moved three weeks ago, and as of right now, I have only one unpacked box. Before today, at least half a dozen boxes still sat in our living room, backed up against the sun room wall with the boxed-in dining room table. When I moved, I immediately ran out of storage space in my bedroom, but even more so in my bathroom. So on Friday, I bought a boxed set of shelves at Target.

Back in 2008, when Christina from college and I moved in together, she and I built a similar bathroom storage unit — just the two of us. We’d been pretty proud of ourselves because we hadn’t needed to ask either of our boyfriends for help, and the thing turned out looking like it was supposed to. I knew deep down, however, that I’d played second banana in that project, and had with every similar one since. Kevin took the lead in building all of our IKEA purchases, and even helped me build my bed shortly after we broke up and he moved out.

I woke up this morning from a stress dream about this set of bathroom shelves and briefly, hazily, considered asking for Kevin’s help. I woke up a little more and shook the thought out of my head. I was on my own for the shelves and I knew it.

My roommate and I went out to brunch this morning, with her visiting friend (and former roommate, whose place I took in the apartment). Afterward I had the place to myself for a bit. I resigned myself to the task of putting together the shelves, since no one would be around to hear me swearing.

First of all, whatever possesses us to keep buying furniture we have to build ourselves? Does IKEA have some kind of lingering chemical in their products that leads us to forget what a pain in the ass the thing was to construct in the first place, allowing us to buy more later as needed?

That said, the Target shelves, while similar to IKEA’s, were much easier to build than I thought they’d be. I only messed up once and ended up screwing two tiny holes in the wrong end of one shelf, but it’s the bottom one and no one’s going to see it. I sat back and marveled at my own handiwork.

I built these shelves all on my own, and they are mine.

Bathroom shelves from Target

Bow before me, queen of building boxed furniture

It’s a small victory maybe, but to me, it’s one more sign that I’m moving forward in my life. Moving out of my old place has had an extremely positive effect on me. I don’t think I realized how trapped I was in the old apartment — the memories it held weren’t always in the forefront of my mind, but they were present all the same. I lived in that one-bedroom apartment Kevin and I shared for six more months after he left it. I went a little nuts, but I didn’t know it until I was out of there.

Now I live in a bright, sunshine-yellow room and share an apartment with a lovely, kind person and I can’t explain to you how much better I feel for it.


Private bathroom, desk, bed


New writing space


(Some of) the books, DVDs


Clothes shelves, closet


Bed, with Lincoln Square and Columbus art

It also helps that I’ve been insanely busy for all of August. In the last three weeks, I have:

  • Seen Jenny Lewis live with Stef
  • Enjoyed a visit from Rachel and Ryan, which included a trip to the Field, dinner at Crisp, lunch at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Portillo’s, and a trip to Eataly
  • Joined Christina’s writers group
  • Gone to two live lit shows
  • Saw Shakespeare in the park with Travis, Alex, Becky, Andrew, and Leigh
  • Grabbed Giordano’s downtown with my aunt, cousin, and cousin’s friend
  • Attended a fancy pop-up dinner with Laura in support of the upcoming opening of a new cider bar in North Center
  • Grabbed dinner and a show with Jaimi
  • Met with the folks behind the webseries I’m writing for
  • Took two Pilates classes with Becca and Stef
  • Went to parties at Travis and Andrew’s as well as Kate and Erin’s
  • Had brunch with awesome women including Hillary, Anne, Katie, Sarah, Adele, and Sonya

This week I’m lucky enough to see more live lit, go to book club, and take part in Christina’s writers group again.

My summer has been filled to the brim with quality time with women I admire and feel great being around. There are still so many more of them I haven’t seen enough of this summer and I look forward to fixing that. I’ve been keeping myself busy and full and happy, and I find myself so encouraged and inspired by the people around me. I’ve been writing more in recent weeks than I did most of last year, and I’m proud of what I have to show for it.

This time last year, Kevin and I were living together and we’d just gotten back from Colorado. We’d visited my college friends Doug and Chandra and their four-month-old daughter. I watched Kevin get along so well with my married friends, and I saw how good he was with their little girl. I came back from that trip thinking maybe he was coming around to the idea of a long-term future with me, and a day later he told me that being there made him more sure he wasn’t ready for any of it.

It was honest, and it hurt.

That was also the same time that, after months of job searching, I got hired for my dream job at a newspaper — only to have it fold days later and for them to have to retract their offer. It was a rough patch, to say the least.

Some days I feel like I’ve fallen backwards and I miss the way my life used to be. But now I have a job I love, and I don’t spend any time worrying that my boyfriend will never propose.

These days I’m afraid to date anyone longer than a month, because I can’t wrap my brain around letting myself feel too seriously about anyone again. My Single Summer has been rewarding in so many ways, but it’s also meant I don’t feel hurt anymore.

It’s been a good summer, though. That much is true.

Small Steps Toward Live Lit

It’s a terrifying thought, but before 2014 is over, I am going to get up in front of a group of strangers and read an essay I wrote. It will probably be about something super painful that I’ve attempted to blend with humor and retrospective wisdom. I am not sure what this will be or when this will happen, but I think about it a LOT these days.

Recently someone pointed out to me that I basically write an essay every couple of weeks for this blog. I’ve got nearly eight years of stories catalogued here (not that I can bear to read my own old posts, eeek). I can’t claim I have no material to work with.

I just went to a Story Club event that was half-performance, half-class. Four seasoned story tellers performed around the event’s theme of “What I Should Have Said Was…” Then after, my friends and I (and the other 17 people there) got to ask questions of some of the premiere live lit folks in Chicago. Our group was assigned to Keith Ecker, co-host of Guts & Glory and the new serialized story-based WBEZ podcast, PleasureTown. He answered our questions about essay writing, editing, and performing. He told us there is value in our perspectives, even if we worry a topic has been discussed before an audience already.

After the event, I told Story Club founder Dana Norris that I’d only put my name in the running for a Story Club open mic slot once before. I spent that entire night feeling terrified of having it drawn, and yet disappointed at the end of it all when it wasn’t. She said she knew the feeling.

“I’ll be sure your name gets drawn next time,” she said with stage wink.

I knew she was kidding but all I could do was give a nervously awkward, “Ha-ha-ha-ahhhhhhhhhh” and back away slowly toward the door in fear.

I’ve been watching live lit for more than two years now. I love the concept but I never saw myself as part of that scene, or somehow believed I couldn’t be. No one even once said, “This is my thing and not yours, and you can watch me do this but you cannot have it.”

But I thought it anyway, because I’m super insecure.

I saw proof of the opposite tonight, though: It’s an extremely welcoming community, and those who do it want anyone who is interested to do it, too.

A few weeks ago I submitted to Essay Fiesta after seeing a friend absolutely rock it last month, but I haven’t heard back from them. And I’ll try to get up the nerve to put my name in again at the next Story Club. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep editing my essays and practice performing them out loud. I hate public speaking, but my job is requiring me to do it more and more, and to work hard at getting better at it.

I got this. Who’s coming with me?

Writing & Twitter

Part of my job at my association is to offer social media assistance to businesses, and it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of the work I do. It did, however, mean that I had to start a Twitter account. I’d had accounts in the past, including one for my news site. I knew how to use it, and I posted to it for 60625, but try as I might, I couldn’t train myself to check it often enough to make it worthwhile as a social media tool.

But now, after three months of use, I am here to tell you that I get it now. First off, you have to allow for text or email notifications or else you’re never going to check that nonsense in the beginning. Also, don’t follow every single person/spam bot who follows you first because it will just clog up your feed.

Anyway. Don’t get me started. I now see the value of Twitter, in terms of networking, research, entertainment, and — lately — finding freelance work. I’ve been writing like crazy in recent weeks, and Twitter has a lot to do with this burst of creative productivity.

I’ve been blogging for my friends’ pop culture site, The Addison Recorder, since January. But it was pretty cool to get tweeted at by the author of a book I reviewed for that site:

Additionally, I connected with a friend’s new magazine about the Midwest and expanded on an idea I’d written on here previously about the oil and gas boom in my hometown. I saw on Twitter a call for submissions, so I pitched my idea and got it approved. I turned it in a couple weeks ago.

I later found on Twitter that a friend-of-a-friend’s web series was seeking script submissions for the next episode of their show, so I wrote something and sent it their way. I just heard yesterday that they want to produce what I wrote into an episode. It’s really exciting.

I also started following tons of live lit folks here in Chicago, and now I’m trying to get in on some of those events. Longtime readers may remember that performing at a live lit event has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to finally make that happen. Meanwhile, I keep writing down ideas and outlines of essays that might be suited for that platform.

I stand before you a (years late) Twitter advocate and convert. It took a few half-hearted attempts, but I can’t go back now.