Reality Check: Greatest Hits

December 28, 2006

Over-Achiever

Filed under: Family,Life Lessons — Cheryl @ 5:51 am

Determination is a key factor in life. It can get us through difficult times, so long as we can focus on getting through, triumphing and moving on. It motivates us to reach beyond a limitation, to make more for ourselves or create something new. We can be determined to survive, recover, achieve, grow, pursue, discover, be.

A few weeks ago, my mother had a partial knee replacement. She is young to have the surgery and will undoubtedly have to have another within the next couple of decades. But she had it because she’s determined to live her life the way she wants. Her determination meant she continued walking as much as she could until the day of surgery came. It means she does every little exercise she’s given and pushes herself to the limit. Because she’s set on having her health and her life back.

My mother is an over-achiever. I used to think I was too. And to some extent I am, but she puts me to shame. Over the past few days I have watched her exercise, do therapy, attempt stairs, carefully navigate a path and move from crutch to cane and even absently forget to use anything to help herself.

As I sat and watched her push herself, get up in the morning and keep going despite pain or resistance from her body, I realized there are fewer limits than we might perceive for ourselves and it pays to keep going forward.

I will take that reminder when school gets hard, when I don’t feel well, when it’s time to push forward. So much like my mother, I hope I can always remember to over-achieve and follow in her well-placed footsteps.

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December 12, 2006

Sidewalk Diatribe

Filed under: Commentary — Cheryl @ 5:15 pm

When you live in a city, you tend to walk a lot. Between the traffic and available public transportation, plus huge parking fees, the car doesn’t always get a lot of use. If it’s not your final destination, you’ll be walking to or from the trains to get wherever you’re going.

Match city walking with a northern climate and you reach my least favorite thing about the city in winter. It’s not the cold or wind. It isn’t the darkness. No, it’s the sidewalks. More specifically, it’s the sheets of ice that cover the sidewalk in patches that never were cleared.

Here’s the deal: when it snows, one should shovel. If one doesn’t shovel, the snow gets packed down from foot traffic and eventually morphs into a sheet of ice. And suddenly, walking down the sidewalk a few days after snowfall is tricky.

I headed down the street to watch football with friends on Sunday. And then I would find an icy patch where I would slip-slide away, my feet looking like some Scooby Doo cartoon (you know where the characters start to run away and they aren’t moving but their feet are…). All progress towards the bar was halted and I flung out my arms and tippy-toed across the ice sheet until I made is safely to the area that had been cleared, where I would saunter until I came across the next house, apartment business that couldn’t bust out the shovel.

I don’t know if it happens elsewhere. Truth be told, I grew up with snow problems. But we drove everywhere in Minnesota, and after the snow fell and the roads were clear, the headaches were over. But here in Chicago they keep going. Until spring. So if you see me slipping around town, you’ll know why. And you’ll know I’m not alone.

November 28, 2006

Holiday Oops

Filed under: Mix Ups — Cheryl @ 6:46 pm

Last week as I headed home for the start of the holiday season, I decided I had the time and pass to take a bus to the el and the el to O’Hare. So I left home, locked the door behind me and headed down the street. Everything was going beautifully. The bus pulled up just as I approached the stop. Traffic moved along nicely. We pulled up to the station to catch the blue line to O’Hare and I moved through the turnstile and down the narrow stairs.

I was standing on the platform and putting my pass away when I noticed a glaring error in my purse: no driver’s license. It is pretty much impossible to fly without photo id and instantly I knew where it was—in my other coat pocket.

Earlier that morning, I decided to move my car to a better spot for the week. I stuck my license in the pocket of the coat I was wearing at the time and didn’t remember to put it back.

With a slew of swear words under my breath I flew up the narrow stairs, out the station door and across the street to the bus stop where I saw a cab which I jumped into. I asked him to get me home as quickly as possible and he did, flying down the street at 50 mph whenever possible.

I ran up to my apartment, into my closet and grabbed the license which was patiently waiting for me. I ran down stairs, not wanting to wait for our eternally slow elevator (I really think it is operated by hand pulleys somewhere in our basement). I started a brisk walk down the street to an ATM since I didn’t have money for a cab to the airport, or time for the whole bus/train deal.

Lo and behold a cab pulled up, took my credit card and whisked me away to O’Hare. I wasn’t that late. Bonus in that it was just about the fastest check-in/security clearance I have had at an airport in five years.

I am pretty much the only person I know that this would happen to. But I made it home, with a bit of humor. I really am travel-challenged.

November 8, 2006

The Great i-Pod Experiment

Filed under: Pop Culture — Cheryl @ 12:37 pm

This little game came from Nanette. What are the first ten songs your i-Pod plays in shuffle mode?

For me the game was easy because at the moment I only have an i-Pod shuffle. I hope to rectify that come Christmas. But I digress. Here is what my i-Pod produced when I played yesterday morning…

1. Walk On by U2
2. Naked Eye by Lucsious Jackson
3. Ants Marching by Dave Matthews Band
4. Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes
5. Never Know by Jack Johnson
6. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol
7. Open Your Eyes by Snow Patrol
8. My Stupid Mouth by John Mayer
9. How to Be Dead by Snow Patrol
10. Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5

What are your 10? Tell me in the comments…

November 3, 2006

No Beer Here

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cheryl @ 2:38 pm

Beer. I think it’s one thing that could make my social life entirely different.

It’s not that my social life is bad, or difficult. It’s just that beer would be less expensive for one thing. Plus, I wouldn’t be a complete anamoly at sporting events.

When I was in college, my roommate and I stopped into a bar, drank one beer and rushed to the train. As we rounded a corner I bent over and got sick–from one beer. Two more tries with sick feelings and then a near losing it at dinner with a friend’s parents convinced me of one thing–I can’t drink beer. I must be allergic.

Every time we go to the bar, I can’t partake of beer specials. When there are all-you-can-drink specials that are only for beer, I do not benefit. That part makes me sad, but honestly I don’t lament the beer thing because I tend not to miss things that make me feel pukey.

Last night I went with a large group of people to see the Blackhawks lose. As we rounded the arena looking for food and drink and then sat high above the United Center it occurred to me how odd I must be at a sporting event. I don’t drink beer. I don’t eat beef or pork so I won’t have a hot dog or brat. The old sport standby of “dog and a beer” doesn’t apply to me.

It’s true that arenas now have wine and mixed drinks, pizza, tacos. But the traditional food stuff is limited for me. So, bring on the peanuts and crackerjack. And the hard liquor. Those I will partake in and enjoy. Immensely.

November 1, 2006

Other Mothers*

Filed under: Family — Cheryl @ 6:11 pm

There are times in our life, as we grow up where suddenly our parents are more than Mom and Dad. They are real people and they exist outside of us. A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments with my mother as we talked on the phone about expectations.

I knew that my mom had worried about what kind of mother she’d be. Although she has sisters, they are 10-17 years older and my mom essentially grew up an only child on a small farm in Northern Minnesota. To this day, my mom isn’t a very gushy person about babies, puppies or weddings. She doesn’t do baby talk.

A few weeks ago though she offered up completely new information. She hadn’t planned to get married or have children at all. It just happened. And now, she thinks it’s the best thing she did. As I have heard so many times, I do not doubt my mom held my sister and me in her arms and everything changed.

My mom is amazing.

It takes an amazing woman to be an amazing mother.

And it takes a certain sort of amazing to become an “other mother.” A mother who is not your by blood or law. But loves you and cares for you nonetheless.

I’ve had other mothers all my life. Growing up, the other moms in the neighborhood would take us places and feed us. One did my hair for school pictures. We freely addressed them by first name, and on my street it really did take a village.

My friend E’s mom became a second mother to me in high school. One night she got out of bed to talk to me about my fears and relieve them.

Right now, I have the ultimate other mother in Best Friend’s mom. I’ve often said that my best friend is family to me. We’re like sisters. Her family is like mine.

I’m regularly invited to dinner. I got an Easter basket last spring. They’ve taken me on trips. A few weeks ago I got a phone call from my other mother telling me she had a suprise for me.

But it’s more than that. My other mother loves me like a daughter and treats me like a daughter. She is the head of an equally amazing family who treat me like one of them every day. She’s got so much love and such a big heart, that she let me in.

I have another family in my life who also have chosen to let me in. Nobody made them, nobody required it; everybody benefits. I have a little more love in my life.

Today is my other mother’s birthday. Happy Birthday to her.

*I thought that just maybe, today I would post something more than a picture, a video link, or a quote, no matter how entertaining they actually were, I feel that the 20 or so of you still reading me deserve more than that.

October 31, 2006

Quote of the Week

Filed under: Commentary — Cheryl @ 6:16 pm

“I’m sorry. I’m in grad school…I can barely afford to feed myself.” ~Me, to a Save the Children volunteer in the Loop

October 24, 2006

Travelly Challenged

Filed under: Commentary,True Story — Cheryl @ 6:50 pm

My name is Cheryl. And I am travelly challenged.

Two weeks ago, Best Friend and I headed out to a suburb for a party. The drive should be about an hour at most. It took us two-and-a-half hours to make the trip. Later, she told me all she could think was that it was because I was coming, and I have travel issues.

My travel issues first came to light back in my junior year of college, when I tried to make it home for Christmas and arrived home 10 hours behind schedule. But it didn’t stop there.

My luck with flying continued to be lacking. Seriously, if you see me on your flight, reschedule. Sometimes I get lucky and my flight is on time. Sometimes I get on an earlier flight. But I also get delayed. I sit on tarmacks. I sit on planes headed for Europe, waiting for takeoff times. I have to switch planes three times due to technical difficulties.

Yet my travel challenges range in the minor to major nuisance area, never the serious. No accidents. I am not the person who almost missed the cruise ship and had to be hoisted aboard after the ship waited as long as possible for me and had to leave without me (although I did get to watch said people).

The most frustrating thing of all is that I am not scared to travel. I am not a nervous flier, at least not because of the flying. I don’t think we’ll crash. Turbulence does not scare me. I am completely calm, cool and collected once I’m airborne. I only get scared about if and when the airborne part will happen.

So, I can’t help but think that Best Friend may have a point. Maybe, I should just stay home.

September 28, 2006

When We Were Young

Filed under: Commentary,Life Lessons — Cheryl @ 12:12 am

Yesterday afternoon, I called my mom to talk about the mundane stuff like plane tickets home, school, work, eating lunch. As she hung up I blurted, “Thanks Mom.”

“For what?” she asked.

“For giving me a life where I didn’t end up here,” I replied. I was sitting in a lobby at the juvenile court. I’d spent the morning there. I will spend nine weeks there, reporting stories on juvenile justice.

I saw some interesting things down there. Dedicated people trying to get a message out. The justice system at work. And kids who seem worn down by life.

I watched as teenagers milled about the building and all I could think was that life had gotten the better of them. I sensed a feeling of defeat. I felt the absence of hope. All I could do was summon my own hope that one of these people–a probation officer or lawyer or judge or cop would get through to those kids and help them get a hold on life, a hold for the better.

The only other thing I could do was reflect on my own fortune. When I was a teenager, I was having sleepovers and talking about boys. I was watching silly movies. I did homework and went to cheerleading. I focused on getting a driver’s license. My main concern was where I would go to college–not if. Because the idea of college was as natural and real to me as air. A future was tangible, and my power to create it was just as definite.

Many of us were lucky to live that life. Others were lucky to get out of a life more like those kids. Some just don’t, and it’s reflected in moments like the ones I observed today.

In those moments I felt lucky and grateful and sad and ashamed and relieved and powerless. All at once. Emotions felt for myself, for them, for everyone. But in the end I still feel hope, and wish I could pass it on to them.

September 13, 2006

It Happened

Filed under: Family,Life Lessons,Memories — Cheryl @ 5:05 pm

Throughout the late summer months, for various reasons like fall TV schedules or the fact that is was the day after Labor Day, I heard the date September 5 a few times. And each time I heard it, the date resonated with me but I couldn’t quite place why it seemed to mean something. Was it someone’s birthday? A newly-married friend’s anniversary? Did I have some event that day.

Then I would sort of remember, it was the day my dad died. Last Tuesday, I woke up, went to Starbucks, ran errands and sat on the couch late in the afternoon with my best friend. I sat down to write a thank-you card to someone who gave me an interview (cause I’m polite like that) and wrote the date. I paused. “Is it the fifth?” I asked.

“Yeah,” my best friend replied.

“Huh,” I said. “Do you realize this is the first year I haven’t been sad or moody or anything? It completely slipped my mind.” And the thing is, that’s how I want it. Because I will always remember my dad, any given day of the year. But I have a lot of September fifths in front of me. And while it may be selfish, I don’t mind not remembering that day. I don’t mind not thinking about getting that phone call and driving to the ER and being too late and calling my friends in tears. I don’t mind not recalling that numb disbelief that clouds your very existence for days afterward. And I really hope he wouldn’t want me to either.

This year, even when I did remember, I wasn’t sad or angry or numb. I was just me. This year, I feel more healed than ever.

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