Saturday, January 16, 2016

Twenty Sixteen
plus a bit of a twenty fifteen rewind

Well, hello team!

Are you wondering what ever happened to this blog? Were you sure it had met its demise, never to be resurrected? Does your curiosity get the better of you some nights, as you sit there thinking that maybe Linda has, I don't know, suddenly found herself with some borders?

Maybe you thought personal blogging had gone the way of the dinosaur, the Model T, the Beta VCR... After all, it does seem like the internet is pretty hopped up about blogging for business, blogging your brand, and just generally caring more about product and platform than jabbering. That's all well and good, but it isn't why I stopped blogging. Really, it's been more mundane. I had major laptop issues and went computer-less for vast swaths of time (blogging from a phone? just no) and on top of that, I spent the bulk of 2015 working a part-time job that took as much time as a full-time job. That's fun for exactly no one!

But anyhow, it's a new year and things are new and different. But some things are also the same. For example, here are some things that totally stayed the same from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015: Cats. Job. Apartment. City.  This in itself is pretty nuts. For the first time in ages, we renewed a lease, and so here we still find ourselves in Chicago, happily residing near Lincoln Square even though moving inland from the Lake initially seemed like a fall from grace. And the same job! (That part-time one that might as well have as a slogan "All the hours, none of the health insurance.") I am so used to ESL-teaching jobs being one year contracts. Having instead a U.S. office, co-workers, an annual review, and stuff like that as I teach English is still a little weird to me on some level.

But did 2015 bring anything new and different? Let's see. Things I did in 2015 that I had never done before:
*Visited Madison, Wisconsin (twice!) -  I had been to Wisconsin, but never to Madison, and in 2015, I discovered that I really like that city. conveniently located just under three hours from Chicago as it is. We also visited Devil's Lake State Park, in the Madison area, inspired by an article I came across that recommended the top-rated hike in every state. Now by "top rated" this particular piece did not mean the best, per se, but the actual top-rated-by-online-trail-raters on a particular site, so there's definitely room for an amateur vote to get in there, but it was still interesting, and in fact we later also visited the Illinois top hike, Palos Park, which is just a short piece from here, towards south suburban Chicago. (Or at least what I think of as the south suburbs. I'm still so decidedly Not From Around Here.)
*Pilgrimaged to and "climbed" to  a High Point: Speaking of hiking...I started in on another project which has been a longtime goal of mine, to climb to the high points in all of the fifty states plus D.C. This, by the way, is a thing, and there's a Highpointers club and whatnot, and may I just tell you that I first got into this back when you still sent off for the information via U.S. mail, OK? Of course, at that time I was living in Arizona, and then California, and neither of those two states' high points are ones you just go climb on a whim one day, and then I ditched the car and switched to public transit lifestyle for the next decade on the East Coast and in Asia on. But being in the Midwest, with a car, and finally being able to do stuff like that again that I want to do, I hopped in the car and pilgrimaged to the highest elevation in Illinois, Charles Mound. Spoiler alert: It's not that high. This is Illinois, after all.
*Saw Patty Griffin in concert. Saw other good live music in Chicago, too, including the Girls twice (hello, that would be Indigo Girls) and quite a few bands at the many, many festivals that make up summer in Chicago, but seeing Patty had been a goal for a while.
*Ran my tenth 10K: My Year of Ten 10Ks was not actually a calendar year; it went from summer of 2014 to summer of 2015, so I finished it up with the same one I started with, the Reeds Lake Run in East Grand Rapids, no thanks to the Tiki Run here in Chicago that was meant to be my tenth but got rained and lightninged out one stormy June night.
*Spent a lot of time in Indiana: Have I mentioned I'm in the Midwest? It's really starting to sound like it, isn't it? I'm starting to know all the landmarks on I-65, and to know which exits have the Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks and stuff. This is mostly due to trips to see Brian's various relatives in various towns for various festive occasions, but I also hit up the Hoosier State to see a friend from law school and a friend from high school, so who says this isn't just the crossroads of 'MURica? Still haven't done the high point or the top-rated hike of Indiana, though, but that's on the 2016 agenda. Right now this little thing called winter is in the way of blazing through the Midwest trails.
*Took a guitar class at the legendary Old Town School of Folk Music, which by the way is just down the street. Have I mentioned we like our neighborhood? If only I didn't always go, like, eight years between guitar classes, I might be pretty good by now. Can't you just hear the Murmurs singing "You Suck" in your head? ("Right now there's dust on my guitar, you !@$%*...")   I do still have my Murmurs shirt, from the era of my first guitar class... I also took a German class in 2015, at the Dank Haus German American Cultural Center, which is -- you guessed it -- down the street. It was super fun to have my high school German come back to me.  And super duper fun to take so many classes in the neighborhood!

Hmmm.... I can't really remember what else I did in 2015 that was new. Of course we tried new restaurants (we are in Chicago after all) and saw new plays (ditto). Maybe I should also mention some of my things that I continued over the past year, like my million and one book and movie projects that go on and on but in which I am in fact making progress (in the Prez Bio quest I'm finishing up Nixon! That means I've reached my actual lifetime!)

Basically, what happened in 2015 was that I just kind of lived. Here in the U.S. In the Midwest. Most of the time this fills me with a kind of what-the-hell shell shock. Other times, I like that things are generally easy, that I don't have to really notice them--but I do miss being abroad. I miss being around people that don't think the U.S. is the one and only place to be. At least I can tap into foreign media reasonably easily, but when you live in a country you're surrounded by its media culture even in ways you can't always pinpoint.

Then there's the whole effort/debacle/frustration/money pit of health insurance in the U.S. (particularly when one works at a part-time job that takes the effort of a full-time job but gives no health benefits), but let's not get into that just now, eh? We've got the whole year of 2016 ahead of us in which we can rant about stuff.

What are you up to in 2016?

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