28 days…A Post of “Favorite Things”

It’s official.  We finally have the “confirmed” dates for the movers to arrive and pack and load and deliver.  Twenty-eight days until a moving company pulls up armed with tape, boxes, paper, bubble wrap…..Lee heads down in a few days, but we aren’t closing up Chicago until the end of the month.  (PS-This also means it’s twenty days until our second year graduate student is here for five days until he heads back for that final push towards the pink hood!)

Yes, I’m starting to get excited about being so close to family, doctors, the beach, the mountains, lower COL,  and also being able to get Newks anytime I want it….but as I have said…it’s bittersweet.

So, today, a post of “Favorite Things” so that I will always be able to look back and recall the things I did fall in love with during our Chicagoland adventure.

  1.  Lake Michigan  It’s truly magnificent.  Chicago side is great, in that you have the center of what makes Chicago who she is, right there.  Yet, I have to say…the Michigan side, well, it’s breathtaking.  The sound that reminds you of the waves crashing ashore at any beach in America….the blue tint to the water….the wind coming off of the lake reminding you of the trade winds at a “ocean” beach….when I needed moments of refreshment, Lake Michigan often was what the doctor ordered.
  2. Chicago Mix Popcorn  Ok, y’all.  This is some good stuff.  Garrett’s is the name everyone knows, but I grew to love Kernel’s the most.  Caramel goodness mixed with cheese goodness…..yummy.  I learned Atlanta has a Garrett’s.  Sometimes, you just need popcorn.
  3. Willow Creek Community Church  I cannot even begin to put into words what this church, teachings under Bill Hybel and Steve Carter, the mission, the awe of the Care Center..well…what they have done for this messed up heart of mine.  I think in ten years I will look back at the time at WC and know that is likely the biggest reason God moved us here in the first place…it was never the reason we thought.  This church does Jesus well….actually….it does Jesus exceedingly well.  Things I will take with me from WC: Baptism Day, “Dear Me,” “Love Everyone, Always,” and a congregation that resembled the world around me.  I’m forever changed because of my time at Willow Creek.
  4. Going along with number three, it has to be the zany, mismatched-yet perfectly matched, group that we have as our small group.  I have seen Christianity and Jesus modeled in ways that have forever changed me.  I look back to my little self when they first took us in and wonder why in the world they invited me….but..I’m so glad they did.  Lee and I have grown to love this group and will miss being part of the gatherings…although, I have suggested we do Skype small groups.
  5. Chicago Summer  Summer in Chicago is short, but magical.  Everything around you is in full bloom, showing off daily.  I’ll never get over 85 degrees being “a scorcher of a day.”
  6. Downtown Naperville
  7. Downtown Geneva
  8. The way Chicago showed me the melting pot of America, working together.
  9. Mariano’s
  10. Finally, because I’m pulling a Letterman and stopping at a Top Ten….the people.  Chicagoland, you are an area full of some of the kindest people one could ever hope to meet.  You are a shining star in our Nation..even if it’s not always reported.  You do people well….to the people of Lee’s company here and the wives that reached out to me along the way….you are the best of the best.

So, there it is.  My ten favorite things about Chicagoland.  This is just a “see you later” as the paths will cross again….open doors remain all around me.

Thanks for letting this “Bless Her Heart” girl find her way….guiding her along her broken glass path…..you are forever loved.  (Even though you did welcome us week one with a blizzard.)


Tune-Up…Things We Say

It’s so strange that I sit here typing with so much in my head and a clear understanding that I am not remotely qualified to write more than, “My name is Kim.” This silly blog that I started as a way to process life with a chronic disease has become at times, therapeutic.  In a way, a virtual journal that some folks read and occasionally like….but more so an outlet to express a day, a week, a month, a season.  Today, I sit here typing with the question swirling in my little pea size brain of….did I start this for me, for you, because I was led to by God?  Maybe, it’s a combination of the three. (This question likely to never be answered fully.)  The move to Chicagoland has forced me so far out of my little “comfort zone” and into a zone where I am forced to really take stock into things I had just taken from others and applied….people much wiser than me…so surely no need to question, doubt, research….verify.  And yet….that’s what I have found myself doing now for a few months…..what if, as I have said before…this was the entire reason I am here….that it has nothing to do with a job…a city….maybe it was the only way God could finally get my attention.  Maybe He had no choice but to pull me up from my roots….

One thing I have been exploring are things I have heard for so long….assuming they were God’s word…or at least a close interpretation of it.  Phrases we say….without a second thought as to if they really are Biblical…you know…those things “good Christians” say.

I think the first offender has to be “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  Malarkey.  Yes He will, and yes He does.  What is even the point in turning to God if we can truly handle even the hardest of circumstances on our own?  Isn’t the whole point of us being in this broken world to have us see that our only hope..our only way to navigate is by trusting God…something so much bigger than our tiny little humanness?  Everything is more than we can handle…everything.  It’s only because of Christ that we are able to put one foot in front of the other…..That’s the entire premise of faith.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)

 “But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

God never says, Oh Jacob….pull up your bootstraps and figure it out.  If we could handle it…why oh why would God have sent Christ to die on that cross at Calvary?  We can’t.  We didn’t. We never will be able to.

This next one has been swirling in my head a lot lately….maybe it’s all the political rhetoric floating around…maybe it’s being more connected to a health community where I know folks that are wonderful, Jesus loving folks…that well…struggle…whether it’s emotionally, physically or financially….struggle is a daily routine.  It’s the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” I see that, I hear that and all I can do is sit and go…nope.  That runs against the entire Gospel of Christ….Sally, well Sally is exactly where she is because she can’t help herself….well…what if Sally really can’t?  Sally, through  no fault of her own, has an illness that makes just walking outside her home a nightmare we can’t imagine?  It seems, to me, the attitude of self-reliance and self-righteousness just doesn’t match up with Matthew 16:24. My new thought process on this is God intended us to be a community…so that when one of us is not strong…weak…whatever the issue may be…we come alongside, with Christ as our captain….to hold that person or community up….and sometimes…that’s a very long gig…sometimes it’s not.

Matthew 16:24 (The Message)

 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

There are so many more things we say…I’ve said….because well…maybe it’s because I grew up with it and just assumed…maybe it was something I heard in a sermon one day….and I sit here and just type these words going, “Man….some of these things are just hurtful to others.”  I have a feeling this season for me might be a tad long…a season where I have a very long overdue tune-up.  Last night, in a message, the challenge of “Resolve” was issued…so, my “resolve” is that I’m checking my vocabulary…my phrases…and I am going to likely blog as I uncover more of things said…that well…sound all Christian…but aren’t…just man-made gibberish.

As I close for today…I just received a verse via a group text I am part of daily…I close with this:

2 Peter 3:17-18 (The Message)

“But you, friends, are well-warned.  Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off  your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers.  Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Glory to the Master, now and forever.  Yes!”

I’ll make a point to title these blogs (my chronicle of my tune-up) so if you want to skip…well..it’s easy.  I’ll start with “Tune-Up.”  Kimmielou signing off….up since 5AM…clearly time for more coffee.

PS-Farmers Almanac is predicting a doozy of a winter here….currently looking for anyone that needs a house sitter on a tropical beach from December-March.  (Insert fact…Kim doesn’t like winter…even mild winters.)

Spring Break, Chicago Style

Our college son was at the house for his spring break just a few short days ago.  The move for us was completed two months ago (he was away at school), so he had not yet seen his new “home” or any part of Chicago or the suburbs.  We decided to make part of the break a “mini-vacation.”  So, off went the college son and his Mom to the downtown area of Chicago for “Home Tourist 2015.” Prior to his arrival, tickets had been secured for the theater, symphony and reservations made at a brand new hotel offering some super “get to know us” rates.  Mom had also made dinner reservations at a couple “hot spots” to further enhance “HT 2015.”



Day One:  Arrived at the new Loews Hotel in Chicago. From the moment we arrived, we were treated as if we were the most important guest in the building.  Our view was incredible!!!  The room was spacious and quiet.  Access to our room well before check-in time was a huge perk!  With hunger on our minds, we asked for a suggestion and were quickly given “Rural Society” as our must eat lunch.  (Connected to hotel was an added perk!) Oh my goodness.  This place is so yummy.  The chicken sandwich was incredible.  The corn tamale melted in your mouth.  The service was outstanding.  The atmosphere matched the menu perfectly!  All the meats are wood grilled and the smell is intoxicating. Jose Garces, of Iron Chef fame, is the “brain” behind the food.  I cannot wait to just go back into the city to eat at Rural Society.  (Best part of the stay was watching the face of our bellman as we corrected his introduction of “Mr. and Mrs. McClellan.” One word.  Hilarious.)

Just a cool atmosphere.

Just a cool atmosphere.

The room was so well appointed. I had to walk away from the well stocked mini-bar…peanut M&M’s are my kryptonite. The robes were soft and cozy and just warm enough to take away that morning chill. My absolute favorite item in the room was the Julien Farel blow-dryer.  Seriously, I have never used a more effective blow-dryer.  I came home and tried to find one to purchase and learned they are on back-order.  Let’s just say I am on the wait list!  Superior linens on the beds, it was just a perfect place to stay.  (Parking is below the hotel and they will validate your ticket and add the discounted rate to your bill.)  Location is one block north of Michigan Avenue and the entrance to the Miracle Mile.  (Or maybe that’s northeast….but one block…that’s it.)

Check out the Loews Hotel-Chicago/Downtown at:  www.loewshotels.com/Chicago-Downtown

Most amazing blow-dryer ever at: http://www.julienfarel.com

We had theater tickets and dinner reservations for our first night, so what to do until then was the question….we decided to tackle the Magnificent Mile in “record speed.”  The shopping is wonderful, but it’s the architecture that surrounds you that keeps your attention.  Some of the most beautiful buildings I have seen in an US city.  I had my first adventure into a Bloomingdales.  Such a lovely store.  Great service and a super shoe department. (Y’all know how I love me some shoes!) Josh discovered the store Top Man.  Little sidenote on Bloomingdales…..the ranges in prices are wide and go from “ok, I can buy this” to “woah, second mortgage time.”  Check the price before you fall in love.  (There’s an awesome Bloomingdales outlet in Chicago that is worth the trip.)

Check it out at: http://www.themagnificentmile.com

The night began with reservations at Trattoria 10.  Oh my goodness.  The reviews were spot on.  This is a “must” when visiting Chicago, especially if you have theater tickets.  (It’s super close to all.) Reservations were made about two weeks prior.  We skipped the appetizer as we knew we wanted dessert.  I ordered the butternut and acorn squash ravioli with honey walnut butter and Josh ordered the Niman Ranch Pork Tenderloin.  The waiter had told us the ravioli was the longest running menu item and given my newly acquired love for this dish, I had to order.  Josh was feeling a tad carnivorous and opted for the meat option.  We were asked if we had theater tickets and I appreciated that being something our waiter desired to know.  The food. Simply, oh my goodness.  I cannot begin to describe the lightness of the ravioli and the perfect balance the sauce gave to the dish.  I was simply sad when it was all gone.  Josh’s dish came out looking divine.  Perfectly cooked medium pork tenderloin.  It was delicious.  The fingerling potatoes were incredible. Our dishes were promptly removed and dessert service set.  Josh ordered the classic tiramisu and I opted for the apple crostata.  Josh’s dessert came out looking like a slice of heaven.  A chocolate covered strawberry set aside the perfectly formed layers of tiramisu.  Not too much espresso on the lady-fingers, but the perfect balance.  My apple crostata came out warm with a nice side of vanilla gelato.  Garnished with some warm caramel and honey milk grove honey, it was wonderful.  The balance of granny smith apples to cranberries and raisins was perfect!  A delicious meal to start off the night on the town with my Josh.

Apple Heaven

Apple Heaven

Then came the theater.  We were at the Bank of America theater.  One of Belmont’s own, Candace Quarrels was the lead female role in the Book of Mormon.  (This is the primary reason we chose this ticket.)  The kids were fabulous and Candace…man that girl can sing.  Candace and Elder Cunningham stole the show for me.  Sure, there were some things I wish I hadn’t heard.  There was a scene I wanted to crawl under the foundation during and in that moment seriously regretted the ticket choice.  Yet, there were scenes that were so well done that I sat and was able to enjoy the majority of the play.  Would I see it again?  No.  Would i pay to see Candace Quarrels perform in another play?  Yes, without hesitation.  The theater is beautiful and it’s almost as if you have stepped back in time.  So ornate.  I can only imagine how the patrons dressed back in the day. You can just imagine women sitting in the boxes with their finest gowns and jewels on.  Loved that part of my night.

So grand.

So grand.

The next day started with a walk to Millennium Park and  the obligatory pictures at “The Bean.”

The Bean

The Bean

From there, it was the Art Institute of Chicago.  This was amazing.  Simply, no words can do it justice.  Four hours in and we still had not seen the entire second floor.

Monet after Monet after Monet

Monet after Monet after Monet

We still have so much left to see.  Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, AR, is wonderful, but to see such an impressive collection of art from as far back as 600 years ago here in Chicago….simply awe inspiring.  It’s worth the trip.  Worth the ticket.  In one day, I learned my son has favorite artists and to see him so excited to see not just one work, but multiple works by his favorites…priceless.

From there, it was a visit to Intelligentsia Coffee.  Run, do not walk to this place situated on East Randolph.  They have other Chicago locations and are also in LA and NYC.  This was the best cup of coffee I have ever tasted.  No, seriously.  I had the Gaspard Rwanda.  Using the Cremex to brew, this was hands down the best. It lived up to the hype, was worth the wait and if you are a coffee lover-it will change your life.  Ok, maybe not literally, but you will want this coffee daily.  I’m so thankful for a son that is a “coffee snob.”  I never would have known this even existed…or walked past it simply thinking it was just another coffee bar.

Check it out at: http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com

Before we knew it, the day had been quickly spent at various sites and it was time to get dressed up for our night at the symphony.  Dinner was at Tesori (located adjacent to the symphony hall) and it was ok.  I think the next visit we will skip the “ta-da” dinner and go with the flatbread pizza and a salad.  With Josh in his suit and me in my black dress, we then took our seats at symphony hall in the terrace.  Funny story….Josh ran into more people he knew this night than he did when visiting Arkansas..where he had grown up.  And then…..the first note by the strings.  Heavenly.  Angelic.  Beautiful.  Simply the  most incredible string section I have ever had the honor of hearing live.  Dutoit conducting Ravel.  Simply marvelous.  I cannot begin to express how fun it is to sit next to Josh at the symphony.  To see him know every nuance of a piece and eagerly be awaiting the arrival of a certain moment…priceless.  To hear him talk about the percussion section, some of which are friends of his through various summer festivals (Tanglewood and the Aspen Music Festival)…just so thankful to share this season with him.  We are already planning to return as soon as he gets back from school in May.  Who  knows, maybe one day CSO will be his employer!  Josh McClellan, principal timpanist Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Sounds kinda awesome!

Check it out at: http://www.cso.org

We return to the room after the symphony, and the third part of our trio had made his way into the city.  Time for rest…for Friday would be a full day!

We started our day at “Yolk” for breakfast.  It was packed!  One of my favorite things in Chicago so far is how Chicago does breakfast!  Yolk kept that positive trend going!  With proper nutrition in our system, we were off to the Shedd Aquarium.  We grabbed a taxi for the ride over…it was a very chilly morning.  Shedd Aquarium is probably the highlight of Chicago for kiddos.  Kindergartener’s were running around and could not get enough of the exhibits.  The Reef exhibit was our favorite part.

We found Nemo!

We found Nemo!

We have been, and that’s probably our one time visit.  From there, we began walking towards Millennium Park so that our third member could catch a glimpse into what all we saw the day before.  Before we knew it, we had walked from the Shedd to the edge of the Art Institute.  Stopping to enjoy various street musicians and pointing out various things we had taken in on our day one.  We were quickly back at our coffee spot and no one had to talk me into a second cup of coffee from Intelligentsia.  We had saved a trip to “Shake Shack” for when our third member was with us and soon it was time to trek over to get a taste of what was one of our favorite stops in New York City a few years back.  Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a great burger and a chocolate shake!

Our college kid was running out of steam and we knew we had a trek to make back out to the burbs.  This was the end to our little trip and our list wasn’t even close to being complete.  So thankful we did the hotel part of this break. It made it feel like a vacation and allowed us to truly enjoy the Chicago experience.  We can hardly wait to return when it’s warmer to see what everything looks like in the late spring and seeing what a Cubs game is like.

Boston still has my heart as my all-time favorite major city, but Chicago impressed me greatly.  Take some of what we love in NYC and bring it down a few notches crowd and noise wise…and that’s Chicago.  It didn’t feel nearly as touristy either, although I think Navy Pier may have that honor.  Still looking for those rink-side Blackhawk tickets that won’t break the bank….one day…one day.

Thank you Chicago for a great spring break!