Thursday, January 31, 2013

Celebrate Your Birthday...Celebrate Good Times

My husband's birthday is in January.  It's always the coldest day of the year.  Always.  Never fails.  The temperature in Chicago drops to 7 below, the roads freeze.  We rarely go out to celebrate due to the weather.  I'll pick up a nice cake, and we sing around the kitchen table. 

This year was different.  I made a point of making plans to go out and celebrate his birthday.  Our kids dropped what they were doing and made their way downtown in the cold.  Parking was hard to find. Line at the restaurant was long. The kitchen table was looking good.

We enjoyed a terrific meal in a restaurant we had never been to and ordered dessert for his birthday treat.  No one sang!  We were happy to be together as a family celebrating life.  

I went out of my way to do this, because Blago celebrated his birthday in prison last month.  I doubt he received hugs or a birthday dessert.  His family must have been sad that they couldn't share or celebrate his day with him. 

Ten years ago, my cousin died at the age of 37.  She left 3 young children.  At her wake I stared at a photo of her with her family standing in front of the castle at Disneyworld. She was beaming.  Another cousin walked up behind me and said, "That was taken just before she discovered the lump." 

I hated my birthday until that night.  I thought of how much my cousin would have loved to celebrate another birthday.  It's a gift we take for granted. 

Enjoy Life!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On The Road Again!

This week I'm in the Texas area on a work project.  I drove from Chicago to Dallas.  Most folks look at me like I'm insane when I say that I drove down here.  I thought I was going to go insane as I approached Oklahoma, but a funny thing happened.  I realized how lucky I am being able to get on the road and just drive. 

Oklahoma wasn't so bad after all.  I imagined not being able to get into my car and just drive away.  Suddenly, the landscape looked green.   In Texas, I've made a point of appreciating everything around me.  Who knew Texas BBQ was so good.  I stopped at a restaurant known to have the best chili in the state.  Hot!!  I wouldn't normally have done that before.  I'd be happy just sitting in my room alone.  But, I'm not behind bars.  I don't have to sit in my room alone.  I can, "see things that I may never see again and go places that I've never been."

I'm not necessarily looking forward to the drive back, but I won't go insane. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blasting Stevie Ray Vaughan's CROSSFIRE

Each one of us has a song that lights up our mood.  My father-in-law jumps when he hears Frank Sinatra sing anything, but his favorite is, "You Make Me Feel So Young." My son loves hip-hop.  My mom smiles when she hears Dean Martin sing, "Return To Me." 

I'm listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan's, "Crossfire."  What an amazing guitar.  Such a tragedy to have lost this talent over 20 years ago.  First thing I did was blast the radio.  I'm ready to take on a dreaded project.  Wouldn't you be sad if you loved Elvis and couldn't blast the radio when he came on?

Love your music, especially if your favorites are on albums along a shelf.  Play it loud..because you can.  Dance, even if it's while you're cleaning the house. Look forward to the weekend...because you're free to do whatever you want to do. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Compassion For Aaron Swartz

On Sunday I read the story of  Aaron Swartz, who was a brilliant young man in his 20's raised in Highland Park, Illinois.  He was an advocate for free and open Internet access to academic papers.  He, in fact, developed a free encyclopedia reference guide while only in high school.  Imagine the potential.  

In his quest to achieve his goal of Internet access, federal prosecutors say he broke into an office at MIT and somehow downloaded millions of journal articles.   He was to stand trial for breaking in and theft for illegal downloads.  His family believed that Aaron could have received a prison sentence as long as 30 years.  Imagine the waste.  

The prospect of facing the time in prison was not what troubled Aaron.  According to his father, "he worried that a finding of guilt could diminish his prospects forever.  If you look at a life like Aaron's and you see a felony conviction, it substantially restricts what you can do with your life."  Aaron hanged himself last week.  He was 26 years old.  My daughter's age.  Imagine the heartbreak.  

I've had to face the loss of a friend who hanged himself.  He too was waiting for his trial on a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon.  Stupid.  It wasn't the potential prison time he worried about.  He knew, if convicted of a felony, he would lose his job at the bank.  He would lose his insurance.  Everything snowballed in his mind.  He would lose this, he wouldn't be able to do that, how would he support his elderly mother, where would he go.  He once asked me if he was found guilty at trial, would they take him in right away or would they allow him to go home.  I now know why he asked me that.  His attorney kept delaying the hearings.  She thought time would be his friend.  He couldn't take the pressure any more.   His elderly mother saw him hanging from the rafters in his garage.  Imagine the shock.  

Federal prosecutors spend a load of time on nothing.  I wish they'd come to Chicago and put away the animals that destroy lives.  Where did the drugs come from that found their way into my son's school?  Get to work.  It took years and stupid amounts of money to prosecute Aaron.  For what?  It took years and stupid amounts of money to prosecute Blago.  For what? 

It takes extraordinary courage to face time in prison, the loss of your name.  It takes extraordinary courage to face the loss of your freedom.   

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Loving My Fireplace!

I'm watching Denver playing against Baltimore in the playoffs.  Looks like it's freezing in Denver.  I have a fireplace just sitting here.  I haven't put a fire on in a long time.

I doubt that there's a lounge in prison with a blazing fire overlooking the mountains in Colorado.  Nuts, pizza, drinks?  I don't think so. 

Sometimes it's just the little things you forget that remind you how glorious it feels to be free.  The warmth of the fireplace is my reminder.  Time to start a fire.  It's really comfy here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Give Grandparents A Break. Let Them Retire.

It looks like one of my favorite Chicago reporters got it wrong, or at least her source got it wrong.  I listened to Fran Spielman on the radio when she was a student at Northwestern.  She talked sports with the late Ed Schwartz. We're going back more years than I want to count.  She's now Chicago's top City Hall reporter. Today she reported that Alderman Richard Mell is retiring.  He's the father-in-law of the former Gov. Blagojevich.  It turns out that she's wrong.  He's been announcing his retirement for the past five years, but he's not stepping down any time soon.

Chicago's media has been all over the story because Fran's source gave her information that wasn't factual.  How Fran will recover from this is the story on the news.

I think everyone has overlooked the obvious.  In response to the story Mell said, "I'd like to retire and move to Florida when it's cold.  But, the winters have been beautiful here.  I'll keep on making sure your snow gets shoveled."

What he's REALLY saying is, "I CAN'T retire.  I'd like to retire and move to Florida where I can golf, play poker with the guys at the pool, have early dinners by the beach.  But I can't.  I have to take care of my granddaughters.  Who is going to pay for their private school education?  Who is going to pay for college?  Their father is in prison. No one will hire their mother.  They're living in the same house that I have to pay the mortgage on."  That's what he's REALLY saying.  "The winters have been beautiful here?????"

My mom wants to leave for Florida and stay a few weeks.  I've been encouraging her to go.  "Pretend you're Estelle at the pool!  Wear a bathing cap with flowers on it."  I'm grateful that my husband and I can take care of our children without my mother struggling to help us out. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Chicago's Great Escape Failed Because There Was No Plan

The other night I was feeling guilty because there I sat, in the middle of a million things to do during the holidays, watching television in my jammies.  Just as I started to stir, I thought about the 2 bank robbers who escaped from Chicago's jail.  A mind-blowing escape through a chiseled cinderblock, down ropes of bedsheets, through Chicago's streets in a taxi, stopping home for a quick bite, and off to freedom before anyone even noticed.  We all secretly cheered.  What a plan.  But then, the next day, one of the guys is found at his friend's house, watching television in his shorts.  He gave up without a fight. 

I thought about this as I was in the middle of my guilt trip.  For god's sake.  All this man wanted to do was sit in his shorts and watch television.  This was the good life.  Freedom.  A trip to the fridge for a snack.  A simple joy that I wasn't appreciating.  I stayed up to watch all the, "Hardcore Pawn," segments I've missed without the guilt.  Too many trips to the fridge, though.

The second guy is still on the loose.  He had a plan.  That's what separates us.  Those who plan and those who let the wind take us wherever it wants to blow. In preparing for battle, Eisenhower said, "I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible."  I know this quote.  I think about this quote whenever I see Bill Rancic, and his wife Juliana.  He's the Chicagoan who won the first Celebrity Apprentice.  I can't stand this couple.  Every time I read about them they've achieved yet another goal.  In the few short years that they've been wed, they've started a reality television series, written books, made a slew of money in one venture after the other.  But in reality, I envy them.  The wind just didn't blow them along.  They're successful because they made plans.  Even when life threw them extraordinary wallops, they kept moving forward.  They planned. 

My friend sent me a text this morning.  The man she adores gave her a diamond engagement ring.  Not bad for a 56 year old broad.  She's planning her honeymoon.  My son wrote out his baseball tournament schedule for the year.  He's planning on how to improve his stats.  I love him so much.  I received a call last night from a jeweler I work with inviting me to attend a convention in Vegas at the beginning of this summer! 

I have a calendar in front of me.  I'm grateful that I'm going to fill it with work plans, baseball games, a wedding.  I'm going to work on my plan for the year.  Goals.  Grateful that every day won't look like the next day with no plans in my future.  What do you say when you're looking at 14 years in prison?  Happy New Year?  I can't keep up with the Rancics, but I'll do what's important to me. 

I wonder what the second escapee is up to? 

-------(1/4) Well, so much for a well thought out plan.  Looks like the second escapee has been captured in a suburb not too far from his home!