Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Katrina 2nd Anniversary

I heard both these authors speak eloquently on TV recently and jotted the book titles down. Today seems like a good day to pick up the books and start reading:

Down in New Orleans: Reflections from a Drowned City by Billy Sothern.

1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose, a Times-Picayune columnist.

Friday, August 24, 2007

At the Farmer's Market

I took our girls to a farmer’s market yesterday morning, for the first time this summer. We haven’t been to any yet because our CSA is supplying us with more than enough fresh produce. But I wanted to hit a few markets this season to see what they offer (specifically in terms of meat and dairy).

We purchased a small box of raspberries and four nectarines for a total of $7 (pricey, yes, but the best I’ve tasted in many, many months). The CSA is a much better deal, at $20/week (though this is for organic vegetables). Economics aside, I have forgotten how fun it is to roam around the market, buy non-food items, and learn about other local organizations.

I discovered Urban Meadows, a Chicago-based nonprofit florist that provides jobs and job training for people with mental illness. And
The Enterprising Kitchen
is a Chicago-based nonprofit natural products business providing employment and life skills to low-income women working toward self-sufficiency and independence.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Wonder, Will This Happen?

I met Rahm Emanuel once at the grocery store. He was near the door, campaigning, and I recognized him.

“Rahm Emanuel!” I said. He smiled, talked with me for a few minutes about my issues, shook hands with my daughters and engaged them in a little small talk. I saw him again a few years later at a schools event called “Rahm’s Readers.” He was there with his family and young children. I didn’t feel the need to bother him then, but I was pleased to see him in the community setting—and working for our children.

So, I always read his mailings. In the most recent brochure, I learned about federal money ($2.8 million) he’s secured for a new urban park on the North Side. With additional state and city money, the 20-acre West Ridge Nature Preserve will be created out of unused land purchased from the Rosehill Cemetery.

Haven’t heard about this anywhere else.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Winding down in the Windy City

School starts two weeks from Monday, and I’ve yet to buy school supplies, backpacks, new clothes. My next-door neighbor told me that Target was down to nothing on the school supply front. Hmm. . . . I could get started on that.

But we’re not done with summer. We haven’t gone blueberry picking yet (and I’m sure it’s too late now). We still haven’t biked to the ice cream parlor with my daughter’s classmate. In fact, we haven’t done our long bike ride on the trail that picks up in Edgebrook. We haven’t made it out to Moraine Hills State Park for a long, family hike. We haven’t even been to the zoo.

We could do any of those things today. Or, we could hit North Avenue Beach to watch the practice for this weekend’s Air & Water Show. We could hit a certain farmer’s market that sells local, “naturally raised” beef (does that mean cattle grazing in a pasture? I have to find out.)

But I think what we will do is spend one more 5-hour chunk of a sunny city day at our favorite pool, before it closes for the season. To say goodbye to our favorite lifeguard/neighbor/friend/babysitter before she drives off to grad school in another city far away.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Chicago Wedding

Driving back into Chicago after touring a beautiful part of the country was a bit of a let down. It’s so flat here—and humid—and Chicago’s “blue” sky, tinted with visible brown pollution, pales against the bright blue sky out West. It made me wonder why I continue to live here. At a wedding on Saturday, an acquaintance of mine (our children attend school together) scooted into the pew next to me, and while waiting for the ceremony to begin, we caught up on each other’s summer plans. I talked about out West and my disenchanted state of mind.

“I ask myself why I live in Chicago all the time,” she said with disgust. (She relocated from NYC a few years ago.) “It’s boring, the schools aren’t great, it’s expensive. . . .”

“Well, it’s not that bad,” I said. “There’s tons to do here, and New York is way more expensive.”

“Well, yeah, it’s expensive there—but you get to live in New York City! Here all you get for your money is Chicago.”

Then the music started, so we all turned to watch the procession begin. The church was packed. I’ve never seen so many people at a wedding. My daughter and my pew mate’s son took the end seats to ensure they would get a glimpse of the bride—their beloved teacher. All around me I could see other parents and children and teachers and staff from the school. During Holy Communion, I saw even more parents and children, and afterward, teachers who retired or had moved to other schools as well as a recently graduated eighth-grader. At the end of the service, we exited our pew in a way that, luckily, brought us right to the bride, and she hugged my daughter in her huge joy. A bunch of us stood around after the ceremony, basking in the extraordinary energy of this shining star of a teacher. We would not be going to the reception; would not see her until school started up after Labor Day.

The Chicago public elementary school where this teacher works, and my daughter attends, enrolls more than 1,000 children from preschool through eighth grade. This gifted and inspirational teacher—a native Chicagoan—invited the entire school community to the church for her wedding. She actually listed the date, time and place in the school newsletter. And the school community turned out. Yet, in the bigness of this day, there was a small-town intimacy and warmth. And in her generous way, this beautiful teacher gave me a gift on her wedding day. She helped me to see all the awesome people I’ve met in the Chicago Public School system and citywide.

I’m pretty sure those people are what keep me living in this town. And I hope my friend from NYC will come to value this part of life in Chicago, as well.

Cross-posted on Chicago Moms Blog.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"D" for Dams

I’m only posting two photographs from our vacation.

The collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis and subsequent reporting on the state of our infrastructure got me thinking about the thousands of dams all over this country. Of course I'm worried about bridges, especially some specific Chicago bridges, but I can't get rivers and dams off my mind. There are so many out West! We didn’t make it to Hoover Dam on our journey, but we did drive by the Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah, seen in the top photo, below. (That's not water flowing, there; it's sunlight on concrete. Behind the dam is a reservoir extending for miles.) For perspective’s sake, it’s 500 feet high, quite a bit higher than Yellowstone’s Lower Falls (302 ft.), captured in the bottom photo. Because of our road trip, I can kind of imagine what would happen if a dam like Flaming Gorge was compromised. But to torment myself further, I Googled that 2005 report card so much in the news this last week. Here are the grades: “D” for dams.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Scale of Things

Just back from our trip out West—a trip that, to me, was both humbling and inspiring. We spent time camping, hiking and whitewater rafting in Dinosaur National Monument followed by wildlife watching and hiking in Yellowstone National Park, two huge protected areas within an unimaginable vastness and brilliance. We put more than 3,000 miles on the van. We listened to all 21 hours of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (12 cassettes).

Until now Chicago seemed west enough for me, and I have loved the big beauty of this city since childhood. The way the skyline appears on the horizon as you approach from any direction (but especially when approaching from the south on Lakeshore Drive). The way the city sparkles on sunny days . . . and winter nights. The accessibility of the beachfront and the lake. The food, the art, the music, the neighborhoods, the people, the fascinating history of this place, and even certain buildings.

Now I see that Chicago is a speck.

Here’s some perspective. Thanks to hubby for the graphic.