Saturday, May 13, 2017

The best time for a break is when you don't have time for one

The Chicago Foodie Sisters, Becky and Carrie 
May is always my busiest month of the year. With four kids in school, there are always end of year things going on - papers coming home for field trips and picnics and banquets and concerts. I have two boys with May birthdays (and this year the April birthday got pushed back and not celebrated until early May.) In years past there have been multiple kids to get to soccer and baseball practices and games, sometimes traveling up to an hour to get to them. It always seems to be when there are a lot of invites for press trips and events as spring has arrived and new places are opening or introducing new menus or opening new exhibits. The past two years I have also been substitute teaching and those subbing days in April and May as kids have cabin fever and are itching for the school year to end are for sure challenging and exhausting. Then there have been groups and organizations that I myself am involved in and there are end of the year dinners for those as well since they also run on a school year-type calendar without meetings in the summer. Our town's huge annual parade is always the first Saturday in May. It all just makes the whole month super crazy, busy, tiring.

Scenery in May at Eagle Ridge Resort
I've always thought the best time for a break is when you don't have time for one. When you're at your busiest is when you need it the most. I almost never watch TV. I rarely nap. I don't often take a lunch break. This time of year I find myself working 12+ hours a day, going on a few hours sleep, zoning out in mid-afternoon at the computer. But finally, I realize I need to crash. One day this month as I had deadlines looming, I knew I had to take a breather to be more productive. I got the kids off to school and went back to bed and slept for four hours. I really, really needed it. When I woke up, I felt a little behind the 8-ball as the day was half over, but I was so much more energetic and focused. One evening I claimed the sofa and television and watched a couple reruns of "This is Us."
Sunset at Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena, IL

One fabulous combination work/break thing to happen this month was an overnight trip with my sister. The two of us started a food blog together close to 6 years ago, but with our busy lives we don't get to dine out together often anymore and most of our food experiences happen separately. She's had two little ones since we launched the blog and I'm just trying to tread water between five kids and working a number of freelance and part-time gigs and doing the chauffeur thing.

The two of us went out to Galena for a media trip I've been invited to the past few years. Last year I went with my husband and two of the boys, but this year I was so happy that Becky and I got to go together. The sisters' getaway was much needed. It actually only lasted about 35 hours, but it was enough to recharge. We were there representing our food blog and were treated to some fantastic food at Eagle Ridge Resort and taken on a guided hunt for morel mushrooms that are in prime picking season right now. We spent a little time in the charming downtown for a little drive, walk and lunch before arriving at the resort. And after our hunt and luncheon were completed on day two, we both made our way to the spa for a massage before heading home. I could have easily passed over the e-mail and declined based on what was on the calendar already and how much else I had to do, but I'm so glad I didn't. If there's any time of year that a getaway like that was needed, it was now.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Year to Remember

So many people are happy to close the door on 2016 and declaring it one of the worst years ever. Undoubtedly there have been some horrific things that have happened over the past year. People are dismayed over the results of the presidential election. Celebrities - musicians, actors and Hollywood entertainment legends seem to be dropping like crazy. There's been a lot of sadness this past year.

However, while still acknowledging the unfortunate events of 2016, there were beautiful, inspirational positive things that happened as well. There were things that made me incredibly happy. Things that made me beam. Things that made 2016 an amazing year for me personally.

I can't help but think to myself that 2016 wasn't so bad after all when I hear people grumbling. Among the things that made me happy in 2016:

My son was awarded Cadet of the Year in his Civil Air Patrol Squadron
My youngest one finished up elementary school and I permanently retired from room mom duty (this one was bittersweet)
We did a little traveling around the Midwest
I got to do my annual April visit to Wrigley Field with my Dad
I got to take my son to a Cubs game for his birthday
I got to do an overnight with just hubby and no kids downtown (the last time this happened was about a decade ago)
My middle boy graduated from junior high
I wrote the manuscript for another children's book
My oldest started his senior year of high school (also bittersweet)
We had a visit from my mother-in-law who we hadn't seen in two years
My nephew got married and all 7 of us attended their beautiful wedding
My husband's aunt visited from Germany - we hadn't seen her in a couple years
One of my boys had an opportunity to take a trip to Canada
I had a lot of wonderful meals at some amazing restaurants
My son got a college acceptance letter from his first choice school
My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage!!!
The food blog my sister and I started continues to grow and turned 5 this year!

And the most memorable event and the thing that really made this an awesome year was the Cubs' World Series win. You have to be a die-hard Cubs fan to understand the significance of this one. For my entire life and so many other Cubs fans, we've ended every season saying "Next year will be the year." It is just so unbelievable that this really, finally was the year. And I still have to pinch myself sometimes.

It's so important to me because of the tradition in our family of being Cubs fans. I've written many times before about how my dad grew up in central Illinois (surrounded by many Cardinals fans), but became a Cubs fan after listening to the Cubs in the 1945 World Series on the radio. So, of course, he raised his kids to be Cubs fans. I remember going to watch the Cubs in the bleachers with dad as a kid. And there were many summer afternoons watching the Cubs on television and celebrating wins with Harry (yes, back before lights!)

When I became a mom, you can bet I exposed them to my love of the Cubs and took them to many baseball games. My sister is a season ticket holder and for several years, each kid has received a set of tickets as a birthday/Christmas gift. I cherish those time spent taking them to games - even when they were too little to sit through a full game or more interested in the peanuts and cotton candy than what happened on the field. Of five boys, my oldest is the only one who followed along in being a hard-core, die-hard fan. He's been to several Cubs conventions and has many autographs he obtained directly from players while waiting outside the locker room or the player's parking lot or at Cubs events.

So, my oldest son, my dad and I share this big, big love of the team. This year is the year we had been waiting and waiting for. Many times in recent years my dad has said, "All I want before I die is to see the Cubs win the World Series." It was so significant and heartwarming and emotional for it to finally happen and for him - at age 80 - to be able to see it. 2016 may have been a bad year for others, but has been one of my best by far.