A Morning of First World Problems

You know that feeling when you put on a new dress for the first time, look in the mirror, and think “Wow! I look smokin’.”

That’s an amazing feeling. Am I right ladies? Except when it’s the only dress you packed in your gym bag and you are now at the gym getting ready for work. And you know that under no circumstances can you walk into your office looking like a wannabe J-Lo. None. If I worked in LA or Miami, sure – in fact, this dress would have looked matronly there. But the legal profession in Chicago is the last bastion of conservative “fashion” – wearing this dress to the office would be the equivalent of wearing Daisy Dukes in Saudi.

As I walked out of the gym towards my office, frantically weighing my nonexistent options, I tried to rationalize – “maybe the mirrors at the gym are skewed to make you look better-” but my worst fears were confirmed when the homeless amputee at the corner screamed “Good morning sexy!” at me and then proceeded to inform all other passersby of my inherent sexiness. Granted, most homeless guys are pretty loose with the compliments and we love them for it, but I pass this guy every day and let’s just say his enthusiasm today was off the charts.

I had never been so desperate for a shapeless cardigan in my life. But the Loop isn’t exactly a shopping destination, and even if it were, retail stores are not typically open at 7:45 am. I looked around to see if I could literally buy the shirt off someone’s back but naturally, the only woman around was a CTA bus driver on a smoke break. I just didn’t know how I could casually sport that uniform all day at the office. I had resigned myself to buying a CHICAGO! sweatshirt from the corner Walgreens when somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, a vague image of an Ann Taylor Loft appeared. A quick Google search revealed the joyous news that yes, there was a store a few blocks from my office AND they opened at 8:00 am!!!!!

I have never shopped there, so perhaps I had an atypical experience when I walked in the door at 8:00 am after waiting on the street corner for it to open (those 5 minutes further confirmed that the look I was sporting was wildly inappropriate for a Tuesday morning at the office – I’m sure most people assumed I was doing a particularly awful walk of shame, corporate version). As I walked in the door with the eager smile plastered on my face that I typically reserve for the gates of Disney World, my euphoria immediately dispersed as the very harried shopkeeper (do people use that term or am I too Dickens today) screamed “We are not open!!!” I steeled myself for the negotiation process that was to follow since I was, under no circumstances, leaving without a cardigan handcrafted in China, but thankfully my fellow shopper who had scooted in behind me screamed back, “It’s 8:00 am!” and just like that, I was in the majority.

I don’t know why, but I had imagined Ann Taylor Loft as a mecca of cardigans, much akin to walking into a Persian rug shop where there are literally stacks and stacks in every size and color. Maybe on the shoulder seasons, this image is real – but in June, there’s nothing but sleeveless as far as the eye can see. While I hadn’t planned on buying a neon floral shift dress, it looked like this was how things were shaping up. Beggars can’t be choosers…And then I saw it – a dusty corner. Extra extra clearance. With one lonely navy and white cardigan. In my size.

Never mind that my shoes were black and I have a thing about black and navy not being friends. Never mind that I have an extreme fear of infestation by little varmints like bed bugs and lice so I never ever wear something from a store without washing it first. I flung that beauty over my shoulders and voila – I was transformed into boxy and boring and it never felt so good.

Although my friend declared when I walked into the office that I looked very Olivia Pope.

Everyone needs friends like that.

While I admit that I am one of those incredibly annoying I-try-to-only-buy-things-made-in-the-USA people, sometimes an import will save the day. And I’m not hating on Ann Taylor Loft – I’m positive that on all other days, it is a lovely and luxe shopping experience where you are greeted with flutes of champagne.

Until next time,

Amanda

I Just Downed A Bottle of Chardonnay. By Myself. I Hate Chardonnay. That’s the Kind of Week This Has Been.

Don’t sign me up for AA just yet – When I say “bottle” I mean “glass” and when I say “by myself” I mean with four friends. Or do I…

Let me shamelessly dive into my first-world problems head first.

Last week, my hottie husband and I vacationed in heaven. Literally. The only explanation for the perfection of our location was that I must have been in a coma and had one of those Heaven is For Real experiences. White sand, turquoise waters, delicious temperatures, mouth-watering food, and beautiful locals. Plus a 2-month-old puppy just happened to be a fellow guest at our hotel, and obviously we became best friends.

And now we are back in Chicago, where after a brief tease of 70 degree temps, it is cold and rainy. Still. I am in the inevitable post-vacation depression where I can’t think about anything except being on vacation. And my puppy penpal who won’t write me back.

By the way, does anyone use the word hottie anymore? Or was that last used when LL Cool J was still cool? Who happened to be in a very vivid dream of mine the other night. I haven’t been keeping up with him in the last decade, but in my dream all of his muscles had liquified to fat and I spent the entire dream refusing his clumsy invitations to go get a drink. Frankly, it was exhausting. Sorry LL. I’m just not that into you.

On a more serious note, crashing back to reality is always difficult, and it’s particularly hard when you are confronted with the harshness of life – and death. My grandfather has been barely hanging on for awhile now, and while we were gone, his condition deteriorated considerably. Humans have an incredible ability to adapt, but the one thing you can never adapt to is the roller coaster ride of emotions as you cringe and wait for the inevitable.

I could write a lot more on the subject of grief, but I won’t. Not now anyway. Sometimes I think I will start a separate blog for that. Because THIS blog is a happy and lighthearted place, for me and hopefully for you.

And in that vein, my birthday is next month. And I only want one thing. Please, if any of you happen to have an extra one of these, send my way.

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Until next time,

Amanda

Why does tea tree oil smell so bad?

Oh hey! Wow it’s been months since I have posted on here. It’s been so long that I had to reset my password to log back in. Although to be fair, I have to do that for sites that I visit on a regular basis too. Since I am ever the privacy freak, I use different passwords for literally every website and in trying to fool any would-be identity thieves, I find that I am too smart for myself.

It has been so long and so much has happened, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess a quick summary of the past few months would look like this: extreme Chiberia, trying to escape from Chiberia as much as possible, coming back to Chiberia and hating Chiberia and swearing this is my last winter here, and then getting insanely excited at the first whiff of spring weather and forgetting Chiberia ever happened. There have been some really difficult things, dealing with some family sadness, and also going through my own personal medical battles – but this is a fun blog and I don’t feel like going into those things right now. It’s been a heck of a few months and I am ready for spring! And so so so ready for summer. Like beyond ready.

I don’t think Chicago has ever been so ready for summer. I’m actually kinda terrified of the insanity that is going to ensue and I am already stockpiling wine so that I don’t have to venture out into the fray.

This post is horribly written, partly because I am clearly rusty, and partly because I just realized that when you post on the ipad, you have limited editing capabilities. So this is raw. This is real.

I’m going to end this now because 1) I have said nothing substantive whatsoever and have alienated half my readership, if they are even still out there (“yeah she’s lost her touch”) and 2) I applied tea tree oil to my face shortly before this post and my eyes are streaming tears more than when I watched Titanic for the first time. I know this stuff is supposed to work wonders, but they should put a gigantic warning on the bottle that you shouldn’t plan on having contact with any humans for 24 hours after application because you smell like an old-timey apothecary. And not the cool vintage ones that are cropping up in all of our city hoods, but the serious kind where there is a guy in a leather apron who has just brewed up an ointment for gangrene.

So let me just say that I am looking forward to resuming my nonsensical postings and I will be back sooner than later.

Until next time,

Amanda

Trust Yelp, Not Your Husband

This post goes out to two special Chicagoans:

1) The Gangster Vampire who furiously biked past me as I ran on the lakefront path yesterday. I’ve met a lot of gangsters, and a few vampires…but never you. I only wish that I had my Google Glasses so that I could have snapped a quick photo of you for posterity. I wish our encounter would have lasted longer, but I understand that you were dying from being out in the sun. And you had just stolen that kid’s bike.

2) The owner of the lone sailboat in Belmont Harbor, sitting in ice bergs and covered in snow. Either you are the laziest sailor ever and just “opted out” of removing your boat from the harbor for the winter, or you are the bravest because you started your sailing season in January instead of waiting until May like the rest of us. Somehow you have managed to make me feel like an overachiever and a slacker all at once. Well done.

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Anyway. Let’s begin.

If you know me at all, you know that I rarely try anything without reading many reviews first. Hotels, restaurants, spas, spray tans, doctors, acupuncturists, clowns (that one’s for you Little Sis)… you name it, I obsessively read reviews before trying it.

I wasn’t always like this, and honestly, it still irks me somewhat that I have succumbed to this Lemming-like behavior.* Following someone else’s footsteps dramatically contradicts my inherent desire to follow my own sense of adventure and march to the beat of my own drum. After all, I was the girl who drove across the country after college with no job prospects and all of my possessions piled in my bright blue Ford ZX2 (a.k.a, Blue Flash). To the chagrin of the many naysayers, that actually worked out well for me. Making decisions based on my own instinct rather than the advice of others was kind of my thing. (I’d like to publicly apologize to my parents for never seeking their advice about anything, and always informing them of my plans after I had already determined the path I was going to take. They’re great people, and they have great advice. It wasn’t you, Mom and Dad, it was me.)

Ok. This post is getting a little heavier than I had anticipated – I was talking about online reviews. Let’s get back to that.

Unfortunately, my cool-girl, individualist persona was eventually challenged by a succession of horrendous dining and travel experiences that could have been avoided if I would have gotten over myself and read a review or two. Begrudgingly, I decided to take a lesson from my husband, who had been perusing online reviews before Yelp and TripAdvisor were verbs. Of course, I had always made fun of him for that, along the lines of “Hey, think for yourself, man.” Like a jerk.

So, with his help, I became a believer in the great system of online reviews – but not without a few hiccups first. An ill-fated trip to Mexico taught me that the key to successful online review utilization is understanding who is writing the reviews, so that you know if you share the same standards and taste. I.e., “BingeDrinker82’s” excellent review of a hotel may not mean excellent for those seeking a luxury, zen getaway. (Tip: if someone from Singapore gives a hotel five stars, BOOK NOW. Singaporeans have the most ridiculous standards, in the best possible way – probably because their streets are so clean you can eat off of them.)

There are only a few people in this world who I trust more than the online review community. Obviously, one of these would be my dear husband. Since he is my best friend, my soulmate, and we are essentially joined at the hip – I trust him on all levels.

Unless he’s referring me to any sort of medical practitioner.

It just so happens that the two most awkward and disgusting experiences I have ever had at medical offices both resulted from his personal recommendations. While these experiences were really not his fault, they were bad enough that I’m just not taking chances anymore. Sorry babe.

I may have casually mentioned in a prior post that I am a germophobe. If I didn’t casually mention it, it’s because it’s not a casual thing to mention. I am a HUGE germophobe. And I could write a weekly column detailing the daily challenges encountered by a germophobe when living in a dense urban environment. Suffice it to say that recently, one of my best friends told me that my legacy is my love for both Prosecco and Purell.

If anyone reading this post is a fellow germophobe, even slightly, you will feel my pain. If you’re not, I envy the nonchalance that will envelope you as you read on.

The first experience happened years ago, when I was looking for a new dentist. Husband tries out a new dentist, and tells me I should go to the same dentist. Enough said – I booked an appointment without another thought.

Upon meeting her, I felt incredibly comforted. She was like a perfect Dentist Grandma. Unlike every other dentist visit I have had, she, the dentist, would be cleaning my teeth, rather than a dental hygienist. She didn’t even shame me for not flossing between my permanent retainer. Instead of the 5-minute obligatory check that the dentist typically completes at the end of the appointment, she spent 45 minutes cleaning my pearly whites herself. What personalized attention!

A blessing that turned out to be a curse, as she had apparently contracted tuberculosis in the few weeks between my husband’s appointment and mine. Every five minutes, she bolted to the hallway to commence a coughing fit of the type we read about as children in American history class during the Plague section. I sat awkwardly, alone, in the dental chair, wondering if I should tell someone…or do something. I didn’t. After losing half a lung, she returned silently, red-faced, and continued plunging her hands into my mouth as if nothing had happened.

Except that it did keep happening. At least nine times.

Looking back, I should have just excused myself with something like, “Hey, when you get to feeling better, let’s reschedule.” But when you are helplessly prostrate in a dental chair, outfitted with a bib and goggles and a water tube in your cheek, and you know that you are already going to have to pay a co-pay for the partial visit, and you’re going to have to explain to both the insurance company and the receptionist the reason for your hasty exit, while trying to secure another appointment without paying double co-pays … you lose your sense of normalcy. Plus, as patients, we are ingrained with this strange societal reverence for doctors, where we wouldn’t dare utter perfectly acceptable sentiments like, “Hi, I’m not ok with what’s going on here…Oh you seem surprised? Well, would YOU be ok with me coughing all over myself and then working on YOUR mouth? Do everyone a favor and call in sick.”

So instead, you just endure, politely smile, and lie in your chair wondering how long the incubation period is for tuberculosis. You come home to tell your husband the entire sordid tale, complete with many impressions, and your husband nearly dies in convulsive laughter, showing zero remorse over his role in the events.

Ok, in his defense, it was not his fault. He had no idea that she had contracted the Black Lung. We can chalk this up to a coincidence.

Until the second incident. Which happened about 6 months ago.

We were both looking for a new eye doctor. To be fair, I had previously recommended my own eye doctor to him, and for some unbeknownst reason, the medical assistant hated him immediately and gave him an incredibly aggressive glaucoma test. So, after that experience, we both went looking elsewhere, since I really never liked that doctor anyway and only kept going to him out of convenience.

Dear husband finds an eye doctor, goes to eye doctor, comes back with raving reviews about eye doctor. Again, I book an appointment without a second thought. This was at least 6 years after the dentist incident.

Well, the long and the short of my appointment was that it ended with me in the waiting room Purelling my entire face. Twice. Oh, and as much as I’m a germophobe, I can assure you – I have never Purelled my entire face. Certainly never twice. Certainly never in public.

I would have done it more than twice, but I ran out of Purell.

Let’s just say a very large, very smelly man fondled my face 6 times while attempting to manipulate my face into a machine for the new photo technology where they take pictures of your retina. Don’t worry – there was nothing sexual about this. This was akin to your elementary school picture day, when the photographer keeps telling you to move your chin up, move your chin down. Apparently, I couldn’t follow his instructions well enough, and he literally took matters into his own hands, manipulating my face for me as he sweated profusely. Six times.

And just like at the dentist office, I merely sat there silently and allowed it to happen while screaming on the inside.

I am not a shy person and I don’t have a problem standing up for myself – hello, lawyer. Yet apparently, both of these incidents have shown that if you plunk me down in some sort of medical office, you can subject me to experiences completely abhorrent to a germophobe and, well, nary a peep from me.

The best part? I came home and told my husband and what was his response? “Oh yeah! That happened to me too – I just forgot about it.”

Like  I said, the life of a germophobe is not easy. One man’s forgotten memory is another woman’s worst nightmare.

Until next time,

Amanda

*Anyone who doesn’t remember playing Lemmings and who isn’t mildly disturbed by how much fun it was to make the Lemmings jump off the cliffs is not invited to my birthday party.

The following p…

The following passage is from the film Dead Poets Society, and is quoted on Apple’s new iPad Air commercial:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer: That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Beautiful. Except, I’m sorry – but “law” needs to be added to the latter category, that category of What We Stay Alive For. At least for me. Because I see beauty, and romance, and poetry, in the law. And that’s my verse.

Signed,

Law Nerd 2014

Maybe Someday I’ll Finish My “Christmas in Austria” Posts – But Right Now Another Polar Vortex Is Trying To Kill Me

Remember when I briefly, very briefly, entertained dreams about being a world-famous blogger, but then I quickly discovered that I am too lazy to manufacture enough blog posts to really be considered a blogger? Well, Exhibit A:  I still haven’t finished posting about my Christmastime travels, and it’s almost the end of January. By now, I’ve been so beaten down by multiple Polar Vortexes that I can’t even remember that magical time, only a month ago, when snow seemed fun and winter seemed romantic. Before my town became known as Chiberia. Before we started reading fun facts like, “It’s warmer at the South Pole today than it is in Chicago.” Before my husband’s eyelashes froze together when he was walking home from work. Before the doors to our balcony froze shut.

Now I just want to think about beaches and sun and sand and – anywhere but here. Last week I went to said beach. I tried to work out a deal with the hotel where they would give me free lodging indefinitely in exchange for my legal services, but apparently my Illinois law license does not carry much weight in Mexico.

I’m desperately trying to cling to that already distant memory of warmth. All I want to do is think about the beach. And talk about the beach. And post about the beach. Because while being in Austria at Christmas was magical and surreal, I just don’t feel like writing about the cold and snow right now. I may need to table this Austria post until July.

What the hey? It’s my blog. I can do whatever I want. So instead of posting a half-hearted Sound of Music montage from Salzburg today, despite my promises to my family, I’m just going to toss up a few of my recent pics from paradise.

For the record, I always question my life choices around this time of year, when it’s ridiculously cold and the holiday glow has worn off. Namely, when my husband and I take our annual We-Must-Go-To-Mexico-For-A-Few-Days-In-January-Or-We-Might-Start-Sniffing-Glue, where we basically sit on a gorgeous beach for four days and say “No, seriously, WHY do we live in Chicago” at least 100 times a day, while inevitably laying plans for a much simpler life lived out in a shack on a beach. And this year, in between rounds of Chiberia, let’s just say the island-life-planning was at an all-time high. Because- and this is the thought that I just can’t seem to banish from my mind – you know, winter can be a choice.

The following pictures are just a day in the life for some people. So. I guess I should start looking for a lawyerly-type job in an exotic land. Lawyers Without Borders? I swear, these bar exam requirements are really cramping my humanitarian style.

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Weirdly, even if I can’t actually be part of these beautiful scenes right now, it makes me happier knowing these places do exist. And maybe someday, surf and sand will be my new reality. Here’s hoping. But for now…it’s this.

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I’ll leave you with this song, which I recently rediscovered, thanks to a recent sick day when I watched all episodes of “Girls.” I DARE you to listen to this song and not have an impromptu dance party. At the very least, you will be able to forget for a few minutes about the fact that you are colder than you have ever been in your life. And you’re not even outside right now.

If you are obsessed with KOL like me, check out this version: it’s a more perfect marriage than margaritas and guacamole.

Christmastime in Austria – Vienna Edition

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my husband and I spent the Christmas season in Austria this year.

Our itinerary: Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Seefeld, & Zurich for New Year’s

{oh and London for a tiny tiny stopover, just long enough for afternoon tea!}

As expected, Christmastime in Austria is so ridiculously cute, it’s too much for one to handle. Christmas markets (the most delicious food + mulled wine = perfection), in the most idyllic settings imaginable. Words failed me. Continually. And as you may have noticed, that doesn’t happen very often. The word “surreal” has never received so much overuse as it did during our 10-day trip.

That being said, I think the best way to share this trip is through pictures.

I’ll start with Vienna. Ok, fine, I’ll say a few quick words (see, I can’t resist trying…).

I didn’t expect its grandeur to rival that of Paris, or Madrid, or London. Those Habsburgs knew how to do it up, let me tell ya. As you gaze across the grand plazas, and the horse & buggies trot past you, you can truly imagine it as the center of the Holy Roman Empire. The city is impossibly beautiful, and incredibly clean. Actually, all of Austria seems to fit that description.

Oh, and Mozart? Yeah he’s still a big deal.

Some of our most memorable experiences in Vienna:

  • the Christmas markets on Christmas Eve
  • sipping champagne in a Viennese drawing room where Mozart may or may not have played
  • a Christmas Eve church service that ended in candlelight caroling in a Viennese courtyard
  • strolling around the Hofburg Palace on Christmas Eve
  • a Christmas morning run along the Danube River
  • Christmas Day at the Christmas markets at Schonbrunn Palace

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Next up: Salzburg!