Thursday, November 29, 2007

Today's Comic

I'll be Home For Christmas...I am, I am!

Yes, I'm home, sweet home again and, considering the weather I was greeted by, a title like "I'll be Home For Christmas" somehow seems fitting. Exhausted and only slightly battered and bruised (suitcases and bus aisles did a number on me!), it's good to be home. Looking back over my blog, I realize I didn't really keep up my part of the bargain in the blog update department. Let's see if I can redeem myself a little bit.

Now, where did I leave off? Belleville, Ontario. From there we carried on to a few more Ontario cities. It was a great run, finishing in Ottawa. I was reminded again how much I love Ottawa. It's such a beautiful city with such a different pace, even if it is the home of all of our politicians! We had a little bit of time so we wandered Parliament Hill. A bunch of us decided it was time to go for a tour of Parliament itself. Government was in session so we couldn't see all of it but it was still a fun adventure...the cynicism of the western Canadians in the crowd was barely contained...barely.

The Ottawa event was the last event for a bunch of our recruiters so goodbye's were also a part of the day. We had a pretty good laugh at our wrap up meeting as Robert retold of his adventures from earlier that evening in the cab he caught after he was left behind by the bus. Still feel bad about leaving him behind but we had to go...sorry, Robert! He was so good about it and had us all in stitches as he told his story. I don't know if it was so much the story or how he told it. So funny.

Next morning, the remainder of us were off to Montreal. It's probably not fair to say we were in Montreal since that would lead people to believe that we actually experienced Montreal. We didn't, really, although some of us were able to get a taste of real Montreal Smoked Meat and poutine. What more can you ask for? The event was great, too. Longer than any of our others but pleasantly surprising. It was the first time the CCUFairs had been in Quebec at all. Like a lot of other things, Quebec has it's own spin on the education system so we weren't really sure how we would be received. Our host, Jack Bauer (yes, that was his real name), had done a lot to make sure that it was good for everyone. I look forward to working with him again.

Then we had a big ole' driving day. Montreal to Fredericton. Who knew our country was so darn big!? It was a full day but, like our Montreal event, pleasantly surprising. My favorite part was for sure the camaraderie that we experienced...even with only 14 of us spread throughout a coach bus. I think it helped that our number was smaller. Oh, and the stop where no one in the town spoke English other than us was probably helpful to. I managed to get my order right at Tim Horton's mostly in French! There were movies, pictures, conversations, jokes, laughter and even some sleep. We hit a big snowstorm on the way but, as we expected, Wib, our driver was a genius. If we hadn't been looking out the window to see the beautiful winter wonderland (or treacherous roads, depending on your perspective), we never would have known!

Now, on to the maritimes.So excited! First impressions? Things to note?
  • Fredericton and Moncton were much smaller centers than I had expected seeing that they are major centers.
  • Our hotel in Moncton was fantastic! The Crystal Palace, complete with an Amusement Park, a themed pool, and a Chapters and Starbucks. To Tim's disappointment, the amusement park was closed but a few of us did get to take advantage of the video games. Definitely a highlight. Thanks, guys! And yes, having Starbucks in the hotel was not half bad...even if I did end up with a gingerbread latte minus the gingerbread.
  • The people. It really is a different feel in the Maritimes! All of our hosts at the different venues were fantastic and friendly people. If they are any indication of the type of people in that part of the country, it is definitely a good place to live and grow up!
  • Seafood. I've eaten so much seafood in the last couple weeks (and enjoyed it) and I don't even like fish! Scallops, lobster, shrimp, salmon, haddock, mussels....mmmmm....
  • Having the opportunity to see some of the sights of a part of the country I'd never been to:
    • Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick side
    • Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick
    • Magnetic Hill, New Brunswick...blows my mind, really!
    • Confederation Bridge, PEI - 13 km of bridge over ocean. Pretty incredible!
    • Cavendish, PEI
    • The ocean side cliffs in PEI with their beautiful red rocks...nearly lost Lane to the tide! Yikes.
    • Anne of Green Gables Provincial Park, PEI
    • Confederation House, PEI - I've stood in Canada's birthplace...so great!
  • Open mic night in Charlottetown, PEI. My friend's Tim and Shelly gave to peer pressure and shared their talents...and they are talented. It was pretty incredible. The locals wanted an encore even! Thanks guys!
I feel like I must be forgetting so much. It was just such a good trip in so many ways. Sure, numbers at some of the venues were not what we might have wanted but I think we can be thankful for the people that came, the conversations we had and the way that God will use the seeds we had the opportunity to plant.

It's been good for me too. I feel like, in many ways, it was the mirror that I needed to see some truths about myself and the talents I have. One of the personal highlights for me was the presenting that I did. It gave me the opportunity to find something surprising about myself. I love to speak. Not just talk. We knew that before. I'm a talker. I get that. I just had no idea how much I would enjoy that level of public speaking. My last presentation was at a Christian high school an was easily the most intimidating as all the reps were there for the first time. I was so nervous! It was, however, one of the presentations I'm most proud of. It was like the nerves fed me a little, actually. I kept somewhere around 70 grade 9-12 students engaged as I presented on college and finances for nearly 40 minutes. That's not an easy feat, I decided! And it was fun! Just one of many personal surprises along the way!

I learned a lot about community too. I guess you can't avoid it when you spend that long with the same people, basically doing life together 24/7. The trick will be figuring out how to find a way to live more 'in community' now that I'm home.

To finish off,I took advantage of being in a new part of the country and had a little sightseeing adventure. Sean and Cheryl met me in Halifax and we spent a couple extra days exploring. We decided we were not the average tourists! We ended up in all sorts of funny places, walked tons of the city and, we think, really experienced the city. It was fabulous. I could probably go on for hours but I won't. Frankly, I applaud you if you're still reading this novella I'm penning! Here's a point form itinerary of our adventures:

Wednesday
- foot ferry across the harbour
- pier 21
- garrison beer
- harbour walk
- The citadel
- found our hotel (no left turns, it seems, are allowed when driving in Halifax!)
- McKelvies delicious fishes dishes (supper). Isn't that a fun name!?

Thursday
- Peggy’s Cove
- Mahone Bay
- Lunnenberg...home of the Bluenose II, replica of the beauty on our dime.
- Beautiful drive!
- Tug’s pub (snack), where we got a heads up on all sorts of places to find traditional maritimer music in the evenings.

Friday
- wander city streets
- Freak Lunchbox, a super fun candy shop. Like a walk through my childhood!
- Rum Shop/Sugars on the water
- Chocolate shop…to make 3 candy shops by lunchtime!
- Economy Shoe Shop (lunch)
- Salty’s (supper)
- Lower Deck – Signal Hill, an up and coming maritimer band played. They were fantastic!

Saturday
- Saturday farmer's market - NA's oldest farmer's market
- Keith’s brewery
- Spring Garden Road
- Rogue’s Roost (supper)
- Lighting of the Christmas tree, complete with fireworks, in front of city hall...apparently a big deal in Halifax!

Sunday
- Victorian Christmas at the Citadel
- Spring garden road pt. 2
- Public gardens
- Maritime Museum
- Walk the McDonald Bridge from Halifax to Dartmouth and back
- 2nd half of greycup game – Saskatchewan!? While I was hoping for such an outcome, it leaves me with one question: has hell frozen over too?
- Triangle (pub for supper)
o Live music by the Wingnuts, a fun pair of maritimer musicians
- Halifax Alehouse (lunch), decked out exactly like you would expect an alehouse should be

Monday
- massages at a spa on Spring Garden Road for Cheryl and I
- wandering through the Ship yards
- Pointe Pleasant Park
- some last minute stops in downtown Halifax
- Bubbles eatery (drinks) - creepy sign had my attention all week. turns out it's the pub owned by the guy who plays Bubbles in the Trailer Park Boys
- Halifax Alehouse (supper) - a great group was just finishing as we walked in. Must have been some Christmas party before we got there that had them hired...a little disappointing they didn't stay on. They were great.

Tuesday
- up bright and early to fly home...

Add hot tubs, photo opps and lots of good conversation into that and you've got our trip. I'm really glad we took the opportunity and that Sean and Cheryl could join me. Adventures like that are much more fun with friends!

So there you have it. 1 1/2 months. Coast to Coast. 2 countries (did I ever write about my Chicago visit?). All but one of Canada's fine provinces. 6 out of 6 1/2 time zones. Lots of fun. Lots of learning.

*You can find pictures of the adventures at my shutterfly sight: www.spareparts.shutterfly.com

Current Read

The Memory Keeper's DaughterThe Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beautiful Belleville

*written on Nov. 14, 2007...but again, sketchy internet access means it's being posted today...oh well.

The sun is shining in Belleville. What a treat. It's been rainy, cold and grey for days. It's amazing to me how much a little sunshine can affect a personality...or at least my personality!

That said, today was probably my first real meltdown of the trip. Grumpy, grumpy. I wanted to go home, I didn't want to do another presentation, I didn't want another hotel room and I didn't want another restaurant meal! I think the big thing was the presentations - that's what set me off. I got into my presentations and couldn't remember what I'd said to what group. Had I included the stuff about loans to this group or was that yesterday? How many times have I said the exact same thing!? I mean, I've become okay with the fact that I don't have a clue what day it is or what city I'm in but this seemed much more internal and, I felt, like it really did affect my actual job performance. I felt like it's getting worse not better. The perfectionist in me just can't handle that! I know I'm just cracking up - a little bit of momentary grumpiness that I need to vent about - but today I'm just ready to be done. Guess I needed to vent a bit.

Only 33 more presentations to go...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New tunes...

Thanks, Stephen! You're right, this guy's great!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another day, another dollar...wait, I mean, another fair

Today was another day. Go figure. I guess I'm just not feeling all that profound.

We spent the morning and early afternoon in the heart of Toronto. Kisses at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Lunch at the Richtree Market (a personal favorite!). A foggy view of the CN Tower. Christmas displays. Pouring rain. So much, in fact, that the Vancouverites among us felt right at home! Pictures. Laughter. And, of course, a stop at Starbucks. Mmmm...can't get enough of those no fat, extra hot gingerbread lattes!

Our evening event was in Ajax. I don't think we've been there before. The building was fantastic and the people were friendly. People were really engaged through my presentations today which always makes it fun. I made another lady cry today. Seriously, I don't know how that happens but some of the reps are starting to take bets on how many I can get in one night! They've also taken to asking questions (otherwise known as quizzing) folks on their way out to see what they've learned. Apparently, today, there were a couple of young boys that decided that I was one hot presenter and were more than happy to share that fact with the guys I'm traveling with! Hopefully they learned something useful too!

So there you have it. Another day that has left me thankful for my pajamas!

Time for bed. Good night!

Good news, Oiler fans...

Pisani skated today!

Sunday in Barrie

Remembrance Day. Sunday. It started with a rare treat for a recruiter on the road: a chance to go to church! We were at Emmanuel Baptist in Barrie. It was so refreshing to be in church. I was reminded of the power of community. Plus, it was just fun to watch how another faith community functions. People are friendly. They welcome visitors (although we did stand out since there was a bus load of us and we had all of our displays up). I don't think I've seen that many suits in church since going to Christmas Eve service with my grandparents at the German church they attend. One thing we all noticed was that the worship team was all women except for the organist and bass player. 4 vocalists, a drummer, piano...all women. Made me smile to myself. The guy that did announcements was able to make announcements fun! The pastor seemed a little over the top to me but it was a good message. They have a great little cafe with coffee and danishes that we all enjoyed.

We were there for the evening session as well. I did my seminars in their youth room. It was such a fantastic space. I got talking with one of the dads from that church and was encouraged to hear how much they recognize that the space is a blessing...that they are blessed to be a blessing to the community.

All in all, I think Barrie was a good event for everyone. Lots of people came through from all over with lots of good questions. I was pretty on the ball with my seminars even though there was a soccer game going on right next door that would occasionally come through the side door right into our room. If I wasn't wearing heels, I might have played right along to scoot them back to their side of the wall.

Finished off the day with great conversation in the hot tub with a couple of my recruiter friends. This, to me, is the highlight of what I do...yes, the hot tub, but more than that, the great conversations. Sharing life together, both the good and the bad, and hearing what God is doing in each of their lives.

Ah the life of an admissions professional...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Now announcing...

One of my favorite things about the actual fair events at the venues (translation meaning other than the people and the fun of traveling with great recruiters) is the variety of ways that my seminars have been introduced. I've had friendly shouting between two of my favorite reps (thanks Tim and Rob). There's been a Japanese introduction...followed by it's English translation fortunately. Words like "inspiring" and "stimulating" have been used which is always a little intimidating. You should really only set people's expectations so high!

Today's, however, takes the cake. Tim picks up the mic and says "hello." He must have startled someone because he followed that up by saying "don't be scared. This is not God speaking. It's Tim and I'm over here in the corner. I just wanted to let you know about a seminar..."

How do you follow that?

I remember!


So I have to confess that I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about war and our country's participation in war endeavors like Afghanistan but I do know how I feel about peace and living in a country of relative peace. Thankful. Because of that, today I pause to remember those who have sacrificed so much, in many cases their very lives, so that today we can experience that peace. Thank you.

Something to Smile About


Sometimes it doesn't matter how far down in the standings your team is. One win can make it all seem better. Yes, as an Edmonton fan, all it takes is to beat the rivals, those pesky Flames!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Current Read

Click for larger image.
How to Be a Canadian (Even if You Already Are One), Will and Ian Ferguson

Stuffed in Barrie, Ontario

Stuffed. That’s how I feel. Not even that relaxed and satisfied full but stuffed. We finished off our day by visiting a buffet and I was reminded why I don’t typically do buffets anymore. Too much food. Why is it that at a buffet you feel like you have to eat more than you normally would? Is it to make up for the cost per person or something? Anyway, my current condition is stuffed in Barrie, Ontario.

Besides that, the last couple of days have been fairly uneventful. Lots of fairs, lots of students and parents to meet, lots of seminars to give, lots of miles to cover, lots of lugging suitcases. The adventures continue.

We made a stop at Niagra falls a couple of days ago. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’m here, I never tire of the falls! It was fun this year, too, because there were a few with us that have never seen the falls! I love experiencing first times with people. There’s such a sense of freshness about it.

The reason we were in Niagra was because of an event at Niagra Christian Collegiate for our first stop on the eastern fairs. My first presentation back was to the grade 11 and 12’s in their chapel. As I stood at the front, I realized it was mostly international students and I heard a cacophony of languages I couldn’t understand. I wonder if they could really understand me!? About halfway through the presentation, of which I was, at that point, feeling pretty good about, I noticed that several of the international students had fallen asleep. One in particular was enjoying something close to a deep REM sleep, I’m sure, and let me just say, he was a snorer! Sawing logs, as my papa would say! So bad, in fact, that the guidance counselor came up to me after to apologize, “Don’t worry, dear, it wasn’t you. The international students always fall asleep in the chapel. I think it’s something about the room.” And here I thought it was me.

Each day has been eventful in it’s own way. Numbers at the fairs themselves have been up compared to the western fairs which has everyone feeling better. I think everyone has had positive conversations with students and are feeling like so far this is a worthwhile endeavor. In some cases, work really has been what’s been making our days eventful! In other cases, though, it’s the traveling companions. Not Stephen Redekop “I dropped my pants’ eventful but there are some funny people on our bus! I’m learning to love each one of them dearly!

I’ve been having a blast with Julie, the director and my roommate, again. It’s been such a blessing to share this season of life with her! We have the same sense of humor and enjoy so many of the same things! One of the guys pointed out yesterday that he’s amazed that we don’t get sick of each other. I can’t imagine that! In fact, I don’t know what I’m going to do when the fairs are over and I don’t spend basically 24/7 with Julie. I’m seriously going to go into withdrawal! I think I’m going to feel that way about several of the people I’ve been doing life with over the last couple of weeks.

To finish off today’s post, let me leave you with a joke that Julie shared with me this morning…

So there were these two brooms and they decided to get married. A bride broom and a groom broom. They were happy together. On their wedding night, the bride broom looked at the groom broom and said, “I think we’re going to have a baby wisk broom soon.” Aghast, the groom broom said to the bride broom, “how’s that possible? We haven’t even swept together!?”

Groan!

I know. It’s time for bed! Night.

Thank You St. Arbucks!

Gingerbread lattes and Christmas cups are here!

It's like this is the sign that Christmas is coming!

Sure Macys, Nordstroms, and all the other major stores in Chicago were decked out for Christmas, sure there were radio stations playing Christmas music when I was there, sure there's been snow on the ground but this, this is the sign that Christmas is coming.

Time for Christmas music on iTunes!

Oh, how I love Christmas. Thank you Starbucks for letting it be okay!

South of the Border...

*due to incredibly sketchy internet access over the last couple days, this is a post from Nov. 5 but copied, pasted and posted today!

I’m sitting in a small cafĂ© that Katie has always talked about, Caribou Coffee. It’s got this quaint log cabin feel, the baristas are friendly and the coffee is good. It has to be. It’s not my first visit to Caribou AND I passed a Starbucks to get here! Plus, it's fair trade!

Just reflecting on what I’ve done since the last time I wrote. Yesterday, for one of Katie’s classes, we went into inner city Chicago to attend Sunday morning services at a Black Charismatic Catholic Church; St. Sabina Church. If it seems, as you read it, like that would be a fascinating combination, let me just assure you that you’re right. It is. I wanted to absorb it all but honestly it felt like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hose on full blast right from the minute we walked in the door. The church meets in massive stone cathedral that stood in stark contrast with the community it was in and yet somehow felt like it was in exactly the right place. It was fantastic. I couldn’t help but wish that I had my camera as I gawked at the stained glass windows, beautifully carved statues and intricate carvings adorning the walls. What was fascinating to me was how it had been “updated” to fit the community meeting in it. A unique melding of old and new. On the carved pillars at the corners of the sanctuary, speakers had been mounted and covered. There was not a crucifix in sight. Instead, there was a massive mural of a black Jesus being released from the hands of heaven. We knew it was Jesus because of the halo surrounding his Afro. It’s also the first church I’ve ever been in that has Jesus’ name up in neon lights! Seriously, I wish it had been appropriate to take pictures!

What I was impressed by was the amount of energy and passion the people brought. In some ways, it was exactly what I expected at a black church (thanks to Hollywood’s rendering in many a movie).

The music was incredible! An incredible choir. Worship band that would put a lot of secular bands to shame, fully pieced out with a trumpet, saxophone, drummer, percussionist, electric guitar player, keyboard player, vocalist and one of the most incredible bass players I’ve ever heard. It was such an interesting blend of R&B and the electric jazz that Chicago is famous for. It was so refreshing to hear music of that quality in the church!

I can’t forget to mention the dancers. Fully choreographed, they danced for at least an hour at the start of the service and from the alter call on, right until we left. I can’t imagine bringing that much energy to church. I have trouble getting out of bed. A mix, in my mind, of tae boe aerobics and interpretive dance. They definitely got their work out! I couldn’t help but think that most people I know would set aside time and pay big money for a work out like that where all these folks did was bring what they had to church to use as part of their worship. Right or wrong, I don’t know. Just different.

The preacher, too, was in many ways like the stereotype would require except (and here was the real surprise) he was white. Passionate and electrifying, he definitely knew how to bring excitement to Sunday morning. He expounded, for at least an hour, on the story of Zaccheus, the role of the Church and how Jesus is “on the move.” I have to admit that I missed some of what he said simply because I was distracted by the sheer intensity of it…and he “puts on a show” like that every week! I can’t image.

What else? Oh yes, the alter call. Like I said, it was a charismatic catholic church. I couldn’t, for the life of me, have expected how the two would be merged. They’ve found a way to make a home for liturgy in their mornings. It’s a beautiful addition. On the other hand, I observed an alter call that ended with people being slain in the spirit (at the extreme end). The charismatic side of it was also reflected in the way people…um… interacted with what was happening from the front. Lots of “hallelujahs” and “preach it pastor!” My favorite was this little lady sitting behind me who shouted at the top of her lungs and range through most of the service. I was convinced she was going to lose her voice it was so strained! She killed me, really. At one point, the pastor was talking about how if the church just does it’s own thing and takes care of itself it becomes inscestual. Completely caught up in the act of repetition, she burst out, “That’s right, pastor. Incest!” I nearly fell off my chair!

Oh man!

We talked after the service about how most of us there would describe ourselves as so much more reserved. If I took one thing away from that experience, it would be that that’s okay. I was reminded again of the beauty of the diversity found in the Kingdom. How we are all created differently and how our worship of the One true King reflects that. That we serve a living God who meets us where we’re at and rejoices how He’s created us.

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is stuff that we could learn from each other. I wonder if there is room in the churches I know of to be more uninhibited in our worship, more unashamed in our devotion, and more unapologetic in our approach to the cross. On the other hand, I wonder what the role of silence and solitude would be in a church like this. How does that sort of intensity and passion continue through the week? How do you keep that sort of “show” from becoming a “show?” How does it stay genuine? These are some of the questions I couldn’t help but ask.

All in all, if I wanted a cultural “Chicago” experience, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I got one right there!

Today, Katie had class and some meetings so I spent a lot of the day wandering the Wheaton College and Seminary campus. So different from what I am used to!

Found out there's a lot of pretty influential alumni from Wheaton; Billy Graham (for whom they have a museum built on campus) and his wife, Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne to name a few. Wandered through the Billy Graham Evangelism museum. It's a pretty interesting experience. A general section on the history of evangelism in North America and then a wing on Billy Graham, his ministry and his family. I couldn't help but wonder what he thinks about that!

There's also a museum dedicated to the work of C.S.Lewis, Tolkien and the rest of the Inklings crowd. Apparently it's one of the biggest collections in North America. Something to do with a 1940's scholar and professor at Wheaton who took interest in the work of the guys! Pretty neat stuff. In addition to letters and other writings, they have the original desk that C.S.Lewis wrote on, the desk that Tolkien wrote the Hobbit at and (and this was my favorite), the wardrobe that influenced the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe! There were even fur coats hanging in it. I wanted to get in and see what was on the other side! It felt that magical. Really!

Anyway, now I'm taking a little bit of time to relax before I head back north of the border to join the Fairs in Toronto. It's going to be an exhausting stretch so I'm glad to have some time to relax now.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Current Read...




The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kid

All the way from Wheaton, Illinois...

So I promised that this time on the road I'd be a better blogger so here goes.

My travel day was, well, long but I arrived safe and sound. My first flight (Calgary to Toronto) was early and uneventful. So uneventful, in fact, that I managed to snooze on the plane. Even with all the travel I've done in the last 8 years or so, this is a nearly impossible feat so, yes, I'm quite proud of myself. Toronto to Chicago was a little more entertaining. First, there was getting from one end of the airport in TO to the other. Crazy that no one in that airport speaks English...come on people! Then the Air Canada attendant - the one who simply spends her life checking boarding passes and only the first of many I would meet that afternoon - told me I was overweight. That's how she put it. I wanted to be a smarty pants and point out that of all people, I am probably not one she should be describing that way lest she send me over the brink to becoming anorexic (not that there's anything to worry about...promise) but decided that maybe I would just chuckle to myself. I didn't get the impression she'd find it very funny and I didn't think that I wanted any delays to a)getting rid of my overweight bags and b) finding my way through customs. Missing my plane didn't seem like it would be worth it. But then again, sometimes life is just way to serious....
After what seemed like 6 more lines through the Air Canada process, customs turned out to be a breeze and I was back on my way.

It's been forever since I've flown AC. West Jet typically is my carrier of choice. Just a few thoughts on the service:

+ Air Canada beverage service includes the whole can of whatever beverage you choose. Not just a tiny plastic dixie cup. 1 can = 3 little cups.

- No little snacks or cookies. You can drink all you want but bring your own food or be prepared to pay!

- Air Canada attendants are not nearly as friendly or cheerful. Perhaps they're overworked...definitely no jokes from the crew on arrival!

- No adjustable "pillows" on the seats backs.

+ Gets you from point A to point B...and isn't that the point?

Rode the plane from TO to Chicago with a bunch of hockey parents and their kids, all heading for a big international tournament in Chicago. What a fun experience for the kids! They were all, parents included, so excited that it was no problem striking up conversation. The ride was over super fast and we were there...Chicago!

First thing I noticed...green grass everywhere. Saw that from the plane. What a beautiful sight after all the brown (and white!!) at home. Second thing about Chicago...they use their horns all the time. It's ridiculous. Here's my thoughts on this one, people: if you're on a freeway with hundreds of other cars and you honk your horn, how on earth do they know who you're "talking" to and what the heck you're trying to get across. Really!? Third thing...the freeways go everywhere. Truthfully, the infrasctructure has been something to see. The freeway into downtown Chicago just runs right into the lake. That's it. No more freeway. Coming out of O'Hare, I saw a bridge over the freeway for airplanes. Down town, there's layer over layer of transportation - road, pedestrian bridge, train on top of that. Sometimes that's even all on a bridge so that there's boat travel underneath! Pretty incredible!

Favorite thing about Illinois: hanging out with Katie! So great to see her again!!! It feels like she's been here (away from home) a lot longer than 3 months but I'm pretty proud of her for being willing and able to make the move here to do something she loves! Plus, gives me a chance to visit!

Saw the tallest building in North America - the Sears Tower - yesterday. It's so tall. Yes, I know, the understatement of the century! We were by the John Hancock tower - something like 98 stories and only slightly smaller than the Sears Tower - and I couldn't help but feel small and helpless. Katie and I talked about what it would be like to work in a building like that which turned into a conversation about 9-11. The Hancock is only slightly shorter than the twin towers were (and the Sears tower seems almost twice it's height!). Sitting at the base of this one gave me a chance to put that into perspective, perhaps for the first time. Can you imagine what it would be like to be on the ground and have that much building come tumbling down? What would it have been like to be up at the top when it happened? They really didn't stand a chance! You don't just "take the stairs" in that scenerio.

Other downtown Chicago highlights? Taking tons of great pictures in a very picturesque city. It's such an incredible combination of new and old. Churches, highrises, and a well endowed silver moose! The state bridge and the Wrigley building. Some incredible churches. The "bean" was an exceptional photographic treat! There's a well known popcorn shop that's apparently a tourist attraction in itself so of course we had to stop. I was pleased to share a bag of the best caramel corn ever with Katie. I wonder if the recipe is online? Trying to win tickets to see Wicked on Chicago's broadway. No luck. Maybe it will come to Calgary...

There's so much to see downtown Chicago that I don't think we even really scraped below the surface but it was a pretty cool day anyway. Convinced that we walked miles, we came home exhausted but satisified.

Today was Oak Park, a city just outside of Chicago. It's this quaint little town that's, again, very picturesque and the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway. There's this little inn called "The Write Place" and bookstores gallore. Guess who was a happy woman!? I could honestly wander in bookstores all day. Fortunatly Katie played along. Had a beautiful coffee at one of Katie's favorite: Caribou Coffee. So good! Did a little shopping since it seems that I'd forgotten how to pack in the short week that I was home...forgot to pack stuff with long sleeves. Seem to have forgotten what November in Canada can be like. Oops.

Back to Wheaton for some REAL chicago deep dish pizza for supper and let me tell you, I don't think we know what we're talking about back home when we talk about Chicago Deep dish pizza...you know, the company with the bright yellow logo and square box? I love my pizza and this was right up there as the best (I'm noticing a "food" theme here already)! So much crust but not greesy or gross. it's like a combination between pizza crust and pie crust. So tasty and flaky! So good! There's two layers of it too...with the cheese and toppings in the middle. Then the sauce is on top. so good!

For the rest of the evening, it will be relaxing back at the dorm. Katie's on duty tonight. Perhaps an episode of the Office is in order (Katie and her friends - who are incredible, by the way- are just getting into Season 3. It's been so fun watching episodes I've already seen with them and watching their reactions!).

So yes, I am enjoying my time here...few more days to go!