touching good memories one more time as 2011 and i part ways

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

2011 had some really great moments for me; I can’t just walk off and leave the year behind without pausing to smile aloud one more time with you about some of them (yes, this is the week your inbox groans and says, “Karen, again?!  Seriously?”…but you can just drop me a note if you’d like me to knock it off already.)

My St. Patrick’s Night Adventure
My son, the musician and life adventurer, played a couple of Chicago venues when he was traveling with the band called “Is World.”  The first night, I saw him in a punk bar on North Western Avenue, where every ceiling tile was a different piece of hand-painted art.  It was way too loud and lots of fun.  A few nights later (on St. Patrick’s night), he was playing at a private venue on the south side, near the stadium where the White Sox play.  With some trepidation, I took a couple of friends and went.  That night, I saw my son’s appallingly deft skills in dealing with a belligerent man, and also I was run out of the show by the police (how many moms get to say they were run out of a show by the cops on St. Pats on the south side of Chicago with their son….c’mon….THAT’S FUN!), and I rode a bus on the way home with one of the bands, who pulled out a fiddle and played Irish tunes as we rode.  That night is one that will live in vivid technicolor and surround-sound in my head for the rest of my days.

Critical Mass
I rode in the Chicago Critical Mass 3 times this year.  For those of you who somehow know me and don’t know what the Mass is, it’s a monthly gathering of bicyclists in downtown Chicago.  They meet at Daley Plaza, with no leader and no set plan.  Someone proposes a map and then the whole bunch go for a ride, generally lasting 2 or 3 hours (20ish miles).  The reason for the name is that when enough bikes come together, they reach that magic number where they are enough to take control of the roads.  Thousands of bikes stream together through the City (sometimes even down Michigan Avenue), yelling “Happy Friday!” as they go.  It is a party on wheels.  It is young people and old people and families and various pets.  It is loud music and silly costumes and custom bikes.  It is part protest, part social statement, part pushing a green agenda, part flipping the bird at the establishment, part educating of the public, and (for me at least) totally fun.  There are few highs in life like riding surrounded by bikes inches away on every side, rolling ahead as far as the eye can see and behind the same, shouting, cheering, singing together, and making insane volumes of noise when going through the underpasses.  And then there’s the giggle as the drivers of a whole line of oncoming cars roll their windows down and give me high-5’s as I pass them.  Riding the Mass was an important key in moving me from too scared to leave the bike path to willingness to carefully give the roads a try.  My 2 most magical moments amongst the 3 rides were a rainy, dark few moments of passing through Occupy Chicago, shouting encouragement as the protestors yelled, “Whose street?  OUR STREET!” and a moment in an earlier ride when the sun was perfect, a skateboarder in front of me was blowing bubbles back at me, and I was singing with everyone around me, “Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…” along with someone’s boombox.  Another moment that will never leave me – it is preserved perfectly in my mind and I can touch it as often as I like.

My Love Affair with Chicago
I spent the first 8 months of the year living in a city I can’t imagine every growing tired of exploring.  A JPUSA friend and I made it a point regularly to take Saturdays and soak it up.  We went to music festivals, Chinatown (where we ate in a spot where menu offerings we didn’t choose included “crispy baby pig” and “roasted pig’s head”), shopping and restaurants.  We rode the water taxi up and down the river.  We soaked in the view from the 96th floor of the Hancock building. With other friends from back home, I watched the river being dyed green on St. Patrick’s weekend and moved among the crazy crowds.  A niece and I explored the cool gothic stuff on Belmont.  Alone and with friends, I walked and biked up and down the lakefront endlessly, often landing at Navy Pier.  I walked 3 miles one night to see the movie “Tree of Life,” which left me full of wonder.  I spent a day beside the lake with my roommate, watching the water and talking deep stuff.  Another JPUSA friend who is a Chicago native spent one long evening walking me around downtown, leading me in and out of places about which it’s just flat fun to say, “I’ve been there.”  I fell in love with seeing beautiful horse-drawn carriages and police officers riding slightly bored but very tall horses.  On the 4th of July, I stood atop our 10-story building, turning and turning and struck speechless by seeing a panorama of fireworks across the entire horizon.  Oh, Chicago.  I could never grow tired of you.

Warmest Welcome Home Ever
Moving back from Chicago was not my plan, but following the Lord was an easy enough thing to do, when it was clear that was where He was leading.  What undid me at the time, and frequently since then, has been the incredible generosity with which I was welcomed back.  On a rainy day in August my boss and a coworker (a CEO and a Development Director, mind you) brought a truck and their strong backs to load me up and bring me home.  They were patient as we stuffed the truck full, and riding back between them was like going to church as I shared where I had been and they shared what I had missed back here.  They delivered me to a beautiful apartment, live-in ready (thanks to my coworkers) right down to details like ziplocs in the kitchen drawers and art on the walls.  I returned to a job where all my files had been saved (despite no plan for my return) and everything was ready for me to pick up as if I had never left.  There are a million details here and I’ll just stop with saying that pretty much every day since August 20 I have experienced shock and awe of the best kind at the way I’ve been treated (more on that in the next blog, which will surely be about lessons from the year.)

There are a ton of other magical moments I’d love to share, but perhaps not all things should be shared with every eye that may wander by.  Do me a favor…send me a note about some of YOUR best 2011 moments!  I’d love to hear ’em…

much love


  1. thredd says:

    best 2011 moments: “he’s going to live” [twice] after i was told “you are dying” [well before the “he’s going to live [twice]] and i didn’t ‘kick that bucket’ and this wasn’t the first time id been told this in my life or [faced such things] and of course ‘i am still typing to you karen aren’t i?'” “why yes i am”. and those aren’t even the Best Ones. Some things are To be Treasured..” anyhoo, didn’t you just basically write things as such above? i think i am just re-iterating what you just wrote. ❤ All Love, R 🙂 2012

  2. I love this. It reminded me of my many high points [as well low] in the year just completed. I loved how you wove everything about it into such a concise little post, too. It pretty much blows me away how we DO or don’t manage to DO that, how we wander all round the barn, how we completely forget to get to the point of things. you DO this getting to the point so well. it is one of the many things I have come to admire about you. I feel so lucky to BE able to read you daily. you are an extraordinary woman, my friend!!!

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