Monthly Archives: June 2011

there are so many ways to fail and so many ways to succeed

i hate mapquest.  i loathe it.  sure, it gets me where i’m supposed to go but its projections of how long it will take me are wildly optimistic and seem to include some wormholes in the spacetime continuum (exit 49a off  1-70 take a soft right into the previous hour and out fifty miles ahead of yourself).  i headed out of chicago at seven thirty a.m. aiming for columbus, ohio.  it was going to take me a mere five and a half hours.  it was the second time this year that i’ve been on this road to see f2fb friend #157 todd stiles.

i had recently been stung by some comments from a facebook friend who said roughly the following “i’ve talked to some of our mutual facebook friends who say your project annoys them and they will not see you this year”  i don’t see these mutual friends all that often and one of the side effects of this new years resolution to meet all my facebook friends is that i’m getting to know people i call friends a little better.  i respect boundaries.  if someone doesn’t want to make a video, sure.  if someone says i just want to get together with friends but i don’t want you to blog about it, okay (see friend #88).  if someone cancels and reschedules, sure. 

and that last had been the case with todd–

todd is in medical school and has faced many obstacles, not the least of which was everybody telling him “you look too exhausted to take the exam” on the morning i was last supposed to see him, for an exam that was critical to his success.  so he ended up cancelling the exam.  it’s set him back a bit but he is someone who just can’t quit.  he’s just stubborn enough, just ornery enough, just positive enough–i think we should all start calling him dr. todd now because it’s just a matter of time.  specifically a year, i believe, before he will graduate.

he is the first in his immediate family to graduate from college and the only one in his extended family to try medical school.  and medical school has dragged him from ohio to antigua, and from working at a pharmaceutical warehouse to get tuition money to long nights reviewing textbooks and lecture notes. 

we went to the short north neighborhood of columbus and whiled away a few hours while we caught up.  we had known each other when he was studying in chicago and then drifted apart when he moved first to champaign, then to ohio, and then to antiqua and back to ohio.  we realized we have a lot of the same issues with anxiety and self-doubt. 

todd was so sweet–when it came time for me to say goodbye, he pulled out of his backpack a printout of instructions on how to get to oberlin, ohio.  “you’ll be fine once you get on warren street,”  he said.  he overestimated.  i drove around for about a half hour before i found i-71 north and moved north into a thunderstorm.  the clouds did not lift me up and deposit me gently into oberlin but rather, slowed my progress.

todd and i in front of a mural of american gothic on north high street


so part of the reason i missed the ramp to the interstate was that i was crying–dr. todd told me that even if i run into obstacles, even if i run up against negativity, even if i run up against outright failure, just pick up, dust yourself off, and get back on the highway to success.  in my case, it requires a few illegal u-turns on columbus streets, but i’m aiming to oberlin and beyond. . . .

chris treiber introduces me to his first love

some facebook friends are just that–facebook friends.  some are people you’re close to emotionally and you keep in touch with videos and pictures and snappy movie quotations.  but some facebook friends are with you every day. . .

i see chris treiber every day.  he works in winnetka at the community house where i lift weights and run on the treadmill.  the weight room is in the lower level and i have a brief anxiety attack about going down into the basement to lift.  that has never left me and i’m not sure why.  so i only lift weights a few times a week. 

chris has to go to the weight room every day, training people–a lot of his clients are people who are recovering from injuries.  he said about this project that he wanted to introduce me to his first love.  the mystery was compelling:

i declined to try the tree.  interestingly, this house where chris grew up was built by his grandfather and chris’ mom still lives in it.

chris grew up in this house and climbed on the garage so that he could glimpse his first love

chris grew up when kids didn’t have “organized sports” — you just went out and played.  but chris now trains kids at basketball camp on the side.  he taught me to do a layup.  i’m not going to be recruited by uconn but i did okay.

think about the friends you see every day.  should you spend more time with them?  i’m about to head out to ohio to see a friend i haven’t seen in three years.  without facebook, i think that friendship would have withered and died.


i didn’t know f2fb # patrick nugent very well.  he was a suit, somebody who came to meetings with his colleague f2fb #37 steve rahn at the institute for continuing legal education.  they could also be referred to as “we teach lawyers stuff they didn’t get in law school”.  i had, with a partner todd parkhurst, started a company called perfectly legal productions.  we could have referred to ourselves as “people who want to put on plays about lawyers and maybe teach them something” .   . . . match made in heaven.  but in business, you wear a suit, you wear a poker face, you act professional.  i never knew steve rahn had lost his son in a bike accident.  i never knew patrick was a fun guy.  i just knew we did business.

and i didn’t know how very perspicacious patrick is.  he had read the blogs and had a pretty good idea of who i am.

he wanted to interview me for iicle’s television station–it’s a youtube channel IICLEtv.  did he warn me?  of course not, because he knew i’d get hives, come up with a great excuse to cancel, or i’d end up being so overwrought that i’d freeze on camera.  instead, he told me to wear comfortable shoes (totally putting me off the track) and when i walked into the iicle offices, the receptionist knew who i was and was ushering me into a conference room.  less than thirty seconds later, microphones in place, i was playing like i was a guest on THE VIEW.  no fears, not a moment for panic, didn’t even think about where my inhaler and my ativan were.

and then he had another surprise.  every person who lives in a city underutilizes the best they’ve got.  how many new yorkers go up to the observation deck of the empire state?  how many los angelenos go to the getty museum?  and me?  i’ve never been on this damn thing:

and then we went to the rooftop restaurant of the wit hotel.  twenty eight floors up.  patrick knows damn well i’m scared of heights.  it’s just one of the panoply of fears.  but since i had no warning i could only marvel:

it was early but the empty tables were reserved so alas, we didn't get to stay!

then onward to the trump tower where we were joined by mike nowak who works at iicle and hosts his own gardening show on public radio.  mike and patrick first met when they had a theater company together in chicago.  mike is still hoping to produce a play he’s written about dummy hoy, the first deaf player in major league baseball.

the trump has lots and lots of staff members who are far too cool for me–but they lowered their standards and let us sit down.

patrick has a bet with his wife that he can visit every rooftop restaurant and bar in the city this summer. i believe he is as determined as i am to complete my f2fb project!

the afternoon was so wonderful that i got a weird flutter in my chest.  not a heart attack.  not a panic attack.  but the flutter one gets as one is about to get teary eyed with gratitude.  this morning i had woke up thinking “i’m having lunch with a suit”  — but when i said goodbye to mike and patrick, i realized i was saying goodbye to friends!

the worst time to have a heart attack

the wrong time to have a heart attack is right after the doctor has left the car.  i mean, woo was in my mini–i had just dropped her off–she’s a doctor, she has her own clinic and in fact, when i picked her up at that same clinic, i believe she put a stethoscope in her purse–so she could perform cpr on me.  she might even have a scalpel and she could cut open my chest and reach in and squeeze my heart back into working order.

instead, i ended up in the parking lot across from the emergency room entrance at evanston hospital.  popping two ativan.  drinking vitamin water zero.  taking my pulse with the stopwatch app on my phone.  and wondering do i go in or not?

nobody does sarcasm better than an emergency room nurse who knows damn well you’re not having a heart attack when you know damn well you are.

i had been having a nice afternoon visit with dr. louise berner-holmberg, whom most people know as “woo”.  woo is fifty, like me, and has decided to do what she really wants with her life–which is to open a medical clinic for poor people.  a free clinic in a heavily hispanic neighborhood between my house and wisconsin.  a free clinic?  she could perform cpr on me and all i’d be obligated to do is send her flowers and a thank you note afterwards.

woo has treated this clinic with the same care as a great work of art.  for instance, the lobby is very comfortable and clean–she thinks of it as an insult to patients to make them wait in a scruffy area.  she has a tiny door built into one wall of the lobby so that kids can access a play area of the joint and spine rehabilitation clinic next door to hers.  woo even has medical charts where patients can see them–it is of great comfort to see lots of medical charts even if they are full of blank printing paper.

woo, like most other doctors these days, keeps medical records on her computer. therefore, these charts are not necessary but they look all efficient!

she has examining rooms decorated with pictures made by her children, or in this case, a framed hermes scarf.  tres chic!

is it wrong that i would lust after the hermes scarf?

she works seven days a week at the fenix clinic and has enlisted many volunteers in her effort to provide medical care to those who are uninsured and without resources.  she draws no salary, though she isn’t opposed to the idea of a paycheck.  i admire what she’s doing and as i drove her to her meeting to plan a fundraiser for next weekend, we talked about how lucky we are to do something bold and something quite scary and outsized for our fiftieth year.

every night woo worries about whether this cilnic is going to stay afloat. look at all the paperwork! i worry every day whether this project will stay afloat.

we hugged.  we said “see you next week at the fundraiser” and then i drove away with a funny pain in my chest that got worse.  and then came the little fear.  and the bigger one.  i drove directly to the parking lot of evanston hospital.

i’ve done this before.  i’m close enough that if it gets any worse i can go inside but not so close that the security guard starts thinking that i’m a stalker.  which i decide i won’t today.  i think the ativan are working.  i come home and i am writing at the dining room table. feeling very sheepish.  and not at all like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

i am definitely going to woo’s party at fenix on friday the twenty fourth from five thirty to eight p.m. it’s at 130 washington avenue in highwood.  for more information about her incredible work, go to

the last piece of advice. . .

this past september i had to say goodbye to my youngest son eastman as he went to college.  i wanted to give him some advice, all the things i had been meaning to say before but never found the time:

1.  strippers who tell you that they’re just doing this to put themselves through medical school are lying.  and no, they don’t really really really like you.

2.  start saving now for retirement because there’s not going to be anything left in social security when you’re old.

3.  your tax return is just your opening offer.

4.  tequila is a source of misery.

my friend mitch (f2fb #153) and i have watched our kids grow up together and we’ve occasionally served on boards of schools and clubs our kids have been involved with.  one year, we dug posts together to construct the children’s fair in winnetka.

this coming year, mitch’s son ryan will leave for oregon and so mitch took him on a bike ride.  just a regular father son bonding experience of 55 days, 3555 miles across the united states.  i think he probably got more advice time in.

we took a short bike ride today to chicago’s botanic gardens.  mitch worked there as a teenager, helping to build it.  we talked about how our sons have the task now of creating and acquiring, while we have something different to accomplish–to hang onto what we’ve got.

that’s been extra hard for people this year.




again, i am friends with nonhuman!

you are not actually “of Winnetka” until you have lived within its borders, preferably on the east side of the railroad tracks, for a generation or more.  my mere twenty years here is just that–mere.

i was pregnant with my second son eastman (f2fb #1) and i shepherded my firstborn joseph (f2fb #61) around a town of tudor architecture and new england sensibilities. in the window of the photography store was a display of pictures of their shopping bag on its travels.  you see, the shopping bag went to paris, went to london, stopped along the chinese wall, climbed killimanjaro, and sent back pictures.  winnetka residents announcing their summer vacations with a bit of panache.

one man even put together a book. .

the store thrives, despite the changes in what it means to take pictures.  i do everything with my cell phone and a flip camera.  the flip has gone from cutting to obsolescence in the space of a year.  still, the skalski family which owns phototronics works with every technology, holding the hand of every winnetkan who says “i don’t know how to make this picture come out of my camera and land in my email account”  peter skalski gave me a bunch of phototronic shopping bags to pose along my travels. . . .

i am facebook friends with phototronics (f2fb #152), one of several non-human friends.  i did not ask phototronics out for lunch yesterday, but i did take f2fb #12 andrew pearce because he wanted to look at a particular camera.  andrew is from bloomington, indiana and drove up so that he could plot out with me the second half of this facebook journey. . . .that was an entire anxiety attack all on its own!

i have a trip out to the northwest, two more trips to the northeast and again to california (where i hope to meet with brian brethauer because brian sure lives the furthest away from anybody i know).  i have the southern states–samuel scruggs, jonathan boyd, dale morgan–whom i missed because of the disaster in tallahassee.  and i have alaska and the rest of the world (except for mexico city which is well in pocket).

i am humbled to be fifty years old and have all the help i have been given. . . but then there’s f2fb #153 who reminds me that we are all just teenagers inside!

reasons to be grateful. . . part one

my friends on facebook as of new years eve:  324

new friends who said “one more facebook friend isn’t going to kill you”:  11

friends i will visit: unlimited but first the 335

friends i have today: 1605 (i visit the new years friends now and if i have time left over before new years 2012 i will visit them or  if they are available in a city where original facebook friends reside)

my weight (as of 2011 new years eve): 138

new years eve resolution 2010:  lose five pounds, stop drinking, be more organized, be nicer to my neighbor mr. radnor

success rate on 2010 new years resolution:  gained two pounds, drank like a fish, please don’t audit me because i have no idea where those receipts are, and mr. radnor i just can’t warm up to.  ever.

new years eve resolution 2011:  meet every facebook friend. . . .

friends i’ve seen so far this year:  151

friends so far who are relatives:  4–friends #1 eastman, #30 justin, #31 casey, #61 joseph

friends so far i had never met before:  #95 nipper castino, #102 1/2 rachel li, #110 jeff barnes, #131 rodger gerberding, #79 yoshi maeshiro

tornadoes i have been exposed to:  4–one outside raleigh, north carolina, one outside cedar rapids, iowa, one outside blue springs, missouri, and another in kearney, missouri

percentage of friends who have been in a twelve step program, should be in a twelve step program or who have a spouse in a twelve step program:  50%

percentage who have asked that such a thing be kept secret:  0%

friends who have told me their license sticker has expired:  1

friends who have told me their license sticker has expired and they want that to be kept secret:  1

friends who have told me their spouse has committed an act of infidelity:  14

friends who have specifically asked me to include comments about that act in my blog:  5

new skills i have acquired:  can open a champagne bottle with a saber sword (thank you #24 gretchen), break a board with my hand (thank you #87 ron), a perfect squat (thank you #14 chris), troll fishing (thank you #111 lon)

skills that will elude me forever:  boxing (#90 sally, i’m sorry i get so scared in the ring), zumba (#92 jo caylor, you knew that was going to happen), and opera singing (#132 john hill)

friends who turned out to be an alternative identity for someone else: #49 mc kato (really winston chang), #54 IndaLoop (actually richard “mop” furniss, #74 stu fast (actually steve quick), #60 william clark (actually lanny jones, his biographer)

friends who wanted totally anonymity:  one, mr. 88

friends who freaked out after they saw me:  one, miss 116, who asked that the post be deleted in its entirety

my weight as of today:  142

my last visit before i left los angeles was to allen and sarah colombo.  i asked them, as they opened the door, if they were familiar with the secret.  they were.  but instead of an evening of thinkng or talking about that inspiration, we had champagne, steak, veggies, gossip, music, bright lights.

i believe that allen and his wife sarah are some people i could call if i accidentally ended up in jail.  if they didn’t have bail money at least they’d bring me sandwiches.  and here i am at the end of a wonderful evening with them. . .

friends i still must see: 174

weight i must lose:  4