Go, Cubs, Go: What Baseball Means to Me–and Chicago

It was a loud, proud night in Chicagoland Saturday night. Fireworks and cheers erupted over the region, and the closer you were to the epicenter–Wrigley Field, that is–the more you could feel the roar of excitement, relief, and pride. That pride rippled around the world, as I saw posts from some of my friends in different countries, struggling to find an internet connection to add their own voice to the cheering. Every local television channel switched to broadcast the news: the Cubs won the National League champions pennant, marking the first time they’d be in the World Series since 1945!

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Are you wondering what blog you’re reading right now–when did I become a sports fan, right? In a way, you could say this year; in a way, you could say my whole life. I’ve become more invested in the Cubs this year, partially because of the community. One of my friends, Grace, had a playoff game playing at her birthday party, and while we were all there for her (she is wonderful), and while we enjoyed the made-from-scratch food, it was the game that caused the excitement that brought us closer together. I’ve become keenly aware of the game schedule, too, as the bass player in the string band I’m in is unequivocally not available for practice or performance on any game days (and it would be unthinkable to perform without our crucial Billy on bass!).

While I’m not much of a sports fan in general, I’ve always been a baseball fan, to some extent. Our family has gone to baseball games together since I was little (though my early Cubs memories mostly revolve around Cracker Jack and Lemon Chills). Now, we try to attend Kane County Cougars games at least once a summer.

Always the highlight of our summer–great family bonding time at Cougars games! My dad found this helmet for me in my favorite color so I can safely attend post-TBI–have to protect the noggin from foul balls and homers.😉

Although our childhood focused heavily on music (my adulthood, too!), our dad made sure my sister and I learned how to play baseball the right way. To his shoulder’s chagrin, this involved swinging a ball attached to a rope around his head for us to bat as hard as we could, without the risk of it flying into a neighbor’s window (both the technique and the caution were learned from his childhood). We played catch, too, focusing on proper form. They’re all fond childhood memories for me.

Baseball is somewhat of a family tradition for us, though I’m sorry to our lineage that my sister and I inherited mostly the enthusiasm, not the athletic grace, of the sport! My dad bonded with his dad over many things, but baseball might have been the strongest one. Even though my grandfather had to use a prosthetic leg, he didn’t let that stop him from enjoying the game with my dad, by expertly playing catch, as well as coaching my dad’s little league and senior league teams. My grandmother, too, was an avid baseball fan, mostly of the Cubs, while my grandfather was more of a White Sox fan. I guess, by my generation, we are both, a mix not only of genetics, but also fandoms. We call ourselves “Chicago fans.”

And thank you, Cubs, for giving us Chicagoans something to be fans of. Thank you for making Chicago a proud city this weekend, when we’ve had so much tragedy this year. What’s remarkable to me is the uniting factor of the game, bringing together people of all ethnicities, all genders, all generations, all religions. In a time when our country is so divided over politics, we can all come together and be proud of something quintessentially American, no matter who wins the World Series–but this fan hopes it will be the Cubs.

When I found this video, I got goosebumps. Talk about unity–you can hear thousands of people singing together in joy from almost a mile away, high in the air. This was from a National League wildcard game this season (if the embedded version doesn’t work for you, try this: https://youtu.be/Drszsid3I1s ). Skip to 1:43 for the best sound quality on Chicago’s favorite song this season!

This flag’s tradition started in the 1930s as an announcement after every Cubs win–but now, fans have adopted it to represent the Cubs in general. I guess that shows the level of confidence in our home team! Go, Cubs, Go! (Thanks to Octavarius.com for the image)

October: A Month to Celebrate and Give Back

October is one of my favorite months–possibly my very favorite–for many reasons. Long-time readers and even casual acquaintances are quite familiar with my passion for Halloween (you’ll see some Halloween posts here as the holiday gets closer–and feel free to search “Halloween” in my blog for previous posts!). Crunchy leaves, crisp (but not cold) air, autumn soups, apple-picking, so many festive opportunities…what’s not to love? As one of my favorite literary heroines famously said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers” (L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables).

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–Pinterest User iBelieve.com

October is also the month for celebrating important awareness occasions, like National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and Breast Cancer Awareness Month–two observations that are a focus for me both at work and personally. While I’ve written about NDEAM for work with Marianjoy in the past, and continue to do so, I’m looking forward to writing about breast cancer awareness, as well, for Northwestern Medicine’s Marketing Team, having had the exciting opportunity to work more closely with them lately. How lucky we are to have top cancer and rehabilitation programs right here in the Midwest! Breast cancer has always hit close to home for me, with several family members and friends as survivors, and more friends who are currently battling the disease.

Besides writing, I decided to take the observation one step further. Financial donations are great to help with breast (and other types of) cancer; without funding, research projects to eradicate the disease wouldn’t be possible–and so I try to donate to cancer charities a couple of times a year (check out Charity Navigator to find one that fits you and has a good stewardship score). There’s another type of donation, too, that most people might not think of right away, one that requires your time, not money: hair.

It wasn’t until my traumatic brain injury in 2005, when part of my head had to be shaved for brain surgery, that I realized how important hair is to identity. For women, it’s inextricably tied in millennia-long trends denoting femininity, fertility, sexuality, youth, conservatism/rebellion, professionalism…the list goes on. For 19-year-old me, it was one of the hardest changes to my appearance I had to get used to, partly because I had no choice in the sudden change–just like cancer patients. It made me very self-conscious–with my eye patch and wheelchair, it was just one more thing broadcasting to the world that I was going through a major medical experience. And what if I wasn’t ready to share that?

Luckily for me, it was only part of my head, and I was able to do quite the comb-over to cover the bald side until my hair grew in. I always joked that Rihanna soon after took my cue and made the style a trend.

(You’re welcome, RiRi)

Fortunately, my hair grew in fairly quickly, and when it reached a point where I could get it cut into layers, I decided to donate the rest to those who were less fortunate. It felt good, the thought of helping others, when so many had been helping me.

I decided to do it again…22 months ago. Unlike my first time donating, the thought popped into my head when all of my hair was short, so I knew I was in for a long road. Over those 22 months, I only got one trim–it helped that I stayed away from heat-treating my hair, so I didn’t have to worry (much) about split ends.

The experience reminded me of the way the religious customs can remind you physically of spiritual meaning (like the practice of giving something up for Lent reminding Catholics of Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice). Although I sometimes enjoy having long hair, there were many times were I couldn’t wait to get it cut again–it felt so unruly to me, but I reminded myself this hair wasn’t for me–it was for someone else. It was a good exercise in patience.

My mom made the growing process more fun with some elaborate hairstyles–some so beautiful I second-guessed cutting the hair:

Thanks, Mom!❤

I went to my hair stylist a few times to get a length check, and finally, I was ready. I already knew the charity I wanted to donate to: Wigs 4 Kids, an organization in Michigan that provides wigs to kids and young adults for free. It’s important to research where you will donate your hair, because some organizations charge patients for their wigs (it’s a laborious process to make them, so I understand, but I’d prefer the patients to get their wigs for free). It’s also important to know how long you need to grow your hair, if it can be dyed, if it can be gray, etc., before you make the chop–each organization is different. Wigs 4 Kids requires 10″, and after my hair stylist evened it out, I had just over that to donate.


Megan, my hair stylist, is very familiar with prepping hair to donate. It’s important to section off and secure the part that will be donated before you cut it, so it doesn’t fly all over the place. She made four braids.

Moment of truth. Even though I wanted the haircut, it’s always initially intimidating to me to part with so much hair all at once!

Done; I loved it! It was hard to believe all that hair was in that silver bag.

I really appreciated Megan’s help in getting my hair ready to go; I was happy she was so familiar with donating. After that, it was just a matter of mailing the braids to the address on the organization’s website.

I never feel better than when I’m helping others and giving back in some way. Ever since my miraculous TBI survival, I’ve felt a mission to help others as I was helped. With time and patience, hair donation is an easy and inexpensive way to help people–I highly recommend doing it, if you can. I’ve mentally committed to doing it again, though I may go for one with a shorter requirement (360 Hair looks like they take 6″ or more–sounds good to me!).

I wish you all a wonderful remainder of your October. I hope you get to enjoy your favorite traditions, and I hope you take a moment to celebrate those other important observances, too.

Happy Sweetest Day & High Tea at The Drake

Happy Sweetest Day! I hope you’re enjoying it with people you love. Read on for a very *sweet* history of this lesser-known holiday–trust me, it’s not as commercial as most people think! Also, one of my favorite Sweetest Day memories is in this post.

Today, I’m celebrating the birthday of two dear friends. Love to all my readers! ❤️

Jelly-Side Up

Happy Sweetest Day! Although it’s not popular with everyone, Sweetest Day is a holiday I enjoy (but then, you know I enjoy most holidays…). Even the origin is *sweet*: 92 years ago, 12 confectioners in Cleveland decided to give out “over 20,000 boxes of candy to ‘newsboys, orphans, old folks, and the poor,'” according to WikipediaSince then, it’s caught on in the Midwest, especially the Great Lakes region. The most common tradition I’ve seen is exchanging candy or small gifts with loved ones, or, in the original spirit, to those who are less fortunate/lonely. Some people gripe that it’s a “Hallmark holiday,” but I say any holiday about charity and love is a good one. :) 

Today, I had the most wonderful celebration: my sister and I got to meet two of our friends for high tea!

The anticipation beforehand was intense.

View image on Twitter On the way. The traffic was…

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Celebrating My Sister: Why She is My Hero + Her Birthday

Happy Sister’s Day to my very best friend since the day when she was born. I’m just as excited to celebrate her today as I was her first day in this world, when I ran down the hallway in my ducky slippers, holding a balloon. I may not have those slippers anymore, but the bond I still have with my sister is stronger than I could ever have imagined. In honor of Sister’s Day, I’m reblogging this post about why she is my hero and what she means to me (the good mushy stuff is after all the birthday pictures, but feel free to drool over her cake, if you like).

Jelly-Side Up

Hello readers, I hope you’ve been having a good week. It’s cooled off quite a bit here, which has made for a nice reprieve with humidity.

Today (Thursday) is National Girlfriends Day, which has unknown origins, but it’s a day to celebrate our female friendships. I woke up today to this adorable collage Jennifer texted me. I just had to share:

BFF Collage, by Jennifer. On the left, we (I'm on the very left) are enjoying smoothies at our favorite organic food cafe, Freshii. BFF Collage, by Jennifer. On the left, we (I’m on the very left) are enjoying smoothies at our favorite organic food cafe, Freshii.

What a sweet way to start the day!❤

It was the second holiday for us in a week. Last weekend, we had a low-key but fun celebration for Jennifer’s birthday. We went out to our favorite soup-and-salad buffet, Sweet Tomatoes.

Never too old to be a princess. A collage of various gifts she received for her birthday. Never too old to be a princess. A collage of some of the gifts Jennifer received for her birthday.

She was really touched at the…

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Happy Father’s Day

(My first Easter, adorned in custom-made gown and bonnet, with my dad <3)

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there–biological, adoptive, mentor, and otherwise.🙂 Thank you for the huge difference you make in your children’s lives.

As I grow older, I realize I rely on my dad just as much now as I ever have. Maybe the reasons have changed–I’ve now learned how to tie my own shoes, for instance–but he is still the steadfast pillar in my life I turn to when I fall and cry. It’s not skinned knees anymore (well, sometimes it is)–it’s more like a bruised heart. He is the man who has always been there for me, even as my romantic relationships come and go. Through his loving relationship with my mom, he has shown my sister and me how a healthy relationship should be. Through his support and encouragement of our dreams, my sister and I have realized we don’t need a man to accomplish anything we want–though we are lucky to have our dad, blowing air into our sails.

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, but especially mine.❤

If you’d like to read my letter to my dad about his crucial role in my recovery from my TBI, please visit my previous Father’s Day post: Happy Father’s Day.

One Voice: Orlando Shooting

What can one voice say in the midst of such a tragedy?

The largest mass shooting ever in the history of our country:
49 dead, 53 wounded. Countless loved ones devastated. A ripple effect of fear throughout the world.(If you haven’t read the news story of the Orlando shooting at Pulse on Sunday, you can here: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/12/us/orlando-nightclub-shooting/ ).

I’ve never understood the hatred against the LGBT community. Live and let live, I say. Love and let love.
Love is always good. Love is peace.

As a writer, I am always seeking to make sense of things. I think that’s everyone’s draw to stories: to find the cadence of meaning that drums through a course of events. It resounds through our own lives, helping us understand our own biggest challenges through symbolism, allegory, dragons.
And, as a writer, it’s imperative to get into the heads of villains–to understand their motives. My own villains, when not abstract, are usually damaged beings that have been hurt by the one(s) they’re trying to retaliate against.
This massacre is so senseless it would make for bad fiction. The more I learn, the less sense it makes. These innocent people did nothing to the shooter. They were shot at random. They were there to have fun, to find love–not to be violent.
What I do understand is the light shining through the darkness. (“Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers tells us. “You will always find people helping [during tragedy].”) We can’t let one extremist’s hatred control us, reverse us, put us back into the dark ages. I’m humbled and touched to see the response of the world in the wake of this tragedy: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/health/orlando-shooting-acts-of-kindness-trnd/

(Photos of mourners from Pulse Nightclub’s Facebook page)

Here are the ones who were lost: http://fusion.net/story/313038/orlando-shooting-victims-names-pulse-massacre/

This story is all of ours. We own it. Gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, atheist–this grief, this fear–it’s ours. Orlando is one of my favorite cities. Several of my friends are gay, including one of my very best. It could have been me in that club. It could have been you. It could have been anywhere.
Let us shine a light and show that good people will unite and shine brighter than hate. We cannot devolve into fear and counter-hatred–remember that Muslims stand with us in love and sorrow, and that it was an extremist who committed this atrocity.
Be the light–be that kindness you want to see in others. Only love can overpower hate.

What can one voice say in the midst of tragedy? When one voice joins another, and another, and another…praying for love, praying for peace…we will be louder than the ugly shouts of hatred and violence.
We stand with Orlando. We stand with the LGBT community. We stand for love.

Happy National Best Friends Day

Happy National Best Friend Day! I’m glad to have an extra reason to celebrate these people who are so important in my life.❤

Jelly-Side Up

I was so busy today, so just a quick post before bed–but today was National Best Friends Day, and I didn’t want the day to go by unacknowledged (you know how I am about holidays–and loved ones, at that!).

I’m blessed my very first best friend is still my best friend. 👯💕 That hasn’t changed since this picture was taken, even if our height difference has.😉
I’m also blessed by this amazing group of people. I’ve counted most of them as best friends for 20 years; some more recent, but no less enduring. (Taken just a few weeks ago)

I’m beyond grateful for my besties; they’re a huge part of whom I’ve become. I love you all!

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