Scenes from a Chicago Blizzard and Finding Winter Magic

Haters gon’ hate but I love me some snow. Love it! Love blizzards, sledding, skiing, snow angels, all that good snowy fun. An Irish coffee afterwards is just the icing on the cake.

A friend posited that it was because I don’t have to do much shoveling or park on the streets of Chicago. This might be true, at least for the latter part. I do actually enjoy shoveling, snow blowing, and the like. It’s a workout outside with Mother Earth! The parking issue, on the other hand… Well, that is the exact reason that we selected an apartment with a garage. We could  have found one cheaper or closer to work that had exposed parking or street parking. But we decided after last winter’s blizzards that garage parking was a priority and there you have it. Nonetheless, after this most recent blizzard there was a price to pay. Jim and I got stuck in Michigan for an extra day and a half while everyone dug out and plowed the streets. We both missed some work and since our side street and alley were actually impassable, we had to stay in a hotel downtown for one night while the city caught up on snow removal.

As in all things, though, perspective determines emotions I feel. I chose the perspective of:

This is no big deal. This is an adventure! We are going to be fine. One hotel night stay is an unexpected expense but it’s just money and it won’t break the bank. Let’s take advantage of our extra time together!

Wouldn’t you know it, the emotions I felt as a result were light and carefree. And life arranged itself accordingly, as it always does, because I am in charge of creating my own experiences.

I decided to go outside with the camera while another 2 inches were blanketing the city in fresh powder on top of the 2 feet of snow that were already there. It was quiet and magical. I was bundled up in my many winter layers but eventually the cold seeped in. My fingers froze, my camera got kinda wet, I got snow in my eyes, and my nose was running by the end. All part of a day outdoors in the cold and thankfully the photos are more than worth the effort, so I returned to my home with a smile. Please enjoy and be sure to tell me about your snow days in the comments!

Here I am! That Redhead, your trusty guide. Redheaded and red-nosed, might I add. And yes, the snow is bright enough even on an overcast day that sunglasses are a good idea. Pale kids have pale retinas. Or we’re secretly vampires. You decide.

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

My trusty Hunter boots and fleece liners! This might be their third winter. Worth the purchase!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

Parking is tricky business in Chicago. If you dig out your spot, you keep your dibs by marking it with whatever you have on hand.

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

Our park is downright sacred space to us and is gorgeous under a blanket of snow. So still, so serene.

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

I love that snowy days get that haziness that blurs the edges of reality and can make you feel like you are the only human for miles.

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

 

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

In the end, birds and humans alike, we’re all gathered up together and waiting for the thaw. Winter is special because it is a season, therefore fleeting, and it ends like any other. Soon enough, we’ll be back to sunshine and green and flowers and a constant buzz of nature. It’s just around the corner.

In the meantime, though, how about getting some snow on you and finding the magic outside?

That Redhead and the 2015 Chicago Blizzard. Snow Days are the best days!

What did you do on your snow day? :)

Big Business News!

As you can see, I’ve been less than present here on my blog lately. I’ve been working very hard on a new venture, which is now finally taking shape (emerging, as it were):

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My husband and I are starting a new business, called Emerging Into Joy. It will encompass all of the workshops we have been teaching lately, private coaching sessions, and motivational speaking. With plenty of writing and adventure thrown in, too. It’s been in process since sometime in November and I spent what little free time I had in the weeks since putting together the website, social media, and business paperwork.

I try to spend as much time as possible distancing myself from my fears except to listen to the teachings that they offer. I must admit, though, that one of my bigger fears in all of this is that I’ll lose my own identity and voice as That Redhead apart from being involved in our joint venture. I believe that I have the power to decide whether or not that is true, so I’m trying to use that fear as a motivator to work harder and get more disciplined with my time management. That is not easy for me at all. I am not a slacker but I am a Creative and I need downtime to allow my brain to stretch and work on its many ideas. If I don’t have that time, my brain rebels and creates it, regardless of what else is going on. Which means that sometimes I “waste” time or procrastinate and pay for it later. I don’t always do the hardest or most important task first, but I’m learning. Bit by bit.

In any case, I leave tomorrow morning bright and VERY early for Orlando to continue the training on this path and to start teaching others who are where I was not even 6 months ago. It’s amazing how quickly everything has changed and come together, truly. True to form, I still have a bunch of things to finish up and packing to work on. So I better go do that… NOW.

But if you’d like, check out the new website. You can find out lots more there and find all our social media stuff, too.

Suffering and Perspective

I’ve been meditating on suffering a lot this week. While I would prefer to reserve that word for what I think of as “real” suffering, such as malnourished children and painful diseases, Buddhists use the term broadly to refer to many unpleasant experiences we have in life. I will adopt that for the time being.

I’ve also been thinking about perception and perspective, which frame life into a story with a running narrative. The narrative can be anything from joyful to persecuted and the story will fit accordingly. My perception of inclement weather can ruin my day if I choose. I can take a longer perspective, though, and remember that it doesn’t matter because 10 years from now I certainly won’t remember a particular rainy day as being terrible simply by virtue of its rain. My perception of a tough superior or teacher can be one of persecution and mistreatment, only to later understand that I learned more from that person than anyone else.

So it is that the careful balancing act of living in the moment with the awareness of the big picture is often the best place to be.

It bears saying that this is not a free pass for mistreatment of others. There is no excuse for wrongdoing and harming another, especially willfully. I have been hurt by others who willfully chose to hurt me but I can nevertheless choose how I frame that treatment and reclaim my story. I can take my power back by choosing my narrative and not letting someone else write it for me.

I taught a workshop last weekend in which I referenced the hidden gifts that suffering can bring. I referenced the death of my Grandma, three days before my wedding. There are certainly many other examples in my life but this one is very powerful. I find that many people relate to it and can feel the emotions along with me when I tell the story. It took me a year to write about it but I did eventually manage and you can read it here. While I was lucky enough to gain some perspective immediately, the passage of time is the only thing that has helped me to grow in my appreciation of the WHY. Truly, I will never know every detail until I am on the other side, but I am learning that the story grows richer with each telling. When I wrote that blog entry, I hadn’t told the story framed in that way until just then. Now I tell the story as an illustration of a lesson and I find that others are benefitted by it. This has deepened my perspective yet again to one of gratitude, a place I never imagined in the first days and months after she died.

My Sister and Nephew! Brand New Aunties, Brand New NephewOn Sunday of this week at 12:17 pm, my nephew was born, thereby ending months of anticipation of two families and becoming the first grandchild on my side of the family. If there is ever any example of suffering with a purpose and prize, childbirth is certainly one! My sister suffered through the ups and downs of pregnancy as her body changed and she made sacrifices for the good of the child she wouldn’t meet for months more. As he grew, eventually things got crowded and the last weeks of pregnancy discomfort were enough to rob her of sleep and sanity. Labor itself can’t even be described by someone like myself who has yet to go through it. I can rest assured it was intense, painful, and exhausting. And yet, there at the end? When the entire family rushed into the room to greet this new life? She was positively aglow in joy and contentment. Her son was finally here and everything else that had happened was unimportant compared to his tiny features and perfect face. She had suffered to bring him into the world but the end result was there to frame all the struggle into a success story. Instant, forever perspective.

I don’t have all the answers. None of us do. I don’t know the reasons WHY for everything that happens. I do know this: Suffering, whatever the scale, is a necessary part of the human experience in order for growth to happen. We should still eliminate poverty and hunger and find the cure to cancer. Don’t get me wrong. Those are causes I support! But even with those problems solved, suffering would still exist. We would still hurt each other, sometimes on purpose, and people would still die and leave voids in hearts. The greatest growth comes from challenges and suffering when we rise to meet the occasion and then gain wisdom and newfound perspective.

Whatever I’ve suffered in my life, I can choose to see as part of my story that created growth or I can choose to see myself as ruined by the circumstances and people involved. I can choose to be a victim forever or I can choose to draw strength, wisdom, and move forward. I can unshackle myself with perspective since I and I alone hold the keys. I can even find gratitude for the lesson, later on. My soul is powerful and fearless, my body is made of stardust, and my life is an adventure. Suffering is just part of the journey.

That Redhead, Photographer?

Well, who’d a thought. I was hired just about two weeks ago for my first gig as a photographer. I actually never asked for such a job but am pleased and not a little surprised at the results.

Let me backtrack a second. I was asked to photograph my sister’s engagement portraits. It’s not exactly like I was hired to produce the cover image for Vogue or Vanity Fair. I’m also not pretending I’m a professional photographer.

So, for whatever reason, despite my forever and ever interest in photography, photography classes, and knowledge of my fantastic camera, I had never thought of pursuing photography. Despite the fact that my grandfather was a professional photographer and my father is a fantastic amateur photographer. I’m usually in front of the camera, after all, right? I also never realized how my time in front of the camera, on set and in self portraits, would actually teach me how to direct people and frame shots. Apparently, I’m the only one who is surprised. When my sister asked, I told my husband who simply shrugged and said that that was great and of course she’d ask. Huh. So I guess I’m the last to know but hey, I’m alright with that.

Now for some of my favorite pictures of my gorgeous sister and soon-to-be brother in law. They certainly made my job easy. It’s hard to take a bad photo of them and the chemistry is unmistakeable.

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I will continue this experiment as a photographer, to be sure. At the very least, it’s certainly fun to have yet another creative outlet! Lord knows I didn’t already have enough of those! ;)

 

It’s a Crabby World

Crabby Redhead

Have you ever woken up and noticed, as you left the house, that everyone around you seems to be in a crabby mood? In Chicago, the city of ever-changing weather extremes, this happens most on rainy, dreary, and snowy mornings. Traffic is terrible, getting to work takes forever, everyone is crabby in their cars on the way there, and then everyone at work starts the day crabby as well. “It’s just one of those days,” everyone says while shaking their heads. “The weather is just terrible today,” someone else remarks. And so the crabbiness festers and infects those in its path who can’t fight it off.

Yesterday was such a day. I’m still a bit jet-lagged from our trip abroad in Ireland, as is Jim, which has made for some odd hours here at our home. I can sleep just about anywhere, anytime, but Jim has been crashing before 9:00 in the evening which has made a wakeup for him in the wee hours of the morning. It took a while to get both of us awake and ready to leave. We finally got ready and noticed that, unlike the sunny day before, the morning was grey, misting, and foggy. A little Irish weather following us home, perhaps? Jim put on his new Irish sweater and I dressed for my audition.

Lately, we have been listening to mantras and other positive influences in the car during the morning commute. I can’t recommend it enough since it starts the whole day right. We’re working through some mantras by Deepak Chopra currently and listened to them twice as Jim drove. They included thoughts about the effect of the ego. Chopra intoned about fear and anger creating tension in the body. We repeated back the mantras. As we drove, we noticed the traffic was pretty congested but consciously ignored the crabby energy rising in the cars around us. Jim yielded to a few drivers who waved their thanks. He pulled over near work to hop out and a UPS driver gave him a middle finger for pulling over, though there was plenty of room to get around. After laughing about how crabby everyone is, we parted.

The audition went well and I was off to the dermatologist for a laser treatment on a small scar (I call it “getting zapped”). I decided to get there early and make sure I found parking. Good thing I did, since the parking garage was at capacity. I got to the top without finding a spot, then circled down to the bottom. I got stuck behind a very slow and cautious driver and eventually turned around to head back up again. I stalked a lady coming out with her mother. She walked ahead and started the car while her mother slowly limped to the car. I had felt aggravation rising inside me like coals igniting a flame on this third pass for a parking space. I slapped down the fire quickly. This is a hospital  facility, Christiana! Every parking space is accounted for by either a hardworking physician and their helpers or someone who needs medical care. This is why you got here early. Of course everyone drove today because of the misting rain so of course things are full. I sent a silent prayer for the limping lady and reminded myself of my latest episode in foot pain, to be repeated this coming Friday.

The parking garage was down to one elevator. The elevator was full of damp and crabby people, some of whom were probably running late. It stopped at every floor. I eventually made it to the office. It was only once I checked in that I noticed how many people were in the waiting room. A few minutes later, a man crabbed to the receptionist that he had been waiting for more than 30 minutes to be seen. The office rarely runs behind by more than a few minutes and this treatment is quick, so I assumed the best and settled into reading tweets and Facebook comments. I was taken back to have numbing cream applied then sent back out to wait for the doctor to zap me. I settled into reading again and peripherally noticed the time pass. Eventually, I was the only person in the waiting room and had been for about 10 minutes. I realized that I had been at the office about an hour at that point so I inquired at the desk. “He’s running behind today,” I was told.

“He’s running really behind!” I responded. Now the general crabbiness was starting to infect ME! No one wants to sit in a waiting room for an hour; there are many more valuable things I could do with that time! My thoughts began to get more self-centered as the minutes ticked by. I could be blogging or responding to emails if I had my laptop. I could be reading a book. I’m getting really hungry! I have a million things to do! This long of a wait is so disrespectful! I should just leave and reschedule but I’m already here with numbing cream on and that’s almost a bigger waste of time to have to come back! ACK!

It was all I could do to listen to these thoughts and remember that they were, in the end, minor aggravations and not worth that much emotion. Yes, my time is valuable but I had nothing else pressing on the books for the rest of that morning. I could wait. Besides, who am I to know the exact reasons the doctor’s office is behind? Someone could have had an emergency. They could be short staffed. They might have had to squeeze someone in last minute who had a problem. Or, it could just be that everyone is infected with the general crabbiness that’s in the air.

The doctor sincerely apologized. He quickly zapped my scar while I imagined trying to tolerate that treatment on my face. Yikes. Finished, I checked out and left to get my ticket validated for parking. A woman larger than myself spun away from the window, bumped into me hard, sent me reeling, and nearly knocked me over. My mind rushed forward with about five snappy remarks to make but I chose stunned silence instead. Why contribute to the crabbiness? She didn’t apologize and marched into the parking garage. I caught my breath and approached the window with ticket in hand. The security officer smiled and started laughing. “Would you believe,” she said,”that someone just did the same exact thing to her? Someone just ran into her and now she ran into you. And she chewed that person out!”

Yes, I thought, I can believe that. “Well, I guess I’m just trying to be like water today,” I replied, “I’m going to move around the rocks in my path without resistance. Everyone is so crabby today and I’m determined to not get crabby myself!” The security officer smiled again and punched my ticket. “It sure is a crazy day. Hope you have a great one!”

I took inventory of my day so far. Let’s see: nice morning with my husband, mantras in the car together, misty weather that I rather like, good music on the classical music radio station. An audition that went well. A doctor’s appointment that was long but then again they aren’t charging me for it since they put that scar there last summer. That skin biopsy last summer was benign after all, too. Plenty of time left to run errands and, as the lightbulb went off, inspiration to write about. The crabbiness lifted for good.

“Thanks! I will!”