10 things I loved in Chicago

I started meeting monthly with a spiritual director this summer, somebody to help me hold space for all the thoughts and feelings that make up The Bumble of my life.

Last time I was talking with her about stuff that's coming up in the next few months: travel plans, transitions back to college for the kids, and GRANDPARENTING, starting in November.

She asked me how all of those things felt to me, looking ahead.

Like gifts, I said.

I love to travel, my kids are happy in college, and I've heard grandparenting is the best thing God ever invented.  

So it feels like good gifts are on the way.

I don't think I'm in denial about the hard things that happen in life.  In fact, my tendency is to catastrophize and overthink rather than deny.  (Anybody who's been reading here for more than five minutes has probably caught onto that.)

The real trick for me is to enjoy life and receive Love, wherever it presents itself.

I've had to train myself carefully to be present in the beautiful moments and to breathe in the goodness, rather than plow over it, worrying about what comes next.

I've had to learn that there is plenty for all of us.  I don't have to divert Love away from myself toward the next person, as if it will run out.  

I don't have to feel guilty for having too much Love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, gentleness in my life.  

There is always, always enough for all of us when we receive fully and share freely.


Andy had a conference in Chicago last week.  He also had some extra Southwest airline miles and Hilton hotel points, so I flew up on Thursday night and we checked out the Windy City together.  

Just for fun.  

Just for joy.  

Just for Love.

In gratitude for the gifts of beauty and fun, here are 10 of my favorite things about our trip to Chicago.

1.  Deep Dish delivered.  When you've been deplaned and rescheduled, walked in the rain to your hotel, and don't have correct change for the city bus to take you places ($2.25, FYI), the nice people at Lou Malnati's will bring your pizza to your door.

I know I was supposed to eat Giordano's too.  But every manjack tourist was trying to do the same, including 100,000 teenagers from Lolapalooza.  (And for once, that is a real number, not an exaggeration.)  

I could have bought the frozen Giordano's, flown it back to Dallas, and baked in my own oven in less time than it would have taken to wait it out at the store.  

So, for sheer ability to deliver the pie, Lou Malnati's is my guy.

2.  Cloud Gate (better known as The Bean) was fantastic!  This is the first thing we visited, Friday morning.  I had low expectations, because how awesome can a big bean-shaped piece of metal really be?  

But you guys!  

I loved it!  

From every angle!  

It was magical!  

Chicago won me over with The Bean before 9 a.m.

3.  We walked, outside, during the day, without risk of heat stroke.  For people who live in Texas, this is not a normal summer activity.  I appreciated every blissful outdoor moment.  

Also, flowery things were blooming.  Profusely.  Everywhere.  Again, not normal in Texas in July.

4.  Lurie Gardens, where more flowery things were blooming and little yellow birdies were flying.  

I wanted to get married right here.

5.  Our first museum stop was The Driehaus Museum, a restored Gilded Age mansion with an extensive collection of Tiffany glass including this wonderful domed ceiling.  

6.  Later in the day, we went on to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chagall windows.   (Officially titled The America Windows.) 

Stained glass interprets light into a space in a way that's highly evocative to me.  The Driehaus dome felt like the perfect summer day, with gold and green light sifting down through the trees.  The Chagall windows felt like floating in water, like being on the lake, looking toward the city from a distance.  

7.  The Thorne Miniature Rooms at The Art Institute.  This photo looks like a painting, but it's a miniature room, like a doll house.  

Mrs. James Ward (Narcissa Niblack Thorne was her maiden name) directed the creation of the rooms from 1932 to 1940.  The Great Depression meant that skilled artisans were looking for work, and she had ideas about what those artisans could do with some of the money she'd married into.  

There are 68 of these rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, and according to Wikipedia, there are 20 at the Phoenix Art Museum, and nine at the Knoxville Museum of Art.  

8.  Portillo's.  

My friends, we had no idea what we were getting into.  Yelp said it was good, and there was kind of a line but it was moving quickly, so we got swept up in the moment.

Yelp said we had to order the Italian Beef and fries.  So we did, and THEN.


THEN we had to stand in this crowd and wait for our number to be called.  

It's like they moved the mosh pit up the street from Lolapalooza.  Only instead of music, there's this lady behind the counter shouting out "387, 14, 3. 3. 3. 3. 14, 19, 256, 144, 3. 3. 3. 3."  And hands come up out of the crowd, waving the matching ticket, and the bag full of sandwiches crowd-surfs over to its owner.  (Everyone expresses annoyance at owner of sandwich 3, offers to eat it if he doesn't want it.)

I've never been part of a scene of such mayhem around sandwiches.  It was an Experience.

9.  The twilight cruise with the Chicago Architechture Foundation.  

No words, just this one picture.

10.  The L.  Gritty, grimy, noisy things that they are, I loved the elevated trains!  Saturday morning, we took the Brown Line up to Lincoln Park for brunch with friends, and the L gave us a wonderful up-close view of the architectural details of all the buildings.  I like the weather-beaten details of the train stations themselves, too.

On the train back to Midway airport on Saturday afternoon, we were serenaded by a girl who said she'd been on American Idol.  

She gifted us with my favorite Bob Marley song, and so I'm passing it along to you.

Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs

Bob Marley

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