Sportsmanlike Conduct: My Weekend in Indy

An annual tradition of mine is to go to a Chicago Bears football game at Soldier Field.

I wake up early — layer up to face the unkind brisk Chicago winds that cannot help but exist this time of year — and prepare for a day immersed in football.

Tailgating usually begins about 8am for me. Show up early to grab a solid parking spot, unload the grill and meats and cigars and brews with friends and family.

We have Chicago Bears tents, Bears blankets, Bears chairs, Bears hoodies and even Bears grill gear. We eat and enjoy the company of our fellow tailgating neighbors. Chicago Bears football tailgating is a perfect community gathering spot.

When it’s time to pack up so we don’t miss kick-off, thousands of hardcore (and I’m sure a decent mix of fair weather fans) march in solidarity towards our very own Soldier Field.

It’s a tradition and a fun one. This year we altered it a little to see what else is out there.

On Saturday afternoon, I loaded into a car with a few members of my family and headed for Downtown Indianapolis.

My teenage niece who I wrote about last Sunday is a Indianapolis Colts fan. Don’t ask me how it happened. None of us know and even her story isn’t convincing.

Regardless, when we came around to picking a game this year, at first we thought about traveling to see our Bears in another city. We were going to take our show on the road. Then because we usually pick a game around the same time every year, we decided to really go outside the box. We chose the Colts v. New Orleans Saints.

My niece is the reason we ended up in Indy this weekend. We wanted to give her a live chance to cheer for her team.

I’ll be honest I went through the seven stages of grief when I realized we had no plans to see our Bears this year. I really didn’t hit acceptance until Friday night when I was packing to leave.

But I love football. I also have a Fantasy Football League roster that makes any NFL game a little more fun even if my Bears aren’t playing. Chicago also had a bye week so I could rest easy not feeling like I might be cheating on my home team.

I have not been to Indy for several years but I must say, I had a blast. We stayed right downtown at the Hyatt Regency which was a gorgeous hotel in the middle of all the action.

We enjoyed a great meal at the Colts Grille, listened to live Blues music at The Slippery Noodle on Saturday night and got to do a light version of our regular tailgating tradition before game kick-off on Sunday.

There was a healthy mix of Colts and Saints representation throughout the weekend. For anyone who watched the game, the Saints won but everyone stayed mostly cordial. 

Lucas Oil Stadium is really impressive. The energy between Andrew Luck and the boys with the fans in the stands was unlike anything I have seen at Soldier Field.

In and through it all, we met great people this weekend. Folks were kind and hospitable everywhere we went.

For example, we went to pay cover for the Blues bands and it was $10/person. The doorman let four of us get in for $20 instead of $40. That’s how you make a positive, lasting impression.

In the future, we will probably stick to our home team games but it was great to try something new and different. It was cool to see opposing fans interact when you have no real stake to claim.

Indy I am excited to say I’ll be back and it is because of the experience you gave me. I am surprised to say I really enjoyed myself.

If I had to throw a flag on the plays this weekend, it would be to thank you for your sportsmanlike conduct. Especially because I wore all my Chicago Bears stuff proudly in your city and wasn’t chastised for it.

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Adventures in Babysitting

I am delighted to report I survived a week in Iowa house-sitting, cat-sitting and playing interim guardian for my teenage niece while my sister was away on a work trip this week.

It was busy, busy, busy. She had school and Driver’s Ed and Softball so there was lots of running around and maintaining the household for me. I also worked all week so this was the closest I have ever seen motherhood. It seems exhausting.

Having no kids myself, I certainly learned a lot about why I’m okay with that at this stage in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love my niece and kids are great. But I also salute all parents because my small glimpses in your world are enough for me to believe parenthood deserves it’s own award show, Golden Globes style.

Number 1 rule to parenting a teenager:  There are no rules.

At times, it felt like the hunger games. There was room for sharp instincts, strategy, taking leadership, negotiations, winning and occasionally surrender.

I texted my sister a couple times at the beginning of the week, mere hours after her departure and said, I don’t know how you do it but bless you.

My sister is an outstanding mom and my niece is certainly not a terror. She is incredibly intelligent but outside the terrible two’s, the second toughest age range for dependents is from pre-teen to 21ish. I wish that were a joke. My niece like many other adolescents around the world just entered high school and mentally exist in a world I no longer relate to.

I used to be there though. I can only remember short clips from my teenage years but I’m sure my mom can recall exactly what I was like — the good, the bad and the ugly.

Today is different though than when I (or my sisters and probably you too) were growing up. We like to try holding kids to the same standards of living we have but it is tough because they live in a world we never had. There are some pieces that seem familiar and other’s we just don’t know how to begin because we don’t know where to start.

Today’s teenagers are living in the influence of home like we did but also with a sphere of entertainment/the internet like never before: social media, completely adult sexualized network tv, mixed messages at every turn, music with great beats but often poor messages and the list goes on.

When we see some of those influences play out despite how we teach coach, train at home, we might find ourselves asking, WHERE do they learn this stuff?

Sure it’s easy to say to teenagers, “Be strong and mature enough to rise above the influence.” I wish it were so easy. Even adults can’t do it.

Some adults spend a lot of time trying to keep up with basically “grown teenagers” like people keep up with the Kardashians. They want the stunning house, gorgeous car, the kind of life people aren’t embarrassed to spotlight on social media feeds.

I am pressured all the time to get married even by people who struggle in their own marriages. There is a sense of looking beside ourselves to the next person to compare or compete instead of looking ahead at our own journey.

Maybe our worlds are not so different, my niece and I. But that’s no excuse to forsake the basic foundational values we share. In our family we do not get so caught up in the gears of the world that we lose our character. We do not govern our home by how Stacey (or whomever) does things in their house.

The first 24 hours of being home with my niece was an adjustment period for us both. Then I set expectations, explained them and proudly watched her rise to meet them for the rest of the week.

She does listen. It is always a pleasant surprise.

For example, one morning she decided to snooze the alarm a few too many times. She had not fixed her lunch the night before like I asked. She stayed up much of the night on the phone with breaks for homework I think. She rushed to get ready. She was frazzled so I made her lunch. I was not going to take her all the way to school and the bus would come in 5 minutes so I compromised. I drove her to the stop but said no more. I was not sure if she heard.

I gave a gentle reminder later,  accompanied by her eyerolls but i wasn’t going to repeat myself over and over. And I meant it. I believe in kids needing to learn a lesson the hard way sometimes (within reason of course).

So maybe you lose out on something you want because you did not do what was asked of you or you miss the bus because you did not make your lunch. You have been warned that sometimes actions have consequences.

I see it as important because it is an opportunity to learn a lesson. Kids usually want to be grown until they have to be responsible then they either get it together or fall apart when the expectation is made clear by an adult.

Every day for the rest of the week, she made her lunch the night before, got dressed and out the door in time for the bus.

Another evening she was asked to clean the cat litter box before leaving for school the next day. She waited until the last minute and was asked if she had finished. She had not and was not happy about it. But even though she was dressed all cute for school, makeup done, not in the mood, she did it. Literally shocking. And it was not in exchange for something she wanted either even though she did have something in mind that she wanted originally.

My mom taught us a very important lesson growing up — you can’t always get what you want. I think kids today need to learn that too. We should not all get trophys whether we win or lose but we also can’t stop playing because we may not win all the time.

Both Growing up and Parenting in today’s world is challenging for a lot of reasons. Sometimes we have to step up and do things we don’t want to so we can gain the freedom to do the stuff we do want to.

There are lessons for all of us to learn. We can learn from kids. They can learn from us. They do learn from us.

Kudos to my sister for giving her all to raise her daughter. Another special thanks to my family who are also instrumental in helping my niece continue growing into a wonderful young lady.

A standing ovation to all the single parent households and all the couples/families out there figuring it out, making it work and doing the best you can. Keep going forward.

May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

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Summer, You’ll Be Missed But…

I live in Chicago which means Winter could arrive any day now. Today was gorgeous weather — mid 80s — a welcome change from the coat-wearing, fall day, wind chills we have had lately.

It was so nice outside that I tore myself away from the tv shortly after the Chicago Bears won and went on a walk with my sister.

As summer begins to fade, I will focus on cherishing all the good times until next year. One thing I will miss most is how easy it was to find motivation to workout.

I basically measured my summer in workouts. Every Saturday that I could from June to early September, I would peel myself out of bed — toss on shorts and a tank, sling my yoga mat across my back and head for Millennium Park in Chicago’s downtown.

I spent one hour for each doing a class in Yoga, Pilates and Zumba.

Three hours several Saturdays a summer may seem excessive but I learned from them and I felt fantastic doing them. The way the park schedules the classes, gives the group a chance to slowly warm up the body with each hour.

It feels good to sweat alongside a community of strangers in it partly for similar reasons. We are out there stretching and strengthening and challenging ourselves. We have an excuse to start the day in an ocean of sunshine.

The satisfaction I feel after 3 hours is worth it even though I am not a fan of getting up or moving around so early.

It went right along with my other health initiatives. I also use a free app called MyFitnessPal to track what I eat in an online food diary. It notes how many days I log in and it feels like an accomplishment to stay consistent for weeks and weeks.

I used to have a goal of doing it every day for a year. 365 consecutive logs to help me pay attention to salt intake or getting enough protein, veggies,  etc. The first time I made it to 325 days and missed one day of logging in. My day count went back down to zero and I was devastated. I wanted to give up.

I realized it was bigger than that. Seeing the ticker count up towards 365 was amazing but that could not be my only motivation.

I find myself paying attention to my health and wellness now more than ever. I can’t afford to wait for my health to decline before I start caring about it or noticing it. Unfortunately, there are serious health concerns that run in my family’s history so awareness, prevention and proactively doing everything I can to stay healthy is vital.

Even though I’ll miss the ease of working out in the summer, it has to be bigger than that for me. I want my heart and body to be healthy for more than just a season. Don’t you want the same for yourself?

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Make Your Story Legendary

I was inspired to write this post by an advertisement in Essence magazine. It made me really think about the value in having drive for the future big picture.

Sometimes life gives us flashes that don’t make sense separately but when you start piecing them together, the picture gets more full. I finally seem to be making out the image in my own life’s puzzle. I still have a ways to go but every day I approach with purpose becomes a solid day.

Have you ever sat with a puzzle that has so many pieces you do not know where to begin? I always start with the edges and pieces that seem easiest to fit (not force) together. Even when I know that the pieces will indeed make the big picture I saw on the box, the work is tedious and sometimes seems impossible.

Life is like this. We have all these pieces that we are in the middle of figuring out. Sometimes confidently, sometimes tentatively hopeful that the picture will begin to make sense soon.

I have found myself with puzzle glimpses into my future – professional and personal. The puzzle is still hazy but increasing the list of dreams is actually comforting. If I can dream it, I can make it a reality.

In Essence and Real Simple, I read several articles this week about ambitious, accomplished women. I have been talking with and hearing from many women I know who have made major decisions recently to follow their dreams. I was cleaning out my cabinets as an extension of a post I wrote a couple weeks ago and came across a book I had forgotten about climbing the career ladder in stilettos. I have refreshed my mile-long book list to include this forgotten one as well.

It gets me excited to read about, hear from and talk with these women. Success reminds me about what I am capable of. Stories of success used to remind me of all the things I was self-concious about having not done yet. I had to grow out of that if I wanted to live the life I truly want.

Here are 6 ways you can find your drive too:

1. Get Revved Up
You have to get excited with where you are going. If you don’t know where you’re going but you have written dreams and ambition, trust the puzzle to come together. There are still people making tremendous impacts in young and old age — certainly everywhere in between. You have to do the work but get excited about the work so you can get others on board too.

2. Embrace The Journey
The journey may not always be swift but I hope you deem it worth the work and worth the wait.

3. Pave A New Path
Sometimes it is important to think outside the box. Sometimes I do myself a disservice when I think I need to create an idea that is SO far outside the box. It can be just one step outside the box and it is still outside the box. I was reading about a young lady who created her own stainless steel water bottle that keeps water cold for 24 hours. She came up with the idea on a hiking trip after pulling out her plastic water bottle full of warm water because it was such a hot day. She developed the product, found people to help her and eventually landed a big customer – Crate and Barrel. She was smart enough to take a simple idea and turn it into reality.

4. Fuel Yourself
There may be times along the journey where you need to refuel. A support system and network is important here. Pay attention for when you might be running on empty.

5. Accelerate The Positive
When you find yourself in a good momentum, use it to your advantage. It is important to learn from mistakes and failures but… Don’t forget to celebrate the wins.

6. Be Ready For The Ride

What in this post was helpful for you? 

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