Archives for category: Love

Searching the internet is like going to Target. You often come out with a lot more than you were planning to get.  When I meet a new person, I often look them up online later to find out more about them- it’s much easier than just asking them about themselves. I find profiles from old jobs, LinkedIn, Facebook and other affiliation directories. Once in a while, I’ll find something juicy like a blog or a collection of photos from amateur modeling. Usually, the search is only moderately fulfilling.

And while I’m already searching, I also browse the aisles for the “lost boys”– boys I had a crush on in school, boys who had a crush on me and of course, ex-boyfriends. Not all exes- just the nice ones and specifically the ones who are nearly not findable. They are not on social media. They may not be local anymore. They may not be alive anymore.

There’s a guy I dated after college who worked long hours at one of the top law firms and spent the rest of his time drunk or on his way to it. He left the city to go work for a small start-up called Paypal. I’m happy that this chance opportunity probably paid off well and left him in a better and perhaps more sober place than he was when were together. I found him online looking older, though definitely alive and back in a buttoned-up corporate firm.

There’s a guy I dated after a long relationship ended. I met him online. He was a rebound with potential for more. But after a few months it was clear I wanted more for him and his career than he wanted for himself. It would have bugged me forever. So I ended it. I hope my online search for him finds him in a new job or living abroad. I still only see the decade-old photos from Okcupid and Facebook show up. He’s still missing.

And then there’s the last guy I dated before I met my partner. I would not have chosen him for a relationship but the universe chose him for me, putting him in front of me at every turn. Dating him taught me that there is such a thing as a partner who makes you too high of a priority. Every day, I was his sun. At first, it was charming. But then I couldn’t breathe. But I also couldn’t leave. He was so deeply in orbit I was worried about what he would do if I left. So I stayed. Then I left. Then I half came back. Then I quarter left. I couldn’t close the door. And then I finally did. And the next day, I met my current partner. It almost doesn’t seem fair. I got everything. He got despair. I worried about him but knew I couldn’t reach out. I had to let him heal.

So I searched, more in the first year, then sporadically when it came to mind. I wanted to find him on a dating site or on social media or with people or in a new job. I kept finding the same LinkedIn profile. Every year I searched again, nothing.

Until yesterday.

Still his LinkedIn profile, but it’s a different photo. He looks happy and it looks like someone else took the photo- it’s not a selfie. He has stubble on his face, but in a cute way, like maybe he has a lady friend who told him she likes him with a bit of a shadow. I was relieved. Here he is. Not broken. Smiling. And selfishly, I could go of the guilt I had for leaving and the fear that I had broken him.

I know the internet is still not able to tap into far-reaching places- I know this because I looked myself up and came up with many mysteries. But I hope that the lost boys are finding their way and if I can catch glimpses of them from time to time, I’ll always be happy to see them.


I walk into CVS and spot the seasonal aisle that has quickly gone from Christmas discounts to a red sea of Valentines chocolate, figurines and stuffed animals, seemingly overnight. Happiness rises in me like bubbles, a parade of conversation hearts taking flight.

Call me.

Big hug.

Be mine.

I’m aware that most people do not have this positive visceral reaction to Valentines fare. “It’s a Hallmark holiday,” they say. “It’s not real,” they say. “I don’t believe in it, ” they say. For me, it’s just as real as Santa is to a six-year old. And just like Santa, there’s no prize for not believing. Valentines is one of the last illusions I’m holding on to and I don’t plan on giving it up any time soon.

When I think about Valentines Day, I go back to a time when my dad would get my sisters and me heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Cliche, yet cemented into my mind. Parents are a place of pure love. So in my adult life, I continue this tradition as both the giver and receiver. Valentines Day gives me the opportunity to craft sentimental notes and be a little more affectionate than the average Tuesday.

As I drive home from work, I think about the past five Valentines Days with my partner. From the first one together, he embraced what I loved about the holiday and delivered. Celebrating this sugar coma holiday is a gift of full acceptance. It is him saying, “I know what’s important to you and you can depend on me to honor it every year, despite all the people who think it’s dumb or overplayed or both.” It feels more special than a birthday. Birthdays are forced. You have to get someone a gift and a card and carve out out time for them. Valentines is different. It’s optional and unnecessary. It’s extra credit. And the man who believes in it for me, will always have a place in my candy heart.

I wrote a blog post early in my relationship and came back to it today. Let’s go back in the time machine for a moment…

We all know couples who fall in love get engaged and even marry within two years of meeting. And as time goes by, their relationship changes. They get comfortable. Sometimes ungrateful. Bored. Apathetic. They work it out. Or they don’t.

I am afraid of this. Why doesn’t love last?

I discovered some surprising love research- Romantic love only lasts two years. The spark. The excitement. The “I miss you even though you just left the room.” A shelf life of two years. Sometimes less. You just fall of a love cliff and that’s the end.

Within the first year or two of a relationship, you skyrocket on a protein called the Nerve Growth Factor. You experience a flood of giddy emotions. But after two years max, your body comes back down to “normal” level. You go from heart palpitations to “Honey, can you grab a roll of toilet paper for me?”


After finding this out, I began holding on to every moment of my lusty love more than ever. Every arm on my shoulder. Every kiss. Every time I hear keys in the door and the jingle of the dog’s collar when he arrives at my condo. The sound of his voice. His smile in the dark. My sister took a photo of us in the kitchen where he is emptying the dishwasher, I’m making guacamole and the dog is wagging her tail. This photo is a moment- a box of wishes that have come true.

I feel sad thinking one day, it won’t be as special. That I won’t see any of it the same way. The dishes will just be dishes.

Three and a half years in, I can confirm that things have definitely changed. We now live together, so his keys in the door is just what happens every night- I would be worried if I didn’t hear them. I still love hearing his voice- speaking and singing. As for the dishes, he now does them every morning and it’s spectacular.

Yes, science, you were right. We aren’t on the wings of lust like we were when we first met. But we are partners in a way I have never known before. Our roots have grown together and our future is in bloom. And by bloom, I mean we have a growing arsenal of inappropriate jokes that have become both the backdrop and centerpiece for our humorous life together.

As we walked to dinner last night, he put his arm around me. It reminded me of the way I felt when he did this during the summer when we first began dating. I am grateful for the sparks that have led to this moment. I have a partner who is joyful to walk down the street with me, go on trips big and small and take on the world. And by world, I mean that he does all the complicated house things because I have no idea how to affix things to walls, put together furniture without getting frustrated or keep drains from backing up.

So science, you can keep your chemicals. We’re in it for the long haul and we don’t need skyrockets to get there.


fox2When I was in my twenties, I decided to take on a new persona of sorts. I didn’t want to be the girl who blended in anymore. I wanted to be what I referred to as a “vixen.” I wanted men to notice me for my looks and not just find out I was fun to talk to after giving me the benefit of the doubt. So I started dressing in more revealing clothing and wearing a little more make up when I went out. I discovered something about that vixeny greener grass; when I looked that way, I attracted men who didn’t care about much else. Lesson learned. I’m glad I got to hop the fence to find it.

Twenty years later, I have begun wondering about the other side again. Because most places I go, I blend in. Way in. Like invisible. And functionally it’s ok because I’m not looking for a partner or trying to impress anyone, but being invisible can feel a lot like being irrelevant. And that feels awful.

I go to bars with my friends, with my boyfriend. I look around at people. There is no eye contact. I may as well be a ghost. I guess this happens when you’re 40 and you’re not a vixen. I don’t get down about it but wish I knew what it would even take to be visible again.

This week, I was at work and by late afternoon, I found my car with a flat tire. I called my mechanic for help. He drove over to inflate it so I could make it to his shop and get it repaired. When I got to the shop, it was toward the end of the work day and one of his friends sauntered in. I think he was in his late 40’s. He was “old Chicago”, just like me. Born and raised here, Chicago accent, Chicago friendly. We tossed around old Chicago memories and reminisced about Jane Byrne and Chicago Fest. He was genuinely sweet and interested in both how I looked and what I had to say. He was all “It’s lovely to meet you” and “it’s not every day I get to hang out with a beautiful young lady” and “I hope to make your acquaintance again.”

After leaving the shop, I realized how flattering it was not just to have the compliments but to have the attention at all. My hair wasn’t washed. I wasn’t wearing make up. I made no fashion statements. And I was still visible.

The next day, I discussed the exchange with a coworker who is also in her 40’s. “Ya, I’m invisible too,” she shared. And she is tall and stunning and I felt so much better not to be alone under this cloak.

On Friday night when I went out, I took my new confidence as a semi-visible woman and did my hair, wore make up and put on an outfit that was both fun and authentic. While I didn’t stand out, I didn’t disappear. I drank. I danced. I enjoyed the company of my boyfriend and friends. Men asked my girlfriend and me to dance. Men talked to us at the bar. I wasn’t haughty or inappropriate. But I was there. Present, visible, relevant and without a fence in sight.



I try not to be a “thing” person. Things aren’t people or experiences or emotions. If I lose, break or otherwise ruin a thing, I don’t want to feel hurt. However, I do have a favorite shirt, a favorite jacket, a favorite pillow, a favorite plant and many other cherished things. They’re my favorites because they’re hand picked by me or by someone close to me. I’ve attached emotion to them. Emotion creates energy. And energy goes into the thing- both positive and negative. I am unfortunately still holding on to some negative clutter as well as necessities, like an alarm clock and a few different sized wardrobes. I didn’t really think about the effect these negative items were having on me until I got rid of a significant one- my old car.

Whether I wanted to admit it or not, my old car had a lot of baggage. I inherited it from my mom, though it was before she passed away. She was too sick to use it any longer so I paid it off and used it to get to her house from the city. This car was a means to an end, in too many ways. And because it wasn’t a car I ever wanted, I just tolerated it. While it enabled me to do things like grocery shop without a backpack and go places without calculating bus and train transfers, it was just a car. The line between A and B. A silver 2002 Toyota Corolla. The most popular car. The most generic car. The Smith of cars.

When it had troubles, I resented it. At times I thought about getting rid of it and not having a car at all. But once you own a car, it’s hard to go back to life without one. So I persevered.

Last month, when I could no longer justify the cost of making repairs, I knew buying a replacement was inevitable. Sticking to a conservative budget helped considerably narrow my car options. My list “must haves” included:

  • A hatchback, so that I could load things into my car easier
  • Some sort of aux connection to listen to music through my phone
  • Heated seats, because Chicago
  • A sun roof because it makes summer way more fun
  • Not silver
  • Not a Toyota

I had it in my head that I would get a Mazda CX5. The lines were sexy and it met all the points on my checklist. But after trying this car and a few others, I didn’t feel certain that it was the clear winner. My sister, and car-buying co-pilot, suggested I try the Ford Escape, which was a smaller version of the Ford Edge that she drove for work. I grimaced. At first glance, I thought:

  • This is an SUV
  • It’s way too “mom”
  • I don’t want this car

escapeBut to rule it out, I had to try it. So when it was my time to take it on a test drive, I got in, put on the turn signal and peeled out of the Carmax parking lot. This car was different than the others and different than I thought it would be. As I drove a very short distance, I had the biggest, dumbest smile on my face. Like, when you meet someone and you are CRAZY about them. In this car, the seat felt better. The ride felt better. The dashboard looked better. Everything about it made sense. And it had a PANORAMIC SUNROOF.

I took a week to think about it. Even though I risked someone else buying this car while I was thinking it over, there would be another one out there. It’s certainly not as stressful as buying a home or a formal dress.

The following weekend, I visited a Ford dealership to test drive brand new models. I debated the merits of buying a newer car and weighed the price tag that came with it. I worried I would regret the loss of disposable income and owning more car than I needed. So now the decision was clear- my sister and I returned to Carmax, where I traded in my old car for way more than the bag of Skittles my sister thought it was worth. The old car was now just a credit. The baggage was released. A weight was lifted. I would now get to buy a car of my choice.

I named it Gary.

At the end of the day, it’s just a thing. But it’s special because my sisters generously helped me buy it so I could avoid financing. And it’s not only got working brakes and air conditioning, but also a bunch of tricks like a large digital display, navigation, remote start and keyless entry.

I have never felt this way about a car. I think it’s because I decided to love this car allow myself to feel all the feelings. I bought Gary Weathertech mats to protect the floors. I placed a mango candle in the cup holder so Gary smells fruity. I keep the gas filled above the half mark at all times. When I’m parked at work or running errands, it feels like I have a loyal buddy tagging along, waiting for me at all times.

Gary reminds me that loving something doesn’t mean the thing has to be lovable, though this car is pretty lovable. Loving something (and someone) means that I decide to love it. Or not love it. Half-full vs half-empty.

Gary reminds me to keep an eye out for the things I love most and to let go of the things I’m keeping for the wrong reasons. I feel gratitude every time I drive, think about driving or simply think about how fortunate I am that this purchase was possible.

And now I don’t have to just focus on my destination; I can love the journey too.

We all have relationship baggage. One of my biggest carry ons comes from an old boyfriend who grew up in a world where women must not have bodily functions. So in our relationship, he did not want to acknowledge any of the 3 P’s- peeing, pooping and periods.

tpAnd I get it, but these things are real. They happen. And they happen to me. I didn’t want to discuss them over dinner, I just didn’t want to have to hide them entirely. To preserve the relationship, I agreed to keep this illusion alive as best I could. But of course, I had digestive issues and kidney issues and that damn monthly bleeding issue. Damn them all.

When we broke up, one of his parting comments was, “I’m just not attracted to you anymore.” And while attraction can mean so many things, I blamed it largely on not being able to maintain the illusion. I vowed “next time”, somehow, I would be more of a lady. A perfect porcelain non-excrement filled lady.

And that I did.

In my current relationship, I did not poo when he was at my house. Not for an ENTIRE YEAR. Finally on our anniversary, it happened. It wasn’t pre-meditated or celebratory,  I just really had to go.

Where did I go all the other times? Here is my shortlist:

  • Jewel
  • Starbucks
  • Bakin’ & Eggs
  • Gym
  • Work
  • Other gym
  • Walgreens
  • Nearly the alley one time

When I told a close friend about this, she was amazed at my commitment and her husband chimed in, “You go to Jewel? That place is horrible. Homeless people don’t even go there.” Horrible, maybe. But it wasn’t my house, which made it ideal.

When we decided to look for a place together, my requirements list began with “more than one bathroom.”I wanted the bathroom to be a non-issue. I didn’t want to wait to use a toilet and worry I wouldn’t make it or have to ask him if he needed to use the toilet before I took a shower. Maybe I wanted the illusion too.

Luckily, we found a place quickly. And that place had THREE BATHROOMS. But in the meantime I sold my place and had to temporarily live with him in his place. For 27 days. With one bathroom.

We were in the adjustment process. We had boxes and misplaced items everywhere. It was chaotic but special. Despite the inconveniences of the cramped space, I had never been happier. Every fucking day. All four of them.

But then there was day five.

“And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”…And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.”  -Genesis 1: 20-23 

It was 8:30am. I really had to go to the bathroom. I thought about either stopping at my old condo (still technically mine until my closing the following week), or just going at work. I thought, “But I live here now. I should go here.” I needed to embrace this. He’s not going to leave just because I can’t make the dinner we ate last night adorably evaporate.

So I got to business and it was fine. But when I commanded the toilet to flush, it did not. Instead, it swirled and filled up with water. And then, it overflowed. Water poured onto the floor on both sides. Water seeped into his bathroom rug. This is the thing of nightmares. I took a deep breath and tried to make light of this. I opened the door and said, “I was hoping to have two years until this happened.” He simply replied, “Plunger is next to the toilet.” It didn’t take long to fix. But I had to mop up poo water with paper towels. And then bleach the floor. And then ask him for a garbage bag for the bathroom rug. And swallow my pride.

Relationship milestones are usually things like first dates, first meeting of families, first holidays. In fact, just the other day, we went to a department store together for the first time. And went grocery shopping for the first time. How. Cute.

After only five days of co-habitating, I clogged the toilet for the first time. And despite blowing the illusion, we’re still okay.

rainbowsandpuppiesFor the last few months, there has been one question on my mind:“Why will this time be different?”

How will moving in with this person be different than when I moved in with the last person? The answer is easy, right? I’m moving in with a different person! But what if I was the perpetrator? What if it’s not about the other person but about me? I’m packing the same baggage so the questions still stands, “Why will this time be different?”

I considered seeing a therapist. We will get to the bottom of this. We will dig through the history and find the answers. But I kind of wanted to DIY it. So I just thought. And thought. And kept peeling off the skin on my thumbs, the worst nervous habit EVER. And thought.

Let’s back up. In 2006 when I moved in with and married my ex-husband, I had expectations. They were high- like going from Kansas to Oz high. Things weren’t bad but I thought when I moved into his place, they would be infinitely better. I would feel like I belonged better. Like we loved each other better. Like rainbows and puppies in my heart better.

But they weren’t better. They were the same. And the same felt like a failure. We were confined to a 700 square-foot home. No space. And no rainbows or puppies.

I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I thought I would feel more accomplished. More validated. Wasn’t this relationship what I had been “working toward” for the whole dating portion of my life, between the ages of 16-30? Instead of complete, I felt cramped. And lost. And oddly alone in this disillusionment.

This time, I know better. We’re starting fresh and getting a new place together. Both moving. Both knee deep in boxes and bubble wrap. This time, I know who I am and I’m not looking for change. I’m looking for the same, just more of it. More cooking at home. More parties. More falling asleep drooling on the couch. More music. More inventions. More bacon. More bits. More us.

And this time, I’m bringing the rainbows and puppies with me.

purseMy mom had a mantra whether she realized I was counting the repetition of her words or not. It was variations of “Girls, don’t fight.”

I was the youngest of three daughters by nearly eight years. I was the runt. The entertainer. The least invested in decisions. An only child at times.

My mom got sick the year after my father passed away. During the last 10 years of her life, my sisters, Lauren and Allison, and I grew closer. But a common gripe was that no one would tell me anything, from what was going on with my mom’s health to when my sisters were free to hang out.

“Mom, they treat me like I’m eight years old!” My mom would calm me down and tell me that no one was trying to leave me out.

It reminded me of a movie clip we have (on VHS, of course) of me at two years old in a two-piece bathing suit, chasing a nine-year old Allison who is teasing me by running off with my kiddie pool over her head. What if I’m forever struggling to get time, answers, or my damn kiddie pool, regardless of their intentions?

After my mom passed away, her presence was felt in all of our interactions. We shared what was leftover from her estate and my sisters gave me the money from her condo to buy one of my own. It was a gift of independence and security, one my mom would have stamped with her seal of approval.

We only had a smattering of cousins left and surprisingly, my mom’s strong-like-bull mother, Grandma Esther.

Esther came to live with my mom who had hoped to take care of her as she was getting older. Though it ended up being my mom who needed the caregiving. Watching your child succumb to cancer for years takes a toll. By the time my mom passed away, Esther couldn’t live on her own. We found a nursing home where she could get assistance as needed.

Esther was feisty. She decided that either her time had come or that she was a force to be reckoned with and when crossing the street, she would throw up her arms as if parting the Dead Sea to get cars to stop. When we asked her to be more careful, we hoped she would comply. Later that year, she began getting lost on walks in the neighborhood and we had to find a facility to provide more supervision.

Dementia set in and slowly worsened. My sisters and I took turns visiting, just as we had done with my mom when she was sick. At times, it felt like an insulting round two. Esther went from agreeable to angry in seconds and would take swipes at us and at the staff. When she became consistently less amicable, my sisters and I began doubling up on our visits instead of alternating. Visits drastically improved. I did craft projects with Allison. I built Lego monuments with Lauren. The three of us would visit on holidays and attempt some normalcy of traditions. We brought funny hats and decorations. Our mom would have loved it. Esther wasn’t all that amused. But we tried and it was all we could do to not feel futile in this relationship.

My guilty pleasure in all of this was that visiting Esther was the best way to see my sisters. It’s not that I needed an excuse, but we made her a priority and thus, each other. While we sat with her and searched for moments of the old, spunky, butt-pinching grandma we used to know, we caught up on each others lives and we did a lot of bits.

On lone visits, when I ran out of ways to entertain my grandmother, I found odd ways to pique her interest. I began pulling contents from my purse and doing a show and tell. She just sat and watched. I called this game, “What’s in my purse?”

Last Saturday I met Allison at the nursing home as we do on most weekends. Lauren moved out of town last year, otherwise she would have joined. In fact, we Facetimed her so she could be part of our new two-player version of “What’s in my purse?” Not only did we display our items, we traded them. I got a mascara for a rubber glove. Allison got a purple pen for a mini emory board. And so on. We told Lauren that next week, she should “play at home” and we would make virtual trades over Facetime and then mail her the stuff. She said, “I’m going to have to start collecting some good stuff.” She was ready to load her purse full of fun treats for us. We explained, “No, you can’t stack the results. It just has to be shit in your purse.” It’s fun because it’s random. It’s fun because we’re just naturally the type of people who collect packets of lemon juice, Hello Kitty lip balm and car air fresheners in daily life. This game was a celebration of our collective weirdness. My mom would have played for sure. Esther was in and out of sleep for it. But maybe the at-home game the following week would re-engage her.

I was already excited to play this dumb game. Because over our last swap, we talked about important things like where I might live after I sell my place and not as important things like why Lauren still has a house phone. We even called her on her home phone during our Facetime call just to see her run out of the room and come back saying, “YOU GUYS. Stop it.” So we did it again.

This week, I have been paying special attention to not paying attention what’s going in and out of my purse. I want to be surprised at my own results. Oh the mystery of what treasure I could walk away with on Saturday morning!

Today I received an email from my uncle, Esther’s son, who lives in Florida. The email said that Esther had passed away this morning.

I fell apart.

Not because it wasn’t expected. She was 100 years old. But because I always thought it would be a call from Lauren, the head of our trio. Or from Allison, the middle of our sister sandwich. It was an email, right between an open house alert from Trulia and a drink invite from a friend. It wasn’t supposed to be there. Not after years of trying not to feel hurt when Esther didn’t recognize us or when she tried to kick me or pull my hair. And not after only a few weeks ago, when she finally looked right at me, reached out and put her finger on my nose as if to say, “You have such a small nose”, something she used to tell me when she was still capable of speaking.

To make the hurt worse, I had to be the one to call my sisters and let them know. Lauren is a woman of both action and comfort. She asked me for details and calmed me down. We ended up catching up on a myriad of topics. Allison has meetings all day but I was able to give her the quick word in between them. She said, “I knew. That’s why I went back again Sunday.” I was glad to hear that Esther got more time with the collective “us” before leaving.

We are constantly pulled away from our original family tree by work, new family and other priorities. But Esther really kept us together. Sitting, locally and virtually, with my sisters on Esther’s bed at the nursing home this past Saturday, I thought, “I have never been as close to these two women as I am today.”

I feel devastated that we couldn’t have been there today. But I also feel relieved that Esther is done suffering in a debilitated mental and physical state. And I am grateful for her parting gift- the reconnection to the most special women in my life.

My heart, and my purse, will forever be full.

diceWhen people ask me how I’m doing, the first words out of my mouth, for the last few months, have been “I’m selling my house.”

It is the most logical way I can convey all the activity in my life. When it’s not physical- reorganizing, packing, storing and cleaning, it’s emotional. “How can I leave this place?” “Where will I go?” In fact, the latter is the logical next question people ask. I tell them the truth. “I don’t know.”

Next week, there will be strangers touring my home. Potential buyers sizing up the the living room for a sectional and peering out the window to see the snow covered deck. They’ll be walking through new finishes, lighting and accessories that have taken months to find, purchase and install.

There may be an offer as early as next Monday. And just like that, this place will have an expiration. I have no plan for the next step. There are so many possibilities that I have no clear direction. The future is uncertain.

In January, the looming uncertainty started getting to me. It felt irresponsible to just accept not knowing what might happen. So I began creating possible scenarios, from best to worst. I thought it would make me more comfortable. But then I had to remember all the scenarios in a virtual playlist- a collection of future memories. It became needlessly more complicated.

So I stopped.

I stopped trying to nail down the future. I stopped trying to know what I can’t possibly know. Instead, I began putting all my energy into being more present today. And being grateful for the people who are helping move forward. And the rest of the time, I’m just a big sap of nostalgia. This home is where I figured it all out. HERE. In this house. It’s where I left to get married. It’s where I came back when I got divorced. It’s where I had no furniture and won my living room set in a raffle. And where countless friends and family members gave me what I needed to feel whole again. It’s where I quit my job and wrote for six months. It was my comfort during that strange jobless time and during a mess of bad grammar, bad break ups and bad work commutes. And also celebrations. So many parties and meals and drinks both spilled and consumed. So much happiness. HERE.

I still don’t know where I’ll be living this spring. For now, what I want most is to soak up all the love and memories with the hope of keeping them close and taking them with me. If I can manage that, it doesn’t really matter where I end up.

LeftTurnGrowing up in the city, I didn’t have a strong desire to drive but I really wanted my drivers license. I took drivers ed at Lane Tech and while I was great on paper, I was not as stellar behind the wheel. One time I got so nervous in class, I accidentally switched on the windshield wipers and in my preoccupation with trying to turn them off, I drove into a fence.

My mom would not take me out in her car to practice.

Luckily my dad had a tougher stomach for these things and wanted to help me gain confidence on the road. He was a Chicago police officer, so of course he knew the roads better than anyone. We ventured out in his bronze yacht-sized Lincoln Town Car and shuttled around the city.

I passed the written test and because I had gotten above a B+ in drivers ed, I didn’t have to take a driving exam. Though even if I did, I think I would have gotten the CPD wave-through on that one. Once I was 16 and licensed, nothing really changed. It’s one thing to have a license. It’s quite another to have use of a car, which I didn’t. I still took the CTA everywhere and bummed a lot of rides. And because I didn’t need to drive, I didn’t. Ever.

I didn’t think about driving until 12 years later when my mom was battling cancer. She couldn’t drive any longer so it made sense for me to use her car to commute to her suburban condo instead of taking the train. Luckily, my sister was a drivers ed teacher in high school so once again, I got into the car with a trained adult and drove around a parking lot. Then we drove on actual roads, graduating to the expressway. It was like being 16 again; I white knuckled it the whole way. And when we got back to my mom’s house, she said, “Ok, now drive home.” I was finally kicked out of the nest.

This is when all my father’s driving lessons came back to me:

“Never hesitate.” Pick a direction and stay with it. Don’t waffle. Don’t second guess. Just go.

“It’s just a curb”, he would tell me, as I got discouraged when misjudging the distance on the right side of the car. He would reassure me, “Just do your best. That’s all you can do.”

“What does it mean when the car ahead of you has its left turn signal on”
, my dad used to ask me. Well, duh, I learned that in driving school. They’re turning left! “Wrong”, he would say. “It means they have their left turn signal on.” Never make assumptions.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re right, if you’re dead”
, he used to say when I would argue about the right of way. Sometimes you have to let that jerk in the BMW blow through a stop sign. It sucks but I’m alive to tell about it.

“You never know who might have a gun.” Avoid raising middle fingers, swearing, tailgating or using any other revenge tactics. There are strangers out there. And they might kill you. Be kind to everyone.

I’m still driving my mom’s car. I’m still not the best driver. I’m still holding on to my dad’s pearls of wisdom, on and off the road.