Polishing Your Prose, Part 7: Don't Write Exactly How You Speak


{The subject of this post is courtesy of Audra}

It's easy to think that you should write how you speak. We talk and we write, so shouldn't we write how we talk? This belief is especially true in nonfiction; and to narrow the field even further, I find this to be particularly true for those who are pastors, counselors, and public speakers by profession. However, there's most certainly a misconception to be aware of, because what people don't understand is that writing exactly how you speak will almost never sound natural. What you need to do instead is work to make your writing sound like natural speech without it actually being so. 

When I'm reading nonfiction, I personally find it annoying when an author shouts at me, makes a reference "to the reader," or goes off on a tangent. However, these are all things someone could do effectively in a speech. For example, motivational speakers often get louder when they're stressing a certain point. Pastors do this too. In print, however, you're limited to the words on the page, and no amount of capitalization or bolding is going to get your point across if you aren't paying attention to your phrasing. 



currently, i am...

less stress at my new job

my previous job was full of daily stress. so much so that it wasn't uncommon for me to have  dreams about authors and plot lines. and not the good kind of dreams. i've been at my new job for just over a week now, and while it is an adjustment, and at times i'm lonely (it's hard to go to a new workplace), i am currently enjoying much less stress. 
when the phone rings, it's not going to be for me. you have absolutely no idea how freeing that is.

how to be content

a few weeks ago, jordan said something that i initially perceived to be hurtful. but in the weeks since, i've thought about it, and i realize he's mostly right. that's par for the course with us. seriously, it's annoying how well he knows me. 

anyway, what he said is that i have a difficult time being content. this conversation was specifically related to my desire to buy a house. i've been living in an apartment since i moved to oklahoma 4 years ago, and now i want my own house. where i can have more than one storage closet and a garage and a yard where i can sit outside whenever the heck i want to. 
but that's not where we are right now, and i need to be content with that. as such, i've been trying to find ways to improve our current living space. even small things like my diy necklace hanger and diy photo frame that i made during my time between jobs have greatly improved my sense of contentedness. 
so jordan, here's an official thanks for calling me out. the truth hurts, and i didn't take what you said well initially, but it's what i needed to hear.  

*inspired by: 
a book i just started reading: 
the happiness project by gretchen rubin

i like resolutions. i like making goals for myself. 
oddly enough, i've already been unknowingly creating my own happiness project. even though i haven't been calling it that, i realize now (after only the first chapter of this book), that that's what i've been doing. but maybe for me it should be titled "the contentedness project." maybe. i don't know. 

i like this book. that's basically what i'm saying. 

*working on:
organizing my apartment

per items 2 and 3 above, i made jordan go through his closet a few days ago, and we got rid of a good number of old t-shirts as well as a few pairs of cargo shorts. and okay, jordan gives me a hard time about how many shoes i have, but good grief! this boy had eight pairs of cargo shorts in khaki, green, and blue. hoarder. 

*indulging in:
leftover birthday ice cream cake 

Harvesting Kale

The Tale of the Unmatched Office Prank


It started on a picnic bench.

See, at my old job we had a picnic bench. One picnic bench that everyone would pile onto during our lunch hour and joke about it falling apart under us or tipping over if too many people got off at once from the same side. But besides the jokes, we also talked about serious, meaningful things. And it was while eating lunch at the picnic bench, about two weeks before I quit my job, that I confessed to something serious and meaningful: 
my hatred of matching. 

"What do you mean matching?" they asked. 
So I dove into my rant about how I hate even the slightest bit of matching with anyone. How in high school my mom and I would come downstairs wearing similar colors--even something like jeans and a blue t-shirt--and I would go change. I went on to say that even worse than matching with a singular person was matching with a large group. 

For my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago, my entire family (I mean the whole gang: aunts, uncles, cousins) went to Estes Park, Colorado, for a family vacation. My aunt made everyone these really cute shirts that said "Short Family Vacation," and when we were supposed to all wear them together, I carried a jacket around with me just so I would have a bit of distinction. 

At this point a psychologist would probably ask me if I was a twin. I am not. 
My coworkers found this matching hatred amusing yet also odd and tried to get to the bottom of it by asking me if anything had ever happened in my childhood to scare me so terribly that I would forever hate to even not-so-closely resemble someone else. 

The only thing I could think of was one Easter when my mom dressed me in this green and white dress. 
I was eleven.
And my sister was wearing the exact same dress. She was less than one year old, and I was holding her. In case you missed it, she was wearing the exact same dress. I was eleven, and she was not even 1. 

I don't know if this is the event that sparked such matching horror in my early adult years, but my coworkers agreed that it was highly plausible. After the conclusion of my monologue, we went back to work, and no one said anything about it again. (This is the part where I add the cliche "or so I thought" line.)

[EDIT: After reading this post, I got a call from my mother, who said I "threw her under the bus." Yeah...I kind of did. Oops. Apparently I remember this whole dress incident incorrectly. My mom said it was a) not Easter and b) I only wore the matching dress for the photo-op and not out in public anywhere. She says both she and my grandma hate matching too, so apparently it's just genetic.]

Two weeks went by, and it was my last day at work. My friends threw me a lovely going-away party, and at the end of it Hillary stood up and said there was one more thing. 

"This is," said she, "probably the thing I am the most proud about of all the things I've accomplished here at T---."
My eyebrows raised in a classic puzzled frown as she continued. 
"Do you remember when we had that conversation about matching?"
"Umm, yeah. I think so," I said. 
"Well, for the last two weeks Hannah and Ashley have been spies. They've been getting to work early to check out what you're wearing, and then they send out a mass text to everyone in the office."
At this, everyone burst out laughing. 
"And the best part," she said between laughs, "is that for the past two weeks at least one person in the office has matched you every day."
Of course I didn't believe her, because hello I'm not stupid. I would have noticed something like this going on. But then I remembered that I am actually the most gullible, oblivious person ever and therefore would definitely not have noticed something like that going on. 

The awesome part is that they have pictures to prove it. Hillary said they didn't take pictures every day, but when they did... oh, hello, STALKERS.  
My favorite is the picture on the right, where Lindsey is looking directly at the camera and smiling. And I'm like, "Yum, this Subway sandwich is so good. Nom nom nom."

Then there was this day: 
I really don't even know what to say. To be honest, it's a bit embarrassing. I can't decide if it's more embarrassing that we're in Subway again or the fact that I'm wearing brown... again. Or the fact that (so I hear) this particular day I complimented Hillary's yellow shoes. The yellow shoes she was wearing because of me. Come on now. 

I'm confused why I hate matching so much when I clearly don't even realize that it's happening. This next one is pretty bad. I remember saying, "Are you taking a picture of us?" But they gave me some lame excuse and I bought it, never noticing that Hillary and Liz were flanking me, both wearing a brown dress and white undershirt. 

(Btw, I keep saying undershirt, but I just mean tank top.)
Yes, brown again. I have no words. 

On the very last day, I unknowingly wore something easy: black and white. And 12 people wore black and white. Because they're the freaking best coworkers ever.
On that day, Ashley really did stalk me. She got up early to drive over to my apartment and wait outside until I came out. She said she wore jogging clothes and a hat to either disguise herself or, if I saw her, explain why she was there. There was also a confusing fake hospital trip that she had considered, but that could have only ended badly. 

Hillary gets the gold star for either being creepy or a really good dresser, depending on how you look at it. She was the only one who matched me every single day, no matter how crazy it got. At one point she said, "Does that even match?" and wore it anyway.
[Note: if I knew I would be taking so many pictures, I WOULD have put on makeup and done my hair. Fail.]

I was told later that every single day this went on, I complimented someone on a color choice or outfit selection based on something they were doing to copy me! From this I learn that 1) I'm super self-involved and 2) I really do like my own outfits. 

This is, in my opinion, a brilliant office prank that will probably never be matched again. Literally, if I can help it. In case you didn't know, I hate matching.

We're Two Opposite Peas in a Salty Pod


It has become clear over the past 14 months of marriage that there are no two people more opposite in taste or social adeptness than Jordan Bumgarner and myself.  

Our first married fight was on our honeymoon road trip to San Antonio. We were maybe three hours into our drive and coming up on lunchtime when Jordan asked me what I had in our "to-go" bag for a snack. I pulled out a chocolate-chip granola bar and an apple. 

An argument immediately broke out over the fact that he needs salty treats, not sweet ones, and what, for the love of the dust bowl, was I doing bringing fruit? Goodness.

Granted, I blame myself. We'd dated for almost two years before getting married, and I knew what snacks he liked. For him, a "salty treat" is basically limited to:
a) a can of dry-roasted peanuts
b) a bag of pretzels 
c) a, b, and anything else with a lot of salt

At that moment I couldn't (still can't) wrap my mind around granola bars being sweet. Seriously, who knew? And an apple? Weirdo. I swear they don't taste sweet to me. 

The salty vs. sweet conversation (read: heated discussion) continues to this day. While I'm finishing off the half gallon of mint chocolate-chip ice cream we picked up at Target the night before, he's going back for a fourth helping of potatoes and fried okra. The positive side of this is that I get most of the ice cream to myself. The negative side to this is that soon I'll weigh 400 pounds and get shipped off to the Biggest Loser campus. 

(By the way, I did find Breyer's mint ch. chip at Target a few weeks ago. I freaked out and did a happy dance right there in the aisle, obviously, and would have bought five half gallons if they weren't already down to one. Later that week I also had no less than four people tell me they saw it and thought of buying me some. I either have the most considerate friends or they're all just sick of me complaining about it.)
So that's the taste opposition. But we are also as opposite as opposite can be in our desire (or not) to be social. Our second notable married fight occurred in our San Antonio hotel and went something like this:

Scene: We've just dropped our bags off in the room, and I've forced him onto the balcony to take a picture. Now we're back inside. 

Me (pacing around the room): So what do you want to do?
Jordan (collapsing on the bed and reaching for the remote): Nothing.
Me (pacing): What do you mean nothing?
Jordan (chanel surfing): I mean nothing. You know, just sit here and watch TV.
Me (unfolding the San Antonio map I'd snagged from the front desk): Let's go exploring!
Jordan (chanel surfing): My feet hurt.
Me: Let's walk to the Alamo!
Jordan: But my feet hurt. And Man vs. Wild is on.

And so it goes.
To say we're opposites would be a huge understatement. If I got down to the fundamental start of every argument we've ever had, it stems from the basic fact that we're just not wired the same way. In considering all the ways we're different, it's actually kind of ridiculous to me that we get along at all. And yet it works somehow, and I wind up thanking my lucky stars that he puts up with me.

He calms me down and makes me think, and I get him to do all sorts of things he hates. Like dancing at our wedding, for one. I've started packing peanuts and pretzels for car trips, and he laces up his shoes and goes exploring with me...most of the time.

Our opposite natures have been especially clear over the past few months. I've had a really difficult time dealing with some tough work stuff, looking for and starting a new job, quitting my old job. In those moments it's glaringly obvious that the way we respond to stress and change and uncertainty is like night and day. Sometimes it's so frustrating I want to pull out my hair, and Jordan's even told me that he wishes I were a dude so he could fight me. (That actually poses an interesting question: Who would win in a fight? Guy Amanda or Jordan? Think about it.)

So far starting a new job has been a harder transition than I hoped for. I miss my friends and the certainty of knowing I'm good at my job and respected by my peers. But that's really another post of it's own. For now, I'll just continue my undercover attempt to get Jordan to like fruit and trick him into going exploring with me using my signature line: 

"But this is the only _____ you'll ever have!" 
For the blank, just enter whatever word you want: 
--27th birthday
--Second Friday of June in 2012

Just make sure to be super dramatic. It works every time. 
Trust me. A little manipulation goes a long way toward happily ever after, especially if you're a pea in a salty pod. 

DIY Necklace Hanger {or, how I got my craft on again}


Apparently being retired brings out the craft in me, because yesterday I busted out another do-it-yourself project. Enter, the necklace hanger. 

I originally saw this idea HERE--note: on a blog, NOT pinterest, although I'm sure this has already been floating around pinterest for some time. Anyhoo, let's talk about necklaces. I've been hanging my necklaces in the bathroom for as long as I've been living on my own. It just made the most sense to me, because the mirror was in the bathroom. I lived in necklace-bathroom bliss for three years, until my mom called me probably six months ago to tell me that it wasn't a good idea to keep my jewelry in the bathroom. 

My mom has a friend who sells jewelry, who told her that the steam in the bathroom can tarnish the necklace chains, causing them to turn weird colors and look ugly after prolonged steam exposure. I, being the hypochondriac I am, immediately freaked out and promised myself I would removed my necklaces from harm as soon as possible. 

Like I said, that was six months ago. 

Since that time, I have worried about my necklaces constantly and (after careful examination) even taken a few out of the bathroom so they wouldn't continue down this frightening path of owner-imposed destruction. No, I'm not materialistic, just worried, thankyouverymuch. 

One of my goals for retirement was to make a necklace hanger for myself, but with everything else I got done, I ran out of time. Then I was granted a gift in the form of an extra day of vacation, and here's what happened: 

Now here's the deal with the cork board. I went to Hobby Lobby, Staples, and Lowe's but could not find a large-sized piece of cork board and didn't feel like going to another store to find what I was looking for. I needed a piece that was 16x20 (because that's what size my frame was), but all I could find was this set of four 12x12 cork tiles. That's why I needed the thick poster board, because I had a brilliant idea to get around the fact that I didn't have a large piece of cork:
As you can see, Jordan was a great help with the cutting and measuring. He's an electrician and deals with measuring and cutting all day long, so I figured he'd be more precise and faster than me. I just hovered over him with my camera, taking pictures and promising to not make it obvious that he was wearing just a pair of blue boxers. 

What? I didn't just say that. 
It's not his fault, though. I keep the apartment at 78 degrees. Poor guy. 
But I digress.

I'm going to skip the part where I ironed the fabric from Hobby Lobby and used adhesive tabs to put the cork on the poster. We'll move right along to the part where I put everything together. 

And...that's it! All I did was shove the whole thing into the frame. I haven't actually even used hot glue like I thought I would because I really had to pound the fabric-covered cork board into the frame. I'm crossing my fingers that it won't randomly fall out in the middle of the night. If you don't want to live on the edge like me, you can apply a bit of hot glue or super glue or whatever kind of sticky substance you happen to have on you at the time. 

The final step is to use push pins to to hang your necklaces
This is the fun part. (And the part where I'm happy because I can stop worrying.) I'm using these lame plastic push pins for the time being, but I ordered cute fabric-covered pins from See Jane Work that ended up being the most expensive part of the whole project. I hope they're worth it. 

So there you have it! My new necklace hanger is now safe and sound in our bedroom.

Total cost: $36.00 
That is for the frame, fabric, cork board, poster board, and silver thumbtacks. 
(I already had the plastic push pins, and I'm not going to include the cost of the fabric pins because they're an extra, unnecessary expense.)

Total estimated time: 2 hours (not including the time I spent buying materials)

Here's to DIY! I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty proud of myself right now.

Scenes from My Retired Life


For the past two weeks I have been living the retired life. I quit my job at the end of June and had 15 days of freedom before starting my next job. Now I know what being a teacher is like. Hello, summer.

In order to make sure I got the most out of my time, I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted to do during retirement. In my mind I convinced myself that this would ensure the productivity of the long line of empty days that stretched before me. This would also ensure that I didn't come out of retirement a dumber, fatter version of myself who had to carry a paper towel around with me when I was out of the house to catch the drool that trickled down my chin due to the lack of proper mental stimulation.

Thus, my retirement list consisted of the following: 
  • get oil changed in the car
  • go to the pool and lay out
  • go to Hobby Lobby and make a flower arrangement for my empty vase
  • go to Hobby Lobby and get needed items for a necklace holder
  • clean everything in the apartment
  • make a fruit pie
  • watch a movie and crochet
  • finish my wedding scrapbook
  • go to the mall and pick up Jordan's birthday present
  • go to the mall and buy makeup
  • go running
  • take family pictures
  • get wedding present for Elizabeth
  • get wedding present for Lauren
  • take old clothes/random household items to Good Will
  • fry bacon and make beans
  • do the laundry
Total completed: 14 out of 17
I didn't make a fruit pie, take my clothes to Good Will, or get all the items I needed for a necklace holder; but everything else got crossed off, and I felt accomplished. Clean everything was a lofty goal, and I suppose technically I didn't clean everything. But I did clean the shower, which I think counts for a lot. I scrubbed that thing down for serious. 

After I finished that up, I went to Hobby Lobby and walked around for half an hour pulling flower stems and eventually (read: $35 later) created this: 
Watch out, Martha Stewart. But seriously, I put this on my kitchen table, and it makes me happy to see it every day when I walk in.

I also got my craft on with a super easy DIY photo frame (check it out HERE) and my wedding scrapbook. I only have one more page left to go and then the whole book will be complete. I started it last summer, so once I get the last page, it will have taken me a full year to finish. (If you missed any pages, check out the entire thing HERE.)

An important event to note was my 26th birthday on Tuesday, July 10.

This is the only picture I took the entire day, just before Jordan and I left for dinner. I think 
my face looks weird, but I'm just going to blame it on the fact that we had to do the whole awkward-holding-the-camera thing that I discussed at length in this post. I wore the same dress I was wearing when we went on our very first date, which I didn't remember until Jordan said something about it. He's so romantic remembering my outfits and all.

And in case you were wondering when I got to cross "get oil changed" off my list (because I know you were), this delightful deed did in fact occur on my birthday. Because I'm cool like that and do car maintenance on my birthday. Let's be honest: once you turn thirteen, birthdays just go downhill from there. It's one fourth as many presents, twice as many grownup chores, and three times as much guilt for eating an entire cake by yourself because half your friends are either dieting in preparation for their wedding or pregnant and trying not to eat too many sweets. Yes, it's officially that time in my life right now, but I'm not ready to own a pet yet, not to mention attempt to raise a child. Good grief. 

Jordan's birthday is tomorrow (Tuesday), so I'll get some pictures of what I bought him at the mall so you can all be impressed with my stellar gift-buying abilities. Our birthdays are exactly one week and one year apart. It's awesome. 

I did go running as well. One morning I stepped outside all ready for a nice outdoor run before realizing it was 100+ degrees and I wasn't going to be able to make it two feet without having a heat stroke. Instead I made my way to the gym and ended up running for over an hour on the treadmill watching the Wimbledon finals on ESPN. For the rest of the day my knees were hurting. Note to self: don't run 7 miles straight after not running more than 3 in the past month.

There were a few other exciting items I crossed off my list. On Saturday I took family pictures for a friend of mine. 
It was terrifying, to say the least, but they were patient with me and I learned a few things in the process:
a) taking a good picture is much harder than it looks
b) I suck at working Photoshop

I will not be discouraged, however, and I will just keep practicing...and saving up for another lens. The 50mm is great but annoying sometimes. I'd like to be able to zoom once in a while and also not have to explain what a "prime" lens means to everyone who tries to use my camera and asks where the zoom is. 

The final exciting moment was flying back to Saint Louis once again for my best friend's wedding. This was bridesmaid event #2 for me, and I'll admit that I love being part of the wedding party. It's stressful and crazy, but it makes me feel important. Like, "What's up, people. I know the bride. Holler." You know, that kind of important.

So there you have it. A few scenes from my recent retired life to serve as explanation why I've been a sporadic blogger and also why life is fantastic right now. I start my new job on Wednesday, so tonight I'll make my list for tomorrow so I can squeeze every bit free time out of Tuesday that I can. Because I'm Type A, and that's how I roll.  

*Also, I did happen to find a few K pictures for my scavenger hunt, so I'll post that tomorrow! K was the hardest so far, so I'll be interested to see what you think of the ones I found.

Super Easy DIY Picture Frame


This is quite possibly the easiest craft ever. It's so easy, I don't know if it should even be called a craft, since the least craftiest of people could do it. But calling it a craft makes me feel better about myself, so that's what I'm going to do.

I have been wanting to display more of our wedding photos in our apartment, but I didn't want to go the route of individual picture frames. I was over at a friend's house a few weeks ago, and I saw that she had hung pictures inside an empty wooden frame. She said she got the idea from Pinterest, of course, because these days that's where all the good craft ideas come from. 

So today I decided to make one, and it was super easy. 
First, pick up an empty frame. I got this one at Hobby Lobby for $12.00. It was half off, so make sure you go when the frames are on sale. You don't want to spent $24 on a frame when you could spend $12, yes?

Then, I cut a piece of ribbon I already had in my ribbon stash and stapled it to the back of the frame. I didn't take a picture of the back of the frame because it's literally ribbon stapled into the frame. Boring.

The final step is to choose your pictures and use miniature clothespins to clip them to the ribbon. These I also happened to have on hand, but you can find them at any craft store--the mini clothespins, that is, not the pictures. 
And that's it! Just find a good place to hang it. 
Total cost: $12
Time: 15 minutes 

Take Me Out to Wrigley Field


When I found out my friend Alison was getting married in Winfield, Illinois, on the last Friday in June, I told Jordan that I was going to check and see if the Cubs had a home game on Saturday. And I told him that if they did, we were going no matter what. 

You can, therefore, imagine my intense level of excitement when I found out that my dear Cubs were going to be playing at home on Saturday, June 30, against the Houston Astros. This all happened back in March, and I stalked the MLB website for weeks waiting for regular season tickets to go on sale. Then we hit up Stubhub and bought two seats that we hoped were going to be in the shade. 

June finally arrived, the wedding went off without a hitch, and on Saturday we caught the Metra from Winfield. I showed Jordan how us Chicago suburbians roll, and he was impressed by the public transportation system. Once we arrived downtown, we walked to Millennium Park and took a few token "bean" pictures before walking over to the spot where Jordan asked me to marry him the day after Christmas 2010. Then we headed for the El stop to catch the train to Wrigley. I'd been to Cubs games before but never taken the red line to the Addison stop, which deposits you right above the field. 

I love game day in Chicago. Every other person is sporting a Cubs shirt, and there's an extra bit of excitement in the air, cheesy as that sounds. One thing I didn't quite take into account was the ridiculous amount of people trying to pack into the El. It was all we could do to push our way onto the car, and it was standing room only. It was a quick 15-minute ride to Addison, and then we spilled out onto the sidewalk and headed for the field. It was insane. There were so many people. 

Wrigleyville, as the neighborhood is called, is packed on game day. Bars and restaurants line the street, and there's an outdoor band playing covers of pop songs. Just outside the front of the stadium is the classic red sign, and everyone and their mom is jostling one another for a good picture. We of course ran into the problem of picture taking with two people, but I doubted the overworked traffic cop standing behind us would have been agreeable to helping us out.
We walked inside and were moving in the direction of our seats in section 206 when Jordan spotted a familiar face. 
"Look!" he shouted. "It's your grandma!"
Standing next to her was my grandpa, and my mom was just behind them. I was speechless. What was my mom, who lives in Texas, doing at a Cubs game in Illinois on the same day we were there? 

Just kidding. I knew she was going to be there.
That would have been way too weird. 

But we did just happen to run into them inside the stadium in a sea of 37,000 people, so that was pretty random. 
I'll spare you the boring story about why my grandparents and mother were at the same Cubs games as us and just show you some pictures from inside Wrigley, because it's freaking awesome.

The Cubs were down 1-2 when a 2-run shot was hit to right field. 

The Cubs won 3-2. A miracle, even against the Astros. 

My favorite part was singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch, but my second favorite part was singing "Go Cubs Go" at the end of the game. It's the song they play at the stadium when the Cubs win, and they put the words on the screen under the scoreboard. And then of course, the big red sign outside displays it proudly: 

It was a good day at Wrigley. 

{Embracing the camera with Emily!}

Sweet Home Chicago


I just need to say it. 
Chicago is hands down my favorite place.

And before you go all but, like, where have you been, because you might just have nothing to compare to...let me stop you right there. I've been to Hawaii, Texas, Indiana, up the entire East Coast, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and more. I still like Chicago the best, mkay?
This weekend Jordan and I flew to Illinois for a wedding, and I planned out four days of travel to all my favorite spots both in my hometown (Winfield) and in downtown (Chicago). 

At one point on Saturday Jordan told me that this was my vacation and we were doing everything I wanted to do. I was offended at first...until I realized that he was right. We were doing everything I wanted to do. I choose not to let this make me feel like a horrible person, because really I'm just doing him a favor by letting him see all the amazing places I grew up loving. 

The last time I was in northern Illinois was December 2011 for my grandma's funeral. There obviously wasn't time or desire to visit my old haunts at that point because it was just about being with family. The last time I was in Chicago was the year before that--Christmas 2010--when Jordan asked me to marry him. The proposal itself was a huge shock. I don't think I'll ever live down my incessant, naive blabbering about Jordan's inability to hide anything from me. But even more special than the actual moment was the fact that Jordan chose to ask me in Chicago because he knows it is my favorite place.
This isn't a secret. Actually, it's one of the first things I tell people. I'm sure all my friends think I'm super annoying.

"I'm originally from Chicago," I say. 
Then they stare at me blankly and ask the inevitable follow-up question. "So...how did you end up in Oklahoma?"

Now don't get me wrong, Oklahoma is home, and I love living here, odd as that might sound to people who still think we drive around in covered wagons. Jordan is an Okie through and through, and if you try and say anything bad about his beloved state, he'll either start listing off the ridiculously long list of famous actors and artists and musicians who call Oklahoma their home state (Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, James Marsden, Ron Howard, Walter Cronkite, Louis L'Amour, Mickey Mantle, and his great-uncle James Garner, to name a few) or just strongly consider punching you in the face.

(The OKC airport has a wall of windows with the names of all the famous Okies. 
I took a picture of this one because, as I said, we're kind of related.)

This weekend as I introduced Jordan to the best friends that I've known since sixth grade and pulled him around to my favorite spots and forced him to eat at my favorite restaurants, I realized something: he's never going to love it as much as I do. And although on the one hand that does make me sad, I also realized that that's okay. Because it's not even Chicago that I love so much. It's not the food or the entertainment or the ease of public transportation. It's the memories I have associated with all those places. That's what makes those places special and exciting for me, and I loved sharing that with Jordan. 

My family drove into Chicago on Christmas Eve every year. We went to the same Italian restaurant and got the same 2 dishes and laughed when my mom got mad at the waiter for trying to collect our plates before we were ready. Then we drove to the Lincoln Park Zoo and stopped for coffee and hot chocolate at the Starbucks on the corner.

Every summer my friends and I took the train downtown. We stopped for pizza at Giordano's or popcorn at Garrett's. We watched movies in the park and wove through millions of people at the Taste of Chicago. One time a few of us stayed overnight at my friend's aunt's apartment. We stayed up late and ate ice cream for breakfast and felt like grownups. I mean, as much as grownups who eat ice cream for breakfast.

One year, my family had season tickets to the Cubs. I drove my brother and I downtown for a game once, and we got lost, and I started crying and my brother was yelling and it took us 2 hours to get there when it should have only taken 45 minutes.

A few times I've sprinted to catch the last train back to Winfield. Lack of careful planning that I never took the blame for.

When I was in elementary school we went on class trips to the Shed Aquarium and the Art Museum. I saw the King Tut exhibit when it came to the Art Museum on its trip around the country. I've gone up in the Sears Tower to visit my friend who's worked there every summer since high school.

We went swimming in Lake Michigan and rode bikes along the beach. I remember listening to Nomar Garciaparra's very first game as a Cub. Everyone thought he was going to take us somewhere. My dad brought a radio down to the beach, and we sat on beach towels and cheered along with a thousand other cub fans.

Since moving south, we've made the drive to Chicago a few times. Six people crammed into our Suburban shouldn't make for a good time, but some of my favorite memories have been made on car trips.

So this weekend I took Jordan on a tour of everything I love about where I'm from. We danced with my best friends. We took the train downtown and went to a game at Wrigley. And we ate pizza and hot dogs all weekend.

He says he had a good time, and I hope he did. I wanted so much for him to see and feel what I do. But I guess in the end, Jordan was right: it kind of was my vacation after all. And I enjoyed every single minute in sweet home Chicago.

So tell me, what places do you love?
[And stay tuned for a post about our trip to Wrigley! Spoiler alert: Cubs win!]