Sunday, February 19, 2017

Our Day In Indy

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To round out the Chicago road trip on the way back to North Carolina we stopped in Indianapolis. In the past few years the brewery and food scene has been booming. The downtown area is home to museums, professional sports teams, monuments, and a lot of great shopping and dining. One fun fact about Indy is that it has more monuments than any other city in the nation besides Washington D.C.

In the morning we set out to Monument Circle, a round brick-lined square with views of the Indiana State Capital. In the middle of the square is the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. Being there around the holiday, it was decorated with Christmas lights. Steps surround the monument, and each side has inscriptions and statues related to Indiana's involvement in different military campaigns.

We later learned that there is an elevator inside the monument that you can ride up to an observation deck with views of the downtown area. Hours were limited since it was a Sunday, however,  and we weren't able to take it up to the top.  From there it's a straight walk to the Indiana State Capitol.

The capitol building is beautiful to walk around.  All around the limestone structure are pieces of art and memorials that explain more about the history of Indiana. On one side there's a walkway with a really interesting piece of metal artwork that's a good place for a photo-op!

A few blocks away is the beginning of the canal walk area which is lined with apartments and a fitness trail. It was freezing that morning and we couldn't brave it as most of the walkway was shaded. I'd imagine it's full of runners on a spring or summer day. I'd love to have an apartment with views overlooking the water.

Another memorial that we visited was the World War Memorial and the surrounding park. We walked up the steps and around the monument, we were getting ready to leave when Christy realized it was open to visitors. The inside of the building is a museum and event center. There's a beautiful antique theater and a shrine room with a massive US flag as its centerpiece. Its humbling and peaceful to walk through. Volunteers directed us to the museum in the basement which depicts the history of Indiana service members throughout the major wars in the nation's timeline.

Out back from the steps of the monument is a lovely view of the plaza. There's actually many more monuments throughout the city that we weren't able to make it to on that trip. It was fun discovering a small part of what makes Indy unique!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What 27 Taught Me

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This weekend I celebrated my birthday surrounded by old and new friends, family and loved ones. It included basketball (my friends are great sports), wonderful food, and lots of hugs and laughs. I couldn't be more thankful for these relationships or for everything that this past year has taught me. It has been a growing year, a teaching year, or maybe I'm just finally maturing and starting to reflect more. Whatever it is, life has taught me a lot and I thought I'd summarize some of the key lessons.

I'm grateful for views like these
Gratitude is the first step to happiness
. It can seem so counter-intuitive to practice gratitude when nothing seems to be going right. Some days are harder than others, but there's always beauty to be found somewhere or something that others would love to have. Consequently the more we acknowledge and appreciate what's in front of us, the more beautiful it all becomes.

For the longest time I lived under the mindset of "I'll be happier when I ______ (move, am in a relationship, can travel more...) Realizing and embracing how backwards that is can be the most freeing thing, because you live fully now. I'm happy now because I'm grateful for my fulfilling career, the loving and fabulous friendships I have, my supportive family, this morning's amazing sunrise, how much fun I had last weekend at the Super Bowl party. Don't put happiness on hold.

This also applies to expressing gratitude. Think back to the last time someone truly and sincerely thanked you for something you said or did. It probably had a positive impact on your day. I've often assumed that loved ones and friends knew how much they meant to me. The gratitude for those relationships needs to be communicated.

Pay attention to the patterns. Listen to what something is trying to teach you. That thing or situation that just won't go away, the hurt and pain that lingers, listen to it. What is the fear telling you about yourself? Learn from it, or it may keep repeating itself in one form or another.

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." -Buddha 
Anger isn't your friend. It sucks that they did that to you or are treating you this way. I'm sorry because the whole thing is incredibly unfair. Acknowledge the right to be upset, process it, then let it go. Again and again, each time it comes up. I've found that it's powerful to pray for or send positive vibes to the person or group of people you feel wronged by. Not in the condescending "I hope they see the error of their ways and start being a better person" kind of way, but in the "I wish them the best in their career and relationships, and a life full of joy and happiness" kind of way. Another way is to recognize their humanity. The majority of people would never intentionally cause another person pain.

Solitude is powerful, healing, and restorative.  Boston taught me that. Being alone is the key to processing and feeling everything I talked about above. Getting away from all the noise and chaos allows you to really listen to yourself and to hone into your intuition. Solitude is great for cultivating gratitude and creative energy. Once I began embracing the time I had alone, I let go of the fear of it. It was all in my head anyway. 

You're never the only one nor are you wrong for feeling that way. I can't keep track of how many times over the past year I was silently internalizing emotions or situations that I didn't want to share with others. Then over dinner with friends or a conversation with a coworker I'd realize they were going through the same exact thing. I wasn't different or alone. We're all in this together.  So share your feelings and what you're going through with others, chances are they need to hear that. 

 What was your biggest lesson over the past year?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Chicago: Mosaics and Silhouettes

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 On our last morning in Chicago we knew we wanted to check out the Chicago Cultural Center. This was mainly because it was originally the Chicago Public Library, and we love few things more than books. Plus we'd never really been inside a library that opulent before. Grand entry halls, mosaics galore, and stained glass, this former library has it all. 

It also has the largest Tiffany dome in the world. It's now used for events and exhibits, anyone can tour for free in between. We imagined it being filled with books. Perhaps that's the only thing that could make it more lovely.

 It was a fairly clear morning and the clouds weren't as low, so the last thing we did was head back to 360 Chicago to see how the city looked during the day. Vastly different than the architecture from the morning, we looked out to the modern skyscrapers that line the lake shore while the sun made silhouettes of the buildings on one side of the city.

 Lake Michigan is another highlight of the view. The still blue water is endless. I'd love to see it during the summer when it's teeming with boats and sunbathers along the shore.

Until then, Chicago!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

More Chicago: Art Institute and the Navy Pier

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For our next day in the Windy City we had one mission: to get to the Art Institute of Chicago.  I get really excited for art museums. No matter where I go, I always try to check one out. Being in a larger city I was looking forward to something on the scale of the MET or the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We took another quick stroll around The Bean and through Millennium Park on the way to the museum.


The interior was decorated in preparation for the holiday. You know those rare occasions where you go into something with really high expectations and somehow you're still blown away? That was our experience that day. The scale of it was everything I'd hoped for and more. Collection after collection, floor after floor, piece after piece. We wandered for hours through the ancient art to the modern, through the household names to the underrated to the unknown, and it never got tiring.

A lot of people had the same idea as us that day. It was a day off work for many. There were plenty of families going in and out of the exhibits. It's great to see children in art museums. As a child I didn't have much of an appreciation of art. I still don't fully grasp all the different genres or understand the various movements. I'm not familiar with many artists that aren't ones that society has deemed the main players. I just like how it makes me feel to be around beautiful things.

By the time we left it was early afternoon and our next goal was to go to the Navy Pier, another iconic Chicago destination that we decided we couldn't miss. It was cold, quite cold, though not too windy. The grey skies also persisted. Not many people were there with us. The slight wind coming in from the lake made it even colder. It was easy to imagine it being full and alive with people during the spring or summer. The water is a really pretty bluish green, and it has great views of the city behind it.

We made it all the way around before warming up inside as it got dark outside, before we headed out to a tour we'd scheduled for the evening. That's not all for our whirlwind introduction to Chicago!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Giving Thanks in Chicago

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I'm more than a little late sharing this trip. We were in Chicago over Thanksgiving, nearly two months ago. Chicago was the second stop on the road trip after Cincinnati. We got into the city rather late and had somewhat of a parking ordeal, because big city.  So we were a bit cranky the next morning as we took the bus downtown. It was also Thanksgiving Day and we were expecting a lot of things to be closed. The plan was to watch the parade and do the touristy stuff.

Within a few blocks the city starting coming into view. The crankiness began to dissipate as excitement took over.  As we got out onto the streets the energy from the parade took was all we could feel. People were everywhere, celebrating the day. Drums and music filled the air. The parade was mostly high school bands and a lot of Cubs pride. It was only a few weeks after they'd won the World Series.

We stayed for a couple hours, watching and moving our way through the streets. Once it came to an end we walked to Millennium Park, since most of the other sites were closed for the holiday. Of course we had to go the Bean, or was it the Cloud? We debated, we googled. The iconic sculpture is named Cloud Gate and is called The Bean by many since it resembles one. We were both right!

The area around the sculpture has to be one of the best people-watching spots I've ever been. There's an infinite number of creative ways folks from around the world will get their snap with the famous metallic piece of art. It also overlooks an ice rink. We contemplated ice skating but I have notoriously bad balance. Instead we just took in the view.

The rest of the park wasn't as crowded. After finding an open Starbucks, which surprisingly wasn't difficult, we wandered around the Pavilion area and walked down the serpentine bridge. Both have some really good skyline perspectives, though almost anywhere in the park has a good view. Chicago is a beautiful city, even on a grey day. The clouds just gave it a moody feel.

By that time we were ready for our Thanksgiving meal. While my family was back home eating turkey and stuffing, we found a place around the park that was playing the football games and ordered a Chicago Dog. Which is basically all my favorite toppings, with a hot dog on a poppy seed bun.

Hanging out while watching the games gave us some time to plan the evening. Again, we were surprised that both of the observation towers were open that evening. We decided to do 360 Chicago, and even though it was still early evening we got night views since the sun set before 5pm. The fog had settled in over the city for the evening.

What meal do you choose to end Thanksgiving Day the right way? Chinese from Chinatown of course! A lot of people had the same idea as us, many of the restaurants were fairly crowded. We chose takeout and took it back to the apartment, so we could binge-watch The Crown on Netflix.

It was an unconventional Thanksgiving that I couldn't be more thankful for!