Suburban Scrawl http://suburbanscrawl.com Ramblings From Thirty Miles West Of Chicago Fri, 24 Apr 2015 21:45:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Invest In Yourself Because Life Is Too Short. http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/life-is-too-short/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/life-is-too-short/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:50:45 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10600 I ran into an old friend at the store a couple of weeks ago. We used to see each other all the time: her older daughter went to school—kindergarten through grade twelve!—with my older son. These days, though we still live in the same neighborhood, we don’t have that common bond anymore and at most, […]

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I ran into an old friend at the store a couple of weeks ago. We used to see each other all the time: her older daughter went to school—kindergarten through grade twelve!—with my older son. These days, though we still live in the same neighborhood, we don’t have that common bond anymore and at most, one of us waves at the other while walking the dog.

On the rare occasion when we see each other out in town, it’s fun to catch up. This time, she asked me what I was up to and I gave her just enough information about my activities to satisfy her curiosity without making her nearly pass out. (She’s not a social media person and I know that less is more when I’m describing my work to those who aren’t “out there” like I am.) I told her how happy I am, doing things that don’t actually seem like work (well, most of the time), and from home, even! She said that it was fun to see how excited I am about what I do.

I asked her if she was still working at the school on the other side of town, and she said yes. I asked, “Do you still love it?”

She grimaced and shook her head. “The only reason I’m still there,” she said, “is because I get summers off and I can go visit my parents for three consecutive weeks.” (Her parents live very far away and while I believe that she sees them a couple times each year, the long summer visit has been a tradition for years.)

I asked her what she’d rather be doing especially now that her youngest was graduating, and she told me. It was something very different, not even in the same industry, as what she spends her days doing right now. Her eyes lit up when she told me about it. I said, “What do you need to do in order to get on that path?”

She had no idea.

I guarantee that I could have pulled my phone out of my purse at that moment and, in less than three minutes, discovered exactly how she could get started working towards her end goal of that new career that made her eyes sparkle.

But I didn’t.

I said, “You should be able to search for that information: just Google it!”

She said, “I don’t know…I really like being able to go visit my parents for three weeks every year.”

Knowing the answer, I asked her, “Are you happy when you’re working, though?”

She shook her head.

I said, “What if you were able to do what you really want to do, and maybe you wouldn’t get three weeks with your parents every year but maybe two weeks instead. Would that work for you?”

She said, “Actually, yeah. Doing what I want to do and being happier in my day-to-day work life would be great.”

Then I climbed up on my virtual soapbox and preached a little bit about how life is too short to spend time—especially work time!—doing things that we are unhappy doing. I told her I hoped that when she went home, she would at least look into what her first steps could be, and I offered to meet her for coffee (tea in my case but details…) after she did that and help her figure out a plan.

Here’s the thing: life IS too short to be spending most of your waking hours frustrated with a job you’ve grown out of or one that has ceased to make you happy. (It’s also too short to spend with people who try to take you down rather than lift you up, but that’s another post for another day.)

Even if you have to take baby steps to get out of that situation, you’re still taking steps. Maybe you need to take classes in order to reach your goal and you don’t have the time or money. No problem. Start researching online. Educate yourself until you can manage to enroll in required classes. Are your kids still young and/or need so much care that you don’t have much time to pursue what you want to do? Baby steps. Make plans. Make lists. READ. Find out if there are “side door” ways to involve yourself with that job, that industry, anything. Find a mentor. Get yourself ready so when the time is right, you can make the leap. Be open to doing a related activity until you can go full throttle. Better yet, be open to letting your path change along the way. MAKE TIME TO MAKE PLANS. You’ll get there eventually, and you’ll be happy you put in the time and effort. Let’s face it, not too many people win the lottery. If you’re waiting for a good luck fairy to rip you out of an unhappy situation and gently plop you down into one that will make you happy, you likely have a terribly long and miserable wait.

Back in 2007, I was working at a nail salon and was generally unhappy at work. If you had told me that after I started blogging that year, the eight years that followed would lead me to my being a hopeless social media addict who works as a researcher for BlogHer and co-produces LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Chicago and mentors new city teams on behalf of the LTYM national team (not to mention other opportunities like co-hosting ChicagonistaLIVE! like I did on Wednesday; see below picture that was taken by their staff photographer!), I would have first said, “HUH? What’s all that?” and then I would have been amazed and excited and in great disbelief, because it would have looked like a totally crooked path for me to take. Indeed, it has been, and I’ve loved every minute. Well, almost every minute.

Melisa on ChicagonistaLIVE

Co-hosting ChicagonistaLIVE with MJ Tam, Beth Rosen, Nancy Loo, and my partner-in-LTYM (Tracey Becker) was so incredibly fun. Also, I love this picture. (Photo credit: #ChicagonistaLIVE)

What got me where I am today was a combination of my willingness to try new things and to put in the work (and research! lots of research!) as well as lots of help and moral support from family and friends and mentors along the way. It’s one of the reasons why I love what I do on the LTYM national team: paying it forward is important to me and frankly, I love to see happiness on people’s faces when their plans come together.

When I said goodbye to my friend, my parting words were, “Call me! Let’s figure it out!” She said she would, but I have a strong feeling that she won’t and that makes me sad.

What about you? Are you stuck? I think it’s time to get out of that situation, don’t you? You’ll be much happier and you’ll wonder what took you so long: I promise. Now go get it!

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Drury Lane’s “Billy Elliot”: Effing Amazing! http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/drury-lanes-billy-elliot/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/drury-lanes-billy-elliot/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 20:32:33 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10587 Hey you, Chicagoland. Pay close attention to what you’re about to read: GO SEE THE DRURY LANE PRODUCTION OF “BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL”! Yes, I yelled. And yes, I said “effing” in the title up there. I would have used the actual F word in honor of its major role in the musical, but this […]

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Hey you, Chicagoland.

Pay close attention to what you’re about to read:

GO SEE THE DRURY LANE PRODUCTION OF “BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL”!

Yes, I yelled.

And yes, I said “effing” in the title up there. I would have used the actual F word in honor of its major role in the musical, but this is a family-friendly blog.

Let me back up for a minute.

The fine folks at Drury Lane in Oakbrook asked me to come and check out the show, on their dime, and I jumped at the chance. I loved the movie, and just a few months ago my sister and I went to see (and loved) the London production of the musical, via Fathom Events and our local movie theater.

So I didn’t even hesitate before sending in my RSVP.

Not only did this production fail to disappoint me in any way, it also actually vaulted to the space in the very top of my “Best Shows Melisa Has Ever Seen Live” list, as in…”Wicked” territory. (ooh, and if you know anything about how much I love “Wicked”, you’ll know this is extremely sky-high praise.) I was completely blown away, and quite literally in a state of shock at how much I enjoyed it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here’s a summary:

“Billy Elliot” follows a young boy as he trades in his boxing gloves for dancing shoes. In the story, which is set in a small mining town in the English countryside, a dance teacher finds a diamond in the rough when she discovers Billy, who has a passion for dance and ends up inspiring the entire community. Elton John composed the score (which is full of tremendously catchy songs). The original production won ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical.

For this regional production, Artistic Director William Osetek and his team wondered, “Are Billy Elliots found or made?” They realized after searching for months that the latter was true. “The search required a young actor who brought incredible raw talent, but needed to be cultivated to stand up to the impossible task of performing the role of a young boy whose dance ability leaves one breathless.” The two boys selected for the Drury Lane production are Nicholas Dantes and Kyle Halford (Chicago natives, whoop whoop!) and they have worked for months, honing their skills in ballet, acrobatics, and tap, not to mention acting and vocal lessons.

BillyElliot at Drury Lane Theatre Company - Rhett Guter as "Older Billy" and Nicholas Dantes as "Billy" - Credit Brett Beiner - .jpg

That philosophy and the boys’ hard work paid off. Nicholas Dantes was last night’s Billy, and we were indeed left breathless by just about everything he did. He wasn’t the only talented youngster on stage, though. Every single kid in the cast impressed me immensely, from Zachary Uzarraga (who charmed everyone in the theater as “Small Boy”: MY GOD WAS HE ADORABLE) to Michael Harp (as Billy’s fearlessly expressive best friend Michael) to Peyton Shaffer (as snarky Debbie) to the rest of the ballet dancers (full of sass, all of them!). I wish I had as much talent in my pinky as those kids have.

BillyElliot at Drury Lane Theatre Company - Cast of Billy Elliot - Nicholas Dantes as "Billy" - Michael Harp as "Michael" - Credit Brett Beiner - .jpg

BillyElliot at Drury Lane Theatre Company - Susie McMonagle as "Mrs. Wilkinson" Credit Brett Beiner

The adults were no different. Susie McMonagle was brilliant as Mrs. Wilkinson, and Maureen Gallagher as Grandma was perfect casting. Ron E. Rains, who plays Billy’s dad, was amazing to watch in his transformation from a weary widow who couldn’t manage to support his son’s dancing dreams to a very proud papa who was in awe of his son’s Royal Ballet School audition.

BillyElliot at Drury Lane Theatre Company - Nicholas Dantes as "Billy" - Susie McMonagle as "Mrs. Wilkinson" - Credit Brett Beiner -

Though you may not believe it because it rarely happens, this production left me speechless. And I’m going back to see it again in a couple of weeks: THAT’S how much I enjoyed it. Once again I have to say that you don’t have to go to the city to see a top-notch show. Drury Lane in Oakbrook is right off the highway, parking is free, and every seat is excellent. Oh, and it’s AFFORDABLE.

You can catch “Billy Elliot” at Drury Lane through June 7. The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. ($45), Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. ($45) and 8:00 p.m. ($55), Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ($60), Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. ($60) and 8:30 p.m. ($60), and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($60) and 6:00 p.m. ($55). Student group and senior citizen pricing is available. For more information, visit the Drury Lane website.

So…maybe I’ll see you there?

Disclosure: I was given two tickets to the Drury Lane production of “Billy Elliot” with no obligation. I wrote about it because I wanted to, and all opinions are mine. Photos are courtesy of Drury Lane.

BillyElliot at Drury Lane Theatre Company - Cast of Billy Elliot - Credit Brett Beiner -

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Wait, What Day Is This Again? http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/wait-what-day-is-this-again/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/wait-what-day-is-this-again/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 15:06:14 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10574 And the month, please? Well, I’m kidding about the month part. I know exactly what month it is (April), because I’m in the thick of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER season. I am seriously having trouble keeping track of the days, though. (I just looked; it’s Wednesday. In case you also wondered.) I just returned from […]

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And the month, please?

Well, I’m kidding about the month part. I know exactly what month it is (April), because I’m in the thick of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER season.

I am seriously having trouble keeping track of the days, though. (I just looked; it’s Wednesday. In case you also wondered.) I just returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City (for the LTYM book launch) and New Jersey (to visit my other family) and I had all kinds of fun being completely relaxed and in a state of recharge, especially at this moment (Sunday afternoon) at this place (the beach in Seaside Heights) with my sistuh from anuthuh muthuh (Liz):

Not pictured: the goosebumps on my feet.

Not pictured: the goosebumps on my feet. Totally worth it.

Now that I’m back, I’m all “OMG I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO” but not just in a LTYM way. My house, my other job (BlogHer), my attempts at keeping my commitment to my fitness tracker…so I’m just going to drop these here:

1. I took some amazing photos on this trip (if I do say so myself), but this one, taken under the boardwalk in Atlantic City and not nearly as amazing as some of the others, won’t leave my brain:

Rose

What’s the story there? A breakup? Or was it “He loves me, he loves me not”? I feel like I really need to know and I won’t rest until I find out. Okay, I lied. But I’d love to know what went on there.

2. Speaking of something I’d love to know, I overheard two guys talking as we passed them in Manhattan. One of them said, “…and that’s the worst thing about tractors.” What IS the worst thing about tractors? I wish I had stopped and turned back to ask. Any ideas? I have no farming experience.

3. Remember my stress about my fitness tracker? Well, the one full day that Liz and I were in Atlantic City with two of her/our girls, we walked nearly 19,000 steps, way over goal. Yay us! That said, I think I only made my step goal for 2 of the 5 days I was there. Those weren’t the first times I missed my daily goal. The very first time was the week before my trip, and believe it or not, my whole world didn’t implode. Yay me! Now I have resigned myself to the fact that I am just in the middle of my busy season and I’m just going to do my best. My best is all I can do, you know? (That’s what we always told our boys, so I’m sticking with my own advice. And you should listen, too.)

4. Speaking of listening, that brings me to the show. Tracey and I have been enjoying the advantages of producing our fourth annual show: we are ticking things off the to do list and, with eighteen days to go we have no worries at all about everything getting completed. We have an amazingly talented cast, awesome sponsors, fantastic photographers and a videographer who we trust immensely, and a great venue with a superb management team. If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet, you can do so here. (If you don’t live in Chicago but know someone who does, be a dear and pass on this info, would you please?)

You want to go. Trust.

You want to go. Trust.

5. Wait, what day is this again? Never mind, I’ll look it up.

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They Blinded Me With Science Humor http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/american-science-surplus/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/american-science-surplus/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 01:16:45 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10556 When I was researching my Chicago family travel book (Wait. You didn’t know I wrote this book? Huh.), I found all kinds of places around the Chicago area that my family had never experienced before. One of my (and my boys’!) very favorites was American Science & Surplus. This is not a sponsored post, by […]

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When I was researching my Chicago family travel book (Wait. You didn’t know I wrote this book? Huh.), I found all kinds of places around the Chicago area that my family had never experienced before. One of my (and my boys’!) very favorites was American Science & Surplus.

This is not a sponsored post, by the way.

The store contains what you would expect: science stuff and odds and ends. Lots of it is VERY odd, in fact.

You can get test tubes and bottles, but you can also get little motors and paper and maps and crime scene tape and marbles and lava lamps and frames and military stuff and literally thousands of other things that you didn’t even know you might need, lots of it older than dirt.

I used to take my boys to the West Chicago/Geneva location (on Roosevelt Road) when they were younger and give them a $5-10 spending limit. They LOVED shopping for their own stuff and would come out with a bag full of treasures that kept them busy for days and cost them, err me, very little.

I stopped in over the weekend because I was in the area (and I’m usually not!), and I had a blast walking through the aisles all by myself. I was there for nearly an hour and even found a few things to bring home with me. The best part was the fun I had reading the shelf tags, which are written by the hilarious employees there.

Forgive me, but I’m showing you eight of them. I took about twenty pictures so at least it’s not like I’m forcing you to look at my vacation slideshow but really, you should just go and see them for yourself, in person. Right after you finish this post.

"Catheter: Red rubber catheters...or really awesome drinking straws?"

“Catheter: Red rubber catheters…or really awesome drinking straws?”

"Shiny Happy Notebooks with pens of questionable quality"

“Shiny Happy Notebooks with pens of questionable quality”

"Rolling Ruler: I have no clue how this thing works but it does come with instructions, which is coolio!"

“Rolling Ruler: I have no clue how this thing works but it does come with instructions, which is coolio!”

"Bunsen Burners: Actually, you should let them cool before handling"

“Get ’em While They’re Hot! Bunsen Burners: Actually, you should let them cool before handling”

"Make your cheap last minute gifts look better. We both know you didn't really spend any time or thought on that gift, but we can make it look like you did!"

“Make your cheap last minute gifts look better. We both know you didn’t really spend any time or thought on that gift, but we can make it look like you did!”

"My Anaconda DON'T want none unless it's double-sided permanent glue tape, son"

“My Anaconda DON’T want none unless it’s double-sided permanent glue tape, son”

"Make your own Meat! Then sell it out of the back of your windowless van!"

“Make your own Meat! Then sell it out of the back of your windowless van!”

"Hey. Bet you can't guess what this is...it's a bottle! I know, I didn't see that one coming at all. This bottle is extra special and not at all like our other bottles."

“Hey. Bet you can’t guess what this is…it’s a bottle! I know, I didn’t see that one coming at all. This bottle is extra special and not at all like our other bottles.”

American Science & Surplus has one other Chicagoland location (on Milwaukee Avenue) and there’s a store in Milwaukee (on W. Oklahoma), too!

Grab ten bucks and head over there with your kids. Or without your kids. In fact, call me. Maybe I’ll tag along!

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Next Year At The Same Place! http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/passover/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/passover/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 21:17:48 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10548 For the last eighteen years, we have spent various Jewish holidays with a group of five other families from our temple. We all got together when our oldest kids were in the three-year-old and four-year-old preschool classes there, and it was great to have plans with friends nearly every Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and […]

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For the last eighteen years, we have spent various Jewish holidays with a group of five other families from our temple. We all got together when our oldest kids were in the three-year-old and four-year-old preschool classes there, and it was great to have plans with friends nearly every Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover. Everyone didn’t go to every get-together, but back in those days it was nearly always a full house.

I have pictures—somewhere—of the times when the kids were around but I’m too lazy to look for them so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Those preschoolers and their siblings, thirteen kids in all, are grown up now. (The oldest just got married, in fact…yikes! I am old!) These days, we don’t get together for Hanukkah anymore, but a few of us do the High Holidays together.

And then there’s Passover.

One of the families has hosted the Passover Seder every single year (I think). Jim and I have only missed it (I think) once or twice. The quantity of table settings (and length of the table!) has grown and shrunk each year, and it’s always fun to see who is able to make it.

Passover 2012

Passover 2012

Way back in the day, my friend used a white paper table cloth and left crayons or markers out for the kids so they could quietly draw while we adults read through the Haggadah (prayer book) aloud, round-robin style. We also used store-bought Haggadot back then, which is how most people do it, I guess. At some point along the way, our hostess started adding new books and she’d tell us which book to grab and what page to read. Then she ended up photocopying her favorite elements of each book and created her own Haggadah.

Miller Family Passover Haggadah

These homemade books are such a huge part of our Seder every year. We all laugh every time we are directed to read from page four—“no, not that one! the page four that comes AFTER page seventeen!”—and we all groan when it’s our turn but we notice that we’ve landed on the part of the book that is the actual story of Passover because that’s SO MUCH READING and we all go “Nope!” when our hostess asks us if we want to sing anything other than “Dayenu”. Oh, and we all sigh a little bit when we get a book that has coloring in it from years ago.

Passover Haggadah

Passover Haggadah

I look forward to this evening every year. Sitting around the table with our hosts and whoever else happens to be attending is such a highlight of springtime, and just like in the Seder itself, things happen in a certain order:

1. I am complimented on my charoset, which I make every year. (Okay, it really IS delicious.)
2. Someone makes a comment about how Jim and I are “so young” (we’re the youngest couple, but not by much!)
3. I get to talk about social media both with someone who totally gets it (our hosts) and usually people who absolutely don’t.
4. We all laugh at the sump pump, which runs on a regular basis just beneath the dining room and sounds like it’s actually a Mack truck getting ready to come right through the house.
5. We talk about how weird it is that our kids are grown, when it was just yesterday that they were at the other end of the table.
6. When we get to the part of the Seder where we have to say “Next year in Jerusalem!” we all think, “Next year, right here!”

There are lots of Jewish traditions that my family has under our own roof, but this one, under my friend’s roof, means just as much to me.

Passover 2014

Passover 2014

If you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you enjoy making some wonderful memories with family and friends! Have a great weekend!

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Whirlyball, Where Have You Been All My Life? http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/whirlyball/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/04/whirlyball/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 13:30:28 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10533 Actually, I guess it’s the other way around. Whirlyball has been a Chicago staple for years and years, right here in front of me, but for some reason–and I’ll be kicking myself over it for a long time to come–I had never tried it…until this week. (Disclosure: the fine folks at Whirlyball invited me and […]

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Actually, I guess it’s the other way around. Whirlyball has been a Chicago staple for years and years, right here in front of me, but for some reason–and I’ll be kicking myself over it for a long time to come–I had never tried it…until this week.

(Disclosure: the fine folks at Whirlyball invited me and some friends in for some complimentary play. I was not compensated for this post.)

Whirlyball, which is a combination of lacrosse, basketball, hockey, and bumper cars, is a fast-paced team game and SO MUCH FUN. Players are buckled into “WhirlyBugs” with a plastic scoop in hand. The idea is to get a whiffle ball through the net to score points. There are penalties, too, like for “slashing” (hitting an opponent’s scoop while trying to get the ball), picking up the ball with your hands, or directly hitting someone from behind.

The first thing you have to learn when you get ready to play Whirlyball is that WhirlyBugs are NOT bumper cars. They are much faster and more responsive than bumper cars. WhirlyBugs have 360-degree steering via a single drive wheel in front, and only one pedal (the accelerator); there is no brake.

The second thing you have to learn is how to scoop up that wiffle ball. It’s much harder than you’d think.

In fact, the whole game is harder than you think, but you’re so busy laughing and screaming that it doesn’t even matter. Wait though; let me back up for a minute.

I brought some super-fun friends with me for the experience: Tracey, Samantha, and Natasha. There may have been a little trash talking ahead of time, but it was all in the spirit of fun and friendship. Yeah. That’s it.

After lots of excited Facebook messages between the four of us and the creation of a hashtag for the event (#WhirlyGirlies), the day finally arrived. I put on my game face and left for the Whirlyball location in Lombard.

Melisa Pios

Typically the game is played with five people on each team, but it was two-on-two in our case (an ideal experience for first-timers!). We were debriefed by the manager and a couple of other employees before our referee, Steve, took us onto the court to explain the rules. That poor guy, trying to explain the rules of this potentially dangerous game to four extremely extroverted ladies who were over the top excited about being out for the evening together. Steve, who I’m sure went home that night wondering what he did at work to get the short end of the stick on the “dealing with those crazy women” thing at work, made it through just fine, and we all prepared to play. It was Samantha and me against Tracey and Natasha, and we jumped right in after taking a pre-game picture.

Picture courtesy of Samantha!

Picture courtesy of Samantha!

It’s no easy feat to steer with one hand and try to scoop up a ball with the other, all while trying to prepare yourself to get slammed into another WhirlyBug or worse, the wall. It IS, however, hilarious. Did I mention that you also have to try and hear the referee, who is in a box above the court with a microphone, reminding you of the rules while calling the game (and sometimes playfully ridiculing everyone below)?

Whirlyball Sam

I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed (or screamed) so hard. We had an amazing time. I’m pretty sure Steve the referee had a great time too, and I know he appreciated how we yelled back at him, especially that one time I begged him to give me permission to slash Tracey (he wouldn’t). He DID, however, allow us to play one final five minute game with “street rules” (ahem no rules). He probably will not forget us anytime soon.

Whirlyball Tracey

Whirlyball also has locations in Chicago and Vernon Hills, by the way. They operate mostly under a reservation system (the Lombard location has two courts), but they’ll take walk-ins if there is space available. The cost is $15 per person per half hour, and court time can be reserved with a minimum of four people.

While at Whirlyball you can enjoy a full bar and a menu including what I would call “delicious upscale bar food”. We tried the wings and the pretzel bites with Goose Island 312 beer cheese, and they were amazing. The new menu also includes other great items like flatbreads, sandwiches, and truffle fries.

At the end of the evening we were exhausted, exhilarated, and maybe a little sore in the abs from all the laughing (and okay, twisting around to get that blasted whiffle ball). I honestly could have played for another two hours but the evening league guys arrived and we had to give up the court. We’re already talking about returning and bringing more friends with us, and I know that my kids would love it too.

But first, I have to get my voice back.

So much fun, you guys. If you live in the Chicago area, GO TRY IT.

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Netflix #StreamTeam: Reinvent Yourself! http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/stream-team-reinvent-yourself/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/stream-team-reinvent-yourself/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 02:49:55 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10524 I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course! The Netflix Stream Team Theme (ha! Stream […]

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Netflix Stream Team
I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

The Netflix Stream Team Theme (ha! Stream Team Theme! So rhyme-y!) for March is “Reinvent Yourself”. I know a little bit about this, both as an adult and as a kid. Since you’re already fairly familiar with me as an adult, I’m going back further.

My name, as you may have noticed, only has one “s” in it. I always laugh when my mom explains that it’s because she wanted me to be “different”. (One of my sister’s names is spelled in an uncommon—err, different—way, too.) In fact, my mom didn’t even spell my nickname in the common way at first; rather than “M-I-S-S-Y”, she spelled it “M-I-S-S-I-E”. Missie. Although I appreciate this as an adult, I can tell you that as a kid it drove me nuts (I could never find anything personalized, and you know how important that is to a little girl!)

When I was finishing fifth grade, Dad found out that he had been hired to manage a Holiday Inn in Texas, and that summer we would move away from the Chicago area for the very first time. Not being someone who is crazy about change at first (and being an eleven-year-old kid who was comfortable in her house and at her school and with her friends), I was not happy about the move at all. Besides the draw of getting my own bedroom, the only other thing I could think of that excited me about starting over in a new place was being able to tell my new friends that I preferred to be called “Melisa” instead of “Missy/Missie”. It sounded more grown-up and I loved it. To my amazement, they actually USED MY GIVEN NAME as I requested! (I’m still not sure why I was so surprised. Anyway.) I still wasn’t finding anything with my name personalized properly but I felt better that it was my decision.

When we moved to Tennessee a couple of years later, I actually put a lot of thought into my name again and nearly started introducing myself as “Missy”, but decided against it at the last minute. The only exception would be that I allowed my eighth grade boyfriend to call me “Misy” (Missy with one s, because that made more sense to him, and I rather liked that).

The point is, it was my choice to present myself in a certain way while entering a new environment. It’s very freeing to get that opportunity!

By the way, here's a picture from 1981, and yes, that's our BFF Xavier Roberts, creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids.

Yes, that’s our BFF Xavier Roberts, creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, with mom, my sister and me. 1981 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Need some inspiration to reinvent YOURSELF? Hit up Netflix for “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, Tina Fey’s new series starring Ellie Kemper (I wrote about it last month!), in which all three main characters are busily reinventing themselves.

You can find more with “Dirty Dancing” (incidentally one of my top ten favorite movies of all time), in which Baby Houseman reinvents herself while vacationing with her family at Kellerman’s. You’ll see her go from sweet and girlish to downright womanly over the course of the film, and with Patrick Swayze driving the action, can you blame her? Here’s one of my favorite scenes, which starts to portray her inner changes (okay, and some outer changes too, aided by short shorts and a tank top):

Another reinvention favorite? “Silver Linings Playbook”, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as people with mental instabilities who get together to help each other achieve a goal and, well, no spoilers. It’s an excellent movie and I highly recommend it.

There you go! Get to watchin’, and get to having fun reinventing yourself. I highly recommend that, too!

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Making Seventy-Seven Look Good http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/roxie-birthday/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/roxie-birthday/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 13:37:00 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10517 It’s Roxie’s eleventh birthday today and we’re celebrating! Err, I’m celebrating. (Jim doesn’t celebrate dog birthdays.) Where does the time go??? Roxie has accomplished so much in her eleven years (seventy-seven dog years, whew!). In addition to electrocuting herself as a puppy, actually eating a kid’s homework once, getting skunked, eating entire loaves of bread, […]

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It’s Roxie’s eleventh birthday today and we’re celebrating!

Err, I’m celebrating.

(Jim doesn’t celebrate dog birthdays.)

Where does the time go???

Roxie beagle birthday

Roxie has accomplished so much in her eleven years (seventy-seven dog years, whew!). In addition to electrocuting herself as a puppy, actually eating a kid’s homework once, getting skunked, eating entire loaves of bread, bags of chocolate*, and part of a container of baking cocoa and living to tell about it, she has also run away for an afternoon (twice), ripped up paper money that totaled approximately $73 for all incidents, rolled in rabbit poo multiple times every summer, destroyed many stuffed animals, scared an infinite number of people with her “I haven’t really been stabbed but I sound like I’ve been stabbed” bark/bay/howl, and created and/or participated in countless other shenanigans.

I should have known, really. When I was trying to decide on which eight-week-old beagle puppy to bring home, I knew all about checking for temperament. Beagles are notoriously active and curious; ideally I would have chosen a puppy that was somewhat docile so we had a chance at a companion that knew how to be quiet and calm every now and then. The problem was, she was so darn cute that while I performed the temperament testing on her, I completely ignored the results that indicated I was bringing home a puppy who would keep things more than interesting for years to come. I remember flipping her over on her back and gently holding her down. A docile puppy would, in this situation, relax and wait for me to let her go. Roxie fought me every second until she wiggled out from under me.

It’s been like that ever since.

And it may just be because I’m feeling sentimental on her birthday (and also because it’s been more than a month since Jim and I spent ninety minutes cleaning up the mess when she vomited ALL OVER THE HOUSE after getting into a bag of Valentine’s Day treats I bought for the boys; worst dog-related carnage ever in the history of the world), but I wouldn’t change a thing.

(Except for that recent Valentine’s Day massacre.)

She may be a horrible listener with a mind of her own who cuddles with me only on her terms and pays attention to me mainly when I have food (especially a bowl of popcorn) in my hands, but I love this dog who still, more often than not, acts like a puppy. She is a great companion and has definitely kept life interesting for the last eleven years. I look forward to what she’s got in store for the next few.

As long as her plans include behaving more than not, which is unlikely because it’s Roxie we’re talking about, but there’s always hope. Maybe.

Happy birthday, Roxie. Extra treats for you today!

*chocolate is toxic for dogs: she got her mouth on it when we weren’t expecting her to be so stealthy and nimble! (I swear she must have retractable thumbs!)

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On Sad Songs That Make Me Very Happy http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/sad-song-very-happy/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/sad-song-very-happy/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 14:21:52 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10511 I was on the phone with Liz yesterday and we were talking about my upcoming visit, during which we’ll take a side trip to Atlantic City. I’ve always wanted to see it even though it’s not the same as it was in its heyday, and Liz says that it’s pretty much the only big stretch […]

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I was on the phone with Liz yesterday and we were talking about my upcoming visit, during which we’ll take a side trip to Atlantic City. I’ve always wanted to see it even though it’s not the same as it was in its heyday, and Liz says that it’s pretty much the only big stretch of New Jersey beach we haven’t checked out, so I’m in.

Cove Beach

Gratuitous beach picture (Cove Beach, Cape May NJ)

As we were talking, I said, “I was listening to my ‘Wanderlust’ playlist on Spotify yesterday and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’ came on! I LOVE THAT SONG. It’s so beautiful!”

Then I thought for a second, and said, “Wait, well, I love it but actually I’m pretty sure the lyrics are depressing.” Indeed.

Well I got a job and tried to put my money away
But I got debts that no honest man can pay
So I drew what I had from the Central Trust
And I bought us two tickets on that Coast City bus

Everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City

But that’s what I do. While I can get completely pumped up by the music of Pitbull and Bruno Mars and Fallout Boy, for some reason I get equally excited (as in happy) when a song containing sad or tragic lyrics comes on.

Years ago I told my sister that “Moby’s ‘Southside’ makes me SO HAPPY!!!”

here we are now going to the west side
weapons in hand as we go for a ride
some may come and some may stay
watching out for a sunny day
where there’s love and darkness and my sidearm

My Facebook friends are well aware that I get downright giddy when “Picture”, by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow comes on, especially when I’m in my car and can sing along with the windows down and sunroof open:


I called you last night in the hotel
Everyone knows but they wont tell
But their half hearted smiles tell me
Somethin’ just ain’t right
I been waitin’ on you for a long time
Fuelin’ up on heartaches and cheap wine
I ain’t heard from you in 3 damn nights

Heck, it’s been going on since I was a teenager. Did you know that Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” is actually about a 1981 riot in the Brixton area of London?

Now in the street, there is violence
And-and a lots of work to be done
No place to hang out our washing
And-and I can’t blame all on the sun

I LOVE THAT SONG. It’s so…bouncy! But riots.

Perhaps my favorite example? Nena’s “99 Red Balloons” and the original German language version, “99 Luftballons”, which I actually prefer (and can still keep up with most of the German when singing along). The “translated” version is slightly different but generally they’re about a bunch of children’s balloons floating over the Berlin Wall into the Soviet sector (when there were two Germanys, kids!), and when they are fired upon because the war minister can’t identify the balloons, nuclear war commences. Wheeeeee!

99 red balloons floating in the summer sky
Panic bells, it’s red alert
There’s something here from somewhere else
The war machine, it springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
As 99 red balloons go by.

I don’t do Karaoke, but if I did, “99 Red Balloons” would be my go-to.

So maybe my sense of Music Appreciation is a little warped because I allow myself to be carried away by the overall musicality rather than lyric analysis before I get too attached. I’m okay with it. I bet The Boss, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, Eddy Grant, and Nena are fine with it too.

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If You Give A Melisa A Fitness Tracker… http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/fitness-tracker/ http://suburbanscrawl.com/2015/03/fitness-tracker/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 13:03:18 +0000 http://suburbanscrawl.com/?p=10499 I started wearing a fitness tracker on Sunday. I never had plans to get one, even though approximately 7.6 out of every 10 of my friends are using them to track their daily steps. Then Jim, who uses one himself, ordered one (the not-technically-released-yet Garmin Vivofit 2) for me. Note: This post is not sponsored. […]

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I started wearing a fitness tracker on Sunday.

I never had plans to get one, even though approximately 7.6 out of every 10 of my friends are using them to track their daily steps.

Then Jim, who uses one himself, ordered one (the not-technically-released-yet Garmin Vivofit 2) for me.

Note: This post is not sponsored. Jim used real money to pay for my fitness tracker; I just assumed that if I didn’t mention which one I got, somebody would ask.

I adore it. I adore my husband for many reasons too but in this case it’s because he’s a genius, and here’s why: He knows that I am extremely competitive with absolutely nobody…except for myself.

Counting steps with a fitness tracker can be dang addictive.

One of the best things about a fitness tracker is that it tells you the truth, and my truth is that as much as I adore the strength and flexibility training my Dailey Method classes provide, I need to move my body more than that. (as in, IN ADDITION TO that.) Working at home means I’m on my butt for hours a day, and not moving is too easy. It’s a breeze to tell myself that I’m going to get up at regular intervals and start some laundry or walk the dog, but the tough reality is that “I just need to finish this one thing first” happens all the time.

This tool is exactly what I need, even though I’ve driven myself nuts for five days now. Wearing a fitness tracker that generates a daily goal for steps can make someone like me do crazy things to get the steps in. CRAZY.

Crazy like:

~ Leaving my Dailey Method class on foot and walking to downtown Naperville and back.

Downtown Naperville

~ Doing laps around my house while on conference calls.

~ Dancing and side-stepping while doing tasks I used to stand still for, like brushing my teeth and peeling oranges and folding laundry.

~ Making myself use the upstairs bathroom even though there is a suitable bathroom just twelve feet from where I’m working in the family room.

~ Intentionally parking much farther away from doors than I need to.

I really should have parked farther away than this; fifty more steps would have been awesome.

I really should have parked farther away; fifty more steps would have been awesome.

~ Struggling to push the shopping cart with one hand so I can swing arm that has the fitness tracker on it, because otherwise I won’t get credit for those steps.

~ Walking to the end of the driveway to check for mail even though I’m pretty sure that J already brought it into the house.

~ Pacing in the shower. Yes, it is possible and yes, I TOLD YOU I’M DOING CRAZY STUFF.

It’s incredible how much brain power I have devoted to making myself move this week.

Then again, isn’t that the point when we’re talking about health and fitness? Being intentional about my actions is one of the best gifts of self-care I could ever provide for myself. Does it take time? Gosh, yes. Do I have the time? No…and yes. I’ve always made time for what’s important, and this is important. Besides, I’ve gotten some great fresh air this week, I’ve enjoyed the scenery around me, and I’ve felt extremely victorious each day when I blow through my goal for steps, kind of like this (Source):

I’m not setting any firm long-term goals right now. At the moment I’m happy with obsessing over hitting my daily targets and I know that my general health and well-being will improve just by doing what I’m doing.

And now it’s time to end this post so I can get moving again. I think I left my cup of tea down by the mailbox.

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