Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013, we hardly knew you

This is the last day of 2013 and it is freezing cold in Chicago.  Perhaps Hell itself froze over, not realizing that the Bears did not make the post season, instead squandering an 8 pt lead over the Green Bay Packers with less than 2 minutes to go.

Chicago sports team disappointments aside, what can I say about 2013?  It was a year of change and transition and some growing pains.  We bought the new house and had to deal with all that comes with owning a SFH while also dealing with the dilemma of being reluctant landlords times two.  I don't think I wrote too much about those issues and I don't want to re-live them here.  First my tenant turned out to be source of stress and aggravation and then, or should I say simultaneously, Nightingale's tenant also became a problem. So suffice it to say that we confirmed that we do not want to be landlords for the long haul and my thought about keeping Nightingale's property as our "in town" for retirement.

This house too had its share of issues.  First off, we didn't have heat in our basement.  This was a minor problem resolved for $200 but that's $200 I should not have had to spend.  This problem didn't crop up during the inspection.  Then of course was the flood which caused financial hardship I'm still recovering from.  There's never a good time to have to pay $6K for a new sump pump and installation but it especially sucks after spending $1400 on furniture, $500 on a headboard and $1K for Financial Planning all on the same credit card. 

I'm not wired to take all that out of my savings so I have been slowing paying off a zero interest credit card.  Even with my year-end bonus a small grant from FEMA, I'm still $5K away from paying it off.  So that means no big screen TV for the foreseeable future.  What I really need to do and am about to do is go on major lock down and not buy anything I don't absolutely need.   That's not to say I was frivolous all summer, I was anything but.  However, I didn't hesitate to buy things like the new desktop that could have waited a few months when I saw a good sale.

On the job front there were challenges.  For one thing I had to deal with a PM who didn't want to manage the project at a PM level.  He was terrible at doing the basics of project management like communicating tasks, deliverables and expectations.  Of course I made the mistake of calling him out on it directly instead of letting the Natural Order of Corporate America take care of it.  He's gone and the project is over, but I'm now on my boss's boss's radar as a potential bad apple.  It doesn't help that I don't have a lot of work to do once my application is updated and stable.  We are trying to convert me to a BA or PM but that is a long process.

On a more positive note, I think I wrote some very good posts here in the early part of 2013 before succumbing to simply posting a picture and a few sentences.  I do more of my substantive writing at ChicagoNow and that's not a bad thing.  For the foreseeable future, I will continue to manage two blogs, with this one being the personal stuff and CN being the "hey world, look at me" blog.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to my readers

Even these guys needed alone time
We're in Michigan with the in-laws for Christmas and intend to return to Chicago well in time for New Year's Eve.  I say intend because weather or a last minute change of plans might cause us to stay beyond Friday.

I am attempting to use the vacation time from work to finish up some blog posts, both here and at ChicagoNow.  However, alone time comes at a premium at the Adama compound.  When the little monkeys are in the room, they demand attention.  Even when they are not in the room, they make enough noise that I cannot concentrate and I'll just shut up now.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, acknowledge or ignore. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

May have spoken too soon

Last month, I said that it should be realistic to reach 700 miles for the year.  That was before the cold front set in.  This time of year, it's dark in the morning until its time for me to leave for work, it's dark at night when I leave work and it's cold, especially this week.  While I'm not particularly averse to running in the snow or the cold, it does mean that I do more of my running on the weekends and WFH days.  At last count, I've got about 30 miles to go and there will be a good week when I'm up in Michigan drinking at the Adama compound. 

Is it still achievable? Sure.  But it is going to require some treadmill work this coming week since forecast is for cold.   I'm working on the assumption that I will be lucky enough to get a couple of runs in up in Michigan while the little monkeys are playing on their iPads.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vendors we used for our Polish Wedding

Every so often as friends get engaged, I get asked about our wedding planning, specifically the various vendors we used.  So I figured I'd write a post about them and compile the contact info in one place so I can just forward the link next time I'm asked.  Laziness meet internet.  Note: I'm providing the info I have for these vendors.  I'm assuming if they have moved or changed anything, your Google-fu skills will be sufficient to track them down if you so choose to do so.

Where we got our bling!

For those who don't know, we officially became engaged on Halloween, 2010.  We tossed around dates to get married and realized 10-01-11 was coming up and figured we'd try for that if it wasn't too much of a hassle to get a church and reception hall on that date.  I called St Vincent de Paul which I was/am a member of and they were booked a year and a half out.


We used Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church because 1) I'm Polish and 2) we're catholic though not really practicing anymore.  My reason for wanting to use this church was if Poles like me don't start using it, it won't be around for much longer.  Luckily it was conveniently located to SIL West Town House and it has a large parking lot and is right off the expressway.  It was also available and cheaper than the more popular churches like Old St Patrick's and St Vincent DePaul.

Polska Misja Duszpasterska
w Chicago
1118 N Noble Street
Chicago, IL 60642
Tel. (773) 489-4140

It was the afternoon of  New Year's Eve and we had some time to kill so we drove out here to check the place out.  In their lounge, they had a happy hour with a free buffet so we ordered a drink.  We were wowed by the appetizers -- fish sticks if I recall correctly.  We figured if their happy hour food was this good their entrees and other items had to rock.

Mirage by Sheraton
10255 W Irving Park Rd
Schiller Park, IL  60176

We used   Laura Witherow because two of our other friends each used her for their wedding.  Nightingale felt obligated to use her even though I wanted to interview another photographer.  Since I got my pick of church, I didn't put up a fight on this one.  Especially since we had limited free time.

Laura Witherow Photography 
(773) 853-5606

as an alternate, I'd like to suggest

Suzy Rohan
Lily Red Studio
(312) 428-5033

We used this place and got a discount for paying in cash. Keep in mind this is a small shop operation and I think the poor Polish lady does the lion share of the work.

4Getmenot Inc
5519 W Montrose Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
Neighborhood: Portage Park
(773) 777-2575

Deejay and Limo Driver
I don't have this info at the moment but look for an update soon.  Initially, we had a Groupon for a Deejay and were excited that we might save some cash on this event.  However, half of Chicago apparently bought the same Groupon and overwhelmed the deejay so much that he split town.  We got our money back thanks to Groupons awesome refund policy.

I believe we ended up with one of the Mirage's preferred vendors.  And by preferred vendors, I really do mean preferred as in recommended because they've worked there before and know the lay of the land, not preferred as required because they give a kickback like Cafe Bauer.

Update:  For a Deejay, we used John Coyne at


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Look what arrived in the mail

My autographed copy of Redshirts by John Scalzi.  I got it because JS works out this deal  with local independent bookseller Jay and Mary’s Book Center, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. 

I will admit I was slightly worried because Jay & Mary's Book Center requested that orders be placed via this archaic device called a telephone.  When I called my order in, Jay made me repeat my information twice.  Then he made me repeat it a third time because his "system" lost it.  I realize that a small scale independent bookseller like theirs doesn't have the infrastructure to have an online ordering system.  However, there has to be a better way to avoid mistaking the name of my street -- which i spelled as I gave it -- for Lawyer. 

it says: to my less successful
And it arrived in this...box

Friday, December 6, 2013

Finally put up some shelves in the kitchen

I bought these from Hobby Lobby in early summer and they literally sat on our kitchen floor until Thanksgiving weekend, when I was able to coerce my FIL into helping me install them.  In fact, I've just come upon the receipt and they cost $14.99 and $22.49 respectively and were purchased August 14, 2013, thank you very much.  It looks like we were just beyond the 90 day window to return for refund or store credit.

Before: an empty wall that was cluttered with stuff on the counter

After: two nicely spaced shelves that look better
than I ever imagined in this space

Final: After Nightingale decided what goes where

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How not to suck at gift giving

This time of year, I always think back to my former life as a paralegal in the Settlement Trial Department of a Big_Bucks Law Firm 1.0 and one of the worst Christmas presents I ever got.   

It was from my boss, a lady who was only a decade older than I yet seemed to have a handle on what was en vogue.  She gave me a set of Dinosaur Christmas lights.  I don't remember exactly how old I was at the time -- 25, 26, maybe 27 -- but clearly I was past my dinosaur toy phase.  These weren't even trendy or kitschy dinosaurs.  This was something you'd put in a 7 year old's room to decorate his window or mini tree.  I was so caught off guard by the gift that I couldn't even feign appreciation.  And honestly, if you give this sort of gift to a kid-less, single guy in his 20s, you pretty much forfeit any claim to a gracious thank you or fake smile.

What is even more mind boggling is that my boss has a December birthday so we all gave her various presents a few weeks before.  Knowing that she liked red wine, I got her a box set of wine.  Sure it wasn't $20/bottle wine but it wasn't 2 buck chuck either.  You'd think this would have set the bar (pun intended) and she might have reciprocated with a nice bottle of Rum or something.

Looking back, I wonder if she re-gifted something she got or had bought for another occasion. I'd like to think that perhaps she had mixed up her gifts.  Someone else got my bottle of rum.  Alas, the simplest explanation is most likely true.  There always was something a little off about her.

I know it's hard to give an appropriate gift to someone, especially in the workplace with all the extra PC minefields.  However, it's not impossible if you put a little thought and effort into it.  All you have to do is consider the person’s hobbies and interests.  That might require having a conversation with them that doesn't revolve around you -- another thing that was hard for boss lady to do.

So the point is that if you feel the need or obligation to give someone a gift, do the ground work to make sure it is something they will appreciate, use or at least re-gift without looking like a clueless jerk.