We were really ready for Chicago. We were ready for Shane + Rae time, for routine, for the city, and for our dear friends. We were ready for the summer of bike races and expos to be over – we were ready to have weekends be ours again.
LESSONS LEARNT IN CHICAGO
1. Ikea futons that your mum bought you Freshman year of college aren’t really that good to sleep on. The physiotherapy required after a few months on the futon might end up outweighing the cost of buying a new mattress to put on someone’s floor.
2. Apartments are not for working in. Neither are coffee shops. Coworking office spaces are a good option for productivity and some normal sense of work/life balance.
3. People who start global businesses should give up any hope for “normal” work/life balance.
4. Real friends are the ones that nothing changes even with three years and big bodies of water in between. Hold onto them tightly.
ONWARD COWORKING – http://onwardcoworking.com
Chicago was all about routine for us. It was easily the most productive, healthy, balanced period we’ve had this year. We immediately signed up to a coworking space in the city, and made a little desk our home. We worked long and busy days, but at the end we left the office and closed our computers (most of the time).
We hired a friend of ours who has now set up our Customer Service department, and so a fair bit of our time was making sure he could do his job well once we left. Kind of crazy, to be in this work situation of really big goals, high pressure, and yet doing it with your husband and close friend. Trusting God in his guidance and wisdom through it all. I’m honoured to work with such dedicated and fearless guys, who make my life easier and do their jobs well.
Onward was filled with great people. We were around for two of the monthly Happy Hours and shared a good number of laughs and drinks with the crew there. They made us feel comfortable and part of the family, provided great coffee and too-often free donuts as well. Working from home in Chicago? Don’t. Go to Onward.
One of the biggest benefits of our time in Chicago was that Shane really found his groove at Verve. He picked up google’s Sketch 3D printing/design software, and mock-designed an entire new packaging system, display units, expo layouts, and more. The daily communication with our warehouse in Taiwan became too much for me to manage, and Shane, having met the team there on our way over, easily slipped into daily communication and management of the team there. He thinks about numbers, systems, and though his excel skills aren’t quite up to scratch he’s managed to get more product in and out of the packaging warehouse than I ever could. The consistent time in one place, working in a quiet workspace was really enjoyable and productive for us both.
We decided it was time to invest in a gym membership for us both, and personal trainer for me. I climbed two to three times a week with my trainer, and loved every minute of it. She taught me how to have lighter feet, bring my hips into the wall, stretch further using my toes and learn to rest. I felt a real difference in my climbing by the end. Without an appointment twice a week I’m pretty sure I would have bailed on exercising after work every single day. It was always cold, dark, and I was always exhausted with a lot of reasons to keep working later into the night. But, having Lesley waiting for me at the wall meant that I got out of the office and didn’t get straight into bed. It helped that I didn’t actually have her personal phone number, so had no way of cancelling the appointments! What it did mean, though, that there were lots of meals where I could hardly hold the fork and get it to my mouth – if nothing else, I’m pretty sure I grew new muscles in my forearms and calluses on my fingers.
So there was coworking, then climbing. And we went grocery shopping. I know. Amazing. We bought groceries and cooked meals. I even read a book. I spent Wednesday nights getting excited for the next Serial podcast to air on Thursday, and Tuesdays we hunkered down for the next Gotham episode. Weekends were spent walking the streets of Chicago or cuddling babies by the fireplace. We thought we’d have time to catch up with a lot more people, and a lot more regularly. To those we didn’t get a chance to see or spend more time with, we’re sorry. It was a pretty selfish time for Shane + I to regroup and refresh, but we so needed it. We had little to no money, and so life naturally became simpler and less hectic, and for a while we just needed a bit of normal and a bit of us time.
But, Serial. You have to listen. It’s so great – http://serialpodcast.org
The city was mostly cold, and the days were short. But we got some stunners, along with some beautiful fall colours. This was Shane’s first time seeing the American embrace of the seasons – the leaves, the pumpkins. He loved it.
Spending time with Joellyn (and her babies) is like going to a wellness spa for your soul. I highly recommend a visit, if you can handle the beauty and healing she exudes. The bonus of spending time with Jody is you also get her hunk-a-spunk husband Aaron, her honest-and-insanely-loveable-housemate Lauren, her too-cute-toddler Silas, and her good-looking-drop-in-friends. It’s win-win-win, and we couldn’t get enough of them all.
Ada-Jo. The sweetest, dribbliest little darling. Jody’s little lady is so easy going. Ada still falls asleep in your arms, anywhere, even though she’s getting bigger by the day. She dances herself into a sweat at church, and loves to take selfies. But really, nothing beats cuddling her to sleep, feeling her body go limp and sink into yours. She’s so adored by her big brother and you can tell she already wants to be able to follow him around.
The best part of being in Chicago through November was my amazing college room-mate Mal had her first little one, Blythe. I couldn’t get enough of this little floppy peanut. Her button face is perfection, and she would just sleep the day aways in your arms.
Ugh! Isn’t she just to die for?
The first night after spending time with Mal again, I felt like I just needed to go back. She felt like home to me. Chatting about any and everything was completely normal again. All this time had passed, and yet no time at all. There’s a few people from college, including a professor or two, who have this affect on me. Chatting with them, spending time together again, just felt…right. There’s no other way, other than saying it felt like “home”, to describe my time with these beautiful friends. It’s home, but it’s not my home.
Nothing excited Shane about November in the US like Thanksgiving did. We were hoping to get out to Philly where I spent every Thanksgiving during college, but we just couldn’t afford it. So Shane started surveying all the lovely people that invited us to their place to find out who would have the best pie. Pumpkin pie, in particular. I told him he couldn’t delay and had to decide where we’d accept, but he held out until we finally were able to catch up with our dearest pastor Jeff and Pam, just a few days before Thanksgiving! Jeff asked us the magic question – “where are you going for Thanksgiving?” – and we conveniently said we didn’t know. Jeff, so kindly, said we for sure had to join them. Bingo. If there was a family we would have loved to spend Thanksgiving with, it was be the Kleins. We were so thankful for the invitation.
So, the snow started to fall, the town slowed down, and the Klein’s house filled up with loud people and amazing smells. There were 35+ people, four pumpkin pies, and of course all the turkey and trimmings you could imagine. It was festive and beautiful, with gorgeous friends and family.
FRIENDS AND PLACES
During college, I met this beautiful Josephina. She had just had baby Sentia when I met her, so by the time I graduated Sentia was four. I left when Josephina was just pregnant with Sala, and so visiting again was such a spin out. Sentia is wonderfully eloquent, thriving in school and just overall sweet like her mum. Little Sala is just like Sentia was, quiet and cautious. I needed more time with them to get a smile out of Sala – even Shane couldn’t win her over! It was tearful seeing these gorgeous women again, and tearful to say goodbye all over again. Some people just have your heart, and Josephina is one of those people.
So, the hardest thing about this blog is that so much of what we did in Chicago was with good friends in normal places. It felt like home, and it was home. I never pulled out my nice camera, which is ridiculous, but it was really a time when Shane and I just lived more than looked. We weren’t being tourists, which was really refreshing.
Going back to favourite places – this one, Asrai Garden, a florist/trinket shop that I would want to own in a heartbeat. http://asraigarden.com
Boys singing in fancy boys clothing shops. Shameless plug – buy Tyler’s album now. It has been our album on repeat for weeks. https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/what-we-say-we-are/id927548073
Discovering new farm-to-table goodness. This was just one of many gems – http://bluedoorfarmstand.com
Finally, getting to laugh with friends at Second City. http://www.secondcity.com
To close, see that girl in the striped shirt above? None of this could have been possible without her amazing kindness of letting us stay in her cosy apartment. Walking distance to grocery stores, train lines, climbing walls, and good food. Friendship, new and old, that is simple and enjoyable. Julie – thank you. We love you.