I went to Chicago over the weekend to meet Katherine, a friend I've been "e-palling" with over the internet for a few months. I did my best to get out of having to do this after I accepted the invitation for a girls' getaway weekend to one of the biggest (scariest) cities in the US. I had all kinds of reasons not to. Mostly based in and around fear. of driving. of being away from home. of leaving zeek for NIGHTS (for the first time). of meeting a complete stranger and being stuck with her for two days...

I'm SO grateful with much thanks to Greg I was unsuccessful in my attempts to pass. It was one of the most amazing trips I've ever taken.

Thursday, my Mom made the brilliant suggestion that I get a hold of Greg's cousin Andrew to see if he might be able to lend me his couch on Friday night. This way I wouldn't have to get up before dawn to drive four hours to pick up Katherine at the train station.

By Thursday night it was settled. Zeek would go to Becky's for the day on Friday, I would be leaving around 11:30am for Chicago. Staying with Andrew in Lincoln Park.

Friday I packed, dropped Zeek off, and headed out of town on time. 

I stopped at Jimmy's a couple of hours in, and it was on to Ikea from there. 

I got to Schaumburg, IL, at about 3:30pm. Shopped Ikea which was cool but not quite all it had been cracked up to be for me. I bought some fun stuff and headed to Drew's around 5pm. (I knew this was rush hour, but I didn't care)

TWO hours and nine minutes later, I arrived 21miles away in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL at Drew's. :)

We had an awesome night. 

We talked, went out to dinner (burgers and shoe string fries), laughed until our faces hurt, played on photo booth (his first time), laughed even more, gossiped something fabulous, hung out with his new girlfriend, Britta, and FINALLY went to bed at around 1:30am.

So far I was loving the traffic, the streets, and the people of the big city I thought I'd be so afraid of.

Saturday morning I woke up at 7:00am before my alarm. I snuck into the shower, got cute quick, packed my stuff, left a note for Drew and headed out around 8:30am.

That was when the crying started. I'm still not completely sure why. I was just SO happy and something "me" was happening inside. again. that seems to be a reoccurring theme lately.

The spoiling I had just received by Andrew.
The city.
The buildings.
The sun.
The traffic.
Me alone.
My car.
My stuff.
The people.
Their dogs, Ipods, bikes, joggers, smiles...
The freedom.
What lay ahead.
The gratefulness.

It was overwhelming.

I think it was at this point that I learned how difficult it was to park. anywhere. ever in Chicago.
I had to pick a girl up FROM THE TRAIN STATION. and there was absolutely NO access.
She had to find a corner and I had to stop and throw her and all her stuff into my car at a red light!
It was crazy. and fabulous.

We laughed, hugged, sighed, and pushed the pre-programmed buttons on my GPS all while safely squished between three other cars in a two lane street. We were off to our pre-determined first destination; the renegade craft show and sale.

We did that not so fun parking thing again (which really was kind of fun). And between my GPS (on foot) and my Iphone we were finally able to find the place. (Greg would have been so proud)

Once inside we took it all in. It was like we'd known each other forever. Like we'd done this before. Got together, shopped, perused, laughed and told each other what to do, visiting and loving each other all the while.

We were the first to take our free photos in the photo booth they had set up. We decided what each of the four photos should look like. Practiced them TOO many times to count, and then took the CUTEST shots ever with one minute between each shot. Again, like we were made for each other. The planning and bossing and leading and moving...it was all done too well for TWO of us on top as we seem to be. It was hope for my future with women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to say it. Likeme.

Katherine learned just how much I love bird prints and owls, and I learned just how much she really does like a girly brand of things, as well as ALL things paper! "Get me one of each." :)

We photographed a bit there and on the street as we navigated our way back to the jeep.

Then, button punching, off we were, headed to Little Branch Cafe. 

THE BEST FOOD! We think this may have been disagreeable with our stomachs as we had bathroom issues that night, both. But, strangely, it was SO worth it. 

We TALKED at Little Branch. We cried and hugged, and photographed our food and drinks. It was wonderful. I learned that she doesn't like cucumbers. She learned that I like to take my journal with me almost as often as my camera, even though I rarely use it. The rest of things we learned are ours. Just ours.

Next, we went to millennium park. Parking there was better. Well, the trade off is you PAY to park when you get a spot. $22 for nearly two hours. But again, SO worth it.

We went straight for the big chrome bean, which is apparently a highlight of the park. (and rightfully so)
We photographed ourselves like fools in the reflection of this "space craft" looking thing. We stood, we crouched, we laid, we jumped, we went close, we went far, we were ridiculous. and we loved every minute of it.

About 10 minutes in about 140-or so people showed up dressed in SANTA gear!!! all at once, pretty much. They skipped and danced, held hands and circled, hugged and sang a carol! It was amazing! I cried. again.
It was all so wonderful. Like a perfect dream.

I asked a guy where they all came from and he told me that there is a place on Facebook that determines what day and hour people in santa costumes will meet there. He told me they didn't know each other, but this was their third year. :)

SO AMAZING that at noon, on Dec. 5th, 2009, we just happened to be there. We, complete-face-to-face-strangers ourselves, pushed through being the staples of our families, fear, and whatever else could have (and always had for me) stopped us, and were RIGHT there RIGHT at that moment. It was way too Jesus to be anything else. (In fact, the whole weekend was.)

After this we took more photos in the park and then headed to our movie. The Blind Side. We did that paid parking thing, again ($29 this time). We paid $11 each to get into the movie, only to find out that it had started 20 minutes prior. The listing showed wrong. But what could we do.

Well, I don't know what we missed, but it was the biggest screen I'd ever seen. We had to sit WAY too close to it. And the movie was fantastic! More crying. At least this time there was chocolate. :)

In the parking garage we found a gentleman worker on a fast golf cart type thing who agreed to zoom us across the garage to the jeep. We were pretty much clueless. Whip lash and tip and we were back in the car.

Finally, we made our way to the hotel. The Blake. Should be referred to as "The Bust". Although, the valet parking and the concierge who took our bags to our room were magnificent, it all stopped short at the laundry list of issues that followed.
I'm not documenting the trouble we had. It's certainly didn't ruin our weekend, and it isn't going to sour my memories either.

We walked the streets to find a place to eat and pretty much gave up at a place called "Hackney's" which was tasty, thankfully. I had a rubin and she had a hummus apple dish... ??? I'm pretty sure.

We walked back to the hotel... and after a LONG night of not so much fun, we were blessed to wake up with few troubles. Although, we decided it would be best if we only chose one more destination for our time there, and headed home a little earlier in the day than planned. Our tummies were a little screwed up still. :(

We went to a place called Paper Source. We street parked and walked again. Farther than we'd hoped. But all went well. The place was adorable and full of PAPER.

Kat bought some... PAPER. :) And I bought an owl apron. Which couldn't have been more perfect. A perfect souvenir.

We took a cab back to the jeep, which, Zeek pointed out to me when I told him the story, might very well have been my first cab ride ever.

I drove her to the same corner I picked her up from, and pretty much had to throw her out at a red light. She left for her train. It was so fast I didn’t even have time to check how I felt about leaving. Her. Or chicago.

It was time for home.

I LOVED knowing that something happened to me between now and past that made me capable of driving in all of that after all. Capable in a way that even made me feel like I made friends in passing, driving so closely in such a welcoming crowd of vehicles.
I LOVED knowing that she and I were even more amazing together than we'd already gathered from our awesome, unique, wonderful e-mail relationship.
I LOVED knowing that the whole trip was a success, and that I had conquered the feat of doing the big city on my own, and couldn't do it again soon enough!

I can't WAIT to return. I can't wait to take Greg. I can't wait to go with my Dad, and one day Kat and kids, too. One day, maybe even just me. :)