Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful... A Couple Days Late

Life has certainly been a whirlwind since we left San Francisco almost a month ago. It feels like time has gone by too quickly as we attempt to settle in and make Chicago our home. I couldn't believe how rapidly Thanksgiving approached and it definitely caught me off guard. I did however, want to take a moment to reflect on my life since last Thanksgiving and remember how blessed I am with all the things I have in my life. 

First and foremost, I am thankful for my supportive family. Both my family that I left in San Francisco, but also the family I have gained through Jason. Without their love and support, opinions, welcoming arms and open minds, our decision to relocate to a new part of the country would have been much harder than it already was. I am thankful to be welcomed into a family as much as I have been here in the Midwest. 

Moving away from my family was, and will always be, the piece I miss the most about San Francisco. My goal is to get them all to move out east, one by one, until everyone is here. I am very doubtful that this will happen, but maybe I can one-day convince my parents with the lure of grandchildren and my brothers and sister with the lure of cousins... A girl can dream right? PS. Whitney - houses are WAY more affordable out here. The one across the street from us is for sale. Just saying...

Not to be forgotten, I am thankful for my friends who have not stopped letting me forget what good friends they are. To you all - sometimes your texts, although random, come at the perfect time, when I need a laugh or just simply a smile. You are another reason why this move has been so hard. After we get my family to move out to Chicago, you are my next focus. You have been warned.

I am thankful for Jason, who has been an amazing partner since day 1. I could not ask for a more supportive, caring and loving person who mellows me out when I am stressed out and listens to all my crazy ideas. This move has been really hard for me, but knowing I have him here with me has made everything feel a little bit easier.

For my health. The strength I have learned I hold within me. For taking on one of the hardest challenges a person can take and defy the odds - losing 75+ pounds and working hard, everyday, to stay healthy and fit. For Michael Friedman, who the world will hopefully learn about soon. Thank you for pushing me farther than I ever thought possible. Because of you I continue to give myself goals and step outside my comfort zone. These two things make me strive daily to be a better person. I am so glad you came into my life when you did. I can't wait to run the Chicago Marathon 2013 by your side (and under 5 hours).

I am also thankful for this new adventure that I have been able to set out on. For the opportunity to drive across the United States, to spend 3 weeks in Europe, to live in a new City. Not many people get the chance to experience the things I have in the past year. I am thankful that I chose to try new things instead of being afraid of them - and letting my fear become my inspiration.

 I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post.. the next one will have more! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Week of Firsts!

 I knew that keeping up with this blog would be hard once real life set in and we had a million things to do everyday, but I never imagined it would be THIS hard. I promise I will take more time to update from here on out, because otherwise I am trying to play too much catch up on what’s happening with me.

I will post a moving-in post after this one, as there are some funny stories about all of that, but for now – the week (plus 4 days) of firsts!

Last Monday was our first night in our apartment. We brought a mattress for the guest room in Aunt Pat’s truck with us so we had a place to sleep the night before our furniture arrived. We also set up Jason’s computer so we had something to watch – The Muppets! I don’t think he was as excited as I was about watching it.

We also made our first visit to State Street to look at furniture at Macy’s. It was also my first foray into Chicago parking garage parking… one hour and $32 later, I realized next time I go downtown to shop, I am taking the El.

Last Tuesday was our first day of unpacking. (Yes, we still are unpacking and although we are very close to being done, we aren’t done yet…) It was also election night, our first in Chicago. What did we do? We watched The Muppets. Mainly because I fell asleep 10 minutes into the movie the first night.

Last Wednesday was my first Chicago job interview. I had applied for a position online before we had driven into Chicago and they emailed me on Tuesday to see if I could attend a group interview the following morning. I could! Thank goodness for wide open schedules. Wednesday we also got cable and internet – and set up the TV. We were finally connected to the outside world again! The first thing we watched was something on HGTV, mainly because we were (and are) still trying to figure out how all the channels are arranged. It feels like they are scattered throughout the listings..

Cable installation in and of itself was an interesting first. It was the first time the Cable Guy has ever had to climb onto my roof to see if he could find the cable line. It was also the first time the Cable Guy has ever had to climb up the telephone pole to connect the cable to the lines.

Wednesday also brought my first trip to a Chicago suburb to go to Ikea. I still am trying to get used to paying tolls for just driving down the freeway.

Thursday was more of a “second” but I had my second interview for my first Chicago job. Followed by my first trip home on the bus! It was also my first chance to walk around Chicago alone a little bit, wandering the big, bad, mean street Michigan Avenue, right past the John Hancock building.

Friday… well Friday was my FIRST DAY OF WORKING! I was offered a part-time seasonal Educator position at Lululemon on Rush Street in Chicago. So Friday was my first day of training. I am so excited to be able to be part of the Lululemon Team. As I mentioned on facebook, two years ago I couldn’t fit into Lulu clothes, and here I am two years later a team member, getting to be a face and educator of the brand. I am so proud of myself and my journey and the things I am able to be a part of and accomplish now.

Saturday and Sunday were our first weekend in Chicago. I wish I could say that we went wild and crazy celebrating that we are finally here, but in all reality we spent our first weekend looking at more couches, unpacking more boxes, hanging curtain rods, building bed frames and watching movies sitting on the floor (since we have yet to buy our first couch).

Monday was my first birthday (in Chicago)! I cannot believe I am 30. It just sounds weird to me. Having my first birthday so close to our moving to a new city was hard. I missed my family. I missed my friends. But then I got to go to deep dish pizza with new friends! How many people get to say they celebrated their entrance into a new decade by moving to a new city, in a new apartment and starting a new adventure. Not many. I am excited for all the things my 30th year is going to bring me.

Monday was also my first meeting with an employment agency in Chicago. The meeting went really great and I was excited about all the possibilities working here could bring me.

Another first on Monday? My first Chicago “snowfall”! It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to see on the cars!

Tuesday was my first real day of working at
Lulu. I had so much fun training on the floor and am looking forward to a great holiday season with the amazing people I am so fortunate to be able to work with.

Wednesday was my first “full-time” job interview. I can’t say that I was a perfect fit for the job, but it was a great experience to get an interview in and see how the process differs from the process in San Francisco. I am really excited and nervous about my job search, but I really do have faith that the right position for me will come along. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later!

I really do feel like I am still living in a dream. I wake up every day and cannot believe that I am finally here, living in Chicago. We planned this move for so long and stressed out about the move so much that to be here, unpacking and trying to find jobs has been surreal. There have been scary, freak out moments here too – what if we don’t find jobs, what if Jason doesn’t find work soon – but everything will work out the way it needs to. Things have really been going well since we have been here, and I believe this is where we are supposed to be right now.

I am looking forward to more firsts here in Chicago. Especially my first holiday season here. They are gearing up for next week's Thanksgiving Parade down State St. I can't wait to see the Christmas decorations in all their glory! 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Grand Rapids, Michigan – First Days as a Midwesterner

Last Friday, I woke up to my first Friday as a Midwesterner. The most exciting part of the morning is I woke up to snow flurries! The sad (but probably good part) was that the snow didn’t stick, the good part was it was still warm enough that the snow didn’t stick.

I think I am secretly holding out hope that the weather will be mild like it was all last winter, but even if the temperatures now are “mild” I am still freezing. That being said, the sweaters that I thought would at least last me into part of the winter are NOT EVEN CLOSE to being warm enough. So, that set the tone for our first few days in Michigan.

Looking for sweaters and couch shopping. Exciting life right?

So that is how we spent our first few days in Michigan. Couches and sweaters.

And then there was this!

I know I have been trying to eat healthier and keep on the healthy lifestyle kick, but sometimes, you just have to indulge yourself! And man, sometimes those indulgences are WORTH IT! Yesterdog in Grand Rapids is, from what I understand, a city institution. You cannot go to Grand Rapids and not eat at Yesterdog. Hot dogs, steamed buns, loaded with goodness. Amazing! 

Another first? Going for a run outside in weather under 40 degrees. That was interesting, the cold air made it harder to breathe, layering up makes you get hotter faster and I found it harder to get into a running grove…

Jason’s mom lives really close to a college in Grand Rapids with a gorgeous cross country running course for their school, so we got to take advantage of it on our run. It was absolutely gorgeous.

After three days of boring people with our European vacation photos, catching up with friends and family and getting a chance to relax after spending a week in the car, it was suddenly time to pack up and head to Chicago to get our apartment keys and get to life in the big city!

Needless to say, it was reallllly cold the morning we woke up to drive to Chicago. There’s nothing like coming out to a car covered in frost. I will say, everything covered in frost is absolutely beautiful.

We were then in the car, headed back to Illinois to finally see the place we were going to live, check out our new neighborhood and start our new life!

The drive took forever but went by fast at the same time. Before I knew it we were paying the toll (which paying a toll on a road that is NOT a bridge is still weird to me.. think toll plaza in the middle of a freeway) for the Chicago Skyway and headed towards the future.

At this point, it was Monday afternoon. Our truck was to arrive the following day to deliver all of our boxes so we could feel like we had a real place to live with real furniture.

Everything was happening so fast. After two years of waiting, we were finally moving to Chicago!   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updates to Come.. I Promise!

Life in the Midwest has been busy (and cold)!

I promise I haven't forgotten about updating, just a lack of internet service has made me feel so disconnected.

There is lots of activity going on over here though! I have lots to talk about.

I should have more time tomorrow to sit down and write a proper update.

I knew things in Chicago were going to be different, I just didn't know how different...

Yep. That's frost/ice on the car. Nice to wake up to the morning we were leaving for Chicago. I even got some snow flurries the first morning we were in Michigan.

But as for now, we've made it to Chicago and are trying to settle in the best we can over the next few days. We (finally) have internet and cable so we have something to listen to while unpacking aside from my bad renditions of whatever song comes on the stereo, and something other to watch than The Muppets. Which is what we watched instead of the election results last night. Let me tell you, I would rather watch The Muppets than Fox News any day. 

Until tomorrow, with love from Chicago.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 4 – West Des Moines, Iowa to Grand Rapids, MI – The End of the Cross-Country Journey

Day 4 found us waking up in West Des Moines, Iowa, looking forward to a final 8.5 hours in the car. Our first stop was Caribou Coffee. I had never had Caribou Coffee, so the change up from Starbucks was a welcomed difference.

After the caffeine fix, we realized there was a Whole Foods not too far away, so we hurried over to get ourselves some provisions for the day so we could work on the Fast Food Overload from the three days we had already spent in the car.

We are pretty sure the Whole Foods was a new addition to the city, but to us, a much welcomed one. We made our way to the deli counter and ordered our sandwich. During the course of our conversation, I had told the guys behind the counter that we had 8 hours to drive, but it seemed like nothing compared to the 26 we had already driven. And then, much to my surprise, when they handed me the sandwich, they told us it would be free of charge. They said they figured we must be super tired after being in the car that long, that the least they could do for us was give us a sandwich to brighten our day. It was a such a great surprise to start off our last day. I know it might not have been much to them, but for two people who were slowly going loopy due to transfat overdose, the gesture went a long way.

So after some good coffee and Midwestern generosity, it was back onto I-80 and full speed towards Michigan!

We had about three hours of driving to do from where we stopped until the Illinois border, so I kept myself busy by driving Jason crazy with my singing. Again. He now really hates the Rihanna song. Along with Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake”. I can’t say I disagree with him on that one. I am sick of hearing that song too, although every time it comes on the radio, I find myself singing right along with it! It’s pretty safe to say the same goes for Call Me Maybe.

Being in the car for that many hours, through that many states, I started to realize how absolutely lucky I am in growing up in California. You might think I would say the weather, the scenery or maybe being an hour for wine country – but honestly, it’s because we, as Californians, are so lucky to be sheltered from political ads both on the radio and on tv. Through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan, we have been audibly and visably assaulted by political ads – one after another. I guess I just never realized the full of extent of it until you realize that is all you hear between Rihanna, Katy Perry, One Direction, Bieber, Romney, Obama, Windstar GPS, Maroon 5. I am just glad there is less than a week until elections.

Iowa was pretty. It was cool to see all the farmland from the freeway, as well as the numerous types of tractors there are in the fields.

After Iowa came Illinois – our new home state!

Illinois looked a lot like Iowa. Flat and full of fields. The clouds were gorgeous – although after three days, we were getting used to open sky with impressive cloud work.

Today was the first day that we weren’t driving in blue skied sunshine. We were extremely fortunate with the weather we had over our 2,290 mile drive. On Monday, October 22, the day we were supposed to leave, San Francisco had massive rainstorms which means massive snowstorms in the Sierra Mountains. Additionally, this meant that we would be either chasing or be chased by the storm as we moved eastward. As luck had it, leaving just one week later, on October 29, allowed us to have a pretty and weather free drive across the United States. We were worried about the effect that Hurricane Sandy would have on the weather as we got closer to the east coast, but luckily for us the weather from that storm didn’t come west of Ohio.

We stopped an hour or so into Illinois to get some gas and eat lunch.

We were so happy to not be eating a cheeseburger or fried chicken! Truth be told, we ate our sandwich in a Walmart parking lot. All I will say is that we had a great people watching spot from the car, and we had some great lunch time entertainment.

After lunch it was Jason’s turn to drive – which meant it was my turn to sing-a-long to the radio without worrying about my car dancing sending us out of control and off the side of the freeway. We were REALLY sick of the radio by this point, as well as listening to the three albums on my ipod we could both agree on – so I used an app called Songza on my phone and put on the best radio station. EVER. And by best I mean this station was called “Top 100 Worst Songs Ever”. It was just a musical journey through awful from there – Cottoneye Joe, Welcome to Miami and the song that finally made Jason threaten mutiny – My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas. Although I am pretty sure I entertained him for the minute and a half he allowed the song to play.

After getting oh so close, yet still oh so far from Chicago, we continued on into Indiana.

The way that I-80 took us, we sadly weren’t in Indiana for that long, but what we saw looked a lot like Illinois and Iowa.

And then, it was the home stretch!

We had made it to America’s High Five! Michigan!

After 2, 290 miles, we had less than two hours to go. The feeling was amazing but at the same time, we were still in the car listening to Rihanna. We were ready for a break.

At 7:00 PM on Thursday, November 1, 2012, we pulled into the driveway in Grand Rapids, Michigan, officially ending our cross-country venture. What an adventure. There were boring times, there were fun times. I thought our three-week trip to Europe helped me learn even more about Jason, but I really think a long car trip with someone helps you get to know them even better than that.

I think if you can survive four days of driving with someone for 8 plus hours a day, after living in your parents’ house with them AND a three week trip to Europe including 2.5 weeks in a country where no one speaks English – you can pretty much be confident in your decision to spend your life with them.  

I am not quite sure when I can officially call myself a Midwesterner. I’ve been told I have to at least make it through a winter here first. I’ve also been told it has to be more than a year. I am looking forward to the new challenges in life I have to face, settling in a new place, finding a new job, making new friends, meeting the old.

Our journey across the United States may have ended, but our life in Chicago is just starting. I am so excited to share this all with you.

I am Landon Modena-Kurpinsky, and I endorse this message. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 3 - Cheyenne, Wyoming to West Des Moines, Iowa

Night two we stayed at the super fancy Little America Hotel. Seriously fancy. I mean you have to be if you have a penguin in your lobby!

In all seriousness though, Little America was pretty awesome. If you ever find yourself in Cheyenne, Wyoming, be sure to check it out. It's a one stop shop for gas, snacks and a place to stay. 

Cheyenne was exactly what I expected. On our quest to find Starbucks on the way out of town, we drove around the area near the state capital it was small town America. The little motels around there had the neon signs exactly like you would expect them to – totally non-PC Indian signs and mom and pop liquor stores that have long closed.

After grabbing coffee from bunny ear wearing baristas (Happy Halloween!) we got back onto I-80 and kept forging our way east through Wyoming. Just like on Day 2, we were only 45 minutes away from the border when we stopped, so it was a quick jaunt to Nebraska. 

Nebraska is flat. It goes on and on and on. Flat. For miles. And Miles. Basically multiply this photo by six hours. And there you have Nebraska.

Time changes in Nebraska – from Mountain Time to Central Time. My phone changed, Jason’s didn’t. This wasn’t a big deal until we tried to get lunch in Cozad at the Green Apple Diner. Unfortunately, they are only open until 2 PM, which is when we got there. Jason’s phone said 1. We were just mainly looking forward to the pie that had reviews on Yelp. Maybe next time.

Unfortunately for us, Green Apple Diner was a non-fast food place that we were both looking forward to. After two full days of driving, we are sick of burgers and fries and fried chicken and fast food. We are on FAST FOOD OVERLOAD. I seriously feel ill from eating it for three days. I am not quite sure how truckers can handle driving with limited food options like there are. I miss vegetables. And salad. And vegetables. And drinking water. Which I haven’t done. Rest stops are few and far between in much of the west on I-80, therefore I have been avoiding my normal water consumption. I know, that is probably TMI. Sorry!

Another thing about being in the car for the past 2 days is we’ve realized how much radio stations play the same songs OVER AND OVER. Today was the day of Rihanna’s new song Diamond or something like that. Jason has declared it is “not one of his favorites”. We must have heard it at least five or six different times between Nebraska and Iowa. The other thing we have realized is that there is an abundance of religious radio station out here in God’s Country. We listed to a woman today who has prisms in her house to ward away evil spirits. The solution? Prayer of course! And ridding her house of Ouija boards.. Go figure.

While we were spending our day in the car, many of my friends were attending today’s Championship Parade in honor of the San Francisco Giants’! I am sad I couldn’t be there today, but I appreciate all the pictures you all shared on Facebook and instagram. I was with you in spirit – reppin’ the Giants’ all the way here in Nebraska! And obviously avoiding the crowds. I think there were more people at the parade yesterday than live in the entire state of Nebraska. 

After too many hours, we finally made it through Omaha, Nebraska and into Iowa!

I mean it when I say this – Iowa has smelled like cooking bacon since we entered the state. BACON. Also, there were strange pockets of fog in the fields as we drove down the freeway. Maybe it was from the cooking bacon!

The sun unfortunately set not too long after we got into Iowa, so we didn’t get to see too much of the lad, but I have a feeling that we will have plenty of time to see the country side today.

We got into West Des Moines, Iowa around seven and enjoyed a quick dinner at Macaroni Grill. Can’t say it was our favorite, but we really just wanted to avoid another meal of burgers and fries.

We will hopefully be in Grand Rapids, Michigan by tonight. Where I plan on eating lots and lots of vegetables. And exercising.

Until then!  And for those of you who want to see a few more photos that might not make the cut here – follow me on instagram! My  username is Thatgirllandon